Making and Becoming Part II

More musings on the interaction and interplay between the ideas represented by ‘making’ abstract-landscapeand ‘becoming’ led to an emergence of some unexpected connections in my mental universe.

Making and Becoming are words and as such are metaphors which we use to communicate. Each of us will share some meaning in common but I doubt whether any two people have exactly the same nuances and harmonics of reference attached to these labels. That is of course what makes it so interesting. It is why creative pieces, whether visual or aural take on a life of their own once their enabler/maker has let go of them.

My travels took me through the landscape of ideas represented by Democracy, Duality, Mysticism, Newton’s Third Law, Reality, Quantum Reality and Wittengenstein’s proposition that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world” which is to say that the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. 

knowledge leaves 1That is probably where I should stop though like Lao Tsu I am going to go on using words but, hopefully, rather less than 5,000 of them. Ideas can be represented non-verbally in music, dance, sculpture or painting, Chagall was a consummate exponent of visual story telling, but words are necessary tools if often imprecise ones. So bear with me while I ramble on attempting to share what to me at least was an interesting journey of exploration.

So my last blog ended with the thought that many of the problems the world faces arise from too much making and not enough becoming. I was really considering the idea of making as a conscious act of will and becoming as the opposite process of emergence. Slower and less deliberate; the contrast between the yang energy of making and the yin energy of becoming.

So this led me Newton’s third law which states ‘When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.’ Or ‘for every action there is and equal and opposite reaction’.

Applying this to the ideas of making and becoming led me a bit further into wondering about its application to the abstract rather than the physical. For every idea there is an equal and opposite idea. This prompted some interesting speculation about modern-day politics with its oppositional right-wing and left-wing ideologies and I need to explore that in another blog or I will outdo Lao Tsu and spend 10,000 words before I finish. So back to making and becoming. Is it that one necessarily begets the other because they are the two forces needed in the creative process? I would say the opposing force to making is destroying and I think that would hold up in most people’s judgement. So I was left with asking what is becoming? What do I mean when I talk about this idea? I came to the conclusion that Becoming is a process that finds itself, it emerges. It occupies the still space and it is of itself and the centre. So as an artist or writer perhaps we should concentrate les son the making aspect of what we do and more on being enablers. Letting the work emerge as a result of the creative process flow through us. It is where I started from in thinking about making and becoming. The most rewarding part of  being creative is the process. That is what illuminates the mind and spirit and energizes the body. The book,the poem, the picture, the song are the by-product of this alchemy. perhaps we need to apply this way of thinking to the whole way we live as a society? 

Quantum worlds provide a very different experience and reality is simply what we observe (the double slit experiment) or what our brain produces from energy fields. So reality is subjective not objective. I am but equally and oppositely I am not. I use words to attempt to communicate idea/concept/understanding as perceived in my subjective reality. So Words are metaphors. Art and music are metaphors. My creation is altered by your observation and response to it. It becomes something new in your reality. That is change and the process of change the dance of life and entropy. Metaphor is metaphor; life is metaphor and the secret at the heart of the Tao is that there is no secret.

I didn’t discover any answers just more questions and possible paths to explore. The pursuit of understanding would be no fun if it could be answered as easily as ‘do you want a cup of tea’? On second thoughts that prompts a whole new set of speculations and is not as straightforward as it might appear at first sight.

Making and Becoming

My last post was about going to Carnac as relief from the general feeling of doom and gloom that was pervading our household over the current state of the world and where it seemed to be taking 2016-10-08-12-40-22us. I didn’t mention that while eating our picnic near one of the sets of alignments I spotted an interestingly shaped bit of wood lying on the ground.  Both David and I were the sort of children who collected interesting things (feathers, stones, bits of bone, wood etc) neither of us have out grown the habit and with his 2016-10-08-12-40-09enthusiastic endorsement of it as ‘that’s fantastic looks like waves’. I tucked it under my arm and brought it home.

I photographed it on the tarmac outside the house when I got back so that I’d have a record of it in the state in which I found it. The piece of wood was pretty dirty and definitely not far off crumbling completely.

Found Art is one of my enthusiasms but ‘Found’ is one thing usually the ‘Art’ requires a little more effort. So I set to work cleaning, treating, sanding, oiling, polishing. A continuation of my Antidote to Doom and Gloom. The physical act of working on a piece of art is wonderfully absorbing. To begin with I had to pay close attention because it was extremely fragile and the last thing I wanted was for it to break into pieces but by the time it reached the stage of beeswax and polishing it had achieved its final form and the whole process became a meditation. Sitting in the October sun rubbing a piece of cloth backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards slowly bringing out the colours and the patina. While I was doing this I found myself pondering about the idea of making and the idea of becoming (in the sense of beginning to be). Making contains both the meaning of process of creating and the essential qualities needed for something. Michelangelo’s statement that ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the sculptor’s task to discover it’ encompasses both meanings. But in the found art piece it seemed to me the wood itself played an active part. It transformed and emerged and the finished piece had its own identity. It Became. 

The ‘finished’ piece, and I use finished only in the sense that I stopped working on it, has its own definite character and energy. My hands picking at a bit here, sanding off a rough bit there and polishing it for hours merely allowed this creature to be caught in the moment of its transformation from one thing to another. Certainly not the waves we both saw when I picked up the bit of wood but an ancient and powerful beast. 

It seems to me that making and becoming are inseparable not just in the artistic process but in everything. If we make something without allowing it also to emerge than we have a flawed end result. Maybe that is most of what is wrong with the world at the moment too much making and not enough becoming.

Footnote to self – drink cider after and not before proof reading your article that way you won’t have the embarrasment of re-editing after you’ve posted.

Antidote

In response to all the crap richoting around the world and pinging into my inbox, news feed and every conversation I seem to have these days we took ourselves for a day out. Mention of the Daily Mail is banned in our house since it hit a new low even by its own gutter standards. David’s blood pressure jumped twenty points (mine only went up ten – an exercise in peace and love of which I am proud) on reading the headline that equated forty two percent of the British population as ‘whingeing’, ‘contemptuous’ and ‘unpatriotic’. He even started muttering things like ‘its time to stand up and be counted’ and ‘we need to blockade their offices’. At the same time our FB feeds have been full of comments from our metropolitan liberal elite friends asking after cabbage picking jobs in France.

Yesterday was a glorious October day. Misty sunrise followed by cloudless blue skies and carnac-7bright, warm sunshine. So off we went with a vow of silence on Brexit, politicians of all shades, capitalism and all things other than the present moment and where we were going to eat lunch. (The highest level of civilisation – Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the  Galaxy)

The alignments at Carnac are ancient. We make intelligent (and not so intelligent guesses) at the place’s original meaning and purpose but since no one involved published an artist’s statement or a funding proposal about its construction we don’t bloody know and probably never will. I like that. I also think my other half’s opinion that it was some kind of prehistoric welfare to work scheme is as likely as any other. Good harvest – lots of underemployed young men – get them hauling stones.

To me what it’s original purpose  might have been matters less than what it has become to us now. The stones have weathered into new forms over the millenia. People relate to carnac-4them in their own individual way, take from them what they need or want in the same way as any work of art might provoke a response. Every time we look at a painting or a statue, listen to a particular piece of music or read a familiar book our response is coloured by our own current mental attitude and mood. We see something new or we like something more, or less, or we have a different understanding. The piece itself is as it was when its creator let it go out into the world, it is us who change and mute.carnac-1

So my response yesterday was seeing the art in the stones. The sculptural forms and  colours. The play of light and shade. The references I noticed to modern art and undoubtedly the inspiration some sculptors found in the ancient connects us in a full circle of shared humanity. Though where in one piece I referenced Klimt’s kiss one of my non-metropolitan, non-elite but very free thinking liberal friends saw Elephant Seals. Ho Hum!

So enjoy a few moments of staring at the images and remembering that for all it’s scary present troubles the world is a beautiful place. That humanity contains not just the worst of emotions and impulses but also the best and that life is short but art is long. David’s day was spent studying the small intricacies of life. Filming the crickets and moths and grasshoppers, the way the blades of grass stirred in the breeze and cast shadows on the stones. A bumble bee feeding on a pine cone. The way life goes on in and around the big, momentous things almost untouched by them. He inspired me to photograph the apples I found around the stone under the tree.

apples-1

 

Now I am ashamed to be British

My world view is broken, as finally and completely as the mirror I dropped that shattered into a thousand fragments each of which reflected back a splintered version of my shocked face as I gingerly attempted to gather them up without slicing the skin of my fingers.

I grew up believing that for all its faults (and it has many not least the blood drenched imperial past so beloved of the right wing) Britain had in the second half of the twentieth century come to stand as for a liberal, tolerant world view that was outward looking and inclusive. That it really did strive to ensure equality, fairness and justice for all. That vision of my country has been ripped up, trampled and spat on. Mirrors once broken, even if repaired, remain cracked and reflect a distorted view. In the eyes of the world and many of its bemused, dismayed and shocked citizens Britain is now broken as comprehensively as that mirror.

Birmingham this week has been brutal. Racist, xenophobic and disgusting speeches largely unchallenged by a supine, subservient and self-serving media. I remember Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Interestingly also delivered in Birmingham. It caused howls of outrage and his instant dismissal from the shadow cabinet. The conservative party leader at the time, Edward Heath stated “I dismissed Mr Powell because I believed his speech was inflammatory and liable to damage race relations. I am determined to do everything I can to prevent racial problems developing into civil strife… I don’t believe the great majority of the British people share Mr Powell’s way of putting his views in his speech.”

The Times newspaper declared it “an evil speech”, stating “This is the first time that a serious British politician has appealed to racial hatred in this direct way in our post war history.”
The Times response to equally nasty, if more subtle, incitement to hatred 48 years later is the feeble “May Takes Centre Stage in Appeal to Labour Voters”. Really? When did racist, xenophobic rhetoric become the centre ground of British Politics? I dare say if Edward Heath was alive today he’d be considered as unelectable as Jeremy Corbyn.

Powell’s speech was a more overt incitement to hatred but the vileness of the stuff Theresa May and Amber Rudd have been spouting is no less fascist, dangerous and incendiary. What happened to the 48% of people who voted remain? How can a 4% majority be overwhelming endorsement? A fair number (certainly more than 4%) of the Brexit camp was in favour of retaining membership of the EEC (the so called Norway option) and the concomitant commitment to freedom of movement. They, like the Remainers, have been airbrushed out. It was apparently always a  referendum on immigration and the people have spoken.  The hope that this is some kind of negotiating ploy for Brexit is rapidly receding over the horizon and we need to face the fact that Britain seems to have suffered a fascist coup. Not surprisingly the speech was applauded by Marine le Penn who is the current leader of the National Front in France.

Socrates (someone who knew a thing or two about Democracy) said “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” Theresa May said “A citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere” – right now that sounds better than being British.

In the space between heartbeats sundial

Do the dead lie in summer meadows
hear a lark singing; ribbons
of music drifting down
in the space between heartbeats?

Or feel the warmth of a lover’s breath
a soft intermittence caressing hair
and skin; unspoken promise
in the space between heartbeats?

Or drift along green-arched streams
catching the eddies of dreams,
the long slow swell of silence
in the space between heartbeats?

 

In Time of Breaking of Nations

Thomas Hardy’s poem was written in 1916 at the height of the Great War and just before  It seems very appropriate to use it as a title in the current circumstances of Brexit.

My Blog has been inactive now for over six months. Two reasons – firstly a complete though very positive upheaval in family circumstances meaning we now are immigrants in France. I refuse to be an Ex-pat. That to me is a word soaked in the dark heart of colonialism and empire and the fact that so many Britons living abroad use that term to describe themselves is probably a clue to the result on 23rd June.

The other reason is that sometimes it is just difficult to find words for how you feel. A feeble excuse and not what a writer should say? The truth is when I wrote my last blog entry ‘Whispering in a Hurricane’ I felt an overwhelming sense of  being a helpless spectator watching a catastrophe unfold but powerless to prevent or stop it.

I cannot in truth determine whether we stand at on the threshold of an unimaginably better or worse world. Our current global capitalist oligarchies are heading toward collapse through overexploitation, climate change and the ever widening gulf of inequality between have and have not. Could Brexit be the act that collapses it quickly before more damage is done and allows a new socially just, non-growth orientated sustainable civilisation to emerge?  Maybe, though on past performance I don’t hold out much hope. I was born at the end of the second world war. I grew up in a society that seemed to have changed irrevocably for the better. Health care, education, decent jobs and homes and not least the shared consensus that the weak and vulnerable needed protection and help. That has vanished. It lasted for about thirty five years which in hindsight was probably remarkable. The subsequent thirty five years have been marked by how remarkably easy it has been to undo all those gains for the ordinary average person.

On Friday when I felt quite desperately depressed and wanted to weep for shame at the sight of Farage triumphant I decided to retreat from the madness and read poetry. I had no particular poem or poet in mind but I turned to Yeats and the book almost of itself opened at the Stare’s nest by my window, a poem which I think speaks even more evocatively than Hardy’s about what it feels like to live in deeply troubling and uncertain times.
starling

The Stare’s Nest by My Window

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned.
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war:
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.