Monday, December 17, 2007

Impermanence



I was knocked off line today for about six hours. If I had not happened to have the cell phone number of one of the cable company's technicians, it may have taken me days to reconnect. All because of a minor glitch in their system. Which got me thinking about the fragility of this enterprise. Which reminded me of Buddhist Sandpainting.

In 1999, a group of Tibetan monks were invited to create a sand mandala in the Charleston, South Carolina Visitor's Center which is where I took these pictures. If you are not familiar with this work, the monks create an extremely complex design by painstakingly funneling different colored grains of sand through tubes. Each mandala design has its own significance.



When the mandala design in completed, the monks hold a sacred ceremony at the end of which ritual, the art work is destroyed, the sand collected and dispersed into moving water.

I was off-line just long enough to realize how quickly addicted I've become to working on line and how important it is to maintain a good balance in life.

See my paintings at Landscape into Art.

My songs and CDs

3 comments:

Don Gray said...

How interesting. I was offline for about 5 hours late yesterday afternoon and was thinking the same thoughts about fragility and about how dependent I realize I've become on this technology.

Can't help but think of the similarity of the monk's sand painting to that of the Navajo. The idea of impermanence seems to be at odds with our art culture, where everything we make is supposed to be archival--make it last for a kazillion years. What is really behind that desire--some form of immortality? In spite of our best efforts, even the Rembrandts that are so carefully protected and curated today will be dust someday, along with the museums that house them.

Facing the concept of impermanence like the monks and Navajo do is a fundamental and honest recognition of our own flickering passage through this world.

Suzanne said...

Don, I would like to continue this conversation over a longer course as I think the ideas as vital and relevant and personally important to me and you and I'm guessing some other artists. One of the issues, of course, is that we're working in the midst of extreme materialism and are faced with the fact of earning a living. That's it's own can of worms. So, let's just say that we're touching on the boundaries of rich terrain. Let's explore this more over time.

Don Gray said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I would enjoy exploring these ideas. Lately I've been reading "Deep Play," by Diane Ackerman.

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=2427

She speaks of the significance of ritual in our lives. How much of our everyday time is spent in some form of ritualized behavior--from religious/spiritual practices to birthday celebrations to morning cups of coffee.

She makes the point that an aspect of ritual is its steadying nature, a hedge against the deep knowledge we all carry within us about the fragility of our lives.

Our culture's materialistic emphasis most certainly manifests a desire to deny a fundamental thing we all know: that we are going to die. Why else this need to make our jobs into our reason for being, as if there were nothing more important? It is life-crushing and distorting.