Dear eve. Understand. Nobody’s blaming you for what you did. We’d do the same thing if we thought it would make us smarter. I myself have eaten forbidden things that didn’t even promise that. AND shared them with my boyfriends. We hardly ever listen to God either, if at all. But understand – ever since you took that bite and started thinking about what was wrong with the world, we haven’t stopped thinking either. It’s pretty much all we ever do, that and trying to figure out ways to make ourselves feel better and stop thinking so much.
To this end, we shuffle around a chunk of the national debt to support our (usually unsustainable) habits we’ve developed to stop thinking. Some of our most brilliant minds have concocted chemicals to suppress excessive thinking. You’d think we we’d just learn how not to think and teach that at the same time we learned to read and add and brush our teeth. Loads of people do this every day: in less than a minute they put themselves into a meditative state and just float on a sea of bliss for a bit.
But don’t ask me. I’m not one of the brilliant ones. I started out like gangbusters and then, I don’t know what happened – I lost my way. But in my lostness I had my eye on you. I observed your efforts, noble & otherwise, to make it to the top, get ahead, or just keep your head above water. And sometimes you were mean to me and tried to make me believe that I was all the things you hated about yourself. And I wanted to tell you that those were things that someone you loved hated in him or herself and taught you to believe in, but I was confused because you acted like your meanness & ability to rip me to shreds were things to be proud of, like a cache of jewels you’d inherited that made you richer than me.
And there were times when you were so kind, when you were fried and broken down and even so, you let me come banging over with my 2 ton heart and mind spinning like a shillelagh set on suicide, and you let it run its course in your padded cell of compassion. I tried to tell you that you have nothing to be forgiven - your real fortune is your kindness and compassion, but you just sighed. It was the exhaustion of having to explain yourself to another dim bulb.
“You have no idea what I had to go through…what it was like after that fiasco with the serpent…cast out into the wild without a penny or a prayer. Whatever assumptions you may have made regarding the biblical account, that fruit didn’t turn me into the mother of all critical thinkers on the spot….that took some doing…We didn’t know how to add 2 and 2 and when we figured it out we’d forget the answer a few minutes later. …. But I made the best of a bad situation and compassion had nothing to do with my accomplishments. Every time I ran into trouble or saw something in need of improvement, I used my wits to find a solution and some of my ideas have been so brilliant that I’ve changed the world forever. And when I made a mistake, and I made plenty – I used those experiences creatively – they worked like a pitchfork in my back driving me on to success. So don’t talk to me about my assets, I know how I got this far and it wasn’t by being kind. And I don’t ask for anyone’s forgiveness because I learn from my mistakes and I’m working my sins off till nobody, not even God, can deny me access to the garden.”
Dear eve, You’ll never get back in the garden with brilliant ideas, penance or performing heroic deeds. You are the garden. You’re in every rock, every whispering weed – even that dilapidated lawn chair is you when you’re pooped and nature has had her way with you. You’re the faithful car thirsty for oil, the handsome devil who sold you the wiper blades is you when you’re willing to settle for a lot less than you are when you’re the blabbering socialite. See that little chipmunk holding its tiny hands to its chest, listening in rapt attention as the warbler lets rip with a song? That’s you at your sweetest, and so is the warbler and her spine tingling aria and it’s a song of yourself.
SONG OF MYSELF
The title Song of Myself is taken from the poem by Walt Whitman, a man who saw the world as a place of ineffable beauty, terrifying darkness and every shade in between, and recognized himself in all of that. To put it another way, he was tripping.
Almost everyone can see the darkness (some call it evil) in the world, and some can recognize themselves in it.
And some people can see the magical beauty of the world but hardly anyone can see that in themselves. Therein lies Whitman’s genius.
“Stout as a horse, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery, here we stand…
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.”
We the people of the US don’t waste much of our time pondering the vastness of our personal wonders. Far better are we at keeping track of our shame, flops, failures and grudges, fondling them as though they’re the most precious things we own.
When the burden of these memories becomes intolerable, as it’s wont to do, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 take prescription medications. Another 1 in 9 or 17 depending on which report you read, choose illegal drugs, contributing some $100 billion dollars a year to the cartels and financing a war in Mexico just for recreational purposes. Or to keep our demons at bay. We spend $187 million a day on booze, 12% of us overdo it regularly. Two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese & who knows how many over spenders we have. The porn industry’s worldwide revenues rake in annually more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon & Ebay combined – 20% of that by Americans. And we gamble: Americans wager $500 billion a year. And all of this is done intentionally to keep ourselves from thinking about things that we keep reminding ourselves of that make us feel lousy.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve tried telling yourself the good things, worthy things about yourself and it did no good whatsoever. Nobody can do that, not me, not you, no one. We’ve all tried and it’s a grand idea but it just doesn’t go anywhere. You can ask your loved ones, if you’re lucky enough to have any, what they love about you and they’re likely to tell you that they love your sense of humor or the daffy get rich schemes you come up with, or what a comfort you are to them. In truth they don’t know either because what we really love about others is the way they feel. We feel them with all of our senses and those feelings work on us like music. We feel their shirt sticking to their back, their nostrils flairing as they stifle a laugh; we slip into their personality and see how we look to them and love explodes as we fall in love with ourselves.
“I and this mystery, here we stand…..”
Why the mystery? Probably because we can’t think and feel at the same time – they cancel each other out. We can be conscious and feel, but the minute we start analyzing, comparing, trying to find words to describe the experience, feeling ends. When words do arise from the world of the senses, they sound like poetry.
ONCE UPON A STRATUM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
While working on this series I went to hear Philippe Petit speak, or I should say shred the clichés and stereotypes about art making before an art crowd in L.A. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the Frenchman who surreptitiously rigged and walked a tightrope between the World Trade Towers in 1974. If he isn’t the greatest performance artist of all time I’d like to know who is. Among the topics he discussed was why he’d dropped out of school: there was no one to teach him the things he wanted to learn. He said that if he had a school one of the classes would be Failure because that was his greatest teacher. He’d learned nothing from success, he said.
The story of The Fall is a harrowing account of weakness and gullibility, at least if you read the Book of Genesis. There is another version of it that I heard in a lecture on The Lover’s Card in the book of Tarot. In this one God has sent the serpent to tempt Eve, knowing full well what she would do since He created her. The upshot is that she and Adam would get off their daydream and get with the enterprise of life — as in Evolution. They would start trying to figure out how to do things themselves and make mistakes and learn from those and fail and try try again. There was quite a bit of detail attending this story but unfortunately no explanation for that fig leaf jive and the shame of finding out they were naked. Any tree that instantly makes you conscious of the unfavorable opinions of others with regard to your body, ashamed and aware that evil lurks should be renamed The Tree of Insanity in my opinion.
But it’s easy to see them striking out in their fig leaves with their newly acquired wits, however self conscious and judgmental, trying to make the world more glorious and in so doing, inventing chain maille, soufflés, sedan de villes and so forth. Eventually the fig leaf would evolve to some of the most beautiful fashion I have ever seen: Alexander McQueen’s final collection : the Fall of 2010.
In every consciousness there’s a stratum of The Fall triggering progressive change. The rate of progress is variable of course, but whether you’re quick to jump back into the game or you lie around for a while summoning the nerve or even if you need to go settle the score with the snake first before moving on, it’s still progress; evolution is taking place. Some people are just stronger candidates for the Petit Class in Failure.
THE PEA PODS
From the Exhibition Catalogue Libro de Cuentos: Collecion Fernando Fernandez
I don’t know why this scene comes back to me again and again. Maybe I’m preparing for the day I jump the twig. The characters are loosely based upon country western tragedians George Jones and Tammy Wynette. They may or may not represent the 2 hemispheres of my brain constantly fucking and fighting, kissing and making up only to divorce each other again and again.
They’ve acted out sloppy attempts to contemplate my own mortality and reluctantly interfaced with The Great Unknown.
In the ancient Hindu literature known as the Vedas, it is said that the universe is sustained by three forces: creation, maintenance and destruction. The Maintenance Operator has to foster the evolution of everything that’s been created or stagnation begins to set in, signaling the unwanted attention of the Destruction Operator. This holds true for all things, every form and phenomenon, every fan, fawn, fad, continent and love affair. The love affair is an interesting example because its emotional polarities, from creation to disintegration, are so extreme.
When the Creation Operator conceived us, split us in half and divided his assets between us so that we’d swim through sewers of shit for the most magical physical and psychological union we’d ever experience, he was just teasing us into believing we could be gods too. That’s just the way they set you up before they bring the wrecking ball down because maintaining paradise takes monumental courage and skills of the imagination unavailable to most mortals.
So when the celestial music turns into a morose country western song, one might ask: why why why – after all these millennia – have we not learned to gracefully take a Fall. The Hindus would tell you that wise men know when something has reached it’s “use by” date and will take a dive into the Great Unknown rather than wait around for the Destruction Operator. But wise men don’t fall in love (allegedly) so the best selling remedies for fools are still booze and drugs. Americans, notoriously abysmal at coping with loss, just say we have a “chemical imbalance” and fix that up. For the record: not everybody thinks that the improvement of anti-depressants represents evolution.
The Vedic alternative to altering one’s brain chemistry is to alter one’s mental activity, which in turn causes the brain to produce a superior cocktail. Of their numerous techniques, the simplest to do (and most difficult to maintain) is to stay present, to live in the moment. Focusing on what’s right before you and subtracting time and history eliminates compulsive thinking and has a peculiar buzz all its own. I’ll be the first to admit you couldn’t sell it in a nightclub but it grows on you.
The Now Voyagers was painted 7 years after GODS RIPEN (and fall hard on mortal times). George is still holding firmly to the past but he’s definitely in the moment, even as he’s falling apart, which is a vast improvement. I don’t want to give the impression that I have mastered anything…far from it. But at least the other hemisphere is starting to wake up to the facts….she’s balanced right there, in full acceptance of their predicament, trying to reason with him. Somehow the reconciliation of one’s bond to nature is so much more poignant when played out by two vegetables dressed in Hermes.*
*Correction: Those are Louis Vuitton outfits.