The Hone Life word of the week is play, as in playfulness rather than stage play, but in letting this quote select me, I’m demonstrating playfulness in letting my right brain, intuition, serendipity, synchronicity, Higher Consciousness, whatever you want to call it, have dominion. I’m being playful in my contemplation of play.
The Shakespearean quote begins a monologue in Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It. It describes the seven stages, ages of man. The earliest attempt to catalogue the life cycle of humans is Hesiod’s long poem Works and Days. There were five ages of man, according to Hesiod (c650-550 BC/BCE). In the fifth – Golden Age – he describes humans as having been moulded from earth by Prometheus and that they lived freely among the gods.
This story is paralleled in Genesis, where the earth-moulded creatures were known as Nephilim (Genesis 6:4). The name of the first created, Adam, is also the masculine form of the word adamah – ground or earth. It is related to the words adom (red), admoni (ruddy), and dam (blood). Adam has five meanings in Hebrew. In Genesis 2 God forms Adam – here meaning a single male human – out of the dust of the ground. God then breathed consciousness into his earthy creation. In the first five chapters of Genesis, adam is used in all five of its senses: mankind, man, man and woman, and male. Adam/humankind was given the Garden of Eden in which to live and in which everything was provided. God told Adam to enjoy it. It could be said that God told Adam/humankind, to go away and play in the Garden of Eden. Significantly, in this story, he also told humankind where not to play. Could it be conjectured then, that playfulness stems from the very origins of humankind, is our original basic nature? Is play, humankind’s real job, in fact?
The concept of an Eden is paralleled in other belief systems. All point to the concept of a perfect garden in which there is no toil, just endless play. I choose to interpret this as endless creativity – which could be interpreted as endless playfulness. I would suggest that this playfulness falls within a framework, outside of which there is this not-to-be-played-in place. Playfulness within a framework. It could be argued that all artistic playfulness falls within a framework – for nothing comes out of nothing. Maybe playfulness without any objective leads to endless meaninglessness and chaos? Align oneself with the over-arching Christian ethic of love (without meaning to exclude other belief systems in this) then the objective of artistic playfulness would always be Love.
Greek Hesiod’s poem names five ages of man. Roman Ovid (first century BC/BCE) reduced this to 4. Other belief systems describe the ages of man in varying number. Hindu-Vedic belief lists 4. Within the scientific paradigm, man (homo) starts to become conscious, it could be argued, with his invention of tools – in the Stone Age. His ages are named as Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Antiquity, The Middle Ages and Modernity.
Shakespeare’s monologue describes seven ages. This corresponds with Christian doctrine first outlined by Augustine in the fourth century AD/CE. Augustine was a convert to Christianity from Manichaeism. Some modern scholars suggest that aspects of Manichaeism influenced some of his ideas. Known as one of the Early Fathers of the Christian church, his writings played a big part in the decision-making about what was and what was not to go into the New Testament. This included the doctrine of the 3-in-1 God of the Trinity, first arrived at by Augustine.The most common grouping of gods in pagan religions is as a triad. For instance, the trinity of Ancient Sumeria consisted of Anu, Enlil, and Enki.
According to Augustine in his De catechizandis rudibus there are six ages of man, but then he adds a seventh. The seventh age is reserved for the End Times and is post-world, however and runs parallel to the six ages of the world. A lower harmonic of this is the seven days of the week.
Researching the seventh age brought me to the concept of the End Times and Dispensationalism. And the Seven Bowls of The Book of Revelation, which is the final book of the New Testament. Its author reveals himself in the book as John of Patmos. If you’re an artist and run short of images, read Revelation: your image well will soon run full again!
There are a lot of sevens in Revelation. The seven bowls are given to seven angels and each bowl contains God’s wrath. It is poured out as seven separate plagues on the wicked and the followers of the antichrist, after the sounding of seven trumpets. The trumpets sound after the breaking of the last of seven seals which seal a book. The only one who can open the book is the Lion of Judah, or the Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes. The opening of the first four seals releases each of four horsemen. They each have distinct jobs and the horses are respectively red, white, black and pale. The seventh seal cues the seven trumpeters who cue the seven bowls.
Here’s the thrilling bit and the playfulness: I’ve been working this week on some small encaustic mixed media works and when the Hone Life word of the week to contemplate dropped into my email box, I was working on the one accompanying this blog. It’s not yet finished, but it’s meant to be a bowl. I have been shoving other elements around, cells, and cells within those and within those, a seed. It’s a development within my Below the Line project. I didn’t know why I was doing this, except that it has something to do with ‘honouring’, ‘celebrating’, with fertility of course. I suppose it relates in my mind to other significant bowls, like the Graal, the Eucharist, to ritual, and even the bowl of a champagne glass – to that hailing gesture Cheers! used as a term of celebration, of good wishes, a magic spell, even. In doing this, I’m playing. I’m pushing around form, colour, pattern, texture, significance and seeing what comes up. I’m trusting my intuition, but within a framework. What has come up is the synchronistic connection between the word play and the bowls in Revelation and this bowl in my artwork, that has been presented to me to consider.
I’m going to call this The Eighth Bowl. The figure 8 is the symbol for infinity. Eight is beyond seven – beyond time and space. It’s below the line.
Focused play (following one’s intuition within a framework) may constitute one’s work? Focused play may be one’s most important work? Whatever play may be about, it had better, ultimately, be within the framework of Love?