Some impressionistic notes on the role of art

 

Increasingly, I think of art as a sublimation and transmutation of everyday cognition and waking experience into something greater and truer, the lifeline that connects us to a metaphysical dimension inhabited by qualities, energy and essences.

We are more than our bodies and earthly experiences, we are “in this world but not of this world,” and art is an active form of meditation-prayer, a conscious form of magic-making, our direct line to that other world — the world of both sub-consciousness and super-consciousness, of images and music, of hypnotic-poetic use of language.

All systems of thought and philosophy are cousins. So you can call that other realm Plato’s “Forms”, the pagan/shamanistic “Underworld”, or the Christian spiritual reality of unending time.

They are all pointing at the same thing. It’s like the proverbial story of five different blind men trying to understand what an elephant is like, each by touching a different body part. Each walks away with a different understanding, but they are all one elephant. So, in my mind, I make free associations between many spiritual paradigms.

I come from a traditionally syncretic spiritual lineage. We Koreans honor our own creation-mythology, involving a bear-turned-woman, as well as Jesus Christ. We are Catholics who conduct rites of ancestral worship yearly. We are Buddhists who leave offerings for the mountain gods. So it’s not difficult or particularly risky-feeling for me to understand All Systems of Enlightenment as One and intimate that all forms of devotion, of movement-toward-stillness, and energy-transmutation are one.

We are here to purge the evil of the world from our souls and graduate to union with God-Love-Source. This is no job for the faint of heart — just ask Jesus in Golgotha, Buddha in his days in the desert. Ask Christian martyrs, Muslims in arduous pilgrimage, Martin Luther King Jr, Frieda Kahlo.

For this, you need faith, endurance, wisdom, the willingness to say “yes” to the fight, to get your hands and feet dirty, to bleed, the willingness to dance with the devil while “keeping thine eyes lifted to the mountains.”

 


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