Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Fragile Membrane

Time Frames

I started a new drawing in a particular difficult stage and as the stress eased up, I began to hate it. Getting to the point that the drawing was upsetting me, I finally started something new on the verge of tossing the first in the garbage. I rarely abandon drawings so I kept it, thinking it might be something I wouldn’t hate as much in the future, that it might have something to show me when the time was right. The new one I started clicked, and with the strength it gave me from involvement, improved my mood and momentum. The movie “Enter the Void” starts with a young man getting shot, then continues with his consciousness after death through what Tibetan Buddhism refers to as the bardo. The journey through the in-between state illuminated key moments in his personal history on the way to the next life. At the end, reborn as a new being, we emerge to see through the infant’s eyes the first gaze with the mother. Many mothers have described to me that first look and a sense that the baby had a broad awareness we lose quickly as we’re trained to be people. This knowing reminded me of Ram Dass’s descriptions of the consciousness of his guru. He knew things about Ram Dass and others he couldn’t have known without inhabiting a larger field of knowing characterized by loving awareness. Many writings have associated death with light, moving down a tunnel toward light as the ultimate destination. Yet in my past drawings, because of its unknown quality, I have thought of it and depicted it as darkness. Until now. Without conscious thought as I was doing it, in the second drawing I saw the unknown as luminous, harmonic, a sense of a pervasive all-encompassing awareness, a fullness of knowing that can only be seen as light. We may have that awareness at the moment of birth. All of these thoughts came after the image which as the essence of an idea is the spur to thoughts. What’s most unexpected is the idea that these were the thoughts that emerged when I focused on the present. To scale down my attention in the moment goes inward beyond the known and this opens a different kind of spaciousness. Deep inside the moment, even briefly, lies awareness beyond time. Knowing they are there helps me stay steady in these uncertain times .

Monday, April 22, 2024

Another Phase

Unrecognized Emotions

In my drawings, one reason I try to keep recognizable objects out of my work is because I want to focus on the feeling itself. Deep feelings can be very complex and human psychology has as many variations as there are individuals. Verbal descriptions can’t cover it. Stories can do it, but they need time to unfold. The feeling in an image is there in the seeing, needs no explanation. Just like you don’t need to describe what you’re doing if you’re walking around obstacles on a wooded path, anything visual uses the language of perceptional intelligence which starts its meaning with the feeling. When a surface area has an identity like sky, water or skin the meaning depends on the condition of the area, relies on the quality. Diseased skin is quite different than smooth. The qualities and conditions in a composition convey a dynamic essence that can make an impression without attaching it to content. If a drawing strikes a chord, then a connection is forged that can trigger a person’s associated thoughts, sometimes with a feeling as yet unrecognized. Feelings represent a personal truth forged from the individual experience. Much of American culture is training in hiding, suppressing, and ignoring feelings. Family pressures to keep feelings in check are considered necessary to polite behavior. Even to have some feelings at all is treated as a personal failing. Others don’t recognize feelings because they’re inconvenient, get in the way of profits or maintaining external images of the self, projected for others. People turn away from uncomfortable realities that threaten personal comfort. Unrecognized feelings make people vulnerable to demagogues who tap the invisible pain and label it with a cause. The enemy then becomes an acceptable way to vent pain, rage, and grievance. A clear example is in the widespread stoking of antagonism by the 45th president. Unable to cope with losing, his rhetoric is completely at odds with reality, a pattern of tyrants throughout history. They know rational argument doesn’t work on those hypnotized by manipulation of their pain. They need the outlet for the intense feelings accumulated. So much hidden pain shows a failure of love. And tyrants tell their followers that only they care about them, thus providing the love. Like political propaganda that focuses on negative emotions, creating love for the earth cannot depend on persuasion. That’s why it’s so good to see many artists building care for nature into their work. To stimulate love for the earth is to strengthen our connection and care for it.

Friday, March 22, 2024


Valuing Water

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they’re after.” Thoreau Thoreau understood the value that living on the pond had for him. Not just the beauty and quiet but water itself as offering something special. Today’s neuroscience verifies the value of all kinds of interaction with water, even just looking at it. The Thoreau quote came from a book surveying research on water called “Blue Mind” by Wallace J. Nichols. It presents a variety of studies on the benefits of water for both body and mind. Drinking water is important for physical and mental health. We sleep better if we’ve had enough water during the day. Experiments with rats showed cognitive decline when they were dehydrated. Just looking at water, even in images, is good for well-being. When hospital patients could look at water paintings, they had less anxiety. It was observed that blood pressure dropped when looking at an aquarium, a fact they must know at the cancer center where a big one sits in the middle of the waiting area. On the occasion of World Water Day it’s worthwhile to consider the many ways we are nourished by water and ways we might better care for it . The area of the brain most active when looking at nature, and in particular water, is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This is the area that judges value, knows what is important to us. The location is at the front of the brain, right between the eyes. This is also the location of the spiritual third eye, a concurrence that stimulates my imagination in multiple directions. Central to them is the attunement to the whole as our ultimate guide to what matters. Though beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it is always something that feels right and connected to us in some way. What draws us relates to how we feel, what matches our personal state, aligns us. David Bohm said the creative act was a matter of finding what fits. What we choose to see is a creative act of finding what fits our state of being. A friend recently sent me a graphic that said in big letters “Quantum physics is where they hide the scientific proof of spirituality.” It was my reading of David Bohm and Nick Herbert and others that generated my sense that the non-locality at the quantum level of is consciousness. Water and sky are my primary symbols for consciousness. How tranquil or choppy provides a clear metaphoric quality, as is a stormy day or one that’s clear and bright. Though waves may look separate they are part of the same substance. I see one consciousness flowing through all of us. Though it may be filtered through our thoughts, desires and fears, the consciousness having a human experience comes through us, not from us.