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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is mysterious.

In ancient cultures (and still-existing traditional ones) the shaman was a mysterious figure. He (or she) usually lived at the edge of the village, and often did not participate in the daily activities and chores of the tribe. Using strange instruments, archaic symbols, even stranger words and gestures, the shaman walked with a distracted (or maybe intense) manner…simply because he or she knew things. Think ‘Merlin’ for a clearer picture of this.

Sound like anyone you know now?

If you guessed artist, you were spot on. Artists, in their right role (as my wise friend and fellow blogger, Linda Hensley, pointed out so brilliantly in her recent post here) were meant, in the larger design of the Universe, to be the ones “just outside.” Not for punishment or ostracization, but to fulfill their function of having one foot in both worlds, keeping or bringing the numinous back into daily life…communicating with the Gods. Artists, shamans and healers (often the very same person) were called upon to restore the balance in bodies and hearts, between people, and in the natural world. Their ability to see past the imbalances, into the perfection and peace that is always available, was invaluable to tribes hard-pressed by mere survival issues.

Alas, the role of artists has greatly diminished!

Please don’t mistake my musings about artists for arrogance: shamanizing is very hard work. But instead of contemplating and illuminating the obstacles to a pervasive world peace, prosperity, and health of body and soul, most of us (hard-pressed by survival issues ourselves) have been reduced to making throwaway entertainment, decoration, or selling vodka and packaged goods with our gifts—the same deep, Universe-given gifts that have the power to enlighten, empower and bring unfathomable joy. Something is very wrong, indeed, when the healer-shaman-artist’s much-needed role no longer finds a place in the culture…

“Heart Medicine”   (pencil)

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Mother Nature turned the outdoors white as I slept last night, blanketing the landscape in four inches of new snow. In one fell swoop, she hides the other colors’ attempts to announce themselves: the showy green and yellow of Spring daffodil, the blushing scarlet of quince blossom and the hopeful blue-violet of periwinkle. Not being a winter sports enthusiast… and rather uninsulated by body type… my first response to this whiteness is “Oh, no!”

As I grow older, I am getting better at watching my thoughts… and I realize that this response is uncomfortably similar to my response to the proverbial white paper or white canvas (a well-documented phenomenon among artists and writers alike). My own fear of the white page feels like a fear of nothingness, of a void… as if I will never make another good painting again. But if scientists and color theorists are correct, white is not ‘nothing’ at all, but the presence of ‘everything.’ Light shining through the clear, color-less prisms of crystal pendant in my studio window reminds me of this. On every sunny day, rainbows bounce off the wall in a splendid, soul-satisfying array of colors.

The story of Noah’s Ark illustrates this potential beautifully: from nothing (the result of rain and flood) can come everything (renewed life). When the rains have stopped and floods receded, the Creator sets a beautiful rainbow in the sky as a promise that this emptiness will never happen again.

Perhaps this promise is inherent in a prism, inherent in the color white? All of the colors are there, all of the colors are waiting for expression. Every possibility for creativity is dormant in white, whether white snow or white paper… it’s not a void at all. The fear is really more a fear of ‘over-choice,’ a fear of making the wrong choice, as if one could be wrong and another right. I suspect that this fear is a fear belonging to the ‘Little Me,’ to use an Eckhart Tolle expression… and will fade away as I become more comfortable with simply being the willing channel for whatever creativity wants to be born next.

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) put this idea quite nicely: “A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the Absolute can manifest.”

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Inner Wisdom

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I have been thinking lately about the similarities between humans and their computers. Now, I suppose this should come as no surprise at all because humans invented computers… and “like father, like son” or, as in the ancient expression… “the prune does not fall far from the tree…” Nevertheless, I find some of the similarities a little unsettling. Take, for example, the concept of ‘external hard drive.’ Even a non-technical person like myself can recognize the value of a ‘back up’ for all of one’s precious information, photos and sources. But if viewed from the perspective of similarity between computer and human, the analogy becomes a disturbing reflection of a common human behavior.

‘External hard drive’ when viewed from the human perspective might reflect that we, as humans, tend to look for our value, our worth, and the meaning and directions for our lives… outside of ourselves. At first glance, most of us would say that “No, of course I don’t do that!” But how many of us are influenced–if only unconsciously–by fashion, polls, gossip, diets, styles-in-whatever-category, newspapers, magazines, the News, TV, peers, friends and family?

I am taking the long way around to make a point, I know…

The point I wish to make is that, for humans, this tendency toward ‘external hard drive’ can be a habitual denial of one’s own valuable uniqueness. (And for those of us who are artists, it is a rejection of the Muse from whence our creativity comes.) The world does not need one more person (or artist) who is just like so-and-so…. The world needs more people (and more artists) who are willing to turn towards his or her own Inner Wisdom for  guidance about how to live, what to do (and what to make). The world needs as many unique perspectives on Life as it can get. We need the full three hundred and sixty degree view of what Life is… or can be…

To quote Dane Rudhyar, “When you don’t follow your nature, there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be.”

“Inner Wisdom” (oil on canvas)

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