Sleep, my sweet, my lovely one,
From dusk until the rising sun
Paints morning roses blushed with dew;
Let comfort bless the night, and you,
Awaking, bless with joy the ray
Really, the stuff that lies inside is what matters, what always mattered. Wit, integrity, talent. Compassion, charm. Power and intelligence and courage and humor. The things that last go far beyond the mere physical and visible attractions that we, individually and collectively, consider beautiful. It’s more difficult to find and gauge inner beauty, and far more so to develop it, so no wonder we hunt for it and we treasure it so highly. Still, it’s funny that we do. We love, after all, what looks beautiful to us very, very deeply as well. And beauty for its own sake is not a bad thing, either.
Is one morally or inherently better than another? Certainly not. Are they mutually exclusive? Hardly. But it’s true all the same that visible beauty has its perks. We often don’t have to know anything about each other for us to want to be associated Beautiful people, to be around them and admire them, if only for how much we like the way they look. And they in turn, both those with the inner resources that we admire and those who might be closer to pretty, empty packages with nothing fabulous inside, get attention and get things done, their way sometimes greased by the access and support that their prettiness gets them. If it’s possible to have both the outer and the inner, that could hardly be objectionable, but if I had to choose, some days I suspect I would be quite content to be the beautiful one in the room; it’d be fun just to see what it’s like, I imagine. Might not be a Greta Garbo, with both the looks and the evidently impressive inner life, but even being a cheap imitation of the exquisite woman for sheer looks wouldn’t be too awful, I’d think. All I can say is that it really isn’t enough to be beautiful–but it’s not exactly such a bad thing either, is it, now?
All right, I’m only enjoying my little fantasy. My partner, husband, best friend and spouse tells me I’m pretty, I’m beautiful, and I’m full of all those dandy aforementioned inner resources too. And whether it’s flattery or his perception of the truth, I don’t much care. It’s more than enough to feel beautiful. Glamorous I may not be, and in fact I might not even be any of those other lovely things my guy tells me I am, but he’s pretty convincing, that fella of mine, and his word–with his impressive daily love backing it all up–is plenty for me. Any day of the year.
By the light of the window, pale and solemn, quiet, reticent,
She sat and gazed, the age-old tale of waiting, in this variant
Not for a lover or for change that was supposed to bring her hope–
No, but for something passing strange: a subtly altered isotope
Or subatomic shift of sorts that would reveal to her at last
That she was whole, and all reports that indicated in the past
She’d fallen, lost, or failed, or died were clearly false and incorrect;
That anything she chose or tried was incomplete in that respect–
What she awaited, delicate and silent in her ray of light,
Was just this news she ought to get: already she was fine, was bright,
Was loveable and brave and keen and capable as one could need
Or hope to be; by this I mean just that she was quite great indeed.
If you wait validation too, and sit in patience for the news
To be presented thus to you, get up! There’s not a breath to lose,
For simply knowing that your soul already harbors strength and worth
Is proof enough that you are whole; no greater treasure lives on earth:
Rise from the ashes of your fears, wake up from timid, silent gaze,
And race like a runner, months and years stuffed into the space of weeks, of days
Because your courage speeds and grows–leap forward! No more waiting: run!
And as joyful living overflows, you’ll find you were the awaited one.
What will I do when at the end of time
The story folds back on itself and calls
On me to follow down those darkened halls
Of memory to revisit sublime
Past lives in fact and fiction ’til I’ve turned
Empty as much as is the hourglass
And all the strange bygones that had to pass
Before this book called History was burned?
What will this end extend to me, my kin,
my life and loves and all the world abroad?
Whether it’s silence of the touch of God,
Salvation of a sort will bathe my skin,
And on that gleaming day I’ll wake anew
Because I loved, and I was loved by, you.
I don’t know when, where or how the first fictional mystery story came on the scene, but since I thoroughly enjoy a good puzzle of the not-going-to-affect-me-in-real-life sort, I do like a good mystery story. So sometimes I like to create mysteries of my own. Mostly, visual puzzles. Pictures that invite interpretation, participation and invention on the part of the viewer. Images that demand a second look, or a two-hundredth one, because there might be clues in there, tales to be uncovered, plots to be discovered, fun to be made from the gossamer webs of pictorial intrigue custom-made for playtime. So here, for (I hope) your delectation and mystery-mongering, is a collage created with puzzling in mind. Enjoy!
I’ve said before, and in ever so many ways, I’m a firm believer that we all live our lives wearing our own very distinctive glasses. By that I’m not referring to the glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty attitude–but that’s indeed part of the whole idea. It’s about how we see the world through our individual filters.
In a fairly concrete fashion, that means that the quality of my actual eyesight–my acuity, ability to detect and distinguish colors, textures, shapes, depth of field aided by stereo vision, and all of that sort of thing does, in fact, have a profound effect on my world view and how I experience my passage through it in life. As a longtime visual artist, I am dependent upon all of this stuff for my very sense of self.
But I’m also convinced that each of us has a life history that includes our adventures from birth to the present, our nurturing or lack thereof, our environment and resources and social contacts and political influences and educational progression, and that whole reality is so distinctive for each of us, right down to a cellular level, that I can’t quite imagine how even the closest of kin could possibly have identical points of view.
I’ve been reminded of this in the last few days as I’ve been reading the latest Oliver Sacks book on which I’ve laid hands: The Mind’s Eye. Every book of his that I’ve read thus far is, since he’s a neurologist, a humane and humorous thinker, a deeply curious scientist, and a citizen of the world with wide-ranging interests, bound to be an adventure. Given the visual theme of this particular collection of case-studies (including his own discovery of and treatment for an ocular tumor), it is indeed a confirmation of my sense that such complex inventions as human bodies, multiplied by the almost infinite variants those influences I mentioned above can infuse, create and incubate an incredible range of possible ways to see and experience life in this world and whatever we can conceive of beyond it.
Yes, I am enjoying this latest Sacks book as immensely as I have all of his thus far. It’s been rather striking, too, to add to the layers of my own filters, many of which I’ve only come to recognize rather more recently in my life. I have sussed out and confirmed to my own wildly non-medical satisfaction that I am very probably distinctly dyslexic or cognitively ‘different’ in a whole bunch of ways, and having looked at this good doctor’s descriptions of face-blindness, or prosopagnosia, I’ve a feeling that my realization sometime not long past that I might have a degree of face-blindness might well be accurate. I’m certainly no less inclined to believe it since immediately before the book arrived on scene at the local library, I was working in our front yard when a car pulled up and the nice driver called me by name and conversed with me pleasantly until I could identify by her voice, questions and comments that she is the neighbor who lives directly across the street from me. Sigh. Sometimes the ol’ filters do get a little blurry.
More importantly, though, I’m convinced that how we respond to our life experiences and our histories–the choices we make and what we do with what we’re given and who we are within it–those are the truly telling filters. They’re the things by which we’ll be known, be remembered (if we’re remembered), and that offer us ways to define ourselves and our place in the world. So while I’m happy as an artist to play (as you saw in the last couple of posts) with my reality in the artificial world of visual imagery and how I attempt to show others what it’s like to see through my lens, I realize that my moods and attitudes are a part of that process too. Can I get others to understand or accept my point of view? Rarely, if I’m mighty fortunate. Can I help them to see it? More likely, if I work hard. Can I give them happy access to their own filters that might improve their moment or their day? That, I hope, I can do if I am true to the better of my instincts in responding to the world as I know it and expressing, the best that I’m able, with passion and with compassion. With love and joy.
Or just uniformly old?
Does it matter? Not much; never mind. As it happens, I was a little hazy to begin with, so there’s not much worry about the old marbles disappearing. Who really needs marbles anyway, except for a game-playing champ or, say, Michelangelo. For me, the touch of lunacy just adds a little color and a lively element of surprise to my everyday existence.
My fears are principally these:
Of sharks, the dark; of killer bees;
Of speeding cars and drunken louts
That race them through the roundabouts;
Bloodsucking leeches; of the kind
Of beasts that populate my mind
In doctors’ offices; of tests
That only earn me second-bests;
And most of all, I fall in tears
Lest someone should unmask my fears!
There’s nothing more scintillating than having a bout of true inspiration. But it’s so ridiculously rare in real life! That’s what good work habits and persistence are for. Me, I am decidedly against hard work and persevering in general–but I have at least learned that not only are those the only ways by which I can summon the muse if I don’t happen to have a boatload of inspiration dumped on me at random. Further, I’ve discovered that the actual process, the journey, can be a pleasant one if I let go of the assumption that labor is inherently nasty and only the end product makes it worthwhile. After all, if that’s the case, and the product turns out to be a disappointing flop, then I really feel like I’ve wasted my time in Sisyphean grinding. So I’m learning to find my fun in smaller increments and take all possible pleasure from the everyday parts of being who and what I am. It’s my amygdala, and I’ll spoil it as much as I please.
Out of the process-as-entertainment approach sprang a new medium and form for this artist in the last year: learning to play with my digital images as collage elements [thank you, Photoshop]. The image here is from a series of such experiments and represents a little of both my artistic and my mental processes, appropriately enough. I didn’t throw any pencils into the mix, but you can see that I’ve not entirely shaken old habits by learning new ones.