getting past the words
Words are wonderful when they serve as pointers. The problem is that we tend to ascribe ‘realness’ or ‘thingness’ to words, forgetting their sole function as symbols representing shared concepts. In order to get beyond the word it’s necessary to plant one’s feet firmly within its accepted meaning, and then explore what that meaning might be pointing towards. Art and awakening are two words that are hot potatoes for some reason, and without signing up for the task I seem to have had a default preoccupation with both concepts all my life. This little essay tries to express what I’ve learned, or rather what I’ve unlearned.
I’ll begin with a couple of definitions:
putting things in their ‘right’ place, in order, in the spot where they sing with a rightness independent of one’s cultural conditioning; a cellular-level rightness which is somehow recognized by the body.
the irreversible apperception that no independent entity exists who could possibly awaken or become enlightened, or be other than whatever this is, here and now.
Art – art as that creative process of finding the ‘right’ place, rather than the art product – was a consuming passion for the first half of my life. Hey, I even married (and un-married) a guy called Art, and he’s as passionate about creating as I am! It’s likely that my later pre-occupation with the concept of ‘awakening’ was seeded in the magical experiences that occurred within the creative context, but its flowering would only happen later in life, when concerns with career paths faded.
health and creativity
During the decades spent teaching art and design and immersed in creative practice in my studio, it became obvious to me that overall health in human beings appears to be nurtured, fostered and sustained by enthusiasm and wonder, accompanied by the urge to move, to make.
Finding one’s health (wholeness), purpose, self-esteem and fulfillment seems to depend on these qualities, and artistic work – perhaps more than most other activities – offers a portal through which they may be accessed. Developing and refining artistic skills which cultivate and express these qualities would surely be the aim of a curriculum for art and design education in a holistic context.
Experiencing Life as a work of art is possible when the process of creating becomes a consciously-held intention, a matrix within which we refine our focus on the details of that which we desire to create. But these are merely fancy words until we come to understand who or what we truly are within the big picture – the macromatrix. That’s where awakening comes in.
Understanding and healing occur when there is acceptance and appreciation of the what-is of our Life. Love for our Life returns us to Wholeness. In that Wholeness we wake up from the myth that we were ever separate from the Wholeness – which brings a huge new understanding. We know that there cannot be, logically or rationally, anything apart from Wholeness, and consequently, that we cannot possibly exist as a separate, independent entity. We are that Wholeness. Enthusiasm and wonder arise spontaneously, and we are compelled to create and celebrate as they bathe our perception of the world and its “ten thousand things”.
Our desire is the desire of Wholeness. Our creations are the creations of that Wholeness. Free-will is something we pretend to ‘have’. But since there’s no separate entity apart from Wholeness, the will that appears to be ‘ours’ and ‘free’ is in fact the will of the Wholeness. The will of Wholeness, or Creation, is energy – ubiquitous, amoral and impartial energy. It is ceaselessly moving and ceaselessly making. We say it moves according to ‘our’ thoughts. We say we must change, or focus ‘our’ thoughts in order to create what we wish. But what we come to understand is that the impulse which seems to be attributable to ‘me’ is (without permission or control) doing all the things we used to take credit or blame for! Impulse, intention, focus and application of ‘will power’ are all actions of the Wholeness that we are. And whatever is created via those actions is created by Wholeness.
art is a way
Will is happening, will cannot not happen so long as there are conscious emanations of Wholeness (called sentient beings) being Lived by that Wholeness. Life’s ex-pression of Wholeness is the only valid description of authentic art. We exist to express this Wholeness, and art is a Way. A way-less way, if you like – for the ultimate art is the realization that there is no artist and no way.
The activities that have always interested me most in the art room or studio are those that, rather than providing a pathway for the production of a certain kind of image, are simply explored as a mirror that reflects my assumptions, habits and notions about myself, about art, and about life. Because these are the only things that obscure the truth of one’s being. The approaches to that truth are as varied and numerous as there are participants in the playground. And the truly creative curriculum in the arts will be a resource of ways to explore the most remarkable, miraculous fact that can ever be known: the wonder of being alive and the recognition that one is no-thing other than that alive-ness.
Awakening is just precisely that.
Awareness in healthy humans is what allows the capacity for and sense of alive-ness. Alive-ness cannot be cultivated – it is surely there or not, and if it’s not, you won’t be reading this. Awareness likewise cannot be cultivated, since, try as we might, we cannot find it! Yet it is always present.
The presence of Awareness is only obscured by the noise of our notions and opinions about everything. Making things is a wonderful way of meeting these notions. Awareness itself then performs the remarkable deed of dissolving these hindrances, seemingly opening itself up to more sense of itself. Heightened awareness of all the worlds assumed to be real – both outwardly and in the hidden recesses of the mind – inevitably opens up new perspectives on life, and, if there is ripeness, awakening might ‘happen’.
Without a whisper of will, without a trace of trying, life awakens to itself and knows itself as naked Knowingness.
Without a name, belonging to no person,
with no history, no future, containing nothing,
without preferences, abhorring nothing, needing nothing,
that no-thing from which all things arise
which lies beyond the words
Image credit: Library of Babel by Brody Neuenschwander