"The most awkward means are adequate to the communication of authentic experience, and the finest words no compensation for lack of it. It is for this reason that we are moved by the true Primitives and that the most accomplished art craftsmanship leaves us cold."
(I would like to start by just mentioning that I realize the word 'Primitive' is outdated. It assumes that anyone who isn't part of the "educated normal" is categorized by society as basic, unintelligent or naive. This quote is by a philosopher of art, among other things, who lived from 1877-1947 so he himself was part of a different era. While it is an ignorant word to use now, his quote brings to the forefront the possibility of understanding that artists that are thought of as 'primative' are in fact tapped into their authentic experience, something that "educated normals" have been seeking for as long as we have existed. It brings into question who is really more primitive? If artists such as Henry Darger have the tools and capacity to make strikingly meaningful, authentic and beautiful art in the face of loneliness, poverty and other debilitating effects of his traumatic childhood I would ask, how are those profound skills primitive? Is it not more primitive to not have the ability to tap into that autheticity? Just a question... on with the show!)
I am reading the book Zen and the art of making a living By Laurence G. Boldt. I have been inspired for a long time by another of his books, The Tao of Abundance, and this is along the same lines in terms of being full of inspiring information but also offering practical tools for seeking out "real" work that is a rewarding, full expression of the true self and acts as an invaluable contribution to society.
Boldt recognizes how out of fashion it is these days to talk of spirit and true self. This passe reputation seems to be in direct correlation with our culture's sworn allegiance to science and industry: to all that is concrete, controllable and able to be known through our five senses. I am not suggesting that science and industry are somehow bad or invaluable. Our concrete senses are essential to existing in the concrete world. Without them we would not have bodies or brains to think about such fascinating topics. I wouldn't have this computer, the tea I'm drinking or the adorable but semi-irritating cat sitting on my lap. The problem with being an exclusive lover of science and industry is that it exists in a framework of fragmentation.
A good metaphor is color: digital color is divided up into separate compartments because it exists in pixels. The vary nature of pixels in that they are separate bits that make up a whole. From what I can understand, every color pixel has a name or code that indicates it. Non-digital color, like on an artist's palette, is fluid and the mixing of colors makes a totally different substance with a totally different color that is directly connected to the colors that created it. The newly mixed color may not have its own name but exists all the same.
The important thing to notice is that both types of color make up a bigger picture (literally). They are both valuable and they can communicate with each other (hence the fact that I can take a digital photo of my painting and post it on the web).
The problem with any fragmentation is when one fragment is unaware of the bigger picture it makes-- the way and reason for which the fragments are actually connected. They appear separate by our senses if looked at one by one. Without being aware of this connection, meaning goes out the window. Connection goes out the window. Our energy goes out the window. The pattern becomes how to make more separate bits, how to control them and how to find somewhere to put them once they do exist. Any why?
(rice paddies in China)
I have to take a deep breath and look at the beautiful landscape above because in my daily experience I often feel like I am continually rubbing against a cheese grater, fragmenting myself so that some of me can go over there and try and be one thing, some of me can stay home and be another thing. All the while I'm not realizing what I'm grating up, how tasty of a cheese I am or what the kitchen is like that I'm being grated in!! Ok, I know I'm going overboard with the cheese imagery, but I am totally serious. I'm exhausting myself! Now, granted, I am doing it with a bit of foresight-- hoping to make a killer pizza or eggplant parm in the end-- but I must be delicious already or I could never make a delicious meal later, right? I am fragmenting myself with hopes of finding interconnection later while I am totally missing the interconnection in my life right now!
To tie in the initial quote at the top (which inspired this whole long winded extravaganza) I am inspired by the idea that true authenticity needs no high craftsmanship to be expressed. I am interested in relaxing a bit in the camp of trying to do something the "right way" and to just start trusting that wherever I am, I can be in my authenticity and whatever I make or express in that authenticity will be "adequate to the communication of [my] authentic experience". I can trust that if I start to see my life as it is right now as one, big beautiful picture, and not a hot cheese grater on wheels, that I am already part of a beautiful bigger picture that would be (is!) a shame to miss.
"Lupulgna" by Makinti Napanangka, an Aboriginal artist.
"Women's Dreaming" by Tanya Napangardi, also an Aboriginal artist (same website).