As the parent of a toddler, my floors call for several layers of removal. I sympathize with the weight they’ve accumulated.
There's the layer of large debris: I try to make it through the whole
room with one large octopus swooshing glide, trying to pick up more
colorful plastic objects than my two arms can manage.
the layer of particulate sediment: I sweep dried pasta bits, cheese
clumps, discarded mango, and a blend of powder composed of potting soil,
disintegrating rice crackers, and damp crumpled leaf bits.
Below this layer--the very base layer I scrape from the floor--are flattened mounds of oxidized banana, and milk-soaked cheerios that have dried and adhered to the floor. And then there is the evidence of her young baby diet from 1 year ago that I find periodically--pureed concoctions of lentils, green beans, and brown rice; chicken, carrots, and black-eyed peas.
Tending to my floor debris helps me understand how I take in my surroundings, and how daily activities can be like drawing.
This makes me think of Bob Dylan. He was trying to describe his process in an interview, and described one particular song-writing experience as being like vomiting (Lehrer). In doing so, Dylan acknowledges all that he has ingested, all that has passed through his perceptual barriers, and then shared with us.
InThe Formative Dylan, Todd Harvey
quantifies the portion of Dylan's melodies that are original. He has
determined that magic number is one-third. The remaining two-thirds are
borrowed from Anglo-American and African-American traditional songs.
Dylan is not unique in this sense. Sinking into deeply connective
thinking, whether you consider it creative or not, allows one to draw
upon sources outside oneself. It might feel like vomiting, listening to
one's muse, running a 10K, gardening, etc. (what does it feel like to
you? email me or comment)
Lewis Hyde writes about what it means to acknowledge that one-third of Dylan's melodies are original.
I wonder about how one can actually measure such a thing. Especially
when the experience of imagery, melodies, language, culture, etc. can
feel messy. We seem to have negative connotations with the term
"regurgitation," often using it to refer to a person's ability to simply
repeat back information without adding one's own insight or reshaping
it in any way. Yet describing creative, critical thinking processes as
being like vomiting is somehow more acceptable and interesting. Perhaps
"regurgitation" indicates the sources are not as far along in the
digestive tract. They come back up before they've had a chance to
settle. There's an "involuntary all-at-once-ness to vomiting" that makes it more compelling (Steve Stelling, 2012)
When I was a kid, my Dad used to joke that we should
cut up the rug under our dining room table and make soup out of it. You
can imagine what a vivid image this created in my mind. Yet it seems
like an appropriate image to leave you with.
- - - - - Thought scraps, leads, and unresolved references - - - - -
One can't really talk about the idea of the original without going into Sampling.
An interview Elizabeth Gilbert I heard recently, where she talks about how she imagines her creative process.