October 01, 2007

Starting to see - again

Recent email to some friends:

Good morning!

I mean - it's a GOOD morning. Things are opening up for me again. I'm starting to see once more.

I find it such a struggle - this business of finding things, then losing them in the turmoil of everyday events from Bush to dental pain to a football game to planning observation sessions and fiddling with technology , , , whatever. I do so many stupid things, so many hurtful things, so many blind things . . . but once in a while the light breaks through. I have a few old touchstones I'd like to share with you - and one new one. The new first.

This comes from one of my astronomy students - the mother of a home schooler. She felt Frederick Franck was on the same frequency as I. How right she was. She had directed me to "The Awakened Eye." That's a book he wrote around 1978 and it's about what he calls "seeing/drawing" - or "drawing meditation." There's nothing new in here for me - but what a wonderful renewal! Franck articulates well what I articulate poorly. And he expresses himself in drawing superbly. His teaching drawing is really about teaching seeing, much as my efforts to teach astronomy are really about providing opportunities for deep awareness. His ideas neither surprise, nor shock me, but it's always pleasing to meet a fellow twanderer and to discover new - and sometime subtle - paths that branch off the well-worn trails you thought you had learned and now walk by rote.

Dom - you've mentioned from time to time that you might pick up Betty Edward's book again - Drawing from the Right Brain. You might find "The Awakened Eye" more in tune with your goals - especially if you pick up a pencil and a pad - do what he says - and above all, ignore the product - focus on the process. The goal is to see - to live in the present - the drawing merely a tool, much the same as focusing on your breathing, but more active or perhaps interactive.

There're so many things I could quote from this book - what struck me this morning was simply this: "If you want to see into it, see into it directly. When you begin to think about it, it is altogether missed." (anonymous Zen master)

Contour drawing. Line drawing. Eye and pencil working as one. Anyway , , ,

That pushed me back into Whitman. I think he's getting lost. Maybe he simply gets lost because he said too much. I'm not sure. But I do think he understood - went down the same paths - that the Zen masters have walked.

"I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

and so much more . . . Leave of Grass . . . has it been lost of late? Is it still read in the schools? Is Whitman readily dismissed these days? ignored? I'm not sure. I don't hear much talk of him. I do get bogged down in him. He burns too hot, too continuously - I run out of breath just reading him .. . but in small doses there is so much there.

And Coleridge - the ancient mariner's story is my story - perhaps the story of all of us. But the part that haunts me - the part I have wrestled with so long - is one I have quoted before and to me relates directly to my attitude towards world events of late and my frequent, fruitless rants.

"O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare.
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware;
sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware."

He wasn't speaking of puppies or bunnies or grandchildren, or flowers .. . he was speaking of

"The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie;
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I."

Slimy things! Bush. bin Laden, the "Christian" and "Muslims" and "Jews" so full of self-contradictory hate. And yes, event the "peace" movement which so frequently is not "peace" at all, but breeds another fwave of hate. All that is "wrong" with the world.

And how , indeed do you bless them? How do you love them? That is what nags at me. And Coleridge had the answer - his mariner blesses them, "Unawate."

And Whitman had the answer - "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

And so did Franck - "see into it directly. When you begin to think about it, it is altogether missed."

and sometimes, with good guidance, I get an inkling of it too ;-)

Posted by Greg Stone at 08:03 AM