Flowing Vases

One of my latest images, Flowing Vases, portrays watery streams emerging from golden vessels, falling in a silvery cascade, merging with other streams above a base of lapis lazuli. In conceiving the design, I was inspired by ancient images of flowing vases celebrating Enki/Ea, Mesopotamian creator god of waters, wisdom, crafts and magic. Putting pen to ipad, I flowed along with the drawing, riding the waves of creativity, and totally in the zone. With the repetition of curving forms, I reflected on the concept of FLOW in psychological and performance theories.

Flowing experiences, focused and immersive, can spur us to be productive as well as innovative. When we engage in solitary activities requiring high levels of concentration, such as creating works of art, improvising dance routines, or writing climatic chapters in a novel, we enter a mental state of flow in which our actions and awareness merge, and all of our personal and temporal concerns fade away. Forgetting the world around us, we exist in the present moment, completely absorbed in our task—with our movements and thoughts flowing smoothly, like the notes of great orchestral music, or the coursing of rivers into the seas.

Flowing performances, live and interactive, can transport us to zones of heightened sensibility and social connection. When we participate in communal events that capture our full attention, such as theatrical dramas, religious rituals, or games of sport, we contribute to the collective emotions and energies around us, and we join in the shared flow of ‘communitas’. Though the pandemic has halted many live communal events, leaving us with mediated substitutions, we will soon be able to resume in-person gatherings, perhaps still wearing masks, but together again once more. Flowing performances can inspire and even transform us, bringing magic into our lives and forever changing us.

Flow always exists in the present, inherently ephemeral, yet naturally intense and gratifying. While often unexpected, flow can also be planned and even manipulated, particularly with regard to large crowds. Flow is part of the long history of human consciousness, like endless streams emanating from magical vases, gifting us with life as well as wisdom.

NOTE: For further reading, see works by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Victor Turner, and Richard Schechner.

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