Indigo

A Revised Account of the Rainbow
Khiaw in Thai, usually means green, but it can also represent blue when describing the sky or ocean. Vishnu means “all-pervasive” and he is depicted as having blue skin, emblematic of the sky or ocean. Not until fabric is pulled from a pot of green indigo does it change to a deep hue of sky or ocean. In truth, water has no color, the ocean is merely perceived as green to blue to black.

An indigo worker spits blue when describing the sky or ocean. Slaves on the indigo plantations of South Carolina sang out their bruised black and blues. Ghandi was arrested as he went to the aid of the indigo farmers of India. Crowds gathered in protest, but Ghandi warned, “Any violent act will hurt our cause.” Satyagraha was written in indigo blue.

It was Newton that discovered and named indigo as a primary color, not because it necessarily is, but because he wanted there to be 7 primary colors, the same as there are 7 musical notes in an octave–because he believed in the cosmic harmony of the sky or ocean.

It is the mystery of the natural that spawns the complexity of the unnatural and it is blue which is always the last color to be named in a language.
Indigo Vats, Fukuoka, Japan

Cut Continue

The Aesthetics of Incense
Kire-tsuzuki or 'cut continue' is often exemplified by the discontinuous continuum of breathing – the 'cut' between the exhale and inhale instills the simple fact that each exhale could be the last. This trope is often used in Japanese aesthetics and famously used by Hakuin, the Zen Master, whose teaching implores that we must be cut from the root of life in order to "see into one's own nature".

The dry landscape garden at Ryoan-ji is arranged within a large rectangle of raked gravel and bordered first with stone and moss before abutting a low earthen wall with a small pitched roof. The wall acts both as a cut and a continuum, because the scenery on the far side of the wall is borrowed by the dry landscape. Within the rectangle, the sand and 15 various sized stones exist within their 'own' stillness and suspended timeframe, compared to the borrowed scenery that moves within the patterns of nature. The borrowed scenery is vital, as the deceptive permanency of the dry landscape alone would communicate only part of the whole. 

Ikebana, which translates literally to "making flowers live", is a revelation – to cut the flower from the root demonstrates the illusion of the flower's seemingly permanent nature within the earth and exposing it instead, in its pure untethered form.

The cultivation and burning of a stick of incense follows these same kire-tsuzuki aesthetics. The natural materials are grown, cut, and composed into sticks that, like the dry landscape gardens, defy time and apparent material degradation. To burn incense, wherever you choose to do so, a unique interplay between the incense and borrowed scenery arises. As the ember chases its way down the stick, a suspended rush of fragrance is released – emitting the true essence of the woods, the flowers, and the resins that once grew; rooted in earth in distant forests. A cut and a continuum, the past histories of these exotic botanicals are released with wavering smoke into nothingness.
Ryan-ji, Kyoto, Japan

Travel

The Aesthetics of Being a Sight Seer
I’m handed a pen and gestured with a hand towards the hotel guest book. Scratchy blues music floats in from another room as I read the names that came before. I read them the same way I read gravestones, each name as void and lifeless as a hollow egg. I refrain from entering my name. Krishnamurti once remarked that a path is made by walking on it and that something dead has a path to it because it is unmoving. My eyes follow the fitness weights strapped to the ankles of Ms. Hinton as she laboriously drags her feet down the long, worn, and sagging hallway; wheezing in repetition, "Yer walking...on...history... boy..." I contemplate what she means by "history" – history being the past which we pull into the present, impeding our experiences by creating an image of what was in place of what is?

I lay down on the bed and listen as she climbs back up the hallway into the music which barely keeps this Delta town from being swallowed by the river. I bring a camera to my eye and pan around the room, noticing the long window covered in tinfoil reflecting the sun’s rays away from this hiding place of memories. Patient flowers made of plastic carefully collect dust in the low light. I close my eyes and wonder how I got here before quickly realizing that ‘I’ am always here and never there.

George Santayana wrote that mobility is the privilege of animals and their distinction over the immobility of plants. The sharecroppers of the Delta took the train to Chicago in a great migration while the cotton stayed. There is the pull of the unknown that leads us places and what was, or is, the torture of getting to, or wondering if, a new and potentially better place exists. I followed an already worn path here to find something new, but instead I find only the ashes of a fire that once provided heat. Do we travel with only the hopes of returning with something that will make ourselves seem richer in the eyes of others? Am I a wishful plant that runs on its roots in the night in hopes of bringing back the sun?

Blues and purple have not yet turned to black as I cross the street and enter Pete’s Bar. The light is low and wood floor worn–mismatched chairs and tables are strewn about like dance partners frozen mid-song. I make my way to the bar past a few idle men who seem well suited to their stools and order a beer. The bar top is covered with names and scrawls, and it isn’t long before the barman offers me a marker so that I might add to the entropy. I accept the marker, rolling it around in my fingers, while I reflect on the same issue posed only an hour before. What significance does a name hold and why do we feel the urge to desperately scatter it around before we die? The evidence of ego. Is the smooth lightened edge of the bar worn by a myriad of drunk elbows not evidence enough? The scribbled names are an illusion of differentiation–a part from the whole. Peter Munro wrote his name using large bubble letters for extra emphasis; I envision Peter’s gravestone carefully carved with the same stupid bubble letters and laugh at his generic bones resting in dirt.

I contemplate the camera left in my room and the desire I felt to bring it. Any photograph taken would be contributing to the despondency of our culture, a culture that lives vicariously through others and their forms of reality, which makes us secondhand beings. Let us not forget that Narcissus drowned in the pool of his own reflection. Photographs are mere reflections that we are drowning in, instead of living; reflections exactly the same as all those names floating on the wood of the bar. Proust famously said, “Not in seeing new places, but in seeing with new eyes.” The images of the world are not seen with our eyes, they are seen with other people’s eyes. Eyes that multiply like cancer, our senses simultaneously spread over every inch of the globe in an interconnected way which disconnects us from the possibility of pure experience. A photograph hints at what is possible and not what is; it is Bergson's mirage of the past in the present.

I get up to find the bathroom. While standing at the urinal my eyes wander around reading the texts scrawled on the plywood walls until I land on, “Great sex, no babies.” Written not by a wise Chinese mountain hermit, printed in black ink within a Barnes and Noble self help book, but instead likely by a regular guy, halfheartedly, while impatiently waiting for his piss to end during a barroom party. While maybe not the most poetic statement, it was the answer I was looking for. My purpose was pure experience without evidence of the act. I have nothing for you, go and see for yourself.
Missing Image, Clarksdale, MS