Oct 1, 2011

The Absence of Pain

The first time I thought how pleasant it might be to extremum vitae spiritum edere was in 1994.
I was sitting at a set of traffic lights at the corner of Turton and Maitland Roads in the city of Newcastle. The lights were red, it was 10 past nine in the morning, I was heading off for work and I had on a starched white shirt, black pants, and a yellow ochre tie that my wife had made me.
The time of year was late winter, the morning sun was in the northern sky and beamed through the windscreen. The sun made me a little drowsy as I watched the traffic buzzing past.
The suggestion of the pleasantness of death, of non-being, crept up on me like a soft shadow. It started with a smell - the smell of fresh loamy dirt infused with the comforting aromas of rotting leaves.  

One moment I was sitting in my car, the next I was transported to a grassy field. I lay in that field, sinking slowly into the ground, the blue sky dimmed slightly by the delicate tracery of the leaves that fell on my face and began to cover my eyes. The leaves were soft and diaphanous, they tickled my skin, and the skeletal lace patterns of their xylem and their phloem diffused the sunlight so  that it was like a warm, gentle mist above my head.
In that moment I was hidden from the world - and at peace.

Welll... as the traffic lights went green I shook my head from side to side, jammed in the clutch and popped the gear into first. As I raced toward the next set of traffic lights I began to wonder what it all meant - this feeling of death, the comfort of non-existance.
Of course it soon became obvious. As humans we place order on chaos. We look for patterns. We seek to make meanings out of nonsense. We look for meaning in our life. And one of the ways we do this is by extremes of contrast.

Good and bad. Black and white. Consciousness and unconsciousness. Pleasure and pain. Sadness and happiness. Life and death. Self and other.
But perhaps there are no extremes - just graduations.

As Carl Jung writes: "The art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself ..... became for me the key that opens the door to the way."
Make of that what you will....

This image is for Illustration Friday's "Hibernate."

In keeping with the theme of contrasts, in some ways it shows the opposite to hibernation- in that the cherry tree is just coming to 'life'. The boy himself is in his own dream world. His consciousness is hibernating, while around him the world carries on - as an epihenomenon.

For him the world doesn't exist. He is fading into the rhealms of nihilism - and is looking for a way out.
I hope he finds it.


  1. Oh, yes, this is like "Laissez faire, Laissez passer"... the liberalism of the spirit :)
    I felt it many times. in fact, now I'm on the grass in peace...almost in hibernation....

  2. Beware of small red ants!
    They are all over the grass, and do not hibernate!

  3. Voilà comme j'aime me retrouver!!!
    Allongée, les yeux dans les nuages...
    Très très belle réalisation...
    gros bisous...

    En ce moment Dame Eté ne semble pas vouloir céder sa place à Dame Automne... Je trouve ça formidable! moi!

  4. Cyan and I are working on a paper. We are analyzing Rip Van Winkle. This post immediately made me think of Rip Van Winkle, the world moving on while you are in your own little world. I think I hibernate from the world quite a bit when I am able.
    I kept looking for some menacing note in this illustration. Your last few illustrations have been quiet and dare I say, normal(lol);no demons lurking, or hidden trolls, but they are very well done. I have liked them all very much. It makes me wish the grass here was warm enough to lie in. ;)

  5. Hello, Andrew from Oz! Please, read my comment to your previous post!In a case like this, when I want to say many things and to put them clearly, the language barrier slows down my reaction... I have to translate my thoughts and emotions in English, but this is not always that easy!:)
    I'll read this post tomorrow and come back soon!

  6. I think I can relate to this too much. Maybe it makes sense for those of us in the northern hemisphere to be thinking about such things now, but aren't you going into spring?! I love the crow with the face under the lacy leaves and how it goes with the text.

  7. Oh! The crow, the dissolving being, the skeleton leaves!! You tucked them in there so nonchalantly between sunny scenes, but they're completely enthralling. Hints of Hunt's Ophelia... to echo the spirit of Hamlet in your text.

  8. Dearest dearest dearest Andrew, I am just stopping by in the middle of the night to say thank you and to tell you, I shall return for a proper visit and catching up. Goodnight for now. Tsup!

  9. me offended? oh no, never, I have quite high resistance level ....:D

    Keep making small jokes, keep making big jokes....... I trash them anyway...(small joke - don't be offended) ;)

    APT (Anonymous Perennial Thistle)

  10. Gosh, Andrew..what a completely awesome post..both illustratively and wondrous text. I was transported reading this..I would imagine how much this must have struck you in 1994. Your words are so vivid of that 1st experience and how thoughtfully beautiful you have brought forth this to all of us here. The body decomposing is handled so well, Andrew..so naturally and peacefully. I am always amazed at how much you put into your work and I am just inspired by you. I hope all is well in Oz, my friend! All is good here..I love the fall so much..it's my favorite time.

  11. I myself, In the moments I look at your dark final, am hidden from the world - and at peace. Your work is such an escape, and a mountain to climb.
    always get sucked in for the duration.

    I love the mystery of your darkened scene.


  12. I really like how you didn't make your work about the weather but about us humans hibernating inside our own worlds.
    I need to remember that boy in your illustration when I start worrying too much :)

  13. haha
    I just was writing a comment about how lazy I've been with my blog these days and then I read your comment.
    You are absolutely right, I need to post something these days and I will.
    It's been enough hibernation :)

  14. hey Andrew, I have my multifocal lenses, organic glass, but they are scratched, you know, I leave them lying anywhere, please tell me what I can do, (did not charge me the consultation, please)
    What happened to that woman who lost her hair, I never heard about that? (: O

  15. Ahhh..... bliss. I am enjoying your insights Andrew.

  16. OK, Andrew all right, but I have an objection, you can not show that window to the sea in the same post that you show a illustration. anyone want to look at your picture, we all feel a little envious.
    you ask for a little forgiveness, at least, haha
    (When you paint the floor with stains your wife tells you nothing? Because I see the floor too clean, haha​​, you paint in another place, no?)

  17. Whaa? Who? Huh? Post a nice sweeping view of the ocean and keep me quiet? And where are the paint splashes and drops on the floor? That floor is way too clean.


Hya! Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I appreciate your time and thoughts.