Collaborative Art with Dr. Ari
Along with the talk, we created a collaborative art and gifting space. Here are some photos from the art room:
Some days we get sloshed around by the elements, sometimes they stick us in a shady spot under the trees on a hot day, or maybe we're caught amidst the trouble of too many parts, somehow they don't fit together.
But sometimes we think as we are building the thing itself, and our design shifts as each step is performed, new problems arise like what we could have never imagined, no matter how hard we planned for them. In fact, everything we thought would be a problem wasn't, and everything we thought would be easy took a hell-of-a-long time.
But we, us, any persistent executor of creation, know that to mould something from our minds means working the surface of these three dimensions, trying to shape matter and circumstance to fit the picture in our minds. Too much planning without acting asks us to attempt the impossible: to envision the problems we have never before encountered, and try to solve them. But how can a solution arise before the problem is known?
I'm in the business of trading fours with the world around me. And often what I receive in return is a warped prototype, some result that shows me my dreams still don't exist yet, not so long as they reside in my head, not until thy are put up to the mirror of the world and I may compare, seeing the planes of intersection, and still those places that don't quite measure up.
The architect knows that fusion can't be bought. The artist too. That the deliciousness of forms encounter expectation must be worked though in a series of trials and errors, shifted expectations, new visions for what might be possible. The scientist wades around this swamp of knowledge, knowing that some solution must exist, some example of union and proof that the dreams behind his or her eyes are not simply mirages, not simply the untended wild-lands of the mind.
No, these dreams are the guides, and our attempts are the teachers, and one day we will find a world somehow matching our beautiful and delicately crafted imagination, but only when the work has been done, only when we have laid our strokes down again and again in the off chance that the colors come out right this time.
Imagine if you could change history on the span of a moment. If the "I" that you inhabit becomes the "I" of all creation. In this place would there be any problem? Would there be any need to solve something?
We struggle today to feel connected. Our mismanaged values fray at the edges, unattended promises and the magnifying pain of injury done again and again in our unwillingness to face the error of our altruism: That any creation, any act to connect or repair or fix, even with the best intention, carries with it a darker side of hurt and destruction.
We fix the ground under our industrial farms by putting poison into it. We fix our traffic by building bigger and wider roads. We help the population by providing more food and better living standards. And in each step, the poison begets a stronger and stronger pest--diseases wipe out entire farms, roads inspire more cars to be driven, food and shelter grow the population. We temporarily satisfy our needs, and in the vacancy of our "successful" work, the human organism grows once again to spill over, requiring once again more fixes, more help, better infrastructure and the like. This cycle consumes us.
As an activist, this is a difficult position to accept. I can imagine this leading to a feeling of hopelessness and degradation. How can I, in my attempt to cultivate connection, guide my actions to bear a completely positive impact on my environment?
The answer: What makes me think that I can have power over my environment?
Nature is the best farmer. The forests have flourished for hundreds of thousands of years without intervention. The food that was needed for organisms to survive was provided. Even humans were provided what they needed.
As soon as we began looking into nature as something to be owned and operated, as soon as we had to "Manage our Forests" and "Provide Food," we created a culture of lack. Suddenly we did indeed require more food. Suddenly the forests did indeed take an incredible amount of energy to maintain.
The best farmer is the one that allows nature to do the work it knows how to do. The one who removes obstacles, who removes the poisons and imbalance and creates a space that nature uninhabited can transform. It is folly to think that we have to "do" anything, because that implies a dualism, that something needs to be fixed, that the world needs to be saved.
And so in that moment of purest connection an realization, no, there would be no need to solve anything. There would be no need. The "I" of all creation would witness the complex and intricate story from beginning to end. Life and death would be equals.
But we are not there. We are still bodies, still minds surrounded by solid objects and real needs, and we see the world, and ourselves in it, in turmoil. We DO participate in this game of duals, of estimating value and making choices, simply by eating food and keeping ourselves alive.
So the work is then twofold: 1) Prepare the mind for a more true sense of listening, for a capacity to sit with uncomfortable truths and feel connected to things in their natural order, and 2) Act in a way that removes obstacles in the way of this connection.
Advertise connection, give it away for free, and adhere to the precepts of non-harming. We harm the problem by trying to solve it. If we act in a way that positively communicates abundance, then abundance will be ours at last.
We were told, these are the rules. "They were established, and I know they don't make sense," we say, "but I am powerless to change them."
There is a story that I like telling. In this universe, it was discovered that time moves slower at higher altitudes. Interested in saving minutes on their hours, the people all moved up to the mountains. They began populating the highest peaks, thirsting after every gain they could accomplish. Soon the mountains weren't enough. The people started building houses on stilts. They would climb up their long ladders and sit at home all day, relishing their minutes saved.
Whenever anyone had to do business in the valley, they would rush down, terrified of time getting the best of them. They would conduct whatever needed to be done and return home quickly, back to the safety of altitude.
After several generations, the children still lived in these houses on stilts. They were terrified of the low places. And they had forgotten why they felt this way, why they did the things they did. It was the way things had always been, unquestionable.
And as they were, so are we. Caught supporting an ungainly machine built for purposes that are not our own, we acknowledge its destructiveness and insensitivity to legitimate human needs, and continue feeding it.
What would remain if our support were to disperse? What would happen if we took to the valleys? If we saw our stilts from below, in all their silly posturing? Would it fall about us in ruin? Would it remain a peaceful artifact to a listless and absurd past? Would we finally understand what our parents had been running from?
Freedom is the possibility of an individual to realize their fullest potential. Access to the resources necessary for facilitating growth. And the capability to refuse participation in any activity that limits the freedom of others.
Because time is precious. But only when given. Only when shared with others. Only when our actions meet the world's greatest needs do we find true joy and satisfaction. And we can only give ourselves in this way when we answer another question: What is the world?
It is not an artifact. It is not a web of rules and policies. It is the living, breathing NOW that asks with enduring patience for us to listen to our hearts. And when we know what we care about, we will know what needs to be done.