Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
magnus homestead

Zen and the Art

Recommended Posts

Hello All,

 

I've been enjoying this TCP for over a year now and am constantly amazed at the depth of talent and character of the members.

I want to present a couple of my own experiences with the creation of objects of art to see if others have had similar happenings or feelings. Let me say that I have long felt that art was truly a Path or a Way to explore and discover deeper layers or states of conciousness. Let me also state that I do not follow any particular religion or belief system. Words are rather poor means of expressing these levels of being as they are so limited and vague and are so often mistaken for reality instead of thought forms - - - so please bear with me.

 

Some years ago I met a man who turned me on to the art of handraising vessels - a process of hammering and heating a sheet of metal dozens of times to achieve a hollow form such as a bowl or vase. The process takes a great many hours and unlike working in clay where one can watch as your bowl grows upwards in your hands in a quick delightful way, one must have patience and faith that the process will in time produce the desired results.

 

One day while looking at a tall vase this man had hammered, I became aware that the texture was a "natural" and "organic"

texture such as one would find on a tree bark or a rock. Not a simulation of a natural texture, but an "actual natural texture". This was a result of the craftsman becoming part of a long organic process hammering for perhaps a hundred hours on the same surface of the metal. I was, shortly after this, reading "Zen and the Art of Archery" and noticed the part where the author was relating the effect of the Zen Master drawing the bow on the subsequent student's attempt at drawing the same bow. Apparently, the Master having drawn the bow allowed the student to do so more easily by way of an energy transfer to the bow itself. This brought to mind a statement by Theobold Boehm (the inventor of the modern Key Systems for flutes,etc.)

in his book on flute playing that the way that a person played a metal flute had a lasting effect on the physical caracteristics of the flute itself - played well, it would be more easily played by another.

I had already found that handraising was to me a form meditation and so I began an experiment to see if I could transfer energy through me into a bowl. I set up a work space at the edge of my woods ( I live in a rural setting where Native Americans used to have a longhouse on my site). I raised a small brass bowl of rather ordinary porportions and shape, taking about 20 hours of hammering and annealing. However, during the entire procedure I concentrated on breathing and focusing the energy of the natural setting onto and into the bowl I was raising.

 

A few weeks later I was doing a metal arts show at a large venue in Portland Oregon. I had two cases of gold jewelry set with glittering colored stones and fully lighted. On a small table at my booth I had the modest brass bowl on display.

 

During the show I noticed two ladies looking at my booth from across the room - - they walked over and walked right up to the bowl and began to put their hands out around it as one might do to warm your hands by a woodstove. They looked at each other and smiled - looked at me and smiled - I smiled back. They left and came back. "We would like to inquire about your bowl - - do you feel you personally put the energy into it?" "No" I replied, " It came through me, not from me."

"We would like to buy it " and they did. They did the very same thing the next year ( I had made one more piece - this time a vase) I wrote them a thankyou card and asked them what was "the energy" they were talking about - they wrote back a very cool letter explaining to me that they were therapists who worked with trauma victims and such works of art helped their clients feel safe and secure. They stated that the energy was a loving pure energy and they had some paintings from a woman who was a Buddhist who meditated for hours before painting and these had the same energy.

 

I'm curious - what do you all think about this - does your art feel Sacred to you? Have you noticed anyone conciously or unconciously responding to your work on this sort of "deeper" level of "Being"?

 

. . . Magnus . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ford hallam

Magnus,

 

thank you for being so open and honest with sharing those, obviously very intimate, experiences and thoughts with us. I particularly resonated with your recognition of that "actual natural texture". I feel that the subtleties you are refering to are very sacred and I have much that I would like to offer too. I will feel my way to what I can express in words and try and add something later today.

 

Thanks again for a beautiful start to a very special topic. :ph34r:

 

Namaste, Ford

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the energy transferred to the object or to the creator of the object? I believe that in your personal experience (and, similarly, mine as well), the creative energy was channeled directly to your being. Some of what you speak of brings "chi" to mind. Other elements seem to bring the positive energy of the universe into play, as described in the book: "The Secret". Possibly this magic can be contained within your creation, but I believe it came from you, not another object that was your inspiration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Magnus,

Your thoughts and story have made my morning. Your comment on 'actual natural texture' gave me some insight and a 'eureka' moment to boot! I think I've overlooked something so straightforward and simple. Thank you. I'll do some thinking about what you bring up. At first glance, I know what you are describing, but I'm not sure I've achieved it personally. You're fortunate for this accomplishment- I think they're few and far between.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ford hallam

I've given this quite a bit of thought today and while I don't want to deny anyone's personal experience, or faith, I have a somewhat different view of similar experiences.

 

I should start by saying that iIam more than familiar with the concept of chi, or ki, having spent more than a couple of decades practicing classical martial arts. One of the things that has often struck me in this area is the almost total absence of any talk of energy as it is "understood" in the new age sense. Herrigels lovely little book ( Zen and the art of archery ) is considered by most classical paractitioners in Japan as being a bit fanciful to say the least. Now I'm not denying that there is a lot more to this universe than we can imagine ( to paraphrase Shakespear) but I see no reason to ascribe, what I experience as perfectly explicable consequences of good work, to "higher forces".

 

I genuinely believe that what we are talking about is the natural consequence of skilled and sensitive work being performed while being "in the flow". This state, which has been quite extensively studied in recent years, and applied to the training of top level, professional athletes, has in fact long been a part of the much older, warrior training methods used by the Samurai.

 

In a nutshell, being "in the flow" is described as those times when you are utterly lost in the process you are involved in. All your training and skill is on autopilot and all is running smoothly. Your only awareness, is a dim perception that you are somehow "doing" this but you appear to be making no conscious decisions. There is no inner dialogue and you generally feel serene and in the moment. I'll grant you, it does sound like a pretty amazing state to attain and it can easily be seen how it could so easily be taken to be a spiritual experience. Those of you with any experience of meditation may recognise much in that description but I will insist that this is purely the result of dedicated training. Now you might argue that in this it is just the same as meditation then, and I'd have to agree with you. However, there is still no need to ascribe any of this to any external force, energy, power or grace. Neither do I believe that "the muse" has much to do with it either.

 

I don't want to appear to be some cold, analytical and soulless naysayer but I feel that Man's achievements by his (or her) own efforts, skills and intellect are more than wonderous enough for me.

 

I'll just end by saying that "exceptional claims require exceptional proof", and so far I've not needed any exceptional evidence nor proof to "explain" my own most intimate and "spiritual" moments.

 

Namaste, Ford

 

p.s.

Just to reiterate, I am in no way denying that there are many things that we experience as objective reality which modern understanding seems to refute. In most of these matters I remain an agnostic. In some areas I'm convinced of the absence of anything of consequence while in other specific areas I "know" that there is something profound at work. Just not in this general case. I'm perfectly happy to take Magnus's word on the validity of his own experience as he so eloquently described ( As I read it this morning I felt quite emotional in fact) and certainly do not doubt his sincerity, however, this does not alter my own experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello,

Thanks for your considerate response to this thread Ford.

Just want to make a quick response to your input here. Perhaps we can delve further but I won't get into defending any of my observations - just putting them out there to see what might relate to other's experiences.

As you probably know, the entire material universe is made of energy and only appears as it does to our senses through a remarkable set of coherent organizing systems. I am totally agnostic in regard to how this all works and do not consider myself New Age at all. I'm quite the skeptic. I've done some KarateDo - enough to get the hang of the disipline. You are correct about your descriptions of "in the flow" - at least as these relate to my own work and living. (That's why I love kayaks so much)

 

I will relate another experience I had in my life that points me to believing there is more connection between the various parts of the universe than is commonly held by the material view.

This happened in about 1977 in Albuquerque N.M. I had been rather intrigued by the works of Carlos Castenada - an anthropologist who was supposedly taken into an apprenticeship with an Apache Brujo. One day I was out for a walk and had stopped to sit and read one of a series of books by this author. I was sitting against a wall at a highschool campus. I suddenly got a feeling that this "way" of Don Juan's teachings was so wrong for me that I stood up, put the paperback into my pocket and began walking - all in one motion and with no consideration. As I walked toward the corner of Central Ave. and the schoolyard, I saw a young man I'd never seen before, walking down Central. It came into my mind that he wanted the book I had. We met at the intersection(dare I say the "crossroads") and I said hello. He asked my if I knew where there was a bookstore. I told him of 2 and inquired as to the book he wanted ( my mind just knowing it was mine ). "Tales of Power" by Carlos Castenada he answered. I took the book from my back pocket, handed it to him and told him"I think this is for you." - - - Totally blew my mind. I was not on drugs and I am not

embelishing this in any way. I'm sure you can find a way to put it down to co-incidence, but for me, I was there and I had the experience.

 

Back to carving and other craft - I do think we are working with energy and I personally will always feel the sacredness of art and it's connecting quality throughout the world.

 

Namaste,

Magnus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ford hallam

Hi Magnus,

 

sorry if you got the impression that I expected you to defend your experience. I thought I made it clear that I absolutely respected and accepted what you described as being valid for you.

 

I also did'nt suggest that you were "new age" but that the unqualified and undefined use of the word "energy" was. The fact that matter is merely coherent patterns of energy, while true on a quantum level is not particularly helpful in this discussion as the transference and transmutation of these very specific energy patterns are very precicely predicted by the laws of science. The leap you are implying is simply not accounted for nor is it possible to talk of the human qualities of energy while making any reference to science.

 

I enjoyed your story of synchronicity but why you think I would want to put it down to, merely co-incidence escapes me. I think I made it clear that I am not a total athiest in these matters. The fact is it was a co-incidence, that you want to take that and make a leap of faith as to what it "means" or may indicate, is your choice. It was, after all, a totally subjective experience and one which you can use as you please. Personally, I have to remain agnostic on things like this as I feel there is just not enough for me to make any sort of informed opinion with. For what it's worth I've also had a number of extremely "unusual" and inexplicable experiences thus far in my life but nothing hangs together in any sort of testable way nor ultimately is any random speculation of any real use to me.

 

Back to carving and other craft - I do think we are working with energy and I personally will always feel the sacredness of art and it's connecting quality throughout the world.

 

Your last comment will get no argument from me other than the use of the term "energy" in this context, but I think I've covered that.

 

cheers, Ford

 

and as a last thought, if the energy of the universe ( however we choose to define it) is not flowing through you then it probably means that as an organism your are utterly inert, or dead. As it goes, nothing is completely stable nor static, entropy will have it's way....eventually. Panta rei~ all things flow

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Magnus,

 

I am somewhat of a skeptic, and tend to run for the hills whenever I get the sense that someone is trying to put anything that remotely smells of "new age" over on me. However, I too have had similar experiences, far too many and too significant to chalk it up to coincidence, and believe, like you that that there is far more to this world than our current limited understanding of science is capable of seeing, let alone explaining.

 

Ford,

 

I find your comments about being in the flow very true, and dead on. I know exactly what you mean, but my experiences tell me there is something else at play though, beyond being in the groove (as I have always described it). I can't explain it, and don't really try. For me, "it" exists.

 

Thank you for this wonderful posting! You have given me much to consider today.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Clive
As you probably know, the entire material universe is made of energy and only appears as it does to our senses through a remarkable set of coherent organizing systems. I am totally agnostic in regard to how this all works and do not consider myself New Age at all. I'm quite the skeptic.

 

I don't quite understand.... how one can be "totally agnostic" yet "be quite the skeptic" and then state that the "entire material universe is made of energy" and ..... oh I give up on the last bit.. coherent thingie-me-bobs? :mellow:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I waited to see where this would lead and wanted to sort through my own thoughts on the matter. I apologize up front for the long winded and to some, the overly romantic view taken.

 

First I have achieved a natural texture only once. This was on a sculpture that was worked and reworked several times over a period of years. Thousands of individual cuts to remove finish and to further shape the piece transformed the surface into something I have been either unable or unwilling to reproduce since. It did become a meditative act.

 

I do not personally believe there is such a thing as "new age". Living in the center of a so-called "new age" city where any kind of thought, religion, medicine or study is available in some form has shown me a great deal. What I see is age old ideas, practices, arts and religions being repackaged and sold. The language has been modernized, the concepts updated to "RELATE" to the modern world and a price tag has been attached. Being agnostic is more modern age. You don't hear of many agnostics before the Victorian era. Maybe little events like the Inquisition stopped or suppressed public exploration into that direction.

 

I understand the "flow" and I strive for those rare moments of clarity when all is centered (new age language) and effortless. It is at these times when I believe that transference of shall we say passion takes place. Do we not all have a passion, a need and a drive to create, to try to bring "life" to our work, to try to "say" something? Can any of us honestly say that what we are striving for is merely unsurpassed technical skill combined with a genius for composition? Sure I would settle for that but it would not stop my work once achieved? I would still strive to be better, strive to bring that quality, that passion that touches people to my work. To understand and recognize is not enough. Why do we sit for hours drawing an insect or animal trying to "know" it, to figure out the movements of the creature before we work? Is it to make an exact copy of the creature or are we trying to put some kind of life into it? I believe what Magnus did consciously while making the bowl we all do on some level while we work. I think we are trying to get people to respond on a deeper level. If not, are we trying to entertain them, impress them with our expertise or provide them with visually pleasing distractions?

 

Please don't tell me that when my mother said she "made it special for me with love" that what I was getting was just a well made and finely composed product. You mean to tell me there really wasn't anything special in it? I have visited many museums, viewed work from the ages by so called masters from many eras. I have also seen many finely executed and composed pieces beyond anything I will ever achieve in my life but even this simple woodcarver can recognize a work that has no life. A piece of sculpture, music, writing, whatever it may be...if it does not have that passion infused into it in its creation, to me it remains a technical work without soul, it does not speak to me, it is an exercise in technical skill only.

 

Art has historically been associated with things spiritual and not until fairly recent times has intellectual-conceptual art ever been placed before the public. Coincidentally at the same time that religions of every kind across the globe are suffering a loss of membership for lack of a better word. A rise in the intellectual process, a setback for the spiritual realm. From my experience the Modern Art section in most museums has the least people in it, is passed through the quickest and provokes the most negative commentary from the public. Creative people have always had a special (is that a good or bad thing?) place in society because of what we bring to it. As a collective do we not "transfer " something to society that it needs? Do we bring humanity, the Force (Star Wars) back in a world continually evolving into a cold, impersonal technological direction? Or is our role to document and be the mirror and conscience of society?

 

My preference is to be open to the mysteries, to explore the possibilities even if there is no scientific method to prove or disprove them. My goal has always been to make my sculpture "speak" and to try to bring life or some representation of it to the work. The process of creating is a journey of discovery about who I am, why I do what I do, what am I trying to achieve and what is important to me. I try to put those things in my work to express myself and to " provoke a dialogue with the viewer". Technical skill, composition, presentation brings the viewer in, causes amazement and appreciation... the passion is what speaks to them and touches them.

 

I'm off the soap box, have severely taxed my simple brain and truly wish there was a spell check that automatically fixed my spelling.

 

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ford hallam

Magnus,

 

you made mention of coincidence earlier, I thought you might be interested in a book titled "Beyond coincidence" by Martin Plimmer and Brian King. Not only does it tell some really amazing stories involving truely staggering coincidences but it explores the probabilities, the effect of these events on our lives and the possible machanisms at work.

 

regards, Ford

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"From my experience the Modern Art section in most museums has the least people in it, is passed through the quickest and provokes the most negative commentary from the public." -Mark Strom

 

In my opinion that's because much of it is more about the artist than the art. Most people could care less about others whom they cannot relate to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi There,

 

Just wanted to say a general thanks to all of you folks. I appreciate being able to share and discuss in this way.

Mark,

You have eloquently described much of how I feel about art.

Phil,

As always, it seems, I like your attitude.

Mike,

Right on.

Doug,

I think, like Mark suggests, you already do bring this into your work.

Ford,

Thank you so much. Do you have a degree in philosophy? - you remind me a lot of my father in the way you discuss - he would always seem to call me out and find ways to trip me up on my terminology and such and yet was not really at odds with me - he just liked

the debate. I much more enjoyed the tennis, hiking and fishing with him. He, also was a good sorce for books. Thanks for your suggestion - I'll check it out.

 

Happy Carving!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ford hallam

Hi Magnus,

 

no degrees for this peasant :D, but I reckon my father may have enjoyed talking with yours :mellow:

 

Clarity of thought = clarity of expression and vision.

 

Namaste, Ford

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×