our efforts to evolve the human species, there are times when we
must decelerate our advancement in order to ascertain and evaluate
the proper course. In other words, when you’re lost, it’s
best to pull over to the side of the road and check the map.
Recently, two leaders of great power were asked the question, “When does
Life begin?” One scratched his chin thoughtfully and replied, “I
do not know. That answer is above my pay grade.” The other leapt up, shouting, “I
know!” and continued with the specifics of his adamant answer.
Knowledge and power are perceived to be synonymous. Humanity is blindly and aggressively
eager to embrace both. Unfortunately, this mad dash creates blinders to beauty,
joy, and truth. It blurs the interconnectivity and universality of all things.
This should not be. In this life, there are many things that we simply do not
OUR PREDISPOSITION TO FEAR
As a life-long Southern Californian, I have experienced several earthquakes of
small and large magnitudes. Geological sciences have taught us that the movement
of tectonic plates and fault line pressure are the cause. Holy Mount Olympus!
When the solid ground beneath our feet begins to hurl and heave, education goes
right out the window. My reaction to an earthquake is the same as that of an
ancient Greek, “Zeus and Hera must be having a helluva domestic disturbance!”
We are predisposed to fear. Ask any comedian. If you leap on stage to tell a
joke, the odds of getting a laugh are slim; you will get more snorts than snickers.
On the other hand, should the comic produce an Uzi Machine Gun and swing it around,
the majority in the audience will either duck or run. We recognize fear faster
than a laugh. For proof positive, shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.
What is the power of knowledge? ‘Knowing’ comforts our fear. Knowledge,
or the perception of it, offers security and well-being.
THE HUBRIS OF MAN (AND WOMAN)
As of this writing, there is no species on earth greater and more formidable
than the Homo sapien. Humans are the fastest, brightest and most fierce. No other
organism is as complex nor advanced. No other animal has challenged nature so
thoroughly and aggressively. Our roar echoes loudly. Like King Kong thumping
his chest atop the Empire State Building, we humans have sought the highest,
safest and most comfortable roost.
Superior to the salamander, the human mind has the ability to perceive, remember,
evaluate and reason. This volition is tempered by emotion and feeling. Ego is
the bastard child of this confluence and it is where the trouble begins. The
human ego is as omnipotent as it is fragile. We want to feel that we are invincible
and we dread that we are not.
If knowledge is power, then the converse must also resonate. We are deeply afraid
of the unknown.
THE MAINSPRING OF HUMAN PROGRESS
The evolution of a living organism is reactive to the changes in the physical
environment. The wooly mammoth shed its fur as the Ice Age warmed up. The teeth
of a meat eater grew sharp while the mandibles of the vegetarian became as flat
as a millstone. The ape stood tall because it is faster to run on two feet than
gallop on all four.
Quite simply, the engine of all human progress is efficiency and therefore comfort.
Jonas Salk invented a cure for polio and ended great suffering. New Yorkers prefer
to winter in Florida. A Duxinana mattress beats a bale of hay. A Gulfstream G40
will get you there faster than a horse and buggy. A full belly is preferable
to a hungry one.
Mystery furrows our brow. Knowledge, or the illusion of it, soothes our anxious
soul. Knowing is comfort.
THE NEED TO KNOW
Our innate desire for comfort is adamant, fevered and unyielding. Knowledge offers
well-being, a calming effect to the unknowing cause and vagaries of Chance.
Conversely, we are frightened by what we do not know. From Paris Hilton gossip
to the cure for cancer, like a junkie needing a fix, we need to know. This yearning
has created an opportunity.
‘I know.’ No two words are more powerful nor command more respect. ‘I
know’ packs a greater whollop than a baseball bat.
It is an old trick, an easy tactic. Fear and power are the best of friends; they
have a working relationship. The threat of barbarians at the gate is a great
way to unite a community.
Adolph Hitler did not want the Jews to wear lederhosen and he proposed a (final)
solution; his campaign for ethnic purity found more than a few supporters and
motivated a nation. The Spanish Inquisition was a success; Catholic conversions
hit an all time high. The horror of Islamic radicals shopping in our suburban
malls had enough juice to launch an invasion of Iraq.
Frank Sinatra sang it best with “How Little We Know”. In late October
of 2008, an urgent conference on global warming in London was confounded by the
inconvenience of a freezing snowfall, the first October snow since 1922. Medical
science has made astounding advancements in the last century but we are still
uncertain if red wine will kill you or enliven you. Sadly, we know more about
outer space than we do about our seven seas, after all we are a water planet.
In truth, with great humility, we must admit ‘how little we know and how
much there is to discover.’
ON BENDED KNEE
The art world has never taught us much but it has demonstrated an approach. Beauty
must be revered on bended knee. With grace. With humility. Far away from the
beating of the war drums. Faraway from the shrill scream of ‘decency’, ‘value’ and ‘Where’s
Art preaches the infinity of possibility. What if? What could? What the heck?
To admit that ‘we do not know’ is an act of bravery and heroism,
a beautiful gesture. To admit that ‘we do not know’ speaks of study,
maturity and higher thought.
As anyone over the age of 27 will tell you, ‘Life It’s Own Self’,
must be approached with humility, respect and grave consternation.
THE NEW CONQUISTADOR
Tall in the saddle, wearing
the laurel leaf of a victor, one might venture, “I dunno.”
There is a great beauty in the reverence for the things we do not know. It offers
a world of infinite possibilities. Chi, Luck, Chance, the Holy Spirit, whatever
one desires to call it, there is a thread that runs throughout all living things
that cannot be denied.
Life is so beautiful and so mysterious. The force of Nature cannot be denied.
The change of all seasons is so precise. Time, thyme, is so sweet. The DJ keeps
the beat. It all keeps moving. Faster than you. Faster than me. It all keeps
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His new show, FORTUNA
RISING begins September 17 and runs through February
28 at Western Project. 21 events will blossom over 21 weeks at Western-Project.com