March 2022 Update: Am I Into Block Printing Now?

The more I consider it, the more Marina’s “True” has become the anthem of my 30s. I’ve followed Marina since shortly after she released her first album because one of the polytheistic blogs I followed — a Blogspot one that was one of two sources that persuaded me to buy a Plato Complete Works anthology in my early twenties — was using her “I Am Not A Robot” video to explain something (I forget what).

“True” evokes the ways of opinion and the ways of truth in the surviving fragments of Parmenides, the compassionate certainty of Socrates in the Phaedo, the “srsly?” vibe of the Protagoras. The song, to me, is about coming to terms with a particular embodiment in a graceful, this-is-adulting-for-real way.

I’m going to be talking about The Soul’s Inner Statues, woodcutting, burnout, meditation, and what I’m reading in this “what is Kaye doing?” blog post, so here’s “True” just in case you want to listen before we get started.

Soul’s Inner Statues

During the first part of the month, I finalized the public beta of The Soul’s Inner Statues. While wallflowering conversations online in February and March, it occurred to me that some of what I had to say in The Soul’s Inner Statues was immediately relevant and could have contributed to those conversations, and that felt (a) satisfying and (b) pressing. It backed up my resolve to make it available rapidly, even when I was feeling a lack of confidence about my approach or whether my words would even be taken seriously. After I finished it, I prayed — I offered the Creative Gods some River Path incense. The refresh of the material over summer (to make an at-cost print copy available) will be the final step.

While drafting The Soul’s Inner Statues, I did divination. It all came back eerily positive — stuff like Dare to Dream, Be Wild, once; and another time, Love – Manifest – Dare to Dream – Soul Work. Going after the pie in the sky doesn’t come naturally to me — I do love dreaming, and I love positing what-if questions, but ultimately, I want to dig in and do something that nets functional results. I think that’s also why I like Platonism.

Relaxing Is Hard

I knew I was in danger of compromising my health due to the speed at which I wanted to finish The Soul’s Inner Statues, so my divination on February 28 (the lunar 27th) involved a question about how to handle that and avoid burnout. The results were about coming into alignment with embodiment and being more in tune with why I’m here. It used the Threads of Fate deck, with five cards: (1) Inner life – SHARE WISDOM; (2) Outer life – NATURE; (3) Aligned inner life – THE OUTLAW; (4) Aligned outer life – FATE; (5) How to align – THE UNIVERSE. The Nature/Fate pairing absolutely pleases me, as it would please anyone who has read as much Proclus or more. I do not actually know what Share Wisdom/the Outlaw mean for a pairing. I don’t see myself as pushing boundaries or being transgressive. I’m a 9-5 employee in her 30s who goes home to read Proclus or write in fuzzy socks after saying hello to her cat and maybe going to a spin class.

And I burnt out — a bit. I realized that on Twitter shortly after I finished The Soul’s Inner Statues because I felt like I was on empty. I had a strong sense that I had said everything I needed to in The Soul’s Inner Statues — the book has rendered my sense of parasocial obligation obsolete. There are so many inappropriate and bad takes about the Gods and theology on social media that I sometimes felt compelled to be there (on Twitter — I know TikTok is worse, and the snippets I’ve seen of TikTok are just … mentally draining). Apparently, writing up one’s thoughts in a book format is one way to reduce or remove compulsive social media participation, as everything I want to say is there. You can’t pull a chariot when the horses are dead. I felt wiped for a while.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on my sleep and address things I let slide while I was drafting so intensely. One afternoon, I Googled what is fun? because I realized that I didn’t know what the difference between fun and enjoyment was and felt worried that not knowing was a bad thing. Do enjoyable things I do count as fun? Daylight Savings Time made the recovery process worse because I had to adjust to the time while already having had trouble winding down to sleep due to pulling long after-work writing sessions to finish SIS.

Things were a slog for a while, and then they got easier. I worked on sleeping and getting my habits back together. The lull of rumination pulled me into thinking about my teenage years for a few days, and then I stopped myself halfway through writing something up because it was pained and ridiculous and not worth the amount of energy I was giving it. I read articles on self-compassion as a pick-me-up, like “Why Is It So Hard to Practice Self-Compassion?” by Ellen O’Brien. I read Michael Griffin’s intro to Olympiodorus’ commentary on Alcibiades I, which I bought in e when the publisher was having a flash sale, as I do like reading Alcibiades content when I feel drained and start getting pessimistic about myself.

The switch flipped without me realizing it. I started doing Platonic interpretation of a spiritual lecture I heard from 1969 to figure out why the words quoted from it on an album I really like hit me so deeply. I am having … fun. My sleep got better. The light lingered after I left my basement office on onsite days, and things started to feel more optimistic and possible. I recited a prayer to the Gods whirling in the Phaedrus and felt that luminous attention-attentiveness spark up again, that beautiful mind’s-eye expansiveness when praying to Athene, that magnetic same-other of praying to Apollon. I saw flowers bolt up outside my apartment and wrote a poem about them. There is always sun behind clouds.

I Tried Woodcutting

My girlfriend persuaded me to take a woodcutting class at one of the area’s makerspaces for two Saturdays. I haven’t done relief carving since elementary school, when we did carvings on a rubbery material. It took me a while to think of designs. I prayed about it when I didn’t feel any inspiration about “a design” and ended up doing a black hole motif for the first week.

The print I made of my first woodcut. It’s a black hole. I added jets. It was fun.

We were given carving tools for lithographs (not woodcutting) because it was economical and functional-for-purpose, so the two of us went over to the art store a block away after the first class and bought some linoleum panels. I carved a tree reaching up towards the sun, with small leaves and a single flower, while thinking about the flower of the mind/intellect. The linoleum is much easier to carve.

After carving the flower, I did the larger woodcut, which used the same black hole motif (minus the jets) and some text from the black hole chant I give to Apollon and have given to Apollon ever since the late autumn of 2019 when everything seemed to dance like an event horizon.

We went back for the second week to learn the art of actually printing the woodcuts, and I also printed the linoleum cuts I made. There was a lot of vocabulary, like registration, and we were all frustrated by the Speedball ink that dried way too fast for what we were trying to do with the rolling press. I learned another technique involving a baren with some traditional Japanese paper, a technique I think I prefer because I do actually like carving, I have discovered, and as an apartment-dweller, I highly doubt I am in a position to have enough space for an actual press. The filaments in the paper looked so gorgeous, and I loved the process of peeling the paper back from the block. It was so tactile.

I made … many prints. As one can see above, at one point — my girlfriend and I stayed later than almost all of the other attendees because we were playing around with things — I had a lot of prints.

The black hole with the chant above looks a lot like a planet with rings, which is a bit less good given that I do want it to look like a black hole taking in new material. How does one do jets with words? Could the words be jets? The smaller size, wordless prototype definitely turned out better, and there were some slippage errors using the lino cutting tools to create letters on the wood block.

This is the “Flower of the Mind” linoleum block print that I made on the Japanese paper. The texture of the linoleum comes through very nicely, creating an odd shimmering effect when it comes in contact with the large fibers of the paper. It’s just so, so nice. I did a few prints on thicker print paper, too, using the press, but they just were not the same.

I realized after printing it that it could make a very good cover for The Soul’s Inner Statues.

I think I may do that? I think it looks decent like this? Or I could use the one on firmer paper that has less texture?

I also did the name of a Goddess. I may do something else with this — if I get woodcutting tools and do it on that instead of the linoleum (as above), I think I could actually make a flat carving and fill in with color to do a better version of the piece of paper I’m currently using. That would be nice and … fun?

Am I into wood now? And block printing? And linoleum? Is this something that happens?

Interestingly, most of my ideas have to do with images of Gods. There’s a culture in my scifi worldbuilding that uses abstract geometric representations of Gods, and I want to figure out if I can make the ones for Enashisha, Enakhiavoshei, Likhera, and Enahari. I’m also thinking about how to translate that into the real world with Gods I worship and which specific sequences might work well with them. The only things I want to compose are things related to the Gods. Any other creative ideas seem forced, at least for now. I keep thinking back to what Proclus said about how creative acts should be used for hymning the Gods, and being in alignment with that missive feels validating, if a bit unsettling.

What Happens in Quiet Moments

… is so hard to describe. I’ve been thinking about interconnectedness, belonging, and the Gods, and in moments of contemplation after praying to Apollon, that attention translates into things I don’t quite know if I can articulate. It’s beautiful, and I’m grateful for the God giving me context and jarring me out of my own subjectivity so often. Sometimes, I feel like decompressing with other people about things like this, except I don’t even know what one would say, and my self-consciousness about the inadequacy of words just makes me smile nervously.

What I’m Reading

I finished reading Tiffany Midge’s The Woman Who Married a Bear, a poetry collection. The poems were overall very good. A few made me think, like “After Viewing the Holocaust Museum’s Room of Shoes and a Gallery of Plains’ Indian Moccasins: Washington, DC”; I loved “The Cut,” “Identifying the Beast,” “In Praise of Our Humble Kingdom,” and “A Song for Conjuring Shelter” because the imagery that Midge uses is beautiful — for example, in the last poem in that list, she writes, “Come in from the rain, come in, Sweet / before the lightning takes you — / that embrace, all of life wanting in, / song for water, song for breath.” That was just so stunning.

As I mentioned above, I read the intro to the translation of Olympiodorus’ Alcibiades I commentary from Michael Griffin, and that may be my “onsite days” read for a while — I like having something in e so I can pull it up in lines and when I take breaks at work. I’m also reading the translation of Iamblichus’ De Anima fragments and the attached scholarly commentary after having finished Aristotle’s De Anima. Aristotle’s work was an incredibly dissatisfying read because I think that what we know about perception, sameness, and difference with life nowadays makes the questions about embodiment and parts of the soul a bit different. When I was writing the abandoned piece about belonging, I said that we often lean into our feelings of estrangement and delude ourselves into thinking they’re real, constructing an identity out of difference when we actually have more in common with the Other than we think; to be healthy, we need to resist that Othering, even in cases when we must oppose others positionally. The destructive patterns of hyper-polarization and hyper-differentiation have to break somewhere to drain the pus and heal. I see a similar thing at play when thinking about the soul and how the sense of human estrangement and difference and “betterness” (lol, orcas are way better people than us, imo) contributes to what got us to the current climate crisis, especially when it created a horrific positive feedback loop with Christianity and colonialism.

And I’ve been reading stuff on Forms. Plotinus. I … discovered Zotfile in Zotero and had several of the happiest moments in my 2022 as I watched the Zotfile plugin extract every single f—ing annotation I made in Syrianus’ refutations of Aristotle and put all quotes, all notes, in a file that I can just scroll through and search and I am still so, so elated. For all the pessimism many of us have about technology now that the Internet honeymoon has worn off, that moment of joy and the sheer practical functionality of the Zotfile tool just made my day.

🌷 Happy end of March. 🌼

2 thoughts on “March 2022 Update: Am I Into Block Printing Now?

  1. I cannot tell you how many times I have googled “what is fun” in moments of desperation. One of the difficulties I have is that I like to do a lot of things that look like work (making art, reading hard books, etc.). When I’m burnt out, I can’t muster the energy to do that sort of stuff, and I begin doubt that I ever really found that stuff fun in the first place—maybe I’m just driven to work hard in my off hours because of some sort of psychological trouble.

    But I think your journey here helped me realize that, actually yes, it’s okay to have fun doing things that other people think are boring, maybe that’s genuinely fun. Perhaps the feeling of burnout is lacking the energy to have fun, and the solution to burnout is not forcing myself to have “fun” as much as to rest and let myself just be burnt out for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment! I’m happy that this framing was so helpful. What got me to start thinking of dealing with burnout in this way was a yoga video I watched a few years ago — the instructor related a time when she’d been forcing her practice and how awful it was, and she described how, by changing small things in her environment, she was able to re-center and get back on track. Whenever I feel frustrated and listless now, I try to figure out if there’s something basic that I’m missing, and it usually turns out that I’ve been neglecting basic self-care like sleeping enough or drinking water.

      Liked by 1 person

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