Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Breton and the "ultra receptive posture"

There is a story about André Breton that I like. In the early twenties he was living in a hotel and at night he would leave his door open, hoping that some stranger might enter and climb in bed with him.

Mark Pollizzotti mentions this story in his biography, Revolutions of the Mind, The Life of André Breton, Farrar Strauss Giroux 1995, while discussing Breton’s play If you Please:“More important the act foreshadows the more specifically Surrealist ethic of 'availability,' or 'receptiveness to chance.’”

Later, while discussing the play and the character Létoile, a detective, Breton states “It’s positively true that he’s not waiting for anyone, since he hasn’t made any dates. But, by the very fact of adopting this ultra-receptive posture, he intends to help chance-how should I say it-he means to put himself in a state of grace with chance, in a way that something will happen, that someone will show up.”

This concept of creating a “state of grace” with chance appeals to me both as a philosophical stance for life and as a strategy for writing because the concept of "availability" possesses, on the one hand, a mystical quality and a way in which to deal with experience , at least in a measured way, and, on the other hand, complies with some of Jung's ideas about the unconscious.

Specifically, on a creative level, if we place ourselves in a 'state of grace' or become available for images, they seem to arrive unbidden into the conscious mind like a stranger in the night. When these images surface we should greet them, meditate upon them and follow them, even if they repulse us, disturb us, or puzzle us. This type of receptivity ultimately is "hermetic" in nature and leads us back to Hermes, the guide (see earlier posts).

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