Using Rasa

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Catharsis Blog on Media, Writing, and Art

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Rasa is a Hindu concept of a strong and powerful emotional connection made through art, bordering or becoming spiritual in feeling. Hindu spirituality has by tradition eight different and specific Rasas with corresponding deities. Rasa has a somewhat more secular adaptation here, and is defined for our purposes as the creative works of art you have the strongest, most inspiring emotional connection to.  What you feel is most transformative to you as a writer. Rasa is one of the main concepts used in the philosophy of Catharsis and Gabriel’s World.

I want to show you how Rasa works with this example. I love horror movies. I also like books and documentaries horror movies. Having seen several horror movie documentaries, the biggest problem aesthetically is the abundance of ‘obnoxious commentator in bad t-shirt’ syndrome. The documentaries usually have great artists like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Craven and other modern masters of horror movies, but the documentaries still suffer from the inane talking head commentary that doesn’t need to be there. It detracts from the enjoyment and meaning. The commentators (not the filmmakers themselves) seem more interested in proving their superior knowledge than giving real insight into a genre they presumably love.

One notable exception is a three-part British documentary presented and narrated by Mark Gatiss. Gattis is a writer (including Sherlock, Dr. Who)/actor (including again, Sherlock, Game of Thrones), and a gay man (I’ll mention a noted figure being LGBTQ+ because I feel you should know how much presence there is, and sometimes it becomes meaningful). The documentary, A History of Horror, first aired on the BBC in 2010. If you can find it online, watch it. Here’s why.

The documentary stands out because of Gatiss’s input as presenter. He chose the films the doc focuses on. As these are favorites with him, he describes them in detail, carefully, with meaning and with the deep interest of a movie lover. At one point he brings up a book he read in his youth, Alan Frank’s Horror Movies–Tales of Terror in the Cinema, and how the book added to an enhancement of his love of horror movies. His focus and care in the presentation allows for detail, history, integrity and creativity. You can see it in the quiet interviews he conducts with various film personages.

To me, this is an example of Rasa. Whether this is true for Gatiss I don’t know and do not suggest, but the impression that comes across in A History of Horror is that these certain movies and books remind him of what inspired him artistically as a young man.

And so now I ask you–what is your Rasa? I believe you need it. As a writer, it could be a book. (One of my Rasa anchor points is Foucault’s Pendulum). It could be a painter or painting. It could be music (My Rasa music is Erasure and David Gray, as well as George Michael and Queen) or a movie or movies. (Another example of mine, the movie Gattaca). Your Rasa doesn’t have to be the first work of art that inspired you or grabbed your attention. but it, or them, should be the strongest.

How do you know what it is or they are? Find what you have the strongest emotional connection with, what you would use as an example, what you would put in a documentary on the topic. It’s what you could explain to others just using what’s in your mind, and what loses you in the world when you see it/read it/watch it/hear it.

How does your Rasa ‘work’ for your writing? When you connect with the work of art, you connect with the emotions and inspiration. It sets your mind for what you want to do, even if you don’t have an idea or outline as yet.

Your Rasa is a touchstone that recharges you when you feel exhausted of creativity.

Your Rasa is the energy that propels you into your new work.

Your Rasa focuses you when you feel scattered, and reminds you why you’re here.

Your Rasa reminds you of your ethical imperative when you’re not sure where to go.

Your Rasa is transformative. It can bring you ecstasy and pain. It can symbolize everything in your life you are going through. It can be the symbol of what you want to be.

Time to put some thought into it–find something to remind you. A playlist, a picture, a quote. Keep it close. Even if you don’t have much personal space, keep something with you that you can look at (background on a phone, picture in your wallet) or hear, and hold on to it like a talisman. It’s your power.

Take This With You–Your Frame of Mind

Think of what your Rasa is, your strong emotional connection to art.

Return to your Rasa when you begin your projects, during your projects, and when you need to remind yourself who you are.

Your Practice Drill for this Lesson: Explaining Rasa

Tell me what your Rasa is. Write to me in your writing journal. Convince me that you mean it. Tell me how you would explain it to others. If you made a documentary on your Rasa, how would you prepare it? What would you research? What would you say?

Describe the feelings that you have from the Rasa. What is the sensation of losing yourself in that art? What can you compare it to? What is something that by comparison, leaves you cold–that you could never connect to? Explain why.
Create the symbol/picture/playlist of your Rasa.

Page last updated 1/20/2017

Copyright Alex Fiano 2012-2016



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