It came to me on a new wave of understanding, in my bleary-eyed state of awakening this morning, that at the very core of everything that I Am, I am ‘a simplifier’ and even the realisation of this brought new simplicity to my own self-definition since it allowed me to draw together all the tangled threads of who I am in such a way that I gained access to a whole new layer of perspective. This particular wave of understanding came in to shore on the tide of an online discussion thread with friends yesterday evening in which it was put to me that I could write children’s stories as I have the knack for explaining the very complex in language that even a child could understand. Digging into this in my sleep-state somehow allowed me to perceive that in everything – my painting, my writing and my modus operandi of life itself – I am indeed a simplifier of complexity for I seek to find themes, to bring things into clarity through similarity and by grouping more than one thing together. Like a kleptomaniac of experience, I like to pull them together and arrange into folders until I begin to see the underlying patterns running through.
I recently wrote a post about synaesthesia and this topic steps back into similar territory because the very trait of merging more than one sensory modality with another helps me in my mission to ‘pull themes’ and explain concepts in ways that people are more readily able to grasp. At its most basic, the use of metaphor when seeking to convey experience to others – in the same way that the very experience of synaesthesia plays out to the synaesthete – removes the sensory specialism that requires you to go all the way through an experience using one strict modality of ‘knowing it’ only to have to start again with another when fullest understanding is not yet achieved. By bringing multi disciplines into play all at once, the mental ‘picture’ of that which is being experienced achieves a wholeness to it that conveys more fully than by using, say, vision alone, so helping to allay any doubts we may have as to its closeness to ‘truth’ as we subconsciously check what we are being presented with against all of our previously stored experience bank because, if it fits certain familiar criteria (in other words, ‘what we have experienced before’) at multi-levels, it is deemed more likely to be what we consider to be ‘accurate’ or ‘authentic’, not to mention ‘understandable’. We are comparison devices at core, within this experiential journey we call life, and metaphor is that comparative act in play: quite literally, one thing ‘explained’ by following it through on a journey to conclusion by comparing it with a similar journey to conclusion using an interchangeable sensory prop, something that is made possible because the very same patterns run through everything in this universe, just like the fractals that can be found at the very core of our physicality. Life is the very experience of sacred geometry dressed up in many costumes.
I simplify through my art; I experience something of seemingly immense complexity – so much colour intensity, beads of light and overall fragmentation – and then convey this in a much simplified form which the human psyche, with its comparison machine, recognises on multi-levels from similar experiences it has had and resonated with before. This is, I have come to realise, why I play with images of my experiences recorded using photography before I then paint from these, adding back into the end product something of the quality of that experience that the camera fails to record; yet its use helps me to feel my way back to some of the fundamental building blocks of the experience and so encapsulate something of the beautiful simplicity – the very essence – that is to be found at the core of every experience because the camera can only record so much whereas the human sensory machine is capable of taking in an almost overwhelming amount of data; far too much to convey to another being.
That ability to pluck out the themes, to see a pattern almost without trying, has been a gift in many aspects of my life. I used it a great deal and to useful effect at school and even, I recall with a laugh, to produce a slightly left-field dissertation on ‘the use of the colours yellow and violet in the novels of Virginia Woolf’ that went towards my degree over twenty years ago. It has enabled me to pluck handfuls of ‘lucky’ four leaved clovers on innumerable walks – sometimes without even missing a step – when the people I am with struggle to find even one on their hands and knees and all because I am built in such a way as to be able to detect the subtle anomaly between the standard three-leaved variety and its more symmetrical brother. I see now that it is the same skill set that made of me (if there is any real theme across all the diverse jobs I have had) effectively a ‘troubleshooter’ in so many of them, adept at taking on a huge convoluted ‘mess’ and then, by grouping similar things together in order to see what was really important, able to feel my way back to a pristine state of ‘organisation’, whether I was editing a manuscript or project-managing an exhibition in Düsseldorf. Those I worked with would marvel at this knack of creating organised chaos amidst what could still seem terrifyingly multifaceted yet which would flow to happy conclusion with such apparent ease whilst, to me, it came as simplicity itself since all I ever did was seek out the underlying patterns that would lead me back ‘home’ to a place of overarching synergy.
The less we choose to experience from the perspective of fragmentation (for it is a choice) except when done from a playfully experiential perspective whilst simultaneously allowing an awareness of the bigger picture, the more we allow experience to return to its intrinsic wholeness, the closer we get to source: something I have found to be true in every aspect of life. An opinion that I resonate with each time I encounter it is one that wonders if we tend to over complicate the route to our spiritual selves and higher-consciousness with our many methods of ‘getting there’: our many and diverse spiritual practices and modalities – said without judgement because if any of these paths bring joy to the journey then all is well and yet none are ‘the only way’ or an imperative to be ‘religiously’ followed. There are as many ways to meditate, for instance, as there are people doing this; none is more valid or ‘guaranteed’ to get you anywhere than any other. Great expansion comes at the point of no longer confusing the route with the destination; they are not one and the same and the route is always a personal choice so if that seems so very long, arduous and complex, with far too many books to be read, courses to go on, retreats that must be experienced, then that is all through choice. Know that and own that. Yes, many of these routes offer an experience that is worth having and tools that, if you are particularly drawn to them, you can be sure you will find helpful, especially where they can assist in acclimatising the mind to a state of simplification that it is, all too often, suspicious of and so resistant towards: for instance, mantra can seem so very complex to learn and yet – combined with the very powerful resonance of language – can help the mind to let go of its grip upon complexity and so help in achieving the kind of metal void that allows expanded consciousness to flood in. Also, yes, these ‘routes in’ can seem like hand rails to those who remain unswervingly convinced that any route to something as all-incorporating as enlightenment must be a correspondingly complex thing (though my own perspective is that it is simplicity itself – a seeming dichotomy that is specific to the self-same limited perspective that we are journeying ‘from’). To some, their journey towards enlightenment is made somehow all the more tangible, measurable or authentic by methods and practices that ‘must’ (I am extremely wary of such a word) be learned, adhered to or perfected and that is fine if it brings some level of enjoyment to those beings; such belief is itself a choice in the same way that all of our life experiences are a personal choice, even the most horrific-seeming experiences of them all; a concept that many struggle with or refuse to entertain. After all, that is why we choose to come here, to theme park earth; we set it all up, to create for ourselves the complex experiential soup that allows us to ‘know what these things feel like’. Like living-out a holiday for which we have pre-selected a very long list of activities from the travel brochure before we came, many of us seem to cram in all we can into one lifetime, such physical experience being most notable for its absence from the kind of awareness that is open to us as our higher-selves or whatever term best conveys that eternal aspect that pre- and post-exists our brief sojourn here in physicality. Life comes pre-equipped with plenty of experiences and, when we feel we want more in order for us to feel more alive, we up the ante by creating drama, concocting our own personal white-knuckle rides and subliminally asking for more mess, even more complication, to wade through so that we can get to experience ‘what we are’, what resonates, by travelling through what we are not. At some highly-expanded point, we suddenly realise that we are, in fact, everything that there is; even those things that we resist the most and, in getting this, we get to simplify the whole picture of our life across the board. Everything is one thing and that thing is us; it doesn’t get any simpler than that.
What I seek to convey here is that life’s complexity is a choice; none of it is absolutely necessary and there are many routes you can choose to go by through life’s journey, even the spiritual variety. Even for those getting closer to the metaphysical viewpoint, those gaining a bigger picture than just ‘the thick of it’ down here, there is the choice of making this life experience complex for a variety of reasons, one being that it allows those in search of some kind of measure of how far they have come to somehow track their journey back to source; which is fine as long as this doesn’t result in them, in a sense, getting in their own way. It amazes me how some people make the journey to enlightenment sound so bizarrely convoluted when, what it really boils down to is, there is no journey, no destination, not even a route as we are ‘already here’; it’s that simple. There are many many paths and we each get to choose our own or to, perhaps, decide that there is no path at all because we were here all the time. We can start being enlightened as soon as we ‘get’ this most simplistic of things. At some level, and if my gift is to simplify where complexity seems to abound then, the broader purpose of my embrace of simplicity is that it enables me to share this most simple of messages – using the simplest, most direct and often combined tools of expression that I have at my disposal – with others, some of whom will resonate and others who will not. It remains a choice.
In very literal terms, I am someone who cuts to the chase whilst, at the same time, allowing that for some people the chase is everything. Like my dog, who tends to watch the other dogs run in great complex circles, studying them until he gets the rhythm of where they are heading and then going to where they always end up and standing patiently in that space, just ‘being’ and allowing the experience to come to him, I see that (living up to that old adage that owners and their dogs supposedly share fundamental qualities…), I do much the same thing and there are useful reminders to be gleaned from watching his technique. Quite often when he does this, the chase goes flat, the other dogs lose interest, they all stop engaging in play conflict…the hot and tiring engagement that would otherwise perpetuate to exhaustion point is very quickly over and yet my dog always seems deeply contented in that unharried space of his, never for a moment having lost his own intrinsic sense of I Am that I Am. Yet for all that absence of drama, his experience of life never goes flat (a dread of this being so deeply built into many of us that we unwittingly prolong our own dramas, battles and chase scenes for fear that life may become boring), it’s just that the endless, dizzying circles have been side-stepped. Somehow, whilst engaging less, he seems to be in possession of more and holds steady in his awareness that he is exactly where he always intended to be; sat down in the sunshine, feeling the warmth on his back, nose twitching to all the rich abundance of nature’s scents on the breeze and enjoying the blissful, synergistic simplicity of living in the moment.
~ ~ ~