Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mary Oliver, Dream Work, and Synchronicity

I was walking down Commercial Street in Province Town after purchasing  a collection of poems by Mary Oliver, entitled Dream Work in a cozy small bookstore I think she once owned.  Being enamored by both by her poetry and dream work, it occurred to me that I might be able to match up my photographs taken this week in Province Town with her dream images.

Walking a few steps further,  I had a strong and sudden urge to photograph a bronze Buddha beckoning to me from a storefront window. Just as I snapped the shutter, I saw my reflected image merge with the Buddha (that’s me wearing black and white patterned do-rag and yellow-green coat).

Merging with Buddha: Province Town 4/29/14
Being embraced in this manner by the Buddha resulted in a warm feeling of happiness and release from my everyday concerns. I felt I was now on the path and wondered what other connections were waiting to be made, what other synchronicites might be lurking. It came to mind that Mary Oliver might have written about the Buddha?  A quick check of Google told me she had, that she had written The Buddha’s Last Instruction which begins:

Make of yourself a light “
said the Buddha,
before he died.

I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds

of darkness, to send up the first
signal - a white fan
streaked with pink and violet...

Cape Cod Bay From our Bayshore Lodging
Connecting these dots gave me a warm feeling of belonging , confirming my worldview that more we look, the more we see everything is connected. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jungian Version of Plato's Cave

Maudslay Park
CC Jean Stimmell: April 17, 2014

Through both image and word in yesterday’s blog, I tried to illuminate the following enigmatic quote by Elias Canetti:

“You carry the most important things in you for forty or fifty years before you venture of articulate them. For this very reason, you cannot reckon what it is lost with those people who die early. All people die early.”

He appears to be saying that it is impossible to articulate what is most important to us; worse yet, it takes us forty or fifty years before we even try.

I think he has hit upon something important about our existential inarticulateness, but, in my opinion, it is a consequence of living in our modern world – it wasn’t always so.

I visualize our plight as an alternative vision to Plato’s cave. In Plato’s version, humans lived in a cave but didn’t know it. What they saw as reality was only a reflection on the cave walls of the real world outside in the sunlight.

In my Jungian version, our collective unconscious is the real reality, tapping us into a more-than-human wisdom, a reality that indigenous people are immersed in and consciously able to celebrate. But in our modern world of science and technology, we no longer live in our bodies or within the sacred body of the Earth but in our minds.

Separated from our body, nature, and our sense of place, Canetti is correct: we can’t fully articulate the important things, just faintly perceive them as dream images and visions reflected on the flat-screen walls of the cognitive and technological caves we have so blissfully built around ourselves.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dying before articulating the important things

Tree Line at Maudslay Estate
CC Jean Stimmell: Newburyport MA. 4//17/14
A certain book, The Human Province,[i] jumped out at me, demanding my attention while I was browsing at the Book and Bar in Portsmouth recently. It is a journal by Elias Canetti, some one I admit I wasn’t familiar with.

But I like what I found out: he was a highly-awarded German writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1981 “for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power".

He says in the preface that “this volume contains my jottings from 1942 to 1972.” I enjoy reading journals, particularly intellectual journals that trace the slender threads of fleeting insights to see if they weave themselves together into stronger cord or fall to the floor as random flotsam. In my conceit, I like to think of my blog, Psychoscapes, constructed of my own jottings, as such a journal.

Canetti’s jottings are often cryptic and enigmatic:

“Only an image can please you totally, but never a human being. The origins of angels.”[ii]
“The inklings of poets are the forgotten adventures of God.”[iii]
“Experiencing and judging are as distinct as breathing and biting.”[iv]
“A philosopher getting through life without a single answer. But oh how he asks.”[v]

Many are about death. My favorite quote– one I couldn’t get out of my mind – ends with the starkness of a mathematical equation:

“You carry the most important things in you for forty or fifty years before you venture of articulate them. For this very reason, you cannot reckon what it is lost with those people who die early. All people die early.”[vi]

Yesterday we visited Newburyport and while there, took the dog for a walk in Maudslay State Park, a former grand estate. Walking around the decaying formal gardens, once the pride and joy of the owner’s eye, Canetti’s quote came back to me, weighing upon my mind.

When I saw the line of trees (see the image above), I thought of the landowner tenderly overseeing the planting of them as young twigs. Now, dead and dying like a long line of us of varying ages, before either they or we could articulate the important things in our lives.

Again, when I came across a sad and desolate, ancient hedge (the image of which follows), Canetti’s quote transfixed me, this time in this dead and tangled vision of decaying trees planted in a straight line, against the dictates of nature. Of course they never had a chance to articulate who they really are.

Do you think it is the same with us?
Hedge in black and white at the Maudslay Estate
CC Jean Stimmell: Newburyport MA. 4//17/14

[i] The Human Province by Elias Canelli. The Seabury Press, New York, 1978
[ii] Ibid. page 2
[iii] Ibid. page 4
[iv] Ibid. page 33
[v] Ibid. page 124
[vi] Ibid. page 128

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sacred ox at the alter of post-industrial America

Throughout history all around the world 
the ox has been revered as a sacred animal:
As, for example, in this interfaithmary image:

Here is my image:
Sacred ox at the alter of post-industrial America
CC Jean Stimmell: Posterized ox: Pittsfield 4/12/14

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Male mallards parading about

Wetlands at Northwood Meadows: 4/9/14
CC Jean Stimmell
Two males swagger about
while their mates
prepare the nest

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Buddha springing up with the daffodils

Buddha springing up with the daffodils outside my office door
CC Jean Strimmell: 4/8/14

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Science can't save us

Enveloping Patterns of Nature
Along the edge of Jenness Pond 4/2/14
CC Jean Stimmell
I recently wrote about the movie Melancholia,1 pointing out  how science has no magic answers when natural catastrophe strikes. Mark Bittman recently made the same point in the aftermath of the new, alarming UN report2 about the calamitous  reality of climate change, saying:

Science “will not build a big umbrella that will reflect all that excess sun back into space; “they” will not compress and suck all that carbon underground; “they” will not release the secret plans for nuclear fusion “they’ve” been hiding.”3

It’s magical thinking to believe otherwise.

This idea that science will save us is a mindset that began with the scientific revolution after Galileo “discovered” that the earth is not the center of the universe, challenging our old religious sensibilities. The transformation is now complete: although we give lip service to religion, it is now science who is our god, the go-to one who provides meaning to our life by mesmerizing us with an endless stream of new technology and toys, fooling us into believing that with the help of science we can control our destiny.

Fritjof Capra,4 influential physicist and systems theorist, is quick to challenge that assumption, pointing out that while empirical science has produced great triumphs, the most fundamental questions of life still remain unexplored and unanswered. In the field of molecular biology, for instance, “biologists still know very little about how we breathe or how a wound heals or how an embryo develops into an organism.”

Capra says science today is looking for ‘the essence of life’ in the wrong places by focusing on breaking things into smaller and smaller parts. Sure, this approach has lead to miraculous gadgets and stupendous technology, but the true essence of life keeps receding into the distance like a mirage in the desert; scientists are losing their way in an attempt to count how many quacks can dance on a electron accelerator – as fruitless as a monolithic, one-god religion, attempting to count how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Instead, Capra says, we need to shift to a different kind of science that, up until now, has been given short shrift: a holistic science which finds meaning not by tearing things apart but by, instead in how they fit together:

 “As I said, when you study pattern, you need to map the pattern, whereas the study of substance is the study of quantities that can be measured. The study of pattern, or of form, is the study of quality, which requires visualizing and mapping…This is a very important aspect of studying patterns, and it is the reason why, every time the study of pattern was in the forefront, artists contributed significantly to the advancement of science. Perhaps the two most famous examples are Leonardo da Vinci, whose scientific life was a study of pattern, and the German poet Goethe in the eighteenth century, who made significant contributions to biology through his study of pattern. This is very important to us as parents and educators, because the study of pattern comes naturally to children; to visualize pattern, to draw pattern, is natural.”

This attention to pattern, this study of quality, which requires visualizing and mapping, is essential to our survival in the age of climate change.

It is through the study of patterns that we discover the whole: we discover what our bodies and unconscious self have always known: the ecosystems within our body interrelate with a myriad of surrounding ecosystems, human and more than human, all together forming an indivisible whole.

That’s the true essence of things: Not tearing things apart but learning to interconnect seamlessly as part of the whole. As Capra says, “All of the coordinating activities of life can only be grasped when life is understood as a self-organizing network…[These] systems working together, all parts of an indivisible whole, that is the very essence of life.”

What we need to do is go back to the future!

 The type of science Capra is talking has been a part of us since the first human being strode forth on the earth: our innate ability to live seamlessly within the rhythms of nature and our living, breathing mother earth. It’s in our genes. And it has a name: Sustainability.

“The law of gravity, as you know, was formalized by Galileo and Newton, but people knew about stepping off cliffs long before Galileo and Newton. Similarly, people knew about the laws of sustainability long before ecologists in the twentieth century began to discover them. In fact, what I’m going to talk about today is nothing that a ten-year-old Navajo boy or Hopi girl who grew up in a traditional Native American community would not understand and know.”
The choice is ours: to perish in a world we view as inanimate, a commodity to be exploited and picked apart for profit – or to come together as one to celebrate the sacredness of our living-breathing Mother Earth and to work heroically to save Her – and us.

1 http://jeanstimmell.blogspot.com/2014/03/weaving-our-own-sacred-canopy.html
2 http://ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/pr_wg2/140330_pr_wgII_spm_en.pdf
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/opinion/bittman-the-aliens-have-landed.html?emc=edit_th_20140402&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=30753738
4 http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/ecology-and-community