Friday, June 29, 2012

Eating From the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Heroe's Journey

A few days ago this snippet was posted to FB by the Joseph Campbell Society Page. I like considering his commentary because his studies have shown him the themes that connect all mankind across cultures and time. What follows is a riff, or a rambling, initiated by this quote:
"The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man. The objective world remains what it was, but, because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed. "
Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces 

Imagery vs. Art

Artists will frequently discuss imagery vs. art….the act of copying vs. interpreting. Inflection and interpretation are artifacts of humanity. We are drawn to art because we have already infused meaning into anything and everything. The illusion of meaning is what makes the ‘tragedy of man’ bearable. It transforms the act of living a life into art.

Modern News. Is it imagery? Or art?

We expect news to be literal imagery, a documentation of the events and facts. Yet few of us will read such a presentation. Because news is used to sell engagement (in any media), reporting is encouraged to become more ‘story-like’, replete with inflected meaning and sensational titles. Few of us have our skeptic’s radar turned on when consuming a news story, and so those meanings are dumped directly into our current world view. This is how the media shapes public opinion, presents their own world view, whips up public enthusiasm, and sells repeated entertainment. We are all suckers for an engaging story.

If we see that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, we might look to the news media for the source of said basket. It’s just a perspective, created by one-sided and ‘spun’ information dosed with emotional ‘meanings’. These sadly result in the appearance of a world in need of saving by politicians and governmental intervention (or reactionary fringe groups). All of these steal the soul of the people, their belief that they matter, that they can be effective because they see clearly. This leaves a spiritual hole, which is readily filled by a Call to Arms by said fact-spinning group, which subsequently leads many over the cliff like lemmings. Now THAT’s a tragedy. 

And that may be the quintessential example of what was meant by the ancient Hebrew wisdom/warning:
“…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
We die (spiritually) when our fictions are out of alignment with Divinity.

The way I interpret this: (pun intended) is that to die is to lose touch with the Divinity within, which is the miracle of humanity. When you can no longer recall or connect with God's neutrality and big picture perspective, you fall prey to fictions crafted of other people's meanings (usually for their own power mongering purposes).

When you look out through your own rose colored glasses and see a world of doom and gloom that steals your spirit, you can be certain that you have swallowed a fiction that is constructed of partial information spun into the big scary story from which you (and humanity) cannot escape. It wouldn't be a story of any power without that final no-escape clause. Writers call it 'putting your character in the crucible'..the situation from which there is no escape. Of course, the whole story is then about the character's escape from the crucible, otherwise known as the Hero's Journey of Transformation.

It's not easy, policing all your assumptions and all the incoming 'information' for infection by partial truths and spin-factories, but it IS the Hero's journey. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Surface Tension

"Surface Tension" - Lily Pads from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens 2011

In today's digital art : Surface Tension, I notice how the lily pads are clearly the subject. They are on the surface, after all. But they would be uninteresting without the royal blue of the sky and opalescent clouds floating behind them. Yet even these are actually indirect clues to a mysterious depth that lies beneath. It can be very hard to even recognize that there is something OTHER than the surface.

This week echoed the subject of the last post, that of trying to hear and heed the spirit within when so much good sense is shouting even from within your own head. In early 2011 I took on newsletter duties for our local artist group. They needed the service and I had the skill set to deliver it. It offered the opportunity to learn a new piece of software, InDesign, and much to my surprise it invigorated the membership to a shocking degree. Not a meeting goes by that several people don't rave about how good the newsletter is, how they look forward to receiving it each month. I loved doing it, though it was a frightful amount of work, 12-15 hours on each monthly issue.

I accepted the duties for 2012 of course, but this week I announced to the board that I would be trimming back on the content. By the end of the year the membership would be accustomed to a simpler document that most anyone could replicate in Word or Front Page or whatever they wanted to use. I would not be continuing these duties in 2013, nor did I want to be on the nominating committee for next year's officers.

Why? Was it something they said? No. It's just that club concerns (there have been others) have filled so much of my thoughts, even the little bits between tasks, that I have not spared enough thought for painting or any creative endeavor. I have nothing at all to present at the member show-and-tell, nothing for the fall show. I am sorely missing the creative challenge and personal development. Why did I allow myself to take this side road? Because I was being useful, and that felt good. It fed the lizard, the one who worries constantly that if one is not delivering quantifiable value to an audience then you do not deserve your living. Being useful here justified myself as a citizen of the community. This 'useful' tank has been hanging on empty for a long time. What I learned, finally, is that the creative tank needs to be refilled even more than the useful tank. I used to be able to fill both from my job. For a while now it's been neither. For a while I chose to fill 'useful'. It fed the ego, but it didn't feed the spirit. Now I know the importance of creative activity for my vitality.

You can see in this week's decision the influence of the previous two posts: The perennially human quest for the Grail and Joel Osteen's reminder: You cannot please everyone. Keep your focus on pleasing God.