Flow, Benzaiten, Dreams, Labyrinths

Flow, Benzaiten, Dreams, Labyrinths

The fire burns, and from matter flows energy. The author writes, and from human nature flows reflection and contemplation. The musician plays, and from silence flows art. The artist creates, and from an ugly truth flows beauty. All waters flow into the ocean.

Benzaiten is the goddess of all that flows: water, language, music, arts, love, wisdom, wealth, fortune. All flows emerge from a tension between two things, and to understand the flow is to understand the tension.

To understand biology is to understand the tension between sexual selection and natural selection. In nature, two filters are applied to a population, an intrinsic aesthetic filter (mate attractiveness), and an extrinsic objective filter (mate survivability). These two filters are often in tension — surely a fit and camouflaged animal is better than an equally fit ostentatious one. The ostentatiousness, however, can accelerate propagation of adaptive traits — in the rain forest, colorful plants and animals are the most dangerous because they have no natural predators.

To understand art is to understand the tension between the fake and the genuine. Confident. Author. Authority. Authentic. It is no coincidence that we call them confidence artists. Artists — much like magicians — show believable lies (or perhaps truth, but artfully rearranged), and in return we praise them. We were deceived, and we know going into it that we are going to be deceived, and we are delighted anyway. We are delighted because this consensual deception, it mystifies us. Art can never be raw, or genuine, or authentic — yet we know genuine art when we see it. We know that art involves pretense, but that is not all there is — otherwise, why have a separate word for it. The pretense must be genuine. Art is the combustible contradiction between the fake and the genuine. What is art, if not a lie, that tries to make ugly truths beautiful?

To understand language is to understand the tension between the literal and the metaphorical. Language is how we communicate our dreams, but it is not how we dream. For dreams, we need memory and concepts. Each word and phrase spoken evokes, from the memory of the listener, the literal meaning of the word, and the metaphorical meaning of the word. The moon is a celestial body that orbits the Earth, yet to see it with our eyes, is to see transformation and werewolves and — most recently — human achievement. Every word is the tension of the literal and the metaphorical, the certain and the uncertain, the earth and the moon, the territory and the map, the true Dao and the spoken Dao. From this tension flows imagination, and from imagination flows all of human potential.

To understand humanity is to understand influence, and to understand influence is to understand the tension between the subjective, abstract, aesthetic and the objective, concrete, utilitarian. Just as language is defined by the tension between the metaphorical and the literal, influence is defined by the tension between the abstract and the concrete — in large part because language is the foundation of culture. The core tension, is that our imaginations are infinitely powerful, but manifesting what we imagine is difficult at best and impossible at worst. To dream of the colonization of mars, or the exploration of the deep sea, is only the beginning of the struggle to bring the dream to life. Influence is anything that can make a human struggle in the service of a dream. Influence is potential energy, and human struggle is kinetic energy.

Benzaiten is the goddess of influence. Music is the study of the influence that flows from an instrument. Literature is the study of influence that flows from words. Art is the study of influence that flows from beauty. Economics is the study of the influence that flows from money.

To see the moon is to see the future and transformation. To see the sun is to see the fountain of all life and all light and the passage of time. To see a serpent is to see danger and renewal and guarded treasures and cursed gifts. To see art is to see everything it can mean. To see the glow of treasure is to see all the dreams it can make real.

To realize a dream is to sacrifice the others.

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