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Conversations Conversations
by Jan Sand
2006-10-13 10:49:33
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The psychologist Thomas Szasz once pointed out that many people speak to God, but when he answers back you can be reasonably sure you are nuts. Providentially, God has many co-conspirators who are eager to supply His words as written in the Bible or some other ancient tract but none of these informers has ever accepted dependence upon Bibles tumbling out of the clouds. Their printing presses turn merrily, eternally and profitably spinning out gospel.

Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny also do quite well with obliging helpers who keep the economy churning with wrapped packages and chocolate eggs. Nevertheless, no one has ever seen a rabbit lay a decorated egg and if Santa ever appeared in the sky in these parlous times without a flight plan he would surely be shot down, reindeers and all.

Another sector dealing with the heavens almost bereft of two-way conversations is astronomy. Stargazers can watch, observe, and theorize but are momentarily incapable of dumping a significant quantity of hydrogen or helium or iron into a stellar furnace to see what happens. I say 'almost' because scientists do have a few powerful instruments that can create some miniature versions of stellar processes to fiddle with and then examine the cosmos for a match.

It is a rough approximation to a two-way conversation, but somewhat less satisfying than tossing a galaxy or two together to await the consequences. Things pop around the universe at speeds approaching that of light, but our human life spans are so inconsequential in relation to astronomic distances that limit the velocities of interactions within galaxies, not to speak of intergalactic rumbles, that we can’t hang around long enough to satisfy our curiosities. We are lucky enough in that the universe is so large and various that a decent amount of curious mayhem is always going on to prompt theories into interesting shape.

Focusing down to human scale, creative processes require a respectable and respectful conversation between participants. Michelangelo spoke of freeing the figure from the marble so that he visualized his final result when examining the initial crude boulder before his attack, but, nevertheless, he must have paid close attention to the quality of the material which spoke to him of resistance to tools and acceptance of his processes.

There seems to be no record of a false move on his part when a miscalculated knock on a hammer and chisel resulted in an unexpected “oops” and a marble arm flying off to whack a passing assistant. But not being Michelangelo, I must cosy up to artistic aspiration with a close ear and eye to what the stuff I am handling or mishandling says back to me. If an arm flies away from one of my efforts, I must quickly agree with my material that perhaps it should not be a hero but rather a supine bunny, and then we congenially continue from there.

I have done my bit with painting and sculpture and collage and so forth, and I have always found that stone and steel and silver and clay and cardboard and light and the spectrum are very intelligent and will quickly shake a finger in my face when an exploratory impulse moves me to make a wrong move. And, not having a total lack of ingenuity, I can occasionally show a bit of wax or some vinyl sheeting or a stubborn slice of birch that it can exceed its expectations to produce something that amazes both of us.

Cooking, of course, is definitely a conversation. Some people take a recipe and tremble to change a microgram of substance. They cower at the thought that a sauce might curdle, a cake might explode, a soup might become botulist with the slightest twitch of a spoon or spin of a spatula. Even I might look askance at a wild-eyed crazy chef tossing around handfuls of salt or pepper with abandon as these substances have all the power of uranium 235, but most substances are rather congenial and easy to talk to.

Add a bit more of this or that and things get a bit tastier or the sauce turns a bit thicker, but there are always counter substances to return to the way things should turn out. A question in the shape of a spoonful for tasting lets the stuff talk back and a relaxed culinary atmosphere quickly points the way to an acceptable result. The key to good cooking is experience in good eating and memory usually points to the goal of a delicious end product.

Politics can make difficult conversations. The current US administration holds forth more in a schizophrenic’s concept of how God may growl in his ear than in the normal democratic verbal interchange and the inflexible addiction to holding to disastrous courses definitely has reverberations of Szasz.

 
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ina2006-10-18 05:02:08
still another gem!


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