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  • Terry Wigmore

Life is a stream that flows, from somewhere, to somewhere.

I have enjoyed dabbling in the visual arts. I have been working on pen and ink sketches for a few years and now I am at a level where I think I can start to look around me at what I would like to draw, and do it: spending the time and energy and becoming absorbed in the act of drawing.

To draw, for me, is to observe. My wife helped me learn to distinguish the levels of light and dark and to render these with a push-pull tension between the layers of the sketch from foreground to background. I am still learning to "see" all of this but, the process of drawing is like watching a flower unfold its petals - it takes a while, but it is wonderful to see an image emerge.

The toughest question is usually a form of the classic line from the kids in the back seat of a car on a long trip: "Are we there yet?" For the artist, it is, "Am I done yet?" How do I know when to stop the process and stand back and let it be? That is usually part of the artist's set of skills, along with the ability to observe. The decision as to when to stop, put the pen down and say, "It is finished!" (hmmm, where do those famous words come from?) is as much a part of the art as the sketch itself. Only the artist knows when it is done. Only the artist determines the end of the process, and the viewer may well disagree with the artist and that is the part of the wonder of creating something: it means something different to everyone because we all bring the life journey we have experienced to the art we are observing. Our particular river of life-experience has flowed from somewhere to the place we are at now. Our river is different from virtually everyone else's and is as unique to who we are as our fingerprints. Our river defines us. We are the whole stream of experiences that brought us to this place. We are more than the sum of all these things; the sights, sounds, touches, tastes and smells that we record along the way. There is a value attached to every input and a sorting process that references and cross-references every bit of the input. All of this determines the size, the flow rate, the direction, the capacity, the motion, and may very well have some bearing on where and how the stream ends (better to burn out than to fade away?).

It seems to me that our lives are very much like the stream coming from somewhere and going somewhere. Do we live in the moment of the stream celebrating its existence, or do we struggle against the flow? What shaped our stream? What influences continue to move us in certain ways? How much of what happens is within our control? Should we learn to "go with the flow?"

Did I mention I love flowing water except in my basement? ;)

I think it was the Pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, who wrote something to the effect of, "you cannot step into the same stream twice." It makes sense that both the stream has changed (the water that you stepped into the first time has moved on in its course) and we have changed (since the very act of stepping into the stream has changed who we are, not to mention the very passage of that moment).

I am more inclined to think we ARE the stream. As I wrote earlier, we are more than the sum total of all the constituent parts of our own existence. Somehow, we transcend the material parts, and the spiritual element of the universe, whether you use terms like God, the Creator, the Preserver, the Spirit - the Breath of the Divine, or other of the many words that have been used to describe the meta-physical side of existence -and here I use "Metaphysical"in the colloquial way referring to that which is non-material or spiritual, not in the way the classical philosophical debate refers to how Aristotle's writings came to be organized in Physics and Metaphysics ( that which follows the writings on physical existence) IS the reason for that transcendence. Like the words of Dr. Frankenstein when the collection of parts is given a jolt of electrical energy: "It lives!" The parts were a lump, lifeless, unresponsive and unaware, until that moment. I suppose there is room to ponder how many of us are still lumps, waiting to be enlivened? Hmmm...

(IF we ARE the stream, and streams all flow to the seas of the world, where are we all flowing to? Where do all the spiritual energies gather at the end of the flow? IS that what we call Heaven? Or, and I jest here but the analogy begs for this humourous aside, since water always flows down, is Hell what all energy flows toward (assuming of course that Hell is down and Heaven is up ;)

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