Sunday, December 28, 2014

faded



This particular unfinished (and since trashed) picture pretty much sums up where my creative process spent December. Stuck in limbo between one project and another I'd decided to relax by redrawing and painting an image I'd done many years ago. The only record I have of the long gone original is a small and faded photograph. This time I thought I might replace the main figures in a magical wintry landscape as the whole idea of polar bears in spring seems anathema to me now. What could I have been thinking? Quite obviously, from all we've learned about the problems of human assisted global climate change, I knew nothing back then. Anyway, there were several versions of this that I tried - each one worse than the last - and none worth keeping.


Polar Bear Spring - original

Still in the midst of being deeply sad about things I can't change I visited the blog of one of my favorite modern scientific philosophers, Bernardo Kastrup. His most recent book called 'Why Materialism is Baloney' will be  on it's way here soon. Here is the poem he posted a few days ago that I hope you will like too:

 The Legacy of a Truth-Seeker

    Having trodden the path for cycles uncountable,
    Having crossed the ocean of mind from end to end,
    Through all veils, its fountainhead have I finally seen.
    To you, honest truth-seeker treading the path behind me,
    I grant the gift of my legacy.

    I have learned thus:

    Only untruths can be experienced.
    Hence, only untruths can exist.
    Truth is fundamentally incompatible with existence
    For it is that which gives rise to existence,
    Like a loudspeaker gives rise to sound.

    Experiences are self-referential tricks:
    They arise from nothing and are made of nothing.
    If you dig deep enough within yourself,
    You shall always find the layer of self-deception
    Upon which any one of your convictions ultimately rests.

    One's reality sprouts from the first layer of self-deception
    That escapes one's field of critical awareness.
    The deeper this field, the more subtle the self-deception.
    Those with little critical awareness thus live more colorful lives:
    Their fiction is fancier.

    The honest search for truth annihilates its own subject
    Slowly, recursively, from within.
    Having peeled away every layer of self-deception within me,
    I have found myself to be like an onion:
    Nothing is left.

    Only nothing is true.
    No external references exist, no outside arbiters.
    We are self-created fictions and so is the cosmos.
    Truth-seeking is the path to self-annihilation
    And thus to liberation.

    Rejoice, for your pains, fears, frustrations and regrets
    Are all untrue.
    There is nothing to fear, nothing to strive for, nothing to regret.
    You have no soul; that's just self-deception.
    And you won't die; that's just self-deception.

    But beware!
    As a dream allegorically portrays the inner state of the dreamer,
    As a novel insinuates the aspirations of the writer,
    As a lie betrays the insecurities of the liar,
    So the fiction you call reality reveals something about truth.

    Thus pay attention to life,
    For truth expresses itself only through its own fictions.
    To discern truth in fiction: here is the cosmic conundrum!
    To engage wholeheartedly without being taken in: here is the ultimate challenge!
    To find meaning in nothingness: here is the epic demand of nature!

    Watch reality as you watch a theatrical play:
    With inquisitiveness and curiosity.
    But watch it as audience, never as character.
    Characters spend their lives chasing their own shadows,
    Whereas audiences attain subtle insight.

    May my legacy serve you as a warning, but also as encouragement.
    The prize at the end of the path is handsome:
    The freedom to make the deliberate, guiltless choice
    Of which untruth to live.
    Exercising this choice wisely is the art of life.


This is a message I need to remember. Happily, in the past few days my creative abilities (such as they are) seem to have returned, making it likely the next picture installment of the girl, her dog, and the two weird dragons will appear next time.

Best wishes for the New Year.

19 comments:

Tom said...

I wonder. If I accept this poem as something about truth, but something which is not truth in itself, am I merely an adult looking at the king and seeing a set of new clothes? But if I assume this poem says nothing about truth, am I the child who sees the king in the all-together? Is what I see reality, or its false mirror image? I am intrigued.

All the very best of everything for 2015.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan ,
Sometimes when creative talents don’t quite work out, we come back stronger and so it seems your already reinvigorated for the New Year, so best to you and yours in 2015. I read the lovely poem which reminds very much of the immediate post war era of revival of sorts in metaphysics that quickly faded to give way to materialism. It is hoped his ideas, now couched in modernity, catch on with next generation who will take more interest? The problem will be, of course, that it immediately appears contradictory. How can you assert there be only non-truths, as a truth? The answer (unsatisfactory as it may be for some) is there can only be facilitators, which are not real truth, but will be truth for us temporarily in our continued state of being.
This idea was advanced by Frederick Nietzsche whose metaphysics embraced the idea of ”eternal recurrence”.
This is what I see as the truth to the lovely poem, but others may discern a different perspective , no less true or more true that what is true to me, so there can be the truthful way we choose, without guilt. !1
Best wishes.

marja-leena said...

Lovely art work as always, Susan, and I'm happy to hear your creative juices are flowing again. Send me some of that, please.

I have reread the poem several times, and it is still a mystery for me - food for more thought!

Warmest wishes for a healthy, happy and creative New Year!

susan said...

Hi Tom. Your question is interesting, but one I'm unable to answer. I think what he's saying in this case is that faith in the larger truth, the one that can't be measured by instruments, is a rational choice in the same way that something as ineffable as friendship requires an act of faith in the benevolence of both people.

Bernardo is, by the way, very happy to discuss his theories.

susan said...

Yes, Lindsay, it's certainly true that I've taken temporary hiatuses from painting and drawing a number of times (often just to spend time making things) and have always come back better prepared. Now that I'm so much older the bounce doesn't happen quite so fast as before.

Your hope that materialism might gain greater support from young people may be underway even now, the reason being the simple fact we are well on the other side of the productivity curve that grew exponentially after the second world war. In a world where everything has been financialized and so many, particularly the young, have been cut off from experiencing the benefits of prosperity, a paradigm shift seems much more likely to take root.

What I like about the idea of eternal recurrence is that if you have a universe with a beginning, you have the challenge of explaining why it began and the conditions under which it began. If you have a universe that’s cyclic, it’s eternal, so you don’t have to explain the beginning. Nice thought.

I really don't understand all of what Bernardo intended to convey in his poem, but as I mentioned to Tom, his discussions with his readers in the comments forms is always interesting.

susan said...

Thanks, Marja-Leena, I do wish I could have seen this one through but that doesn't seem likely at the moment. Too much time involved to do it justice. I am, however, having more fun again with the silly stuff. It appears light-hearted images are easier and more enjoyable for me these days.

What I like about Kastrup is his positive attitude. My favorite verse is:

" Watch reality as you watch a theatrical play:
With inquisitiveness and curiosity.
But watch it as audience, never as character.
Characters spend their lives chasing their own shadows,
Whereas audiences attain subtle insight."

Many thanks too for your wonderful Christmas card.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I'll have to read that poem again. It lost me somewhere... But I'm tired. I will return.

As for your paintings, they are always wonderful. Don't trash them again. Dopey (looking) dragons awaited eagerly.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

"What I like about Kastrup is his positive attitude"

Therein lies the problem I feel, for what little I have read of him seems inspired by wishful thinking and claims that cannot possibly be justified (although in that, of course, he is far from alone).

susan said...

If this poem is all you've read of Kastrup's oeuvre, Andrew, then I can understand your conclusion that he's indulging in wishful thinking. Many of the posts he's written in the past few years suggest a clarity of thought that I personally find very compelling. One conclusion he's drawn states: "'the ground of all reality is an impersonal flow of subjective experiences that I metaphorically describe as a stream, while our personal awareness is simply a localization of this flow — a whirlpool in the stream. It is this localization that leads to the illusion of personal identity and separateness."

Perhaps this smacks of being a preposterous suggestion but I've found his written deliberations to be compelling. Anyway, perhaps I have a strong tendency toward wishful thinking myself. I know I have lots of company.

susan said...

You might find his blog posts explain his position with greater clarity, Andrew. I'm looking forward to reading the book I mentioned.

Thanks for the very kind words about my paintings. I might just try this one again another time, but meanwhile, there are two dragons watching the progress of a girl and a dog as they arrive at a distant shore.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I had looked at his blog and a summary of his book. Takes all types, but it seems to me he misunderstands much, and wishfully draws conclusions that comfort him cannot be justified, sufficient for me not to look further than my brief glimpse. But what do I know? Nothing.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

and here is the "but" that dropped out from my comment between him and cannot, or perhaps was cheekily pulled out by a dopey dragon. Despite that possible vandalism I like your dopey dragons.

Lisa Golden said...

I am the ostrich with its head in the sand. I am so tired of feeling hopeless for humanity and this planet.

Thank you for the poem.

Have I mentioned what a delight your art is? Three of your prints now hang in my apartment and they always receive compliments by anyone who sees them.

susan said...

You may be right, Andrew. Since we agree that knowing nothing is the most we can know of things beyond proof, then there's room for personal interpretation.

susan said...

Empires have come and gone before and what we're witnessing is the demise of this one. I've come to the conclusion that most everyone, rich and poor alike, are caught up in circumstances no one can change. That doesn't mean there isn't hope for the future - a very different one than this and so, unimaginable.

I'm glad you still have the pictures :)


Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Heavy thoughts Susan, and easy to agree with them.

I'd say much change will be forced upon humanity, and harshly, by circumstance, rather than by collective good sense; but perhaps we can hope for a measure of good sense in amongst all the chaos that is possibly on its way (and has begun).

susan said...

That's my hope too, Andrew.

Sean Jeating said...

I have no pessimistic thought to add.
Happy New Year.

susan said...

We're all trying our best to be positive, Sean :)

Best wishes for your Happy and Healthy New Year.