Pushing Thinking

As the fates and muses work things out, after writing about thought and thinking for the last couple of days, my next movie in from Netflix was Little Ashes, which I saw yesterday. It was the filmmaker’s musings on the possibly erotic relationship between Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca. I liked the film for what it was, and it was surely a study in what I have been musing about. Both of these great artists were passionate about using their art to challenge the thinking of the times. And certainly any eroticism that was felt between them was denied open expression by the fact that same-sex relationships were illegal. Oscar Wilde served prison time for it. The thinking of the times put their passions in a prison.

I took classes at the University of Madrid in 1972. One was a class in Spanish poetry. I remember being profoundly moved by Lorca’s writings. I wish I were up on the language enough to read his writing again without translation. He used his poetry to open eyes and hearts to the situation of the working class and as a weapon against Fascism; and he paid the highest price one can pay for his efforts.

In some sense this is a story of systems of thought clashing, with countless people being tragically crushed under the wheels of it. It begs the questions: What is the nature of thought? What is the reality in it that people fight and die for? We change our thinking from day to day, year to year and stage of life to stage of life. Thought isn’t worth killing for.

Dali used his art differently than Lorca. It seemed he mostly just for its own sake he wanted to challenge any system of thought, anything that was held in too much reverence and as many rules of propriety as possible. I find it fascinating that the Surrealists conducted a trial and expelled him from their movement for not being willing to use his art for political ends. He certainly lived his life and thought about art differently than his friend Lorca.

Pushing boundaries of thought – when, by what means, with what motivation, in service to what – these are questions we all have to grapple with. Or do we? I don’t think indigenous people grappled with these questions. I don’t think thought was such a problem for them. The problem evolved as we started thinking so much. I think we have a lot of thinking about thought to do; and as Buckminster Fuller said, a lot of “unthinking” to do.

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2 Responses to “Pushing Thinking”

  1. Karen Nilsen Says:

    Your blog is so thought-provoking–I learn so much here! I’ve looked at Dali’s paintings so many times, but I had no idea he got kicked out of the Surrealist movement for not subsuming his art to political ends. I guess it would help if I read the text of the art books I inherited from my mother instead of just looking at the paintings! I do have a fondness for artists who refuse to let their art become politicized. Too often politicized art is little better than propaganda, though there are notable exceptions like Picasso’s Guernica and Lorca’s writings. Art with a political subtext works for me if it’s the artist’s honest gut reaction to his or her society, not what the artist is being told to think (oftentimes with subtle or not so subtle cues from those around the artist) about that society. Sorry for the rant–I have a lot of energy around this particular issue, as I often feel pressured in one of my writer’s groups to think a certain way about my writing and the larger culture, and I don’t like it. If the honest feeling is there as it was in Lorca’s writing, then it should be talked about, shouted from the rafters in fact in the cause of social justice. But it shouldn’t be forced.

    Perhaps that goes along with your commentary about “thinking” versus “unthinking.” I have a lot of unthinking to do, I think. 🙂

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