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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.
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.
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.”
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.