Saturday, February 02, 2008

Perception is Reality

Recently I was in a SoHo high-rise with Cooldan. The view was of rooftops and watertowers, and the clouds were, well, right out of an expressionist painting. So I said it.

"The view looks just like a painting!"

CoolDan looked at me kinda funny.

"Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?" he said, "Art is supposed to represent life. Life is not supposed to look like art." True.

So how did reality and illusion become so intertwined? I wonder if this confusion, this..disconnection from our natural world...isn't the crux of what's wrong with humans today.

This past weekend, I went to the natural world.

My friend Stephen was kind enough to take me to magical Sedona. It's red sandstone cliffs have been immortalized by Disney rollercoasters, it's beauty is legendary, and this beauty has been enhancing the influx of tourist dollars ever since it was designated by 1980's new-agers as an "Energy Vortex".

Magestic (and magical) Sedona, Arizona

An energy vortex, they claim "is an area of invisible, swirling energy emanating from the earth and producing an uplifting, rejuvenating sensation in visitors."

Brochures explain there are 11 vortexes around the world including Stonehenge, Easter Island, ...yes, and SEDONA, ARIZONA! Kinda makes you want to sacrifice a goat beneath a burning pentagram? You're in luck. Sedona is chock full of palmists, hypnotists, soothsayers, and hippies.
Need new healing crystals, Hopi Indian pottery, or finger cymbals? Stock up in Sedona!

Stephen and I decided we needed to find out about this Vortex. He generously took me on a two-hour guided tour. Make me a believer!

The tourist agency tells us that the vortexes are either masculine or feminine --and for a hippie concoction, these vortices are typically sexist. A masculine vortex provides a feeling of energy and confidence, while a feminine vortex offers a calming, soothing sensation to visitors.

Cathedral Rock is a feminine vortex. Do I have to wear a skirt?

At one point we step out of our jeep. Our guide David (kind, knowledgeable, and in many ways a man I'd like to emulate) spots a raven and a hawk flying together in the sky.

"The Raven is the native american symbol of idealism and diplomacy, and the Hawk is the messenger," he says, zen-like. What does all this mean?

"This perfectly symbolizes the prophecy that somewhere between the years 2012 and 2015 there will be a massive shift in human consciousness."

What rock have I been hiding under? Was it gender-neutral? How did I miss this memo? I ask about the shift in consciousness, and he tells me "it predicts the arrival of the white buffalo and the 1,000 years of peace."

David is a regular Nostradamus.

Is this human history he predicts? If so, we have about four years to quickly rework the planet into one giant feminine vortex. May I suggest the white buffalo arrive with a shitload of Xanax?

Finishing our tour, David looks across the expansive red rocks. Then he mutters to himself, "Thank you, Great Spirit."

Great Spirit? I guess it sounds much better than "God" but still I'm thinking, whoa. This guy's spent too long sniffing patchouli in the tee-pee tent. Like, totally woo-woo.

At the same time I can't help noticing he's totally present with us. His speech is calm and soothing, like a feminine vortex (maybe it does exist...?), and the way he admires the natural beauty around us (how many years has he done this same tour?) never betrays any boredom.

It's clear he's never lost that sense of wonder; he never lost that sense of "wow." And he never once said the scenery looked like a painting.


Tyson said...

There's a white buffalo on display at the Winnipeg Zoo right now....does that mean we're ahead of the game?

Anonymous said...

Sedona is such an incredible place to visit,,, there is something special there,, the energy (postive energy) does creep in your self being,,,

Tony said...

Looks like the idea that "Perception is Reality," or that "reality" is created in the mind, is supported by neuroscience. Using Paul Cezanne's post-impressionist paintings as an example, Jonah Lehrer shows how this works in Chapter 5 of his book "Proust Was A Neuroscientist." (Lehrer is the guy who wrote the article "The Gay Animal Kingdom," noting that same-sex sexual activity is found in over 400 animal species.) Our eyes and optic nerves transmit unorganized photons to our brain "which transforms the residues of light into a world of form and space that we can understand ... Reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed; reality is made by the mind." ("Proust Was A Neuroscientist," Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2007, page 97.)