This is part two of an ongoing interview with Takuin. You can read part one here. This particular interview goes into creativity, art and artistry, and part of my struggles as a young human trying to be expressive.
The questions in this particular post, were asked by Liz.
Liz: First, let me follow up with a question or two from where Jake left off.
As far as having the support of your friends or family in your writing, do you think your posts might have turned out differently had there been that support?
Takuin: Well, there is an art to expressive writing, no matter the subject. And having support, especially from specific people, can make a big difference in the life of an artist. That difference is not necessarily directly translated into ‘good’ work, but there is a charge, or energy, for lack of a better word, that is present during the creation of the thing that can give the overall end result a sense of some kind of otherness; a touch of something special, which is not quite explainable.
Having that support can make a huge difference in the relationship between the artist and the medium, but it is not something you can easily quantify in a finished piece of work. And it is not something you necessarily carry with you consciously.
“It is not as if you are saying during the act of creation, “So and so loves me and supports what I do, so this is going to be great!” It is not like that at all.”
It is like a residual scent of the love given from without. It is like perfume that can lightly intermingle with the work while it is being completed.
Liz: This sounds waaaay beyond my own life and work, haha. Even a bit ‘mystical’?
Takuin: Well, I don’t know about ‘mystical’, because the influence of one loving human being upon another is not mystical at all. It is just that the results of that love, speaking in terms of the creation of some kind of art, cannot be predicted. We cannot say it produces a specific kind of result. That is all.
But even so, I am convinced that something can take place between the artist and the work which is the result of one’s encounters with others.
L: Do you think that a hateful person can also have a similar effect on the work?
TM: Oh, absolutely. But in both cases, I think either influence can be wonderful for the work in the end, whether it is pain or pleasure.
It is not easy to explain, but even if it were easy to explain, I am not sure knowing it would be very helpful to an artist. Oh, but I never answered your question!
L: HEY! That is right!
TM: I did not really have direct, active support in any of my writing, so it is difficult to say. Would the work be different had the circumstances been changed? Who knows? There is the possibility, but I don’t want to make this confusing, because what I am talking about has no direct effect on the work. It is not about sentence structure, choosing the better word, or ruthlessly editing and killing your darlings. It is none of that.
L: If it is an ‘act of creation‘ kind of thing, then this influence must also be present in other forms of art, correct?
TM: It is something the artist, the human being, carries with him/her, so any creative endeavor could potentially carry that influence. So yes.
L: Was it at all discouraging to be without the kind of support we’re talking about here?
TM: Currently? No. But as a child, absolutely. I can clearly see the decisions I made growing up – the various forks in the road – and how those decisions were influenced by that lack of support. It was not a lack of love or anything. But I think it is difficult for some people to understand the mind of a young artist, or expressive human being.
“It is far easier to beat that mind down so it will conform to the norm, as opposed to opening up and trying to really understand something truly different and potentially remarkable.”
But that is so common in our world. Those that are different are beaten back in order to keep the status quo chugging right along. It takes great strength to resist that, especially when it comes from those you love. It is a hurdle many young people may never be able to clear.
L: And how did you resist that as a young man?
TM: I didn’t, haha. I was beaten back sufficiently. But I always had secrets up my sleeve. I had my own underground railroad of escape routes, which I kept separate from my ‘regular’ life. Eventually I became the person hiding in those dank tunnels, and it became a part of my regular life, but I had to keep the truth of the thing from everyone, or at least, most people. I just didn’t want to hear the bullshit about how I was wasting my time…
Even though I allowed creativity to surface, I only let it go so far; out of fear, I suppose. It was far easier to keep it all to myself. At least in that way, no one would ever give me any shit or tell me how odd my ideas or creations were. But unfortunately, timidity became my nature, and all because I could not feel the strength to say the hell with it and just do what I wanted to do.
L: And what is it you wanted to do? What were those interests or those creations?
TM: More than anything else, I was born a musician. The first time I sat behind a set of drums, I could play. The first time someone set a musical score in front of me, I could read. I have a nearly perfect memory for sounds I have heard a handful of times. It takes no effort for me, and it is really beyond my control.
“I still need to practice, and if I don’t read for a long time the ability diminishes, just like with anyone else. But music has always been easy for me, and with those major difficulties out of the way, I could focus on deeper things.”
L: Like what?
TM: Well, there are technical elements of music that any musician must master to some degree. What they play and how they play it determines exactly how deeply they need to go into those things, of course.
Kurt Cobain had a completely different set of technical considerations from say, Jaco Pastorius. But both of them were able to deeply explore beyond what came easy to them. Certain aspects were easy for Kurt, just as certain aspects were easy for Jaco, but the importance of what they created went beyond those things, as they were able to deeply explore the other side.
Speaking of myself, I could safely ignore certain aspects of music to some degree, because it took very little effort for me to get a handle on them. With those considerations out of the way, I could focus on trying to find interesting means of expression.
If you never have to study or practice ear training, or if you have to put very little time into learning scales and so on, it frees up a hell of a lot of time, haha. I still practice those things from time to time … well, NEVER ear training … I’d rather shoot myself in the ass. But luckily, ear training is something I have never had to worry about. 😉
I tested out of those things when I first got to Berklee anyway …
L: What was it like to attend Berklee?
TM: It wasn’t an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. But I think that had more to do with the person I was in those days. The best part of going to Berklee was the exposure to musicians from all over the world. I learned far more from them than I ever did from the curriculum. Also, If I had not gone to Berklee, I probably would not be in Japan right now. So it all worked out just fine in the end, haha.
L: Were you a good student?
TM: Hell no! I don’t think I have ever been a good institutionalized learner.
I assumed, before I got there, that Berklee would solve all of my problems as a musician. I mean, hey, it IS Berklee after all. But unfortunately, I had to take ME with me, haha. If I could have gone, and left me at home, it would have been far better for everyone.
L: Why is that?
TM: Although I had a good exterior, I had no real confidence in myself. Regardless of my abilities.
“I think I always felt like a fraud, as if someone might suss me out at any moment, and point at me screaming like Donald Sutherland at the end of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.”
Somewhere in my mind, I never thought I was good enough to be at Berklee. I could not see it then, but I can see that clearly now. I was always good at hiding those feelings, though.
I was very weak when it came to believing in what I could accomplish. And that feeling stayed with me in so many areas of my life, for a very long time. I just couldn’t seem to get away from it.
L: And that had to do with that lack of support we spoke of earlier …
TM: Amongst other things, yes.
How then, did you become a writer?
TM: By accident. I think I was always interested in writing something, but I was never quite sure what I wanted that something to be.
For awhile I assumed if one wanted to express themselves with the written word, one would choose fiction. After that I thought non-fiction was the way to go. Then screenplays. Then poetry. I could never pin down what it was I wanted to write.
After the accident of December 2006, it all took care of itself, I suppose. I was compelled to write, with no real worries of literary merit, haha.
I don’t know if I effectively expressed myself in words, or if I was even understood most of the time. But something did come of it, and my focus nowadays, as far as writing is concerned, is to express something different than before, while never discarding the tools I developed in writing at Takuin.com for the last six years.
L: I could always ‘feel’ something through your writing, and sometimes it WAS difficult to understand. But I think there was always a directness in your words, no matter how many of them you used. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with next!
TM: So am I, haha!
L: Let’s change the subject.
The kind of work you’ve done at Takuin.com … do you think that is something you can just easily walk away from?
TM: I don’t look at it in that way. I don’t think of it as ‘walking away’.
As human beings, we evolve, take on new shapes, forge new paths and leap in new directions. And while it may be a definite change in direction as far as content is concerned, it is still an extension of what I am. It is just a turning of the cheek, or seeing the face for the first time in deep shadow as opposed to bright light.
During my skype calls, emails, or face to face meetings, I was always fond of saying something to the effect of, “If someone is a teacher, spiritual or otherwise, they should be more interested in LOSING followers as opposed to acquiring them.”
“To keep followers, to acquire them, put them in the fridge and hope they don’t expire too soon, is to live without evolution; just another form of security, both for the teacher and the student.”
If a teacher cannot give you the tools to discover and explore on your own, within a year – perhaps two – then what the hell are they doing? I’ll tell you … wasting your time! And this is, of course, also the responsibility of the student.
For the teacher to remain there is to be stuck … to wilt on the vine. And the same goes for the student. To hope for freedom from their favorite source, is to be stuck. To live without curiosity and care. Gentleness. Suppleness. Whatever you might want to say.
Had I kept writing in the same way as I always had, it would not have been right. I would have been just another jackass (and perhaps I am anyway), clutching desperately to what has become comfortable.
Just. Isn’t. Right.
It is the nature of human beings to grow and evolve. And most of us spend our days fighting this natural impulse.
L: Would you do anything differently if you could go back and do it over again?
TM: No. No way.
That is an impossibility, really. In exploration, there is no going back. It is all encompassing. And while things may arise differently on a different day, the nature of exploration makes it silly to regret anything one has seen or not seen.
And besides, doing things differently implies also there is a ‘good’ result, or a finish line. And if a seeker, during some part of their journey, feels like they keep running their head into a wall, that is usually the reason.
L: You mean, because of a desired result?
L: Well, what can they do about it?
TM: Smell the flowers. Find someone they love, and spend time with them. Embrace a friend that truly needs them. Teach a child that the stupidity of the adults surrounding them is not their fault. Eat dessert while looking out into the ocean…
L: That won’t sound very spiritual to a seeker, haha!
TM: And that is why they will fail.
This interview series will continue in future posts.