Thursday, May 23, 2013

Neptune speaks to me in two voices

Neptune Man
CC Jean Stimmell     5/22/13
The following dialogue is with a mask I made (shown above), just as he emerges from the warm kiln, fully formed, newly born.  I recognize him at first sight: He is Neptune Man.

Neptune speaking to me in his transcendent voice

I cradle my mask still warm from the kiln,
laying him down on the stonewall
I had built when I was young
now shrouded by vines.

Peering down at his face,
I exclaim in amazement…
 “How old you’ve gotten!”

“Indeed it's true,” my mask replies,  
“I'm not what I used to be, 
beached here like a piece of faded driftwood,
stranded after the tide went out. 
But it has its own rewards.”

 “Far from the bombast and clamor of the sea,
I find it a relief to just sit here and be.”

Neptune speaking in his descendent voice

I cradle my mask still warm from the kiln,
laying him down on the stonewall
I had built when I was young
now shrouded by vines.

Peering down at his face,
I exclaim in amazement…
 “How old you’ve gotten!”

“What did you expect,”
my mask spits back at me,
“you meditation master
Dragging me from the depths
like a fisherman of old
 hauling up a cod
to be filleted, salted,
and left to sun dry
 on the rack.”

“You are killing me!

Return me to my rightful place
with the mermaids and sirens
in the depths of the swirling sea:
Ecstatic, irrational, imaginal
The Realm of Dionysus
Where the only rule is:
No Buddhas are allowed!”

One interpretation: Neptune is speaking to two, very different sides of me.  Stanza #1 represents my transcendent, upward journey toward the sun, my dry, masculine side, my yearning to merge with the eternal and the absolute. Stanza #2 represents my descendent journey, what Thomas Berry calls “inscendence,” a damp, downward journey toward my  subconscious depths, my feminine side: a journey that deepens me by opening up my emotions, passion, and creativity.

According to Bill Plotkin, there is no conflict between transcendence and inscendence. “Each supports and enhances the other. Like Rilke, we discover we can have both:” [1]

“You see, I want a lot
Maybe I want it all;
The darkness of each endless fall,
The shimmering light of each ascent.”[2]

[1]  Plotkin, Bill (2008-09-30). Soulcraft (Kindle Locations 840-842). New World Library. Kindle Edition.
[2] Rilke, from Rilke's Book of Hours, p. 61. Plotkin, Bill (2008-09-30). Soulcraft (Kindle Location 5300).

*  Note: This mask has a long history.* As I wrote in my blog on 12/14/12, this project started when I contacted my friend and mentor, Peter Baldwin, expressing my desire to better understand Carl Jung’s work, particularly his meditative technique called “active imagination.”  I expected Peter to recommend a book to read but should have known better. He told me to build masks and dialogue with them. And so I did. The dialogue, including poetry, continues in Part II of my blog. All that happened six months ago when my mask was just raw clay. Then the project languished as I moved on to other things. By the time I finally glazed and re-fired the mask last week, so much time had elapsed that my mask was like brand-new, a blank slate, something I had never seen before. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Searching for the Green Man

Green Man's Abode 
CC Jean Stimmell 5/15/13 along the Merrimack 
I wandered along the magical Merrimack
searching for the Green Man:
I think I found his house
but he wasn't home.

*For more about the Green Man, see my blog entry from 7/6/12:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Totem Pole of the Beaver Clan

Standing tree trunk shaped & sculpted by beavers –
but not cut down – on the Merrimack floodplain
CC Jean Stimmell     5/15/13

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Repeating the ancient cycle of death and rebirth

Milk Snake with Fern Tale *
CC Jean Stimmell
As winter awakens from hibernation, casting off her old, drab pelt, so does milk snake shed her withered dead skin, revealing underneath, a vibrant new self.

But rather than reveling in Spring renewal, something feels ominious. Is it snake's sense that changing climate entails hard times ahead?

* This is a Photoshop creation I made from three photographs I took near St. Paul's School 5/3/13: One is of a juvenile fern unfurling along with two different photographs of a feisty milk snake we encountered who was full of himself: coiling, striking, rattling his tail, pretending to be a rattlesnake.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Time Reborn

"Cavity from a tree memorable from my childhood, 
now long deceased but still evolving"   
CC Jean Stimmell: 1/17/13

The thesis of a newly published book, Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, is very exciting to a postmodernist like me. I believe that most of what we believe are not ultimate truths but human truths: we each view our world through our own unique lens: grounded in our own culture and historical time and place, in combination with biological predispositions and unique human experiences – even scientists aren't exempt.
We are like the story about the three blind men, each feeling a different part of an elephant. Not being able to see the big picture, one blind man feels the elephant’s trunk and thinks it is a hose; the second blind man feels the elephant’s leg and thinks it is a trunk of a tree, while the third blind man feels the elephant’s tail and thinks it is a rope.
Most of life is socially constructed based on our culture and actual experiences.  I have long believed that science is no different. Yes, scientists make hypotheses and conduct painstaking experiences based on the actual facts, but in the end they are no different than the three blind men. For instance, if your hypothesis is that the trunk of a tree is big and round and scaly, then, based on the facts, an elephant’s leg, taken in isolation, is indeed a tree.
Lee Smolin, who wrote Time Reborn, is a well-known physicist who used to hold the conventional view that the goal of science is to work toward discovering the-really-real: eternal and timeless laws of the universe which can be expressed in elegant, succinct mathematical equations.
Well, Mr. Smolin has changed his mind. Science has undergone fundamental paradigm shifts in the past, and now he is calling for another major shift. He believes science went off-track four centuries ago when scientists, starting with Descartes and Galileo, first introduced mathematics into physics resulting in a new dominant paradigm.
 From that point forward, laws of physics were presumed to be mathematical laws, timeless and eternal: the end result is that time itself has been given short shrift: Scientists have ignored “the seemingly most essential aspect of our existence in the world – its presentation to us as a succession of present moments.” [i]
This scientific paradigm extends through Einstein and still reigns today assuming, against all common sense, that the past, present, and future all exist, but without direction or flow. Nothing in this picture of the universe explains how one instant leads to the next.
Smolin's new book breaks new ground by asserting that, in fact, time does flow and is so fundamental that it is linked to the evolution of the universe as a whole. He posits that there is “a single rate at which time flows,” a rate that is the same throughout the universe. He stresses that this isn’t a refutation of Einstein’s theory, just a reformulation. But it brings a big payoff: “Time has been rediscovered.” [ii]
This has many ramifications.
One provocative possibility, according to Smolin, is that the nature of time may change how we think about ourselves because it may be connected to another fundamental attribute we have never been able to fully grasp: the nature of consciousness.
 Smolin’s theory, if true, has many other far reaching consequences. It would be a paradigm shift far greater in magnitude than the discovery that the world is round, not flat.
All our belief systems would have to radically change if everything is evolving in real time, even the cosmos and the laws that govern it. Scientists would have to stop their quest for the Holy Grail of eternal, timeless truth. And religions would have to adapt to Supreme Beings who are no longer timeless and eternal, but evolving like the rest of us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Following my Anima

Nun Fording Stream of Life
CC Jean Stimmell created 5/1/13

Here we go again. Here's another strange dream I had 4/30/13:

Russet, her cousin, and I are taking a hike. We come to a wide stream with exposed rocks scattered about. When this happens at high water, we have learned to skip rock to rock to get across. But this time, the spaces between rocks are too wide and the water is too deep and the current too strong.  While we  ponder what to do, a nun dressed in a black robe comes along and, without a moment's hesitation,  calmly strides into the rushing waters and safely fords the stream. 

I don't remember what happens next but somehow we find ourselves on the other side of the stream and continue hiking but soon come across a larger stream, more like a raging river that appears impossible to cross. Once again, along comes the nun and just as last time, without a moment's hesitation, she strides straight into the raging torrent. Amazingly, just as last time, she doesn't get swept away downstream or bashed against the rocks. We watch the only part of her that is visible, her bopping head, moving smoothly and resolutely to the other side. 

Afterwards I catch a glimpse of the nun on the other side, partially hidden by the surrounding forest. She is taking off her sodden, black habit. The image isn't titillating or risqué; the only thing that stands out to me is her chaste, antique-looking underwear.

Like other recent dreams, this one feels like it is conveying something important to me but the various themes are difficult to unravel. Certainly, I think, one obvious interpretation is that I am recognizing and opening up more to my feminine side, my anima in Jungian terms.

In addition, the dream seems to be saying that as we journey down our path in life, we run across unexpected obstacles that we need to overcome? If so, then the question becomes, what do we do when the obstacle appears too great? Do we stand around and dither, retreat in defeat or do we have real faith like the devoted nun, trusting to the depth of our soul  that we are following the right path so we just jump in and start swimming, not fearing the consequences?

And what is the significance of seeing her partly naked taking off her soaking wet robe? Does her body represent her human vulnerability under her robe of faith? Or does the robe represent our transient human lifespan while the nun represents the eternal soul of the cosmos?

My most intriguing interpretation is that the nun represents not only devotion to life but also death. Because of the mortal danger she faces crossing the river, she symbolizes death and rebirth as symbolized by her shedding her sodden robe like a snake shedding her skin.

Finally, according to Jungians, the rushing waters in my dream often represent intense repressed emotions, a theory, to the extent it has validity, I will address at a later date, along with the nun's old fashioned underwear. Indeed, there is more to unravel.