In Santa Fe dramatic thunderstorms are common late on summer days. Afterwards the massive banks of purple clouds will often part, allowing shafts of intense sunlight to angle down, creating sometimes vivid rainbows. At a house near downtown last summer I saw a rainbow like this, clear as a Technicolor dream. I was with a group of young scientists and I watched as their wonder shifted into analytical mode – here is an example of water molecules interacting with rays of refracted light – and then back again toward a more embodied appreciation. The sequence reminded me of the Buddhist saying in which a mountain becomes, for the meditator, something very different …and then, at a later stage, returns again to being just a mountain. Then, as the rainbow faded in the sky, we trooped inside to watch Charlton Heston chew the scenery (and a few other things) in the Sci-fi flick Soylent Green.
It’s hard to know what to say about Charles Koch after reading Jane Mayer’s astonishing expose in the August 30th issue of The New Yorker. American politics have been running hot for decades; finally we can name the source of the fever. Together with his brother David, Charles Koch owns Koch Industries, the second largest private company in the US; only Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are thought to be wealthier. In a remarkably narcissistic and anti-democratic act, the Koch boys long ago anointed themselves the heroic duo who would “rip government out by the roots.” In the grip of this wayward intention, they have, for the past four decades, pumped billions of dollars worth of high-grade hatred into the bloodstream of American politics. From the PR campaigns against Jimmy Carter in the 1970s to the anti-Clinton crusades of the 90s, to the faux populism of today’s Tea Party, the Kochs have pushed the envelope on right wing propaganda while their corporation rakes in mega bucks on the progressive policies they have thwarted.
When we share with a work of art an experience of presence, we come close to understanding art’s intrinsic value. Deploying skill and emotional force, the artist imbues the material with a living, emergent quality that engages the viewer fully, inducing an open stance toward the immediate moment. There is a small awakening to the radical freedom inherent in the embrace of the ever-shifting present.