Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Picture World

Each year when I talk about how artists use photographs in my Illusionism class, I’m struck by how our relationship to pictures continues to change. Today it’s natural for people to communicate by sending each other pictures or links to pictures. We’re always showing each other things. It’s efficient, communicating lots of information quickly with all the nuance and subtlety that makes the whole so much bigger than the sum of its parts. Visual imagery is more important than ever before as photos find their way into every aspect of life. The level of immersion in photographic imagery that we experience today is unprecedented. Among the drawbacks are the limits set by the photo, on how much we can see. The choice about which direction to look and what remains hidden is already made and if we didn’t take the picture we don’t know the larger context. Since we’re not really there we can’t look deeper into the situation and because so many of the images were produced by others we’re often being led by second hand perceptions. Other hazards come from advertising, which bombards us with highly crafted images that not only overlay real situations and people, but create a culture aimed at making everyone feel flawed and deficient by comparison. The goal is to create shame and then offer its remedy in the form of products that would have no real value if people weren’t made to feel flawed the way they were. The repetitive homogenizing of what is to be considered beautiful does emotional violence to the majority of the population each of whom has their own version of beauty to offer. The painter, Francis Bacon, emphasized that so much of what we see now has been influenced by the pictures we’ve already seen before, and that it changes the way we see reality. In some cases the repetition of the image replaces our mental record of actual events. Look back at a memorable childhood trip or event and you may find yourself recalling images from photos or videos instead of images from the actual experience. Maybe when you remember a person in your life what you’re seeing is a favorite picture of them or a particular facebook photo. The way the 2d imagery of a place or event takes the place of the actual reality creates a danger. One reason squirrels are smarter than dogs is because they have such elaborate mental maps that include up and down dimensions as well as the movement on the ground that includes hiding places for nuts. Modern life experience includes the world on the screen for a big proportion of most people’s time. When we refer to life experiences we’re as liable to reference a TV show or movie or videogame as to something that actually happened to us. If too much life experience is reduced to two dimensions we risk losing a dimension to our conceptual reasoning. What surfing does is skim across the surface. We’ll be more balanced if we spend more time in the water, exploring beneath the surface. Being aware of the danger offers the opportunity to address it. Being out in nature, playing with children and animals, walking and running outdoors, seeing and navigating the whole physical world around us cultivates our three dimensional intelligence and stimulates the brain chemistry that always accompanies self-improvement. Mindful of the hazards, the enlargement of our right hemisphere thinking releases us from the confinement of categories. Seeing patterns and trajectories we can participate with the world in motion. Whether on a variety of screens, or in print media, surfing a sea of imagery is part of our day-to-day world. This has the positive effect of making it natural to use images to understand and communicate. With the richness of pictorial availability and the wisdom of gestalt reasoning, we can consciously evolve as a species.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Rebalancing the Worldbody

Homeostasis refers to the body’s ability to maintain a state of
balance. Like a thermostat set for an optimum temperature, the
multiple systems of the body are always adjusting for the changes made
by contact with the world, digesting food and information. It’s a
principle on every level of the organism, from cells to the
integration and communication of body and mind through the
pituitary-hypothalamus link. Our physical self is a dynamic interweave
of different functions working for the same goals, the health and
balance of the whole. When problems come to conscious attention, our
rational faculties are there to deal with it. Interdependence is
This continuous adjustment and readjustment responds to changes,
internal and external that provides an image-model for the worldbody.
First and foremost everything should be properly nourished and care
taken to avoid harmful toxins at every level. Recently someone on the
radio said, “Money is the toxin that’s killing American democracy”.
Our conscious awareness should likewise be part of the world’s
balancing act. With awareness comes responsibility. When we see a
destructive influence it’s important to look at the multiple factors
that feed it and everything affected by it. We’ve gotten into trouble
with a machine model that simply fixes the defective part, the final
result of a confluence of factors. The Bible didn’t say money was the
root of all evil, but that love of money is the root of all evil. It’s
the prevailing attitude toward money that needs revising. The TV news
recently gushed over the youngest billionaires in the world as though
this is something we should all bow down to, whereas I see individuals
having that much money as obscene. And the way money drives its own
accumulation makes it the ultimate selfish meme. Competition to have
the most money drives greed. We’re too often enslaved by the products
of our own creation. The dark and egotistical qualities in human
beings are not only tolerated, they’re celebrated.
Saving the planet depends on changing the way we see. Wiping away
forests removes an important element in the planet’s sensitively
evolved ecosystem. Over fishing, monoculture, fracking and drilling
are just a few more things that erode the worldbody’s ability to heal.
Water is contaminated, dolphins are sick, bees are disappearing;
symptoms of world sickness are everywhere we look. The obvious benefit
of treating the world more gently, with an overview of the whole,
would show clearly were not single-minded focus on profits involved.
Profits are not more important than people, and before the entire
planet has been ravaged, it would be a growth in wisdom to pause and
evaluate what’s necessary for a healthy world. Overeating disorders
are often connected to feelings of emptiness within and the desire for
fullness, but the thing that would satisfy is not material, but to tie
oneself to the whole with a sense of individual purpose, contributing
whatever each does best. We need to feel our connection to the world
body to heal the emptiness. The 1%’s avidity for profits is an
overeating disorder that doesn’t address the emptiness within.
Undereating disorders resist having a particular way of being shoved
down their throat, and control their lives in the only way that seems
open to them. The resistance of the Occupy movement refuses to digest
the values that are destroying the worldbody, sees the turbulence and
upset, planetary fever and chills, and knows that very few people
having all the money is an imbalance that needs to be changed. They’ve
begun the process by spreading awareness and demonstrating better
values that can change direction from within.