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In talking about certain of her desert paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe once remarked, “Slits in nothingness are not very easy to paint.”


Being on the International Bohemian Highway is like that. There you are, sitting at your desk, doing some routine thing that could not be less creative if it tried, and a little slit in nothingness opens up and you hear something like a bit of Chopin or you remember a fragment of a scene from Crime and Punishment—maybe the scene where the house painters inexplicably confess to the murder that Raskolnikov has committed.

You see in your mind’s eye a tree-lined boulevard that might be Berlin or who knows where—and for two seconds you are on the Highway—and then the moment passes and you are back to the mindless busyness of contemporary surviving. For those two seconds you vanished, and cognitive scientists have nothing useful to say about those two seconds, and creativity experts have nothing useful to say about those two seconds, and meditation teachers have nothing useful to say about those two seconds: each will bait-and-switch you into their domain.

Those two seconds, those slits with a view of walled gardens, of fables, of a corner of the Eiffel Tower, of a fragment of conversation, of cadmium red getting redder by the instant, of debates over art—a urinal, a soup can, a cement turd?—of snatches of other languages, of bougainvillea, of sherry—or is it port?—of bars, cafés, train whistles, freighters—those two seconds of strange perfection, whose contents make no sense and all the sense in the world—those two seconds pass, and it is back to hours of reality, hours made less real and more real by virtue of those calamitous, pregnant, perfect two seconds.

That particular nothingness is rather everything, isn’t it? What else could possibly draw a person to the arid desert? Where the International Bohemian Highway wends its way through the desert, through those glinting red rock formations, a person is not in real time but in that time with no name, that time which to call “creative time” or “dream time” simply doesn’t capture how all of life, the whole history of the species, those hundreds of thousands of years, are available, at eighty miles an hour, for two seconds here and three seconds there.

You will have heard that it is the space between the musical notes, the white space left on the canvas, the flaw in the pot, those are what really matter—there are so many different ways of inadequately expressing momentousness that passes in the blink of an eye. A slit in nothingness, two seconds out of a lifetime, and the White Rabbit passes, and there goes Alice, and there we go, too, on an International Bohemian Highway journey of immense proportions, all in a bottle cap.

We must not minimize slits in nothingness—in fact, we may live for them. Maybe we are built that way. Let us chat about that in the Eric Maisel Community, where such ideas percolate and resound. Come on by.

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