Monday, January 30, 2017

The Path of Descent: A Meditation on Soren Kierkegaard, By Heather Thompson

Just as fall descends
Into the tranquil
Depths of winter,
And spring emerges…
From frost covered buds,
So are we cyclically
Bursting forth
From the hibernating darkness.

Awakening holy green fire!

Exploding in fractal moments,

Contracting in colorful glory.
Letting go.

Creative reflections
Of the Creator
Unseen, yet imminently known.

The vision of the Creator
Within the bounds of a vast womb,
Beyond which lies the dark crucible
Burning beyond comprehension.

The subject of all seeking,

Yet only existing
Through human thought
In the present moment.

Because the ideas conceived
Are still within the realm of creation
Only a reflection of the Mystery
To be revealed
When we return to darkness
And it is made known…
…Just as we knew all along

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh God." - St. Augustine.

There was a time when I thought that "toughing it out" and "bootstrapping" it was badass. I have since learned that it is living in LOVE that is genuine strength. It's being willing to show my vulnerability and allow other people to have the freedom of their own reactions, while continuing to maintain my path with God.

I had a friend who recently passed away from Cancer. His willingness to share the journey consistently left me feeling humble and inspired...and I told him so on many occasions. It's so rare these day to see the REALITY of life. We portray ourselves in the way that we think others want to see us or the way that we want to see ourselves, but REAL life includes so much more than what we can see from the outside looking in. Don't get me wrong, I don't share everything and I am a very private person. But there is a long line of theologians that have walked the interior journey with a level of transparency that have inspired people for millennia. Need I reference St. Augustine's Confessions?

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh God." - St. Augustine.

An entire lifetime of seeking happiness on the outside finally resulted in a realization that happiness is only found in God/Mystery/Universe/Goddess/Whatever you want to call it.

On that note I will say this - I am doing much better physically, although I am still healing. The Hydrocortisone is helping. I am grateful. And now I am walking back the dose this week - which always comes with discomfort - but I am grateful for the intervention when it happened. I needed it.

I'll be continuing to take it easy. That means that I won't be driving much, and I will be hanging out at my house, and I probably won't be going on any extroverted excursions for a little bit because my body needs this time to heal. I feel incredibly grateful to those that have offered to help. The blessing of your kindness means so much, and I feel deeply loved.

As I sit here in the quiet with my beautiful bulldog, goats, cats, trees and the solitude of nature, I am sitting in a place of prayer for the GOODNESS of GOD to manifest today and every day. One simply needs to look at the blade of grass outside my window to see that God's miracles are bountiful - we just have to learn to SEE again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Part 2 - The Fractal Path of Descent

A theopoetical Meditation on the writings of soren kierkegaard

“Each painting is an adventure…a walk into the wood toward an unknown ending. With abundant courage I step out of the embryonic warmth into the darkness alone waiting for sparks of color to run down my arms and through my wrists only to slowly drip from my fingertips.”
Heather Thompson, Artist Statement 





Stepping up to the blank canvas, I allow my hands to express what they feel and follow any urges that arise. This creative method arose from my own path of descent, through which an innate talent for painting suddenly awakened within me as a result of a traumatic brain injury in 2011. With a combination of synesthesia and acquired savantism, I am able to intuitively access the right hemisphere (deep ocean, subconscious) part of my brain as a means of comprehending complex theology. Color, therefore, is generally an easier and more multi-dimensional language that allows me to interpret challenging ideas before condensing them into the written word.

There are no accidents when embarking on this kind of a painting journey; everything becomes an expression of intuition and conceptual thinking. After the painting is finished, I then attempt to apply words to explain the art, although it is often impossible to capture all of the interpretive dimensions in the linear style of academic writing. Thus, I begin with poetry as a means of allowing holographic word play to provide an appropriate bridge to a more explanatory method of communicating the art to others. In this way, I approach my theological process from the opposite perspective – the inverse - as the paint must travel through my body and out onto canvas in order for the words to emerge in the form of conventional language.

This painting process is depicted in the compilation video included as a part of this final project. Note that the artistic journey begins with a powerful first layer - a phoenix emerging from the fire. Contemporary form is then added through images and words placed in a collage. Fluidity is then applied over the top via acrylic pouring medium with a variety of colors intermingling through the paint. Images are still visible beneath the transparent fluid composition. Heavy gel is then mixed with a variety of green hues over the top of the previous layer.

As it thickens, I feel the urge to scrape across the canvas using a palate knife. When I do so, the images beneath begin to peek through again. I feel the urge to dip my fingers into the paint and splatter it in a variety of colors. The lack of control is balanced by the angle of my hands and the colors I choose. What would appear to be chaos then transforms into a fractal - the beauty of a tree with subtle hints of a volcanic explosion. Suddenly, I realize that the tree is my metaphor for Kierkegaard - specifically the path of descent (more to follow in the next section).

I sensed, however, that I was not finished. A pile of green glop sat on my art table, and I felt the immediate urge to place it on a new canvas. Surrendering to the unknown once again, I covered the long and lean empty space with the remnants of the prior painting. When adding in complex browns and creams, I once again noticed the beginnings of a tree. Flicking color up and down the canvas just as I had done before, the form of the tree began to take shape. Then it stood in my art area for a few weeks. It did not feel finished, yet it was not time for completion. I waited for the desire to arise within me, only to discover one day that it was time to paint over all of it in bronze and black. With an overarching rule that I shall never be afraid to destroy a painting, I bravely covered the entire canvas in the intuitive color that I imagined – bronze and black. The structure of the tree was apparent in the texture beneath the new layer of paint, but it was still not finished.

With a sudden reach for pyrole red, I squirted a stream of paint across the canvas. Aha! It was in that moment that the second tree emerged. Although it was substantially different from the original painting, it remained rooted in the same artistic process and even the same paint.

Click Here to watch the VIDEO of the artistic process

Monday, January 2, 2017

Part 1 - The Fractal Path of Descent



Part 1 of Several. 
This new blog series offers excerpts from a recent research paper conducted by myself as a part of my MDIV Theological Studies at Seattle University.  All original art, poetry and writing is subject to copywrite. I hope you enjoy!

Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art

Imagine the scene – a child is being born. Having long awaited this moment, the mother is now wincing in pain. Perhaps her legs are up in stirrups in a contemporary setting; perhaps she is squatting in her ancient home; or perhaps she is writhing on the floor between waves of contractions with sweat consuming her entire body. She is a timeless warrior, as she has braved the suffering of new creation for the duration of humanity. She is the voice of terror as she cries uncontrollably. The pain intensifies. She cannot fathom what she must do. She screams, “I can’t go any further…” …yet somehow, she continues. As her baby crowns through the excruciating “ring of fire,” she rips open with primal grace pouring over her. Courageously she labors and ultimately thrusts her baby into the world.

Suffering is the means by which every human arrives in the world. From the womb of a woman, amidst the biological and emotional mess of labor and delivery, we welcome new life. This decidedly feminine fractal pattern of emergence can be observed throughout all of the natural world. From the explosive birth of stars to the creation of new earth in cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, there is a pattern of suffering throughout the whole of Creation. Soren Kierkegaard embraced this pattern throughout his writings as he explored the paradox of the absurd and the inverse.

It is interesting to observe, however, that even Kierkegaard struggled with the offensive nature of the downward path. Of course, that seems appropriate given his context and the fact that the offense is a required in order to be in touch with authentic Christianity. More specifically, Kierkegaard stated, “I prefer the delights of conception to the discomforts of childbirth.”[1] Although this would appear to be a masculine view, his statement contains an underlying paradoxical awareness of the outcome of conception, namely, the downward path of pregnancy and birth that offers both miracle and suffering.

This paradox embedded within the birth of children is among the most powerful examples of the fractal pattern of descent in the human world, and it is a powerfully feminine journey. Like the seasons of Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, birthing mirrors the natural world. It is a walk into darkness within the crucible of the unseen womb. It offers a fractal representation of the Pascal Mystery at the core of the Christian cross-based theology. Thus, we observe a theme – repeated if you will – throughout Kierkegaard’s writings, in which he argues that suffering often precedes emergence, and yet delight can come before suffering, and so it goes.

Suffering, however, often results in a kind of paralytic speechlessness. Furthermore, awareness of the unsayable also accompanies the experience of touching upon Mystery itself. At both polarities is a lack of words, yet we strive to apply human language in our quest for comprehension. In this tension – through the inverse – the path becomes observable. It is the willingness to drop into the opposite or even the absurd. Therefore, it is appropriate to begin with an alternative form of communication, one that begins without words – in the form of color and creativity – on the embodied road to written language. Thus, the journey begins with abstract art. This will be the next blog post. Until then, I am reminded of the following quote underscoring the value of listening: 

“For at the altar, there is no speaking about him; there he himself is personally present, it is he who speaks – if not, then you are not at the altar.”[2] – Soren Kierkegaard

[1] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 141)
[2] (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, p. 58)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, oh God." St Augustine

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, oh God."
St Augustine

As the New Year begins, I feel compelled to observe an alternative path. We often wish prosperity, health, and happiness to one another at the beginning of each year. Then, as the year progresses, life begins to happen and the let down ensues. It's as if we failed somehow because we didn't end the year better than we started it.

What if we looked at it differently? Instead of viewing annual success as measured by prosperity, health, and happiness, what if we measured it by something more subtle. In business, what if we measured it according to how compassionately we cared for those we serve? In our personal lives, what if we measured it according to how deeply we were able to LOVE both ourselves and others?

It's funny that I used to talk about these things as a business strategist, but i could not release the focus from financial metrics. It's what people expected of me (I was a rainmaker) and it's what I expected of myself.

Yet, I knew that it was important to open one's hand to receiving...which means letting go of traditional metrics. I began to lecture in keynote presentations about the importance of placing the client (I worked in home health and hospice) at the center of care delivery with empathy at the core. I talked about abundance flowing naturally from simply doing what is RIGHT.

It's ironic, though, that I was incapable of doing this in my personal life because of the way that my marriage and our family businesses required me to perform financially. I remember dipping my feet in the sand and praying for a simpler and more abundant life. I wished for LOVE. And then my life changed dramatically as a result of a traumatic brain injury. I have been on God's curriculum ever since. And let me be clear, God's road is far from easy; rather, it is filled with the suffering of transformation and learning to let go.

It is with that in mind that I offer the following insights gleaned from another year of badass growth - Don't wish me health in the new year - my body will be what it is and I will strive to LOVE myself exactly as I am in each moment. Don't wish me happiness in the new year - There will be a natural ebb and flow of the full range of human emotion and that is simply a part of life...I strive to do my best to LOVE myself and others in the midst of it. Don't wish me prosperity - From millionaires to the homeless, I have learned that success is not measured in financial metrics; it's about LOVING fellow humans in the NOW, independent of financial circumstances.

Being human is messy. So all of these wishes, for health, happiness and prosperity, run counter to the natural flow of life. Instead, my new year wish continues to be for LOVE.

I begin this year reflecting on how I have deepened in my ability to LOVE, which means simply surrendering to the source of all that IS and allowing it to MOVE within me. It is through the suffering of 2016 that my capacity to LOVE has grown. This is a different kind of LOVE, one that embraces the non-dualistic wholeness, the mess and the beauty, without labeling it as good or bad/right or wrong. In LOVE, it is all what it is, in this moment, in the NOW, and that is beautiful.

"New Beginning"
Acrylic on Canvas
Original Art By Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art