I don’t know if she did receive her paintings or information about how to paint from the spirit world. But I do know that thinking that’s the case would have freed her up to paint outside of the expectations she and others had about how paintings should look.
Of course, she was still bound by some basic expectations of her time and culture, but she was also able to take several steps beyond. This is similar to the Big Mind process. We shift into Big Mind, see our own ideas and our culture’s ideas from that vaster perspective (in this process, Big Mind is a kind of perspective and also not), and are able to – to some extent – step outside it.
I imagine that Hilma af Klint, at the very least, may have shifted into some transpersonal voice (in the Big Mind terminology) when she painted her paintings. It would have given her the freedom to go a few steps beyond the expectations and confines of her culture.
The particular match between the person and the art, whatever the art is.
A painting. A movie. Music. Food.
With art, some is inherent in the piece. The skills it’s made with. How universally it tends to speak to people. And yet, what it really comes down to is the match. The match between the person, there and then, and the piece.
Since my teens, I have preferred the rare art critics who speak partly about the skills behind and the universality of a piece, and the type of person the piece may be a good match for. (Most critics tend to generalize from how well the piece matches them personally and try to make it sound universal.)
The match principle can be transfered to other areas of life, incluidng pointers for life or spiritual practice. Here too, the skills and insights its coming from, and how universally it applies to people, plays a role. But it really comes down to the match.
The good guide or teacher will offer pointers that match the person and where he or she is at, as much as possible.
Of course, there are exceptions and extreme cases. Some food may be immediately unhealthy for everyone. Some pointers, if taken literally, may be unhelpful to anyone.
Many of my sculptures I leave on the street, usually pasted on walls. They become part of the ornamentation of some cities. Their survival in the street depends on many factors. Their main predators are cleaning services, weekend thieves (they become an alcoholic’s Olympics games), or curious people who think that street art is only for them. Street art is for everyone, not for one. It is here to stay in the streets.
– from an interview with the artist in My Modern Met.
War with reality: Thinking they should stay in the streets.
Alignment with reality: Conceiving, making and placing the figures, people enjoying them in place, and whatever their next adventure is – someone picking them up and taking them home or putting them in the waste bin etc. – is all part of the process. It’s all part of the art, including the excitement of not knowing what will happen or what happened with the figures, and imagining the many secret adventures of these figures after leaving their initial location.
This last week, the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Oslo. It is an event that draws a great deal and varied attention, from enthusiastic support to dislike to ridicule to mild amusement.
There are of course many ways of judging music and cultural events. We can look at craftmanship, whether it goes beyond mere craftmanship, where it fits in terms of traditions, if it breaks new ground, if it seems to come from an authentic expression, where it comes from in terms of insight and wisdom, and so on.
We can also take a more pragmatic view and look at it in terms of its function and effects. This can be especially interesting since it cuts through “high” and “low” culture, and bypasses the usual discussion of likes and dislikes.
A great piece of performance art: Regina Galindo sits naked on a stone bench in a freezing cold room. Clothes are on the floor in front of her. The audience stands along the walls waiting for something to happen. They continue to wait and tension builds as they realize how cold she must be. Eventually, a woman steps up and starts dressing her. Then others do the same, one at a time.
As she is half dressed, a man takes off her clothes again. Afterwards, we learn that Regina feels offended, and others assume he wants to see her naked. I think he may feel that she manipulates the audience, and wants to give responsibility back to her. Or maybe he just wanted to go against the grain and do something different from everyone else. But do we know? Do we know why he did it?
No matter what we may think about Obama’s policies, it is hard to deny that Obama is as iconic as only a few others… JFK, Lincoln, MLK, Gandhi, Che Guevara. (Obama was my favorite from the beginning.) And no other candidate has generated nearly as much art work.
There is an inherent occupational risk in being so iconic – when the man becomes mixed up with such a powerful image – but that is another topic.
It is a very well made movie, weaving together several different stories and perspectives: A Chinese monk traveling along the Silk Road around year 630. A woman from Kabul visiting the Buddhas that her father has visited in his youth. A family living in a cave between the Buddhas, and then relocated by the current regime. A French archaeologist searching for the location of a 300 meter long reclining stone Buddha in the same valley. An Al-Jazeera reporter who filmed the destruction in 2001.
Some of the information is not so well known in the west, such as the claim that Saudi Arabian engineers were called in and helped with the destruction. And that the destruction of the statues was ordered in response to western money coming in to restore artifacts, instead of as much needed aid to the people of Afghanistan. (It may be just a way to blame the west for something people in the west were upset about, but there could also be a grain of truth in it.)
When I first heard about the destruction in March of 2001, I thought of how well it illustrates the essential teaching of Buddhism – impermanence.
If we really get impermanence, if we see it and feel it, over and over, not only in stories of impermanence but as it happens here now in immediate awareness, there is no foothold for identification within content of awareness. And this invites a shift into Big Mind, into finding ourselves as that which experience happens within, to and as.
Exploring impermanence, thoroughly, over and over, as it happens in the sense fields here now, is one of the many ways to discover what we really are, and probably a sufficient one as well.
Also, it is an invitation for me – and us all – to see what stories we cling to as true, and examine them and find that is already more true for us.
It is a reminder that iconoclasm is maybe not so useful when targeted at artifacts, but has more value and meaning if we target the real icon worship: Taking stories as true. Making a thought – a story, an image – into a God for ourself.
And a reminder that we all are at different places in regards to all of this. Some of us take a modern western view on it, emphasizing the value of culture, art and tolerance. Others take a more fundamentalist view, seeing literal iconoclasm as a pretty good idea. And others again see it as a reminder of impermanence, and of iconoclasm having its value if targeted with some wisdom and applied with gentleness.
And if we want to be practical about it, we see the validity in each of those views, work on ourselves with impermanence and investigation of beliefs, and in the world in trying to prevent these things from happening using whatever – hopefully skillful – means seem appropriate.
Btw: Here is a link to the German version of the movie, although it is also available in English.
Kazuaki Tanahashi is in town, and I had the opportunity to go to an excellent presentation yesterday on Dogen, and an ink brush presentation today at the art museum.
One of the stories he told today was about John Cage who apparently was influenced by a D. T. Suzuki comment about Zen being complete freedom. Cage had taken it in a more western sense, as a freedom from any rules and traditions, and went on to create some amazing and innovative music.
It was a misunderstanding on his part, of course, as the Zen form of freedom is quite different (although can include the form it took for Cage). Tanahashi commented that misunderstandings are sometimes more interesting.
I can see how that is true in a few different ways.
It is true in that it can lead to some quite different and refreshing perspectives that can lead to new insights for everyone.
It is true in that it gives the person an opportunity to project, notice and get familiar with and explore something alive for them. (John Cage obviously had that form of freedom brewing in him, and took the D.T. Suzuki quote as an opportunity to support it and bring it out in his life.)
It is true in that it is an invitation to notice it as a projection, especially when we realize it is a misunderstanding.
And it is true in that it still leaves the conventional/intended understanding to be discovered. This is interesting in itself, and the process of discovering it can be interesting as well.
I thought this was cute. Why not look good for Jesus?
Seems that it would be part of any comprehensive and integral approach 😉
And it is always interesting to explore where I find the genuine truth in this, for myself. Where do I find the genuine truth in looking good for Jesus?
For me, it has to do with inviting guests.
Any content of awareness is a guest, so if we take a visit by Jesus to happen within content of awareness, we can invite it in.
We can do certain (second person) practices, find receptivity of the three centers, and more. We can invite Jesus in as alive presence in its many forms such just alive presence, or its aspect of luminosity, or infinite love, or wisdom, or the fiery heart quality I find when I do Christian practices, or for others, maybe as a vision or a voice, or something else. Or just the good old taste of an open heart at our human level.
And if we take Jesus, or Christ, or the combination, to be a noticing of what we are (that which experiences happens within, to and as), then that is also something that can be invited in. We can prepare the situation, as best as we can. And that guest may come as well, or not.
So by inviting in Jesus as any or all of these guests, we want to look our best. We want to look good for Jesus, inviting him in for a visit.
Of course, Jesus, as anything else, lives his own life, on his own schedule. And that is also part of the game.
Whenever I listen to music, read a book, watch a movie, or similar, I notice the difference between a resistance within and to experience.
When there is a resistance within experience, it usually makes it interesting to me. I am attracted to the experience, and there is some friction there. It feels meaty, substantial, challenging, nurturing.
This is how it is for me with music such as Jaga Jazzist, Meredith Monk, Bulgarian folks songs, and even – for instance – lounge music. Anything that is a little outside of the familiar for me (Meredith Monk), outside of my expectations (Bulgarian folk songs) or shoulds (metal!), or outside of my familiar identity (lounge).
When there is not much resistance within experience, which I experience with Mozart and some writings and movies, there is either not much interest there, or it becomes more of a – sometimes welcomed – relaxation and a vacation.
And when there is resistance to experience, it is quite different. This is when it becomes uncomfortable, and there is a sense of separation and of a separate I disliking an experience.
Our local art museum has an exhibit on Buddhist art called Buddhist Visions, focusing especially on depictions of heaven and hell.
So as with anything else, as usual, this is about what is happening here and now.
Heaven is here. Hell is here. The bardos are here. Whatever happens after we die, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is here.
It is a projection of stories happening here now, into past and future. And it is a projection of dynamics happening here now, into past and future, or another location in space.
There is a story here, about heaven, hell, creation, what happens after death, and I see it as reflecting something really out there, in the past, future, or somewhere else in space. And I can either recognize it as just a thought, having purely a practical function for this human self in the world, or I can take it as somehow substantial, real, something far more than just an ephemeral thought.
Dynamics happening here now are also projected out, in a similar way, through these stories.
I can find heaven here, when I tell myself what is and what should be are aligned, or when I notice myself as that which all content of experience happens within and as. I can find hell here, when I tell myself that what is and what should be are not aligned, or when I get caught up in beliefs in general.
(For instance, have you ever felt like either or all of the figures in the painting above? I have, and do whenever I get caught up in being right, in a hot anger, creating a sense of being eaten alive. That is one version of hell.)
I can find the layers and processes described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead here now, when I explore the sense fields or use other approaches.
So all of these Buddhist images can be seen as describing something happening here and now, for each of us. And that is really the same with anything else, any other story, in the news, in movies, in books, in dreams, in myths, in fairy tales, in science, in religion. Whatever it is, it is something we can find here now, in immediate awareness.
We can find the story of it here now, as simply an ephemeral and insubstantial thought. And we can find the dynamics it refers to. Any story is a story about what is alive here now.
It has a double practical value. First, as a practical tool for our human self to navigate and function in the world. Then, as a reflection of what is alive here now in our immediate awareness.
I just came across this wonderfully weird and off-beat Buddha by Takashi Murakami.
Buddhist students are advised to see any image of the Buddha as representing the perfect Buddha mind, no matter how weird the image itself is. And it is a great advice.
In fact, can I see the perfect Buddha in any of the forms arising to me? In any sounds, sensations, tastes, smells, thoughts… no matter what particular forms they take? Can I see that it is all awakeness itself?
The statue is great material in other ways too… What beliefs come up when I see it? Do I get offended? (No.) Am I afraid someone else may get offended. (Maybe.)
It is a reminder of how Buddhism can be poured into lots of different containers, depending on what culture it is in. (In this case contemporary Japan.) That was probably not the intention of the artist, but it can still be taken that way.
It was an unforgettable experience to see Marcel Marceau live a few years back. More than almost anyone I can think of, he was able to remind me of the magic of everyday life, and evoke the wonder and awe of the innocent child that is still here in each of us – revealed when the grip on beliefs and identities are released for a moment.
In the receptive mind and heart is appreciation for life, as it is here and now. And we love those who remind us of that.
Jesus spent his days with the outsiders and outcasts of society, so this is a good illustration of how that may look if translated to our contemporary society. (Although not necessarily wearing high heeled shoes.)
He chose to be with prostitutes, money collectors and fishermen, and told stories of good Samaritans… all looked down at or shunned by his community. Who would he choose friends among today? Maybe the homeless, insane, industry workers, truckers, Muslims, turban wearers, gay, transsexuals, hiv positive… not to change them or convert them, but to find friends in them, and show the rest of us our prejudices.
High Dynamic Range imaging is a way of extending the tonal range of a photo, or said another way, to include details in both the highlights and the shadows. It has been used in film for a while, and is now also increasingly used among digital photographers, where three or five or more photos of the same scene, each exposed differently, are combined into a single image with an extended tonal range.
A HDR image itself has a tonal range far beyond what any screen or any paper can represent, so it needs to be compressed and processed down into something that can be represented in these forms. It is similar to a “digital negative” that needs to be developed, and there an infinite number of ways of doing this, and no one set way that works in all situations. The processing is different each time, and tailored for the specific image and its purpose.
This is a good analogy for talking about Big Mind, about finding ourselves as this awakeness and its content, inherently absent of an I with an Other.
Big Mind is beyond what can be touched by words, as a HDR image is far beyond what can be accurately represented on screen or in print. And in each case, there is an infinite number of ways to translate it down to something that can be expressed. There is an infinite number of ways to process a HDR negative, and an infinite number of ways to put an immediate experience of/in Big Mind into words. And in each case, how we do it depends on what we want to express – a particular image, an aspect of Big Mind, and the circumstances – what it is going to be used for and what purpose it is intended to serve.
Any analogy breaks down somewhere, which is why it is only an analogy. And this one breaks most clearly down in that a HDR negative and finished processed image are not different in type, only in tonal range, and that Big Mind is inherently free from anything that can be expressed in words, even as it is (attempted) expressed in words. Big Mind is beyond and includes any polarities, and words only works within polarities.
In the case of HDRs, it is a difference in degree, and in the case of Big Mind and words, a difference in type.
I used to be identified with an identity as cultured, which lead me to read a good amount of literature classics, philosophy and art history, watch obscure and sophisticated movies, listen to music such as Arvo Part, Palestrina, Bach, Philip Glass, and so on, and although I genuinely enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, it was also a one-sided life and identification.
During the dark night this identification, as so many others, wore down, and there is now more of an open space for anything… deep and shallow, artsy and popular… it matters less now.
The irony in this shift is that now, finding more fluidity within the wide landscapes of literature, movies and music, I am also more easily able to find the depth in the shallow, and the same dynamics and patterns in all of it. Popular or sophisticated… it is all reflections of the same basic dynamics and patterns of the mind.
There is a depth in the shallow that, although I was aware of it all the time, I held at arm-lengths distance. Now, that it is right here in my life with no distance, I can appreciate it much more.
Conversely, I guess I can say that there is a shallowness in the deep as well, often an identification with a particular identity which sets up boundaries where there really are none, and a self-congratulatory attitude about things that are really not that sophisticated, and sometimes not even that important.
In my teens and early twenties, I was into drawing and painting… especially the style that incorporates and embraces polarities, such as figurative and abstract, colors and shades, aesthetics and content, and so on.
So here is one way of looking at art (as I did back then, and now)…
For its own sake, as a local expression of life, existence, God.
For the one it is coming through, as an exploration process of life, existence, what is alive here now.
For the audience, as a mirror of themselves and a trigger for their stories, whether they feel drawn to it or not.
For the audience when they are drawn to it, as a match between the art and the recipient. Any match, even for just one person, and it is worth it only on this level.
In terms of conventional quality, as evaluated on skills, content, and so on.
For me, the last point was important only as it related to the second, third and fourth ones. For example, skills enhance the exploration process and can make it more clear and differentiated, and it also aids the mirroring and the likelihood of a match. And a multi-layered content, drawing on cultural references, functioning on many levels of being, does the same.
I went to a flute and guitar concert tonight, and was struck by how precious every aspect of this life is.
Every moment is fleeting… always fresh, new, different. Dying as what it was, reborn as something else.
There are many moments in my life, but my lifeitselfis fleeting, measured in years or decades. My days are numbered, although I may not know the exact number.
Humanity goes on without me, but humanityitselfis fleeting. Everything created by humanity, including all the art, is here now and gone in hundreds, or thousands of years. Even if it lasts for millions of years, which seems unlikely, it will come to an end. This Earth will die, and this universe will die (heat death or big crunch).
From all these perspectives, this moment is precious… it is easiest to notice through what our personality enjoys, such as a good meal, friendship or art… but every moment is equally previous, independent of its content.
It is not only precious because it is precious to this human self. Every moment is a unique expression of God, it is God experiencing itself uniquely.
It is precious, because it is a unique expression of God, of Existence, of life.