Just when you think you’ve come up with an original idea, you check it in Google and see 91,600 hits for the exact idea that—only seconds earlier—you assumed sprung solely from the genius of your imagination.
This humbling experience befell me when I searched for the phrase “art is a way of knowing” only to discover that it’s a book title by Pat Allen. I don’t know Pat Allen, but I’m sure he must be quite brilliant to scoop my idea 11 years before it occurred to me.
(The lapse of 11 years probably disqualifies me from claiming that our mutual discovery is an example of synchronicity, Carl Jung’s notion that certain ideas or events occur simultaneously in discrete cultures at the same time. One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the independent invention of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1660s.)
While I haven’t read Allen’s book I see that it received five, five-star reviews on Amazon. The reviewers reveal that the book focuses on art therapy and the unique psychological insights art offers to anyone seeking personal growth (aren’t we all?).
What do I mean when I claim that art is a way of knowing? Unlike science and some forms of logic and math which allow us to gain objective knowledge of the world, art opens the door to specific aspects of personal knowledge. For instance, each day when I’m at work on my current novel (Exit from America) I don’t anticipate what will be revealed by the end of the writing session. I rarely know what individual characters will say, who will do what to whom, and where they might end up. It’s a constantly unraveling mystery of nature—of my own nature—that I feel privileged to witness.
Early on in the novel, Mavis Helm, a budding Gestalt therapist, is invited by her client, Fay Flood, to visit her apartment. I had no idea what (or whom) might be in the apartment. But behind the door a beautiful child, a savant of sorts, was hidden away, waiting to emerge as a central figure in the novel. Later we are introduced to her father and witness the events that drive the narrative—the conclusion of which will be revealed to me (I hope) in the months ahead.
Another example from the novel: James Wayman (Mavis Helm’s husband) has discovered a new form of meditation that he calls White Light Meditation. WLM offers its practitioners an opportunity to transcend their egos and experience their natural being uncluttered by personas and ambitions. James’s efforts led me into a new world of inner discovery and personal meaning that I don’t think I would have experienced without writing this particular novel. Quite literally then, art has provided the way of knowing this inner world.
By the way, I Googled the phrase “White Light Meditation.” Guess what? Only 3,170 hits! I’ve taken the liberty of registering WhiteLightMeditation.com and soon you will find a page on this site that will reveal the techniques you can employ to achieve this elevated state of self-knowledge.
My thanks goes to James Wayman. I couldn’t have discovered WLM without you.