Once upon a time,
When women were birds,
There was the simple understanding
That to sing at dawn
And to sing at dusk
Was to heal the world through joy.
The birds still remember what we have forgotten,
That the world is meant to be celebrated.
- Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
I am satisfied with the course my life has taken. It has been bountiful, and has given me a great deal. How could I ever have expected so much?
Nothing but unexpected things kept happening to me. Much might have been different if I myself had been different.
But it was as it had to be; for all came about because I am as I am.
Many things worked out as I planned them to, but that did not always prove of benefit to me. But almost everything developed naturally and by destiny.
I regret many follies which sprang from my obstinacy; but without that trait I would not have reached my goal.
And so I am disappointed and not disappointed. I am disappointed with people and disappointed with myself.
I have learned amazing things from people, and have accomplished more than I expected of myself.
I cannot form any final judgment because the phenomenon of life and the phenomenon of man are too vast.
The older I have become, the less I have understood or had insight into or known about myself.
I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself.
I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum.
I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life.
There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions not about anything, really.
I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along.
I exist on the foundation of something I do not know.
In spite of all uncertainties, I feel a solidity underlying all existence and a continuity in my mode of being.
The world into which we are born is brutal and cruel, and at the same time of divine beauty.
Which element we think outweighs the other, whether meaninglessness or meaning, is a matter of temperament.
If meaninglessness were absolutely preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would vanish to an increasing degree with each step in our development.
But that is or seems to me not the case.
Probably, as in all metaphysical questions, both are true: Life is or has meaning and meaninglessness.
I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and win the battle.
When Lao-tzu says: “All are clear, I alone am clouded,” he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age.
Lao-tzu is the example of a man with superior insight who has seen and experienced worth and worthlessness, and who at the end of his life desires to return into his own being, into the eternal unknowable meaning.
The archetype of the old man who has seen enough is eternally true.
At every level of intelligence this type appears, and its lineaments are always the same, whether it be an old peasant or a great philosopher like Lao-tzu.
This is old age, and a limitation.
Yet there is so much that fills me: plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man.
The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things.
In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself. ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections
Art school taught me to assess my art as I created it in terms of composition, design, variety of strokes, originality, skill, freshness, etc. That modus operandi was unproductive because it was too cautious, too rational, too judgmental. It didn’t access the creative source in me. I decided to teach myself how to paint first from heart and body instead of from the head. I wanted to work with passion. I wanted judgement and assessment to come last, if ever.
I withdrew to a remote village in eastern France, and when I wasn’t renovating the old stone house and land, I painted, listening to how I felt as I worked rather than what I was trained to think about the work in progress. Over time, years really, the house took shape as a bed and breakfast with my paintings on every wall. I never focused on selling them, I was focused on creating images that I could recognize as a deeper aspect of my nature than I normally showed the world. I put them on the walls to see them better, in a different context, and to bask in their energy. They often spoke of the ecstatic dance of energies I experienced in meditation, energies that seem to underlie all life.
I was actually a bit conflicted when people began asking “how much for that one?” I wasn’t sure I even wanted to let them go. For me, they were a record of a personal experience, a spiritual journey, a way to find and make something beautiful and meaningful to myself.–always with the question “does this work carry a truth I need?” But I came to realize others often saw something of their own essence in the works–or not, depending on the person.
Painting has been a spiritual discipline for me. I offer them on fineartamerica.com in the form of archival prints or “giclees.” The originals will remain in my private collection.
My goal has always been to make work that has the beauty and honesty of simple handmade craft, but with a vibrant life force pouring out of a moment of discovery and exploration. If a painting continues to dance out a joyous energy year by year, I consider it successful.
It suits our hypertrophied and hybristic modern consciousness not to be mindful of the dangerous autonomy of the unconscious and to treat it negatively as an absence of consciousness.
The hypothesis of invisible gods or daemons would be, psychologically, a far more appropriate formulation, even though it would be an anthropomorphic projection.
But since the development of consciousness requires the withdrawal of all the projections we can lay our hands on, it is not possible to maintain any non-psychological doctrine about the gods.
If the historical process of world despiritualization continues as hitherto, then everything of a divine or daemonic character outside us must return to the psyche, to the inside of the unknown man, whence it apparently originated. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 111
Since the gods are without doubt personifications of psychic forces, to assert their metaphysical existence is as much an intellectual presumption as the opinion that they could ever be invented.
Not that “psychic forces” have anything to do with the conscious mind, fond as we are of playing with the idea that consciousness and psyche are identical.
This is only another piece of intellectual presumption.
“Psychic forces” have far more to do with the realm of the unconscious.
Our mania for rational explanations obviously has its roots in our fear of metaphysics, for the two were always hostile brothers.
Hence anything unexpected that approaches us from that dark realm is regarded either as coming from outside and therefore as real, or else as an hallucination and therefore not true.
The idea that anything could be real or true which does not come from outside has hardly begun to dawn on us.~Carl Jung, CW 10, Para 387