Gardens of Water

I left the garden today, and all its lettuces, kale, spinach and dill, and went up to the water, where the birches rise out of the cedars and the wild roses.

The ducks were feeding on the blue damselflies and shrimp as clear and white as clouds.


The water showed the directionality of the sun, the coloured space that was blue from one angle, green from another, and from another all gravity and tension.


To my ancestors, there were languages: the language of birch, the language of cedar and the language of water, and sometimes they joined together and then there was song, or consciousness. My ancestors began there in that offering.


Being together with these languages, at the point of their meeting, was like reading cloud or reading the sea room for the weather coming from the north.


I am learning this language again. Poetry was once the tool for speaking it in human form. I learned this art in an old age of the world from a man who had gone to the old ages of the north of the world to find it.


It still is this art. It still is this age of the world. It is still this old earth. It is still this new.


It should not, however, be confused with literature or “communication,” as beautiful as they are. It can be spoken of alongside beauty, if by beauty we mean balance or organic or earthly form.


Speaking it as a garden is not a confusion. From high lakes like this, water leaves the sky and enters the streams and pipes that take it to my red orach, my oregano and my egyptian onions. They drink this. I feed on this, and not just physically.

From high lakes like this, light leaves the sky and enters my garden, too, in a form fitting of these heights. As I am this land, I am this water. It is not, you can see, what is normally called human. Of course it isn’t. This is the old knowledge. It is not humanism. That is a beautiful but far different thing.


To my ancestors, the cupped hands, or the skull, were raised in thanks and blessing. Skold! they said. They didn’t mean the skull, but the bowl it made that held the mind. They didn’t mean the hands, but the bowl — the old world was scale, or Schale, as they said (and say) in German — that held, that was the power of holding, lifting up and offering and that created them through this offering or lifting up.

 

This is the holding up and the offering, this language of birch and cedar and water. This is where mind becomes.

This is the garden.

Stepping Stones through the Posthuman Swamp

Living in the early 21st Century is sure wild, isn’t it.

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Welcoming Figure, Aquamarin Hair Salon, Jena, Germany

Think of it. You go in this building to get your hair done, which is such a very social act, and instead of images like the ones below to greet you and to inspire you towards an up-to-date look…

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source

… you have this:

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Human is not what human was. That’s a curious thing, though. There are notions bound up with this, which are really quite profound. Jena is the city where the contemporary self was born as a relativizing scientific tool. It is now a fetish. In contrast, the biological human body …

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… reveals itself as a form of cosplay:

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Whether the “self” here is reacting to broad cultural norms (the beautiful black woman above) or the norms of selves created in the reading (inhabiting) of fantasy selves, themselves constructed out of intersections of cultural and physical scraps and projections (as in the beautiful blue woman above) makes little difference. The two responses to society and identity are virtually the same. They rely on identity being the moment of “self” described by Rene Descartes …

Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_Descartes

Franz Hals’ Portrait of Descartes

… in his famous slogan:

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Thing is, there’s a body and a self that exist in a physical world, and there’s another that is the insertion of a self separate from the body, which exists in social and intellectual space. They aren’t the same. In the Sufic tradition I learned on the Northern Camino, at the point of emptiness, the point at which Descartes lights on thought being entirely his own and thus a foundation for knowledge, the world inhabits human form and opens within its faculties. Descartes’ conception is secondary to that moment of presence. Thought embodied (just listen to the word) in bodies knows this, because it’s what bodies, the points of perception and presence, know. That’s why the following image is so powerful:
6031395839_a7df8a5f66_bIt represents the moment at which these two selves confront each other. Is reconciliation between them possible? Yes.

nycc-comic-con-cosplay-justice-league-batman-robin It is, however, as the image above (and the one below) show, often the act of reading, translated into gesture.7802567130_e4c85d9059_o

Don’t forget, though, that this is ultimately a model displaying her body by concealing it and revealing not her thoughts or her being but the points at which she fits into a conceived environment. Even if she were like this on the street, however, she would remain that: an expression of an urban environment, treated by fiction as if the book were the human body and then reread in the world as if the environment were the earth. All humans are creations of their environment and means of reading it, in ways like this. The concept of doing so in ways called “individual” is called humanism. The 21st century version of means by which this reading is made and transposed into other forms of book identity is called creativity. In humanist society, it is almost everywhere. I offer as an illustration the image below of a re-envisioning of Descartes’ slogan, stencilled in military print (the kind used on metal weapon cases) on a wall (a kind of stencilling of human identity space and human bodies), with a space left for a human body (out of focus), to form a comma in a thought.

you_exist_but_do_you_live__by_jeffreyverity

It’s complex stuff, but it’s essentially no different than this:

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Just as these two images are essentially the same as well, although one is a humanist representation of body space and the other is a cosplay one (you decide which is which):

twocosplays

They are both identical to the following six images, two from Canada and four from Eastern Germany, where people are still adapting to the 1989 identity switch:

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They are bodily gestures, created out of an interface with built environments, whether those are physical or cognitive or complex arrangements of both at the same time. Ultimately, they are stencils, like the one below, a gesture constrained by created boundaries:

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That is one reason why adapting notions of identity and creativity is essential for work at revitalizing the relationship between this stencilling, this creativity, and the world of creation.

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New Life in a Seasonal Wetland

This, too, is the self, but it is not stencilled.

To navigate this territory, 21st century culture gives us psychological notions of creativity, including one from a professor of psychology and a professor of creative writing, both friends of mine, at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. They have co-written this article … dangling

Here’s the table of contents …

Tassel

I promise, these are not the swamplands they mean:

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They mean instead a kind of metaphor, or cosplay, something like this:

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I think the paper’s notions of creativity, self and society are a form of stencilling. They certainly do not represent any part of my life, but then, since I draw my energy from the earth, and creativity is drawn from stuff like this …

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… I’m not a creative person. I have the tests to show it:

brain test

Pretty lacklustre, eh. The tests, you see, are not designed to test the work of bodies and minds in the world, but to test familiarity with certain cultural pathways towards inward embodiment of dominant cultural forms. I’ll be talking in depth about Professors Gabora and Holmes’ essay next, but for the moment, two related body images:

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Rodin’s Thinker

This statue is often used to represent Descartes’ philosophy. It doesn’t. Notice how the body is holding the head, a ball like the earth that Atlas carried on his shoulders, in perfect balance on its fist.

Here’s Atlas:

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Rodin’s piece, in comparison, is a reduction of human power to the human head, where once was the world. The following variation is very different and yet the same.

These sculptures are not, however, by any contemporary definition, creative. Neither is this:

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It’s curious: in a culture which defines worth by individuality, some areas of individuality are closed, even taboo, yet issues like this…

Posthumanism or post-humanism (meaning “after humanism” or “beyond humanism”) is a term with seven definitions:[1]

are not. Pay special attention to numbers 5-7.

  1. Antihumanism: any theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition.[2]
  2. Cultural posthumanism: a branch of cultural theory critical of the foundational assumptions of Renaissance humanism and its legacy.[3] that examines and questions the historical notions of “human” and “human nature”, often challenging typical notions of human subjectivity and embodiment [4] and strives to move beyond archaic concepts of “human nature” to develop ones which constantly adapt to contemporary technoscientific knowledge.[5]
  3. Philosophical posthumanism: a philosophical direction which draws on cultural posthumanism, the philosophical strand examines the ethical implications of expanding the circle of moral concern and extending subjectivities beyond the human species [4]
  4. Posthuman condition: the deconstruction of the human condition by critical theorists.[6]
  5. Transhumanism: an ideology and movement which seeks to develop and make available technologies that eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities, in order to achieve a “posthuman future“.[7]
  6. AI takeover: A more pessimistic alternative to transhumanism in which humans will not be enhanced, but rather eventually replaced by artificial intelligences. Some philosophers, including Nick Land, promote the view that humans should embrace and accept their eventual demise.[8] This is related to the view of “cosmism” which supports the building of strong artificial intelligence even if it may entail the end of humanity as in their view it “would be a cosmic tragedy if humanity freezes evolution at the puny human level”.[9][10][11]
  7. Voluntary Human Extinction, which seeks a “posthuman future” that in this case is a future without humans. Source.

 I’m not saying that the discussions should be taboo on either side, but there’s a confusion here between self and person that perfectly embodies the decayed state of the earth as well, and it’s dangerous. We’ll be talking about that next, through the doorway opened by the metaphors of Liane and Nancy’s essay..

The Spiritual and Technological Roots of Individualism in the Environment, part 2

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow had some thoughts about creativity:

It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be. Source

A single, ultimate goal! Oh my.

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Eduard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Look at the cleverness of Maslow’s statement, step by step:

Step 1: It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind…

Mankind: all humans on earth. Got that.

Step 2: …a far goal toward which all persons strive.

So, all persons are striving for the goal of mankind? Hardly. Human selves don’t tend to get themselves as organized as all that. Some turn their bodies into books. It looks painful.

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Knowing humans as I do, I’d say it’s more like all persons are striving separately or together or both, and that the sum total of this separate or united striving is a portrait of the struggle. The logic of all of this separate striving would seem to be that it’s the sum of these random activities that lead to a spontaneous pattern, which can be called the goal of all mankind. To the populist institutions of American political consciousness, however, these activities are termed random; their sum leads to a spontaneous-generated (self-actualized) pattern, which can be called the goal of all mankind if we just replace Maslow’s “the goal of all mankind” with “the goal of the American public,” which is not really the same thing.

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U.S. Marines in Afghanistan

That’s not what Maslow, for all his Americanness, is saying, however. He’s saying that the goal is set, and that humans strive towards it. What this goal is could be many things —world peace, clean streets, love, God, healthy oceans, and so on — but that’s all illusory, because it is a “goal for mankind,” not a goal “of” mankind. In other words, it is not the sum of the actions of humans that is the goal to Maslow. It’s more like fate, which is actually a little odd at first glance, because it means that:

a. There is a goal set for mankind.

By someone or something. Perhaps by that process, if processes can set goals.

b. All persons strive to meet this goal.

And that means, even the lot below, not all together but each one, singly, one at a time, and according to a script shared by their enemies:

It can’t be through individual initiative, though, because, look at them, that bunch have, at best, used their individual initiative to give up their individual initiative, and, besides, all in all persons are really lousy at doing what they’re told. It takes some force.312951396_slaves_scar_65_xlarge

Is that what Maslow means? Persons are forced to meet this goal? No. They strive towards it, he says. He can only mean one of two things:

a. genetically, humans are compelled to strive to one goal.

b. spiritually, humans are compelled to strive to one goal.

He can’t seriously mean spiritually, though, because a lot of them are compelled to destroy all spiritual striving, and the goals humans have for religion vary widely. It must be genetics, which Maslow means, then: biological imperatives. In other words, this is a biological imperative:

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Protest in Iran

It’s a stretch. Fortunately Maslow goes on…

This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be.

Becoming fully human! Oh my.

320px-Edvard_Munch_-_The_Scream_-_Google_Art_Project

Eduard Munch, The Scream, 1895

Note that the eyes are gone.

So, Maslow is saying that some biological imperative compels all persons to “self-actualize”; only then do they become fully human. Before that, they were persons but not humans. Here, have a look at the bastard.

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Abraham Maslow

My guess is that this is what he considered a “fully human” person to look like.

To be fair to Maslow, this is not a new idea. The poet Wolfgang Goethe used it to suppress the writings of his sister Cornelia two-and-a-half centuries ago, because in his society it was a role of bourgeoise women to look after courtly households, and her education and artistic intelligence, far better and greater than his (which were better than that of princes or kings), made her unfit for that and, thus, only half human.

Cornelia_Schlosser_geb_Goethe

Cornelia (Goethe) Schlosser c. 1777

In Goethe’s society, or at least in his conception of it, children were born as animals and achieved human-ness through training. When they fit into and extended the mores of society, they achieved human status. If they were led astray along the way, or over-educated for their station, they were half-shapen creatures of little interest — at least to Goethe. To be fair to Goethe, this was an older idea yet. It got its start here:

Adamand_Eve_by_Lucas_Cranach

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paradise, 1530

Of course, even then the humans were a little unruly.

Part of the humanization of persons in Goethe’s time included spiritual enlightenment, which included the lengthy process of confirming a teen-aged person into the church. This process led to the internalization of Christ, that god-man who was nailed at the intersection of Heaven and Earth and then, well, died…

663px-Erfurt_Lamentation_of_Christ_in_Erfuerter_Dom

Erfurt Cathedral

… but then didn’t, actually, because he was alive in each of his believers singly, and in all of them together (and in himself). In other words, in this tradition the achievement of a self came through the choice to sublimate it into non-self — to a goal beyond the self — and into obedience. It is this same obedience which Maslow is talking about when he mentions…

self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity

It’s just that he expresses it within the ideological, biologically-driven individuality of American political and social philosophy, which is based on Enlightenment ideas of Liberty, Freedom and Individual rights…

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Patrick Henry Getting Things into Swing

… which are based on a principle linking freedom to private property that this man …

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John Locke, 1667

…invented before the first American colonists hit the beaches. Simply, he argued that since there were no common principles as to how humans related to their land, there was no God-given right to aristocratic land ownership and government; the only principle that was possibly universal became the labour a man could do with his own hands: if a man laboured on a patch of earth, he could not be separated from that patch and it became his, a private plot, because to separate a man from his labour was to make him a slave. Given that men like this …

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Jacques Lacan

… have successfully demonstrated that there is such commonality, in the biological origins of humans and their early, pre-verbal relationships with their mothers and fathers, the entire premise of Locke’s argument has recently become very shaky indeed, because these relationships are not compelled but cognitively worked out with all the physical and intellectual means that infants can bring to them, and are infinitely variable, depending on family, environment and circumstances. What’s more, a child raised in this industrial environment near the mouth of the Fraser River…

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Surrey, British Columbia

… is going to cognitively develop in reaction to that environment, while one raised in this environment, far far up the watershed of the Fraser River …

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Big Bar Lake

… will develop in quite different ways. Sure, they will have oodles of commonality, but one of the points of that commonality is that their different environments will lead to difference, as well as to attachment to the place that formed them. This is one reason there are French people, Lithuanian people, and this group of guys …

1920Indian Teachers Bargaining for a Better Employment Contract

And so, there we have it: within a particular social environment (The USA), constructed out of a particular spiritual tradition (a form of protestantism based on obedience to authority), on the set of a certain set of ideas of human identity and liberty forged in political struggles in England and Europe, based on certain misunderstandings of human identity (John Locke and friends), Maslow has described a form of human identity, which he differentiates from personhood and which only comes from willing obedience to a set of biological imperatives, which all just happen to match American ideology. Such convenient matchings are always trouble. At no point, for instance, does he talk about environment, although this is all a story of environment, all a story of people embedded in society and place. So, here’s mine, just to come clean:

fairviewredivoMy Grandparents and “Pootzie” above the Lower Similkameen Valley, c. 1962-3 photo Hugo Redivo

What a mess.

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Eduard Munch, The Scream, 1895

He did a lot of these things. The caption reads “I felt the greatest scream throughout nature”. The verb (pierce? echo? reverberate? spread?) is left blank. Munch has no words for it. To him, nature is an echo of himself, but those parts of himself out in it are unknown to him.

The root of this mess is actually simple. It is the Enlightenment use of the “I” — a kind of shorthand fill-in for the self in all its unbounded mystery — as a measuring stick for the foundation of a system of knowledge. Johann Gottlieb Fichte set the ball rolling in 1793, when he started lecturing at the University of Jena. He published his observations in 1794. Since then, all of us in the West and all of us in scientific culture have been living, more or less, within Fichte’s system. It’s a very large system now, and very powerful. Maslow is deep within it. So are his ideas of self-actualization and creativity. Let me show you three views of this system. When you look at them, remember: they are all the same.

1: the directional view

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Some weeds beside the trail made into a portrait of a human identity. The goal of creating an I-self for persons was to enable them to shift their humanism from an inhabitation of sacred space to observation of disconnected processes within that space, which could be linked together later by will. This is called the creation of knowledge, and is what is known in English as “science”. 

2: the technological view

B Reactor at Hanford, Washington

The world’s first plutonium producing engine, and the scourge of Nagasaki. This is one of the manifestations of this knowledge, and one of the most poisonous and most complex artificial humans built out of the I-self.

3: the self-actualization view

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The University of British Columbia Okanagan Virtual Tour

The I in the lower right talks. Loads of identity fun! Institutions like this are in the business of training persons to actualize and develop their Fichte selves in an image of, yes, the institution.

In other words, any complete discussion of human identity is going to have to discuss relationships to environment, Christianity, technology, and the I. That’s where we’ll go next, deeper into Fichte’s work at the University of Jena and from there into notions of creativity and environment operative in the world of actualized I-selves today. Until then, here’s an image of a bed of volcanic ash above the Bonaparte River to contemplate. To Fichte, this was the world. Everything beyond the bounds of this gaze was the self.

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The reverse is also true, and that’s what I’m walking towards. There’s a nice deer trail there. Let’s follow that! Off we go!

The Spiritual and Technological Roots of Individualism in the Environment, part 1

Boundaries give focus. They’re also wildly frustrating.
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Grey Canal Trail, Bella Vista Hills

A general human glance does not have boundaries like that. Neither, though, is a human glance — or human presence — like this:
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Big Bar Ranch, 31.12.15

The same frustrating boundary appears. Human sight — and awareness — is not so clearly bounded. What about the following, then, not a photograph but a painting, a landscape?

Full title: The Avenue at Middelharnis Artist: Meindert Hobbema Date made: 1689 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright ?The National Gallery, London

The Avenue at Middelharnis, Meindert Hobbema 1689 Source

No. That doesn’t do it, either, but it’s clever, let’s admit that. A landscape, a landschaft, is a created environment, an artificial garden, invented in English country houses…

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Estate Near Evenley, UK

The low wall is called a ha ha. From the house it is invisible, but it keeps the sheep down on the field where they can’t do their sheep thing on the shrubberies near the house but can still give a fine view of wealth. Here’s the view out from the house. See? No ha ha.

Evenley1

It’s not just decorative, but highly symbolic. The trees are carefully planted, in symbolic patterns, in balance with sight lines, sky and water.

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Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

On the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Note the windmills in back to pay for all this. Note as well the oaks as carefully planted as elements in a painting, symbols of nationalism leading up into the sky. Not an accident.

The idea was taken up with aplomb in Europe thereafter. After that, painters took it up: a revolutionary idea; the theft of the aristocratic right to turn the land into a poem and its dissemination to all through the gift of sight alone. Fiery politics, that.

Cornelis_Lieste_-_Landschap_met_eenzaam_koppel_bij_zonsondergang

Source

Landscape With a Couple Alone at Sunset, Cornelis Lieste, date unknown (mid 19th century)

Staring straight into the sun? Not an accident.

Little differentiates this from the country estates shown above, except that the whole country is now the estate of the entire people. Or so it seems. Actually, the country presented is artificial and the people present are just to draw the eye, like a ha ha’s sheep. Still, we’ll get back to them. First, a closer view of figures are doing in landscape. Here’s Caspar David Friedrich’s take:

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Der_Mönch_am_Meer_-_Google_Art_Project

Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk at the Sea, c. 1808-1810 Source 

In this romantic view, the landscape is so large and powerful that it completely dwarfs the human figure. The presence of the human figure provides a reference point for the recalculation of rather abstract image of nature. It’s as if viewers, you and I, for example, are viewing the human figure with the eyes of nature, while at the same time inhabiting the figure, because, as humans, that’s what we do. It’s part of being conscious. 

Despite this trick, the image is still bounded. It still has, so to speak, its ha ha. It still has this:

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The Barbed Wire Fence: Military Technology at Home on the Range

This is the new country estate: privately owned, fenced to keep cattle in and people out, and ecologically trashed.

All of these images have a root in pre-modern landscape, in which the earth was symbolic and narrative was created by the observer. In this conception of time and space, there was no time and space.

The_Paradise_1530

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paradise, 1530

Note that Adam does not say “She did it.” He takes the responsibility for eating the apple from the tree of knowledge (in behind) onto himself, as bound to her, not to God’s dictates. Of course, he had to do so, and he had to take the apple from Eve, because he was made in God’s image. That kind of thing goes straight through a person. And an image? Well, the Garden was God. The revolution here was difference and separation.

There is, of course, an observer. If there weren’t, the image would look a little like this:

blackparadise

 

Mind you, that’s just a trick, because without an observer there would be nothing, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We wouldn’t even be a we. Splitting hairs? No, not really. Take another look at the painting …

PAradise ANnotated

 

See that? Christ, the third part of the Trinity, is missing. He is about to be created, though, by God, through the banishment of Adam and Eve to the world. In that narrative, Adam (or, if we’re following temporal narratives, one of his descendants) will eventually end up here, raised up mockingly into the sky above a hill of skulls.

1532crucifixionLucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion, 1532

In other words, in a world read as time and space, timelessness (Adam in Paradise) dies. That was Adam’s choice, too: to live not for himself, but through his descendants. Adam did not blame the expulsion from Paradise on Eve. This sense of honour negates his death, because it embodies the image of God.

Don’t take it from me, though. Let’s go to the source:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. John 1: 4.

As I said, Adam had no choice. Eve it was. And that living for one’s descendants? Ah, that was also God.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)

The Creation of Adam, MIchael Angelo, c. 1511

Still, the crucifixion, eh. Like Michael Angelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling centred around God and Adam…

Plafond de la Chapelle Sixtine

Source

…for an action that takes place on the earth, Cranach’s crucifixion …

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…is remarkably empty of earth and spectacularly crowded with (very symbolic) people, including Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross, and reappearing as St. Katherine in her martyrdom, kneeling again and at peace now:

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Source

Watch that feminine gaze, from Mary Magdalene looking up to Jesus on the Cross, to St. Katherine looking out of this image, to Mary looking down to God and God looking up to her,  Eve gets gets a similar (but more loving) role to Adam’s, in that her heart, that love that is God, materializes within her live in the world, giving her forgiveness and grace instead of separation, and a chance not to kneel but to take God’s place on earth and look down at her new Adam (Christ)…

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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Virgin and Child, 1516

Folds within folds within folds. Modern popular imagination holds that these ancient icons no longer have force in the identity of individuals, and no longer provide identity narratives for viewers. The imagination of the slovakian marxist cultural critic an philosopher Slavoj  Žižek, however, …

230px-Slavoj_Zizek_in_Liverpool_cropped

… who argues in this book …

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Mary and Son Again! Note how he turns away from the breast to be seen.

…that the separation between humans and world within Christian faith is the single most important point in history, because it creates poles which can be reunited with activity, holds that this form of directionality is very much a part of contemporary human consciousness, and look…

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the boundaries are there, built right into the art of photography, and the way in which it denies context, which must only be constructed by an exterior, viewing and contemplating intelligence, which is separate from the act of viewing and heavily influenced by the structural forms of the technology. There is no difference between what this camera sees and this…

The_Paradise_1530

 

… or this …

Goodwood House, Luxury Events Venues, Prestigious Venues

or this …

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Der_Mönch_am_Meer_-_Google_Art_Project

or this:

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Protest however we like, the story hasn’t changed, and if it hasn’t changed, then definitions of the self in modern psychology, such as the humanist psychology of Abraham Maslow …

 

132847-132478… who defined creativity like this …

It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be. Source

Like Cranach’s crucifixion, there is no earth in that picture, only the self, only the boundary around this image and the choices inherent in making it:

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It is ultimately not five aspen stalks in a copse, one dead, but a choice. All of this activity has profound consequences for the physical world, because, somewhere, outside of all this artistry and technology there are five aspens stalks in a copse, one dead, and that, too, is part of the self, although represented only peripherally in this entire tradition. The consequences for landscape and creativity are profound, because both Maslow’s and Žižek’s conceptions of creativity are focussed on their actualization within the mechanisms of human consciousness. These are profound legacies of a long spiritual tradition. They inhabit contemporary science, psychology, and art, and they got there through the window of the development of science in the 18th century. If we’re going to save this planet, we have to deal with this tradition, so, let’s talk about that tomorrow, ok? Till then, a few more stalks of that aspen copse, but this time in summer …

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There Are Only 2 Human Habitats and 1 is Not Human

The colours of sunsets deepen as winter approaches. Here we’re looking west across the north arm of Okanagan Lake.
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Here’s an unusual view. Here’s that same sunset, five minutes earlier. Notice that all the light, everywhere, is the same shade as the ones above.P2130649

A magenta world! The falling of these leaves and the collapsing of summer’s grass is the same as the shifting of that atmospheric light. Look at how this new energy strikes the world of fruit:

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And the nootka roses on the hill.

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A year is a journey through colour, and the moods of colour, which is a reaction of eyes to the vibrations matter makes in reaction to radioactivity from the sun. Colour is us. When these effects take place outside of colour, the effect is something like the puddle in the image below This is part of the same seasonal shift of light:

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What the light does to the ice, in other words, is what the light does to our eyes. The vital thing to look at here is the patterns the light makes while freezing, which is to say when the sun’s energy within it dips beneath a certain threshold, which to humans looks like this:

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Those effects can only happen in this season, with this light. To human eyes, they are what is called beautiful.

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But they are the earth dancing with the sun. Sure, this is a story of atmospheric pressures and the heating and cooling of gasses, both in and outside of solution, but it’s the dance, too, or what passes for a dance when the sun and earth are doing it. You can see it in these lilac buds, for instance.

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Light, like buds, open and close across the span of a year. They are the same thing. So too is the dandelion below, caught in a frozen puddle, and viewed from above.

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Explications of randomness and will (or its absence) can be used to describe these plants’ ability to live nakedly in the poisonous atmosphere of the earth, but they don’t speak of the earth, which does this …

P2130889 … just a short 55 million years after it made this geode …P2130878

… as the same place that does this…

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… and this…

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… and this, which is the same.P2130531

This energy is life. Humans live within life. Like all life in this organism called the biosphere, humans are one with this ebb and flow, this opening and closing of life. Any ideas that they are not are ideas of death. Persephone, the goddess otherwise known as Koré, or maiden, spent six months of every year with her husband in the land of the dead.

1024px-AMI_-_Isis-Persephone

Source

Persephone always came back.

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Make sure you come back, too.

 

The End of the Road of Diplomacy: the Bear Paw Battlefield

Here’s the Bear Paw Battlefield in the rain. P2030856

It’s here that the hunt to eliminate a people from the face of the earth was called a war. It was just a hunt. That tree you see is Chief Looking Glass’s camp, a name received mistakenly from Lewis and Clark. The image below shows how that is looking now. It shows the hole Looking Glass dug on the top o the ridge to protect himself from cavalry fire while the cavalry was shelling the women and children below. And it is here he died, as the offerings witness.

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These offerings…

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The Hunt for the Nez Perce came about because of some cynical politics, that started with the protection offered to the American spies, Lewis and Clark, in exchange for a government-government relationship with the United States. The offer was never genuine. For the Nez Perce it was a s’lahal game, a sacred game, called a gambling game, which binds spiritual and temporal worlds. To the Americans, the game was poker. In poker, you can lie. The Bear Paw Battlefield is 40 miles south of Canada, and freedom. The Nez Perce never made it. They were dragged off to the Cherokee Reservation instead. The failure of 100 Nez Perce men in gun pits like this (with shells exploding among their tipis below) to stop the U.S. Army led to them being turned into Indians — a form of property.
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Prayer Flags at Looking Glass’s Camp
Before that, they were the Nimíipuu. Looking Glass was not part of this hunt … that is until a group of vigilantes bent on genocide fired on his camp, killing women and children, 1300 miles to the west, although in the eyes of the U.S. Army and Government it was a legal camp within the boundaries of the so-called Nez Perce Indian Reservation. He had no choice but to flee as well. His trail ended here, above the willows of Spring Creek…
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…which I walked through yesterday morning in the rain, thinking. Battles based on protecting military authority in foreign territory will never make that territory less alien. Racial slaughter under the guise of law will never strengthen the law. Such huge failures of intellectual, human and spiritual tradition can not be resolved. There are no butterflies anymore at the village of Lapwai, on the Nez Perce Reservation, although “Lapwai” means “the place of butterflies.” It was there that the non-treaty Nez Perce were to be settled after being forced off of their homelands to the southwest. There are no butterflies at Spring Creek, below the Bear Paw Mountains anymore, either, but the milkweed are still calling for them, here at Chief Joseph’s tipi site, in the battlefield.
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And the battle? The men of the band could have shot their way out of the cordon and fled to Canada. The battle was fought to protect their wives and their babies, who were under cannon fire for 6 days — fire designed to force the mens’ hands. Think of this: in contemporary terms, the shelling of innocent women and children is called terrorism. As a boy, my own father was subjected to bombing of this kind. One American pilot even spent a half hour in his Mustang fighter, trying to shoot him for sport. He was 11 years old. I am pretty clear about this. The Bear Paw Battlefield is my battlefield. And it was a hunt. The process of humanization is not directed at removing the stain of “Indian-ness” from the Nimíipuu. They were always human. It is directed at removing it from anyone who stands behind the law. The law is a transparent shield. Anyone standing behind it is visible. And the guns which they must continually use to maintain its veil are visible, too. So too is the spiritual world, which completes us and makes us truly and fully human.P2030632

Choosing to Be Human

“Gravity” is commonly understood as the force, devolved from subatomic bonds extended during the Big Bang, that brings things down. This vineyard hill above my house, for instance.

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The same force brings a stone down from a high trajectory into the swirls of a river, where it then tumbles down slowly to land among flashing schools of mountain whitefish in the shallows where the current just begins to pick up again after slowing in the deep pool at the foot of a mountain, where black bears come down seven thousand feet from the high country, cross the thread of the river when almost all men are asleep, and shake the moonlight out of the fur like water. It can also look like this:

P1600326 … and this …P1600477

The Big Bang, gravity, God, the tug of molten dew off of the bowed stalks of bunchgrass, the energy rippling through the muscles of black bears and mountain rivers riding over a thousand feet of gravel left by a post-glacial river as big as the Missouri and inhabited by ancient, scaled creatures whose hands are specialized wings for steering themselves through water, those are all pretty much the same thing. It also looks like this:

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The force is the same, and is unbroken — unlike the cat tail stem above, that failed to resist it. On a planet on which any difference between God, the Big Bang, gravity and a cat tail is not a quality of anything you can pick up in your hand and put in a vase in front of a window, but of experience, the missing variable in discussions of gravity is time. Rock, water, fish, moon, sun, star, man, log, bear, and fire, are not substances in the world. They are boundaries — not ones drawn around things but within them. For the things themselves there are no boundaries. The boundaries have to do with their extension, their thinning out, in time.

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Time is the way in which gravity and the tendency of entropy, the way in which all energy (supposedly) decays, becomes spirit. That might be the nearly-abandoned farm of an elderly widow above, a woman born in an internment camp during the Second World War, but it contains a gift of life she is still trying to give to us. There are moments at which earthly understanding supersedes that of mathematics. There are moments at which the answer is to choose to be human. We are all born with the potential. Not all make the choice.

 

The Scent of Spring

Here’s the queen of our wild flowers … it smells so fine, it finds you before you find it!P1610811In wild rose season, everyone gets to be a bee. Bees gather pollen after being lured by the scent… and humans? The intriguing creatures stick their noses into the centre of the flower and breathe in deeply. That’s just as practical as the bee thing. It can change your life, and  your attitude to the world around you. Instead of creative writing classes, we can just send people out to breathe deeply.

P1610806They will return as humans.

~

All flowers found on Tuesday in Bella Vista.

 

Is Anyone Home?

There’s a new language in town. It’s a bit like listening in a mirror. To help you hear it, here’s an older language…

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Royal Tyrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta

Back in the day, careful observation of that kind of thing led first to systems of magic and then to this …

Sumerian_26th_c_AdabSyrian Cuneiform Tablet

Source

And that, in time, led to other languages, and finally a translation program, just like Okanagan Okanogan. This translator looked like this…

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The Rosetta Stone

Hieroglyphs, demotic Greek, and ancient Greek in one.

That was really useful in moving magical languages in the direction of humanist ones. And so it went, until after a long history in books, including books of magic, it all led to this:

Polo+QR+codeCode for Machines

With a human translation for the machines’ transport mechanisms.

Meanwhile, what are humans doing? Why, celebrating their non-textual lives and a thing called individuality.P1180809

Danny and Vanessa Leave Their Mark on a National Historic Site

Sulfur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, Rocky Mountains.

As for that individuality, it’s a group thing, in all the languages of the world. No translation necessary.

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Sulfur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, Rocky Mountains.

Ah, those darned books have taught their humans well. Look at what the books are up to down in the valley below…

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Banff Avenue, Banff Alberta

Complete with all kinds of specialized ecological niches for humans. There is little here that is not a book written out large. If you came for the mountains, you have to leave human codes and walk out into the rock piles, and then you have to come back to the steak houses and sushi shops. Living in the mountains is not presented as an option, but is, nonetheless, given as the name of the game. That kind of gap between image and reality is a clear sign that humans are thinking like books.

But, hey, why not come back at night, when things really get hopping:

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Ice Park, Banff, Alberta

No need to climb an ice fall in the mountains, when you can climb one downtown in such beautiful, seductive colour.

And a closer look, without the beauty of all that light scaffolding and framing …

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… and a moment later …

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Texts are everywhere, of course.

And a moment later…

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In the Age of Machines, this is Art

It is a vital Rosetta stone, to help guide humans into the new machine world.

Meanwhile, back on earth …

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