From Essay IX: The Over-Soul — “The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty.”
From Nature — “Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue.”
If you’re puzzled by relationships…
Symmetry. A very interesting concept. Is it real or imagined? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how consciousness operates, how we impose ideas, structures, and order on the world to make it more…manageable? Less overwhelming? I think of Alan Watts who proposed that the real world is “wiggly”. More fluid, with less distinct boundaries than we tend to ascribe to it. Still, I suppose there is a lot of seeming symmetry in nature. Botany identifies symmetry frequently, for example, in compound leaf structures which are often classified as symmetrical or alternating. Do I have any photographs of a symmetrical leaf or flower? No. I don’t typically take architectural shots, either, and if I do, they’re off center on purpose. I think that means I am looking for the harmony of imperfect, wiggly things….like the Yin and Yang. That symbol seems symmetrical, but it’s really opposites in balance. I like that. Not that I don’t try to make things symmetrical in my life. I have a very orderly, Western brain. I’ve straightened pictures and lined up pillows compulsively for years. But I’m trying to break out of that habit. If I must impose symmetry in order to feel at peace, then I’m in for a lot of anxiety. It makes more sense to accept the wiggly world as it is. So here’s some man-made symmetry that I’ve photographed…imperfectly:
What a great thing to contemplate: scale. How overwhelming our lives become when our scale references are distorted! For example, how imposing our thoughts can seem on the landscape of our lives. My daughter gave me an illustration of this: imagine someone holding a large book in front of your face and asking you what you saw. You’d see the book and maybe a bit of the room from your peripheral vision. Now, if you moved the book to one side, you’d still see the book, but you’d also see more of the room. It’s hard to make thoughts go away, but you can take them out of the forefront. That’s what meditation is about — being aware of your thoughts, but not letting them dominate your view. We make so many mountains out of mole hills in this culture. There is so much OMG; like MSG, it can make us feel lousy. Media hyper-activity and fear-mongering is like that, I think. We need to dial down the lens, deflate our egos, maintain a humble perspective. We are one leaf on a vast and robust tree of life. We are beautiful; the tree is beautiful. We are not greater than or less than the rest.
What an invitation! “Express Yourself” – squeeze yourself into a photograph or a gallery, squirting out the essence of your personality, your style, your philosophy, your vision. This could be one messy catharsis! Here goes:
What was THAT about?!
Well, here is something I’ve been pondering lately: Eckhart Tolle’s profound revelation “I can’t live with myself any longer.” In order to arrive at such a conclusion, he must have thought there was a difference between ‘I’ (the authentic and divine being) and ‘My Self’ (the false delusion we sometimes call ‘ego’). Seeing the juxtaposition of these two ideas of a person leads me to recognize that there is a lot of falsity, of gibberish and nonsense that we superimpose on the experience of existence. That veneer surrounds us and can build up, layer upon layer to stifling proportions. And then, sometimes there’s a break through. A simple, true observation of the wonder of existence that doesn’t explain everything, but stands in almost blinding clarity against the noise of culture.
Anyway, my gallery illustrates how I am living astride this double existence. I interact with people who are a complex combination of I/Self expressions, I deal with objects which are mostly complete gibberish but which many people value anyway, and I marvel at Nature and grieve our exploitation of its pure embodiment of Life.
Hope you found this entertaining and thought-provoking. I appreciate the invitation to share my view!
I really like this challenge. Shadowed. Looking at my photographs and paying attention to what the shadow adds to the picture is like developing greater awareness of the Yin side of the universal whole. I don’t always remember to do that. I am attracted to the brighter side of life by default, maybe because of my Sun sign, Leo…maybe not. Maybe just because there are so many voices encouraging us Westerners to be positive and dualistic. Shun the shadow, move toward the Light. Problem is, you’re only half aware if you do that.
Nature’s shadow is dramatic and ordinary at the same time. Sunlight is a powerful force in the ecosystem of life, and its waxing and waning effects many behaviors. We tend to think of the differences as important, but are they?
Nocturnal creatures make a habitat out of shadow; it is simply home, cover and shelter.
Shadows can represent mystery in life, reminding us that what we don’t see is nevertheless present and active.
Ultimately, ‘shadowed’ is a concept. It’s a creation of the big human brain, borne of our propensity to analyze, distinguish and attach a label. Shadows are a natural phenomenon that we like to imbue with meaning. That’s who we are and what we do, and it’s interesting to ponder that.
Inspired by the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.
What’s New? That’s actually a very complex question. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. That means that everything is just a recombination of ancient atoms and forces. Even the sunlight of a new day is coming to us from so far away that the first beams to reach our eyes are already old. Therefore, “there is nothing new under the sun,” to quote wise old Solomon. ‘New’ is a concept that we’ve made up, a proposition of dualistic thinking.
Which makes it impossible for me to come up with an accurate illustration.
So, I’ll leave accuracy aside and go for poetry.
Firelight, flickering to life moment by moment. Have you ever stared into a flame and wondered how it keeps going? Have you ever contemplated ‘eternal combustion’ and wondered how the sun keeps shining? Have you ever wondered how it is that Life Goes On? A new year. Did you ever doubt that there would be one?
What if one day, the sun went dark and time stopped? What if the Universe did not behave as expected? What if meaning and existence and relationships and substance turned out to be utter nonsense? Have you ever stared into the abyss? Have you ever turned toward existential angst and forgotten to look away?
What did that feel like?
I’ll tell you how it felt to me on New Year’s Eve. Steve read me a story aloud at the dinner table. The story was Flannery O’Connor’s tale A Good Man Is Hard To Find. I’d heard it before. This time, as he finished, the tears began to roll down my face. The leftover bits of caviar and salmon on the table looked like a joke. I felt like I was dead. And then I felt like there was very little difference between being alive and being dead. I felt akin to all of humanity, all of its pointless suffering joy, and resigned. The champagne stayed in the refrigerator.
Is that depressing? Is that grace-less? It felt new. I’d never felt that way before. I didn’t brush it off with a hasty grasp at consolation. I let myself feel that mystic emptiness. Steve said later, “Whatever doesn’t make you kill yourself, makes you stronger.” Dark and light. Old and new. What brave, new world would I live in if I could embrace both?
(And if Ms. O’Connor can write a story that illustrates a feeling I’d never had before so powerfully that I’m in tears for an hour afterward, does that make her the greatest writer on the planet? I don’t know, but she’s gotta be damn close.)
in response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.