I'm going to write for a minute about why I love this painting, Gateless Gate.
Firstly, it was painted by someone I have a deep connection with, giving insight into the emotion behind it and empowering the emotion I myself draw from it. Second, without giving too much technique away, it was largely done wu-wei, or no-action, or action-without-action (not passivity, but the principle could be compared to martial arts that uses the opponents momentum against them — least-resistance-way). She has maybe an image or idea, a feeling or memory in mind, and she has colors to convey those moods, but she doesn't force anything out, as a sculptor forces an image out of marble, with boundaries and straight lines. There is instead an unseen connection between her intention and feeling for the painting, and the final product — by letting the flow of water build its own image through her, it surpasses in my view anything one could accomplish while micromanaging each detail and line. Too much forcing and controlling of nature as we call it, especially by what we think are our selves but are rather our egos, is precisely how humans are in the ecological, biological, and political mess we find ourselves right now.
Moving away from technique, what this painting is saying to me is what I want to write about. For this, keep in mind that I have been born and raised Christian not just in my immediate family but society as a whole. That means that my 'default' mythology, as it were, is Christian. Jesus; saving; sin; and so on. The whole problem nowadays is that people take seriously these mythologies used to describe the purest joy: experience of union with "the one without a second", God, Tao, Brahman, or whatever else you could call the Ultimate or Primordial. People are, on the one hand as followers, militaristically enforcing this joy, and on the other as opponents they are dissecting and misunderstanding pure joy, and how do you think either would turn out? Well, obviously in the tarnishing of the mythology as a whole. This fundamentalist, militarily enforced attitude has become the hallmark of popular American Christianity, and so, when mythological themes are mentioned from the Bible, it's not uncommon for whomever speaking to be heavily challenged or simply ignored on premise of association. This is because they are associated with the behavior of the, let's say overzealous, followers, instead of the core message. I'm saying this in hopes that that does not happen right now. I want to relate this picture to Jesus; being 'saved', or rather, enlightened to "the love that moves the sun and other stars"; and temptation.
It's absolutely wild that a painting of this sort, abstract or whatever you want to call it, can imply such depth, and a whole story of itself; that wildness is in proportion to the talent of the painter, here: Izzy, in almost letting the painting make itself. Of course, painting cannot exist without painter and so her talent in letting the painting make itself is really the talent, or discipline, of foregoing ego and letting herself do herself. "You do you." She just does, with no contrivance for her art to be anything other; just what is, what comes of it. Whatever you want to call it; Void, God or His voice; that Ultimate source once again. This same quality from that source is in everything natural, even humans, although largely ignored there. Mountains, ocean waves, dogs playing, trees swaying, Izzy's painting, "in these things there is deep meaning, but when we try to express it, we suddenly lose the words."
That is of course true. It would be hopeless to describe the deep meaning I feel from this painting. Feeling is so instant and self evident, you could write a whole essay trying to describe literally just one feeling and the seconds before and after. So I am rather going to point out the symbolism I saw, with yet more symbolic words. This is a very easy way to get caught up and confused, but I enjoy writing, I enjoy the way this painting makes me feel, I enjoy my love for Izzy, and I enjoy people recognizing her talents, so I persist. Also, mythology, which is social symbolism, is how we humans have been expressing inner experience for thousands of years. So although I use Christian myth here, the world's mythologies are largely similar in themes, and different religious language could be substituted to express the same principle.
There are plenty of distractions, or temptations, in life: material, spiritual or otherwise. The goal is not to avoid temptation completely — that's impossible, and I'm using temptation in a very wide sense here, but to see the good or use in it so you can build positively off of it. Getting too comfortable is dangerous. Getting too comfortable makes you feel like you need to protect that comfort, as if it could last forever. It also gives you a sense of completion, like you've done it! You're there! Success, "Protect that." With no struggle or check-and-balance on your supposed success, you'll build it up to the point of righteousness. Those who haven't succeeded with a comfortable 1000 sq. ft. house and at least one combustible engine form of transportation are surely unrighteous. We should prosecute them for failing to thrive! Here in our own country we indeed have laws against feeding the homeless and starving; to name just one solely bureaucratic and inhuman absurdity. This absurdity is bred in fear. Fear that if we allow such so-called unrighteousness that we will become it, and that just isn't true! The two black "gates" in this painting represent both worldly distraction and this self-righteousness that is so characteristic of the average American Christian, and American Nationalists; both gates tempting you off the Path. I make this distinction of American Christian because I have only experience with those, and I think there is likely a unique strand developing here but I can't be sure (and obviously this is a generalization).
The Path, to enlightenment, is represented by the light shining through the gates, inviting you in, albeit intimidating due to the tall, long hallway you can extrapolate past the black gates of temptation. It's not only inviting, but inevitable, gravitating you in if you stare at it long enough. There is one main white streak that is representative of the brightest light, the core of the experience. On either side of the Light you can perceive two high walls of purple leading you in to the courtyard of paradise. Following the white streak upwards, it begins to trail off, but just before disappearing it gathers in one more bulb of Light. Almost leaning on this bulb is the face of Christ: sharp pointed noise, shoulder length hair, a mild beard and cutting eyes; larger than life; standing there holding the two gates of temptation open to all, leading you into Paradise. Stepping back to see the bigger picture, the body of this Christ appears to be the Light. Christ as the Light and the Gates of Temptation one and the same with no contradiction or opposition; just as North goes with South, although at surface "opposing". To go just one further!: Christ is the Light, the Gates, and the Love holding them together; ah, a Trinity once more. Isn't that just how it is.. how wild!
Finally, it's name: Gateless Gate. I suggested it to Izzy after hearing it from a talk by Alan Watts on an old book called the same. The name to me essentially represents that the Paradise you seek is there all along, and your not finding it is a scheme and trick of your own mind. Which is not to say 'crazy' or anything so deflective. The Gates, temptation and so forth, are created by you; Karma really means "your doing." It's not a disease in this way, it's simply what is; the realization that Paradise lies in this Eternal Now was preached by Jesus because he had felt it, and expressed it in the language of his local culture and religion, that being Judeo-Christian as well. Those religions are a certain type, shaped after monarchies with one Top Fellow who pulls the strings of the carefully crafted puppets. Over in India, the Buddha had the same experience, but said it with quite a different cultural/theological language and altogether a different audience, therefore in his society he wasn't "introducing democracy in the Kingdom of Heaven" and so was received on better terms. Alan Watts famously said, "Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out who you really are. In our culture, of course, they'll say you’re crazy and you're blasphemous, and they'll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, 'My goodness, I've just discovered that I'm God,' they'll laugh and say, 'Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.'" God is that singularity that can not be put into words due to the inescapable duality of language and life itself, and God is the one without a second. The Light, Paradise, the Courtyard at the end of the hall in this painting, are all representative of this experience common among Jesus, Mohammed, Gautama Buddha, and so many others. The Experience. And experiencing this "I am God" is only confusing if you subscribe to idolatrous images of God (through words or otherwise). God couldn't know everything, because that is opposed to knowing nothing.. that 'one' does have a second. God couldn't be everywhere, because that is opposed to nowhere. He is both of everything — always, although this too is incorrect because He is not 1 + 1 equaling Both(3), because both is also opposed to neither. Are you beginning to see how those who are too sure what God is and his "ideal morals" are could be perhaps mistaken?
So also you see, something as in your face and obvious as language can have profound effects on society and what is 'normal' or 'good' without anyone really noticing. David Foster Wallace is called to mind, "There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys, how's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'" It's hard to see what's right under your nose, but occasionally some people pull it off and are subsequently crucified, pedestalized, misunderstood, or all three.
How utterly natural these images coming to mind are. Maybe it's my interest in religion and mythology that pulls them from the muck, like a Rorschach, but still I feel something there, which is also here, in my mind! Something deep! Something special and important, more than coincidence. Something worth sharing. Something provocative of contemplation and creativity. Do you see it? Do you see . . . what do you see?
"..when we are about to express it, we suddenly lose the words."
Do you feel it?