Monday, February 16, 2009

2 Worlds in 1

I live in two worlds. One is made of facts, bills, rules, oppositions, gossip, routine... The other is made of mysteries, subtle exchanges, patterns, dances, mythic tales, rituals... One world is the defined by the conventional mind that honors the status quo. The other is an ocean of soul that honors shifting tides. One world is filled with problems to be solved. The other is full of mysteries to be explored.

I've spent most of my life attempting to reconcile these seemingly conflicting universes. I've learned to "see infinity in a grain of sand" and "hold eternity in the palm of [my] hand." Becoming an architect was an attempt to combine art and science, creativity and commerce. Despite these efforts, there is still the persistent gnawing that I could, should, be spending my days less on the facts side of the street and directing my feet to the mythic, poetic, integrative side. 

My body, however, needs food and a roof. It likes sleeping on a comfortable bed, driving a decent car, walking in comfortable shoes and the other things money buys. Our culture praises soulful, boundary breaking work as long as it isn't too threatening to its survival systems. Mostly, society rewards the conventional mind. Unable to figure out how support the needs of my body through my art, I do what most do in my situation do. I work at the most interesting day job I can and pursue my writing and designing new possibilities the rest of the time.

A few years ago, I moaned about this to a friend from Malaysia who is a herbalist and pulse diagnostician. He laughed and said, "Americans, always wanting to do their thing. The greatest martial artist in southeast Asia sells noodles on the street. At night, he hones his skill and teaches classes."

Living in two worlds is structured into the human brain. The left hemisphere is said to dwell in a linear, analytical world. The right hemisphere inhabits a spatial, artistic world. Experiencing day to day reality as anything other than these paired modes is just arguing with life. "That's an argument you'll lose every time," points out another friend.

I mused on this ongoing dilemma last fall as I was walking by the bay at sunset. Not too far from shore, a pelican circled about 50 feet above the water. "Working for his dinner," I thought. As the pelican circled, he was all spread wings and scanning eyes, the perfect design for detecting food in the environment. In a flash, the pelican pulled in his wings and plummeted toward the water. He became a pointed beak that sliced cleanly through the surface. When the pelican bobbed to the surface the sack at his throat wriggled with the attempted escape of the fish he'd caught. 

Having just finished a days work myself, I felt a new thread of kinship with the pelican and every being that strives to survive in this world. We all work to feed our bodies. In humans , as far as I know, the soul looks on. The mind stands between, either appreciating or rejecting the scene. Nature seems to spontaneously weave together artistic beauty and practical necessity. The pelican lives the way he is made to live. It would be ridiculous for him to trying getting nectar from a flower like a hummingbird. Like the pelican circling above the bay, the two worlds in which I live circle around each other. Sometimes their intertwining rings seem to be in conflict. At other times, the two seem to be nuances of unity. I'm coming to appreciate how the seemingly conflicting patterns generate sparks of creative energy. The seemingly unified patterns take these in, digest them and transform them into new creations... It's a science and an art... I'd be interesting in hearing about your journey to integrate the poetic with the practical in your daily life.

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