Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Like that other writer named Ernest from the 20th century, I have a fascination for bullfighting. It drove me to write “Taurmaquia” and “Frank’s Tricer Run.” No apologies. If you think you’re more civilized than me by disapproving of that noble tradition, I don’t really care.

I also don’t think very much of your vision of so-called civilization.

Besides, I consider bullfighting to be the Mother of All Artforms.

Not only did it inspire great art back through its origins – the Roman arena, the Minoan bull dance, the Atlantean rituals described by Plato, the Neanderthal rodeo – but through it I have come to understand what makes people want to create art, and how to live as an artist.

It’s all about the paso doble – when the bull charges, and comes close to killing the matador. There’s such a picture in Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon with the caption: “If he doesn’t have blood on his shirt after this move, ask for your money back.” If you don’t get your pretty shirt bloody, you are not an artist.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years who are frustrated with they way they live and make money, crying, “I would just like to be creative!” They take classes, attend seminars and workshops, join clubs and organizations. They pose in their pretty suits, practice the moves, know the ritual by heart, but the idea of facing the charging beast paralyzes them.

Creativity is an active thing. It’s not escapism. If you retreat from reality into a querencia, like a bull refusing to fight. You deserve to be stuck with banderillas studded with firecrackers to the shame of those who bred you.

In the Ernest Hogan School of the Arts, Bullfighting Appreciation would be a requirement. How much greater would the results of all creative endeavors be if our artists and writers realized this. As Juan Belmonte said, “a spiritual exercise and not merely a sport.” And spirituality can bite you in the ass, but only if you're lucky.

It’s the way I live. I wake up, get ready, go out and face the beast. Sometimes I get gored – if you could see my psychic scars! Sometimes it’s a horrid mess. But I keep coming back.

And every now and then, it’s pure magic.

It’s what made us paint cave walls to make magic in prehistory. Now it makes us look out to the stars and deep into the quantum realm, and struggle to understand.

Technology has made being an aficionado easy! I go online, do a few news, photo, and video searches, and the sacred ritual explodes across my monitor. Inspiration rarely comes better than this.

The best aesthetic experiences come at you like a sniper’s bullet – and after, you are never the same. Again, paso doble, blood on the shirt.

This is my kind of aesthetics. Let me know if you need further clarification.

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