18 February 2009

The Two Imaginations

Image: Karin Basel

Dear Drummers,

Lately I find myself lost in this recurring reverie: Me, reclining on a sun-drenched, padded, chaise lounge by the glittering blue swimming pool in my Los Angeles back yard, typing the next episode of Law and Order SVU or Dirty Sexy Money on my laptop, a frosty Mojito and shiny cell phone on the table next to me, a bevy of eager interns nearby, ready to meet my every demand. When I jolt back to my dim and frosty Minnesota reality, I understand that this daydream is about achieving some kind of great success by working with my imagination, which I have spent so many years refining.

Once again I am reminded that there are two kinds of imagination.

When we gather to drum, we enter into the sacred imagination. This is the imagination as described by philosophical giants like Henry Corbin, who drew a distinction between the imaginary and the imaginal. This imagination is the bridge, the ladder, the clearing in the woods, the amber-lit hollows of the heart – whatever image you would like to describe it by – where we go and where the divine comes to meet us. It is the place where we transmute spiritual states into physical states; in other words, where wisdom comes into our awareness and then into our body and into our actions.

Much of modern culture would make light of this meeting place, calling it mere self-generated fantasy. Yet for as long as humans have stood on two legs we have sought out and entered the sacred imagination in order to make meaning of our lives on earth, and to help us see through the pain and limits of our existence. Whether you are aware of it or not, I believe this is why you come (or wish you had come!) to our drumming gatherings.

But neither is entering the sacred imagination as grand as some would make it. The truth is, the sacred imagination is a gift – a Grace – bestowed on each of us that come into this world through a human womb. It takes no special skill, no special blessing to commune with the sacred imagination any more than it does to have a beating heart or filling and expelling lungs. This is why I try to keep our ceremonial work together as free of mystical mumbo-jumbo as I can. It’s why when I sing, I don’t use words.

The purpose of our drum gatherings, as I see it, is to simply prepare an environment wherein you can feel safe to drop any resistance or fear you have to opening your own pathway into your own sacred imagination.

What is the other imagination? Simone Weil referred to it as the imagination whose purpose was to create filler for the cracks in our psyche from which Grace would normally arise. That is, for me, a hugely powerful phrase, and it answers the question of why I devote my imaginative skills to our drumming community rather than writing Dirty Sexy Money. Television, far above all other skilled, artful mediums, exists to fill the cracks in our psyche, to plug the emerging openings where Grace would enter into our life.

I believe that, for you, coming to the drum is an act of saying no, for at least a short while, to the many forces that pour out filler onto your soul-scape. I pray that my friend, the amazing TV writer and producer of Dirty Sexy Money, doesn’t read this, or my chances of getting into that sunlit chaise lounge will be vastly reduced. But I’m not saying anything he doesn’t already know. And to be clear: I love and need some imaginative filler in my life as much as anyone! For me the important issue is the balance between the two imaginations.

So, we gather this Friday to boom-ba-boom-tak-tada-tada-boom-ba-boom our way into the imaginal, where we may ask for a little bit of Grace to seep up through the cracks in our inner soul-scape and teach us how we should live in wisdom. Welcome one and all! Welcome newcomers and welcome old-comers! Welcome!

See you soon,


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