I’m sure there is a demon in it! There has to be. Logically, the process simply cannot work. Now I’ve been making some curtains, and they need a blind hem.Which isn’t hard, but just doing it is one thing.
You see, it was as I was waiting for a train yesterday evening that I tried to imagine the blind hem in my mind. The curls of spaghetti representing the cross-section of the folded cloth were far from biddable. I could tie a knot in the lines with more ease than I could work out how to get that one stitch that is all but invisible on the front of the curtain, the visible side.
Looking at my book of words, and as importantly, diagrams, I was able to nail it. It had taken me several days of puzzling it through – mostly a process of getting it wrong, I’ll add – for the diagrams to finally make any sense to me.
I finally got my head around that one, but it took me a few days to grasp it. You can imagine the muddle in my head! It’s not so much that I can’t do it, it’s more that I’d never thought about it. I’d always had a piece of cloth in front of me to play with – and get right or wrong as was the case. In your mind, it’s rather harder! I know as a designer that it’s possible to draw things on paper that simply cannot be made. Indeed artists have made their names by drawing such illusions, M.C. Escher comes to mind.
The important element here is that the human imagination can imagine anything it can imagine – and the more imaginative the person, the more they can imagine. The real purpose of the imagination is what I described above: to untangle realities that have all the appearance of being impossible.
It was in 1917 that Rudolf Steiner said “When people are able to live with themselves in such a way as to recall from memory the things they could not understand before, this will be the source for a healthy inner life.”
Which is what I had been doing. I was recalling from memory and trying to understand it – whilst there are other ways to interpret this phrase, this is one of them. It’s not so much that I couldn’t picture the blind hem in my mind, that’s partly due to the fact that I’ve never needed to do enough of them. Even so, it was good practice to try and fathom it out in my mind. Before, I didn’t fully understand what was going on, and now I do. That is to say, I now possess the capacity to form a blind hem on my sewing machine without using my reference book.
One thought on the “healthy inner life” is that it is one based on the reality that surrounds us. The material reality. What astonished me when still a member of the ‘Emotional Intelligence’ group on Linkedin was how many people preferred illusion to reality. Illusion being something imagined that really cannot be brought about in the reality of our modern world.
I asked one man in this group what would happen if he kicked a large stone with his bare foot – and his response was that it was subjective. Well emotions are subjective, nor can they be anything else. It is in their nature to be personal. This man preferred to distance himself from them, and thus distance himself from the very reality the group had supposedly formed itself to address. Nor was he the only one. They were all at it: trying to make the emotional world objectively factual by some manner or means.
however, it is hardly a healthy state of affairs to reject the very emotions one feels when one finds oneself in a certain position. But that’s modern life for you.
The true master of their craft is someone will understand the things they do both imaginatively and practically. It’s not enough for the master carpenter to tell someone how to cut a hip rafter using words; let them see what it actually entails. Once they’ve seen all the difficulties, they will be able to imagine what they are up against. That is when to tell them the simple trick that’ll get it exactly the right length every time. Every master I have ever met has one or two delightful little tricks that can save huge amounts of time. These are the result of long years of practical experience using real material in real situations, and then there’s a flash of light in their mind and the solution that has been staring them in the face since they started. But it wouldn’t have been able to do so had it not been for those long hours of toil.
That is why we have master carpenters: the material world is the material world, and it is the same for all of us. They couldn’t be masters if every time they picked up a piece of wood it was different, one time floppy, another time as hard as diamond. Wood is wood: oak and pine and ash each have their strengths and weaknesses. Whilst each oak beam is unique and comes from a different tree, it will still smell like oak. We can all guarantee that if we do stub our toe, we will cry out in pain. Even if those more able than me can kick a stone and it will be felt somewhere else because he imagines emotions to be subjective.
Our imagination is only ever any use if it describes what we can touch and handle. This isn’t to say that daydreaming and fantasy aren’t any use, far from it! I’m writing a book that is entirely imaginary, but to bring the book to life, it has to ground itself in reality. I’ll add that it takes some guts to express one’s inner thoughts in this way, but once you get used to the criticism, it becomes real fun. Too many authors say “I leave the reader to imagine that” – my response was “what if the reader doesn’t imagine anything and the book remains dull and lifeless?” – she didn’t have an answer for that and changed the subject. I prefer my Thomas Hardy, where you can feel that your feet damp from the dew.
This is from my own book, it is a passage that I was informed had come to life in the reader’s mind. The scene has the housekeeper opening the door to a gentleman:
“I have indeed,” he snaps. A moment later, says, “I am sorry, you must understand I am a little upset.”
“I do understand, sir,” she says, feeling a little perturbed at his abrasive attitude. But it is not uncommon for people to be upset when coming to call for the first time.
“Do, please come in,” she says placidly, standing back to allow him to move into the hall. The drizzle has now turned to rain and there are dots of rain across the shoulders of the gentleman’s thick woollen coat. She takes his top hat, the leather trim of which feels warm to her hand as she hangs it on the coat rack. She makes to take his coat, but he is too impatient, and all but shakes her hands free.
The point here is that it was the reader who told me that it had come to life because of my description of the warmth of the hat. After all, I’d only written it! Which is the key to knowing if one’s imagination is doing the right thing: it has to come from someone else. That is to say, the reality that surrounds us, like the smell of freshly cut oak. I wouldn’t have known if that it had had that effect had he not said so. There are too many writers who imagine their work is good because all their readers can say is “wow” or “great”. That doesn’t exactly give much by way of feedback, does it?
Which means they can go about their way, writing drivel and thinking themselves masters of their art. But then, they haven’t tried to imagine the reality in their minds, as I did yesterday evening at the pretty little station at Sliedrecht. As mentioned, imagining a blind hem was only possible when I referred back to my reference book – but now, it’s clear in my mind.
All I have to do now is to puzzle out how a sewing machine achieves the impossible: the lock stitch. I really cannot get my head around that one, for all my years of using the dratted thing. I’m sure there’s a demon hiding in it…
You see when I am writing something, I can’t make a mistake. It is art, after all! Yet, on occasion I get responses from readers that point to annoying details of the story that I wrote. It is the kind of thing that shows that they have not read the whole story and have just picked at whatever they saw as an easy target. There there was some confusion that led to it being hard to follow or some such rubbish. Now isn’t it quite natural that I should take this with affront? After all, there is good reason: such a critic is acting in a manner that is both offensive and unkind.
Not only that, it is quite unnecessary! We should keep to the accepted norms of our society and say something nice. It is far nicer for someone to suggest how good it was, and how they loved it. After all, being offensive is something one simply cannot tolerate.
Infinity From A Different Perspective.
In our modern day and age, scientists have a concept that they call anti-matter. The sort of stuff that has positive electrons and negative protons, that kind of thing. In short, it is a very neat – indeed, exact – “turning around” of the scientist’s thoughts.
It is such practices that means scientists don’t have to think very hard. Which is, after all, what convention is all about, isn’t it? Being able to think grand thoughts without one’s reaction to absurd notions that lead one to spill the coffee.