Monday, October 06, 2008

Rocks, Water and an Island

Yesterday I was out moving chunks of granite around, and this morning reading Space and Place, by Yi-Fu Tuan. To paraphrase, Tuan claims that breaking the bounds of gravity is the innate desire of man, and he was not referring to the difficulty of picking up large rocks, but rather to ice skating. I would add other activities in which there is total freedom of movement and an attempted or perceived escape from gravity – surfing, sailing, great sex, and colliding subatomic particles.

So what about man’s desire to go deep into the earth, and what are the physical attractions to the solidities of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks? This is the complementary desire for security. According to Tuan, a social geographer who taught at the University of Wisconsin, “human lives are a dialectical movement between shelter and venture, attachment and freedom.” I hate more than anything to be tied down, but on the other hand, those rocks, which are the foundation of my art, provide a resting place. The ideal subject matter? Water moving over rocks.

I’ve used “man” in its now out-dated sense to include men and women, but something I read this morning made me realize how far we have not come. A story about the origin of the yoga pose “Matsyendrasana” (Lord of the Fishes) tells a fish and flood story about a man who rescued a fish, only to have it later save him and his ark in the great flood. Many eons later, Parvati begged her consort Shiva to give her the secrets of yoga, so that she might use them to help humankind which was once again in a fix. He took her to a remote island, imparted the secrets, and then realized that the neighboring island, looking so like a rock, was actually that very fish referred to above. So Shiva transformed the fish into the first great yogic teacher. And Parvati? The story I was reading forgot to say.

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