It’s my birthday. Yay. Let’s throw confetti. Dye my – of course none existing grey – hair. Ask a celebrity for a retweet, because – Wait, why again?
OK, ok. I know why it’s done. Everybody wants to be acknowledge, feel special, be remembered. But consumption alone doesn’t cut it, unless you are a talented competitive hotdog eater. And let’s face it, that’s all kind of gross and in a world that knows hunger at least questionable. Marie Antoinette –“when they shall eat cake”? Anyone?
Taking stock of the time gone by (birthdays if anything sure put us in a reflective mood and by stressing the beginning, they do remind us of an end) many come up with nothing but consumption that filled it. In most cases it is not true, since these people are mothers and fathers, builders, bakers, librarians, cops, teachers, researchers, sellers … normal, good, completely sufficient, worthy, loveable and loved (yes, I saw beloved faces for each and every label mentioned and more). But what if this isn’t enough?
|Kneel before me. I said… kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.Loki in Marvel’s The Avengers||“So, why science?” “I suppose I need to know why I’m here.” […] “Why are you interested in my work – in alchemy?” “The alchemists wanted to know why we are here, too.”Diana Bishop & Matthew de Clermont in Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches|
Yes, this tricky question of ‘Why?’ those answer is so important for shaping our identity. It can make us feel miserable with what we got. Or egg us on. I decided – just in case – to grant myself two birthday wishes.
1) I subjugated to Loki. How could I not when he is the father of Hel, Fenrir and the world serpent Jörmungandre and mother of Odin’s eight legged horse Sleipnir. That’s genetic potential in a nice wrapping and a hypnotic voice. Plus, I have a thing for the potential of chaos. Well, the movie was confusingly enough titled Thor. Why? Who knows.
Anyway, by chance I had seen an offer for first night tickets and jumped at it. (Two – As I went alone I gave my second ticket away in front of the theater and hope this guy had a good night too or at least got a good price for it.) It was just a silly fancy. I didn’t expect to meet Tom Hiddleston personally. I might have dreamed about it; very vividly; daydreamed to be more specific; a lot. But the offer just promised a walk on the same red carpet as the stars and a chance to watch the movie before anyone else (in Germany). And yes, even if by sheer coincidence a meeting would happen, I knew it would take me stumbling and falling into him. That would precede my death of embarrassment by seconds. I proved that theory when the whole cast, producer, director, the van driver and the cook came to stand next to me while waiting to be called to the stage in my theater and I hid in my seat and froze.
At least I was awake. When ‘meeting’ Joss Whedon on the pavement in front of ComicCon 2012 conference center, I slept through the whole thing – the only half hour I slept that whole night. I still think both encounters should be put on the list of my life’s accomplishments though. You see Amy Plum, how lucky the star constellation must have been that I managed to talk to you, twice.
But silly or not of a fancy, remember what I said about what we all long for? I did walk the red carpet, have the selfie to prove it (It’s under lock down since due to my second gift to myself I currently look a bit like a walking dead) and saw a movie I anticipated first. I laughed, I cried, I squeed a little as they used an illuminated manuscript in the movie (I am a geek for it as my project for the second gift proves). It was brilliant. So, mission ‘feeling special’ accomplished.
2) Gift number two – a project, the reason why I made myself scarce in the last 40 days. I didn’t even create something special for Booth and Bones’ wedding. It was not because I reconsidered my friendship and adoration for Hart Hanson & Co and their creative undertakings. (And I hope I might exonerate myself somehow.) But I looked for something I’d be proud to maybe be remembered for one day. And then I granted me the time and space to create it. No doubting myself allowed. No waiting for somebody else’s permission. A pure adventure into the quest of why am I here. I took medieval alchemists on a ride through Gatsby’s 20s and had Jasper Johns tapping along.
OK, it makes more sense when I say that I recreated the illustrations of the Aurora Consurgens – an alchemical manuscript from the 15th century. I kept what I think of as the alchemical syntax – the elements and colors that code the alchemists’ secrets. Yet, I changed the style to Art Deco. And I added numbers to the composition.
As work of alchemy the Aurora is about finding the gold in the initial chaos, about improving whatever it is you’ve been given in any beginning – think: the Dodo’s Caucus Race – to the best thing possible. It’s your beginning, it’s your race.
Alchemists knew that it was a long, very slow process, one of trial and error in which they were alone, though they did exchange their ideas and finds with their network through mysterious texts and paintings. The illustrations in the Aurora speak of hard work, of learning, struggle, open hostility, ripping yourself open, bleeding, even dying, but also resurrection, love and light. Learning and transformation are a painful and sometimes dark process with obstacles and detours, but they were deemed worth the lifelong work of even the smartest.
Lifelong, as the process of learning never really ends. Learning means to accept that one never will have all the answers and that the answers one finds might not be universally right. Learning means to stay always open to the new, the unexpected, and not to accept randomly set borders. The more you learn the more you understand that all you do is phrasing better questions in a wider space as somehow like time everything is interwoven and entangled and forms new patterns with the same old as soon as you dare to blink
While in the 15th century of the Aurora the people still aimed to understand nature, in the 1920s humankind celebrated the triumph of its technology and science over nature, also in their art. They discovered the We of nations, and even more important the I of psychology, which they wrote with a capital letter just to underline its new importance. They partied as if there wasn’t a tomorrow. The party was like a masquerade on the open grave of a dying man – without limits, without rules, without reason and ultimately lonely. There wasn’t a reason to improve anymore as everyone at least pretended to be king of the universe and its center with everything else circling around.
Today every second counts. We are supposed to be perfect instantly if we want to evade being measured and weighted and found lacking. That would open the door to malice and mock. Pain that leads to learning, but no improvement, just more masks and armor. The numbers are the count down.
40. The original Aurora Consurgens had 38 illustrations. Deborah Harkness described two more in A Discovery of Witches. 40 is a much more magical number. Venus needs 40 years to form a pentagram in the night sky before it returns to its original point with a 40 days regression. 40 years is the time for a new generation to arise. It rained for 40 days during the Flood. Moses spent three times 40 days on Mount Sinai. 40 days is the time between resurrection and ascension of Jesus. According to an Arabic proverb you have to live among a people for 40 days to understand them. 40 days are between Marbon and Samhain…
It was between Marbon and Samhain that I recreated the Aurora Consurgens, to be finished at the day when the veil between the living and the dead, the past and the present is thinnest and I was born. Happy Halloween! It’s done now. Scratch the Aurora Consugens from my bucket list, just as sleeping next to Joss Whedon and sitting next to Tom Hiddleston. What’s next? Shawarma? Well, maybe sleep. But then Shawarma after.
Oh and, can I have a retweet please? It’s my birthday after all.