Inspired by the free-flowing piece on writing that I linked in my previous post, here are some foot-loose and fancy-free reflections prompted by the above graphic.
I’m a sucker for clever graphics. This one pretty well sums up my philosophy of life. If you define science as the exploration of nature, you have the classic art-nature opposition which dissolves because art seeks to celebrate and even emulate nature by mimicking it. As we learn ever more about our world, art evolves to reflect scientific understanding. And like natural evolution, a more willed process than used to be thought, art involves performance-feedback-revision.
I’m also a sucker for equations. An equation to represent the graphic might be:
Knowledge + Creativity = Reverence
By coincidence, I’ve just read this in ‘V’ by Howard Jacobson:
There was rapture and there was responsibility. Each imposed an obligation of seriousness but together they made the serious sacred.
Dionysus and Apollo together make up the ancient Greek ideal – two sides of the same coin, no one without the other. The poet William Blake understood that ‘without Contraries is no progression’. But what strikes me about the equation is how it echoes the Buddhist concept of Higher Worlds: Learning, Realisation and Compassion.
A swift digression – I’m no student of religion and happy to be put right but my understanding is that there are 10 Worlds:
Hell, Hunger, Anger, Animality, Tranquillity, Heaven, Learning, Realisation, Compassion, Nirvana.
Hunger is absolute want. Anger is the root of conflict and war. Animality is obsession with status, pecking-order, dog-eats-dog. Tranquillity, sometimes known as Humanity, is inertia – passive acceptance of the status quo. Suffering two or more of these Worlds becomes a Hell on earth. Heaven is a temporary respite from the other Lower Worlds.
Now the good news. As we all know, there are positives in adversity which enable us to climb out. Learning is our evolutionary lifeline. Realisation I take to mean mastery, the attainment of skills which help us transcend ego. Compassion is simply fellow-feeling. Blend these Higher Worlds to attain Nirvana – escape from the cycle of Birth and Death, with all its inevitable suffering.
Now – cards on the table – I don’t happen to believe in Reincarnation, any more than I believe in Transubstantiation. Infected by the scientific method, I require hard evidence of life after death – evidence which is so far not forthcoming. But the 10 Worlds work for me as a theory of human life, with the potential to alleviate my natural and universal fear of death. And if I can use the certainty of my own demise as a means of enhancing my appreciation of life, so much the better – one in the eye for the Grim Reaper, you might say …
Enough for now. More to come next post, though, as I’ve only just scratched the surface of what I want to say. It gets more cheerful, promise!
Here’s a taste of what’s to come …