Originally published in Dance/USA Journal
Through MEDIA, POPULAR CULTURE, MATERIALISM, AND THE EDUCATIONAL SYTEM by which most of us are conditioned, an institutionalized ideological framework (actually a ministry) is set up, supported and hammered repeatedly into the mass psyche. This framework favors conditioned response rather than thought, and the enumeration of “facts” rather than the wisdom of experience. This ministry is largely launched by images and attitudes that are culturally accepted and understood in symbol and value even though they are offensive.
You know the lot: life should be carefree and easy; success means money; things will bring you happiness; you must seek fulfillment outside of yourself and the load of others, dehumanize and trivialize all the components of the human condition. As a result, we are more interested in our bodies that in ourselves. We honor what we can measure, and what can’t be measured we don’t trust. All of us have been affected by these blinding, globally-produced, biased messages based on profit. The spell is broken when we can step back and with calm discrimination discern the value of what is being presented to us. “Intelligence made restless by sensory bombardment loses its focusing power” (Paramahansa Yoganda, “God Talks With Arjuna”).
Traditionally art has been a way of life and a key into that inner knowledge which has always existed, which always will exist, and to which we all have access. This affects both patron and artist, of which we all are. Access to that knowledge comes from a contemplative mind that takes periodic dives of focused introspections and regular breaks from the whirl of life’s daily carnival.
Audience members feel informed when they have read the synopsis for Swan Lake and assume they know what they are getting. When they close their inner query and “follow along,” they have lost. Although I believe Swan Lake is popular because subliminally it is understood. Siegfried wrestles with a choice between the material world, status quo, conformity, and doing what is expected of him versus his un-negotiable, perilous and risky search for the absolute spiritual ideal. He is fooled by nature and betrays himself and his ideal, or he abandons the material world and plummets headlong into spirit (depending on what version you see).
It is the deep daily battle in the lives of us all.
This is not a new story. It is a metaphysical truth that has appeared in different forms in numerous cultures. Since most of us are not educated in universal symbols and metaphor, the story isn’t readily understood. Aesthetics of color, technique, and overall presentation thrill many members of the audience. The focus is on the picture rather than the meaning of the work, the bottle rather than the wine. This is due to the manner in which we are educated. What matters to us is how things make us feel and what we like and don’t like. We currently approach art as a thing of whim and fancy. This view contradicts the thought supported by traditions of ancient civilizations, that art is the highest intellectual operation and an inherent property in the makeup of all men.
“Inner knowledge” pulverizes the crutches of “outside” facts and needs no allies. It obliterates all the “isms” and refers us to one source. You come to know what is known, or realize what is being contemplated – I become the horse before I can paint it, I realize the character before I portray him, I become my beloved so there is no more separation. This knowledge makes clear and inevitable the how for whatever making you are doing – building bridges, farming, raising children, making dances.
This knowledge is an endless construction of laws with love as its source.
The best way of doing things becomes more important than personal feeling. We realize after making the most definitive choices that there could have been no other. Art doesn’t need to be a novel, only original. Originality comes from an individual expose on age-old ideals and inquiry. Art is not progressive – it either is or it isn’t. There has been no improvement on the primitive masters – only a joining in the dialogue.
We all have a source that is reflected in the measureless cosmos as well as within ourselves. If we did not have a source within us, we could not gain true knowledge. When we hear or see genius it strikes a chord familiar in us, and something that we already knew is reawakened. The vault that we want to tap into is not the conscious or subconscious, but the age-old superconscious library that has been supplying invention and discovery from time immemorial.
Our “interior self,” supported by conscious and guided by intuition, is the way of real knowing. It is the artists’ way and a way that is becoming completely overlooked in most of our nation’s educational systems.
This lack of “real knowing” is one of the main reasons why people don’t trust themselves to know what they see or feel when they observe art.
Everyone’s ultimate goal is to solve the enigma of themselves. We spend so much time learning about others that many people end their lives not having discovered who they are. In short, we have an inner and an outer life. The outer life is subject to pollution by all sorts of things. The development of the inner life is the doorway to manifesting our greatest creations and unfolding nature’s best kept secrets. “Truth is a gem that is found at great depth; whilst on the surface of this world, all things are weighed by the false scale of custom” (Byron).
How do you develop audiences for art if not through education? If the goal is the communication of ideas, the entire system of education has to be addressed and charged with educating people who understand and possess what they experience. This cannot be done by promising new ways to prod the senses, which have been extensively irritated and pleasured, but by focusing the heart and mind. When the heart and mind are educated, discriminating people know what they experience. They cannot be fooled, they don’t rely on other people’s opinions of what quality is.
We are presently taught to honor celebrity and trust what makes lots of money. How then can art or artists be respected and understood when people don’t realize that they too are all some kind of artists? We are all meant to be artists if we are all to live full and authentic lives.
Fame, status and money all have their place but are poor substitutes for our real birthright of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. As children we begin looking out at the world. As we mature we must begin to look within.