Joshua Tree National Park

I was in California last week, taking a break from the city and reconnecting with the desert land that I love. My aunt, mom, sister and I all took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park where I took photos of the colors and shapes.  I began my California trip with the desert, which left a quietness in my heart that spilled over to the rest of my stay. I didn't document, but I went on a long date with Los Angeles which proved to be wonderful and bright.  I ended my stay with friends, family, the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, before kissing the bright sun goodbye. 

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Trestle: The Fourth Dimension

Fisk and I attended this opening last week and we loved it.  Each of the artists had work that was strange & full of symbols that conveyed a unique meaning to each of the works. 

Chitra Ganesh

This video oscillated between beautifully vibrant landscape and strange sexual places.  It referenced a variety of cultures, from the third eye to a hookah like object that found its way inside of the woman's vagina.  It was an odd but intriguing sequence of events.

William Villalongo

This video combined a contemporary native aesthetic with poetry and imagery that created a somber and thoughtful point of view.  What was especially wonderful were the points where the notion of painting was referenced, a character wears a canvas on her head, a bucket of seemingly organic pigmented material is thrown at a canvas in the woods.  Each reminded the viewer of the fine art context of this work while keeping the viewer focused on the video. 

Trenton Doyle Hancock

This projected video was beautiful, mostly in ways that are difficult to describe.  This was not an HD video, but in some sense, I enjoyed that very much.  The figures were dancing, and their lack of focus combined with the vivacity of their costumes allowed them to appear as if they were glowing.  This moved them the realm of reality into one of magical creatures that possessed a fluidity of movement and grace.  The story itself was not so clear, but the intimate moment that each of the characters has with each other is engaging and delicate - it was very difficult to stop watching. 

I regret that I do not have more time to write about each of these artists, as each of the videos held their own up against one another.  It was refreshing to see a set of videos that captured your eye for longer than a few moments and really asked for a deeper look into their creation and existence.  It was a lovely show. 


The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby

The Cosmic Serpent is an elegant semi autobiographical science abstract about the greater implications of our DNA in relation to hallucinations within ancient cultures. Narby takes us through his experiences in the Amazon with a Shaman, to discovering that there is a similarity between the origin story of many ancient cultures and the nature of DNA, to creating a coherent defense of this notion, and then on to creating a list of experiments that could be used to verify and test DNA's actual capabilities. Six pages deep Narby describes his own experience after ingesting ayahuasca, relating in detail his own vision of snakes.  He also makes an incredible point regarding a major flaw in the way Western culture studies other cultures.


"The anthropological method condemns its practitioners to 'dance on the edge of paradox' and to play the schizophrenic role of the player-commentator.  Furthermore, the distant gaze of the anthropologist cannot perceive itself, and those who aspire to objectivity by using it cannot see their own presuppositions.  As Pierre Bourdieu put it, objectivism 'fails to objectify its objectifying relationship.'"

This point is one theme that carries itself throughout the book and perhaps is the most subtle yet meaningful way to understand this work. How can one begin to understand what an experience is like, if one does not experience it for oneself?  At the same time, experiencing that which you are studying, does not allow for the objectivity that Western culture how somehow decided is the best means for study. Narby discusses how Western civilization believes shamans to be completely insane, when a little amount of research would show that they are incredibly invaluable members of their communities. Shamans are healers, they analyze your life and tell you what actions you can take to make proper decisions, that are better for the community as a whole. This is not because the shaman has the confidence or ego to presume they know enough to help but because shamans of many cultures take plant based hallucinogens that allow them to be connected to the greater whole - ayahuasca activates communication between the shaman and the whole. This allows the shaman to see the bigger picture,and then relay what knowledge that individual needs to hear. 

What Narby so passionately explored was that when each shaman from each respective culture took plant based hallucinogens, they each saw and visualized a snake, and that snake was the main character of origin stories from around the world.  From aboriginals in Australia to native people in Peru, there were incredible similarities between them.  Narby begins his quest there, and quite wonderfully makes a case for studying the affects of plant based hallucinogens. 

"According to my hypothesis, shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access to biomolecular information.  But what actually goes on in the brain/mind of an ayahuasquero when this occurs?  What is the nature of a shaman's communication with the animate essence of nature?  The clear answer is that more research is needed in consciousness, shamanism, molecular biology, and their interrelatedness. 
Rationalism separates things to understand them. But its fragmented disciplines have limited perspectives and blind spots.  And as any driver knows, it is important to pay attention to blind spots, because they can contain vital information.  To reach a fuller understanding of reality, science will have to shift its gaze.  Could shamanism help science to defocalize?  My experience indicates that engaging shamanic knowledge requires looking into a great number of disciplines and thinking about how they fit together."

Sometimes, most of the time, it feels incredible that there are so many avenues worth studying and exploring while humanity fails to recognize their importance for whatever reason.  I read through this book in 4 days, completely drawn to these ideas, and many of the ideas I've been sitting with as of late.   I can't help but imagine that the best way for any idea or experience to really permeate ones life is to live that experience deeply and fully, and then step away and try to understand your own interest.  This push an pull, inside and outside of experience is a way for our minds to move through polar opposites to understand a greater meaning in the whole. 

It goes without saying that any book I choose to write about is one that I would recommend, aside from the incredible amount of knowledge this book has to offer, it's the way in which Narby delivers his message; passively, full of hope and peace, that really made this such a compelling read.  


Living the Magical Life by Suzi Gablik

The title page of my copy of this book is signed by Suzi Gablik.  There was no mention of this detail when I bought the book online and I can't help but admit that its presence felt like an immediate affirmation. Gablik begins this autobiography with a narrative about Tom, one that allows your mind to follow the basic tropes of any romantic relationship, but what becomes the meat and intrigue of this book is how Gablik leads the reader into paths of unpredictable yet sincere ventures of what it means to lead a spiritual life. 

"This book tells the story of how an encounter with the divine feminine has happened in my life.  Not as a single anomalous occurrence, but as a complex of enigmatic and beguiling experiences suggesting a pattern with an apparent purpose that is often beyond my reckoning, and seems to come out of a place there's no explaining."

The book plays out very much like this quote, as a series of complex experiences.  Any given vignette will be rich with information about art history, a necessary moral, or a quote that brings the reader to the outside looking in. In many cases, a vignette will feature all three of these descriptions. 

"We tend to think of life as being unpredictable and random, rather like the weather, a chain of unconnected experiences flowing like an arrow through time.  A closer look has convinced me that life is more like an ecosystem than a linear equation: all the parts are interconnected."

Gablik makes evidence of this statement from her own life. In one example, Gablik receives a phone call from her insurance company telling her that a rug she owned and was forgotten away in storage had been destroyed in a fire. This left her with a surprise check, allowing her to fund a trip to Europe where she was able to live with and work on a novel about Magritte.  This particular trip led to many other experiences, all of which sharing the same origin, an unannounced phone call about a destroyed rug.   This notion of interconnectedness is beautiful,  that life delivers a small event that somehow is capable of changing the scope of your existence. It can be as insignificant as a single email, a phone call, or a message left in the dark. 

By the end of the novel, your less concerned over the relationship with Tom, Gablik's soul satisfying stories are relatable and full of meaning.  There is much more to delve into about the divine feminine, its basic notion is one of denying the aggressive and dominating characteristics of the Western world.   I would love a recommendation for a book exactly about the divine feminine. 

 It was this quote by Gablik that left it's biggest mark, a quote that embodies a mode of existing successfully, one that requires letting go of ego, and embracing unknown processes. 

"Let go of the consciousness of disappointment.  Release your belief in the promise unfulfilled.  Sacrifice the need to know, and trust the invisible processes that are at work.  Develop a mind that can work with whatever happens.  Allow everything to be all right as it is and simply remain true to the quest.  When you learn to stop struggling and do nothing, everything is possible."