In this second installment of an interview with artist Jerry Wennstrom, I ask him to explore the ideas of deep learning, outrageous trust, and bliss.
The Artistry of Risk
Both of these perspectives reveal a unique and original way of being in the world – of living life. They embraced unknown territory and walked courageously into the midst of a deep mystery. I believe that many people secretly wish for a much deeper and authentic experience of being fully alive. But we live in a mechanistic world that often imposes conformity and submission to the status quo.
How can we use inspirational life stories to help us transform our own lives?
Jerry Wennstrom: What is essential in both of these statements, “Life as safari” and “I want to summit” is the requirement of outrageous trust in something unseen.
To seek the summit or to venture into unknown territory with the poetic sensibility suggested requires individuality, courage, and personal vision. These statements are not the voice of complacency.
There is a reference to a wild and potentially dangerous universe that one must experience alone, internally, as well as externally. At the same time, the statements leave open the unreasonable possibility that the adventure may be informed, support and celebrated by a conscious universe that we can rely on.
Whatever we choose to call it, there appears to be a knowing in the human heart that overrides reason and awakens, in us all, the spirit of outrageous trust and adventure.
The power of this knowledge will inspire us to venture into unknown territory where the path is defined only as we move forward. To come to terms with the discomfort of this override and to jump into the adventure anyway, is where the creative heart comes alive.
It is often the visionaries, the artists or the more intuitive among us who lead the way. They are the gatekeepers who point to the wilds outside the gate while inviting us through.
The gatekeepers may inspire us but we have to set off alone on the adventures and establish a personal dialogue with the mysteries as they reveal themselves. The expression that this dialogue takes is what defines our creative individuality.
Bliss: Fearless and Deliberate Irresponsibility
Brian Alger: Joseph Campbell talks about the fundamental importance of finding and embracing our bliss. You courageously surrendered yourself to the raw experience of life and the mystery of survival itself. You claimed your life as your own. This is a critical learning process for everyone.
Jerry Wennstrom: Yes it is critical to the learning process, however very few of us are willing to surrender to the risk and requirements of bliss without a certain amount of kicking, screaming and surviving. For many of us, the choice of bliss does not always appear blissful, especially when viewed through the lens of reason.
Following and inhabiting our bliss, as prescribed by Joseph Campbell, requires a certain amount of fearless and deliberate irresponsibility. Many of us cannot go beyond our ideas of what it means to be “responsible.” As “responsible adults” many of us feel it would be irresponsible to actually do what we love.
For most of us, the ability to follow our bliss, with the attention required, needs a certain amount of material reward and justification.
This is particularly true in America, where money and the things that money can buy have become the only reason for doing a thing. There are no guarantees and no deals to be made when it comes to the adventure of bliss. In order to truly follow our bliss we would have to go about it as if the world depended on it and personally, I believe it does!
Awaken we must. Exactly when and where we choose to do this is in the hands of the individual and their gods. Our current circumstances offer the best possible opportunity to experience our bliss. I trust that the universe is in perfect order and that we all create the conditions needed to awaken to our bliss.
Many people create conditions of enormous suffering, and those are the conditions necessary for those individuals to awaken.
However, it is important to remember that we do have options. Deep listening and an appropriate response to the moment’s calling can eliminate excessive suffering for anyone.
We experience great freedom working in the area of our bliss. This freedom would terrify anyone who, out of the light of obvious reward, could not hold a selfless, steady vision. To remain on track with the discipline of bliss one would also need to know that they are learning what they need to learn and see that their involvement was in the service of a higher calling.
To blissfully make our way forward the universe must define the path and the rewards must come in unexpected ways – ways in which those banging the begging bowl of literal gain remain blind to.
The Present Condition of Our Lives
Brian Alger: How can we set this learning free?
Jerry Wennstrom: As I said earlier, our true path originates in the present conditions of our lives, or as Lao Tsu says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins where your feet are.”
The source of learning is WHAT IS in each of our lives. What is right here in front of us? What are our allurements? What does our innocence call forth in us? This is the stuff that sets learning free and allows for joyful, creative manifestation in the world. Fear of the unknown is probably the biggest roadblock.
True Creative Breakthrough
Brian Alger: Art and artistry are often confused with the production of material things that have an aesthetic quality. Yet artistry is a much more potent force in our lives that serve to guide our intuition about who we are and how we should live.
In a world bent on equating progress with materialism, how can art and artistry re-enchant people’s lives in order to help them to find their true path?
Jerry Wennstrom: Yes, art is no less than a powerful force that changes the world!
Equating Art and artistry with material or esthetic value, alone, misses the mark. We have such an overwhelming number of things being made and set out on the surface, for all the world to see, that it gets confusing.
The muse in her transformational power goes underground when there is an excess of literal materialism. And yet she exists where she always has – in the unseen depths. This is the place few are willing to go because there is no fanfare and no obvious reward.
What is required of the artist today, is the same as it has always been – Everything!
True creative breakthrough comes out of an inevitable moment where the artist knows he/she will have to risk it all in order to win the favor of the muse.
If he/she is lucky enough to win her over and receives the gift of inspiration, the creation will be an outrageous, defining act of power and it will reflect something universal.
Creations of this nature express the spirit of the time for all of us. It will be something the world has never seen or experienced before. An artist who makes this breakthrough in the loneliness of his/her own journey leaves the ground they have covered bushwhacked for the rest of us to follow.
This level of artistic experience is what changes the world and, as you say, it serves to guide our intuition about who we are and how we should live our lives. In his book, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell writes, “The most sublime form of artistic expression is formless and simply leaves one in awe.” The awesome, creative breakthrough establishes and gives meaning to the progression we see in art history.
This being said, I will also add, we all have access to these inspired breakthroughs, no matter who we are or what we do. Handing the realm of creation over to “the artist” is a way of avoiding responsibility for our own full potential. Fine-tuning the requirements of a creative life will inevitably make us better and more sensitive individuals with the capacity to contribute something unique to the collective.
When we live creatively and begin to receive the subtle gifts that are available, the grosser allure of materialism will no longer appeal to us. We all value what we perceive as valuable and these values change through the insights and epiphanies that come with the experience of creative awe.