Staring Into the Sun Will Blind You

Andy Warhol was a strange guy. An unsettling, challenging, label-defying, all round strange guy. As a creative mind he was a genius of the highest order; but he was a strange guy, that’s for certain. 

In my uneducated opinion the thing that separates creative geniuses from the common or garden variety genius is their unique way of seeing the world. The very definition of genius, for me, is the ability to cut through the clutter and to see the truth contained in a thing – be it an object, an emotion, an interaction or a transaction. 

A creative genius is different to the other types in how his vision manifests. He not only sees through the noise and makes the connections but he does it is a very different way. He doesn’t draw flow charts or devise complex mathematical theorems and techniques; he demonstrates these connections (these truths) through sensory stimuli. The Mona Lisa, Stairway to Heaven and calculus are different expressions of the same ability.

It’s a rare thing, creative genius. It is like watching a master illusionist- I see what they do, but I have no idea how they do it.  

  
***

I’m a terrible student. I have a great many interests, but no passions. I have studied very little about very few of the things that I’m interested in. 

***

My father played guitar. It’s my first and most enduring memory of him. 

I am told that on the night that my mother and I returned home after my birth my father’s band rehearsed in our home. Obviously I don’t remember that – but I like to think that it would’ve sounded great on my bio if I had ever have trained hard enough to become a working musician. 

When I was ten years old I hurt my spine. I hurt it quite badly and it took some surgery and many months off school until I recovered enough to more or less pick up my life where it had been suspended. 

Around this period I was given my first guitar – one of those nylon string Spanish things. I wasn’t allowed to play much sport and I suppose it was there to help me to pass the time. 

I was, and am, grateful for it. 

 
I picked it up and put it down in intervals of a few months, but by the time I reached the middle of my high school years I could play rhythm on a few songs. My father was, at that time, paying bills by playing music in a restaurant a night or two a week. I would play rhythm while he would pick some Shadows instrumentals. 

I would sit in a booth in a corner, well obscured by the high back of the bench, and all that anyone would see was a guitar lead coming out of the booth and straight into the PA. It must have looked strange to see him calling chord changes to an invisible partner. 

My confidence and competence grew and by my last year or two of school I was sitting in with him, or sometimes a band, a few times a week. I was an acceptably ordinary guitarist and I was starting to learn to sing in tune and even to sing harmonies. This pleased my father and, as a result, pleased me. 

At this point (as with so many kids that age) I became absorbed with music. I was also singularly in love with the guitar as an instrument. 

I played for hours every day. I discovered Dylan, the Stones, the Beatles, the Cure, the Smiths, the Doors, Led Zepplin and hundreds of other bands. I wanted to be them. 

When I left school I studied in Port Elizabeth and slowly immersed myself in what was a vibrant music scene. With the added stimulus I improved (where I grew up I was the only kid I knew that played). I had a few friends who were career musicians and I wanted to get to their level. 

I started studying formally and practicing seriously. This was a different practicing to what I was doing a few years earlier – that was discovering chords and rhythms and sounds, this was hard work. 

The more I practiced the less I enjoyed it. The more I deconstructed a piece the less it meant to me. The joy was removed. 

I suppose it was like when an illusionist’s methods are revealed; it’s just never the same. 

***

I was gifted my first fly rod for my twenty-first birthday. A friend and I read a book and hung around and picked up a few tips. Slowly we picked up a few fish; not many, but enough to keep us coming back. 

I got to a point, I suppose, where I’d taught myself a trick or two and fairly regularly caught fairly good fish. We had a lot of fun. We never took it very seriously. When the movie came out we were already flyfishing and it bought us some sort of outdoor credibility. Mainly we had a lot of fun. 

I moved to KZN about fifteen years ago and have slowly drifted back towards casting a fly. I do it alone and, as far as is practical, I do it on rivers. I am overwhelmed by it. (Not catching fish, there are easier ways to do that.) Flyfishing for trout in moving waters is a complex and multilayered thing that I don’t have the skill to describe to you. 

I’ve spent a lot of days over the last few years alone on a river. I’ve camped out alone or stayed over somewhere and in the last three seasons have walked through the soles of two pairs of wading boots. I’ve learned some stuff in the process. 

What I like about what I’ve learned is that it’s come hard but it’s come naturally. You read a bit and buy a fly or two and then you go apply it all.  In the course of applying it you learn the truth and you make the connections that you don’t make in a lecture or get from reading a book. 

I suppose that if you count the number of rods on our rivers in a weekend I’m no worse than half of the guys out there. Solidly average. 

Not quite a year ago I met and started fishing with a group of friends and sundry acquaintances. They’re good guys, every one of them, and I’m grateful that I’m spending time with them. 

I’m doing a bit of other stuff related to flyfishing. Some of it is creative and I am fulfilled by it. Some of it it virtual and it compensates for my social anxiety and relative inability to interact with strangers in person. 

I’m having a lot of fun. 

I’m just trying to keep it fun. 

 
***

Warhol was a creative genius. He was visionary in many ways. 

He said that “the more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel“. 

I am so frightened by that; the possibility of feeling better and emptier. 

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