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Field Mapping

Complex Systems and the Six Realms of Dharma —                                                                                         Photograph by Andy Ilachinski It was while reading the somewhat scandalous thinker Wilhem Reich that I first encountered the idea of emotional traumas being encoded into the flesh and blood circuits of the body. Freezing into a kind of “armor,” these encodings work to shape and delimit the ways we perceive the world, hence wielding an out-sized influence over the course our lives take. This was in the early 1990s, and I was reading Reich along with some of the Frankfurt School thinkers (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, etc.) who (broadly speaking) collide psychology and social theory to see what falls out. … [Read more...]

Wallace Shawn and Our Planetary Fever

Material and Mystery on a Bathroom Floor –  Ignoring their embedded-ness, complex systems relate to the environment with greed and aggression. If world religions are based on any one experience, it’s the kind of night Wallace Shawn documents in his play The Fever. We’ve all had them. The harsh inner judge shows up with his clipboard and his tilted scales demanding full access to the heart. In flashes of self-recognition we glimpse the demonic patterns that have covertly governed the course of our lives. Cherished self-images collapse in on themselves as the mind swirls around in a soup composed of everything it feels disconnected from. Delivered as a single long monologue, The Fever manages to link an experience of this kind to material … [Read more...]

Ecce Heston

How to Survive Our Own Success – In Santa Fe dramatic thunderstorms are common late on summer days. Afterwards the massive banks of purple clouds will often part, allowing shafts of intense sunlight to angle down, creating sometimes vivid rainbows. At a house near downtown last summer I saw a rainbow like this, clear as a Technicolor dream. I was with a group of young scientists and I watched as their wonder shifted into analytical mode – here is an example of water molecules interacting with rays of refracted light – and then back again toward a more embodied appreciation. The sequence reminded me of the Buddhist saying in which a mountain becomes, for the meditator, something very different …and then, at a later stage, returns … [Read more...]

From Santa Monica to Santa Fe – Part 1

Slowly we discover how we are. On a visit to Santa Fe recently I read up on neuroplasticity and found myself haunted by the memory of a set of cement stairs. These stairs I encountered briefly when I was eight years old and my parents were hurtling toward their final separation. The stairs belonged to a monthly rental in Santa Monica where we had traveled for the summer from the East. They led up to a hallway and, at the far end, an apartment I never wanted to enter. At night the thin walls would shake with my father’s wounded bellowing and the sound of things breaking. We children would gather in the corner of the bedroom, the three of us, around our youngest sister as she cried from an ache in her chest that wouldn’t ease. There was no … [Read more...]

Theory of Miracles

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Disposable Plastic At a party at the Edendale Grill in Silverlake shortly before Christmas I learned about the five vortexes of disposable plastic, vast as continents and indestructible, that swirl continuously in the world’s oceans. I was talking to a woman named Sara Bayles who, in the hope of drawing attention to the problem, collects plastic trash choked up by the sea each day on Santa Monica beach. The image of the vortexes seemed to echo, dreamlike, the armada of environmental alarms that have circulated below the surface of my emotional life since childhood. And yet, at the Edendale, I noticed that something had shifted. Confronted with new evidence of environmental degradation the familiar … [Read more...]

Richard Serra Serves His Goddess

By Guy Zimmerman In various spiritual traditions it's common to hear the feminine identified with some version of open-ness or space, while the masculine is identified with form or substance. In Buddhist iconography, for example, wisdom is viewed as a quality of open space and as a feminine attribute. The womb, with its potential for birth, is evoked as an image. But in certain esoteric tantric disciplines Shiva, the masculine principle, is identified with root awareness - the ground out of which experience arises - and his consort Shakti is identified as...well...everything else. The feminine here is the profusion of all that can be experienced. A recent encounter with two sculptures by Richard Serra underscored for me what this shift … [Read more...]