Impermanence

I share with you these pears dancing in the light of the sun coming through the window. But they are no longer there. We ate them. They were delicious. The photograph is history like all photographs has captured history.

(image may be viewed and purchased here)

Impermanence is difficult concept to viscerally accept. My limited understanding comes from Buddhist practices but it is an idea that has fascinated me since I was a small child and realized that turning of the earth gave me a glimpse of visually watching the passage of time. In fact, it is fair to say that expression of impermanence is a strong underpinning in most of my paintings and much of my reflective writing.  The Buddhist notion of impermanence is that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is in a constant state of flux. Here a section on the subject from wikipedia:

According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. This is applicable to all beings and their environs including devas (mortal gods). The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering (dukkha).

Conditioned phenomena can also be referred to as compounded, constructed, or fabricated. This is in contrast to the unconditioned, uncompounded and unfabricated nirvana, the reality that knows no change, decay or death.

Impermanence is intimately associated with the doctrine of anatta, according to which things have no fixed nature, essence, or self.

Though I do meditate and go to the odd meditation retreat, I am not a practicing Buddhist. But there are times when I find that the Buddhist doctrine resonates and helps me to live a better life – with less suffering. Such a time is when the hard drive of my computer crashes beyond recovery. Some things were lost. Some things have been found in other places. I wasn’t and I am not particularly worried or grieving about any of these things.

What did strike me in a new way was the concept of impermanence. It was like I had been accumulating this understanding for years and all of a sudden I had a glimpse of it – just for a few days and even then only for a few hours at a time. I was able to experience impermanence beyond what my brain had constructed … it was tangible in the cells of my body, the earthquakes in Japan, David’s stroke, the birth of my grandchildren, the lines on the backs of my hand, and the daffodils in the woods.

(image may be viewed and purchased here)


This wasn’t a sense of peace and ease I was experiencing – I was terrified. My experience of the world, through my five senses, was no more permanent than the passing light between the trees. I was borrowing these experiences and stretching their presence through memory, writing, painting and collecting data on my hard drive. My thoughts go to Atlantis, the Egyptian pyramids, the ancient Greek poet Sappho – all passing moments in time with just a few fragments left visible through story, crumbling earth and fragments of poetry.  I grasp that my existence, my being, and my experiences are all expressions of impermanence. For a few moments, okay hours, it was hard not to hyperventilate and go screaming naked through the woods.

But after awhile I concluded, nothing had changed. These things were the same before I looked them squarely in the eye. My knowing did not chance impermanence – only my experience of impermanence.

(image may be viewed and purchased here)

This week I shall work on another painting. I shall do it with conscious awareness of my impermanence and its impermanence.

Sprout question: How does impermanence express itself in your creativity?

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

Distortion

Exactness is not the same as expressing the exact emotion in our work.

Our discussion in yesterday’s post “Shadow Memories” entered into my dreams, leaving various images and reflections scatter around at dawn where small birds and coffee tell me it is now morning. Shadow memories are distorted reflections, yet their fleeting brilliance, can engage our emotional responses more deeply than the original image or experience.

From my training and experience as a counselor, I know that some memories are stored in our brains differently. These memories can be trauma memories or any experience that is overwhelming. We store these experiences without “feeling” first. When the time is right, we can “reflect” on those memories and experience the emotions connected with that moment for the FIRST time.

Why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with writing, painting, photography or other forms of creativity? I believe it may have everything to do with creativity. Creative work that moves us, positive or negative, must elicit an emotional response. Countless examples tell us that it is not the perfection or accuracy with which the creator has captured the original experience but rather, the accuracy with which an emotion is captured that makes, impactful work. The entrance to that emotional connection is likely a distorted emphasis or reflection of a subject.

Take for instance the sketches above. When sketching, I have little ability to edit. I sketch quickly. My marks are made in rapid succession on the paper. I “feel” rather than show you exactly what I am seeing. The feelings are not just the ones present at the moment but also the ones that flicker in the shadows connecting through all time and space that I define as my experience. The sketches are far from being an exact replication of the nude male model I was drawing. Yet, in the distorted strokes of the charcoal on paper there is little doubt that they reflect a nude masculine form. Shadow memories flicker through or prance in the forefront of our creativity providing passages into deep emotions for ourselves and then for others.

Today I shall write as I sketch. I shall not edit. I shall write and allow the distorted brilliance of shadow memories to catch my imagination with vivacious autonomy.

Sprout Question: How do you access the exact emotion expressed in a piece of work?

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada