- for Rob
All things show their faces when we do.
All things speak when we do.
All things appear when we do.
The first face, the first word,
they blossom into all the others.
They all are true.
©Laurence Holden, 2010
James Hillman writes in his A Blue Fire, “Nature Alive,” p. 99:
“all things show faces, the world is not only a coded signature to be read for meaning, but a physiognomy to be faced. As expressive forms, things speak; they show the shape they are in. They announce themselves, bear witness to their presence: “Look, here we are.” They rπegard us beyond how we may regard them, our perspectives, what we intend with them, and how we dispose of them. This imaginative claim on attention bespeaks a world ensouled. More - our imaginative recognition, the childlike act of imagining the world, animates the world and returns it to soul.”
"What ever you make must be a being...Only a deliberate process of creating being-like (and self-like) centers...throughout the world will encourage the world to become more alive...[this means you] consciously move towards those things which most deeply reflect or touch your own self, your own inner feeling, and consciously move away from those which do not...this process creates places which are profoundly practical, harmonious, adequate for the conduct of life, respectful of ecology and all living forms..." -Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order
“ Man is primarily an image maker and our psychic substance consists of images; our being is imaginal being, an existence in imagination. We are indeed such stuff as dreams are made of.
...we live in a world that is neither “inner” nor “outer.” Rather the psychic world is an imagined world, just as image is psyche. Paradoxically, at the same time, these images are in us and we live in the midst of them. The psychic world is experienced as inside us and yet it encompasses us with images. I dream and experience my dreams as inside me and yet at the same time I walk around in my dreams and am inside them.
...Because our psychic stuff is images, image-making is...a royal road to soul-making. The making of soul-stuff calls for dreaming, fantasying, imagining. To live psychologically means to imagine things; to be in touch with soul means to live in sensuous connection with fantasy. To be in soul is to experience the fantasy in all realities and the basic reality of fantasy.” - James Hillman Re-Visioning Psychology, p.23 Harper & Row 1975
We are drawn to some forms and images more than to others. You might say that we just like some forms and images more than others, but I think it is more than mere liking - something within us is actually drawn to them because there might be a magnetism between us - something in us is drawn to them because of a recognition of kinship. Such forms seem to fill us with the feeling of wholeness, and sometimes wellness. They feel undeniably good to us - they make us feel good. The universality of archetypal forms perhaps suggests this.
This experience operates below the conscious, rational level of plain likes and dislikes.
So try this exercise.
Where ever you might be (at work, at a restaurant, at home, at a friend's house, at Walmart) just look around you and pick out two small objects that seem more rich in nuance than all the rest. You don't have to think about this - you don't have to know why. It doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike them, just that they seem rich in nuance. Set them next to one another. then ask yourself:
Which of the two objects generates the most wholesome feeling inside you?
Then, which one is more like your own self?
Then, which of them seems to project a better sense of all of who you are - the whole you, including your hopes, fears, weaknesses, contradictions, hate, love, longing, of the good and the bad in you, even of your past, your present, and your future?
Then, what parts of these objects fail to do this, and which parts are more powerful mirrors of yourself?
Then finally, which of these objects would you prefer to become more like by the day of your death?
These questions are a way of asking more deeply who you are, and which shapes are more deeply connected to who you most deeply are. The answers can sometimes lead you to richer, more directly enlivened relationships of forms and images, and to a keener sense of wholeness both in the work and in yourself.
P.S. Over my 50 years of teaching I have found that most people, no matter their experience in visual arts, are able to recognize these self informing shapes in the world around them. Largely the exceptions have been when students looked for what they thought was cute, or beautiful, or looked for the "right" answer they thought the teacher wanted, and in these cases the students short circuited any chance of developing a personal relationship with the world around them.