Wednesday, November 28, 2007



I’ve listened to mumbo-jumbo
like that before
been taken in by popular chatter even
sought to seek myself in that
pointless point of view

Can’t live without it—
within it either for that matter
it’s a place with no space
left to be in, a cosmic comma
without pause, an accelerator really


A depth protector abandoned
might mean no end to the fall
might mean anything in the wrong hands
might not mean anything at all.
Common, ordinary people, all but me.

Are you one of them or are you me?
you can know the difference but not
tell the difference, least of
all when it matters that you
tell the truth.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Community Arts of Elmira
Elmira, New York
September 28, 2007

All the beauty and sublimity we have bestowed on real and imaginary things I wish to reclaim as the property and product of man—as his fairest apology. Man as poet, as thinker, as god, as love, as power: O with what regal liberality he has lavished gifts upon things so as to impoverish himself and make himself feel wretched! His most selfless act hitherto has been to admire and worship and know how to conceal from himself that it was he who created what he admired.
-Friedrich Nietzche

Transforming trouble into beauty since 1951.
-My personal motto.

A remarkable coincidence occurred three weeks ago. Two of Elmira’s native sons published their strikingly different observations about their home town on the very same day. The Elmira Star-Gazette columnist Jim Pfiffer titled his remarks “How can we save our city?” With blunt frankness Pfiffer lists the obvious decay that surrounds us: the city is in debt, stores are empty downtown, the place is growing ugly, and riffraff are spreading drugs, mayhem, and shooting up the streets. What Jim told us is true.

The other native son is our friend Joe Caparulo. His remarks were presented in this room. Joe told us a story. He made up a future for Elmira, based on the truth of our past and present. As opposed to Jim’s despair, Joe finds in that truth the seeds of something bigger and far more glorious.

I want explore with you a big idea that kind of hides behind what Joe presented. His story is called “Present at the Creation: Urban Revival and the Arts.” In my welcome I called the story a seductive vision. I ask each of you: are we ready and able to sense and appreciate a vision of urban revival through art? Are we able to feel the seductive pull of that vision? Are we courageous enough to expand the vision so that we ourselves, individually and collectively, fit squarely at the center of the vision?

Having such a vision is what it means to be a creative community. Listen once again to what I just said. Having a vision of urban revival through art, a vision that seduces us to be pulled individually, collectively, and actively into the center of that vision, this is what it means to be a creative community. Visioning together is a real, effective, and even powerful means of transforming the world.

Where we are and what we are doing is proof that it works! The Community Arts of Elmira is the result of a shared and sustained vision. This vision attracted the resources and shaped them into what we are all doing here together this evening.

Let me explain a bit further. This organization, CAE, has an exciting, inspiring, and open vision of itself, its members, its community, and the future for all of these. Part of the vision has to do with this building and part with what can take place here.

The outside world, comprised of those who have not been touched by the magic of the vision, has been sharply critical of the practicality of having another arts organization in our community with another building to maintain. In fact, things have looked pretty grim from time to time in the short history of CAE.

Fundraising, although vigorous, was insufficient to make the purchase of the building we now occupy. An original, and substantial, down payment appeared to be money thrown down the drain. There was a disturbing fire, and the first executive director moved away. Discouragement seemed a wise bet. And the pundits among us were eager to discourage. “Settle for less than your vision,” they seemed to say. “Why put your hopes in another doomed attempt to save Elmira?”

Yet did CAE give up on its vision? No. They continued despite setback after setback. They did not have the money to procure this building, but they kept pursuing what they believed in. They displayed and sold art. Met and continued to encourage one another. And lo and behold, a miracle erupted. An angel appeared to buy and give to CAE this property. You can’t plan on miracles but you can be ready when they occur.

Let’s get back to Joe Caparulo’s story and Jim Pfiffer’s lament. Jim urged politicians to give us specific plans, no generalities but concrete realities with real, objective results. He wants elected officials “to tell us what we private citizens can do to help.” I’m not sure that’s what we need.

When an expert from elsewhere comes to town to give us a pep talk there is some buzz for a few days, and then it all goes away. After awhile, it seems better if those experts just stayed away. They get us raring to do something, get started, and the more practical among us urge us to list projects and prioritize them so that our slim resources don’t get squandered on “pie-in-the-sky” wishes. The trouble with all of this is that it misses the real point.

The real point is that before you can do anything genuine, sustainable, and significant, you’ve got to know what that is. Joe’s story has power because he paints a word picture of how Elmira might look thirty years from now. That picture is not the Elmira before the flood of ’72. Nor is it the Elmira of today. Yet it stretches from the real past (pre-flood) to the real present (a part of which Pfiffer spotlights) and reaches toward a future.
This is why it matters. Try as hard as we might, eradicating what we don’t like, what don’t approve of, and what we fear, will not get us anything better. Getting rid of stuff leaves merely a hole that other, usually unwanted stuff will soon begin to fill. We need to have a sense of something we want so we can fill the hole as it opens, keeping it open for the many visions that long for a place to take root. Directing all our energies to eliminating the bad only leaves empty lots, empty buildings, and empty souls.

Strangely enough it is not so important what the vision is. It only matters that someone truly cares about it. It only matters that the vision reaches toward something worthy of our care. My vision may be different than Joe’s, yours may be different from mine, and someone else’s vision may be different from yours. Yet, if we can share our visions, they grow and blend. To share means not just promoting your own vision, but actively reaching out to others. To share means to assimilate the beauty and value of the visions of others. When we seek to understand one another, we can feed each other encouragement, which builds excitement, energy, and commitment. Real things happen. Action and works spring from vision.

I propose that what will save Elmira is for us to engage in as many visioning conversations as we can possibly have. A rational approach to problem solving is to ask first: what are your resources? The practical belief is that available resources will limit your possible objectives.

But suppose this is not where to start. Suppose the belief isn’t even true. What if you cannot possibly know what counts for resources until you have an objective, that is, an emotionally vibrant vision? How does one make an inventory, calculate a budget, set a definite strategy without knowing where one is headed and why? Perhaps one can’t do these things in advance, unless what is wanted is to stifle, smoother, or kill the nascent vision, the vision that wants to be born?

Our community is not a business. It is our home. We ought to be far more like a garden than like a factory. We are not here to order each other about, dislike one another, hold each other in scorn, or compete, as if someone’s life could be better, worth more, than someone else’s.

None of us asked to be born. Certainly we did not ask to be born as we are, in our very particular circumstances. Nor did we ask to be here together. Yet here we are. So how do we behave together?

A couple of years ago the economist and author Richard Florida spoke in Corning. He said, “Every human being is creative.” The way to unleash this creativity is through sustained communal visioning.

To commune together, to be a community, is the great work that awaits us. The task will not be easy but the results are guaranteed to surpass anything isolation and animosity have to offer.

Thus I suggest we create and build a visioning conversation. Intentionally. On purpose. The only ones to be left out of the conversation are those who choose to exclude themselves. There is a process for structuring these conversations and it is called Dialogue. I even have a name for our dialogue: the Chemung Valley Community Visioning Conversation.

My vision is to convene this conversation wherever conversations normally take place. I suggest that this communally creative effort will do far more than save our city. It will nourish and renew the spirit that has been our community’s heritage.

Art is a spiritual appliance. We engage with it, plug ourselves in, and enhance our excitement, energy, and appreciation. The Chemung Valley Community Visioning Conversation has the potential to transform the community itself into a work of art. It will be a work in which we are all artists and all connoisseurs. What a place to live!

Think about it for a moment. Are you ready to play such an infinite game? The stakes are high, but should we settle for less?

Joe’s story takes place in the year 2037. Thirty years from now, how wise and wonderful will we appear to have been?

-Steve Seaberg
© 2007
The Easy Motion Institute
for Creativity Research

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Check out "Four Fridays" at the Community Arts of Elmira, 413 Lake St., Elmira, NY

Steve Seaberg hosts Friday, September 28, 2007. "What it means to be a creative community."

Guest readers: Joe Caparulo, John Diamond-Nigh, and Kaye Newbury. 5:30 - 6:30 PM.


Steve is opening the Easy Motion Studio as part of the Elmira Open Studio Tour, October 5, 6, & 7.

Check out the tour:

Check out Steve's tour page:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Easy Motion Studio Reads Poetry!
Come hear Joe Caparulo, Kaye Newbury, and Steve Seaberg read original work on Thursday, June 21, 2007 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. at the Carriage House of the Arnot Art Museum, Baldwin Street, downtown Elmira, NY.
Steve will read from his new book, Little Ones, published under the Easy Motion Institute imprint.

A hand fabricated collection printed in inconveniently small type, the book is described by the author as "Philo-Dots: bite-size chunks of philosophy in a crunchy poetic shell."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

That's It

The confidence man
came up to me and said
"You need what I got"
I believe what he told me

"O, lord, I am not worthy"
He didn't have to remind me

I remember, I remember
the sweet panic
of abandonment
the sweet service
of joyless joy after joy

The tenor of plain conversation
the sweep of sleep
also sweet in its repose

Gallant, if that still means anything
or somewhere else

Yes, yes that's it

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There's a catch, isn't there?

Money powers culture, the behemoth that swallows life energy. Yet money and cultutre reign only when credence is given and attention paid. Dominion over life energy requires complicity.

Gandhi taught his disciples how to dissolve domination. He instructed, "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." I take this teaching to mean that one need not fall prey to the powerful temptation of culture. The temptations are 1) to clamor for recognition, 2) to avoid (at whatever cost) embarassment, and 3) to defend oneself and fend off defeat in the material world. Abstaining from these temptations is easy within a sincere and encouraging community.

However, culture diffuses both sincerity and encouragement. Outside its direct sway, culture trumpets individualism, amplifying loneliness, weakening one's ability to generate and sustain sincerity and courage. The technique is highly effective because any life energy is always already individualized. Our "own-liness" serves culture by permitting isolation even and especially in the public sphere. In isolation we whither, for we need a sea of souls to sustain us, to model sincerity, to bolster our courage.

Instead culture prompts us to suckle the virtual, electronic simulations presented by culture. The simulations are contrivances that pose as substitutes for community. We individually attach ourselves to this pacifier that never yields nourishment. We suck and swallow and wonder why our hunger and thirst continue to grow.

I hold a very simple view of what we are. Each of us is an aware energy. Awareness modulates amid three dimensions: the cognitive, the limbic, and the visceral. Awareness forms a "strange loop." Being aware and what it is aware of are one and the same. Another way to say this is in receiving the data we are aware of, we actualize who and how we are. There is no difference, distinction, or distance separating the subject and its object(s). There is a unitary, though ever modifying, field.

The cognitive receives and broadcasts ideas through language. The limbic receives and broadcasts the cardio-electromagnetic field of emotion. The visceral receives and broadcasts posture, sensations, pleasure, pain, tension, and relaxation. All three dimensions operate at some level of intensity as long as energy endures. Spirit is the whole of awareness, the unitary three-dimensional tissue of experience. One's capacity to engage the dimensions determines one's level of excited presence. One's energy unremittingly produces expressions and experiences.

Martin Heidegger recognized a fundamental difference between life energy and its expressions and cognitions. He called the difference the “ontological difference.” One’s energy cannot help but express and receive, yet no expression or reception (the two inhere as another strange loop) exhausts, completes or even defines the initiating energy. The energy itself both eludes manifestation as itself while it sparks further expressions to more completely cloud its presence.

Purveyors of "success" generate formulas and recipes for making one's way in the world. They pre-construe life as functionality, directing activities to hide or distract anxiety. From the Heideggerian prospective, this is inauthenticity. Anxiety is life energy itself. Any attempt to manipulate it into “going away” is an act of self-deception that must ultimately fail. One can refuse to admit it, but one cannot fool oneself. The tricker knows it’s a trick.

So what do people do who won’t play these games? People explore their life energy, recognize how it works, and learn to work with it or, better said, play with it. They open and enter an interpersonal sphere that is an alternative to the public sphere dominated by culture. They experience radiance, resonance, and significance in the intimacy of true community.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who cares?

Here's the conundrum: I am absolutely free to make myself up, yet I am entirely dependent on a world that is totally made up already. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It is just how things are. Furthermore, as I act on my freedom and make myself up, I add to the whole mess. My way of life can't help but show up in the world. I generate physical and social artifacts that contribute to the enormous clutter.

What about this assessment? The world is a mess, an enormous clutter. Does that strike you as true? Think of cities, industrial sites, railroad corridors, that closet, drawer, garage or basement somewhere in your life. Messes are everywhere and the world includes every single one of them.

Certainly the world also teems with innumerable pockets of meaning, organization, and order. But there is no continuous thread that runs through them all. All of them are nested in the wider world. And so are we all.

I call this situation "structural" because it sets the conditions that prevail whenever and however we make ourselves up. Messes are incongruencies where things don't match up, things are out of place, or broken. They can be picked up, sorted, re-ordered, hidden away, repaired or ignored.

We make our way in this kind of world, but usually the chaos recedes from view in order that we can attend to particular pockets of meaning (jobs, health, family, tending to our stuff). When our caring engages our attention within one or more pockets of significance, our lives inflate with that significance. We have a purpose.

Purpose is rooted in ambivalence. The structure wherein we make ourselves up is the mess of the world. The world has already been made as both definite and as yet undefined. Neither aspect is under our control. The dynamic tension between our freedom and the brute factuality of the world comprises who we are. So how are we?

The dismal and delightful game is ours for the stretch of time we each endure, our lifetime. Our roles are self-selected within the factical circumstances of our inividual perspectives. Win-lose games don't ultimately add up to much. Yet the game of building significance has neither victors nor victims when it is grounded in the tension and not aimed at eliminating it.

Creativity research supports the game of building significance. Though not the easiest or simplest game to play, this game reliably provides the means to manifest easy motion, not as a product of play but in and through the process of play, of being who one is.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

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What is easy motion?

Easy motion is life energy resonating. Not just any life energy, by the way, but the life energy you are. That's right, you. There are lots of reasons that most of us do not recognize ourselves as energy resonators. These reasons often keep us alienated, diminished, or both. Easy motion does not pertain to these states.

Easy motion can be demonstrated through creativity research. The Easy Motion Studio is a laboratory where phenomenology is practiced. But it always remains a studio where art work comes into manifestation (shows up through the artist's wiles).

I welcome all sincere players to explore with me the simultaneously dismal and delightful game we share about us. Our journey takes courage. We are here to encourage each other.

The old saw is partly right: life is what you make it. Life is also lots of stuff you didn't make. If and how these realms integrate makes a difference. There will be more. Soon.