The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd–The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.
―Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Going green doesn’t start with doing green acts — it starts with a shift in consciousness. This shift allows you to recognize that with every choice you make, you are voting either for or against the kind of world you wish to see.
But that long day ends at last; yields to the night-time of the flood. And, just as the waters of the ocean come flooding, darkening over the pools, so over George and the others in sleep come the waters of that other ocean; that consciousness which is no one in particular but which contains everyone and everything, past, present and future, and extends unbroken beyond the uttermost stars. We may surely suppose that, in the darkness of the full flood, some of these creatures are lifted from their pools to drift far out over the deep waters.
For unmeasurable periods, I seem divorced from my body, as though I were an awareness spreading out through space, over the earth and into the heavens, unhampered by time or substance, free from the gravitation that binds to heavy human problems of the world. My body requires no attention. It’s not hungry. It’s neither warm or cold. It’s resigned to being left undisturbed. Why have I troubled to bring it here? I might better have left it back at Long Island or St. Louis, while the weightless element that has lived within it flashes through the skies and views the planet. This essential consciousness needs no body for its travels. It needs no plane, no engine, no instruments, only the release from flesh which circumstances I’ve gone through make possible.
Then what am I – the body substance which I can see with my eyes and feel with my hands? Or am I this realization, this greater understanding which dwells within it, yet expands through the universe outside; a part of all existence, powerless but without need for power; immersed in solitude, yet in contact with all creation? There are moments when the two appear inseparable, and others when they could be cut apart by the merest flash of light.
In my mind, I could sense their roots under the soil, creeping in helical tangles of ever-increasing complexity outward and in all directions—out beyond the perimeter of the Helsingør Wood, out below Yami’s Under City, out along the banks of the river, out to the nearest coast and thereupon out into the sea; the roots crept down further along the continental shelf, downward into the abysses, downward into the ocean floor, burrowing under the corals and under trenches, and then back up again to sprout in the darkened forest on a foreign continent: all the trees of the world now had conjoined roots, for they were now of one conjoined consciousness!
―Ashim Shanker, Only the Deplorable
My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.
My newest painting is called Out of the Deep Waters. It’s about the interplay between external reality and the unconscious that produces both life and art. I chose a limited color palette here, dominated by shades of blue, brownish reds and yellows. This color palette and the subject matter itself strike me as vaguely like those of some indigenous peoples, but I can’t quite place them.
There are two fields in this painting, the underwater realm and the realm of the sky, separated by large waves of sea foam. Below is the deep blue ocean, darkening into black and peopled with various shapes. Near the surface is a strange vessel, perhaps a shell, or, in my mind, a piece of ancient pottery or basketry. It is just barely beneath the waves and seems to help shape them. Lower down, an angel fish swims gracefully past, followed by an unusual figure that appears to have a head, fin, and tentacles. A fish tail and body dive away from our eyes, plunging deeper into the darkness and off the side of the painting. Is this a whale, a fish, or a mermaid? We can’t get deep enough to tell. In the bottom lefthand corner lies a shining treasure, which we also cannot comprehend. Is it something floating there, or is it the ocean bottom?
Emerging from the water is a tremendous figure that dominates the picture. This creature represents the Self. Its tail remains in the water, but most of it rises majestically into the rusty reddish air, a shining kite like shape with branched arms that come from its sides. The creature’s right side is yellowish, perhaps illuminated by the sun, pictured here as a large sunflower. The creature’s left lies in shade and is a dark reddish brown. At the center of the being is a small blue chevron which looks rather like an upside down heart. The blue chevron reminds me that the center of my being is the subconscious, which is akin to the great blue sea of unconsciousness below it.
Next to the shadowed side of the Self, a paintbrush drips into the water, dripping a dirty yellow on to the fish tail below it, which swims away, anxious to stay unrevealed. The brush is draped with a deep blue cloth that blows in the wind. It is interesting to note that items in the water echo the red color of the sky, and items in the air that of the blue water. This, for me, represents unity and the mystery of interconnection between inner and outer worlds. Art is of both realms.
The yellow shades I interpret as illumination, which comes from an exterior source, separate from the air and water but present in both, and indeed, in every figure here. The sun is yellow, but contains a darker center, similarly the buried treasure is not only comprised of brilliance, but of the ordinary (brown).
As always, I practice automatic painting, which means I do not plan before I begin applying color. That means my subconscious is very deeply involved in what appears on the canvas and that I frequently miss things that it is trying to manifest. So, if you see something that speaks to you or recognize a symbol I may have missed, please let me know about it.
In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.
―Barbara Hurd, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination
I grew up playing Risk, that wonderful board game where you became a colonial power, spreading your chosen color over the globe until you were made victorious through a combination of strategy and the luck of the dice. The game is still my favorite, but I have come to wonder why there are no local uprisings, and why all of the winners are colonizers rather than indigenous peoples. There are no natural disasters like weather or disease to contend with either.
I ran across this fascinating article by Colin Campbell and thought it was a very interesting take on where humanity might be headed as foretold by one of our modern strategy games. Would any of these technologies be beneficial or would they be insanely powerful to the point of disaster? Everything has its pros and cons.
Read the full text of the article by clicking here.
The title of Firaxis’ game is Civilization: Beyond Earth, which implies a growing consciousness that the actual Earth is nearing the end of its usefulness to humanity. Like children playing office, the human race is getting ready for something that will require us to grow up. The nature of being human will change radically if Earth is no longer our home, supposing that we can survive at all without her. This game is the Risk of a new era, wise enough to see that merely winning wars and subjugating others isn’t enough, but not yet ready to abandon the colonization mindset. As we play, so we are.