The Art of Heathen Stargazing
I’m a peacock. Well. I mean, I was a peacock. Not that anyone at my Alma Mater had much school spirit. Though, one year we did have an end of the year luau with a pig on a spit. Apple in its mouth and everything. Put a chubby, male, transportation design senior exchange student in a corn-silk wig and a poofy-white-satin-thrift-store wedding gown. Sat him awkwardly in a stolen shopping cart and paraded him around as our homecoming queen. Glittery Mardi Gras tiara and confetti. I thought it was one of the best school events we’d had but, all the vegan kids complained about the bacon smell. So, Dylan Spatzky taped two pieces of raw bacon to the vending machine with a sign that said, “50 cents” and called it ephemeral art. I didn’t buy the bacon but I liked the idea. We’re all peacocks in our own way.
Our expression is a manifestation of our vision. An outward projection of an inner assessment. The assessment is characterized by how we view or see a What? Whatever it is we see. At art school we are taught to take apart the assessment to the bare bones and identify the things that are calling to us. Then present an effective translation of the particular bones that called. It this case, it might be ham bones.
We draw what we see. Sometimes we see it in front of us. Sometimes we see it in our imagination. We write what we experience, observe, learn, and dream. As artists, if we can find a uniquely creative way to communicate our expression, we may consider ourselves successful. There are those who embrace the abstract and there are others who come by an innate photorealism. As if they had eyes in their hands.
After five years at the same school, twenty-five years in the same city, it all started to look the same. Different interpretations of the same things. Broken windows of abandoned factories in charcoal, home bums in baggy clothes foreshortened to weird angles, everyone’s roommates in their identical dorm bathrooms making faces in the mirror. And cars. Shit tons of cars.
This is the landscape that surrounds; the available subject matter. When we see something abnormal show up in an individual’s work, we see said abnormality as the artist’s metaphor. When we see something carried through multiple works relative to a specific time and place, we can presume that “something” was a tangible presence so impactful, many individuals felt the impressing need to document it. These impactful presences can be so abundantly used they become symbols.
There are innumerable symbols in use worldwide including the letters of our written languages. When a symbol is applied to multiple meanings, its origins become lost in translation. We see them. We use them. We don’t know why. There are symbols we can’t equate. Icons so far removed from their origin we dismiss their authenticity. We see them now as graphics or logos. Technically, “logos” means the word of God but it also means, reason. What were the reasons for these symbols again? We’ve passed them through a game of telephone so long that what is now heard resembles nothing of what was said.
The thing that’s striking is that the exact same symbols can be found throughout the ancient world accompanied by similar stories all assigning the similar attributes to similar symbols in similar ways.
What’s even more staggering is that the evolution of these symbols and themes coincides globally with verifiable geological occurrences.
As humans, we influence each other. But how much? Does it matter what others think? Did we make that for someone else or for ourselves? Did we make it because everyone else made one? Why are we making those anyway? Why does yours look different from mine? How can we all be looking at the same things and seeing them so differently? And how can the exquisite diversity of some things be seen in such finite ways? How can we understand it unless we view it from multiple angles? What if we can’t even see it from here?
The deeper we peer into our microscopes the more things start to look the same. It seems these patterns repeat out into the infinity of space. Solar systems begin to resemble atoms. Galaxies begin to resemble hurricanes. The Universe suddenly looks like the web of neurons that transmit the electrical impulses in our brains.
Is it really all the same? Or does it just look that way? If you drew them could you tell them apart? If it looks the same, why shouldn’t we expect it to behave similarly as well? Have we been looking over some of the most basic universal patterns because our science education has taught us to adopt their misunderstanding of universal mechanics? Is it hidden in plain sight?
I think I see it right there. Just behind the individuality.
We find comfort in patterns. They organize things so we know what to expect. When we know what to expect, we don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen in the future. We can focus on other things. Nature is elegant at presenting infinite possibilities within a set pattern while still adhering to the pattern’s basic principles. I find those expressions to be akin to music. The swing in the beat between beats. The soul of the music. It’s the thing that drives your feet to tapping and your hands to clapping. It’s the thing that gets us to a state of consciousness that connects us to the players and other listeners. The swing is what uplifts us in melody and what unites us in harmony. I mean, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, right?
Is that swing between the pattern of the equation where the spirit of life exists? Is that the missing link that resides outside the math and scientific method of it all?
Music is very grounding to me. My tastes vary as much as my experience thus, music is a catalyst for immediate emotional support. What song was I listening to when I last felt that way? What playlist brings me joy? Whose lyrics are going to help me feel validated, understood, less alone? How many instruments’ strings can stroke my soul? How much metal does it take to sooth my angst? Punk rock is university in spikes. Appalachian mountain music feels like bare feet in cool grass in a place my grandpa talked about.
To know these rhythms is to know your place. Each dance is different. Each voice its own song. But it’s all a part of the music.
What if stars were just having their own experience?
They say this is the lifestyle for most stars. We can see them in their vast expanses of space twinkling bright and then fizzling out like many a one hit wonder. In this view, each star and our own Sun are independent entities that live out their own dreams on their own terms. Free to join forces and become binaries or explode into supernovas who spread their remnants around in a fit to be gathered into new objects later. They say all stuff is created from the star-stuff thrown about in these tantrums. One star’s trash is now someone’s mother. Or, maybe they just collapse under the pressure and become villainous blackholes who want to suck everything into their collapse with them. Misery does love company after all. If they can’t emit light then no one will!
It all seems as disconnected and melodramatic as the stuffy, closed set of an outdated soap opera. Like the sands of the hourglass nebula, these are the ways of our skies.
Maybe it’s Us who are feeling disconnected in our dysfunctional independence.
Are we projecting our feelings of loneliness onto our view of the universe? Let’s reject the notion that we are connected to it lest we not be rejected by it first.
I say this to illustrate a point. It’s easier to understand something when given an emotional basis for comparison. Science is cold. Hard. Facts. It has to be to do its job. When we remove any of the components of the whole, we fail to see the entirety of its function. We are a part of a greater whole that exists within a set of scientific barriers that are only extended when fed more cold, hard, facts. And yet we simultaneously exist outside of those perimeters.
It seems the biggest misconception is that there is one Right answer out there that is going to line all the ducks up in a row to spell the alphabet backwards. Proving all else, without exception, to be wrong.
Maybe it’s the vernacular to blame.
If something is right something else must inherently be wrong. Then what’s left?
Yeah, everything in nature has its equal and opposite but in that, one cannot exist without the other. Without that oppositional balance, both things would neutralize and the variance and extremities would cease to exist. We hold tight to our rights because no one wants to end up being in the wrong. Or worse, ceasing to exist all together. I promise everyone can be right and wrong all at the same time and we will all still exist.
Whew! Glad we got that out of the way.
What about exchanging the word “right” for the word “truth”? Something can be true without carrying the burden of being right or wrong. Things can be simultaneously true and untrue depending on context and circumstance. Scientific truth is truth based on facts. Asking what is true within a question allows for exploration without creating a competition to elevate or degrade
Our predecessors had no problem seeing the effects of some of these truths. They embraced them and nurtured the growth of their cultures through what we suppose is magic. Are these forces of ritual, these symbols carved and repeated, the misguided notions of the uneducated ignorant? Or are they the culmination of eons of understanding expressed globally that we as modern humans have dismissed?
Some of us can’t accept something unless we can see it, poke it, prod it, test it, and then recreate it in a lab. Others of us can see something is a thing that has a function by the observation of its service and simply accept that it does exist.
The camps are set. Their sandy floor is separated by the draw of a child’s stick digging a shallow line that falls back in on itself as it leads to an arbitrary end. Thus, the endless bickering and banter. How does banter evolve into conversation? How do we know what to believe?
I’ve heard that the way to the truth is through the light. Maybe the truth is that light that shines the way. Maybe it’s actually about light. Maybe that’s what they saw that we’re not seeing.
But who put any of us in charge anyway? Must have been that damn peacock. Ya know, He has many eyes but can only see with two. And even then, they have to be open.