A Poet & an Artist on Making the Unknown Known

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Photo by PhotoCosma

I came across two quotations about the creative process recently and found such striking similarities I had to explore them further. The first is by the poet Mary Oliver, and the second by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Both are attempting to articulate how they create, how they make the unknown known. Both make reference–one obliquely, the other explicitly–to the need of stepping over “the edge” into something vague and nearly inarticulate: “formlessness” for one, the “unknown” for the other.

Where does the “extraordinary” that precipitates the creative act take place, Mary Oliver asks:

No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

From “Of Power and Time,”  Upstream: Selected Essays (public library).

How do we create something out of nothing, O’Keeffe asks:

I feel that a real living form is the result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown—where it has experienced something—felt something—it has not understood—and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown—known. By unknown—I mean the thing that means so much to the person that wants to put it down—clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand—sometimes he partially knows why—sometimes he doesn’t—sometimes it is all working in the dark—but a working that must be done—Making the unknown—known—in terms of one’s medium is all-absorbing—if you stop to think of the form—as form you are lost—The artist’s form must be inevitable—You mustn’t even think you won’t succeed—Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant—there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you—catching crystallizing your simpler clearer version of life—only to see it turn stale compared to what you vaguely feel ahead—that you must always keep working to grasp—the form must take care of its self if you can keep your vision clear.

From Georgia O’Keeffe: Art and Letters (public library)

Both speak of the need to step over the edge of the known into the unknown to create.

For O’Keeffe, the idea is to keep reaching for the thing just beyond one’s grasp, something felt, but not understood. That’s how you make the unknown known. How you create form out of formlessness.

For Oliver, one’s concern must be always directed toward the edge, toward bringing out the form from the formlessness beyond the edge.

That need to be always living at the edge of things, and being willing to step over the edge, is what really interests me, and has been a motif in my writing, my urge to create, for a long time. This blog, “Living on the Edge of the Wild,” was an attempt to explore this vague and mysterious something lying just out of sight, just beyond our fingertips: The Wild. The Unconscious. The Unknown.

God, perhaps, if God is that vast unknowable spirit from which all things are newly sprung.

It’s the urge to push consciousness over the edge, beyond the ordinary perception or understanding of things as they seem to be, to discover what else lies out there just beyond our grasp.

It comes like a tickle in the back of the mind–an inkling of something exciting, extraordinary, brand new. and undiscovered, just out of reach. The conscious mind cannot make the leap into the great unknown. It’s too slow and cumbersome, too full of itself and its preconceptions. Too fearful of what’s not itself. But we sense that something else can. Some deeper part of ourselves that we rarely tap into can make that leap, if we are willing to risk letting go and allow it. It’s like flying from one trapeze to another. We have to be willing to let go of what we so desperately cling to, to leap out into empty air with nothing to support us, and trust the thing we are reaching for will be there. Without that risk-taking and that trust, nothing extraordinary happens.

The thing that tickles our mind, that intrigues and arouses us, that we want to grasp, seems vague at first, formless. Like a tree hidden in the mist, we catch odd glimpses of a form we cannot recognize at first. But as we pursue our art, our painting or our poem, it becomes clearer, almost as if we are reclaiming it from the mist that has obscured it. As if it already existed perfectly formed, and we are simply the tool used to reveal it, or, at least, reveal some small aspect of what we originally glimpsed.

What we bring forth may not be perfect, may not be the thing-in-itself, but merely hint at it. And that’s enough. To have touched, to whatever degree, that which intrigues us; to have given some slight form to that vague reality which tickled the mind, which once had lain unperceived among the formless, is enough to sate us, to satisfy the creative urge. At least for a while.

For having once tapped into that deeper part of ourselves, having once stepped over the edge and touched the form within the formless, we spark anew, again and again, the urge to create. To risk letting go and trust the empty air before us will bring to our fingertips the very thing we hoped to grasp.

[A review of O’Keeffe’s letters and Oliver’s essays can be found at Brainpickings.org, where I found the original quotations. You might also enjoy “Endless Emerging Forms – Photos of Fog and Mist,” a blog post I wrote with a similar theme]

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Love, Power, and Economic Justice

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Image result for images martin luther king jrCelebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the Unites States could not seem more incongruous, nor be more timely. And needed.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, he had begun to turn his attention away from the civil rights movement to what he considered to be an even more compelling problem: economic injustice.

“For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”

He had discovered that the major divisive force in America was not color, but class. The rich and powerful, whether black or white, shared the same interest in keeping the races segregated, exploiting the poor and powerless, and maintaining the status quo.

He believed the unequal distribution of wealth was tearing America apart and threatening to make it a two-class society.  He wanted to help build the kind of America that would not tolerate poverty within its borders, that would not allow one class to exploit another, that would not allow the powerful to abuse the powerless.

He called for “a revolution in values” that placed “democratic principles and justice above privilege.” Fighting for this change would not be easy. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“We will be greatly misled if we feel that the problem will work itself out. Structures of evil do not crumble by passive waiting,” he warned. “The battering rams of justice” are needed.

Shortly before his death he began organizing for another march on Washington, this time for economic equality. He fought for an “economic bill of rights” that guaranteed full employment and a livable wage, affordable housing and a “massive public works programs (to build) decent housing, schools, hospitals, mass transit, parks and recreation centers.”

“Freed from the smothering prison of poverty, people could chart their own path and fully realize their human potential.”

At King’s death, nearly 50 years ago, the minimum wage in today’s dollars would be $9.54. Now it is only $7.25. That’s a loss of nearly three dollars per hour for today’s workers.

The gap between the rich and the poor is far greater now than it was then. The two-class society King feared and warned us against is already here. And people in the mostly white rust belt who had been suffering steep economic decline because of jobs being shipped overseas, decided they had had enough. Decided that career politicians had failed them. Decided that what they needed was a “strong man” to save them.

Why do the hard work of organizing, of mobilizing workers to strike and march, of flooding into the offices of their congress to demand change, of creating white papers on policy-change and registering voters? Why do that when they had a demagogue who promised, “I will fix it, I will bring jobs back, I alone will do this.”

They trusted him to do hard work for them. A man who said the minimum wage was already too high. Who did not support tuition-free colleges. Who’s idea of stirring the economy was to give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent. And whose “jobs bill” appears to be giving even more subsidies (corporate welfare) to big business to “fix” our broken infrastructure. It’s just another form of “trickle-down,” voodoo economics.

The few jobs Trump has saved so far by giving kickbacks to corporations to keep their factories in the US is a small pittance in comparison to the number of jobs President Obama saved in his stimulus packet and in the auto industry bail-out at the beginning of his term.

But so far these Trump supporters seem pleased. And well they should. What they want is THEIR jobs back. And they believe that Trump will keep trying to do that.

Unfortunately, Trump isn’t interested in economic equality across the board. He isn’t interested in tearing apart the political policies and economic structures that create and sustain a two-class society, that allows the rich to grow richer and the poor poorer as one class exploits another. Economic justice isn’t on his radar or even part of his vocabulary.

And for many Trump supporters that’s just fine.

But the rest of us, hopefully we are waking up. A divided America cannot stand. Economic just across the board is sorely needed, in all corners of our nation. In the rural outback and inner cities, the factories and fast food kitchens. It’s needed for home care workers and preschool teachers, for farm workers and grocery clerks, for all who work full-time jobs for half-time wages, for all who see good jobs disappear without the training programs to support those who lose them.

What we need, as King said, is “a revolution in values” that places “democratic principles and justice above privilege.”

We need an economic system based on love. That’s what transforms the heart and mind and motivates real lasting change.

King said: “Power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against justice . . . It is the collusion of immoral power with powerless immorality that constitutes the major crisis of our times.”

That kind of love and economic equality lifts all boats, for, as King said, we are all “interrelated.”

“The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich. The betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one affects all indirectly.”

This is Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to us, and his challenge: To end poverty and economic injustice by wedding power with love.

He writes:

“In the final analysis, love is not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual.

When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems.

Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”

In the age of Trump, this kind of love is needed more than ever.

 

 

O Holy Night, Ablaze in Light

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Star_birth_in_Messier_83_(captured_by_the_Hubble_Space_Telescope)

“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”

The single-most, salient symbol of Christmas, for me, is a shining star in the night sky.

It’s what wakened the shepherds and fell them to their knees, what mesmerized the Magi and led them across a wild desert with precious gifts in hand. It’s what shone above a humble dwelling, revealing a holy trinity–mother, father, child. It’s what revealed the Christ, a promise of hope, salvation, peace on earth, and goodwill toward all.

It’s what leads us each year away from our mundane, daily lives to a world full of wonder, magic, and mystery. It’s what drops us to our knees in recognition of the vastness and beauty of the universe, and our own humble and radiant place within it.

For me Christmas will forever be wrapped in the silence of a starry night, the background against which the beautiful pageantry and rituals and traditions of Christmas unfold.

All unite in igniting that sense of awe and wonder and delight, of humility and holiness:

The Christmas tree all aglow in the dark, pointing upward to the heavens.

The magical whimsy of that great gifter, Santa, driving his sleigh across a night full of stars.

The children tucked in their beds as their fondest wishes magically descend in the night to await the first light.

Whole streets full of houses ablaze in the night, inviting the gasps of wonder and delight in the young at heart.

Candles shining in a still, dark church as voices unite and rise in songs of joy and adoration.

All are mere reflections and whimsical mimicry of that first night of wonder so long ago. It’s what brought us, and still brings us, to our knees when we realize all that childlike wonder and delight, humility and awe, generosity and love and innocence, lies deeply embedded in each one of us.

It signifies a promise of hope, salvation, and wholeness. Of identity with out own Christ-like nature, our own unity with the divine.

We are that shining star in a dark night.

We are those humble shepherds and adoring Magi.

We are that infant cradled in the holy Trinity.

We are that promise of hope and salvation and holiness.

Christmas is the Christ, and a bright star in a dark night is what leads us to him, to our own humble rebirth full of awe and wonder: the recognition of the Christ in each of us.

May the peace and power and glory of the Christ be with you all this Christmas.

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Walters, “The Adoration of the Shepherds”

 

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From “Christmas throughout Christendom – The Christmas Tree”

 

Painting, a New Passion

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Detail from painting by Van Gogh

Writing has always been the primary passion in my life, the thing I love most to do and identify with. I began blogging as a way to share my writing and the things I’m inspired to write about. Art has been one of those inspirations, particularly the paintings I fall in love with.

In one post I compared writing with painting: “Images and ideas are the paint, words the loaded brush, and sentences our brushstrokes. The mind and imagination of both writer and reader is the blank canvas.”

Writers paint portraits of our characters in the minds of readers and place them in dramatic scenes.  We use lighting and color to evoke mood and atmosphere, and prop “still lifes” about them, revealing tiny details that suggest associations and symbols and themes.

The idea of painting has always intrigued me and I longed to try my hand at it one day. That desire became particularly loud when I was sick to death of words. Yes, even writers weary of words. Then the idea of painting, working with pure pigment and brush strokes on a blank page instead of words, words, words–so fraught with meaning–seemed utterly refreshing.

Writing with no words–that’s what my soul sought.

Watercolor drew my interest. I loved the lightness, the fluidity, the transparency of the medium. But when I was finally ready to paint, the only class I could find was in pastel. So I began playing with pastel about a year ago. While a few paintings were successful and deemed wall-worthy, more often I felt frustrated by my efforts.

Finally a class in watercolor opened up and I feel now I’ve found my medium. Nearly everything I’ve painted so far gives me pleasure. Finally my walls are beginning to feel the presence of my new passion.

I’ve found with painting the kind of satisfaction I’ve rarely found in writing. I always wanted my writing to find a place in the world. I wrote for myself, but also for something beyond me. I wanted my writing wedded to a world apart. Few pieces have found that bliss, and even those that have I still view with misgivings as I wrote about in one post.

But painting doesn’t feel that way. It’s a child that never has to find a place outside my own home. I paint for the pleasure of the process, and also the pleasure I feel from the finished product. It’s something I can enjoy that needs no outward approval.

Much of my writing remains an unwedded bride, an unsung song, a bright promise languishing in a dark corner.

But my painting is a child who needs no one but me to love and enjoy her to feel fulfilled.

It’s a rare blessing.

 

 

A Balm to Calm the Troubled Mind

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Cc Palojono Hills of Vietnam flickr-5224736618-original

In these seemingly dark and troubling times, I’m finding that reflecting on the following words of wisdom to be a soothing and enlightening antidote. It’s from a well-worn book that I’ve treasured over the years: Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series, by D. T. Suzuki, first published in 1949. The following selected passages come from a liberal translation of a poem written by the Zen master Tao-hsin in the 6th century.

Inscribed on the Believing Mind-Heart

The Perfect way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preference:
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.

To set up what you like against what you dislike—
The is the disease of the mind:
When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood
Peace of mind is disturbed and nothing is gained.

Pursue not the outer entanglements,
Dwell not in the inner void;
When the mind rests serene in the oneness of things,
The dualism vanished by itself.

Tarry not with dualism,
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong,
Confusion ensues, the mind is lost.

The two exist because of the one,
But hold not even to this one;
When the one mind is not disturbed,
The ten thousand things offer no offence.

The Great Way is clam and large-minded,
Nothing is easy and nothing is hard:
Small views are irresolute,
The more in haste the tardier they go.

Clinging never keeps itself within bound,
It is sure to go in the wrong way:
Let go loose, and things are as they may bee,
While the essence neither departs nor abides.

Obey the nature of things, and you are n concord with the Way,
Calm and easy and free from annoyance;
But when your thoughts are tied, you turn away from the truth,
They grow heavier and duller and are not at all sound.

Gain and loss, right and wrong—
Away with them all.

In the higher realm of True Suchness
There is neither “other” nor “self”:
When a direct identification is asked for,
We can only say, ‘Not two.”

The infinitely small is large as large can be,
When external conditions are forgotten;
The infinitely large is as small as small can be,
When objective limits are put out of sight.

One in all,
All in one—
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect!

No more worry about the world we live in not being perfect. When was it ever?

No more worry about Hillary losing and Trump winning, when viewing the world from the larger perspective. His presidency will last at most 8 years. In a thousand years what will it matter?

What matters now are creating minds and hearts free from hate, free from clinging, free from worry. When have these negatives ever helped us create a better world?

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working as hard as we can to create that better world–however we may envision it. It’s just that so many who don’t envision it the way we do are working just as hard.

The trick is to work without attachment to the result. For attachment creates clinging, opposition, frustration, hate and war when things aren’t going our way. And when it is going our way, it creates smugness, complacency, and self-righteousness superiority. And then, after all our striving, the world will turn, and everything is upside-down again.

How to end this vicious circle? Only within our own minds and hearts. It’s the only place we can truly reign, the only place where the good fight can truly be won–not in the outside world.

Working toward our goals with true “oneness” in mind, seeing others as ourselves, as “not-two,” we help free the world just a little bit from the hate and fear and selfishness and greed that cause so much pain and suffering. And the more who do so, the wider the influence. But it starts with us, with the One. We are that one.

So why do I keep forgetting this over and over and over again?

Why do I strive and cling, and then rebel when things don’t go my way?

When will I ever let go and just be?

 

Waking Up in an Alternate Reality

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From Paradise Lost

I woke this morning feeling as if I had  been tossed from the real world into an alternate universe–where Trump had become president. I kept grasping for something that would allow me to return to that safer and saner world where Hillary had won.

How could a man who had said such vile things about women and immigrants, who had mocked the disabled, insulted POW war heroes, bashed Gold Star families, and belittled worthy adversaries become the leader of our nation and the free world?

How could the most qualified person ever to seek the presidential office, who had worked her whole life to help children, oppressed women, and working families, who would in turn break a long-standing ceiling to become the first woman to hold the highest office in our land–how could she lose to him?

I felt sure there must be another reality in which she had prevailed. So why had I and so many unwilling been tossed into this one? Was there something here I needed to learn?

So I grasped at straws, hoping this new reality under a Trump presidency wouldn’t be as bad as I feared.

Perhaps Trump the con artist, playing to the crowd all along, didn’t believe the worst of what he had said and would not pursue the worst of his claims. Perhaps now that he had won and didn’t have to fool anyone any more, his once liberal leanings would emerge–a way to pay back all the Republicans who hadn’t supported him or believed he could win.

Sadly, the belief that this all had been a scam to win the biggest ego prize ever was the only source of hope I could muster for a while. I just prayed that despite this he would keep his promise to help those who have felt left out of the American dream. I hoped he had enough integrity to do at least that much.

A faint hope, but it was all I had.

Until I heard Hillary’s concession speech. And then I cried tears of gratitude. I had never been so proud of her–and of us, as Americans–as I was then.

She said:

“We must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

“Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power,” she added. “We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.”

“This is painful, and it will be for a long time, but I want you to remember this: Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election. It was about the country we love.”

“To all the little girls watching this, never doubt that you are powerful and valuable and deserving of every chance in the world.”

“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

I knew then that hate hadn’t trumped love, as I had feared when I woke. Even in this seemingly alternate reality where Trump was president.

If this brave, strong, and loving woman could keep an open mind and look with hope and optimism to the future–despite her tremendous loss, then so could I.

Maybe that’s what I needed to learn.

Thank you, Hillary. I can feel my heart starting to heal already.

The Mysterious & Poetic Paintings of Odilon Redon

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Andromeda by Odilon Redon

I’ve become fascinated by the paintings of Redon (1840-1916), a French artist and Symbolist working mostly in charcoal, pastel, and oil. I included one of his paintings in my last post called “La Barque.”  I even went so far as to paint a study of it in watercolor as a way to loosen up my own work and let imagination and feeling help free me from an over-reliance on realism.

Many of his paintings feature boats, the sea, and underwater images, which no doubt is why I first gravitated to his work. But I think his musical compositions, his richly saturated colors, and his turn toward the poetic–the mystical and mythical–also drew me. Even perhaps his interest in Eastern philosophy, in Buddha and Hinduism, the indeterminate and invisible. In all these ways he is an artist that speaks to my heart.

Many of his paintings are dream-like. They evoke reality rather than depict it. On his painting entitled  “Underwater Vision,” he wrote:  “You will feel the poetry of the sands, the charms of the air of the imperceptible line. While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.”

His earlier work, mostly in charcoal and lithograph, was dark and sometimes seemed demonic (a spider with a human head, for instance.) But later they became full of light. One art historian says that Redon began to want his works to portray “the triumph of light over darkness.”

Redon wrote: “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”

Here are a few of his works that inspire me and show a range of his subjects.

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Pandore

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The Yellow Sail, Final Journey, Guardians of the Soul

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Underwater Vision

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Homage to Leonardo da Vinci

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Homage to Gauguin

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Evocation of Butterflies

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Buddha

Soul-Searching in a Sea of Images

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Painting by Erin Gregory

I stayed up late last night, way past my bed time, searching Pinterest for images to save to my boards.It was a quiet and soothing experience, punctuated by intense pleasure when I came across something that spoke to me, made my heart sing, or feel a deep, abiding resonance.

It reminded me of the pure pleasure and satisfaction I felt when I was living aboard La Gitana, foraging beneath the sea for food–pin scallops, lion paws, conch. There’s a certain mind-set you acquire when searching for something that lies half-hidden among all the other equally beautiful and arresting shapes of sea life. While swimming along the surface of things, your mind is keenly tuned toward just that precise shape and color that you know will yield what you are looking for. And when you see it, you dive down deep with knife and net in hand to retrieve it, before resurfacing to continue the hunt.

In the case of image collecting, the “food” I seek is for the mind and soul, something that touches me in such a way I feel blessed for having found it, for allowing my eyes to feast upon it, for letting what it was the artist sought to articulate speak to me.

In addition to that deep-souled searching is a more practical pursuit as I learn to paint with watercolor and pastel–a need to understand why certain images affect me in certain ways, and how the artist induces those felt-responses. How do colors and shapes and textures, certain strokes and effects, delight and move me the way they do? What makes the images arresting? What makes my eye linger here and not there? To feel such a connection that I want to “save” it, so I can return again and again to bask and meditate?

What creates this resonance, and what does it say about me, and about the artist?

I want to learn to apply paint to paper in a way that expresses my own delight in things that will move others as well. How do we share what’s deep and meaningful and enriching  to us with others? Especially when what we find so striking or moving lies half-hidden within, not something we can clearly put our finger on–only feel.

So much to muse upon.

Here are a few of the paintings that moved and delighted me last night as I swam and dove among a sea of images on Pinterest.

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Ocean Light II by John Hulsey

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La Barque by Odilon Redon

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A Wedding in December by Bill Gingles

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The Parkway by Henri Manguin

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Liminal Moment by Bobbette Rose

For Love of Chaos – My Viking Binge, Trump, & Wrecking-Ball Politics

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viking-from-the-vikings-maxresdefaultSince becoming the full-time nanny for my little granddaughter, my reading tastes have taken a decisive darker turn. Instead of the lyrical literary novels I’mm usually drawn to, I’ve been on a Viking binge.

It started with Bernard Cromwell’s The Saxon Stories, upon which the acclaimed BBC series “The Last Kingdom” is based. It continued with Judson Roberts’ “The Strongbow Saga“, Giles Kristoan’s “Raven Trilogy”, and James Wilde’s books about Hereward, the English hero that some claim the Robin Hood tales were based on.

The question puzzling me for quite some time is why this dark turn toward such violent reads? What is it that draws me to them and keeps me reading?

I may have found at least a partial answer in one of Kristian’s books, when the young Viking Raven muses on “the love of chaos.” How even in the most life-threatening moments, when absolute silence is needed to keep death from descending and destroying them all, part of him wants to cry out and “turn that still night into seething madness.” Part of him wants to “break through the thick ice of that mute terror, for even chaos would be better than waiting, than expecting the fire to reach out of the night and eat your flesh.”

Perhaps we’ve all felt a bit of that “love of chaos” at some time in our lives. Felt in the face of some extreme danger a wild giddy urge–to run the car off the edge of a dark winding road, to step off the edge of the cliff into the wild-blue thrill of free-fall. Perhaps all extreme sport enthusiasts harbor a bit of this in their hearts when attempting their death-defying stunts. The mad desire to push past the edge of all reason into a wild unknown.

Maybe my turn toward these violent reads is a dormant “love of chaos,” the urge to experience, if only vicariously, that death-defying thrill. To travel with these warriors into a dark unknown as they risk death and destruction in a daring quest for gold and glory. To risk all to see what great gain may stand on the other side. Or not.

I can’t help seeing some of this “love of chaos” playing out on the political stage today in what some have called a kind of “wrecking-ball” mentality in some American voters. Their impatience with restraint, nuance, diplomacy, and what they see as political correctness. The wild urge to tear it all down, all apart, and see what rises out of the ashes. They see Trump as wielding the wrecking ball that will destroy the status quo in the wild hope that out of such chaos will come gold and glory.

I’m far from being a Trump fan, but I do understand that wild impulse. In certain seemingly hopeless situations, throwing caution to the wind has a strong appeal. The desperate hope is that chaos itself will become the cauldron out of which a new, better world will emerge.

This urge toward chaos has strong a strong corollary in nature, in the violent upheavals that impose a new order:  The shifting Teutonic plates that broke apart to create the continents and seas that sustain life today. The glaciers that ripped away vast chunks of earth to carve out spectacular canyons and riverbeds. The wild-fire that brings so much destruction, yet germinates new seeds for future forests.The list goes on.

“Out of chaos the dancing star is born.”  So sang the poet.

Perhaps this love of chaos is etched into our DNA.  We can’t escape it, but we can try to understand it, in ourselves and each other.

I’m hoping our better angels, our more reasonable natures, will prevail in the November election, and we do not trust our future to the chaos of wrecking-ball politics. But it’s important to try to understand what gives rise to these desparate tendencies. To not make the mistake of thinking we are above it all, that only the others, the so-called “deplorables,” have such dark urges. Hate, racism, xenophobia, terrorism–if we look deep enough into our own hearts and minds we will find the seeds of each, whether lying dormant or on fertile ground. We have to see this, and understand it in ourselves, before we can understand it in others. And learn to rein it in.

Young Raven learned to rein in his urge toward chaos that dark and deadly night, and he and his companions lived to fight again for gold and glory. Learning when to let our wilder urges move us forward, and when to rein them is what will move all of us closer to our own common goals, whether they be of gold and glory, or peace and prosperity and a better world.