The Bardo, or A Memory of Death

The Bardo, or A Memory of Death, 2015

Oil on Canvas 26″ x 26″

The blinding light of death is the dissolution of individuality, absolute, consumptive, binding and limited; we are beings of both individual sparks and universal light. The flame that we carry is not selfish, and the births and metamorphoses engendered by death maintain a continuity even as given facets are extinguished. Through the kaleidoscope of change and destruction, love and rebirth, the raw spirits that coalesce into beings that perceive themselves and fear the unknown, remain untouched by the scattering.

Through an examination of this same self however, concepts of post-death states and reincarnations begin to be perceivable in their actuality. The root of this conceptual-self stems from the consciousness that interprets sensory input and imagines itself as a disparate entity, tied to a given physical apparition, self-constructed through narratives, habits, traits, and ultimately acts. This perspective is, at best, a half-truth, for it fails to consider the instrument of perception. Indeed the existence of an implicit physical world is itself a product of internal conceptualization. When sense, memory, and thought are understood as malleable, the dependent assumption of immutable physicality, and the ends implied by its decay, must inevitably be discarded.

It is in many ways a sacred moment when the dusty collection of particulate is at last dissolved into the universal, suspended in the primordial water, before emerging once more in new forms and acts. That the collection ever imagined itself as a thing apart was always an illusion, cast like a shadow by the singular light of consciousness. For even existentially, as beings that dream tales of a life lived and a narrative concluded, we were deceived. The great change that we defined as oblivion was inseparable from our breath. As we closed our eyes each night we, with unreasonable faith, trusted that that which left us would return. With each moment passed we did not mourn for the eddy of ourselves lost in the stream. Even the memories that we held with such precarious grips, that we swore gave truth to the lie, shift like dunes in the deserts of our individuality.

A better question than what follows death then might be what is the nature of the entity that perceives death? If the self-construct that perceives the physical is not defined by it, physical death may be regarded as a minor schism. Acts of transcendence can, in their turn, be understood as acts of self-identification, where an ego defines itself, not by a specific physical manifestation, but immaterially.

The immutability of death thus emerges as a reflection on the limits of an ego, rather than an incontrovertible trait of the universe. When the thin film of materiality peels back to reveal the light of the abyss, we are left with what is ultimately a choice; as the imagined manifest of an ego, be extinguished, or as the avatar of the universal, embrace the change, as we have ten-ten-thousand times before.