Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Manipulation and desire, part I

Night Blooming Cereus, Sparkill, NY
Photograph by Lee van Laer

It’s interesting to me how convinced I am that life is written in the grand gestures, out there in the future somewhere where, if I only try, I can touch it.

Last night, dozens of very small impressions touched me inside— and this is where my center of gravity, as I sense it, ought to lie, in the little things. The immediate sensation of life.

 When we talk about impressions and the way they affect us, I doubt any of us truly sense just how intimately tactile and enormously deep the contact between different impressions is. 

A combination of moonlight, stars, night air, bees clinging to the outside of the hive; a night blooming cereus just beginning to open a single,  enormous but ephemeral flower in the hope of the right moth; blended into all of that, an entire life and all that it has encountered. All of these things flowed together into a limbic moment that was just on the edge of an understanding; and this is where I always seem to find myself, right on the verge of an understanding — a great understanding, and understanding that, if you will forgive me, I can’t understand. Standing on the edge of this, I get the sense that this is the hope of consciousness: an ability to take everything in in its entirety, blended together seamlessly until it finds a complete relationship, and accept it within the heart, mind, and soul of my being.

 There is an entity, a Being, that does have this capacity in its entirety, and we call that Being God. Of course God is a person, because only a person could comprehend what we stand on the edge of; and yet, divided as it is into all the fractions of reality that blend together into the hole, personhood as we know it is unable to grasp the question properly. That is, I am unable to grasp the question properly. I can sense it organically; and that is where all of my interest lies.

I was surprised, in researching the word aesthetic, to discover that it once meant everything that is of the senses — not, as we so commonly use it today, a specifically artistic sensibility. 

I have always said that I was an aesthetician;  yet I didn’t know, using it in the sense of my skill at perceiving the artistic (I am much better at seeing what the art in a thing is than making things with art in them or, even, making things artistically) how exactly true it was. In knowing that I am a vessel into which the world flows, I see that this is a whole thing and a whole practice, greater than mathematics or philosophy; and in fact, the world of technicalities and ideas can draw us away from what we are as Beings, leading us into details that turn us into manipulators, instead of receivers.

We are a society—and a civilization—of manipulators.

More to come on this subject in the next few posts.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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