The Tunnel

The Tunnel

The big and small screens currently offer lots of opportunities to appreciate “good sociopaths”. Perhaps because, lacking typical human responses, sociopaths appear driven by artificial programming – and at a cultural level there may be a growing intuition that we will soon be obliged to make room in our world for non-human intelligence. But whatever drives the fascination, “The Tunnel” introduces into the pantheon of highly entertaining fictional good sociopaths a marvelous young French woman named Elise. And part of her charm is her conscious decision to embrace habits of behavior that are beneficial to society. So much so that she has become a police sergeant in the precinct of Calais.

Her foil is an all too human English inspector named Karl whose blunders of love and embarrassed kindness slowly rub off on Elise. And she, so desirous of doing right no matter the cost to herself, awakens in Karl a fierceness that has enough momentum to push him over the edge into heroic action when an opportunity to “get it right this time” comes along.

There are two seasons. Best if you can binge watch. Much of it is full of villainous mayhem that provides the sometimes unlikely pretext for Karl and Elise to show each other how to become their better selves. I don’t think it will spoil the fun if I mention that one of the amazing things the story brings into the light is the paradoxical idea that wholeness may not be possible, but loss can offer a glimpse of what wholeness might be like. The last few minutes of the last episode are some of the most beautiful, moving and memorable I’ve ever experienced.


A later thought (September 2018): This is, of course, just my two cents…there is a Season 3, but I strongly discouraging anyone from watching it. The creative team said all they had to say in the first two seasons. And sadly, to put it another way, they had nothing to say in the third season except nonsense. I wish I could un-see it.

Post a Comment

With Care

With Care

When I was a child the family next door had several daughters about half my age. The youngest was named Tutu. She was a sweet and very shy little three-year-old at the time of the event I’m about to describe. Our neighborhood was post-World-War-II VA bargain suburbia. Small, modest one-story homes set very close together on very small rectangles of property, with diminutive front and backyards. It was a proverbial tract of houses, expressed in five architectural plans. Tutu’s family lived in one that featured a garage in front of the house with the door perpendicular to the street and accessed via a short, squat quarter-circle driveway. Consequently, most of the area in front of the house was smooth concrete. An ideal place for Tutu’s family and mine to ignite our combined purchase of Red Devil fireworks.

On the particular 4th of July that I am recalling, it occurred to Tutu’s father that she might begin to overcome her fear of fireworks if he helped her light Piccolo Pete – a fountain-style pyrotechnic device that sent a funnel of colorful sparks several feet into the air while emitting a shrill whistle. It consisted of a flat, square wooden base of about an inch and a half on each side and about an eighth of an inch thick, upon which a cardboard tube stood that was, as I recall, about five inches tall and half an inch in diameter. A short, thick fuse projected from the top of the tube. Tutu’s father gave his daughter a sparkler, which he lit. That was excitement enough for her and she would have let it fall from her hand if her father had not placed his hand around hers and guided the shimmering end of the sparkler toward Pete’s fuse…all the while assuring Tutu that all would be well.

Continue reading

Palmyra

Palmyra

The Arch of Palmyra was built approximately 1,800 years ago at an elevation of 1,250 feet above our current sea level in what is now Syria. Until the remains of the structure were dynamited by ISIL in October 2015 the monumental ruins included one large arch flanked on both sides by two smaller arches. The stonework in the image above is abstracted from one of the smaller arches.

34°32’59.9″N 38°16’15.6″E

Post a Comment

To Anthropomorphize Is Human

Anthropomorphize

Why is it so hard to do the right thing?  You are probably not surprised to learn that I have a theory.

Dr. Google says that in psychology, the psyche is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious.   An embellishment I’d like to add is that I think of  the psyche as composed of everything that we are aware of, plus everything we are not aware of.

What I’m saying is that it seems to me each of us is conscious of a relatively few things, but what we are unconscious of could be described as pretty much infinitely vast.  I think what we don’t know is a LOT more than what we do know.  And what we do know we probably do not know fully.  Rather I think we capture as best we can mental images of what we are becoming aware of, and I propose that the way our minds organize those images has a lot to do with why it is hard to do the right thing.

As I understand it, images in our minds that are similar naturally arrange themselves into clusters. And any particular cluster of images that gets very big also gets complex.  So complex, in fact, that it begins to develop a personality.

Continue reading

A Creation Myth

Creation Myth

At an impressionable age in a hallway in the UCLA Department of Philosophy I saw a placard that read…

“We need never doubt those things about which no one is certain.”

It’s a thought that comes to mind often these days when I reflect upon horrible deeds, justified by mean-spirited assertions based upon preposterous sacred-cow assumptions.

In light of the extraordinary uncertainty of pretty much every aspect of existence, I wonder if I might do well to willfully doubt all the explanations humans have formulated for themselves in the past, and consider instead the possibility that each of us is wholly, completely and utterly responsible for what we do.

While I’m at it I should probably also consider putting aside the idea that someone, or some institution, or some creed, has the authority to “give me permission” to do hurtful things to others. Perhaps I might even try on the idea that every cruel act I perform is one that I, and only I, choose to perform.

These thoughts incline me to contribute to the great pool of creation myths the suggestion that a long time ago…I mean, a VERY long time ago…at a distance so far from Earth that all the stars in that remote region have been dark infinitely longer than they ever sparkled…engineers experimented with a mechanism that could configure various chemicals in such a way that animate forms emerged. This mechanism was so cleverly crafted that when placed in a large body of water it could, over time, automatically reconfigure itself to achieve ever-greater variety and complexity of animation.

Continue reading

Winter Solstice 2015

Seven Steps

The image at right represents a seven stage process. Each stage is signified by a Roman numeral from I to VII. And within each stage a substance…in response to a celestial influence…undergoes a transformation. The result is something refined and balanced that might be interpreted as a representation of wholeness.

The process begins just above the western horizon and concludes before dawn with the rising of the moon.

Here is a map of the symbols from which the image is assembled and their plain-English associations.

I Lead Lead Saturn Saturn Calcination Calcination
II Tin Tin Jupiter Jupiter Dissolution Dissolution
II Iron Iron Mars Mars Separation Separation
IV Gold Gold Sun Sun Conjunction Conjunction
Copper Copper Venus Venus Fermentation Fermentation
Mercury Mercury Mercury Mercury Distillation Distillation
Silver Silver Moon Moon Coagulation Coagulation

Regarding celestial influences, imagine two on-going channels of motion always at work on a cosmic scale. One is the continuous expansion of the universe such that, ever and always, structures eventually find their limit and break apart. Their components falling into new orbits. Systems ever dying. Ever being born.

And the other channel is the cycles that whirl to life as structures mature such that a person can look up at the night sky a year older and see, perhaps less clearly, the largely identical cluster of stars that shone the year before. Every thing moving a little further away from every other thing, witnessed in patterns of repetition. Much has changed, yet so much is the same that a memory stirs of the last such season. The last time Venus was there just above the horizon. The last time the moon was full. The last time.

Post a Comment

Winter Solstice 2014


Winter Solstice 2014

The image at right is an arrangement of visual components drawn from the tradition of the Yi Ching. In that tradition all of existence can be represented by two lines.

solid

solid

One line is solid and represents half of all that is, including masculine qualities. The other line is segmented and represents everything else, including feminine qualities.

Together, they might be thought of as depicting a state of balance, about which the Yi Ching has much to say. But the Yi Ching also comments upon 64 states of imbalance, each of which is represented by a hexagram composed of six lines.

The image in the upper right above presents 63 hexagrams from the Yi Ching arranged in such a way that when viewed together they imply the otherwise omitted hexagram, which is called T’ai (Tai).

solid

solid

solid

solid

solid

solid

The hexagram T’ai depicts masculine aspects grounded by feminine aspects. Earth above heaven. One interpretation of that configuration is that even though deep chaos abides, by carefully responding to the rhythms and cycles of the world, peace can be found.

Post a Comment

Winter Solstice 2013


Gold Silver Mercury

Before physics and chemistry there was alchemy. The alchemists asked questions that were beyond the resources available to them to provide satisfactory answers. Many of the gaps between what they wanted to know and what they could find out through experimentation were filled in with speculation and imaginings – usually added on top of the speculations and imaginings of those who came before them. (Hmmm…any chance we still do that now?)

Substances, like people, generally behave in fairly predictable ways consistent with their personalities. Since the alchemists were intensely interested in substances, and studied them over long periods of time, they felt they knew them. And they saw a little of themselves in their glowing caldrons.

When the alchemists projected aspects of themselves on the substances they studied lots of internal stuff – psychological stuff – was revealed. The image above is composed of 12th Century alchemical symbols arranged to suggest the ongoing process of individual experience.

 

  represents the sun and gold and is a metaphor for consciousness.

 

  represents the moon and silver and is a metaphor for the unconscious.

represents mercury, a fluid state, and is a metaphor for a personality in transition. This symbol is composed of both the symbols for gold and silver, plus a cross that represents space and time divided into quadrants – crosshairs suggesting “you are here.”

Sometimes stuff flows from through  to  and sometimes it flows the other way.

Post a Comment

Tobacco, Flying Saucers and Hypnosis

Saucers Over Hollywood

Is every creative act a form of biography? Does everything we elect to do with purpose and care paint a portrait of us in miniature? And what about those things we do spontaneously with little care? Perhaps even carelessly? Might they actually be the most accurate indicators of who we are – even when we can’t see it ourselves?

And then there’s the stuff that comes to us uninvited? Dreams, imaginings, visions. Is that biography as well?

One of my earliest memories is of a dream. A merchant steamship is moving slowly through thick, silvery fog at dawn or evening twilight. A time that could be any time. The captain steps out of the wheelhouse and leans against a railing looking out into the mist, listening. A lit cigar is pinched between the first and second fingers of his left hand. Smoke drifts from a cylindrical ash at the tip. With the unconscious ease of a maneuver performed a thousand times, the captain brings the cigar to his lips, takes a puff, then grasps it between his thumb and index finger. He flicks briskly with his middle finger and I fall away from the glowing ember. At first I drift on a misty breeze. Then I’m bobbing on the sea, but only for an instant as I feel myself dissolve into the vastness of the ocean, becoming one with it.

I love the memory of that dream, and it may have predisposed me from a very early age to associate tobacco with transformation because I love tobacco too. I don’t smoke often. Perhaps one pipe full or a cigar every six weeks or so. This is intentional so that each experience is intense and approached with sweet anticipation. Colors are more vivid. The edges of objects more distinct, as if outlined – an especially exciting effect when looking at something detailed and dynamic like the swaying bough of a tree. My visual depth of field expands so that items both near and far appear in the same plane and in focus. And I’m filled with contentment and a sense of optimism. As the last puff swirls away and is gone a nostalgia embraces me, like a vacationer saying goodbye to Venice or some other extraordinary place.

Continue reading

8mm Ideas – Small Works of Wonder

8mm Workspace

For many happy years, Molly and Ryan were my neighbors. To give you a sense of their style, a while back they brought home a beautiful, petite and anxious rescue dog named Stella. One of my fondest memories of the trio is seeing them at a distance walking together in the neighborhood. Something unexpected would happen and Stella would bark. Always, Molly and Ryan’s response was the same. They would lean down and say something gentle to their small friend, and all would be well. If called upon to draw an image of patience and kindness a tableau of the three of them in silhouette would be what I’d try to sketch.

Molly is an artist whose work can be seen at Molly C. Meng. I’m especially a fan of her cards. I suppose greeting cards is the conventional name for what I’m talking about, but I don’t think that really works in Molly’s case since she is a purveyor of sly entertainment – of complex ideas expressed in compact images.

In the 60s Marshall McLuhan proposed that the way that an idea is expressed conveys a message that is more significant than the content of the idea. In other words, I might employ a Google search to learn the answer to a particular question. And though the answer I obtain might seem important to me in the moment, what’s more important is the implications for my life of the fact that I can secure answers in that way. The implications for my life is the message, but I can only receive that message if I look beyond the immediate answer I receive and contemplate how my life is changed by being able to secure answers in that way.

Continue reading