12/18/2013 by syrbal-labrys
I live with two photographers. (one side of our former office above) I have an insufficiency of wall space. People who visit us often comment that our homes are unusual, and some even say our living spaces have a museum-like quality. Well, there it is, really. Even my home decorating style is derivative! I am told I am artful, and I always deny the complement — not because I can’t take complements, but I am fond of accuracy.
I consider most of my own work that might be termed “artistic” to be utterly derivative. I take things I like and mix them with other things, adapt them to our lifestyle. I view this as a rather dialectic living — I take one thesis and add what may seem to be its opposite and get a synthesis. And since I like museums, I emulate their display of a history in my personal space, you see? I dont’ want to be called an artist for what is experimentation. Unless one wants to say that experimentation IS an art form?
When I make beeswax candles endowed with breasts or male genitalia, I am not original — I am emulating some ancient statuary. Some of my personal “art” —body tattoos —are ancient art reproduced upon my skin. The one work of my own in the house is an image of Kokopelli done in charcoal, and it is copied from a petroglyph. It is not art, it is capturing an idea long held, of what brings joy and goodness to life. I am experimenting with what worked way back when to see if it still holds coherent value in our allegedly “modern” life!
One of my pet peeves, you see, is the habit of people living now to dismiss all of human history before as “primitive”. Oh, the complacency of thinking we not-all-that-sapient-after-all homo sapiens are really different than distant ancestors! The brain cases haven’t really gotten larger since some native of the Southwest scratched a hump-backed flute player with a hard-on into the rock walls. Sure technology has moved forward, but have WE?
I think people like to label things in order to feel they are managing said labeled things. Especially things that frighten us and make us feel helpless — man, FIND and apply a name for that stuff! And then find and name an alleged solution! And there you go – religion! In the last century or two, religion had competition, of course – science. Some folks, like me, would say that science began IN religion when those less labelish and more experimenting sorts wanted a more rational answer than “Because God ____ said so!” But the borders were rather rapidly drawn and now both sides fire away at each other.
And I’ve seen some “science” at least as bad as some religion. The examination of skull shapes, for instance, to determine criminality. Wow, who knew, eh? Even science can be turned to preconceived notions and support of bigotry and hate! Just like religion. Those lines get a bit blurry, don’t they. What I recall best from science classes is that if it IS science, it can be reproduced repeatedly. And yes, the religious testing fails this one many times. Why is that?
Is it because everything “religious” is just bullshit? Or is it because in some things, it might just be impossible, as science attempts, to have identical testing conditions every time? Reading up in scientific journals, I note that many out and out empirical tests seem to fall short of making the conditions utterly unchanged. Stuff like this is why we get a new label: pop science. Sometimes it seems damn near anything makes something an allegedly “scientific” study; and I find it violates common philosophy rules often. There is a logical error, you see, roughly called “insufficient sampling”… hasty generalization! And I see both so-called scientists and religious folks doing it. It reeks of the sort of crap that makes political pollsters get bad press, to be honest: cooking the books makes a stench!
So what has this to do with my life of synthesis? Or art? Well, I like to take a long view of human habits and history. I like to put myself in the perspective of more than my own lifetime. I like to recall that alchemists were once the epitome of both science AND mysticism. Course, now, science laughs at them and many religions label them as wizards and demon worshipers. I maintain that if you are pissing off both sides, you likely were onto something!
So, I practice mysticism/religion/spirituality as an artform AND experimentation. It is perhaps my only original work. I consider forms of religion/science varying from the Middle Ages to the Stone Ages; I ask myself why this or that was psychologically potent. I ask myself why humans separate out capabilities and implant them on Beings exterior to themselves. I begin with a thesis statement like “Either all deities exist or none do.” Not because I can prove that, but because it gives me an “in” to many different levels of thought about belief and behavior.
It seems to me that the problem with religious belief is using it as the forever “plan B”…if we humans can’t manage a situation then we assume some deity can be drafted to the job by sufficient prayer/sacrifice/nagging. I have some issues with that mode of being. It is childish, as Freud would have pointed out. And it leads to passive-aggressive places I don’t think it does us much good to go. (For instance that whole Garden of Eden set up: “Don’t eat the fruit.” Dude? You are the kind of parent that would leave a fridge full of beer with teenagers when going away for the weekend, then be shocked to come home and find they drank it. Either you are eternally STUPID or passive-aggressive!)
Why not consider the idea that deities may indeed exist; but they are NOT our keepers/parents —but something beyond us and completely as self-involved as we humans seem to be. The stories about deities (otherwise known as ‘mythology’ and ‘holy’ writings) might tell us things useful to know, not just about them — but about ourselves. Why not consider that the human sphere of activity IS our job AS human beings; and that the perceived ‘hands off’ of purported gods is really for our own existential good? Why not grow up and claim our OWN power and ability to create change in accord with our will? That IS, by the way, one definition of magic. And also, if you ask me, a guiding principal of scientific/technological progress.
So, I consider, as I contemplate a web of Being — how do I know I do not manipulate something unseen, but real and potent, when I focus my will and all my mind on a change in a life far away?
And when I back the spiritual play with whatever mundane force (like a check in the mail) as well?
Why not stop waiting for divine action, consider possible divine guidance at utter most, and take human and humane action. Try EVERYthing to make this world the pinnacle, not of a god’s creation…but of our OWN. Forgive me stealing from a Doug Adamn’s novel; but I don’t really want to make Picasso-esque paintings, I’d prefer to make fjords! And no, I don’t care if I copy the ones already on the maps!
After all, think how much more might be done, if we all decided to live by the maxim “If you don’t do it, who will?” And yeah, the game-show buzzer will deafen you if you say “God.”