Quantum physics, climate change, the origins of language, surrealist art, poetry, justice and inequality. At first sight you might say it’s quite difficult to see what they all have in common, what single thing unites them (other than that they are all interests of mine which you could be forgiven for not knowing). The connection is that they are all intimately connected to the way in which we see the world, the edges and horizons of our thought landscapes.
Growing up in a small rural community where the prevailing norm was Presbyterianism the only variation being what shade (strictly dour to reasonably cheerful being about the stretch allowed) my family of committed eccentric heathens made token sacrifice of the youngest member attending Sunday School. I was not committed to the experience and was often the recipient of a whack with the bible, this being the Minister’s way of recalling wandering attention to the subject in hand, however out of those long dreary afternoon sessions in the chill of the Kirk even in midsummer (and you don’t want to think what it was like in the depths of winter) one image took possession of my mind. The phrase about it being ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle’ as a way of describing something impossibly difficult. The picture it conjured was one of a large number of ancient Egyptians in white loin cloths against a backdrop of pyramids and bulrushes endeavouring in vain to rope haul a camel through something resembling Cleopatra’s needle (an obelisk on the embankment in London)
It was only much later in life that passing through the eye of the needle came to represent for me a way of expressing the process of liberating the mind from preconceptions. Enabling oneself to see not ‘ought’ but ‘is’. What Buddhist philosophy would probably call ‘clear thinking’. What is represented by the Fool in the Tarot deck. It is no coincidence that the Fool is assigned the number 0. The most magical and fascinating of all numbers. The The Fool is the most powerful of the archetypes represented in the deck, the one who has stepped through the eye of needle. The realisation that everything is nothing and nothing is everything which sounds like crystal bollocks but is actually a necessary prerequisite for invention and innovation, for making unlikely connections and for understanding how and why the world is as it is.
The image at the top of the page is of Cardigan Bay on the West Coast of Wales, known for it’s seals. The photograph was taken by me late one evening and is not what it appears at first sight. The seal is in fact a piece of driftwood. Walk past and it mostly looks just that but from one angle with the light catching it it became something else. The point is if you simply look at it as drift wood, don’t walk round it, you don’t find the one thing that makes it something other than the ordinary. You have to see it from the other side of the eye of the needle.