Being Many Voices

“Extra Sensory Perception”

This is a chapter in my book “Compassionate Tarot Companion”.
The book’s overview with download & 2 chapters … {-here-}
All blog posts that are chapters … {-here-}

I was studying a painting in a museum one time, long ago while I was studying painting intently, lunch time more or less, perched on one of the little stools provided, sitting very still for quite a while and staring fixedly, stalking a picture like a cat.

It was two gauzy fuzzy buzzy patches of colors that would normally contrast, three feet tall or so, a quite wonder­ful Rothko canvas, maybe 1956. I was studying Rothko.

Entered then some high school kids upon the scene. They gathered around this silent oddity with smiles and silent nods toward me for greetings.

Most of them crowded right behind me, lean­ing down and actually craning their necks to scientifically peer over the shoulders of this purported Galileo and along his line of sight. Amusing. To them. Practically a Monty Python sketch.

But one bright forward proud commendable young woman, stand­ing to the side, spoke up, rather shrugging off some irritation, asking if I understood this picture.

I claimed I did. Sure. I thought I’d better, but I didn’t say that.

Furthermore, as a diversion almost as much as hon­est cur­i­osity, I asked what she might make of it.

Rothko was a mystic visionary, more or less an esoteric Jew.

The smart girl took a fair stab at the thing all right, lung­ing toward the canvas with a hand up, pointing.

She allowed the red might be to stand for passion of some sort, fear or anger, and maybe green might be to symbolize …

Her waving fingertip was like to deftly hack the picture wing from leg, and I could not help but cry out “no!” immediately, sev­eral times repeatedly, actually in a sincere fit of mental pain.

That sort of intellectual decoding mode can awake some pictures, Kandinsky’s from his theoretical years, and Torres-Garcia generally, some others. But never Rothko. Never Rothko.

She was spouting nonsense, going nowhere, and knew it from the silence it gave her back. There­fore her irritation at this thing. That picture simply will not talk in preconceived symbols.

But how was I to answer?

I did not know her. And besides, my thoughts before – when I myself was looking for a way through that canvas veil into the Holy Mysteries – had equally gone nowhere.

What if some well armed seeker boldly strode up to you in a public square, loudly demanded a flower sermon, or koan, or hexagram, or rune, AT ONCE and you (obedi­ently rifling through your pockets) found none?

Embarrassing, especially with a crowd of slackers lounging round.

But there’s a dodge that’s sometimes handy for such moments: Glance outward and snatch an omen from the air.

To wit: The smart girl had deftly demonstrated fencing; actors learn fencing; she might be an acting student; I might try an acting metaphor! This works more often than you’d think.

So I quickly conjured up an Arts Professor voice and turned its spigot to see what might come through.

It spoke – to me as well as her – about a practical approach: You should look into that painting like an actor pondering their part in a script.

Does it say “red”? Well then, put yourself into various modes of thought and feeling till this red is what you see, then speak from there.

Green? Likewise cast about until you find your­self in such a place, then try to speak from both those places simultaneously. I said all that.

But I thought: What about at least some promise of the Mysteries? What about at least a hint of Kabbalah or something of the sort?

And yet that’s all the Arts Professor said, and that even in a quite pedantic tone, rather scolding even, which I did not care for in the least.

And even worse; to my horror, one of the slackers lounging round behind me even actually giggled at the worthy girl getting marked down.

Yet she took it in good heart. After first growling feline menace at the fool who had laughed, evidently in an on-going rivalry where she, of course, held an upper hand, she then took the Arts Professor seriously.

She took him seriously enough to begin silently gazing into the painting.

And I could plainly see the colors of her mind folding in and out like a kaleidoscope or rather like one of those delicately tinted origami paper flowers that you can morph from shape to shape.

And then, wanting to respect her mental privacy, I looked away into the picture.

And there was Rothko’s mystic vision waking up to present life.

There was not something you would call a flow of energy.

It was a wave of complex harmony standing there now between this woman and the man who stood before that self-same surface with a brush.

The colors of that Holy Veil standing before them both were billowing, overlaying, separating, merging, dancing, singing. Amazing.

That’s Modern Art.

( Here is the end of this blog post.-)

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