Clear the Mechanism

I believe a relationship exists between the meditative state, clearing the mechanism, and being receptive to dictation.  Dictation is the destination.  Describing this condition in relation to the songwriting process, I want to be in that place where ideas seem to come from beyond me.  In this state, ideas arrive quickly, almost faster than I can write, play, record, or notate them.  The trick is not so much to document every detail, like Orphée in the play by Cocteau.  You can lose the frequency that way.  It is more important to capture the essence of the event.

In the baseball movie, For the Love of the Game, pitcher Billy Chapel uses the phrase “clear the mechanism” as a kind of personal mantra.  Clearing the mechanism is the moment when the pitcher is dialed in, as if staring into the tunnel that is the strike zone.  Surroundings recede and there is only one focal point of attention. The act of pitching unfolds at its own pace.  The batter is almost irrelevant.  If the batter steps out of the box, his action is instantly incorporated into the rhythm, without breaking the chain of concentration.  This metaphor is one that works well for me in terms of understanding and appreciating the process of creation.  I want to be the pitcher who sets the rhythm of the field, but have that rhythm come from beyond me, according to its own dictates.

The trick is to find methods that work best for you to get dialed in to receive Dictation, so you are prepared to receive when the moment arrives.  You cannot force it.  You cannot summon it at will.  It is a process of being open to the moment.  Poets have appropriated a term from physiology—proprioception—which means sensing according to the body’s own internal mechanisms.

Proprioception: from “proprious-ception, ‘one’s own’-ception (…) the ‘body’ itself as, by movement of its own tissues, giving the data of, depth.”

~Charles Olson, “Proprioception”[i]

We use proprioception, this knowing from the inside, to dial in the ideas that flow through us.  They don’t always flow from the brain, but also kinesthetically, up from the fingers on the keyboard, or the toes on the mat.  You have to be alert to all your sensing mechanisms, because you never know where the correct antennae for a particular idea are located.  This proprioceptive process of internal-slash-external attenuation is an inherent part of clearing the mechanism.


[i] Charles Olson, “Proprioception,” The Poetics of New American Poetry, eds. Donald Allen, Warren Tallman, New York:  Grove Press, 1973, p. 183.


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