I’ve been thinking alot about influences and what I learn from others. It was a theme for the March D-Quad for my enewsletter, Caravan Trails. I wrote this awhile back and wanted to share it with you, in a few installments (it is long!).
Do send me your comments, and think about continuing this theme for April D-Quad…
Heroes and Gods
By Paulette Rees-Denis
Anais Nin, Henry MIller, Tom Waits, Dalia, my father, Gypsy Caravan, Elvis Costello, Ruth St. Denis, Diane Ackerman, Anne Rice, Rumi, Anthony Bourdain, Robert Parke-Harrison, Beatrice Wood, Nick Bantok, Deborah Turberville, Olivia Parker, Man Ray, Tasha Tudor, Alice Waters, Emeril Lagasse, Edward Espe Brown, Susan Albert, Janet Evanovich, Suhaila, Baron Baptiste, David Bowie, Collette, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, D. H. Lawrence, Isabel Allende….
I say everyone needs a few heroes or gods to look up to. Me, I’ve got an abundance of them. Some change constantly. Some have been revered for decades.
Who is a god? For me it is someone I honor, one who can lead the blind, one with more than natural attributes who demands my human worship, a person of supreme power and influence. A hero? A legendary figure of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, an illustrious warrior, a man or woman admired for their achievements and noble qualities, a person of extreme admiration and devotion. My gods or heroes include anyone who’s influenced me in some huge way, wowed me, changed me, made me stop, think, and look hard around me. Heroes, legendary figures, gods, goddesses, illustrious warriors, idols. I use the words interchangeably. I didn’t originally mean a hero as in one who saves lives, but I guess in some ways, many of mine have saved me at one time or another.
How do people get on my god list? I am seduced and inspired by my gods and their work. Music, words, photographs, dance, poems, gardens, food, kind deeds. They have done something deserving to entitle honor from me, that has been life altering or affirming, in my process of learning and searching and living. Sometimes they get put on a pedestal, or have a temporary altar made for them. Cher, for example, definitely the temporary altar type, although I had much admiration for her, it wasn’t long lived enough for godhood. But Henry Miller and Anais Nin, ah, they are way up there on my pedestal. Life transforming they were for me when I was going through one of my many and always relentless times of life inquisition.
I remember reading Henry and Anais while in art school, San Francisco, 1981, in my early twenties. I was devouring life through words, photography, art, drugs, alternative rock n’ roll, sex, late night conversations, eccentric wild youth. Through their books I found out about other ways of living that I was never exposed to growing up, not that I was a deprived child. I knew there had to be more out there, although not knowing what “more” was, I wanted and needed to find it. With Henry and Anais I did. I traveled with them, from the streets to the cafes, the bordellos to the parties, eavesdropping on their explorative conversations with psychiatrists to poets. Sex, hunger, thirst, people. Their lust for life was infectious. Henry and Anais made me want to run out in the street and do cartwheels, their words were so invigorating.
Being pioneers into my new life quest, I devoured almost every book written by them. Anais’s diaries filled me with questions and answers, giving me permission to experience life in a different way, through her words and her experiences. To live with freedom and beauty, I worshipped her. She went up on my pedestal.
Reading first Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus-The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy by Henry Miller, and delving, or diving, into most of his other books, his writing did the same thing to me. His boldness and curiosity took hold as no other had up to this point in my life. He was almost savage in that he wasn’t afraid to live and went after what he wanted. He looked around him and saw and took everything he wanted. People I knew who also read him thought he was sexist in his sometimes degrading words for women, but I thought it was because he was obsessive and infatuated with women, he adored them. He wrote about his travels, his writing, his sex. I wanted to be able to experience life like he had. A different book of his, published later on in his life, was Paint as You Like and Die Happy, a book on his paintings. Although never quite as well known for his paintings compared to his writing, his work impressed me because he painted with childlike innocence and adventure, the same way he lived. He painted with freedom, no rules except his own imposed discipline. His philosophies taught me to go deep, to not settle, and experience what I honestly wanted. He was my god.
to be continued…