Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Soulful Journey: Unseen Transcendence

[The following blog is an edited version written a year ago.]

In pursuit of a new artistic show, I have focused my attention on cypress knees surrounding where I live in Florida, with a new optical filter I recently developed to make more vivid the surreal colorism of my world view--a view that I created well over a decade ago after I began modifying digital cameras.  Following are a few examples of the scenery, seen in a new light, I encountered in my meanderings along the Shingle Creek banks in Central Florida.  
   

(click on the images to see any of them larger)

(All photos are copyrighted 2016 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)

A cypress knee is a distinctive structure forming above the roots of a cypress tree.  Its exact purpose is speculated, ranging from extended root foundation support in marshy ground, to a structure meant for respiration above the water line.  Scientists are still baffled by the cypress knee, but the artist in me can see a purpose.



While I was out shooting I also listened to music on my headphones.  The songs moved from serene piano baroque pieces to contemporary pieces.  Songs like Pachelbel's Canon in D, well known to me, played in the back as I snapped shot after shot of inspiring scenes.

The diversity of human individual experience leads to a diversity of belief.  I find in the cypress knees vast iconic representations of this spectrum of belief.  No knee is truly the same, but they are all of the same genus, and in groups they sprout from a common tree. Each knee representing distinct experiences of the one--some growing large, some remaining small, each clinging to life in an unsettling marshy ground.



There I listened and took in the surreal beauty around me. As song transitioned to another, I came across a cypress knee that took the form of a hand.  The symbolism took on a direct connection to emotions that were bubbling up inside me.  An unseen hand of a sort touched a chord deep inside me.

There are times in one's life when we are enormously connected with the world, the universe, science, or whatever higher power to which you ascribe, that the simplest thing reveals enormous detail.  You find the weave of a sweater or the glistening light from even plastic just amazing.  Something as simple and humble as a muddy root can teach us much about beauty, love and tolerance.  We can touch the hand that reaches for us from deep within ourselves, even if just in form of Plato's shadow.



-- my own hand's shadow across the "cypress hand" --


I felt overpowered by the beauty of nature that we can’t even perceive with our natural eyes.  There is so much hidden under our limited experiential abilities, our narrow ego tunnel of squat human sensory bandwidth.  But this day, I felt a pair of Next Eyes opening.

Seeing the colors, shadows, illuminations, dimensions in the viewfinder of my altered camera opened me to the idea that the world is so beautiful and we barely see it in our narrow eyesight. I started to analyze it, but felt the emotive sensation evaporating as I did, so I stopped and let it flow.

When I had developed surreal color photography over a decade ago, I had felt these connections and near mystical insights—seeing the dreamlike world I captured in my camera for over a decade now.


I felt this grandeur and expansive connection to the world, gathering even a hope of something larger out there. I also felt saddened by so many losses:  My younger life that was at times narrowed in black and white viewpoints; the loss of relationships, and the burden of knowing that my youthful dreams hadn’t quite fulfilled. Then I realized what an amazing journey my life meanders through.  I couldn’t have planned any of it, but it has brought me to so many places and experiences that I wouldn’t trade away. 



You know that moment when you learn something profound for the first time?  Reading a well written verse, or novel that fires off all levels of new thoughts? A newness brought by insatiable curiosity; as we grow older keeping the eyes of
 a child who's fascinated as her world continues opening to new exploration.  This art brings an altered view of the world and is the eye-candy store that continues to give.




The words at the end of the movie American Beauty resonated into my mind.  
“... there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”
That was how I felt at the moment I watched myself connect with the world through light that is unseen.  It was as if I could see everything literally and metaphorically in a new light through the vision glowing on the LCD of my full-spectrum converted camera.  In a short moment, ages passed and I felt as if I had gain the experience of years, all in a few dozen heart beats. 


I felt yearning.  Humans crave an answer to a question we haven’t yet completely formalized.  I really wish I knew the answer, if there even is an answer to a question ill-formed.  But what am I asking?  It seems we all inquire, generally—is there meaning in our chaotic and seemingly random life?

I've studied the various forms of answers--So many and really no satisfaction.  At times I feel beaten by life; at others I find awareness raised as I look across the various forms and shadows we sculpt into meaning. 


Some find meaning in family, a belief about a blessed mother and perfect child who became the deliverer of meaning through expiation, binding the family together.  It drives at the most essential connection every person has—the desire for comfort and familiarity in the embrace of loved ones.  However, for some, family hurts when human weakness injures their bonds.  They look for self-reliance and abandon the pain.


Some find meaning in pondering.  Most recently, I have pursued a solitary search.  Seclusion allows an inner-focused practice of contemplating the meaning of self, and sometimes finding the eradication of ego.  Meditation has even found support in factual neuroscience, but by digging deeply into the psyche, self vanishes and meaning evaporates along with it.  For some it is a truth they accept humbly; for many the yearning remains unsatisfied.

Some find meaning in pleasure.  Each of us has punctuated moments of self-indulgence.  If there is no meaning, then the import is gratification.   Life is short enough to waste, they say, and squander time on meaningless pursuits of elusive meaning.  Hedonism promises instant rewards, and ancient religions and fertility gods such as Min have been devoted to its pursuit.
Some find meaning in life after life after life.  The impoverished find themselves unable to devote time to philosophical searches or hedonistic paths.  This life has starved them of rewards and peace.  Facts are useless to the hungry.  They hold to the promise of life after life, where we live many different versions to gain a broader and more complete perspective.  
Some find meaning in facts and science—the field in which I work.  My art is based on my own scientific pursuits in technology to sense unseen light.  Science delivers, as seen in the exponential burst of technology that even promises to save us from universal hunger, from pain to deliver prime fulfillment, and perhaps even reward future generations with immortality. Facts, however, yield no obvious meaning to the yearning about deeper purpose. 
And even some find peace in ignoring all meaning, and relaxing like a cat along the lazy river a quiet life provides.  The feline doesn't need meaning; just a good scratch behind his ears.  Carefree, whimsical,  happy, unburdened and able to just ignore the yearn that irritates the rest.  These happy-go-lucky souls supply an embrace of solace on our journey to wherever this quest takes us.

Not one school of study, not a single philosophy, nor a particular creed actually has the full gamut of satisfying promises, fact and peace.  Some have peace, but lack extraordinary promises of treasure beyond the earthly.  Some have fact and study, but lack the peaceful answer to the hunger of meaning. Some have promise of splendor hereafter, but lack facts to support their claim.  Many interesting narratives exist.  Diversity of individuals find different narratives gratifying.


I ache for answers like others standing at the edge of the waters of life.  But like the mysterious purpose of the cypress knee, the purpose of life still eludes most of humanity who are humble enough to realize the answer is not obvious.




Along the banks of the Shingle Creek, as these feeling ebbed, I figured I had primed my emotions with the music and scenery; this concoction of emotions, beauty, peaceful surroundings and seeing in a new light opened me up to experience myself in a way that doesn't happen often enough.  We crave this because it feels so alive.  We feel big and tightly loved.  We feel small and ineffably important.  Contradictory elation and sadness all in the same bottle-opening moment, which overcome and fill us with so much wonder.  Everlasting curiosity is a kind of soulful journey itself.  Exploration can be an unseen transcendence. 
(All photos are copyrighted 2016 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)








24 comments:

  1. David T. Come back to the church. You are a gem and we need you. Don't abandoned what you have felt is true. You have so much talent and the Lord can use you to benefit humankind.

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    1. No, Twede, don't return to the Mormon church. You are a blight and a jerk. we don't want you, regardless of your supposed soul searching. Get lost already.

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    2. Wow. I can just feel the Mormon love in that reply...

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    3. Why return to an organization which seeks to control, explain and dispense this type of experience when he could get it freely in nature?

      If he returned to the LDS church he'd literally be expected to pay 10% of his income to get the benefit of such experiences. Even the temple is a cold comparison to our natural transcendent tendencies in the wild outdoors. A sterile, opulent lobby is the pinnacle of worship for Mormonism, but the natural world offers so much more and requires no oaths, rituals, secrecy or elevation of men over you.

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    4. I didn't see how asking Mr. Twede to return to his former church was in bad taste. It looked like a compliment. Why are you atheists so hung up on this?

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    5. @Bradley -- Considering all he has written, it would be a kind of gross dishonesty to return to a religion he knows is false. And it's fundamentally opposed to the tenor of this wonderful post. It's asking him to take this profound, transcendental, and mind-expanding experience and stuff it into a constricted little box of fraud, minute rules, and thought control.

      Mormonism is false not just for historical reasons, but because its vision of existence is far too tiny. Asking someone who has seen that to voluntarily step back into it after an experience like this isn't exactly rude, but it sure doesn't grasp what it's all about.

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    6. Stay where you are David as far as organized religion goes. God exists but he doesn't matter in this life ... and he wants it that way. We are to find ourselves and that simply cannot happen with a parental church that wants us to never grow up.

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  2. This is beautiful and thought provoking! I too have my moments of spirituality which remind me there is a possibility of more. They are moments of intense beauty, deep connection and unforgettable and I can only hope if there is something more it will be greatly intensified once I get there. Thank you for sharing you beautiful photographs and deep thoughts!

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  3. Your insights and photos are incredibly inspiring. Thank you, sir, for imparting this experience to the world.

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  4. Dave, thanks for those pictures and thoughts! Very much appreciated.

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  5. Wonderful blog post! Stay the course.

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  6. David is a liar and just pulling our collective leg. Don't fall for this bologna. Or should I say blog-nah?

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    1. Please shove your Mormon religion up your judgemental ass.

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    2. Both of you "Anonymous" are just rude. Regardless of your persuasion, can't you just appreciate the experience Mr. Twede had? I do believe it is affirming of Mormonism, even if he doesn't, but I don't judge him. I accept the experience he's had.

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  7. I'll be your new GF, David!

    --Morning Glory

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    1. Okay, joking aside. I am also a visual artist. As a member of an artist activist group, I use my art to increase awareness of environmental issues. I find Davids thoughts on his own work enlightening and intriguing. I have spent many hours out walking in nature. David coupled art and nature with music. I am also a musician. Studies have been done on the brain showing how music lights up the "god" part of the brain.

      Sadly, the spiritual experience David is describing is one Mormons think they have the market corner on. Its worst use is to validate religion. Its best use, as shown here by David, is to validate and enrich life.

      --Morning Glory

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    2. I appreciate your joke, and your insights, MG. True, our brains are wired in this way. They question I have is, what evolutionary purpose is there to this wonder and pondering? Does it add to survival of the species? Perhaps. But it sure feels important.

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    3. Wonder and pondering. Curiosity.

      If my days of reading about Developmental Psychology are still with me at all, curiosity goes back to the crib. It starts with basic random physical movement and then the very first reach toward a bauble hanging over head. There is a reward for making those movements. That is the beginnings of curiosity in a nutshell.

      Its somewhat disconcerting the number of things the human brain has been discovered to be Hardwired for. A Google search will reveal them. If hardwire is synonymous with the word instinct, then more of how we behave is predetermined than what most human egos would want to admit.

      Survival of the species? Probably. But what I find interesting is how every hard wired behavior has its negative counterpart that is also harmful.

      For instance, the human brain is set up to be easily controlled and even brain washed. Couple this with the God experience hard wiring. What good does it do to be hard wired for the god experience in the case of the followers of David Koresh or Jim Jones?

      We are also hard wired to see patterns in our environment and attach meaning to them. How many times have any of us put a series of information together and come to wrong or false conclusions? Invested in those conclusions? Created really bad consequences because of those invented conclusions and paid dearly for them? Then realize when it is too late where the mistake was back in the beginning?

      Pareidolia: the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features

      Cute and fun when looking at the moon or clouds, but not navigating social situations.

      So, all of our looking at and reading of cues from our environment and our resulting conclusions can help or hurt. Critical thinking and gaining insight is as painful as it is freeing.

      --Morning Glory

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  8. So beautiful, eloquent and thought provoking. And to all those mean people out there that call themselves Christian, grow up. This isn't your journey. Clearly you don't have one and feel the need to leach on to Davids. Go find your own journey to criticize and critique. You'll be the better for it.

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  9. I look forward to your new posts David. This one was definitely worth the wait! Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful thoughts.

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  10. These are just GORGEOUS, David. Thank you for sharing your journey and photos. Very emotive and aesthetic.

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  11. Some of these photos remind me of a place that I've visited. Beautiful, as always.

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  12. David, this is an absolutely lovely blog posting. Thank you for opening our eyes to the other-worldly beauty in this life!

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