Volume 3 - Issue 5 - Opening the Doors of Perception: Liberating the Image

By Gareth Evans


Opening the Doors of Perception: Liberating the Image

You see I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything;
the darkness that comes with each waking fall
and the shivering blaze of each rising.

So many live on and want nothing
and are raised to the rank of prince

by the slippery ease of their light judgements.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.
You love most of all those who need you
in the same way that they need a useful tool.

You have not grown old and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths,
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Down by the waterline, on these, the finest mornings of the year. That luminous sense of Spring in all that is. Possibility is always a blossom, an enrichment of the available air; how that air grows warmer and denser almost, like bread rising, to accommodate the surge of growth and change. And here, along the beach, the possible takes its own particular form. Heat hazes the banked shingle, there is the mosaic glimmer of pebbles taking light in like breath. But it is the marine vista that maps the path forward, the paths.

So, first, there shines the razor threshold of a horizon without hesitation, and the foam-flecked blue metal of waves which, from where we stand, edge the pane of sky – paler, a steady climbing of the day towards the sun. In that seeming division and, crucially, at the point of contact, there extends the promise of a kind of equilibrium of intention, a balance more fruitful in the meeting than any opposition perhaps implied. Understand the other, each might say, the clearer to know one’s own nature.

What the hours of milk suggest is something altogether different. In such atmospheres, the surface of the ocean, like a fabric in the calmest breeze, seems to rise and fall like the chest of a dreaming sleep, fine and steady, without anxiety. And it stirs into a sky that is as much itself as the current, the shoals, the shore. What is not land is one, without delineation or frontier.

In this way it behaves like smoke, but it is less a result than smoke; rather, it is a process. When the sea becomes a weather as it does in this merger, this blurring, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that this point, this headland, claims the last firm footing of the familiar world. Even the dimensions of what lies beyond are utterly outside measure or containment. Like a Japanese garden, where a rock stands for a mountain and an ocean stretches in the pond, so this total immersion of things into pure space, unhemmed by time, promises an awareness that opens perception into the widest field, into the softer, fuller knowing that comes from an appreciation beyond the grid and grind of the crudely rational.

When the doors open, so the aperture made is liberated into growth. The possible happens. Where it leads is as open as the doors. What is seen becomes felt. The walls are ruptured, things can pass. The image offered can imagine itself, further.

Increasingly it seems that imagination is the scarcest resource of our times. As ‘transition towns’ across England plan their ‘energy descent’ into an era without oil, so it is startlingly clear that they are only able to conceive such a step because of the massing of imagination, the discovery of a vital, shared seam. Imagination is, by its nature, empathetic. It is attentive; it is a thinking through, into a new consciousness, not only a thinking on. It is experiential, it is sensual. It travels and it re-invents its local. Without imagination, atrophy. Without imagination, the slow or rapid mortality of all that matters. The fossilization that comes with mechanical ‘fact’.

In all arenas of the human, a totalitarianism of consumerism – of the acquisition of objects, income, information, emotions, bodies, ‘experience’ – threatens the very weave of the species. Imagination, in privileging process over product, and being over having, subverts every conditioning, however benignly intended. In a civilization predominantly of the seen, fuelled by a retinal urgency, the nature of the images we encounter becomes of paramount concern. Thin images, carrying nothing except themselves, their surface elements, starve us of the full spectrum of the seen, and therefore of being. Images, on the other hand, that open into the unseen, because not previously imagined, serve to increase the foundation of the human. They force a blossoming of the possible because what they carry cannot adequately be held by the frame they happen to occupy. They enter the world because they come from it, from its most dynamic possible expression.

Such days these are, beset, as all have been, by encroaching darknesses. But we gather together in the threatened places and we gaze on what we find in the still green corners. Whatever stops us might become an idol, but let us briefly kneel. Only to rise stronger. Only to feel the shivering blaze of each rising.

This issue will be launched with a special programme of short films at London’s Curzon Soho cinema on 8th May at 6pm. Please see the Vertigo website Events or Curzon Cinemas for more information.