First, what is a muse? The dictionary defines a muse as: 1) Gk. Myth. Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science; 2) A guiding spirit; 3) A source of inspiration; 4) A poet.
In the creative process when we are in touch with our “muse” or when the Universe is expressing through us, we are capable of unusually profound insights and expressions. It is when the good, the true and the beautiful speak through us. It is also when we may be creating something beautiful but more importantly, it is when we have become something beautiful.
From two short story writers we offer these two examples:
The Riddle (1985)
by Antonio Tabucchi (1943-2012)
The Italian writer, Antonio Tabucchi in his short story The Riddle (in his short story collection entitled Little Misunderstandings of No Importance) writes this sentence: “Sometimes it’s only in a dream that we glimpse a plausible solution. Perhaps because reason is fearful; it can’t fill in the gaps and achieve completeness, which is a form of simplicity; it prefers complexity, with all its gaps, and so the will entrusts the solution to dreams.”[i] Unwittingly perhaps, Tabucchi has made the distinction between the intuition and the intellect and between the conscious and unconscious mind.
When conscious, we are in the present moment and beyond fear. It is in the NOW that we experience our transcendent insights and our greatest creative power. With perfect clarity, we see the nature of reality as it is unclouded by unconsciousness and anxiety.
The Muse will then speak through us in the natural and resplendent act of creating consciousness itself. We are engaging in the act of waking up as the Universe seeks to know itself through us. The “solution” sought in our dreams is simply to awaken from the illusion of suffering and escape from the forests of darkness into the clearing of light, which bathes us in the warmth of awareness itself.
To do this we must learn to subordinate reason to the heart. Logos must be the servant of Eros. In the modern world we have the relationship reversed with fatal consequences.
In short, humanity must learn to listen to the insightful Muse, the still small voice. To fail in this sacred task is to fail in the Hero’s Journey and return to the human community empty-handed. Our noble ship, the gift of life, will run aground on the rocks of illusion and will sink beneath the sea of unconsciousness. We would do well to listen to the Muse.
Minutes of Glory (2019)
by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (b. 1938)
In Minutes of Glory by the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o we find this: “She worked in the beer halls where sons of women came to drown their inner lives in beer cans and froth.”[ii] The insight of the Muse here has to do with the cause of all human suffering, namely resistance to the nature of reality. Specifically, the young men in question are under the control of the ego and the sensation center of the false self. They are engaged in using substance addiction to “drown” their sorrows and escape from their inner voices that whisper incessantly beckoning them to awaken and escape their suffering. The “sensation” of the “high” produced by the alcohol provides them with the illusion of pleasure that keeps them unconscious, a process of escapism that only prolongs and intensifies their pain.
The universal human irony here is that if they would turn toward their “inner lives” and reject the cacophony of the beer hall and turn to the simplicity, solitude and silence of the refuge within, they would find serenity and the cessation of suffering. They chase after the very source of their suffering and agony—the triple illusions of security, sensation and power—as does most of humanity.
[i] Halpern, Daniel. The Art of the Story. New York: Penguin, 1999, page 546.
[ii] Ibid., page 557.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.