26 October 2007

2007-10-26 Zen and the Art of Appreciation

It is what it is - and what it isn't.

Today I'd like to revisit some of the ideas in the "balanced philosophy" entry from last month's Autumnal Equinox entry. The intent is to build a conceptual foundation both for the blog, but also for the intuitive work I do through Modern Oracle Tarot.

I love it when there are parallels and common ground between seemingly unrelated things. I've talked about concepts common to both psychic work and quantum physics on the Modern Oracle website. Today, let's look at spirituality, dogma and art appreciation.

Yes, art appreciation. My degree is in science...but my minor is art. Even then I belived we should embrace both sides of our brain.

I learned some valuable life lessons from art. One is the value of a Zen mindset when appreciating beauty. I've often heard that in art there is only one rule, and that is there are no rules! Art is expression. If something, whatever it may be, expresses the ideas or emotions of its creator, then it is an art form. Art is evokative. If something evokes an emotion within you, even if it is one of revulsion, then that something is an art form. In my experience, the best way to really experience the expression and emotion of the world around us is through the "empty cup" of Zen philosophy. If we view art without any pre-conceived notions we can see its expression and emotion in the clearest possible way. Judgementalism is block and a blanket. By dropping it, we can experience art, and life, and beauty in its purest form, and highest potentcy. It is what it is.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was in my freshman art appreciation class, we learned that good sculpture made effective use of empty space just as much as the space it occupies. The nothingness is part of composition as much as the sculpture itself. It is what it isn't.

And so it is in the realm of spirituality and religious dogma. We are defined as much by what we don't believe as what we do believe. Lynn Andrews gives a powerful example of this in her book "Crysatl Woman". Genivieve, an aboriginal medicine woman, holds up an old tin can and asks her student what she sees. Of course, the student answers that she sees a can. But then Genivieve asks why she didn't mention the firelight, or the shadows. The point being that if all were light, our eyes would be dazzled and we couldn't see the can, any more than we could if there was no light at all. It is the interplay of light and dark that allows us to see.

And this is equally true of spirituality. It is the interplay of light and dark that lets us see. A sculpture is defined both by its subsance and by the empty space that surrounds it. The spirituality and dogma that governs and guides us is defined by both our beliefs and our dis-beliefs. It is easy to chant a litany of beliefs that have been taught to us since childhood. It is far more challenging...and more rewarding...to make a conscientous choice of what we choose to believe. It more challenging and rewarding still to raise that level of conscious choice to include both belief and disagreement. The greatest beauty in this process is when we can look at those deliberate choices, lovingly accept them for what they are, without preconcieved judgements.

It is what it is, and what it isn't.

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