I’ve always been interested in the idea of creating space. For years I had a note attached to my computer that read, “Create Space for Spirit to Speak.” If we don’t have the space for it, we can’t do anything new or creative because our life is already filled up. A simple example is writing–one has to create space (physical, mental, emotional) in order to write something new. In graduate school I was fascinated by a book titled Free Spaces: The Source of Democratic Change in America. In their book, authors Sara Evans and Harry Boyte talk about how political movements are formed by having “free spaces” (voluntary associations from churches to social clubs to civic groups) where people can congregate, connect and talk with one another.
And while I’d been interested in how the creative process happens in everyday life for a long time, the research for a metaphor course I taught last spring opened up a whole new world for me around the subject of aesthetic space in everyday life. Aesthetic Space is a parallel world of deep beauty that is already there, but except for rare moments of heightened clarity, we don’t normally tap into it. The research for this course gave me both a language and a way of thinking about what I am now calling aesthetic space. (Aesthetic space somehow seems more appropriate right now than the term creative space. I have also sometimes used the term third space, which came to me by way of Charles Johnston in his book Necessary Wisdom: Meeting the Challenge of a New Cultural Maturity.)
From this research and an intense dream I had following the completion of the course (see below), I came to the realized that aesthetic space does not involve geography or linear time. Aesthetic space is another world that exists parallel to everyday life. To experience this world, we simply need to shift our focus. And I believe this is our future as humans–beauty is what we are evolving into. Social change isn’t going to happen by way of our intellects, trying to figure out a better solution for global warming and other vexing issues. (It was Einstein who said that our problems would not be solved with the level of thinking at which they were created. Carl Jung said something similar.) Beauty brings us into the heart, which has a deeper wisdom and knowing. I believe that beauty is our way toward a higher evolution.
There may be many reasons why a course on the “psychology of metaphor” opened up this new world for me. A metaphor links two unlike things together in a way where we are able to get a new perspective or understanding about the matter. When we are in aesthetic space, we naturally see those deeper connections and relationships between diverse things. And the mystery is–this aesthetic space where rich metaphors and connections live, is always available to us. From my perspective, it’s another world we just need to tap into.
A couple of months after the Metaphor class ended, I had a powerful dream. I was in the basement of the house I grew up in, I stepped out of the basement door into our backyard, and at that moment the dream was no longer ordinary. Magnificent, pulsing, glorious energy was vibrating in everything around me–the trees, plants, animals, but also the clothesline and houses. Every single thing was alive with beautiful dancing energy. I became lucid in the dream at that moment.
After a few moments of gazing in wonder at this sight, my body was pulled forcefully away toward distant forests and mountains. As my body got closer to the forest, I saw that the forest was actually a huge piece of cardboard (like a billboard). There was nothing BUT cardboard–I could see that the forest was actually a photograph on cardboard, but there was no end to it. I freaked out, because my body was being pulled at a tremendous speed and I was heading straight toward the cardboard–I was going to crash into it. And just at the last minute before I crashed, my body was zipped into a train tunnel that was going through the cardboard forest. After recovering from my near miss, I looked out the train window–the train was traveling through a tunnel, but there were some windows in the tunnel, and out the windows I could see the beautiful dancing energy again. The beautiful, vibrating life energy was still there–BEHIND the cardboard. The profound lesson of the dream was obvious to me–it was showing me that what we humans (like me) see when we look at anything is only the photograph on the cardboard. We don’t see the pulsing beauty that lies BEHIND the tree, or the house, or the grass, or the person. Our ordinary, everyday world is like living in a world of cardboard photographs. But there IS something more to see. We just need to wake up a little more to see it.
If you’re interested in exploring aesthetic space in more depth, check out my Creative Space and Metaphor class at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Saturday December 13th, from 10 am to 4 pm. Call Book Passage to sign up.