Desire, Discipline, Discernment

Self titillation can wear a mask of discipline quite well. The agony of prolonged desire can be tantalizingly sweet. Desire and discipline play in the alchemy that moves us toward freedom. But some of what we do as discipline in response to desire can feed the impediment to whatever goal is being addressed in its practice. Discernment is of the essence.

Making art helps me in the development and refinement of this quality of discernment. Discipline is naturally needed to apply myself to the learning of technique. At some point the greater focus for me has become that of getting out of the way so that pure creative force can be given room to move freely. Discipline is implied here too, but it is of a different order altogether. Given this focus, I have observed a lot to help me develop my own discernment.

A civet is a type of cat from which is “harvested” glandular secretions that provide the basis for essential oil of civet. It is a powerful animal scent used in minute amounts in some perfumes to provide what is essentially an aphrodisiac component. The traditional way to extract the secretion, which is gotten from a glandular sac near the genitals, is to put the poor animal in a small cage and agitate it, causing it to secrete large amounts of the stuff that is then scraped.

It illustrates well something I have seen about how the wrong practice of discipline can produce a similar effect of being in a small cage agitating, producing something that we can’t really use, that does not free us from the cage. Rather, there is a kind of titillation going on here that perpetuates the existence of the cage itself.

The discipline of doing anatomical or still life studies can enable me to know  a greater field of possibility and fluidity in my response to creative intuition. But to doggedly pursue this study without developing intuitive skills is useless – one winds up a technician rather than an artist. Some of what falls into the category of development of this quality of creative intuition is not going to be rational, and will require risk taking.  Some of this risk taking might mean changing activities that I normally consider disciplinary. One must know when to transcend the rules.

Mistakes will be made. I have gone on wild tangents of certainty that I was producing something true and worthy only to discover upon later unfolding I was not operating from a place of creative purity. Mistakes yield a lot when I can extract from them what is useful and apply this to the process of change one invariably will know in any form of mastery. Evolving is a lot about knowing what one is not. I have learned something about the wisdom of uncertainty and gradually I am learning to replace the quality of certainty that can keep me frozen with a fluid faith in the process.


About gracekellyrivera

I am a perfumer and an artist of multiple disciplines located in California.
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