Sunday, January 30, 2011

Patterns and Transformations

"All fixed set patterns
are incapable of
adaptability or pliability.
The truth is outside
of all fixed patterns."
- Bruce Lee
(1940 - 1973)

"Our bodily food
is changed into us,
but our spiritual food
changes us into itself."
- Meister Eckhart
(1260 - 1327)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections and Illusions

"You have heard much of this world
yet what you seen of this world?
What is its form and substance?...
You are asleep and your vision is a dream;
all you are seeing is a mirage.
When you awake up on the morn of the last day
you will know all this to be fancy and illusion;
When you have ceased to see double,
Heaven and Earth will become transformed;
when the real sun unveils his face to ou,
the moon, the stars,and Venus will disappear;
if a ray shines on the hard rock
like wool of many colors, it drops to pieces."
-Mahmud Shabistari
Sufi Poet
(1288 - 1340)

"Reflect: is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who likens dissimilar things, who puts the copy in the place of the real object?

I should certainly say that such a one was dreaming.

But take the case of the other, who recognizes the existence of absolute beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects which participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the place of the idea nor the idea in the place of the objects-- is he a dreamer, or is he awake?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Boundaries, Mysteries, and Eternity

"Every man takes
the limits of his
own field of vision
for the limits of the world."
-Arthur Schopenhauer
Philosopher
(1788 - 1860)

"Man is the great
mystery of God,
the microcosm or
the complete abridgement
of the whole universe...
a hieroglyphic of
eternity and time."
- Jacob Boehme
Mystic / Theologian
(1575 - 1624)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Implicate Order, Enfolded Centers

"As a mountain (a whole structure) moves forward in time, old centers are preserved and new centers are generated; centers will always tend to form in such a way as to preserve and enhance previous structure. Beauty will occur without effort in any world where the wholeness is allowed to unfold smoothly and truthfully, without disturbing previously existing centers. Everything becomes a single system and a single way of understanding."
- Christopher Alexander
Architect
(1936 - )

"Because the whole is enfolded in each part, so are all other parts, in some way and to some degree... The more fundamental truth is the truth of internal relatedness - the implicate order... in this order the whole and hence all the other parts are enfolded in each part."
-David Bohm
Physicist
(1917 - 1992

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pattern of Patterns

"What pattern connects
the crab to the lobster
and the orchid to the
primrose and all the four
of them to me?
And me to you? ...
The pattern which connects
is a metapattern.
It is a pattern of patterns."
- Gregory Bateson
Anthropologist
(1904 - 1980)

"A pattern of events
cannot be separated
from the space
where it occurs."
- Christopher Alexander
Architect
(1936 - )

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Path of Paths

"You must always keep in mind that a path is only a path. Each path is only one of a million paths. If you feel that you must now follow it, you need not stay with it under any circumstances. Any path is only a path. There is no affront to yourself or others in dropping a path if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on a path or to leave it must be free of fear and ambition. I caution you: look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone this one question. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same. They lead nowhere. They are paths going through the brush or into the brush or under the brush of the Universe. The only question is: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then it is a good path. If it doesn’t, then it is of no use."

- Carlos Castaneda
Anthropologist / Author
(1925 - 1998)

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Many Unknown / Undiscovered Artists Walk Among Us?

History is replete with lists of names and memorable biographies of the many gifted and talented artists that have graced our world. Indeed, these lists are so long and voluminous (and only growing ever more so), we may sometimes wonder if there are perhaps too many names already on them! But, of course, though not every artist is a Picasso, and not every photographer a Cartier-Bresson, each of us has our own story to tell. Still, very few of us who have - publically at least - accomplished "little" - will ever get mentioned on learned lists that include such names as Picasso and Cartier-Bresson. But what of the "Picassos" that share in Picasso's pool of talent but who no one knows by name, because the output of their creative life was / is confined but to a handful of family and friends? What of the prodigiously talented but utterly unrecognized Uber-geniuses that walk among us? As history also attests, the only real difference between "known" and "unknown" is luck.

I recently ran across a remarkable story about a nanny - and prodigiously talented but utterly unrecognized (until very recently) street photographer from the 1950s - named Vivian Maier. In 2007, real estate agent John Maloof bought a box of 30,000 of Maier's negatives for $400. Having soon realized what a "find" that box was, he has, by now, acquired over 100,000 of Maier's photographs! (only a thousand or so of which have so far been made public; see here and here for a sampling of her images). An exhibit of her work opened at the Chicago Cultural Center earlier this month. Sadly, Vivian Maier did not live to see her day; she died at age 83 in 2009.

It is hard to do justice to the quiet, soulful, graceful, and poignant (and sometimes spontaneous, funny) images that flowed from Maier's eye (and "I"). Using a Rolleiflex camera, Maier would head out into the Chicago streets on her days off as a nanny for rich North Shore clients. What she captured was nothing short of extraordinary! Her best work - IMHO (after sampling the images from the links I gave above) - approaches that of some of the "best known" street photographers of the 20th century. Her images (and overall approach) remind me of (in no particular order) Lisette Model, Walker Evans, Harry Callahan, Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau, Andre Kertesz, and - the more humorous ones, at least - Elliott Erwitt. I should emphasize that its not just that her images remind me of the best works by these great photographers; it's that her best work is just as good as theirs!

One image (of two boys standing side-by-side on a cobble-stone road) could arguably be inserted into a Diane Arbus portfolio with no one being the wiser. Another, of a vagabond curled up on a street, is a surrealistic fusion of human pathos and Weston's famous Pepper #30. Another (one of many!) exudes a Cartier-Bresson-like "decisive moment" feel. Still another echoes Kertesz's geometric meloncholy. One could go on and on, comparing this image to that, and illustrating how certain parts of her portfolio are similar to this photographer or that (Jacques Philippe has posted an interesting analysis of Maier's work); in the end, Maier's work is uniquely hers, and hers alone, and it is astounding in its breadth, depth, and meaning! The photo-history books, I suspect, are already being appended - and amended - with Vivian Maier's story!

I wonder, just how many other gifted artists are quietly walking - and creating extraordinary works of art - among us, unknown to all but a few lucky friends and family members?

Postscript: Click here for info about a feature-length documentary film about Vivian Maier that is in the works (for a 2012 release); the producers - John Maloof, Anthony Rydzon, and award-winning Danish documentary film maker, Lars Mortensen - are asking for pledges on Kickstarter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Spiritual World

“The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like unto a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single creature comes into being, shine through it like a window. According to the kind or size of the window less or more light enters the world. The light itself however remains unchanged.”
- Aziz Nasafi
Sufi Mystic

"We are born into the
world of nature;
our second birth is into
the world of spirit."
- Bhagavad Gita

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Minds, Mirrors, and the Universe

"The Mind like a mirror
is brightly illuminating
and knows no obstructions,
It penetrates the vast universe
to its minutest crevices;
All its contents,
multitudinous in form,
are reflected in the Mind,
Which, shining like a perfect gem,
has no surface,
nor the inside."
- Yoka Daishi
Zen Master
(665 - 713)

"Your eye has not strength enough
to gaze at the burning sun,
but you can see its burning light
by watching its reflection
mirrored in the water.

So the reflection of Absolute Being
can be viewed in the mirror of Not-Being,
for nonexistence, being opposite Reality,
instantly catches its reflection.

Know the world from end to end is a mirror;
in each atom a hundred suns are concealed.
If you pierce the heart of a single drop of water,
from it will flow a hundred clear oceans."
- Mahmud Shabistari
Sufi Poet / Mystic
(1250 - 1340)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dreams and Phantasms

“The objects of sense in the world ever changing — These we adhere to as things of reality; But in the ocean of birth and death, they drown us. How long shall we wander in this path of dreams? This world to us! Indeed seems permanent and fixed, yet after all, what is it but a road of dreams to which life after life we must perforce return?”
- Zeami Motokiyo (1363 - 1443)
Aesthetician / Playright

"All things are to be regarded as forms seen in a vision and a dream, empty of substance, un-born and without self-nature; that all things exist only by reason of a complicated network of causation which owes its rise to discrimination and attachment and which eventuates in the rise of the mind-system and its belongings and evolvements."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Castle

"The young man apologized very politely for having awakened K., introduced himself as the son of the Castle steward and said:

'This village is Castle property, anybody residing or spending the night here is effectively residing or spending the night at the Castle. Nobody may do so without permission from the Count. But you have no such permission or at least you haven't shown it yet.'

K., who had half-risen and smoothed his hair, looked at the people from below and said: 'What village have I wandered into? So there is a castle here?'

'Why, of course,' the young man said slowly, while several peasants here and there shook their heads at K., 'the Castle of Count Westwest.'

'And one needs permission to spend the night here?' asked K., as though he wanted to persuade himself that he hadn't perhaps heard the previous statements in a dream.

'Permission is needed' was the reply, and this turned into crude mockery at K.'s expense when the young man, stretching out his arm, asked the landlord and the guests: 'Or perhaps permission is not needed?'

'Then I must go and get myself permission,' said K., yawning and pushing off the blanket, as though he intended to get up.

'Yes, but from whom?' asked the young man.

'From the Count,' said K., 'there doesn't seem to be any alternative.'

'Get permission from the Count, now, at midnight?' cried the young man, stepping back a pace.

'Is that not possible?' K. asked calmly. 'Then why did you wake me up?'"

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Stuart Sweeney's Debut Album 16:9

About a year ago I received an email from Stuart Sweeney, who introduced himself as a U.K. based (and Scottish born) musician. He said that after years of working behind-the-scenes for other musicians, he was in the process of releasing a debut album of his own music and that he was looking for images to feature on the CD and album case. He asked if he could use one of the images in my Spirit & Light portfolio that both he and his wife were both strongly drawn to. After a few exchanges via email (during which an "over the pond" friendship soon emerged), and my listening to samples of (what were at the time, unmastered) tracks from the album, I quickly gave my permission.

After hearing Stuart's music, I can say unreservedly say that I am honored to be featured on this enormously talented musician's debut album, which is now available for purchase (in both physical and digital form: click here for the official order page from Stuart's label Oomff, based in Corby, Northants, UK; an mp3 version is also available directly from Amazon, which contains links to samples).

While it is always difficult to attach meaningful words to music (particularly when relying on "conventional" labels and descriptions) - one must always listen and judge for oneself; click here for sample tracks - Stuart's style is best described as ambient music, with a mix of classical, jazz, and new age (electronic / synthetic). On a more gestalt level, Stuart - as an artist - may be described as an impassioned painter of richly textured sonic landscapes.

To my ear (an untrained musician, though I used to play the piano, even before I ever touched a camera), Stuart's aural excursions touch on territories visited by Brian Eno, some early work by Klaus Schulze, and (if an analogy can be drawn between Stuart's electronic creations and the tones of the human voice) Arvo Part. But all of these are but acoustic cousins, which are useful for context but do not do service to Stuart's own creations; for Stuart has carved out a unique - and uniquely beguiling - blend of ambient textures. Each short, self-contained piece transports the listener to other worlds and ethereal dimensions. The soulful interplay between quietly developing melodic strands and rhythms, generates a moodily meditative and contemplative atmosphere. As each piece gently takes hold of your imagination, you are compelled to co-create fantastic acoustic landscapes in your mind's eye as waves of music unfold - and enfold - around you.

If I seem to speak of Stuart's music in almost reverentially spiritual terms, it is because that is the effect it has on me. For Stuart has created some of the most beautifully ethereal - and intellectually mesmerizing! - music I have heard in a long, long time. For anyone who likes to listen to ambient music, I urge you to download some samples and listen to this extraordinary new artist for yourself. Congratulations to an amazing start of what I am sure will be a stellar public musical career! And thank you Stuart for featuring one of my photos on the inside of the case, and the CD itself!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cosmic Ripples

"If a stone is thrown into a pond,
waves are produced that travel
throughout the pond.
Every wave produces effects
in every part of the pond,
resulting in some influence or other.
Similarly, the wave of individual life
through its activity produces
an influence in all fields of the cosmos."
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Science of Being and Art of Living

"We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us
with our fellow men;
and among those fibers,
as sympathetic threads,
our actions run as causes,
and they come back
to us as effects."
(1819 - 1891)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Polarity, Paradox, Perception

"Everything is dual;
everything has poles;
everything has its pair of opposites;
like and unlike are the same;
opposites are identical in nature,
but different in degree;
extremes meet;
all truths are but half-truths;
all paradoxes may be reconciled."
- Hermes Trismegistus
(The Kybalian: A Study of the
Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece
, 1908)

"Every perception is an
awareness of contrast,
of a right/wrong, is/isn’t,
bright/dark, hard/soft situation.
If this is the very nature of
awareness, any and every circumstance,
however fortunate, will have
to be experienced as a
good/bad or plus/minus
in order to be experienced at all."
- Alan Watts
In My Own Way (1972)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ethereal Light & Color

"I almost never set out to
photograph a landscape,
nor do I think of my camera
as a means of recording a mountain
or an animal unless I
absolutely need a 'record shot'.
My first thought is
always of light."
- Galen Rowell
(1940 - 2002)

"Color is the place where our
brain and the universe meet."
- Paul Klee
(1879 - 1940)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Trees as Sacred Bearers

"Trees are the teachers, revealers, containers, companions, and protectors of the sacred, and our relationship to them, whether we meet them gently in a forest or, muscled and equipped, cut them down for the price of lumber, touches on our deepest values, emotions, and sense of meaning."

"The tree bears its thousand years
as one large majestic moment."
- Rabindranath Tagore
Philosopher / Poet
(1861 - 1941)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Longing for Light

"...far from light emerging gradually out of the womb of our darkness, it is the Light, existing before all else was made which, patiently, surely, eliminates our darkness. As for us creatures, of ourselves we are but emptiness and obscurity... Radiant Word, blazing Power... reach us simultaneously through all that is most immense and most inward within us and around us."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Philosopher (1881-1955)

"The longing for light is the longing for consciousness."
- C. G. Jung (1875 - 1961)