Hypnagogia is the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep. It’s the opposite of hypnopompia, which is the transitional state that occurs before you wake up. During hypnagogia, it’s common to experience involuntary and imagined experiences. These are referred to as hypnagogic hallucinations.
Four years ago, a Chicago real estate agent stumbled upon a box of negatives. Little did he know that he’d discovered Vivian Maier.
BY ALEX KOTLOWITZ; PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIVIAN MAIER/JOHN MALOOF COLLECTION (motherjones.com)
Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection
IT’S IMPOSSIBLETO TAKE measure of Vivian Maier’s photos without taking stock of her story. She was by all accounts remarkably private, someone who didn’t always enjoy the company of other adults. And yet her photographs feel like a celebration of people—a celebration of what Studs Terkel, the late grand oral historian, liked to call “the etceteras” of the world. (One photography scholar I spoke with suggested Terkel and Maier would have made a formidable pair, like James Agee and Walker Evans.) Her subjects are often caught looking directly at the camera, apparently making eye contact with Maier, but she used a Rolleiflex, a box-shaped camera that requires the photographer to look downwards through the viewfinder. In other words, as it turns out, Maier didn’t need to directly engage with her subjects, and many undoubtedly were unaware that she was, in fact, memorializing their images. But I’m getting ahead of her story.
In the winter of 2007, John Maloof, a 26-year-old realtor who was co-writing a book on his Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago, stumbled upon a box of negatives at an auction house. He paid $400, hoping it might hold some vintage photos of his neighborhood. He stuffed the box in a closet. There the images sat for a couple of months, until he had time to scan a few into his computer. There were no photos of Portage Park, but they were captivating images, and it became clear they belonged to a single photographer. “Little by little I realized how good they were,” he told me. He learned the auction house had sold more boxes of negatives, and so he sought out the buyers to purchase those, as well. In the end, he collected more than 100,000 negatives, including a few thousand rolls of film. In one of the boxes, he eventually found an envelope with the name Vivian Maier scrawled on it. He googled her name and found a Chicago Tribune obituary. She had died a few days earlier. She was 83.
Maloof posted 100 of Maier’s photos to a blog, but when that didn’t generate much interest, he posted on Flickr. One visitor wrote, “Wow! This is amazing!” Another: “The images speak for themselves and are an inspiration to all photographers.” Soon, he was receiving hundreds of emails.
Maloof learned that Vivian Maier had made her living as a nanny, first in New York City, then from the late 1950s until the late 1990s for well-to-do families in the Chicago area. A writer for Chicago magazine contacted some of the children she cared for, and it became clear that no one knew the extent of her photography. Her former charges—all now adults—recounted with great affection how she’d take them on outings to the city, always carrying her Rolleiflex. She had little patience for those who put on airs—and she did little to call attention to herself. Everyday dresses. Small-brimmed hats. In one self-portrait, she’s looking away from the camera, awkward and uncomfortable. In another, much of her face is hidden by a shadow. She was a loner of sorts. She never married. Families she lived with have said they couldn’t recall her ever receiving a personal phone call. All of which is somewhat astonishing, given the incredible intimacy of her photographs.
Unlike, say, Walker Evans—who hid his 35 mm camera behind a buttonhole in his coat while taking photos in New York’s subways—Maier wore her camera around her neck. But many of her subjects don’t seem to have noticed her. They are not looking at her (or us). They’re just looking, often as if they were caught in mid-thought. Others—especially children—seem to be responding to her, as if there was something reassuring about her presence. It seems that wherever she went, she brought her camera—and shot. An African American teen riding a horse bareback under an elevated train. Two men—one hefty, the other lean—perched on a wooden fence. Three children—two black, the other white—sitting on one end of a seesaw. A man in a pinstriped suit, asleep across the front seat of his car. Each feels like the beginning of a short story, a bit mysterious, not unlike Maier herself.
She never exhibited her work. Indeed, from what Maloof can gather, she didn’t share her photos with anyone, except some of the children in her care. My friend Tony Fitzpatrick—a Chicago artist whose collages, like Maier’s images, capture the contradictions in this city—revels in the fact that she saw no need to show off her work. “It tells you the most important thing about her,” he says. “She made them for all the right reasons. She made them to hold on to her place in the world. She made them because to not make them was impossible. She had no choice.”
MAIER’S WORK IS PART OF THE decades-old genre of street photography, a field that has included such giants as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus. (Judging by her collection of books on photography, Maier was likely aware of their work.) These photographers speak to the profoundly democratic impulse to acknowledge that we all have a place—that our stories matter. She took photos of the downtrodden and the well-heeled. She took photos of festive people and people in distress. She took photos of children and the aged. She took photos of whites and blacks (notable, given the times). Her work is marked by serendipity; she appeared to have no agenda, but instead captured what she stumbled upon. Joel Meyerowitz, the co-author of Bystander: A History of Street Photography and a renowned photographer in his own right, says of Maier’s images: “They are full of wit and surprise and playful spirit…Her basic decent humanism is evident everywhere in her photographs.”
Not long ago, I stopped by to visit Maloof at his home. We’d set a time to get together, and when I arrived, he appeared flustered. He’d forgotten I was coming.
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He asked me to wait in the vestibule as his wife, who’d just gotten out of the shower, dressed. It was 10 a.m., and though he’d been up for three hours, he hadn’t eaten yet. He seemed discombobulated. Maloof, by his own admission, is besieged by the breadth of what he’s discovered. That week, he was preparing for a lecture at an international photography conference in Derby, England; a gallery owner was visiting from New York; a foundation planned to stop by to talk about assisting him with the collection; and he was meeting a filmmaker with whom he’s working on a documentary about Maier.
Maloof has dropped his real estate work and become a kind of Maier savant. He collected not only her negatives, but also all her belongings, steamer trunks filled with clothes and newspaper clippings, old receipts and uncashed Social Security checks. In one corner of his attic office sit a pair of Maier’s fire-engine-red shoes and one of her signature felt floppy hats. He’s learned tidbits about Maier, like the fact that she apparently believed Americans smiled too much (her mother was French) and that she didn’t like going to doctors, because too many other people couldn’t afford to. She liked to talk about films and plays, but only with those she felt were knowledgeable about the subject at hand. “She lived life on her own terms,” Maloof told me. “She didn’t need to live by society’s boundaries.”
Maloof’s life now revolves around curating Maier’s work. He treats her as he imagines she’d want to be treated: without hype, without self-promotion. “I’m doing this because I think I have to,” he told me. (Sound familiar?) Maloof would like to make back the money he’s invested, as well as enough to allow him to continue scanning her negatives—he has roughly 90,000 to go—and promoting her work. There may not be a big financial gain, as the real value is usually in prints the photographer made. (Maier’s are mostly of poor quality.) Meyerowitz, who intends to include Maier’s work in a new edition of Bystander, told me, “I’m as moved by Maloof as I am by her. There’s a kindness to his act.” Maloof loaned Chicago 80 photos for a free exhibition at the city’s cultural center. Her work was exhibited in Norway and Denmark last year (signs on Danish buses read “Viva Vivian“), and there’ll be an exhibit this summer in London. Maloof is at work on a book of her photos.
Vivian Maier’s photographs are tender, exhilarating, and at times unsettling. They are the product of someone who—despite her outward appearances—clearly had a profound connection with the world around her. She just connected in the one way she knew how, looking downward through the viewfinder of her Rolleiflex—and the results are piercingly honest, even revelatory. In the lives and experiences of everyday people, Maier saw a certain beauty and dignity—and through her photos, she gets us to see it, as well.
Koinonia (/ˌkɔɪnoʊˈniːə/) is a transliterated form of the Greek word κοινωνία, which refers to concepts such as fellowship, joint participation, the share which one has in anything, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution. It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ. The term may have been borrowed from the early Epicureans—as it is used by Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines 37–38.
The term communion, derived from Latincommunio (‘sharing in common’), is related. The term “Holy Communion” normally refers to the Christian rite also called the Eucharist.
The essential meaning of the koinonia embraces concepts conveyed in the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy. Koinonia can therefore refer in some contexts to a jointly contributed gift. The word appears 19 times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. In the New American Standard Bible, it is translated “fellowship” twelve times, “sharing” three times, and “participation” and “contribution” twice each.
It is found in 43 verses of the New Testament as a noun (koinōnia 17x, koinōnos 10x, sugkoinōnos 4x), in its adjectival (koinōnikos 1x), or verbal forms (koinōneō 8x, sugkoinōneō 3x) . The word is applied, according to the context, to sharing or fellowship, or people in such relation, with:
Of these usages, Bromiley’s International Standard Bible Encyclopedia selects as especially significant the following meanings:I. Common life in general (only in Acts 2:42)II. Communion between particular groups, the most remarkable instance of which was that between Jews and GentilesIII. Communion in the Body and Blood of ChristIV. Sharing in divine revelation and with God himself (1 John 1:1–7).
The Aries New Moon conjunct Chiron, the healing centaur, brings the need to put oneself first to heal, despite potential risks. Mercury in outspoken Aries sits near the Sun/Moon conjunction, pinpointing a moment when something must be said.
With this Mercury placement, we’re more self-focused, realizing the importance of tuning out external discomforts. For some — sensing the Chiron-in-Aries healing style to express something of personal importance — it’ll be vital to share thoughts and make one’s voice heard.
Such earnest inner battling can seem justified when a good result is achieved. Yet, this lunation includes a warning, with Mars located at 19°31′ Aquarius conjunct Saturn, about how expressions of frustration or anger merit careful thought and preparation, like molding words in poetry. Perhaps what starts as an attempt to “say something” on a matter we might have kept quiet about, whips up a frenzy of feeling wanting to be expressed. Then suddenly, words take flight in a more fiery way than intended! Fire can get something off the ground, but an unregulated energy source could backfire.
Culturally, this theme plays out in the movie The Hate U Give, where the hero, Starr, speaks out about racial justice, to which her actions have both detrimental and beneficial effects — yet her desire to stop people hurting one another speaks with a power that breaks through conflict.
The tarot’s Wheel of Fortune, is associated with fortunes suddenly changing. Through a moment of divine expression and will, our future hangs in the balance — as we contemplate decisions and actions, perhaps the best we can do is hold to our truth, while considering potential impact on others.
This article is from the Mountain Astrologer written by Diana McMahon Collis
ARIES (March 21-April 19): In 1904, it wasn’t illegal to use performance-enhancing drugs during Olympic competitions. Runner Thomas Hicks took advantage of this in the marathon race. The poison strychnine, which in small doses serves as a stimulant, was one of his boosters. Another was brandy. By the time he approached the finish line, he was hallucinating and stumbling. His trainers carried him the rest of the way, and he was declared the winner. I recommend you make him your inspirational role model in the coming weeks. How might you cheat to gain a great victory? APRIL FOOL! I lied. While it’s true that a meaningful triumph is within your reach, you’re most likely to achieve it by acting with total integrity, following the rules and imbibing no stimulating poisons.
TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Science fiction aficionado Wil Wheaton suggests that all of us should have the following: 1. a nemesis; 2. an evil twin; 3. a secret headquarters; 4. an escape hatch; 5. a partner in crime; 6. a secret identity. Dear Taurus, I have doubts that you possess any of these necessities. Please embark on intensive efforts to acquire all of them. Your deadline is April 21. APRIL FOOL! I half-lied. There’s no way you could add all those things to your repertoire in such a short time. See if you can at least get a secret identity and a partner in crime. It’s time to have wicked fun as you add to your potency and effectiveness.
GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “I hate being on my best behavior,” wrote Gemini author Colleen McCullough. “It brings out the absolute worst in me.” In the coming weeks, I hope you avoid the danger she describes. Don’t be on your best behavior! Emulate Gemini filmmaker Clint Eastwood, who said, “I tried being reasonable, but I didn’t like it.” APRIL FOOL! I lied. Here’s the real truth: Being kind and generous and reasonable will be your secret weapon in the next three weeks. Doing so will empower you to make interesting and unforeseen progress.
CANCER (June 21-July 22): A Tumblr blogger named Alyssa complains, “I’m still peeved that I can’t fly or set things on fire with my mind.” You might share that feeling, Cancerian. But here’s the good news: I predict that you could soon acquire, at least temporarily, the power to fly and set things on fire with your mind. Use these talents wisely, please! APRIL FOOL! I lied. In fact, you probably won’t be able to fly or set things on fire with your mind anytime soon. However, you may acquire other superpowers that are only slightly less fantastic. For example, you could change the mind of an ally who has been ridiculously stubborn. You could uncover a big secret that has been hidden. You could mend a wound you thought would never heal. Any other superpowers you need right now?
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): I suspect that only a Leo would say what Leo filmmaker Stanley Kubrick once asserted: “You know, it’s not absolutely true in every case that nobody likes a smart ass.” In accordance with astrological omens, I authorize you to prove his assertion. Be the kind of smart ass that people like. APRIL FOOL! I’m half-joking. The truth is, I hope you will be the kind of smart ass that people absolutely adore and get inspired by.
VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): In honor of your arrival in the most lyrical and soulful phase of your cycle, I offer you advice from poet Richard Jackson: “The secret is to paint your own numbers on the clock, to brush away those webs that cover the wild country of the soul, to let your star hover between the flowers of the moon and the flowers of the sun, like words you have never spoken yet always hear.” APRIL FOOL! I partially lied. I don’t think you should paint your own numbers on the clock. But the rest of what Jackson said is totally applicable and useful for you.
LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): “I want excitement,” declared Libra novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, “and I don’t care what form it takes or what I pay for it, so long as it makes my heart beat.” In the coming weeks, I hope you will make that statement your motto. APRIL FOOL! I half-lied. While I do foresee you being able to gather a wealth of excitement, I hope you won’t be as extreme as Fitzgerald in your pursuit of it. There will be plenty of opportunities for excitement that won’t require you to risk loss or pay an unwelcome price.
SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): “If you can’t make fun of yourself, you don’t have a right to make fun of others,” said comedian Joan Rivers. I agree! So if you are feeling an irresistible urge to mock people and fling sarcasm in all directions, please prepare by first mocking yourself and being sarcastic toward yourself. APRIL FOOL! I lied. I will never authorize you to make fun of others. Never! In the coming weeks, I hope you’ll do the opposite: Dole out massive doses of praise and appreciation toward everyone. To prepare, dole out massive doses of praise and appreciation toward yourself.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): In the traditional opera performed in China’s Sichuan province, magical effects were popular. One trick involved characters making rapid changes of their masks. The art was to remove an existing mask and don a new one with such speed that the audience could not detect it. An old master, Peng Denghuai, once wore fourteen different masks in twenty-four seconds. This is an antic I think you should imitate in the coming days. The more frequently you alter your persona and appearance, the more successful and popular you’ll be. APRIL FOOL! I half-lied. I recommend that you gleefully experiment with your image and exuberantly vary your self-presentation. But don’t overdo it.
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): A nutritionist named Mark Haub decided to try losing weight by eating only sugary treats. For ten weeks, he snacked on junk food cakes, cookies and sweet cereals. By the end, he had lost twenty-seven pounds. In accordance with astrological omens, I suggest you try the metaphorical equivalents of this project. For instance, work on deepening your relationships by engaging your allies in shallow conversations about trivial subjects. Or see if you can enhance your physical fitness by confining your exercise to crossing and uncrossing your legs as you sit on the couch watching TV. APRIL FOOL! I lied. Here’s your real horoscope: For the next four weeks, take better care of your body and your relationships than you ever have before in your life. Make it a point to educate yourself about what that would entail, and be devoted in providing the most profound nurturing you can imagine.
AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Aquarius-born Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) was bravely heretical in his work as a philosopher, poet, mathematician and friar. He angered the Catholic Church with his unorthodox views about Jesus and Mary, as well as his belief in reincarnation, his practice of occult magic, and his views that there are other stars besides our sun. Eventually, the authorities burned him at the stake for his transgressive ideas. Beware of a similar outcome for expressing your unusual qualities! APRIL FOOL! Luckily, no punishment will result if you express the rich fullness of your idiosyncrasies in the coming weeks. I’m happy about that, since I’m encouraging you to be as eccentrically yourself as you want to be.
PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Life is too complicated to accurately comprehend. There’s too much to know! It’s impossible to make truly savvy and rational decisions. Maybe the best strategy is to flip a coin or throw the dice or draw a Tarot card before doing anything. APRIL FOOL! While it’s a fact that life is too complex for our conscious minds to fully master, we have massive resources available on subconscious and superconscious levels: our deep soul and our higher self. Now is an excellent time to enhance your access to these mother lodes of intelligence.
All politics seems to operate under the demand to be realistic. There is no quicker end to a political conversation than to describe someone’s ideas as ‘utopian’. The power of this pejorative draws upon seemingly obvious facts concerning human nature, empirical realities and social constraints. Whether we are considering demands to restructure our economic systems, how nations police citizenship claims and their borders, or our relationship to the environment, when these positions are called ‘utopian’, the assumption is not only that there are constraints but that these constraints are inalterable. However, to determine which constraints are fixed rather than alterable is easier said than done.
Perhaps ‘utopia’ should be the start of political discussion rather than the end. When we engage in political debate, we attempt to argue for what we believe should be our priorities and establish the constraints of reality. It would seem that utopia violates this agreement by trying to argue for priorities that can obtain only outside the constraints of our world. To some, it would be nonsensical to claim as a political position that ‘we should abolish the police even though that is not possible’. The non-utopian could respond: ‘That may very well be true for some hypothetical world. But here and now we have crime. You must be realistic.’ The issue is that utopia challenges what we take to be realistic. And so the breakdown between utopians and non-utopians is not over the question of whether we are fated to obey the constraints of reality; the political debate concerns what is inalterable and what is changeable in our social life.
Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) exemplifies this disagreement. The work is structured as a dialogue between a fictionalised Thomas More and a man named Raphael Hythloday (or Hythlodaeus, meaning ‘talker of nonsense’ in Greek) who claims to have travelled to an island where money has been abolished, property is held in common and civic virtue flourishes. Utopia functions less as an argument for a perfect end state and more as a form of political speech against the ruination and pauperisation of peasant life due to England’s practice of enclosure of common land. The question guiding Utopia is whether it was reasonable to expect peasants who have been dispossessed to resist committing the crime of stealing in order to survive. For More, it was the non-utopians who had misjudged reality, and so it was not only their priorities that had to be challenged, but their overall conception of reality.
More’s Utopia remains an essential work in understanding whether utopia is, in principle, antithetical to being realistic. I suspect that utopia has often been mischaracterised due to our focus on Utopia’s literary content, as opposed to the politics of how and why it emerged in the first place.
The mid-20th century saw philosophers such as F A Hayek, Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper mount strident arguments against mixing real politics with utopian end states. They aimed to combat a totalitarianism (which they associated with communism and Marxism primarily) that they feared was creeping into political thought and practice. Whatever their political differences over the priorities they thought we ought to pursue, they agreed that reality had to be protected from the destructive imagination of utopia.
But is it fair to confine utopia to the play of our imaginations? It may very well be the case that there is something liberating in disavowing the constraints of reality, finding joy in creating impossible worlds. Perhaps we should accept this division of labour where the non-utopians engage in the hard, pragmatic work of politics, and the utopians offer their imaginative ideals that remind us of where we would like to go.
Much of politics is a contest over what ought to be taken as ‘feasible’ or ‘necessary’ given that we cannot satisfy all needs at once
However appealing this story may seem, it strikes me as overly simplistic. More is instructive here. The content of Utopia is imaginative insofar as it was a work of fiction, but More felt compelled to write it because of what he took to be the violation of the social needs of English peasants. The creation of hunger and destitution cried out for explanation. Utopia was neither a denial of nor flight from social reality, but its very depiction. From this angle, utopia is the realistic apprehension of structures of social need rather than the abstract heights of imaginative fantasy.
Utopias have never taken themselves to be antithetical to the analysis of social reality and its limits. The grounds for utopia are to be found in the real frustrations of social life and thereby challenge not only our social priorities but also how much suffering is truly ineliminable. Utopias enable us to enunciate previously inchoate social needs in political space and make them a matter of public concern. The achievement, or even the demand, for this standpoint becomes an issue to which politics may be forced to respond.
W E B Du Bois makes this point in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) where the exposure to education in the post-Reconstruction-era United States stirs new sources of unhappiness in Black Americans that lead to the development of felt needs for a radically better society. The resistance to investing in robust school systems for freed people stemmed, in part, from the worry that the present social system would not be able to manage the satisfaction of these new needs. New institutions would have to be formed and thus what starts as a subjective plaint takes on objective weight. The tension between politics and utopia has too often been miscast as a confrontation between reality and the imagination when, in fact, they are both formative activities that take place within the real structures of social life.
Utopian activity tends to form new needs that are not reconcilable with our present. These new needs may appear to overflow the inalterable constraints of our present moment. Nevertheless, it seems that the enunciation of new needs can also enable us to develop knowledge of how some forms of supposed ‘realism’ are little more than acquiescence to the status quo as inevitable. Utopia may allow us to acquire knowledge of ourselves and what we take to be realistic.
Opponents of utopia often arrogate to themselves the ability to discern the hard limits of social reality and its needs. Defenders of utopia do themselves no favours when they cede this claim but argue for the right to freely imagine a better world. Much of politics is a contest over what ought to be taken as ‘feasible’ or ‘necessary’ given that we cannot satisfy all needs at once. Those of us who do think that a more just world will require substantive modification of how we address needs ought not to accept that utopia is something other than the attempt to ‘be realistic’.
There is no unanimous agreement concerning what is inalterable and what can be transformed to meet social needs. To disavow utopia in the name of a supposedly known and predefined reality is a move to close down conversation, thought and questions. It is as if politics could finally escape the pressure to ask what are the bounds of possibility and impossibility, and reduce everything to the administration of the status quo. Accepting ‘utopian’ as a pejorative evades the reality that we do not know once and for all what it means to be realistic. Indeed, this is exactly what is up for debate.
If it is true that politics should begin with the world as it is, then politics will always find itself engaged with utopian need. Utopia is not where all our problems are solved. It is where we can clarify them and attain a standpoint with respect to how the present arrangements of life produce problems of need. With social life increasingly menaced by problems of global health, environmental degradations that seem to exceed the problem-solving capacity of status-quo politics, and war, we should dare to enunciate new standpoints and learn what form social life can take. We must do this if we are to be realistic.
How two enemy soldiers saved each other’s lives decades – and continents – apart
The Iran-Iraq War was a brutal conflict, raging for nearly nine years between 1980 and 1988, and killing hundreds of thousands – including child soldiers. The Canadian director Ann Shin finds fragments of hope in the war’s ashes, tracing the remarkable and deeply moving true story of two soldiers who fought on opposing sides and forged a powerful, decades-long bond through mercy, compassion and sheer coincidence. My Enemy, My Brother was one of the most critically acclaimed short documentaries of 2015, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Hot Docs Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest, among others.
“When you realize you are mortal you also realize the tremendousness of the future. You fall in love with a Time you will never perceive.”
BY MARIA POPOVA (themarginalian.org)
“Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered,” the trailblazing Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd wrote as she drew on her intimate enchantment with the Highlands in her masterpiece The Living Mountain. Having grown up at the foot of Mount Vitosha and spent swaths of my childhood in the Rila mountains of Bulgaria, I too have known the mind-sculpting power of mountains and felt the embers of that knowingness reignited by Journey to Mount Tamalpais (public library).
Written shortly after I was born, this uncommonly beautiful book-length essay by the Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan (February 24, 1925–November 14, 2021), illustrated with 34 of her black-and-white sketches of the mountain, explores the themes that would animate Adnan through her nineties: time, self, impermanence, the nature of the universe, the spiritual dimensions of art, our belonging to and with the rest of the vast interwoven miracle we call nature.
Born in Beirut and trained in Paris — where she would return to spend much of her later life with her partner of more than forty years, the Syrian-born artist and publisher Simone Fattal — Adnan lived and taught in Northern California for more than a quarter century. There, she fell in love with Mount Tamalpais — the first vertebrae of the mountainous backbone of the Americas that stretches all the way to Tierra del Fuego. In its towering presence, she found herself “left with the sort of wonder that the sense of eternity always carries with it,” with a “feeling of latent prophesy.” The mountain became her abiding muse, which she celebrated and serenaded in a flood of paintings and poetic reverberations. Under Adnan’s gaze — generous, penetrating, benedictory — the mountain becomes both metaphor and not-metaphor, both object of reverent curiosity and sovereign subject unbeholden to human interpretation. Hers is a way of looking that embodies Ursula K. Le Guin’s distinction between objectifying and subjectifying the universe. Adnan writes:
Like a chorus, the warm breeze had come all the way from Athens and Baghdad, to the Bay, by the Pacific Route, its longest journey. It is the energy of these winds that I used, when I came to these shores, obsessed, followed by my home-made furies, errynies, and such potent creatures. And I fell in love with the immense blue eyes of the Pacific: I saw is red algae, its blood-colored cliffs, its pulsating breath. The ocean led me to the mountain.
Once I was asked in front of a television camera: “Who is the most important person you ever met?” and I remember answering: “A mountain.” I thus discovered that Tamalpais was at the very center of my being.
Half a century after philosopher Martin Buber considered the tree as a lesson in the difficult art of seeing essence rather than objectifying, Adnan considers the mountain’s essence:
This living with a mountain and with people moving with all their senses open, like many radars, is a journey… melancholy at times: you perceive noise and dirt, poverty, and the loneliness of those who are blind to so may things… but miraculous most of the way. Somehow what I perceived most is Tamalpais. I am “making” the mountain as people make a painting.
It is an animal risen from the sea. A sea-creature landed, earth-bound, earth-oriented, maddened by its solidity.
The world around has the darkness of battle-ships, leafless trees are spearbearers, armor bearers, swords and pikes, the mountain looks at us with tears coming down its slopes.
O impermanence! What a lovely word and a sad feeling. What a fight with termination, with lives that fall into death like cliffs.
O Sundays which are like vessels in a storm, with nothing before and nothing after!
Out of the actuality of the mountain, Adnan draws an inner reality, rising too like a summit of self-transcendence:
I am at the window and Tamalpais looks back at me. I am in pain and it is not. But we are equals tonight.
I am amazed, but, more so, I am fulfilled. I am transported outside my ordinary self and into the world as it could be when no one watches.
But more than anything, Adnan finds in the mountain a vital counterpoint to the hubrises of the self. A supreme equalizer of being, it stands as an antipode to our habitual anthropocentrism and self-involvement, humbling us — in the proper sense of humility, with its Latin root in humus, “of the earth” — into recognizing that we are each just one creature among many, a tiny constellation of stardust whose ephemeral existence is no more significant than any other. Adnan writes:
The Pacific often sings a soft funeral march. It was most appropriate that they found a man hanging by a tree near the top of Tamalpais. It was not horrible. It was just one of the many events that happen up there following the death of birds or the growth of plants.
Again and again, she returns to this transcendent dance of the ephemeral and the eternal, played out in the life of the mountain as in the life of art:
A bird ran into the glass door of my deck and died. I rushed with paper and a pencil to make a drawing and realized I couldn’t draw death. The record player was playing a Koranic prayer recorded in Tunisia. The lamenting voice of the Prophet became a funeral song for the silenced animal. I came in and saw my Ray Bradbury book opened on these lines:
Robins will wear their feathery fire whistling their whims on a low fence-wire and not one will know of the war, not one will care at last when it is done…
Through the long night of the species we go on, somehow blindly, and we give a name to our need for a breakthrough: we call it the Angel, or call it Art, or call it the Mountain.
The singular power of the mountain both beckons us into absolute presence and catapults us into an awareness of time far beyond our ephemerality — a state of being predicated on a wholehearted embrace of our mortality. A century and a half after Kierkegaard asserted that a human being is “a synthesis of the temporal and the eternal,” Adnan writes:
When you realize you are mortal you also realize the tremendousness of the future. You fall in love with a Time you will never perceive.
Between the sun and the moon, the restless desire to live and the restless desire to die, the mountain holds the balance.
From the daily rhythms and simple seasonality of the mountain, Adnan wrests insights of great subtlety, poignancy, and prescience:
It had snowed. Tamalpais was white as it rarely is. White is the color of the terror in this century: the great white mushroom, the white and radiating clouds, the White on White painting by Malevich, and that whiteness, most fearful, in the eyes of men.
Recounting a hike up a steep trail with a few other members of the Perception Workshop — a collective of artists gathering “in peaceful parties with the seriousness of children at play” — Adnan reflects on what brought them together and took them to Tamalpais, seeking to discover the mountain and themselves:
We had with us no rite of passage. We had gone through no initiation, as we went into childhood and into adolescence with no warning. This is why we come to the mountain. We have no other elevation.
We slept under trees but in fact within the mountain’s vast sadness and we awoke very new.
The night freed us from our obsession with reason. It told us that we were a bundle of electric wires plugged into everything that came along. It was enough to be alive and around. The same was true of everything else.
Artists, she observes, have a deeper and more immediate grasp of this underlying interconnectedness of life. (Half a century earlier, Virginia Woolf had furnished the finest articulation of this awareness in her exquisite account of the epiphany in which she finally understood what it really means to be an artist: “Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern… the whole world is a work of art… there is no Shakespeare… no Beethoven… no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.”) Adnan writes:
Painters have a knowledge which goes beyond words. They are where musicians are. When someone blows the saxophone the sky is made of copper. When you make a watercolor you know how it feels to be the sea lying early in the day in the proximity of light.
Painters have always experienced the oneness of things. They are aware that there is interference and intervention between the world and ourselves.
I know by experience, by now, that no subject matter, after a while, remains just a subject matter, but becomes a matter of life and death, our sanity resolved by visual means. Sanity is our power of perception kept focused. And it is an open-ended endeavor.
A visual expression belongs to an order of understanding which bypasses word-language. We have in us autonomous languages for autonomous perceptions. We should not waste time in trying ordinary understanding. We should not worry, either. There is no rest in any kind of perception. The fluidity of the mind is of the same family as the fluidity of being. Sometimes they coincide sharply. We call that a revelation. When it involves a privileged “object,” like a particular mountain, we call it an illumination.
She ends by considering the mountain’s supreme gift to her and her fellow artists — a gift of awareness, risen from the deepest stratum of being:
In this unending universe Tamalpais is a miraculous thing, the miracle of matter itself: something we can single out, the pyramid of our own identity. We are, because it is stable and it is ever changing. Our identity is the series of the mountain’s becomings, our peace is its stubborn existence.
The Lord of Abundance is a warm and joyous card, which indicates a rare and precious type of love – a love which, once experienced, reminds us of the richness of shared emotion and commitment.
It is also a card which refers to the wellspring of fertility, whether spiritual or material. Here we see the first seeds sown of a bright and bountiful harvest. Accordingly, the card will sometimes come up to indicate high days of celebration – like weddings or other intimate celebrations of love.
The emotional quality represented by this card is deep and unusual – indicating the love felt not only by lovers, but also the love between close friends, or family. These relationships are gifts, which need to be cared for with great respect and gratitude.
The Lord of Abundance offers one word of warning – this type of love cannot be created, nor engineered. When it occurs in our lives we are lucky and blessed. Some people spend a lifetime looking for such depth of emotion. And sometimes, people try to pretend it exists where it does not. So when you raise this card in a reading be aware that you are fortunate indeed!
(via angelpaths.com and Alan Blackman)
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