Everybody has a geography that can be used for change. That is why we travel to far off places. Whether we know it or not we need to renew ourselves in territories that are fresh and wild. We need to come home through the body of alien lands.
―Joan Halifax,The Fruitful Darkness
One walks along a street and strays unknowingly from one’s path; one then looks up suddenly for those familiar landmarks of orientation, and, seeing none, one feels lost. Panic drapes the look of the world in a strangeness, and the more one stares blankly at the world, the stranger it looks, the more hideously frightening it seems. There is then born in one a wild, hot wish to project out upon the alien world the world that one is seeking. This wish is a hunger for power, to be in command of one’s self.
I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these ten blog posts would be nothing without their pictures.
These are the most viewed photoblogs posted on synkroniciti in 2014. We’ve also included a popular one from last December as an honorable mention. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether to classify a post as an article or a photoblog, but in general photoblogs have a large number of images, speak of those images and would fall flat without them.
Please click on the picture to view the post. We’ve reworked a couple of these along the lines of fair use and noncommercial use with regard to images, so if they look different to you, that’s because they are. Enjoy!
Superhero science has taught me this: Entire universes fit comfortably inside our skulls. Not just one or two but endless universes can be packed into that dark, wet, and bony hollow without breaking it open from the inside. The space in our heads will stretch to accommodate them all. The real doorway to the fifth dimension was always right here. Inside. That infinite interior space contains all the divine, the alien, and the unworldly we’ll ever need.
―Grant Morrison, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human
In the Kimberley area of Australia, indigenous tribes worship the Wandjina, supreme creators of the world. The Kimberley nations are recognized by all other tribes in Australia as the only group allowed to paint these figures, recognizable by their large eyes and lack of mouths. Elaborate headdresses, which are interpreted as different types of storms, often grace their heads. These unique and beautiful paintings require special permission from tribal elders to be made and their veneration and sacred qualities are a pillar of tribal culture.
For the outsider, these iconic images pose a lure. While the relationships of Wandjina to the believer are not easily understood, the images themselves are easily assimilated and copied by artists and bear some similarities to what many science fiction and alien conspiracy buffs would call Grey Aliens. Excited by both the strangeness and familiarity of the figures, artists have created their versions of the sacred images without permission. Their motivations vary from seeking common ground with another culture to making money off of a trendy image, but the reaction from the Kimberley community has been understandable outrage.
Vesna and Damir Tenodi sought to place a large stone sculpture depicting an outsider’s interpretation of Wandjina in a very public position outside of their art gallery in Katoomba and were ultimately denied permission. This was known as the Blue Mountain case. You can read in depth about it here. There was also a case in Perth, outside of the Kimberley region, where Wandjina showed up in graffiti, which you can read about here. In that situation, some indigenous people saw the street art as an homage to their culture, while others took offense that it was done in the wrong place by unapproved individuals.
In “westernized” nations, creative people are generally allowed to represent what they want or need to, even if it offends some people deeply. There have been and will continue to be controversies, such as that over Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine, but such art is allowed to stand as valid expression of human experience. Public opinion is not seen as a reason to censor art and the individual voice is given protection unless it becomes deemed dangerous or intolerant. What constitutes dangerous or intolerant is a legal matter of some contention, but is not determined on religious grounds.
By contrast, sacred images have lost a great deal of their power in western culture. By marketing a particular interpretation of a sacred figure and allowing it to be plastered on billboards, we present a particular picture of a faith. This obscures other interpretations and drives away people who are made uncomfortable by that picture. Does using art almost as religious logo contribute to the exclusion of some people from faith communities, even when this was not at all the intention of the artist?
The Kimberley people are newer to the assimilation game and many of them would like to keep their faith and art authentic. Unfortunately, they are fighting two forces which will make that very difficult as our world becomes increasingly globalized. The first is the driving force of financial gain propelled by advertising. As long as there is money to be made from the sale of an iconic image it will be replicated and sold. Both faith and artistic expression are likely to suffer.
The second force is that of inspiration and creative impulse. Despite the desire of religion to control both artistic and faith experiences, the creative spirit cuts across religious and cultural lines, often with delightful results. You cannot control the effects your art will have on a stranger, nor can you deny that stranger an encounter with the forces you revere. Blending of culture can result in wonderful art even as it upsets order and the common ground. It is my hope that empathy and sensitivity can help us find venues and spaces for both the traditional and the new, even when the new seems sacrilegious.
A bewildering assortment of (mostly microscopic) life-forms has been found thriving in what were once thought to be uninhabitable regions of our planet. These hardy creatures have turned up in deep, hot underground rocks, around scalding volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, in the desiccated, super-cold Dry Valleys of Antarctica, in places of high acid, alkaline, and salt content, and below many meters of polar ice.
…Some deep-dwelling, heat-loving microbes, genetic studies suggest, are among the oldest species known, hinting that not only can life thrive indefinitely in what appear to us totally alien environments, it may actually originate in such places.
—David Darling, Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, PDI via Pixabay
Over the years I travelled to another universe. However alert we are, however much we think we know what will happen, antiquity remains an unknown, unanticipated galaxy. It is alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae. They can be pleasant, they can be annoying–in the supermarket, these old ladies won’t get out of my way–but most important they are permanently other. When we turn eighty, we understand that we are extraterrestrial. If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.
Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.