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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

04/26/2006 - Word Sort Experiments

Very early in the process before I ever dreamed I was on the trail of the Muse herself, I began experimenting with automatic writing in an effort to generate written content to put into the paintings.


As records of dance, they were already transcribing content. I wanted a direct connection. Language. That meant words, or at very least, sounds that would become words.

At this time, my model was my subject. It was not myself, or the work, or the dialogue between myself, my model, and a third party. Nor was it the long diatribes I later would record, direct from the Muse herself.

Each of these 'characters', (I was one), my model, and the 'Muse', assumed a recognizable voice, as on a Greek stage.

My experiments took many forms. Written, drawn, painted, and spoken. Here I'll detail an automatic writing experiment I conceived and carried out very early as a way to try to uncover written content without having to compose lines myself.

The theory was simple. Give Mythos a chance to 'steal a bone', from Logos.

Imagine consciousness like a pack of wild dogs. They function as a group, think as a group, and contribute as a group.

They each have roles to play.

The lead male and female, are the leaders. The correct term is 'Alpha male' and 'Alpha female' but I refuse to go further with this mythology. It is out of date and short-sighted. A is the first letter, yes., it is where written consciousness beings, but as I will show, it is not consciousness!

The leaders keep everyone else in line, yet alone, they would starve.

Rank and file pack members have their own hierarchy. The so called "Gamma" male or female, are the lowest ranking. Again, I don't subscribe. Yes they are ranked, and that ranking is only sociologically important for understanding pack dynamics.

Consciousness is a flame that is fed by unconsciousness. Our fire is stoked by a part of us that does not shine brightly.

The lead dogs have the job of drawing strength in the most effective way, from the pack. Like politicians, they judge pack direction, pack sentiment. They get their ideas from the pack. And they co-ordinate the contributions made from all the rank and file, hopefully, to make sure everyone remains fed.

However, as in all places where power accrues, so does does ego. So does brittleness. Ego breaks, and so does consciousness.

The only thing that doesn't break is a kind of consciousness that is everywhere, diffused throughout.

This is the objective of Tantric consciousness by the way. But that's another topic.

When ego, or Logos, or leadership, becomes confident, that base from which it drew its strength to begin with begins to steal from it. Logos is constantly undermined by Mythos.

So, . . following the pack analogy, when the so called gamma dogs think they can get away with not sharing with the alpha male, they will.

If the rank and file as a group represent mythos, dark, non-conscious, but possessing a massive base,  ideas - Logos does not generate ideas, only processes them - more calculation, as a group much more intelligent, but lacking focus, then how does one advertise to Mythos that one is creating an opportunity to express itself?

Provide that opportunity, quite simply, by telling them, through the lead dog. Post an announcement! Design an experiment clearly handicapped in favor of the gamma dogs! Say it is! Here's your opportunity!

One would think that the leader would sense an ensuing revolt, and put an end to the process.

No, not at all. Leaders are famous for doing what undermines leadership, because leadership, i.e. consciousness knows, that it has to face a daily test. And how better to face a test than to administrate a game of sorts, where the outcome is not crucial!

So like the executive who calls a holiday for company group therapy, our conscious mind may be set in charge of administrating an experiment where the massive calculating abilities of the unconscious pack may excel.

At the offsite conferences we learn of genius in our ranks!

I designed such an experiment. Here it is and it will be apparent that only the subconscious can do it.

It was done by sorting words.

Without getting technical about rules devised for sorting, here's a close equivalent that may be easily visualized:

Have a person walk up and down a staircase. It is ideal to use a real staircase. He or she starts starts each pass holding a number of words, magnetic fridge words, newspaper words, words written on index cards, it really doesn't matter. For beginners at this process I advise selecting two, (not one) articles from the web, reproducing them larger, then cutting out the words with a pair of scissors.  Eliminate topical words that are too time and space specific. Eliminate extra articles of speech if they seem too numerous. Making the selection of what words to include is a bias that must be tolerated into such a short time-based experiment.

Ask the subject to visualize the staircase as a series of steps, moving from one extreme, through shades of grey, to another. Also ask them to visualize a question, (have him or her keep this private), such as 'which word reminds me more of my father', or, which word is more 'ridiculous'.

It is important to have this question which every word is submitted to, when making the sort. In a way we're interviewing the pack of dogs. We're sizing them up, and ranking them.

Having a 'task' - that's the job for the Alpha Male, the king of the pack. Logos, our executive, has a job to do! He's thrilled. He's in power! He gets to pick the teams!

But to answer it, he has to put feelers out into the pack. Which of the two words, 'disk' or 'pencil' reminds me most of my father? Well, in my case, 'pencil' does. My Dad was an artist. The leader answers with a quick bark to his nearby female. But a distinction between 'tape' and 'keys' is harder. Both were important in my Dad's life. Instinctively he begins to consult Mythos. He looks around the room, at his pack, for signs of how to answer the question.

No matter which words are placed on the steps, they are arrayed according to relative strength when faced with the private question.

If the staircase has sixteen steps, draw 16 words. Sixteen huskies applying for a position in the pack. Sort and relativize them along the stairs. Do this approximately 5 or 7 times.

Lead dog is real busy.

[At this moment the subject of this essay, me, realizes that this topic of essay is resembling a personal myth! This works way too well!]

The subject, is asked to walk the stair in passes, distributing, on average, one word per step. Words previously laid down, are turned over, so that the history of work remains hidden. This is the whole crux of the matter! Also make absolutely sure your subject knows this is how it will be done, before starting out.

Conscious mind can't remember which words end up on which step. Unconscious mind, the whole pack of dogs, can. The whole mind is brilliant at math, at poetry, at rhyme, at chess.

Consciousness is only a tiny flame illuminating one part of a very complex forest.

Invariably the leader will be a little perplexed by the results. It's not his day. But hey, it's just a touchy-feely off-site conference! So he declares lunch, and generously shares more bones.

This is where the gamma dogs conspire to do an end-run on their alpha leader. They spot an opportunity. Mythos salivates at the prospect of being able to openly express itself, without censorship from Logos!

You start the test. Each word that comes up faces initial categorization from the question, the moment with the Oracle, and then, based on the interpretation, is are asked to array, and prioritize, grouping words together, perhaps two on one step, none on another, without looking at words from previous passes up or down the staircase.

After repeating the process 5 or 7 times., each stair has on it an average of five or seven words which then may be 'ordered' to form the line, of a poem.

Now comes the 'interpretive' part. The Alpha Male has noticed that the Gamma Dogs have been playing with his bones. He gets interested, and tries to influence the outcome.


But here the lead dog is needed. We need grammar. The words emerge, but are unlinked by rule of language.

As part of 'interpretation', there needs to be one grammar. The lead dog's good at grammar, so let him at it!

Nouns may 'flip' to become verbs.
Singular may become plural, and vice-versa.
Articles can 're-generate' themselves, like fingernails.
Suddenly there's language. The pack has spoken.

I conducted the experiment with four gals. AP, MS , R____ and Rainbow, then I wrote a computer program to 'jostle' the words, (replacing the pack leader) so that the word order on each 'step' could be made into a random event, changed by pushing a button. I jostled them, like a gold-miner, panning for gold, late into the evening hours on my Houston Street computer.

Here's a portion of the first poem I wrote with Rainbow using this method:


Yes, know your studio,
come to capture some smoke.
Though they deal death,
Be here.
Weld scale metal
doing looms from mess,
pad to mad.
Was an empty glass so dead?
How mean with junk,
Take our old cigarettes in break.

The work produced poetry!

In a blast I understood the mechanism of the mind, and how devices may be dreamed up at any time, to distract our too-focused executive. It was possible to allow the pack to dream at night.

Ah . . the rub . . .

a tidbit not offered by a playful hand
what's not edible, is left in sand.

My gals didn't like it. I didn't like it. It had a lousy taste.

It was mechanical. It took their input, but ground it up with the process. Yes it brought forth subject, but it was DOA. It lacked leavening. It was bread that wouldn't rise.

The picture I got was my picture, since I had created the process in the first place. I was flour and water and sugar, but no yeast. It  felt like I had taken my subjects, and put them in cages.

She didn't like having her words in cages! I was gaining Muse consciousness.

To me these feel like machine poems - there was no grace in the making. No one else was there, least of all my subject, once she had broken the words down into piles she felt done for the day. My gals were bored to tears. It resembled an industrial grade psychological test. Once I had satisfied my curiosity and saw that 'content' was all over the place, I realized it was time to move on.

I nearly deleted all of the work, only now am sorting through.

After all why should it be difficult to write poetry? Why should a massive effort be engineered to help the process?

Yes I had learned one way to distract Logos. But ritual does the same thing!

Now my task was to subtly use this knowledge amidst a larger drama, that didn't focus on me so much.

What did I learn?

If a situation is designed for Mythos to rush in and populate with projection and 'content', then it will. 

If an opening is offered, and held there consistently, equidistant from the grasp of the one being so tortured, the creature tires and turns away from it.

Poetry is the reason that poetry is written. We all need it. This wasn't it.

This experiment scared me silly, so I stopped.


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