ESSAY TWENTY - OUR ARTISTIC MEMORY
In the previous essay, I suggested that there might be two types of memory. The everyday type of memory that is first developed in our very early years and refined in school has many uses, but it is also misunderstood. It is great for recalling past data or processes, but it is not very effective in what we think as “problem solving”. Because this memory deals with data already learned, it can limit us from “thinking outside of the box”. It has been observed many times, that if a hammer is the only tool you have, everything looks like a nail. The other memory, which I referred to as Psychic Memory, is harder to quantify, but it can be a powerful tool, especially for the artist.
One way of differentiating the two types is to draw an analogy. In a much earlier essay, we talked about analytical learning styles, which is the logical, linear type of instruction/learning featured in schools and vocational training programs. In a less formally structured way, this type of “problem solving” progresses from a myriad of small data bits, which we then form into larger cognitive structures called information (instead of data). When enough information is available, a strategy or plan of action can be formed, and we are able to move towards a solution or a mental framework that makes “sense” of the problem we face. As this process occurs, our conscious, aware, mind constantly scans the process, fine-tuning and directing it towards ever more precise and detailed conclusions. If successful, we can feel that we have solved the problem that was presented, and we have been active in and aware of the entire process.
The second form of memory, or psychic memory operates much more like intuitive learning and decision-making than it does analytical learning. When we utilize intuitive problem solving, on some preconscious level we may be collecting and storing data, but the type and the scope of the data collected is not a completely conscious activity, nor is it consciously direct. Unlike analytical problem solving, during which we are actively collecting as much information as possible, intuitive data gathering takes place outside of our active and focused control. Wandering, daydreaming, “wool gathering” and moments of relaxed and unfocused meditation are the fertile grounds for building a reservoir of intuitive data. Rather than an active quest, it is a passive quest – remember, “All Who Wander Are Not Lost”.
As the data is processed, and often right up to the moment of “intuitive insight” (or decision making), much of the intellectual processing takes place “out of sight” of our conscious awareness. While we may be aware of our sudden insight, (the light bulb going on over our head) we may not have any idea at all, as to how we arrived at this inspiration.
Just as in Intuitive learning, psychic memory has a similar manifestation. The process, the orientation and the mechanisms by which it works are not usually visible to our mind’s eye, but we can train ourselves to be aware of the results, and to understand their implications for us. Most importantly, we can develop an attitude that recognizes intuition as a strength that is the equal of analysis. For working artists, psychic memory has the potential to be a fertile field, and one that can produce a bountiful harvest.
Before continuing, this psychic memory that I have mentioned is just a hypothesis, but one that seems to explain a great deal. It is clear that our personality, attitudes, mind-set and approach to everything we do in life is unique and highly individualized. It affects the way we think, what we value, and probably how we live our lives. It is also clear that this unique set of personal traits is set by environment (or life forces) at least as much (if not more than) genetic and biological determinism. The assumption that I will be making is that one of the external factors that help us form our “selfness” is psychic memory.
They are our cumulative memories and awareness’s of persons, places, incidents and ideas that became one of our psychological building blocks. Why one memory is more important than another and how a particular memory accomplishes its impact is unknown. There are, however, some good reasons to feel that this does take place and significantly, it opens up some productive artistic avenues. Psychic Memory is not the type of memory to be preserved and then accessed for our usable memory bank. It is a memory more deeply buried, which serves as a marker or beacon, illuminating a psychic intersection. Just as a highway intersection represents a set of choices, our psychic intersections are decision points in our development – they are moments when we made a “choice” about who we are or who we were about to become. The memories associated with and linked to these “moments of truth” are powerful and laden with creative insights for us to explore.
In Essays Thirteen through Sixteen, we discussed Image Stories, which I described as personal stories that are always tickling our consciousness and seem to be with us on a regular basis. While superficially they do not seem to be memories of great importance, they evidence a power and a hold on our awareness. My premise is that our Image Stories are created and nurtured by our Psychic Memory and as artists, we need to not only honor them but to use them in our creative process. The following essays will deal with utilizing Images, Stories and ideas from your Psychic Memory. As always, feel free to leave comments or to e-mail me directly with ideas, suggestions or reactions.