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Passion

“The problem for us is not are our desires satisfied or not. The problem is how do we know what we desire? There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural about human desire. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire.” – Slavoj Zizek, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, 2007

Back in December I gave a talk about passion as a basis for self and cultural transformation and said I would be exploring that topic more here. Well… the blogs I wrote with that in mind have turned into something book length, so, instead of publishing that here, I will be putting that book together, along with a number of others, over the course of this year. It will be my second philosophy book, as I already have a draft for another and now I’m unsure which to publish first! For now, I will give you an overview of the ideas in brief.

Our perception of reality is completely defined by our taste – by our sense of what is beautiful. Our sense of what is beautiful, what is not and what simply never registers, is entirely compelled by our desires, as our desires shape how and what we sense in the world around us, what we think about, and how and why we live our lives. Our desires drive every aspect of our individual and cultural existence. These driving desires are our passions.

The Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino argued, quite rightly, that if we wish people to love something, we must first make it beautiful, and that beauty always begins in sexiness. Ficino saw a way to promote the highest human ideals by using lust, glamour and celebrity to manipulate human desire. The kind of thing we now use to sell phones and anti-wrinkle cream, Ficino sought, through art and very much on purpose, to use to make concepts like Truth, Beauty and Wisdom sexy, therefore desired and loved, and so sought after by the general population. This was the basis of the Renaissance.

We all have some essential, primitive desires in common that we are born with. We desire to survive and we desire to reproduce. All other desires are manufactured from these or distortions of them. All cultures manipulate these desires to influence the behaviour of individuals within them. Our passions are our most volatile quality and yet also our most essential and defining one. The base matter of our being.

The philosopher Schopenhauer saw our passions as the source of our suffering and something to be escaped from, if only temporarily. A tragic, submissive and pessimistic view of them. The philosopher Spinoza saw them as our ‘conatus’, our ‘striving’, the force within us that can become the basis of virtue. The philosopher Nietzsche very much agreed with Spinoza, viewing our passions as a force we can utilise through ‘self-overcoming’, transforming ourselves into the ‘Overman’, the man who overcomes man. Like Ficino, these philosophers saw the base matter of our passions as something that could be transformed into the gold of wisdom.

I contend that this is done through understanding and transforming individual and collective perception, which is rooted primarily in the passions. Our most rational problems can only be addressed by facing our most irrational parts. By cultivating inner awareness via a number of methods and through exposure to the appropriate outer aesthetics, we can change ourselves and our society consciously in any possible direction we choose to desire.

Terrence McKenna talked a lot about wanting an Archaic Revival. I want a Renaissance Revival. We must stop consuming what this culture offers us. It is in desperate need of the conscious purposeful cultivation of meaningfulness and benevolence to awaken it from the vacuous dreams and paranoid delusions that have us collectively sleepwalking into destruction. This is not “just how it is” this is how we have allowed it to become, and no-one is coming to save us from ourselves – but ourselves.

What we make desirable has a huge impact on society at large. And what we make desirable is within our power to choose. In the face of a seemingly meaningless universe, with only a short span of time between birth and death, we can claim and use the power to create a world rich in enjoyable meaning. Through the collective pursuit of that which is worth making desirable, we can focus upon things like friendship, integrity, humility and kindness as sought after and prized, rather than money and yachts and handbags. Through passion we have the power to change ourselves and our world.

2015 Highlights

2015 was quite a year for me! Here are some of the highlights:

The Red Kite Project

I sold enough signed and numbered A3 limited edition archive quality prints of my Red Kite painting to raise over £1000 for the RSPB and its work with raptors and wildlife crime. This piece of artwork was created to commemorate the sixteen Red Kites (and six Buzzards) that were killed in Ross-shire in early 2014, focussing on the beauty and spirit of these birds and highlighting the problem of wildlife persecution in the UK.

RSPB Forsinard Mural Project

I painted a peatland mural in acrylic on the main wall of the RSPB Forsinard Flows visitor centre in the Flow Country. The mural highlights as much of the iconic flora and fauna of the Flow Country as possible, providing a visual summary and talking point for the visitor centre. The hours I worked on the mural were backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and through this I raised over £7000 for the Flows to the Future project, an initiative that is restoring the blanket peat bog at the heart of the Flow Country.

Exhibiting at the Hive, talks and workshops

I had a fabulous time exhibiting at both ‘Freedom!’ and ‘Culture Uprising’ via The Hive, as well as giving a number of talks and workshops in the space. It has inspired me to continue to develop as a public speaker and teacher, which I thoroughly enjoy, as well as to show more of my personal artwork and writing to the public. Look forward to more of this from me in 2016!

Colours of Magic

I created a series of illustrations for http://kiamagic.com/ based on colours and various esoteric ideas. It was a very enjoyable project.

Nipples

Oh internet, you do so amuse me! My most popular post last year, on WordPress and across all other social media… was the one about nipples. The reaction to that post was quite unexpected and comical, with a massive spike in views and many (mainly private) messages of agreement and support on the one hand… and a drop in followers on the other! I guess my nipples were just too much for some.

Skye

Near the beginning of last year I went on a wonderful and inspiring trip to Skye. I hope to visit again this year. I would love to see some basking sharks this time!

Books

And finally, a highlight for me was finishing drafts for several books, including Hawk Divine, a book evoking the Egyptian Gods into the modern world. Look forward to seeing it published in 2016!

Thank you for all your support in 2015, look forward to more awesome! xx

Season’s Greetings!

Wishing you a fabulous Yule and a great New Year :) xx

You may remember me mentioning Hive Dalston before. I’ve given several talks and workshops there, having been invited to exhibit and been impressed by the space and the lovely people running it. It’s a really cool project, an evolution of the free community centre, reusing empty buildings and wasted resources to create an independent ecological and cultural social space that injects community and creativity into the local area.

I was invited to do a talk there at Nerd Night on November 12th and again to do a talk last week.  Nerd Night is what it says on the tin, a time and place for people to get together and delve into the details of particular topics. For a Nerd it is the particulars that matter. The theme last week was “Passion”, and there were a few of us there to talk about our passions (hula hooping was very fun!). For myself it was, of course, art and philosophy, fitting in very nicely with what I had been talking about at the previous meet up – the concepts of Mythos and Logos. Of course, the particulars of those topics could be talked about forever, so rather than talk about my personal passion for art and philosophy, I decided to tackle passion itself from that point of view, discussing the views of a few favourite philosophers about passion, the implications of this and the ways I feel passion can be used as a basis for self and cultural transformation, by becoming a primal and powerful source of wisdom.

For me, the image above is a portrait of passion. In the next few blogs I will be exploring this in more detail, covering the areas I addressed in my talks, as well as some of the points that came up in discussion after. Watch this space.

Hainault Wildlife Park

I’ve been going to Hainault Wildlife Park since I was a child. My brothers and I would go along with mum and the memories are very happy ones. It always makes me feel a little nostalgic. I think places like these are incredibly important for children, but also great for adults. Getting outside and interacting with wildlife is good for us in so many ways, especially for sparking creativity. My favourite animals at the Wildlife Park when I was a kid were the Highland Cows, but they’re gone now, replaced with Meerkats. More to sketch next time I go. Enjoy!


Whether he is real or imaginary is of little concern. His form shimmers and shifts like vapour. He is welcome company, his words as wise as they are perceptive. He speaks to my heart. Perhaps he is my heart? I know that I know nothing with any certainty.

Those of you who are fans of my Egyptian Gods artwork are in for a treat as I have recently finished a draft of the book they will illustrate. Hawk Divine features eight stories for eight gods, along with a new piece for the cover. Watch this space for more details ;)

Speaking of gods and stories, I will be giving a talk this Thursday (12th November) at The Hive as part of Nerd Night, and going full philosophy nerd to speak about Mythos and Logos. I will be exploring these two concepts as allies rather than enemies and arguing that our modern logos oriented culture needs a serious dose of mythos. Come along!

That’s right, we made it! Almost all of the limited edition archive quality prints of my Red Kite artwork, created to honour the lives of the Red Kites and Buzzards we lost in Ross-Shire in 2014, have been sold. I can now donate over £1000 to the RSPB, whose investigation and species protection work may help prevent future incidents and may help bring any who were involved in this or other wildlife persecution to justice, and whose education work teaches current and future generations to view our wildlife with due respect and care.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported and encouraged this project, especially the buyers, you fantastic wonderful people! I hope that this beautiful image brings you pleasure for many years to come, and helps to ensure that the sight of its living inspiration continues to grace our countryside. Thank you!

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