Friday, October 9, 2009

The Initial Color

It was the Book of Kells that got me studying again the illuminated
manuscripts that we all have seen in pictures. The extravagances, the
bright jewel toned color; the scenes of daily life, daily contemporary
life, to the artists, the monks who labored on the books, are
meticulously crowded into a scroll on a single letter. You could say
art was here in the service of religion as most folks then, even
royalty, couldn't read and learned most from the pictures in these

You could say that, and ignore what you know about the timeless space
the working artist occupies. Same thing applies to this thought:
Perhaps these infinite glimpses crowded into a curlique, are art in
the service of science. For have we not here, a celebration of
objectivity, an objectivity that looks at the human mind, and lays out
the true wonder of such a development, as thinking, in the species.
The letters of thought are there on the page, but in the illuminated
manuscript the words are put into a wider, humbling landscape that
measures the letter with a scientific exactitude. Perhaps, sometimes,
what you cannot say, you can occasionally draw.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Illuminating McCandless

Chris McCandless and his trek into  unknown wilderness, a quest apparently inspired (according to the books and movies on his story) by a need to establish his skills and self-sufficiency, is a story which rings familiar for many people who do not follow his example. They understand they think his motivation. 

The focus on what prompted his journey could be still more precise. He did not put it this way but his mind did not fit his body, there was a continual sense of something at odds, which found some surcease in situations when he was alone. 

Most people feel this disconnect at some time. It is a common experience -- because nobody's mind fits their body. The mind is a common grid which is imposed on people, and part of the imposition is the feeling that it is YOUR mind, when it is not.  Did you make up all the words you use? Of course not, if you had, no one could understand you. You get synced into a previously existing system when you get educated, and although the syncing only works if you believe in your own individuality, in fact the grid you become part of is planet wide and serving purposes which are not necessarily to your personal benefit.

Just like a scratchy shirt label at the back of your neck, from a garment purchased 'off the rack' there is a sense of irritation which is in some people becomes so grave that they persist in looking for peace. This can come from various sources and only very rarely does an individual take the necessary first step for real peace.

That first step is getting a sense of the direction in which the problem lies.  Chris never got that focus; he headed into the unknown physical world, after his graduation from Emory University, and the change of scenery provided some balm, an effect though which he needed to renew. A change of scenery is actually a tried method of keeping the mechanical mind off balance and inspired at the same time. But Mccandless took what is a work trick, as the goal itself. 

McCandless felt that irritation of an ill-fitting mind more strongly than most. But he still was looking in the wrong direction.  He wound up lost and starving in the physical wilderness.  For whatever reasons he did not look inside himself to a possible wilderness there.  He could not question the viability and sources of his own verbal grid.

An trivial footnote to the McCandless story is that for a few years he was a few miles only, from a real work group.  At that time it was called Evoteck Theatre.  Such a brush with possible help is not ironic because most people never find a real path, and if, they do, they do not persevere. The odds were greatly against any hope for McCandless to resolve his unease.  Another writer put it this way: "Many are called, but few chosen..."

Everybody starts lost.  I have no idea why different people go in different directions. I am aware though, that failure or success is not a matter of individual initiative or cleverness. It is not a matter of individual anything.  Most never stumble upon a real way, they just forget the questions.

There remain a very few, few measured in terms of centuries of people, who persevere, and for whom, anything off the rack, is a kind of torture.