Meditation or Migraine Part 3 | Peter Jordan

Meditation or Migraine Part 3 | Peter Jordan

'I really like art and music, they don’t have a utilitarian value but they have an incalculable value for inner life.' PJ

When you’re making, what are you thinking about?

Many things, and often listening to music, often I am referring to writings of many people from David Bohm to new translations of the Zhuangzi (ChuangTsu), The book of Job, Sufi writings, and on and on (see more detailed writings below).

Is it all technical or are you able to let your mind wander?

I had a lot of technical training early on, so no expressing yourself, (eg painting still lifes' over 3 weeks in an accurate and illusionistic way, colour theory etc) which became handy later on, and which I enjoyed learning. I had a student once who complained a lot in the first few weeks about exercises I set to the point where she was disrupting the class too much. So I said lets go for a walk and you can tell me what you want to do. As we walked we came across a busker playing the guitar. I asked her suddenly if she liked the sound and she said she didn’t, and it was clear to her that it was because the person could not play very well and she got it. You have to have some training and discipline – then you can let go because you don’t want it to be all technical, there’s no feel in that. Frank Zappa used to talk about that, the need for ‘technical ability’ but also how to put some ‘eyebrows on it.’ So I like to listen to music, drink coffee, stop and think or eat biscuits, do some reading etc and to in some ways try to get yourself out of the way.

Have you ever had makers block?

Sure, happens a lot - often have 10-12 works going at once because I get stuck somewhere along the line.

How do you overcome it?

Usually try to get me out of the way, or go do something different, keep working it until it just fails beyond repair, or think about making something for someone else (another way of getting me out of the way...)

S&HG // Overall, is your art practice meditation or migraine?

 Actually, it's mostly fun, I really enjoying playing with the materials and seeing what may happen. I was trained in old school ways, for example the first 6 weeks at art school in the mid 1980's we had three days a week where we would draw looking at a pile of bricks - and you had to draw the pile of bricks - there was no expressing yourself or anything like that. That whole first year was fairly rigorous technical training - Fridays was 9am-5pm colour theory for the whole year - making colour charts and mixing variations, complementary contrasts, simultaneous contrasts etc contrasts in colour but where the tone is the same etc. - it went on and on. Also got a very rigorous art history for 2 years It's kind of ironic that lots of discipline helps you let go, Zen and Taoism is a bit like that too, (the opening passages of Genesis as well, God doesn't make things, God lets things happen…) I really like art and music, they don’t have a utilitarian value but they have an incalculable value for inner life.

PJ //

Below is an extract from one book that contains many ideas I like to think about (besides the idea of play:

The perfect state, the summum bonum, is Play. In play, life expresses itself in its fullness. God's life is play. Adam fell when his play became serious business - Jakob Bohme)

The sense that the world is dreamlike, found also in Hinduism and Buddhism, comes mainly from noting its transience rather than from speculations about knowledge and truth, epistemology and ontology, although these come in later. Especially as one grows older, it becomes ever more obvious that things are without substance, for time seems to go by more rapidly so that one becomes aware of the liquidity of solids; people and things become like lights and ripples on the surface of water. We can make fast-motion films of the growth of plants and flowers in which they seem to come and go like gestures of the earth. If we could film civilizations and cities, mountains and stars, in the same way, we would see them as frost crystals forming and dissolving and as sparks on the back of a fireplace. The faster the tempo, the more it would appear that we were watching, not so much a succession of things, as the movement and transformations of one thing—as we see waves on the ocean or the movements of a dancer. In a similar way, what appears through a microscope to be a mass of plastic lumps bristling with spines is, to the naked eye, the clear skin of a girl. Put very crudely, mysticism is the apprehension of one thing doing everything. Taoists put it more subtly so that “doing” does not have the sense of one thing, the Tao, forcing and compelling others.

Generally speaking, the philosophies of the modern West do not take kindly to this dreamlike view of things, perhaps because of the feeling that if we are dreams we are not important, and that if we are not important there is no need to pay each other respect. We have all heard the cliché that human life is cheap in China. Of course, because there is too much of it; and we ourselves are becoming callous as populations multiply and the news media accustom us to the statistics of immense slaughters. No one, however, has demonstrated any necessary relation between people’s metaphysical views or religious beliefs and their moral behavior. People who are important can become too important, and thus nuisances to be done away with; and it should be remembered that the tortures and burnings of the Holy Inquisition were committed with deep concern for the fate of heretics’ immortal souls.

Often it seems that pain is our measure of reality, for I am not aware that there is ever physical pain in dreams apart from some actual physiological reason. It is thus a common joke that believers in the unreality of matter have difficulty in convincing anyone of the unreality of pain.

There was a faith-healer of Deal,

Who said, “Although pain is not real,

When the point of a pin

Goes into my skin,

I dislike what I fancy I feel.”

Yet the human body contains so much empty space that its ponderable elements could be condensed to the size of that very pinpoint, for its apparent solidity is an illusion arising from the rapid motion of its atomic components—as when a spinning propeller seems to become an impenetrable disk. Perhaps pain is a form of “conditioning,” since we know that the type of conditioning called hypnosis can be an extraordinary and selective anaesthetic.

However, let us try to imagine a universe, a realm of experience or a field of consciousness, lacking any extreme which could be called pain or the horrors. Although a fortunate person may pass days, months, and years in most pleasant and comfortable circumstances, there is always an apprehension, a thought in the back of the mind, that pain in some form is at least possible. It lurks around the corner, and he knows that he is fortunate because, all about him, there are those who suffer. All experience, all awareness, seems to be of varied spectra of vibrations so ordered that their extremes, like yin and yang, must in some way go together. If we cut a bar magnet in halves, so as to take off its north pole, we find only that each half has now north and south poles as before. Thus a universe without the polarity of pleasure and pain would be difficult indeed to imagine. In many societies we have gone a long way towards getting rid of such monstrosities as legal torture and, by medical means, of the pains of disease and surgery. Yet new dreads seem to take their place, and there is always the specter of death in the background.

If, then, we go deep into the very nature of feeling, we begin to see that we do not, and even cannot, want a universe without this polarity. In other words, so long as we desire the experience called pleasure we imply, and so generate, its opposite. Therefore Buddhists and Taoists alike speak of the sage as one who has no desires, though the latter also speak of him as one whose “joy and anger occur as naturally as the four seasons,” and here may lie a clue to the problem. For is it even possible not to desire? Trying to get rid of desire is, surely, desiring not to desire.23 Any project to suppress desire would obviously be contrary to the spirit of wu-wei, and implies that “I” am some separate potency which can either subdue desire or be subdued by it. Wu-wei is to roll with experiences and feelings as they come and go, like a ball in a mountain stream, though actually there is no ball apart from the convolutions and wiggles of the stream itself. This is called “flowing with the moment,” though it can happen only when it is clear that there is nothing else to do, since there is no experience which is not now. This now-streaming (nunc fluens) is the Tao itself, and when this is clear innumerable problems vanish. For so long as there is the notion of ourselves as something different from the Tao, all kinds of tensions build up as between “me” on the one hand, and “experiences” on the other. No action, no force (wei) will get rid of this tension arising from the duality of the knower and the known, just as one cannot blow away the night. Light, or intuitive understanding, alone will dissipate the darkness. As with the ball in the stream, there is no resistance to the up when now going up, and no resistance to the down when now going down. To resist is to get seasick.

Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts WITH THE COLLABORATION OF


or Bill Hicks:

‘Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of’s Tom with the weather.’

kind of fits with:

‘The Divine Being is a Creator because He wished to know Himself in beings who know Him; thus the Imagination cannot be characterized as "illusory," because it is the organ and substance of this auto-revelation. Our manifest being is the divine Imagination; our own Imagination is Imagination in His Imagination.’

Alone with the Alone, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn rArabi – Henry Corbin


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