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On artistic karma.

September 26, 2011 \am\30 9:28 am

Seeing as Ani is making confessions of her secret tech identity and poets in Scotland are confessing to their mental health problem, I thought I’d get on board and start confessing things.

Actually, this isn’t that unusual. I confess a LOT. This would probably not be a big deal if I were Catholic and some poor Priest was paid to listen to my shit, but sadly I’m not and so it falls to people in the real and internet world.

I make a lot of confessions when I write poems. I mean, I’m not quite Sexton/ Plath/Lowell level of Confessionalism, but my personal life is pretty open to creative reimagination. More often than not this means that people involved in my personal life are also involved in poems. I don’t often feel guilt about this: I’m upfront about this with romantic partners, and open about how I write to friends.

At least, I didn’t feel guilty until recently when I was a subject of someone else’s art. The painting is wonderful, but captures a private moment. Neither of us knew about the painting until one of us saw it when it was hung. Fortunately this wasn’t me. Still, I was taken aback. For all of my self-reflexive writing– this was different: someone else’s subject.

I don’t have a cosmic outlook. Clearly, I am such a narcissist that it is difficult for me to look beyond myself and the people connected to me. However, maybe there is a karma of some kind. An artistic karma. If you constantly put yourself (and unwittingly others) into your art, this must come back to you, in some way.

I am probably grossly misusing the term karma (seems to have been pretty bastardised by western stoner philosophy), and also slightly thinking about The Craft rule of three-fold which is whole different Wiccan kettle of fish. The thing is, I am not entirely sure how my new fledgling pop-philosophy works.

I suppose there is a sense that if you put your own life into art, you can expect people to do the same. This is fair if somewhat terrifying.

But what about those other people? The guy you see reading Robert Lowell on the subway and write a poem about. Your other painter friend you put in a poem. The hook up that you write about. Your dentist.

Is it fair to them? And what kind of karma do you get back? Is there some abacus in the great beyond that gives you plus points for being interested and welcoming to people, or do you get negative points for intruding on their lives?




  1. September 26, 2011 \am\30 11:22 am 11:22 am

    Easy rule of thumb, if you haven’t had a chance to dip a toe in the dharma lava:

    Karma is not Santa Claus. Karma is your parents.

    You may get presents when you are good. You may get presents when you are bad. Your punishment may be way disproportionate to the crime and you may get Aplets + Cotlets as a present. Or worse. Your parents are human beings, though it may not seem like it at the time, and they are subject to their own morals, their environment, random whimsy…

    • September 27, 2011 \am\30 8:33 am 8:33 am

      i am more confused than ever hehe
      time to re-read the tao of pooh

  2. September 27, 2011 \am\30 11:05 am 11:05 am

    Daolin- a weirdass 9th century Zen master who lived in a tree- had this to say about it: “Don’t be a dick. Be cool. Learn how to know which is which. Those are the only three things the Buddhas have taught.”

    • September 27, 2011 \am\30 11:37 am 11:37 am

      ‘don’t be a dick’ should be like the first commandment

      also that he lived in a tree will make him very popular around here

  3. Caroline Crew permalink
    September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:23 pm 3:23 pm

    I need to learn exactly how to not be a dick.

    • September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:30 pm 3:30 pm

      Geez, me too.

      Most Buddhists “take the precepts” when they join up. The precepts are cool, but a bit old-fashioned and 10-Commandments-y. I did a postmodern rewrite, and it’s basically my guiding philosophy.

      “1. Though I certainly may kick ass in a figurative sense, I will strive not to do so literally. I will be mindful of the physical suffering of others, and strive to alleviate it when I can or gain insight from it when I can not.

      2. I will strive not to take anything that is not given to me freely, recognizing that the world is a complex place and the issue of property hard to fully fathom. I will do my best to share with others when it will help them.

      3. I pledge to refrain from using lies and hurtful speech. My relations with others will be respectful unless otherwise required. I will strive my utmost to promote a foundation of ‘kusala’ in modern communication and understanding.

      4. I take the precept of not committing sexual misconduct, and in so doing I will strive to understand the nature of interdependence. I will strive to never harm someone sexually. In relationships I will hold on when necessary and let go when it is time.

      5. The world of samsara is illusion, part and parcel- a beautiful trap. Every glimmer in the bejewlled net can ensnare, just as anything in life can intoxicate- alcohol, drugs, food, sex, TV, music, sports, even activity or torpor itself. As one who aspires to the Middle Way of the Buddhas, I swear to seek enlightenment, not through abstinence or indulgence, but through wisdom, equanimity, and compassion. If some weekend I still choose to get buck wild, then I will strive to follow my choices, behavior, and their consequences with appropriate mindfulness.”

      • Caroline Crew permalink
        September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:34 pm 3:34 pm

        I am going to copy those out in my best handwriting and put them on my fridge.

      • September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:55 pm 3:55 pm

        i like how there is a built-in escape clause in all of them ;)

      • September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:57 pm 3:57 pm

        Heh, I didn’t write them for robots. ;)

  4. September 27, 2011 \pm\30 3:39 pm 3:39 pm

    That is so sweet! And it makes me feel very good. That’s going in my list of ‘awesome things I have done’, which includes both publishing my first book and playing a rock concert where the water fountains ran with pink lemonade. ;)


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