Are Images Our Best Hope
Changing the World?
is the first of what I hope to be monthly ruminations on whatever topic strikes
me or comes to the surface via this website from readers to form a conversation.
The inaugural topic is 'meme' (rhymes with dream, conveniently for us visual,
associational types). Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene is usually
credited with coining the term. He defines it as "..a unit of cultural transmission".
Memes can be slogans, catch phrases, icons, which are replicable and easily passed
from person to person or mind-to-mind. If you Google 'meme' you get over twenty
million hits. Some folks think memes are really like genes and are looking for
a biochemical basis of cultural transmission. Others see memes as a cultural virus
that undermines our ability to focus on more important things. I wonder if memes
are a way for artists to participate in creating the culture we'd like to see
in a more active way.
been having an experience recently with the meme "Energy Tsunami". My friend Wendy,
artist, art therapist and energy worker, with whom I hold weekly discussions about
all things cosmic and metaphysical, had been told by another friend that an "energy
wave, a sort of light or energetic tsunami" was due to move through consciousness
at the end of June or beginning of July. We had no scientific, astrological, rational
or metaphysical reason to take this seriously, but it piqued our imaginations.
Sounds kind of cool. Or sounds kind of scary. I found out when mentioning the
idea to others that most folks associated the word 'tsunami' with death and destruction,
nature out of balance, terror and fear. That isn't surprising since the recent
tsunami in Indonesia, the most powerful seismic event in forty years, is still
somewhat fresh in everyone's mind.
No one I mentioned this idea to had any direct connection or first hand experience
with the Indonesian tsunami or any other such event. Clearly the media reports
were enough to plant fear.
surprised me was my own reaction. Why did I find the idea of an energy tsunami
welcome, positive and exciting? I saw the same news; in fact I worked with images
about the Indonesian tsunami in a video I made last winter. On top of that, as
a child I had a recurring dream about a tsunami (I didn't know that word, I called
it a tidal wave). In the dream, I'd be walking along a beach and hear a rushing
sound, turn around (too late) and see an enormous wave cresting over my head about
to crash. Through my art and Jungian analysis I have done extensive work with
this image but while that work may have neutralized the fear I felt for years,
how did the image become positive for me?
to shake things up
I remembered that my daughter Adina had painted an image of what turned out to
be an 'energy' or 'light' tsunami last winter when we worked together in my studio.
Through witnessing the image Adina learned that she would be cleansed and renewed
by this wave, not destroyed. She described the person as seeming to 'orchestrate'
the wave. This was the detail that spoke to me: we are perhaps co-creators interacting
with forces of light and energy that move through us. This explained why I welcomed
the image. I had lived and worked with Adina's image and its message superseded
other cultural messages for me.
here's the question: Can we use images and our witness to them to transform culture?
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