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Hand Book of a Hidden Man, Part 1

07-03-2021 | By Dan Zimmerman | Issue 116

Dan Zimmerman, an artist with Positive Feedback, has been developing a new book on creativity and the inner, spiritual life of the artist. The subtitle of PF, you may recall, is "A Creative Forum for the Audio Arts." Music and the audio arts are only domains within this larger world of creative work.

Therefore I think that his comments may stir your mind to consider the grander perspective.

It may take a while for Dan to work through his thoughts, but the result will make the wait worthwhile. Dr. David, Ye Old Editor

I call this a hand book because it conveys the experiences of one man as he tries to change the world with his hands. However, and perhaps this is something I should establish right away, this is not a how-to book.

The creative life does not come with a set of instructions. A hand book is different from a handbook. It's an odyssey of one set of hands. It can't be taught, is neither a technique nor a method, but rather an elusive way of experiencing life. I have known it, then forgotten it, rediscovered it, only to lose touch with it once again. However, I always found my way back.

How does one describe the passion for creativity? The joy of making something out of nothing, something that has never existed before? I do know the bringing forth of the altogether new usually seems to happen only by accident. I only gradually learned how to court its surprise. And I also learned no matter how much I discovered, the deepest mysteries insisted on remaining hidden. Then I found I was hidden, too.


I remember muted sounds,
waves in motion all around.
Yes, I do, I come from this,
and in the midst my comfort is.
In a concave bed of sand,
hollowed out by caring hand
My cover was a blanket bright,
and the soft, deep rumble of the sea.

I emerged from this, and will return to it in the end. It moves around and through me, and I continue to draw everything from it.

I have always felt this great continuum to be one of utter kindness. My mother's care, although it was deep and wise, only came second to it.

I have known this loving kindness, yes, but over the course of my life, something has happened...a transition has taken place. I've gone from the seemingly unchallenged state of total awe which I knew as a child to this, what now feels like a living contradiction, being both joyously creative and achingly unfulfilled.

Growing up, I increasingly hungered to live out what I became convinced was my destiny. But something always put up resistance to this. Apparently, human creativity is a contested zone.

Before I took shape in my mother's womb, before I was a distinct idea in the mind of the maker, I think I might have been cosmic dust distributed throughout the continuum. Inside my mother, though, I developed into a separate entity, and when the doctor cut the umbilical the separation was complete.

This wasn't disconcerting right away, but gradually it became so. After all, I had once been like the waves of the sea, and where does one wave leave off and another begin?

I found myself encased in a chubby little body, which sometimes my mother picked up and carried around. When she did this, life felt almost normal, like the constantly moving environment I had emerged from.

My parents were very much involved in my arrival. Dad was instrumental, of course, but I think my mother had the central role. She was the conduit through which I came.

It's fitting that she would also be the one who taught me about physicality, and the wonders of sight and touch. I was not as sensitive to taste and smell, however, because I had a deviated septum.

Concerning touch, I didn't much like being put down on a hard surface, like the concrete back porch. It didn't yield at all to the press of my fingers, and I was primarily interested in things that did, like water and dirt.

After I learned to walk, there were many more options, like those that presented themselves when Mom let my sister and I run through the sprinkler, and even play with the garden hose.

It was ecstatic. I was playing with primal stuff, the stuff I had emerged from. It seemed like the continuum was now actually squirting out of the hose in my hand.

I ran around with it in the front yard.

I mention this incident because this is, after all, a hand book, and hand books should be about hands, and all the wonderful things hands can do, like holding a gushing garden hose and running around with it.

To be continued, as the Spirit moves...

All drawings and paintings by Dan Zimmerman.