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The Sun Does Not Move – Seeking the Personally Profound

by Gary John Gresl

“Il sole non se muove”, wrote Leonardo in his diaries, 100 years before Galileo’s own profound and brave explanation about Earth’s movement around the sun. (Anatomy of Genius, Split Brains and Global Minds, pg. 58, by Jan Ehrenwald, Human Sciences Press, Inc., NY, NY, paperback edition, 1986)

That the Earth travels around the Sun is not something immediately apparent to cultures lacking astronomical literacy, telescopes, and centuries of credible study. If the culture of the United States were to have its scientific knowledge torn from it by global disaster, it seems to me that it is highly likely that there would be a sizable number of people who would resort to believing only what they see…which is that the sun moves across the sky. Doesn’t it obviously move while the earth remains tethered in one position?

And so it is with our limited minds and well established mindsets. Our cultures essentially dictate to us the rules we abide by and the norms we accept, including the field of artistic expression. That which we have already found to exist seems to work. The status quo keeps society functioning and stable, preventing chaos. And within our societies there are teachers and role models who tell us about what has gone before and what should be the norms now. Leaders in all facets of life, religious, political, family, etc. basically provide us the structure on which to build and live our lives. These persons, and the general consensus, essentially offer the models we easily accept and emulate. In fact, to stray from the norm is to tempt punishments, to possibly become an outcast, to be considered radical, foolish, undisciplined, too liberal or too conservative, potentially crazy, wrong, the “other”, and perhaps dangerous.

IN SEARCH OF THE PROFOUND

“But there never fails to come to the rescue some human being, like ourselves in everything, except that he has in him a secret power of vision” Wassily Kandinsky, From “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, ca.1914. A “eureka moment” is known to many of us, I suspect, who have had some insight that carries us from ordinary thought to something fresh and personally new…beyond a previous norm. When some recognition dawns, when we notice a material thing or idea in a different light, it can propel us forward into the truly “new”. The important step is to do something “with” that fresh idea to lift our own calloused existence beyond the norm and mundane. We can move ourselves deeper, gaining sagacious insights, and in some rare cases we may actually aid in edging our culture a bit further along its evolutionary trail. It is often reported that Kandinsky arrived home one evening after walking his dog in the fading light of day. He entered a room and saw a painting that he did not immediately recognize propped on the floor. It took several moments for his mind to clear, to right itself…and to recognize that it was his very own upside down painting. But…what he saw on the floor, that image he did not recognize, became the impetus for his non-objective work to follow. He saw lines and movement and color and shapes without those elements forming a recognizable image.

He had a eureka moment. He was faced with something unexpected and his creative mind, unrestricted by expectation and requirement and rules, transported his work to a different plane. He is credited with the invention of non-objective painting as a result. He took the opportunity at the moment of insight to explore a new path. Jan Ehrenwald, psychiatrist and author of numerous books, including “Anatomy of Genius” quoted above, uses the phrase that there occurs in the human brain an “existential shift”, when the two hemispheres of the brain unite to produce a condition allowing progressive action to be taken. He follows the theory of the “split brain”, in which the two halves of our brains have different methods of “thinking”. Sometimes the right brain is freed to release some insight and explores some new uncovered treasure, while the left brain synchronizes, observes, and participates without dominating the process. The brain’s right intuitive hemisphere often retains images, events and nascent thoughts in its unconscious. The left hemisphere is often thought of as the controlling, restrictive, mathematical part of the brain. When conditions are right these two hemispheres meld, working in concert, with the left side of the brain remaining pliable, even searching for a new expression, something to break a roadblock, to find a solution. The right half is free to enter with its own more intuitive thought process. The two halves join more seamlessly and perhaps something creative and profound can emerge. The hold of rules in the thought making process is lessened, partitions disappear, and the mind flows more freely in search of satisfying solutions.

From the same book by Ehrenwald, pg. 119, a statement about Alfred Einstein: “…Einstein specifically went on record stating that it is courageous to use intuition ‘when there is simply no other guide available at al – {for instance when} one has tentatively to propose an axiom that by definition is unproven.’ He remarked to a friend, Janos Plesch: ‘When I examine myself and my method of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of phantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing information’.”

OUR PERSONAL EVOLUTION

“Freshness of vision the child has, and freshness of vision is an important element in the new movement…The child has a direct vision, because his mind is unencumbered by association and because his power of concentration is unimpaired by a multiplicity of interests.” Michael Sadler’s introduction to the 1977 translation of Kandinsky’s book. Michelangelo, Galileo, Einstein and Kandinsky, like all of us, grew up in cultures that provided established borders, rules, methods of thought and behavior. It appears to most of us that they were true geniuses who found ways to leap from the established patterns and mindset of their cultures. They may have been born with exceptional intellects that, when compared to our own, makes us look puny and weak…or they might just have had minds that remained “open” and flexible, where their two hemispheres worked as one. Some of their actions may have been the result of simply following an inclination, a hunch, some errant thought or peculiar notion. They were willing to go against established patterns, whether those patterns were imposed by the norms of society or thru comfortable personal habit. To use some clichés, they may have responded to an idea that was “outside the box”, taking a “road less traveled by” which had been ignored by others. That willingness to consider change propelled them to a personal evolution that in turn altered the course of a larger cultural history. It seems likely that artists have moments when we are challenged to either pay attention to or ignore some newly emerged idea. It is also likely that an idea which seems new to us personally, is more likely an idea that someone else, somewhere and sometime, had considered already. However, the willingness to spend some time and effort in exploring that fresh untested idea is what sets one apart from the “nonstarters” who may have shared the same thought but who remained at the starting gate.

BREAKING NEW PERSONAL TRAILS

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in “The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life” by John Daido Loori What matters to you during this brief existence upon Earth? Perhaps accepting established norms and being comfortable with your own personal status quo is rewarding enough. Maybe doing only what is easily understood by the majority of the public offers sufficient satisfaction. But beyond that comfortable state, do you recognize the potential of responding to the mind’s internal nudges and quirks that do not seem merely ordinary? Are you willing and able to act upon you own unplanned hunches and unexpected notions? There are moments when we are inspired to change and grow because internal or external conditions are right for it. Our split brains and minds may remain flexible and integrated. The moment appears for some action that may lead us to new personal expression. We do not immediately reject our new thoughts out of fear of something unknown, nor because we seek public acceptance. We remain open and willing to experience our own “existential shift” for the sake of discovery, our intellectual evolution and the rudimentary childlike joy of living. Would you today be willing to say “The sun does not move” if the culture around you claimed that the Earth stands still? Would you be willing to take an observation like Kandinsky’s view of an upturned painting and have that propel you into new artistic explorations? Do you, like Einstein, remain open to your own flights of “phantasy”, responding to your personal day-dreams and hunches? An artist has individual and personal exploring to do with visual media. Each of us has our own unique individual history and path that provides experiences to draw from and which serves as the base upon which to evolve. While not all of us will alter the course of human culture, we can at least bend the future of our own personal artistic paths. If there is even one small “Eureka Moment” in our artistic experience, it can be the catalyst for enduring personal adventure and expanding wisdom.

“The ordinary dies every day. The extraordinary dies rarely.” - ANON

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