Clear, shadowless sensing; inspired writing. Who else but David Abram?
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Late one evening, I stepped out of my little hut in the rice paddies of eastern Bali and found myself falling through space. Over my head the black sky was rippling with stars, densely clustered in some regions, almost blocking out the darkness between them, and loosely scattered in other areas, pulsing and beckoning to each other. Behind them all streamed the great river of light, with its several tributaries. But the Milky Way churned beneath me as well, for my hut was set in the middle of a large patchwork of rice paddies, separated from each other by narrow, two-foot-high dikes, and these paddies were all filled with water. By day, the surface of these pools reflected perfectly the blue sky, a reflection broken only by the thin, bright-green tips of new rice. But by night, the stars themselves glimmered from the surface of the paddies, and the river of light whirled through the darkness underfoot as well as above; there seemed no ground in front of my feet, only the abyss of starstudded space falling away forever.
I was no longer simply beneath the night sky, but also above it; the immediate impression was of weightlessness. I might perhaps have been able to reorient myself, to regain some sense of ground and gravity, were it not for a fact that confounded my senses entirely: between the galaxies below and the constellations above drifted countless fireflies, their lights flickering like the stars, some drifting up to join the constellations overhead, others, like graceful meteors, slipping down from above to join the constellations underfoot, and all these paths of light upward and downward were mirrored, as well, in the still surface of the paddies. I felt myself at times falling through space, at other moments floating and drifting. I simply could not dispel the profound vertigo and giddiness; the paths of the fireflies, and their reflections in the water’s surface, held me in a sustained trance. Even after I crawled back to my hut and shut the door on this whirling world, the little room in which I lay seemed itself to be floating free of the Earth.
– David Abram: The Spell of the Sensuous
The Alliance for Wild Ethics
John Ruskin: Rough sketches of tree growth, pen and neutral tint.
Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.
– John Ruskin
Quoted in The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
Image © University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum
John Ruskin at the artisans’ gallery
seeing without shadows
This awareness that the observer is the observed is not a process of identification with the observed. To identify ourselves with something is fairly easy. Most of us identify ourselves with something – with our family, our husband or wife, our nation – and that leads to great misery and great wars. We are considering something entirely different and we must understand it not verbally but in our core, right at the root of our being.
In ancient China before an artist began to paint anything – a tree, for instance – he would sit down in front of it for days, months, years. He did not identify himself with the tree but he was the tree. This means that there was no space between him and the tree, no space between the observer and the observed, no experiencer experiencing the beauty, the movement, the shadow, the depth of a leaf, the quality of colour. He was totally the tree, and in that state only could he paint.
– J Krishnamurti,
Freedom from the Known
Photo credit: Friedrich Grohe
the act of seeing
awareness, meditation and creativity
one with this rapturous world
… and colour was god
Amanda Robins, Vessel II (Heart), 2003, 115 x 178 cm
pencil on Arches watercolour paper
Australian art critic and author Robert Hughes has died in New York after a long struggle with worsening health problems.
I wish to honor him for all the well-known contributions he has made to our culture, including the controversial ones, and also for his insight that “we have had a gutful of fast art and food”.
Without being remotely aware of it, he was part of the team of thinkers firing my motivation to compile the awakened eye website. He features on the slow art page, which includes a brief review of the treasure of a book Slow Art: Meditative Process in Painting and Drawing, by Australian artist Amanda Robins. It seems fitting to accompany this post with one of her exquisite drawings.
The camera, if it’s lucky, may tell a different truth to drawing – but not a truer one. Drawing brings us into a different, a deeper and more fully experienced relation to the object. A good drawing says: “not so fast, buster”. We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food.
What we need more of is slow art: art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception and whose skill and doggedness makes you think and feel; art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in 10 seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.
– Robert Hughes in The Guardian, 2004
SBS news report
Amanda Robins’ website
Amanda Robins at the artisans’ gallery
meditative process made visible
… in the reality of experience there is no solid apple. The sight of an apple is actually a subtly changing visual pattern, colors of rose and crimson, red and gold, luminous hues that continually transform as the light changes or we move our head slightly. As we pick up the apple, the hard yet soft, fragrant and cool waxy skin is changing moment by moment. We then experience the wafting smell, the crunch of its flesh, the complex flavors that unfold in our mouth, cool and delicate, as the apple disappears into water and sweetness in our body. The concept of “apple” is static, an object in thought. But directly seeing, holding, eating an apple is a succession of minute, ever-changing, subtle colors, shapes, and perceptions that are never still for a moment. Everything is like this: on one level a fixed, seemingly solid world of concepts, but on another, the immediate reality, a stream of a thousand sense perceptions appearing and disappearing moment after moment. In direct perception there is no solid apple, and no solid one who perceives it.
– Jack Kornfield – The Wise Heart
Painting by Robert Spellman
robert spellman at the artisans’ gallery
one begins to glimpse nonduality
Postscript March 25, 2012:
The current edition of Gentle Voice, the online newsletter of Siddhartha’s Intent, features (among other delectable items) an article by/about Robert Spellman – It Takes Two