Friday, September 28, 2007

Ahmadinejad, Art, Picasso, Vision (mental and physical) Rilke, and Eckhart

September 27th
My heart is with the monks protesting in Burma. What a story. I just hope it doesn't turn into another massacre. 9 dead already? Damnit.

So, the Iranian president spoke at Columbia University Monday (the 20th). I read the transcript. Great speech by both Bollinger and Ahmadinejad. I suggest everyone read it. One highlight was when Ahmadinejad said “In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.” Maybe Iran doesn't have any homosexuals because it imprisons or kills anyone who comes out of the closet! At least he said, “We don't have this phenomenon” instead of “we don't have this problem.” That was very PC of him. In fact, his entire speech was quite elegant and well spoken. He is obviously very intelligent. I can’t help but think of Ahmadinejad’s psychograph. He has many different lines of intelligence, some highly developed, and other’s quite poor.

In other news, I painted a spider web in a cemetary today, and also I added more to the “Pilgrimage” painting. People keep asking me “What’s with the orbs?” or “Why do you use circles so much?”

Many reasons, none of them in words. Of course, I could talk for pages about what circles can mean, but that would close your minds, and I don't want to do that. I will mention that I’m continuing to develop a certain type of language I fist discovered or envisioned about 8 years ago. I don't know when I’ll move on from the orbs, or if I will. Maybe I already have to some degree.

Picasso was brilliant because he could stumble upon a new way to successfully express an idea, use it well, and then astonishingly move on. He radically experimented with languages, despite the critics' and reception’s pressure on him to stay with a certain style. Everyone loved the blue period (everyone loved the classical realism he was employing in his teens!) His blue period was modern, fresh, loved…. Despite this support, he divorced it and moved on to develop collage, constructive sculpture, cubism, and of course, his primitive treatment of the human figure. Picasso was genius. And he was also a creep. Again, an interesting, unbalanced psychograph, I can imagine.

In a way, with paintings like Peekabuddha and Pilgrimage, I think I’m trying to incorporate cubism (the deconstruction of forms into shifting plains), impressionism, expressionism, realism (surrealism, fantastic realism) and symbolism, into my art. I’d like to be able to integrate all these languages into a single painting or body of work gracefully, for they all communicate truths about this world, and they all resonate with individuals. The spectrum of human consciousness understands a spectrum of languages.

For example, cubism can be seen as postmodern: It investigates how we perceive forms. Impressionism also highlights the optical experiences of viewing the world (I’ll talk more about that in a second.) Pointillism is interesting, although can be quite boring to look at. It actually constructs forms out of tiny points of color, letting the mind of the viewer mix them, taking Impressionism (and painting!) to a whole new level. Many Pointillists (like Surat) planned out the compositions and images, trying to not only relate ideas about optical reality, but also social and spiritual reality. Surat was working on many levels.

Artists generally want their work to connect with people. A lot of what I do will only connect with a few individuals. Only a few people immediately understand intuitively what an orb can mean, and how that can relate to the construction of a landscape, or can recognize the esoteric symbols. Infinity shines as a dreamy glow behind everything, but many people don’t know or care about that. They might see a delightful play of colors and shapes. Children delight in triangles, circles, squares, blues, reds, greens. There is nothing really we can do but delight in these forms, and my art is most definitely also about that: delighting in forms.

Speaking of which…fall is rushing in. This morning was chilly, and last night I had to close my window. The rice fields around my house are almost ready to be harvested. The yellow-green leaves are now interwoven with yellow-orange rice pods, and when you put yellow orange next to yellow green, they sing. So, that song is happening all around now, and the mornings have grown cold. I saw this beautiful sky today. Pretty great, huh? I’m reminded of what Danny told me about the sky. He said he saw the sky as constantly unrolling like a Japanese scroll drawing. It's always showing us something new.

When I look at the sky and relax my eyes, I see little dots shooting around like insects. It’s like looking at the static of television, shimmering across the entire sky. If I was to interpret what those tiny dots are, I might think that they are fairies. There are creatures flying way up there, onto whose backs are reflected the colors of the sky. I might interpret it is the unified energy field of infinity shimmering across the sky. After all, the sky goes infinitely up, and the space in-between is infinite vastness. The tiny eye takes in that color field and doesn’t really know what to do with all that information, so it does the best it can to not explode. (Ah, "the reduction valve of the brain.")
Or maybe all those shimmering dots are my blood vessels, millions of them, shimmering and shooting here and there. Or maybe they are the neurons firing across the inner screen of my consciousness, in the back of my mind. After all, I'm definitely not looking at the sky “outside” when I see that vastness. I’m looking at the optic nerve’s pulsating information rippling across my brain, backwards and upside down. I’m really looking at my mind, made of consciousness and optic nerves. If I close my eyes I can still see the vast sky in my mind, but where is that sky? It is a dream sky, an imaginary sky that exists entirely inside my mind. But where is that? And, more interestingly, where is the VIEWER of that interior sky?

Technically, when the sky enters my eye, it first passes through the cornea, and then into the retina, which senses the light. The retina contains two types of cells, called rods and cones. Rods handle vision in low light, and cones handle color vision and detail. When light contacts these two types of cells, a series of complex chemical reactions occur. The chemical that is formed (rhodopsin) creates electrical impulses in the optic nerve.

The retina contains 100 million rods and 7 million cones. It has a central area, called the macula, which contains a high concentration of only cones. This area is responsible for sharp, detailed vision you can see in the middle of your vision right now.

When light enters the eye, it comes in contact with the photosensitive chemical rhodopsin, which then produces an electric current along the cell. When more light is detected, more rhodopsin is activated and more electric current is produced. There is something about how red, green, and blue light waves are read and mixed. I don't know much about that.

The electric impulse eventually reaches the optic nerve. The nerves reach the optic chasm, where the nerve fibers from the inside half of each retina cross to the other side of the brain, but the nerve fibers from the outside half of the retina stay on the same side of the brain. These fibers eventually reach the occipital lobe in the back of the brain. This is where the vision is “seen” and interpreted. The sky is seen on a holographic screen in the back of the brain, not hovering in front of us. That is interesting. Really interesting. When I imagine a sky, the presence or Self that is labeling it "sky" recognizing it as not "ceiling" or "cloud," or something else, and then the inner eyes that are gazing dreamily into that imaginary space, that self is also paradoxically the causal energy field projecting the sky onto the inner screens. I open my eyes, and the exterior light comes pouring in. But the inner light pouring out...the light shining through me onto the sky, that light is the numinous light of pure awareness. And it, as the soul, opens to the Silent Void, or Absolute Ground of Being, which is also what some people call the Godhead. The Godhead is of course also called the Witness or Mirror-mind of the Present Moment, unmoving, but also within all the moving, like how the unchanging surface of a mirror is within all its objects. Without its presence, the objects would not even be there. Again, the creative power of consciousness. Rilke:

I know that nothing has been real
Without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
And they come toward me, to meet and be met.

My postmodern mind formed by my postmodernism teachers agrees that we are, indeed, embedded in languages and cultures that help form our opinions and ways to perceive the world around us. In this way, we do ripen things into being, and by doing so, we infuse depth and beauty and meaning into the dream-objects. And they also ripen us into being (you can't have an object without a subject. Created and creator, child and parent, arise together. (But lets not forget that "There is indeed meaning in dreaming, but there is also dreaming in meaning.")

As you know I believe we are like dreams made of waves; brain waves, sound waves, light waves, godhead waves, and the special way the waves of consciousness co-create the phenomena it is solidifying and being "aware of" is expressed beautifully as "My looking ripens things/And they come toward me, to meet and be met." And the "to meet and be met" immediately reminds me of Eckhart's "the eyes I use to see God are the same eyes God uses to see me." or that "one-taste" feeling of satori where the seer and the seen, the meeter and the met, the knower and the known become one. One Self. One Spirit. One Process, One taste, one Emptiness, one Form. One in their duality or Two-ness as well, of course.

When one's awareness shifts to be centered in this causal, unified field, (and not the personality we are usually aware of), when we shift into identity with the Witness or Source of consciousness, suddenly there are not objects or people "out there" because there is no "out there." “Out there" is another concept arising IN the space of Awareness. There is only one reflecting surface, one Light, one Mind behind it all. Unity to Unity. The alone to the Alone. The individual self opens from within to resonate in unity with the Absolute Self of the entire Kosmos, i.e. the Now. Both are united in their Alone-ness. The wave discovers its other identity with the entire Ocean, it's wetness, Isness, Suchness, I Am-ness, which was its ground, being, and body to begin with. The wave also understands that without this Unity...If the Unity was not a constant presence, the wave could not have existed in the first place. The sun indeed is literally in our hearts. Without its presence, we would not be beating.

Eckhart speaks clearly about one of his mystical experiences while in this kind of unity state. "While I subsisted in the ground, in the bottom, in the river and fount of Godhead, no one asked me where I was going or what I was doing. There was no one to ask me. When I was flowing all creatures spoke God...Everything in the Godhead is one, and of that there is nothing to be said. God works, and God does no work, there is nothing to do; in it is no activity. It never envisaged any work. God and Godhead are as different as active and inactive. On my return to God, where I am formless, my breaking through will be far nobler than my emanation. I alone take all creatures out of their sense into my mind and make them one in me. When I go back into the ground, into the depths, into the wellspring of the Godhead, no one will ask me whence I came or whither I went. No one missed me: God passes away."

Stunning. To Eachart, the Godhead is "pure nothingness" (ein bloss niht), and this notion I believe is in direct accord with the Buddhist, or at least the Mahayanist, notion of Emptiness (which is one reason I like him so much). "The divine core of absolute stillness," "the simple core which is the still desert onto which no distinctions ever creep." Eckhart nails it. I often argue that when Jesus said that the new, two-fold Law is to Love the Lord and to Love your neighbor (as your self), what he meant was to love Love and to also see all others as expressions One in that Love, and thus, to love Love again. The One is within the Many, and vise-versa. When operating from the point of view of the Godhead, or, when “putting on the mind of Christ,” as we are all suggested to do, we begin to see God everywhere. We being to see the Tao as the movement and play and delighting luminosity of everything. We see that God truly is omnipresent. Then suddenly, “there is in all visible things…. a hidden wholeness.” Thomas Merton. And that wholeness is also your deepest, most immediate and basic Self. Alan Watts: “The fact is that because no one thing or feature of this universe is separable from the whole, the only real You, or Self, is the whole.” As Gautama Buddha pointed out, “We are concerned too much perhaps with what we are conscious of, and forget the miracle of consciousness itself.” We see all these objects in the mirror, including our own self, but forget to acknowledge the surface of the mirror. We are lost in the intoxicating movie of life, and forget to see who is sitting comfortably behind the projector, as well as the luminous, dreamy quality of the light and screen. Anyway…


Abigail said...

I am loving the new spiderweb painting, Mr T.


Anonymous said...

I am too! The spider web is really special. mya

lau said...

yeah, at first glance i thought it was a photo, though i know that isn't the point of your paintings.

Paul said...

I've never seen rice before. It's beautiful!

I'm happy to be one of those people who get your paintings.

Sometimes when I am depressed or frustrated with the world, I look at your paintings and photographs. For that, truly you are my friend.

I watched a documentary today about the hermit Chan monks of the Zhongnan mountains in China. It was called Amongst White Clouds. As a documentary or journey, it wasn't great. There wasn't enough of the filmmaker in it. But the testimony of the Chan masters was beautiful. Their smiles were beautiful. And their hands.

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