Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Visual philosophy, like any philosophy, has central ideas upon which many other ideas can be structured. One primary visual principle is mirroring, the essence of understanding. Mirroring an expression is how we know its meaning. Whether we spontaneously make the expression physically or just in the brain’s mirror neuron system we get the expression’s meaning because we feel it inside. Mirror neurons fire as though you were in the face or body position whether you watch or read or hear an action described.

This correspondence can be useful to unfurl the murky areas of our psyche. We find what we need to see in order to unlock what wants to be noticed. Every image stirs connections prompted by that structure. Reflecting on where our attention is drawn can show us themes of our inner dynamics that may be influencing our behavior without our awareness. In all the possibilities the world offers, the thing that captures attention often mirrors current inner conditions. The feeling attached to every image is a result of the adjustments and associations we make for that structure in combination with the existing mood and predispositions affecting the way we respond. Still water reflects most accurately. As the state of mind becomes more agitated so does the distortion in the reflection. One of the many benefits of meditation is simply letting the ripples of the mind settle so as to better reflect. We can’t grasp something until we see it. To see it requires attention to the subject in the here and now and not the internal weather. To develop visual intelligence, understanding the internal weather that predisposes our response to overall patterns is the first step. An unfolding event that can be taken in stride most days might cause a meltdown if the initial conditions are turbulent. This is where art can help to increase self-awareness. Art distills the essential structure of feeling so that we can reflect on it externally. Looking at what we respond to in art shows something of our own feelings at that time. As Joseph Campbell said, ”The eyes are the scouts of the heart”. Finding the art that moves us will trigger the associations we’re trying to organize.

Rupert Sheldrake sees the task of consciousness as the act of making choices in the “field of possibilities”.  Reflecting on the movement of thought reveals the choices made and the ones that are pending. Listening, looking and every act of attention make selections that open new choices. All choices participate in consciousness but deliberate mindful awareness swells the quality of the experience.

Mindfulness is a capacity that can be developed with meditation. Even starting with ten minutes of watching the wild uncontrollable movie of the mind is to learn something important about what wants attention and how little conscious control we often have regarding its movement. If you don’t follow the thoughts they’ll give up and start to subside, and then you can feel the air come in your nostrils, and your chest rise and fall, and places where you are crooked can be noticed and straightened. In the I Ching it says “With the back straight the ego disappears”. If we could get the marks of life’s difficulties out of our bodies perhaps they would fade from our minds. It might be easier to do than the other way around. With the habit of meditation it becomes possible to reflect more mindfully on right where we are.

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