Looking back on my life I can see a continual tendency to always seek what I call “the image”. In fact, it encompasses a big part of my life. Much of the thought shown in this blog is nothing but trying to grasp “the image”. In many ways, its like a continual hunger for ‘something’ that never gets satisfied. It’s sort of like a perpetual hunt. Once I ‘find it’ I ‘lose it’ and need to hunt for it again. Sometimes there’s a great sense of accomplishment with it. Sometimes I can get very despairing-like.
What is “the image”?
This is hard to describe. After many years I’d say that “the image” is a ‘something’ that ‘puts life together’. Everything fits in its place. I fit in the world. The world has its order. Everything seems ‘in balance’, so to speak. I am there, as a person, and the world is about me. Life seems ‘real’, ‘alive’, and ‘true’. When life is not ‘put together’ it seems fragmented, half there. I seem a haze, a ghost, living as if in a dream. In some sense, this is only being ‘half alive’. When life is ‘put together’ one is alive and exists. And so, in many ways, seeking “the image” is really nothing but seeking an ‘aliveness’, an ‘existingness’ in life.
It seems that this ‘something’ that causes “the image” is a particular state of mind. This is what makes it so elusive and difficult to find. A state of mind is not something you ‘have’, a person just doesn’t will it into existence, nor do you snap your fingers and its there. Searching for this state of mind, in a way, keeps a person aware of things as a person must learn to ‘keep an eye out’ always. In some sense, it awakens a person, makes them open their eyes, or so it seems to me. This is why its so important to always seek “the image”.
When the state of mind is ‘found’ there seems a ‘harmony’ in everything. In some sense, “the image” is what happens when the ‘harmony’ is found. The ‘harmony’ is really found within oneself. No one can find it for you. It’s for this reason I call it ‘self harmony’. This ‘self harmony’ is ever changing. We chase it endlessly through life like trying to chase a rabbit through the bushes. This is why I think that “the image” requires a hunter-like spirit. One hunts for the ‘harmony’. It’s a questing, a seeking. Occasionally it is found, but then it is lost again. And so “the image” is a perpetual alternation of seek-find-seek-find, etc. Even in this alternation is a great harmony, a continual cycling, much like the sun rising and setting and the passing of the seasons. This continual cycling, though, can be very difficult causing much despair and hopelessness. It can even be exhausting. I know as I have struggled with it a lot.
This state of mind is often ‘represented’ by some image of some sort: an idea, a person, an object, a concept. It’s for this reason I always spoke of it as “the image”. But, as I’ve found, the power was not in “the image” itself but the state of mind “the image” refers to. What mattered is whats behind the image and this was always a particular state of mind. When the image came to me it seemed to put me in that state of mind. As time went on I began to see that this image was more like a ‘stepping stone’ than anything else. “The image” is not the ‘end’, what I was seeking, but a doorway to it, that led to a pathway to a specific state of mind.
As a result, I found that “the image” is really an illusion, a ‘false prophet’, so to speak. As a result of this, “the image” creates many illusions and false forms. This makes us seek after the wrong thing all the time. Usually, these illusions seem to work . . . for a time . . . but usually end up failing after a while. One sign that there is an illusion is that we become disillusioned or disappointed in something we once thought was great. That shows that the ‘thing’ we thought was great has lost its force and meaning. It is, after all, just an “image”. I often compare “the image” and whats behind it by being hungry and having nothing but a picture of some food. The picture looks like food, makes us hungry, and can, in a way, be pleasing . . . but it’s not food. In the end it will not satisfy at all. It only hints at what we need but gives us nothing. This is often how the illusion of “the image” takes place. Because it fails we end up yearning for something else, another “image” and, unfortunately, another illusion. This continual endless questing for the “image” leads us in a big circle that goes around and around and gets us nowhere.
This yearning shows that whats behind “the image” transcends “the image” and is not contained in “the image”. If we look closer, I think, we will find that what we seek is the state of mind that “the image” somehow initiates. In effect, “the image” initiates but it does not finish.
And, so, seeking “the image” has two stages, really:
- Seeking “the image”.
- Seeking the state of mind behind “the image”.
In the first stage – seeking “the image” – we need to find an “image” with ‘image power’, so to speak. This is not as easy as it may sound. An “image” just doesn’t automatically have power. It must contain it, somehow achieve it, or be given it. It seems there are a number of ways an “image” has ‘power’:
- A traditional/cultural image. This is something instilled by the culture, such as a flag, a cross, a person, etc. This is usually something that has been there for generations and even centuries. It’s generally an image accepted by everyone.
- A personal image. This is an “image” that, for some reason, means something to a person (which may mean nothing to someone else). It’s often something that appeared when a person is somewhat young. In other words, it seems that its harder to ‘create’ it when one gets older. It’s not uncommon that a situation may make an “image” very important. Typically, this image is developed naturally, with little or no help from us.
- A ‘created’ image. This is an “image” a person purposely creates. This is probably the most unstable and ineffective of images . . . and least effective.
Since tradition and culture have been undermined nowadays, there is an absence of the first form. It’s loss has creates a ‘poverty of image power’, so to speak. I have found that the lack of this type of ‘image power’ has been very difficult for me and has caused great struggling to find an “image” with power.
It seems that the ‘power’ is not something consciously created. If it is then its very weak. It is best when it either comes from without you or from deep within you. This shows that the “image” is not something of the conscious self. In a way, it shows that because the “image” is removed from the conscious self it makes it so the conscious self ‘needs’ the “image”. In other words, the conscious self needs the “image” to ‘come upon’ it. Because of this, the conscious self cannot ‘create’ the “image”. What this does is make it difficult to ‘find’ an “image” when one doesn’t have it already. This dilemma is very particularly common in the modern world today, but it is part of the human condition in general.
Because we tend to be in a ‘poverty of image power’ we all get misled by representations of the “image” and sometimes this can lead to great problems. In some respects, these are deceptions. Typically, they ‘work’ only for a short period of time and only under certain situations. Some of these problems created by ‘poverty of image power’ are:
- Seeking a materialistic ‘thing’. Typically, we think “the image” is some materialistic thing but it is not. It is not found in a ‘thing’ you possess. You can have everything in the world and you still will not find it.
- Seeking a specific ‘condition’. We often seek to be rich, highly praised, successful, or some other ‘condition’ but we, in reality, will not find it there.
- Seeking ideas and concepts – knowledge. We think ideas and knowledge are often the “image” we seek but it’s not.
- Seeking beliefs. Even beliefs can be an illusion. Beliefs often hide an absence of belief, oddly enough. Nowadays, beliefs are almost like clothes. You put on what you are ‘in the mood for’ and remove it when you’re not ‘in the mood’ or you only take what you want, leaving the rest.
But that is not to say all these things are ‘bad’ or all deceptive. This is not true nor is it what I’m trying to say. All these things, really, are the only beginning of the “image”, it’s doorway, as I said above. The problem is when they are taken too seriously and as if they were “the image”. The dilemma of “the image” is that we need an image to open the ‘door’, so to speak, but we keep mistaking the ‘door’ for what’s behind the door (that is to say, the state of mind). It’s sort of like wanting a picture of a yacht we like to have but thinking that, in having the picture, we have the yacht itself. All the picture is a representation. In the same way, “the image” is nothing but a representation as well. Seeking “the image” alone is seeking the representation only.
But we cannot underestimate “the image”. We need it. Like opposites and contraries, “the image” and the state of mind behind it are needed to make a ‘whole’. To have one or the other alone is to only have half of something. This makes our stance toward “the image” very critical and important. In fact, a lot of the wisdom of life revolve around having the correct stance toward “the image”, of not being too ‘deceived’ by things and in learning what is good or not. In many ways, knowledge, or learning, is a form of learning the correct place of “the image” in life.
We must keep in mind that “the image” implants us in the world. This is because “the image” is ‘worldly’. “The image” is of the world and is in the world. The ‘state of mind’ is within our psyche, our minds, our souls. It is ‘otherwordly’. And so there is a bond, a connection, an “image”/’state of mind’ connection which corresponds with the ‘wordly’/’otherwordly’. It connects our minds, our souls, to the reality of the world like a big rope, a rope connecting two different and opposite worlds. The importance of this connection can’t be underestimated. To lose it would be like losing a hold on either ourselves or the world, like a psychosis. This shows that, through this connection, a harmony is found, between oneself and the world. In other words, part of the harmony of self-harmony is harmony with the world.
To achieve this ‘harmony’ the whole self, in a way, must be harmonious and balanced. This is part of the power of “the image”: it requires us to ‘harness’ our whole self. In so doing our ‘self’, and its growth and health, becomes critical. And so what happens is that seeking “the image” becomes a seeking of ones self and ones self in the world. It also requires us to discipline ourselves as we must force ourselves to do things we otherwise would not do.
Knowledge, in my opinion, is a ‘correct’ state of mind, created by a balancing of oneself and a harmony of oneself. It requires “the image” to manifest itself and grow upon. It really reflects a correct composure of oneself in life. Knowledge does not consist of ‘knowing’ something as we are taught in school. Whether a person can do algebra or name the capital of Laos or has a Master’s degree is neither here nor there. From my experience they mean almost nothing. In many ways, “the image” refers to an identity or example of how to be, something that ‘tells’ you what to be or guides you to existence.
To me, “the image” shows that there is a lot more to being ‘alive’ and ‘existing’ than doing things or knowing things. It is not found in partying, bungy jumping, being successful, traveling, going to school, getting degrees, etc.
A significant part of life is trying to seek that ‘certain state of mind’ that “the image” leads us to. In some ways, that’s what life is about.