black gesso How often do we find ourselves in things? When we look around at the people, animals and objects in our lives we always see what is not us. We know of the self particularly, in relation to the not-self, which is everything other than us. This separation can create in us an incredible sense of isolation when the divide between our self and everything else seems unbridgeable. However, if we are fortunate to learn how to lose ourselves in the other, the bleakness of separation and isolation disappears. As the distance between the world and us diminishes, so does the self diminish. The very sense of I begins to shrink in the context of totality. We often forget this, and, in our mad rush to be something or somebody, we overlook the necessity to disbecome. We often talk about finding ourselves. The maxim runs: Know Thyself. But anyone who knows themselves knows how conflicting and contradictory the self is. After awhile, we don’t know what to do with this self, which seems only to do as it pleases without obeying reason or any other higher order. The self is messy and far from ideal. Since we already have ourselves, the importance then seems to be the ability to lose ourselves. This can only be done by engaging the mind with tasks and labor outside of self-awareness. We must do so through something other than us because it is through losing ourselves that we become more wholly ourselves. To be self-aware requires that we discover an occupation within which we can lose ourselves. It is a place where we can turn off our self-consciousness and play with pure consciousness. The key here is play. When we disengage with ourselves we know that eventually we will re-engage with ourselves and by doing so, we refresh ourselves., This is why it is always fun to find oneself again, and why, in the midst of painting, I laughed robustly the second I saw it there. It was the hearty laugh of recognition, of finding my name in print. Of course, there, on the can, inches from my feet, it wasn’t spelled out but hidden amongst those two words. I connected the letters like the stars of a constellation, knowing that without my last name this would possess no significance. But my name, embedded there, had power; the way words once had power to bind through sound, spelling and incantation. I set down my brush and lifted the can to inspect and make certain of what I saw.
Having confirmed the spelling, I set down the can and dipped my finger into the blackness. I then blotted out the C, K, G and E and wiped my finger on a rag. I stood there, hands on hips seeing myself in a place where I wasn’t before. My name was there, broken neatly, bookending the black smudges. My laughter was the laughter of self-discovery. It was like I had startled myself in a mirror and was seeing myself again for the first time with fresh, curious eyes. The laughter came because I discovered that, despite my vigilance, I could still be ambushed by the least remarkable thing in the world: myself. The world is full of surprises but I never imagined my name and image to be one of them, but when and wherever I find them, they always appears as a destiny. To rediscover ourselves is pure joy. The shock of recognition always takes us by surprise when we are allowed to see ourselves again for the first time, in the words of Wallace Stevens’ Hoon, more truly and more strange. But what is stranger yet, is when we look deeply into the other until something twinkles in the darkness and rises towards the surface to confront us and we find ourselves looking back upon ourselves.