Waiting to Fly
There’s an adage that states, “the more we know, the more we know how little is known.” Not much more than 100 years ago, scientists had concluded that Newton was the final word when it came to physics and that we’d learned all there is to know on the subject. One theory, one discovery later in 1905 and we realized we’d not even scratched the surface of who, what and even where we are. All that we believed about the universe, the earth , time, space and everything in between was completely turned on its ear. To assume that the final word on the concept of God, the cosmos and the afterlife was established by ancient observers 2000 years ago seems a bit short-sighted to me, particularly where the big picture is concerned. But is it wrong in the smaller picture, the personal one that guides our relationships with each other? Is ‘fact’ even the point here? hmmm . . .
I was approached at a show in Seattle last year by a rather grizzled man in his mid-30’s who’d had an obviously challenging life. After reading the collection of “diaries” next to my paintings he turned to me in a distressed state and blurted, “you’re going to hell!” After 44 years entrenched in Southern Baptist Evangelicalism, I knew his state of mind well. I responded, “For your sake, I certainly hope so.” This was a different response than he had anticipated and wanted to engage me concerning the horrors of never ending hellfire and the unceasing torture of unimaginable magnitude for all those who did not believe as he did. I knew instinctively that this man HAD to believe that there were irrationally terrible consequences for his actions, that his God really created it and that there was no room for question or doubt. Fundamentalism was his only hope to surviving this life – a young soul that would only fall back into destructive patterns without the fear and the redemption of a simple and understandable God. For me to challenge him would be a step toward destroying him – and that, I believe is a sin. By taking a fundamentalist stance he had advanced spiritually from the downward spiral he was once in. He has taken flight. This process of spiritual evolution can be repeated on any number of levels. Case in point #2: two years ago I received an email from a couple who were very upset with my definition of “evil”. We spent the next several months in heated debate and the result was a bit surprising – we found that we began to focus not on our differences but on our similarities and grew into a mutual respect of each other’s beliefs and have developed a very dear friendship in the process agreeing that Love is the most important ingredient of humanity. While they still hold their beliefs dear, they have grown stronger in their relationships with Love as the distilling factor.
Defending beliefs is not the goal. Challenging them is, and growing in a direction of love and empathy to the human condition is. And sometimes this doesn’t happen without a shift in the “fundamentals”. Case in point #3: my parents were dyed in the wool Bob Jones University Evangelicals. When I began my spiritual metamorphosis, it was my parents, with love as their guide, who would walk into the mouth of the devil to bring their child home. They believed strongly that truth would become evident as they chose to study what I had studied in order to show me the error of my way and help me back on to the one true path. But another shift happened, a realization – that we all see the same light, the light that all people of the earth see and try to interpret in their own way within their own customs and stories. One river, many wells. They’d been ready to fly for years but were hindered because, like most of us, we don’t know what it is we don’t know. Between tears, my mom recently confessed that her only regret was that she didn’t discover this earlier. To summarize, I don’t believe that my viewpoint is correct and everyone else is wrong, because in the big picture – we’re all wrong (see first paragraph). But in the smaller picture, when it comes to what we as individuals need and grasp for in order to live a life-affirming and abundant existence – we’re all correct in our choices, when it is based in Love and compassion for all living things.
In this painting, the bull represents beliefs we’ve held tightly be it religious, (fundamentalist, progressive, mystical, humanist), personal (sinful, saved, alone, chosen) or civic (might is right, the earth and animals were created for human use and consumption) or any other form of belief held as absolute. The poppies represent all that we don’t know we don’t know. Beautiful and scentful they’re all around us waiting to be plucked. The balloon represents consciousness and its innate understanding that everything we know is only a grain of sand on the ocean floor of potential and its desire to rise up and evolve. The breastplate is a symbol of our evolutionary fixation on survival, a defense against the fear of loss of certainty and thus the security of living forever because we still view death as an end rather than the doorway to a new beginning. The birds indicate those who’ve taken up the challenge to evolve and are flying from the cocoon shaped trees, however – they’re not all going in the same direction, but are flying according to their own unique dreams and understandings.