The Secret Life of Words

All the Things You Said

All the Things You Said,    digital art collage by Josephine R. Unglaub

Is it possible that words themselves have a kind of life force or inherent energetic signature that has been forgotten?  According to Maurice Nadeau in The History of Surrealism, Andre Breton attached extreme importance to word games because “they showed that words had their own lives, that they were creators of energy, and that they could henceforth command thought.” (Breton’s words in italics).

What is conversation?
          Elephants outfitted for battle

Question Michelle Tennison,  Answer Mark Harris (2016)

At the End of the World, All the Unrequited Love Stored in the Flowers

 

Theologian II

Theologian II,
Sabine Miller, Oriental lily petals and pulp with citrus juice and graphite pencil on watercolor paper. Tinted and brightened.  2016

Opening of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot,

as sung by wildflowers:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the lily is spread out against the sky
Like a ghost orchid etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless asters in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with fresh bluebells:
Poppies that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the cosmos come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

 

Source: Collected Poems 1909-1962 (1963), adaptation by Michelle Tennison

 

An Internal Barometer of Truth

The seemingly incongruous juxtaposition, the often wildly unexpected pairing of two or more images and/or concepts: This is where Surrealism draws much of its power to affect consciousness, and The Question and Answer Game is no exception.

The gift of resonance allows us to recognize veracity within what may at first appear to be an impossibly matched pair of answers and questions. The insights we experience aren’t necessarily grasped by the Mind, at least not at first, but they are nevertheless felt to be true.  It feels like the opening up that occurs when we hear a sound that is particularly resonant, like that of a bell or a tuning fork, and something within us moves suddenly in synchronous agreement.

This energetic affirmation, this felt sense of  “Yes, that is so,” (often despite initial illogical appearance), is our guide to reading the results of Surrealist literary games,  as well as interacting with haiku and other forms of literature and art that are intuition-based.  It is a felt experience, but where do we feel it? In our ‘gut,’ our heart, every cell of our being? Is our DNA doing a little dance of communion? I don’t believe that it is possible to exactly locate where the process occurs.  Maybe it is all of the above. The point is that this experience is to a large extent internal.

Why does this matter? If the assembly point of our reality and our sense of truth is internal, what does this mean? Perhaps if we can learn to trust this gift of resonance, we can learn to trust ourselves to determine what we will and will not align ourselves with, based on what feels most life-promoting, honest, and authentic. If we can learn to judge these things for ourselves maybe we will be less likely to be easily manipulated or swayed by the agendas of others.

This internal barometer of truth matters. It might even be at the heart of why Surrealism, despite its surface appearance,  is so much more than frivolous, why it is in fact revolutionary, and why nearly 100 years after its inception it continues to be relevant.

Surrealist games and Surrealistic art in general are rather brilliant at shining a light on this inherent, sometimes latent, skill of discerning truth for ourselves, in part by highlighting the fact that there are so many potential truths available at all times. It is up to us to accept or reject what is set before us. It is up to us to see what is possible.

How liberating!

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Beverly Borton, No Known Address, 4.5″ x 6.5″  image constructed of mailing envelopes

1) Is the universe random, chaotic, and meaning arbitrary . . .
or 2) is there actually an implicate order and intelligence wherein everything is linked to everything else?

 

What is eternity?
          Inside the forest:
          all these textures,
          one body

Q&A Session with Mary Ellen Binkele and Michelle Tennison (1998)

What do you seek?
          Time lapse photography

Question Christopher Herold,  Answer Michelle Tennison (2017)

Is love enough?
          John Denver’s conception

Q&A Session Paul Cunniff, Sharon Cunniff, Mary Ellen Binkele, and Michelle Tennison