Be out of sync with your times for just one day, and you will see how much eternity you contain within you.
Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
―C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
But the Phoenix is not remarkable for its feathers or flames. It is most revered for its ability to climb from its own funeral pyre, from the very ashes of its old charred body, as a brand new life ready to live again once more. Life after life, it goes through this cycle. It absorbs human sorrow, only to rise from death to do it all again. It never wearies, it never tires. It never questions its fate. Some say that the Phoenix is real, that it exists somewhere out there in the mountains of Arabia, elusive and mysterious. Others say that the Phoenix is only a wish made by desperate humans to believe in the continuance of life.
But I know a secret.
We are the Phoenix.
What nature delivers to us is never stale. Because what nature creates has eternity in it. —Isaac Bashevis Singer
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
In loving memory of Lisa Sasabuki, 2000-2016, dear sweet cat and gentle spirit. I’ll never hear the wind in the leaves quite the same way. Ack and chirp over the rainbow bridge to your dear brother Nick. We love you so much.
Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it. Why speak of Time when you are Time, and shape the universal moments, as they pass, into warmth and action?
―Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
It is human to fear things that make us feel uncertain. How can art help us to befriend those fears?
The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.
―Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Mihoko Ogaki, born in Toyama, Japan and educated at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in Germany, is fascinated by the interplay of darkness and light. In her continuing series Milky Way, Ogaki sculpts human figures from fiber-reinforced plastic. These figures are all in the final stages of death, age and pain dominating their features. Left in that state, these would be deeply depressing sculptures, but Ogaki embeds each one with bright LEDs that recreate the patterns of the stars of our Milky Way Galaxy. The effect is enchanting and lovely, as these dark forms are transfigured into illuminating presences, each giving back their light to the universe around them. The concepts of soul, energy, and eternity dance before us, mysterious as ever.
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The implications for the conscious and unconscious parts of the human being can’t be quantified. We can’t see in the dark, nor can we truly see what death is until we experience it. In both cases, the obscurity can be frightening, even if we have faith on which to lean. There is more going on than we can understand or even perceive.
Ogaki’s magical sculptures capture the beauty and interconnectedness of light and darkness and of life and death without explaining their mysteries or interpreting their meaning. They hint at synchronicity, at a promise of meaning, which is comforting. We need artists to dream and explore these universal issues as much as we need scientists and philosophers to do so.