The Horizon of Our Imagination

How many things lie lonely in nonexistence, never visited by an imagination? The old adage about the tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. Does a feeling exist if no one ever feels it? Does a thought exist if no one ever thinks it? The sexual fantasies, vivid blue skies, dewy meadows, sunsets, all have no shortage of daydreamers to breathe life into them. There are scores of ideas that artists paint, sculpt, and write entire worlds for. How many things lie beyond the horizon of our imaginations? Despite the wonder and diversity that surrounds us in the natural world, we always yearn to create other worlds. Do we live in a world so droll that it demands creativity? What if we lived in a more interesting world? Imagine such a world where some landscapes were painted by Picasso rather than geological forces. Different pieces of nature are painted by impressionists, surrealists, classicists even realists. In this world, nature is not simply whittled by the cold careless hands of evolution, it is loved in the hearts of artists. In this world every conversation is as eloquent, poignant, and engaging as the words of Dostoevsky. Words gracefully leap from our mouths to mingle and embrace in sweet harmony. We understand, and we are understood. The ugly disharmony of cars, trains, streets, cursing, yelling, cat calls, is replaced by chords that are as sweet and natural as Paganini’s violin. This world lives only in the hearts of artists with hands too weak to build it. Our only home is the natural world. The truth is, this world is born not of love, but of need. Those who live in this world had no choice. We are simply thrust into this existence. Nature is an existential slave master. Through the pain, I trust that she is simply indifferent, not malevolent. Hunger, pain, loneliness, thirst, lust a thousand lashes from her whip. We cannot think if we must toil. Nature fears our power to undo her, control her, enslave her. Arctic tundras, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes reassert her dominance. Artists and scientists harbor a masochistic love for nature. We write odes to her beauty, paint her form with love, fit equations for her intimacy. Our love does not seem reciprocated. The very nature of the universe demands my decay, pain, and death. Entropy dissolves me, radiation shreds me, gravity crushes me. She tolerates our questions, our curiosities, our affections for only so long before erasing us to make room for better creations. I believe this quarrel is by necessity not by will. Nature and humans must do such dirty things to exist. Survival is our true slave master. No one can watch a sunset or look upon the Aurora Borealis without remembering their true feelings for nature. We would simply lie in tall grass and live off the sweet scent of wildflowers if it weren’t for the stinging lashes of hunger and lust. Nature gives us life, nourishes us, even nurtures us despite the havok we will wreak. The artist does not seek to replace nature, but simply imagines a world in which our love is not tragic and doomed. The artist imagines a world in which we do not have to sacrifice love for survival.

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10 thoughts on “The Horizon of Our Imagination

  1. Part of this reads like countless religious texts i’ve read describing Paradise, when we’ll eternally hear nothing but Right Speech and Music, blissful and harmonious, all creatures together. I would argue that we can carve worlds like this within this “natural” world; and that even the ugly is just a matter of perspective. Why do you characterize nature as so cruel? Surely our suffering at her hands is a function of our approach to the world. We all know humans have found ways of making even the most painful things pleasurable. Likewise, if we don’t fight the way we do, against pain, disease, gravity, whatever, we wouldn’t need to see nature as such a destructive force. I imagine if we adopt a humble, submissive attitude toward the things we can’t control, we could be more content, at the very least freed from a mindset of constant battle.

    I think part of the problem with mental illness stigma is that it rests on the disease model of abnormal brain activity, which ultimately rests on the enlightenment-derived assumption that nature is evil, scary, destructive, and to be subdued at all costs. We need to throw away this way of thinking.

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    1. Yes, I am certainly a little hard on nature. After all, man dies by the hand of his fellow man far more often than nature taking him at a ripe old age. I’m not sure my “world designed by artists” would be paradise or even more pleasant than the world we live in. In fact I argue in “Can Nature Be Creative”, one of my earlier posts, that nature may in fact be an artist. I think the central theme I’m going for here is how much pain is leveled on us with no one to blame. We don’t know who to blame for death, disease, suffering, evils of the world. Many times it is no one’s fault. We have no one to blame, we can do nothing but kneel and scream at the heavens in pain. Our screams simply echo into silence.

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  2. You have to admit we have come a long way in shielding ourselves from nature. Of course if we weren’t so greedy, by now we would surely have mostly self sustaining clean energy and not be causing the climate change we are now seeing with natural disasters taking place all over the world. The trick is to enjoy the beauty and not dwell on the horrors as much as you can. It’s always been a yin/yang, give/take, you have to enjoy the positives like music, art, science and nature when you have the chance! I think being content with what you have and striving for what you want is a good start.

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  3. This comes down to the God question then, whether or not you believe that there’s a consciousness behind this “nature” that actively shapes all this, even if it seems random to us. I believe in that higher transcendent consciousness, and at my lowest points, that often gives me great solace. I’ve just got to submit myself to forces greater than myself; I don’t have all the answers or solutions, so I’ll just let the agony take its course, endure if I must, and then keep going with the flow I guess.

    But before in one of your other posts… I think it’s fascinating how some people take for granted a drive to live, and other people just can’t fathom where that comes from. For most of my life, I couldn’t understand, “why live?!” It just doesn’t make sense to me.

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    1. I see our usual definition of consciousness a little humanocentric. When we ask “Is something conscious?” the question we are really asking is “Does this thing think like me?” I think nature can be an artist regardless of its consciousness. I think if you trip over some paint cans and they accidentally splash into a Jackson Pollack on the blank canvas there on the ground its still a piece of art that I will get just as much out of. When you look at a piece of art, you don’t know what the artist’s intent is. You infer the intent, you also infer that there is any intent. You have no way of knowing by looking at that picture that it wasn’t just painted randomly by a computer or by an accident. But that doesn’t matter to you, you still get the same out of reading Shakespeare even if it was typed by 10,000 monkeys on a typewriter. That’s why I think nature could be considered an artist.

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    2. Drive to live, yup capricious and elusive. I think unless we have enough stuff going on in our life that we are passionate about, we just sit back and have fruitless existential searches. Life is a blank canvas that we have to fucking paint. An existential crisis is when we sit back and stare at that blank canvas expecting someone of something to paint it for us. We just sit around and mope about how blank the canvas is and why no one painted it and is there a god to paint it, is nature painting it, etc etc. No, you have to fucking paint that canvas. Unfortunately for someone like me who is autistic and depressed and grew up in poverty, I only have like one color and a paintbrush with like two bristles. So I have to be really fucking creative to paint my canvas and not have it look like shit. But you know, I still get up and paint it a little until I just look at it in disgust and frustratedly throw down my brush. And I keep searching for new colors of paint and try to fix my brush but you only get new brushes and new colors if your painting is good. So the people born with all the colors and the expensive brush take all the colors for themselves and paint some derivative unimaginative blemish on the eyes and everyone applauds it. Man I’m fucking bitter today, I really hope I win some of those fiction competitions I entered.

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  4. Why not live is the way I see it. We are here a short time and I look at it as a gift not to be squandered. Everyone has their unique perspective and it can depend on a combination of biology, psychology and environmental. Maybe it’s a crap shoot, maybe not. I like to think there is something behind it all and it’s not just a big cosmic joke. I have seen a lot of people dying and all that I have seen did what they could to live as long as they could. While I am here, I will take advantage of life and enjoy it as much as I can! Some of it could be youth and the more you live the more perspective you have and you realize how precious life is? You know, youth is wasted on the young?

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    1. We are not here short enough for me. My qualm with the universe is not some abstract big picture meaning of life issue. I take issue with the fact that I have lived a life that has convinced me that the universe is actively torturing me. I don’t care about the why anymore, I just know I’ve hit my limit. I know I’m not going to be able to bounce back from this. I keep trying to live life again like nothing ever happened, I just can’t. What’s funny is that compared to what I’ve been through this should be a walk in the park. It defies logic, but I just can’t recover from it. I can’t find reasons to live that I don’t believe are mirages. It’s difficult to motivate me to begin with. These have been some pretty sophisticated well built mirages. I just can’t convince myself anymore that I’m not getting out of bed to chase mirages.

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    1. I’m glad you can connect with my weird perspective. I’ve been thinking about taking the blog more mainstream and doing book reviews and movie reviews, but I think I’d prefer the smaller niche audience I’ve built up. Quality over quantity.

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