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Veins of Experience


I was reading a blog about an artist and I thought, the part I loved about the blog, was, this is about ideas – great ideas, scintillating ideas. Because how often do we have those? So often, we painstakingly set up a dull idea, and then even more slowly, unpack it. There’s no speed, no velocity – no hum caused by taking those ideas and accelerating them until they circled faster and faster, and then dipping down into them and wearing them like a jacket.

For ideas, for this kind of mind-tourism, you want richness, succulence. I was asked today about my favorite book, and I said Under the Volcano, a nice answer because it’s short and I hope my listener might, theoretically, read it too (unlike War and Peace or In Search of Lost Time).

But then, in thinking about it more, I realized a better answer would probably be The Savage Detectives. Because that book’s frenzied but passionate portrait of a group of poets coming together, writing a manifesto, and then bringing a half-sincere college movement to life is far more rough and tumble and heartfelt and yet, at the same time, ephemeral and purely mental, in a way that’s a perfect split between the academy and the working class.

What we really need, ultimately, are better ideas.

I live in a city which is, in a way that’s beautiful and really not the lie you might imagine it to be, a kind of idea capital. Ideas are pored over and sifted with great care, and true sincerity. With a fine-grained comb these ideas are lifted up, taken out, held up to the light, and sorted; and, slowly, but with real intention, the best ones are kept. And that – when you’re at the center of it, cumulatively – leaves an impression.

I’m reading another book now called the Flamethrowers now, about an artist, a young woman, living in NYC in the 70’s. NYC will probably always be the ancestral city for me, the place where my parents met – in a very real sense, the location to which I owe my existence. And in this book, set in this city I love, the prime directive is experience: not physical things, but abstractions, really, filtered out and back into your mind, as discrete units.

Experience as the great determiner. Experience, in some ultimate sense, as you.

In the end, what I want – what I really want – is to have the most exquisite experiences. I want to be transformed by these experiences that come down from All That Is. Call it art, call it commerce – ideas are the blood; they make you live.

When I was a kid I remember I would flip open a notebook and record ideas that I had for businesses, for inventions – write them all down and then tear through them, one at a time. This was how I would remake the world; but really, the direction was the other way – this is how these ideas would recreate me. I follow; they lead.

So the goal, really, is to open a vein for your best ideas. To live all the time, for as long as you can breathe, in the Visionary Mode.

That, as Conan would say, is what is best in life.


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