The fundamental unit of value is self-knowledge; everything else is derivative.
And yet it takes the kosmos and all of time and space, a drop in the boundless, timeless, terrible perfection, and the unspeakable itself to utter a single syllable to describe that self. The syllable itself is uttered as the essence of silence.
I received a text message holiday card from my father this morning. With a few exceptions, he has been a denizen of intimate towns. His current residency as a longtime community member of Missoula Montana is not one of those exceptions.
Like many things in these small economies, the artifact of the card came through the work of a friend of my father and his wife, Bob Atheran.
Bob, I am told, makes one of these sketches each year (undoubtedly elements of a much more extensive body of work), and has been known for sending them out as holiday cards himself.
This year, Bob took some prints down to the local community center, Rockin Rudys – “the original hipster department store,” to share this valuable work with a larger audience. Hearing this, my father popped in to find just a handful left and cleaned them out.
Knowing me and, always efficient, he duplicated one with his camera, sending it on to me this morning with warm tidings from their little fourth floor apartment overlooking tree-lined streets, the University, and Mount Sentinel beyond to the east.
“Not much snow, but good baking coming out of the oven,” read the byline.
I reflect on this as I’ve just sat to take a few moments to “put pen” to response to the invitation of our dear friend Holly who suggested I might share a few words to honor the season with our little community here.
I thought I was sitting to write a poem, something longer than usual, and something that I don’t often do. With the blank page before me however, the image of the card came first to mind.
“In a creative mode, shouldn’t I be striving to offer something “original?”” I thought.
Quotes attributed to Einstein and Picasso echo through my mind at this juncture, reflecting on the sources of creativity… [Speaking again of real-time reflections, the medium of hypertext markable writing such as this is, allows frames of depth that may be missed by the un-mottivated listener hearing just a recitation of this work.]
A meditation teacher of mine often describes the Buddhist frame of Primordial Wisdom as “showing itself to itself for the benefit of love and compassion.”
It occurs to me that this is not a bad description of the way creativity echoes through the medium of life… Beauty begets beauty begets beauty…
I was taken immediately with the image, a mere postage stamp on the screen of my personal computing device, even before I opened it up to zoom in.
“Winter 2014-15”, and a curt autograph adorned the lower left in scrawl against a white background — the snow covering the earth in the foreground of the sketch.
A mother and infant woolly mammoth stand against a mountain backdrop under starry skies. Subtle patterning throughout the image; border elements, the mountains, the texture of the coats on the pachyderm, even the stars themselves echo throughout the piece. Oneness in all.
“An easy sketch,” yet the obvious skill of the creator is not lost at all. There is clearly a combination of tools and techniques applied, and the artistic sensibility that brings simple lines on the page to life evidence a heart connection between the pen and what is being offered.
As I gazed at the image, the mammoths faded away in my mind, leaving only the landscape and skies beyond.
Here we are in the arc of time, I thought to myself (or probably something similar but less poetic. 😉 What arises in life is fragile and passes away easily.
Delicate, precious expressions of life itself. Some heartbeat penetrating existence and nonexistence, the throb of beauty in love.
I punched “dial” on the phone.
A brief conversation with my dad revealed the quote associated with the piece:
“Only the mountains and the stars remain.”
These words, attributed to Red Cloud, spoke directly to the heart of the feelings the image had evoked.
In parallel to these events of the morning, I had begun listening again to a macro view podcast shared with me by another member of our GTC community. This conversation described a very dire scenario for the next 15 years of the world economy.
As I appreciated the sophistication and depth of the narrative, I also noticed its tremendous focus on Wilber’s lower right — in this case, the demographics and economic forces accumulating over the last hundred years.
Climate change, the continued greedy grab for the lifeblood’s of the earth, the decay into a primordial soup of our information landscape, begin arbitrarily a long list easily extended by nearly any casual observer of “issues” facing the human experiment today. Still, only part of the story.
Who are we that co-arise with these questions today? Is not value the essential element that we bring to “these challenges of life?”
Are we not the mammoth? Are we not the mountains? Are we not the stars? Are we not the very beauty itself?
Truly it is winter in many ways. The day seems to many, the darkest of all. In this darkest of nights, do not those stars – far away yet twinkling in our eyes – shine the brightest?
As we look upon ourselves, and one another, beauty looking upon beauty, may we not find the inspiration, the clarity, the creativity, perhaps derivative, perhaps to be copied, maybe to be stolen, maybe even deeper still, our very selves…
May we not now find ourselves, one and another, the radiant light raining down, like sunlight upon the earth, a primordial energy of creativity, giving birth to the spring of this world so dark now and cold, longing only for the warmth of summers past?
Thank you for your hearts, like seeds in the earth, growing already in stillness, yet truly, towards the light.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…