In 2001, I was living and working in Lower Manhattan. My boyfriend, my social circle, and my spiritual community were all in Manhattan. It was home.
My home came under attack. I was consumed by the news. It ate away at my insides. And then, I turned it off.
Two days after the attacks on New York in 2001, my boss closed the studio and we went to look at art on the upper west side. I can’t even remember what art gallery we went to that day, but I do remember being on the roof and in the presence of incredible sculptures and seeing a sky not filled with smoke, for a change.
That day began my experience of communion, through art.
The very nature of art is to interrogate our perceptions of reality, to question what makes us human, to strip away all that is unnecessary in order to find the essence. The ultimate aim of art is simply one thing only: Truth.
Truth, it has been said, is the preserve of the artist, the poet and the mystic.
Some would say that Truth is also the preserve of religion and the press. The spin doctors of political agenda use the media to incite and divide the public. Our press is owned by corporations with profit motives that dictate certain agendas. Information is delivered in reductionist snippets and hashtags. There is neither discourse nor freedom in most of the ways we consume “news” from the press. How can a media so constructed deliver the Truth? I question whether it can ever even deliver the facts.
I have not lost my faith in the power of the word. I do believe in discourse and the power of the word to persuade. I believe in being informed and taking reports from a wide variety of sources. I believe in listening to scholars and experts and in discussing what is being said. But all of that simply delivers opinion.
Oh I do believe in words. Words, like all art, can approximate the Truth. But it is not their content which provides our insight. Words may only have the power to approximate Truth through the ambiguity of the spaces between those well chosen words.
As in music, it is the silences that give words their meaning.
As for religion, it has long been the organising force around which wars have been fought. Religion became the rallying force for a political agenda driven through the media. Since 2001, the combination of religion and the media has lead to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and violent acts of terrorism in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.
It remains so, now, as crusade and counter crusade strike a chord of familiarity in our collective unconsciousness, whose shared history is one of bloodshed and violence as much as peace and progress. Currently, there is a lot of talk about the crusades and apocalyptic thinking of a certain group of terrorists.
I am an Interfaith Minister and I chose that path because I believe in the Truth of Oneness that lies at the heart of all of humanity regardless of belief. It is a rejection of the divisive power of Religions to embrace all faiths and all paths of light whose aim is to seek the Truth – including the paths of atheism and of science. There are some that call this a nonsense path in the face of opposing ideologies born in the Middle Ages. They are entitled to their beliefs, as well. And beliefs are simply that: they are not facts and they are not Truth.
And the argument goes: But how can we stand aside and do nothing when one side has already set up camp on the battlefield? It is a good argument, if we look at the logic and the rhetoric and if we choose to believe that our God takes sides.
And yet, setting up battle camps on either side of this line, will surely, with today’s technology of killing, usher in a bloody war that we may well wish would unleash the apocalypse.
The mystic knows that in every religion, there is one way to know God. It is not from the pulpit nor on the battlefield. God, in all religions, is revealed in the silence of the heart.
And if we choose to kill God and all concepts of God, we find that it is in the silence of meditation, contemplation, and communion with art and with nature that we can experience what we might call Oneness.
As the world struggles to make sense of an outer existence that has once again shown itself to be chaotic, distressing and unpredictable, I choose to turn off the media barrage and seek the one unchanging Truth of Oneness.
I meditate, I send healing to the hearts of family and friends of the dead and for the passage of the souls of the dead, and of course, I cry. I make inquiries of friends who have been impacted and I listen. I select my news and I engage in discourse with a variety of sources. And, with a meditative stillness, I turn to contemplation and communion with art.
On Friday evening, as events were beginning in Paris, I was leaving the Giacometti exhibition in London. It was an uplifting and deeply moving exhibition. In describing his own process, Giacometti referred to the material from which he formed his sculptures as the illusion, itself. He sought to pare down the superfluous to reveal the presence of the living essence of being – not of any particular person – but of us all.
In the spaces between the words, in the silence of our hearts, in quiet contemplation with nature and with art, the Oneness of being calls to us constantly because we are a part of it. We can choose to enhance its light or to shroud it in darkness by what we bring into our collective unconsciousness, our very essence of being.
What will you choose, this week?