Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meditation 4 (complete)

Back Where/ Over There

Recently, somewhat by accident, I discovered that when I moved the discussion table to a different part of the room the two discussions stayed more separate in my memory than when it was always in the same place.  With the table in the same place all the time, different discussions overlapped and got muddled in my mind. Putting the table somewhere else, the different visual qualities again made it easy to separate from the other discussions.

Location is important to retrieving memories. We go back to where something happened in our minds’ eye and re-view it. When we remember an event, we run the mental film. See it again. The angle may be different since it is edited by the things that matter to us at the moment. It could be an entirely different version of the event from someone else that was there. Remembering Sunday night card games when I was a child, the image includes my grandfather, his warm smile and laugh, and there in the picture of my life, he remains. Though in the linear view of time he is gone now because we’re on a different place on the line, in a spatial view of time, nothing that comes into the picture ever leaves that part of the picture. We might be adding to the picture somewhere else but the composition always exists as a whole.

Linear time is a useful idea mistakenly imprinted as reality. Conditioning can be comfort and breaking free threatens it. Looking at time as the accumulation of collective experience is reminiscent of the ancient idea of the akashic field where everything that happens leaves an impression and is there to be retrieved by sensitive attunement. This connects to the modern biological theory of Rupert Sheldrake suggesting that rather than memory being in our heads, it’s really in a field of human activity, entwined in the larger picture.  We build our personal circuitry by our life experience. Perhaps it becomes the tuning mechanism to remember the imagery of our lives pulled from the intricate weave of signals in the field. As an image, it’s not so different from the internet which accumulates everything. Familiarity with that model may release us from the grip of a mechanistic model that separates everything into replaceable units. Quantum physics pointed David Bohm’s thinking in the direction of a more unified consciousness. He compared individual human consciousness to a single camera on a larger scene, everyone with their own angles which contribute to the comprehensive consciousness. We move our camera over the unfolding scene that becomes our particular line of time. Our body is the camera with which we experience reality and funnel the larger consciousness.

The imagery of memory is spatial, interconnected. After thousands of years of reducing reality to the line of history’s symbols, signs and labels and their illusion of separateness, shifting to perceptual understanding, the sense of the space that includes us and the relations within it, opens a way of thinking that joins and includes. It could unite us in shared responsibility for our co-future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Meditation 4 (detail of early stage)

Was expecting to substitute the finished drawing but it's gone much further than I expected so I'll make the finished one the next posted drawing.

Growing Knowledge

A tree can be a wonderful image for growth of knowledge, the spreading branches suggesting the neural network that grows in our brains over time. Its limitation is its separateness. Though its branches may intermingle with others, it’s individual treeness is unchanged. A different idea is suggested by ripples from a pebble. They hit a rock and start another ripple and the interactions between create more complex patterns.
This reminded me of a line in the I Ching.
  “Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating interchange with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.”
  When people surround themselves with the like-minded they close themselves off from the richness possible in the interaction of ideas. Many times, when bouncing off the ideas of others I’ve had ideas I never had before. The interaction of different ways of seeing creates the opportunity for them to combine in different ways, for our big picture models to grow and evolve. Whereas the right/wrong model uses mental power to defend a particular view, a model that pools ideas adds ripples to the pattern. 
 Primary to skill in happiness is the skill of steering attention. The body/ego/identity through which consciousness experiences, is packed with conditioned patterns of reaction, some are basic to physical survival and some are result of psychological strategies that protected the sense of control over actions. Old patterns can capture the energy and conscious attention and pull us into the rest of the pattern if we don’t pause. Recognizing the conditioned patterns is what gives the choice. In awareness, we can extend that moment and choose.
 The reason to have an energizing project of any kind is because it offers a compelling alternative to the thought and behavior patterns that chain the unaware. Elyn Sachs in her Ted Talk said the best defense against mental illness is a challenging project. It could simply be to study something. As I know from a computer game typing tutor, there are all kinds of games that combine learning with pleasure. And learning itself is pleasure. We get endorphins from it. Challenge also stimulates the pleasure center. Take up drawing, learn an instrument, study a language. Building knowledge increases self-regard based on real achievement. There is so much that can be learned that deepens understanding over the whole of life. The secret to having self-respect is in the satisfaction of building your power. Skill and knowledge reside inside, are not external and not so easily lost.
  Wherever your attention gravitates, follow it, look deeper. Everything gets more interesting as more is learned. Find others that share the interest and enjoy the benefit of different angles on it.
When attention is directed outward, it builds new patterns, correlating them with the old, interweaving other perspectives and enriching the application of new knowledge.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bookmark 2016

       This year's bookmark was inspired by all of the stimulating ideas at the symposium on critique at Columbia University where I was privileged to be a presenter. My gargoyle shows my gratitude. You can print it on card stock and cut it out or follow the directions on the 2015 Bookmark to "laminate".
Enjoy the season and all the best for 2017.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Meditation 3

Common Ground

The most universal understanding shared by all people is how we move in our surroundings. Even when our means of getting around is different we understand the meaning of the space around us. Getting from one place to another, navigating crowds, evading obstacles is part of every person’s life experience. Even though the details can be vastly different, the sense of where we are and where we want to go is a day to day action and a metaphor for a what’s necessary to achieve a goal that is shared by the species. Visual art expresses feeling through this foundation understanding of space.

Meaning is in motion. We share the primary instincts with other mammals and duck when something is flying through the air at our head. The depiction of visual motion evokes everyone’s association with that kind of motion. What’s hanging above triggers body reactions that the conscious mind becomes aware of as feeling. It’s a fluid dance of adaptation to the needs of the surroundings while propelled by personal direction. Because it is something everyone understands it is used as basis for comparison. The nuanced meaning of spatial situations, like inside/outside, aren’t good or bad in themselves but have a character that affect us, a confining inside feels different than a spacious one and either one has good and bad possibilities

The spatial metaphor of common ground is where people can come together. It evokes the place where groups with different views and interests congregate. To cultivate a world that appreciates everyone’s differences and unique abilities it’s necessary to build on what is already shared so that the deeper universal patterns can be observed in action. The ancient Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) stresses that if you hope to communicate and work with someone of different views it’s important to first find some point of agreement.

 We all share one planet, and technology has collapsed the distances into nothing. Gregory Bateson challenged the previous view of survival of the fittest as referring to individuals fighting for their own interest. He suggested that the real unit of survival was the individual within their environment. Destroy the nest and destroy the organism. There is no survival if the environment itself can no longer sustain life. The health of the planet should be our common ground. Building walls keeps out the parts of the big picture that are inconvenient and thwarts understanding. If you only look at part of the picture, like profits, like coming out ahead, other things are damaged and neglected.

“Competition is the law of the jungle, and cooperation is the law of civilization.” Eldridge Cleaver

If cooperation was the rule of a global society imagine the evolution that could be accomplished. The bigger the society the bigger the neocortex. As we become more identified with the globe as our common ground our upgraded cerebral power may be up to the task of the serious global issues that face us. Artists can show problems more vividly and directly with images that stick in people’s minds until a critical threshold is reached. Before something can change we have to see the problems.