Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


I was just looking at my page for editing posts and I can see I have at least six drafts started but not completed since last summer. A few are just titles meant to be placeholders until I could get back or notes to capture my thoughts, waiting to be fleshed out. One I've halfway written in the past month and hope to finish sometime soon. But life's been busy for me lately. Most recently--less than two weeks ago--my fiancee and I pushed up our time line and were married in my dad's ICU room (with my mom brought over from her room next door) two days before he passed. From leukemia, so not unexpected, and Mom is recovering from her issues. But the blogging's taken a bit of a back seat, as you might imagine.

Still, I had a thought after returning to work this week, spurred, as is often the case with me, by a book.

Perhaps you've seen those Claritin ads where someone's world is hazy and dim from allergies, then a film of tint is peeled back to reveal a bright, vibrant, wondrous world of life and color.

It's amazing to me just how literal that image can be sometimes, particularly in reverse. There have been times the past couple of weeks, as I've tried to move forward through grief and sadness, that I could swear something was wrong with my eyes; all the light and color literally drained away from what I was looking at and everything was dimmed before my eyes. Even when I wasn't having explicitly dark thoughts, the world became a dark place for me. It's fascinating just how powerfully tangible emotions can be as they impact our experience of reality.

Shaun Tan captures this perfectly in his book The Red Tree (also contained in Lost and Found: Three by Shaun Tan). At his website he describes the book, with sample pictures:

The Red Tree is a story without any particular narrative; a series of distinct imaginary worlds as self-contained images which invite readers to draw their own meaning in the absence of any written explanation. As a concept, the book is inspired by the impulse of children and adults alike to describe feelings using metaphor - monsters, storms, sunshine, rainbows and so on. Moving beyond cliché, I sought painted images that might further explore the expressive possibilities of this kind of shared imagination, which could be at once strange and familiar. A nameless young girl appears in every picture, a stand-in for ourselves; she passes helplessly through many dark moments, yet ultimately finds something hopeful at the end of her journey. . . .

. . . illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words. I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.

What resulted after many scribbles was a series of imaginary landscapes connected only by a minimal thread of text and the silent figure of a young girl at the center of each one, with whom the reader is invited to identify. At the beginning she awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her. She wanders down a street, overshadowed by a huge fish that floats above her. She imagines herself trapped in a bottle washed up on a forgotten shore, or lost in a strange landscape. She's caught in a tiny boat between towering ships about to collide, then suddenly she's on stage before a mysterious audience, not knowing what to do. . . .

. . . the more I worked on this, the more I found the negative emotions - particularly feelings of loneliness and depression - were just much more interesting from both a personal and artistic point of view.

The words from the book:

The Red Tree

sometimes the day begins
with nothing to look forward to
and things go from bad to worse
darkness overcomes you
nobody understands
the world is a deaf machine
without sense or reason
sometimes you wait
and wait
and wait
and wait
and wait
and wait
and wait
but nothing ever happens
then all your troubles come at once
wonderful things are passing you by
terrible fates are inevitable
sometimes you just don't know
what you are supposed to do
or who you are meant to be
or where you are
and the day seems to end
the way it began
but suddenly there it is
right in front of you
bright and vivid
quietly waiting
just as you imagined it would be

Someone on YouTube made a video of the book:


At 2/09/2012 9:53 PM, Anonymous Adoring Wife said...

This book is the most accurate depiction I've seen of depression, perhaps even surpassing The Bell Jar. The color does come back. Be patient with yourself and know we love you. -your adoring wife

At 2/10/2012 7:54 AM, Blogger CDL said...

Totally agree and thought that comment was in my review at the time. But it seems it wasn't.

Just reading it again is making me catch my breath. The hard part can be letting yourself see the bright and vivid, to even let it in. Even with drugs. ;) Again one of the reasons it's so powerful.


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