Eric J. Wallace is a writer, journalist, teacher of Composition and Literature, and occasional spiritual provocateur living in Hampton, Virginia. Studying under the irascible and fiercely intelligent Ryan Boudinot, he earned a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College. He believes in brave, daring, and, above all, ecstatic writing. He loathes all forms of oppression, including, foremost, ignorance and its abominable spawn: stupidity. His passions are the most intense known to man: Zen and Poetry—although he chooses to interpret the latter as designating more-so an ontological state of spontaneous expression than the product of some insidious linguistic reduction.
Having spent years developing, honing, frequently sabotaging, and often simply just stumbling upon the various components of a very loose and eccentric creative process, my educational tactics tend to steer toward a rigorous, almost alchemical notion of deep, self-exploration. For me, the dialectic tends to steer less toward an accumulation of craft-oriented mechanics (the so-called ‘toolbox’ approach, as it were), and more toward the discovery and establishment of a balanced, perpetually ongoing feedback loop of inspiration.
In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s well known (and oft misinterpreted) little opus, “Self Reliance,” he offers the following enigmatic hint: “But do your work, and I shall know you… Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.”
While I acknowledge that compiling a toolbox (or, if superhero metaphors are your ilk, belt) full of nifty tricks is a reasonable and valid exercise—“Literature is the greatest deception known to [humanity]!” sez Nabokov the Provocateur—that said, a chimpanzee can sit through a Bob Ross series and walk away with an armful of passable landscapes. In such cases, the astounding thing isn’t the work itself, but the fact it was produced by a monkey.
Thus enters the immutable, eternally tantalizing—and, perhaps, terrifying—question of ‘inspiration.’
How does It work? How do we become introduced, and, subsequently, enter into a non-tumultuous, preferably beneficent relationship with The Muse?
Through constant, systematic vigilance, I seek to root out those pestilent (but necessary, very necessary) blockages which keep us from coming into contact with, and ultimately knowing, that deepest internal essence, the primal, fundamental quietude (void, hot white light, beloved, unified field—however you wish to phrase it) from whence all creation arises. Now, being human beings are, whether one accepts the fact or otherwise, by nature infinitely unique—consider the unfathomable variability of DNA, the delectable stew of genealogy, the roulette wheel of environment and experience!—the process of identification, conceptualization, and embodiment of Inspiration will be always equally and proportionately diverse. By acknowledging—nay, celebrating!—this diversity as the fundamental human condition, my educational tactics curtail toward the effect of, as with Shelley’s (Percy Bysshe’s, that is) ideal poet: “…distend[ing], and then burst[ing] the circumference of the [learner’s] mind, and pour[ing] itself forth together with it into the universal element with which it has perpetual sympathy.”
Fine, fine, the ratiocinating cynic may scoff, but how does this cute verbal exercise translate into effectual practice?
In action, this philosophy is the most highly individualized, personal learning experience imaginable. In fact, in lieu of its methodology, it seeks to, if not entirely shatter, at least heavily distort the rules of what the word learning is supposed to mean. E.g.: I seek to enable the student to undertake an expedition into the heart of the darkness of their own mind, and, within that wilderness discovering they are in possession of no mere a torch, but a dazzling fusion-powered flashlight. Like a guided mediation—like Kafka’s famed explorer!—we enter into unimagined territories where, as opposed to conquering, mining, pilfering, or any other such negativistic turn of phrase, we learn to simply listen. Because: listening implies relationship. And, as anyone who has ever entered the divine labyrinth of romance well understands, in order to understand the needs of, acknowledge, and reply to the Beloved, one has first to remember the art of listening.
As Emerson—as well as Whitman and, for that matter, all the great, true artists—so surreptitiously tell us, the activity of listening—entering into an active engagement with the muse, the source of our inspiration—begets a life of devotion. As the old Bard of Bards tells us, the world becomes a mirror of the artist him/herself; there is nothing, when viewed from such a vantage, that is not artistic—and thereby fodder for transmutation into art. In this manner, by attaining this state of, as some dully choose to phrase it, ‘constantly writing,’ we create a feedback loop, a constant relationship with our own personal divinity, inspiration.