Gordon Walters and another attempt to ride the Möbius strip out of dual thinking

When I was a kid, my dad showed me a symbol he had come up with during his days in Berkeley in the 70s. It’s confusing either way you hold it:

IMG_20181126_171308     IMG_20181126_171314

To my great delight, a similar image started showing up all over Auckland back in July:

Gordon Walters, Painting J 1974
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Courtesy of the Walters Estate.
Source: The Auckland Gallery website, accessed 26 November 2018

I loved the Gordon Walters exhibit at the Auckland Art Gallery, aka Toi o Tāmaki; I went twice (the museums here are free for New Zealand residents!) and bought the catalog to add to my collection of art books addressing the spiritual in abstract art. I also thought the Gallery did a good job of describing the cultural-appropriation controversy the artist found himself in the middle of, not to mention the fact that Walters and his friend Theo Schoon apparently appropriated artistic ideas from Rolfe Hattaway, a patient in a mental hospital?!

As someone who often sees the world in terms of the potential for quilt top patterns, the show gave me all sorts of inspiration for some appropriation of my own. As of this writing I’m seriously considering a Möbius quilt, just to ensure it’s entirely impractical and complicated. And nerdy and fun.

I’m really liking the Möbius strip as a symbol for non-duality:

[T]ry to choose an “up” and a “down” on a Möbius band. When you slide along the band, you eventually wind up at the same point you started at, but “up” has become “down.” … Its storytelling potential is clear: you travel around something, only to end up back where you started but disoriented.

Thanks to Evelyn Lamb over at Scientific American for that quote. It reminds me a lot of having once been a California girl driving North up Australia’s East Coast, on a different Highway 1, behind a steering wheel on the right side of the car, my car on the left side of the road, as the sun set over the hills, not over the ocean, and the entire world felt inside-out.

Up / Down. Both / And. Wherever you go, there you are… wherever that is.

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world

There’s a particular feeling I get sometimes, a paradoxical combination of “wow I am just so connected to everyone and everything right now” and “wow I am totally incapable of describing this to anyone to my satisfaction, much less sharing it with them, gotta just sit here and experience it all by myself.”

Connected / Disconnected. All One / All Alone. Everyone / No One. Everything / Nothing. Self / No Self.  Object / No Object. Lately I’ve found some comfort in the belief that it’s possible to transcend this dualistic way of interpreting experience (Möbius?!), but then what words suffice?

Sometimes, songs are the friends I am looking for / are more immediately-available reflections of my half-twist inner landscape. Inevitably, when I find myself in the aforementioned state, lyrics from a particular Grateful Dead song pop unbidden into my consciousness:

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world
The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings
But the heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own


Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

Here’s my favorite version available on Spotify:

Or, if you’re that kind of nerdy, give this 19-minute version a try and see, as you’re listening, if you end up back where you started, but with a slightly different perspective.

Full lyrics: Continue reading “Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world”