Context: reflections on Self and Zen/Ch’an in art and literature

When the narrative, the meaning, the semantic architecture of the text or the image is fundamentally ambiguous – the semantic locus or source of meaning becomes the interpreter; the meaning-maker themselves become the focus and in this dissolves that perspective and projected reality through which their own existence, consciouness, intelligence and subjectivity is reflexively defined.


We are defined to ourselves and to each other through that external and shared all-too-human narrative and logic that we have projected upon (and mistaken for) the world and through internalising this, have mistaken for a pre-existing Reality or Order/Logic. We internalise the projected structure and logical matrix of the world, of our understanding and when that narrative is no longer anchored in any concrete sense in the world, in perception or belief, we are ourselves cast adrift. Dissolving the logic and machinery of the Self, we return to an uncomplicated condition of acting, moving, being; without the endless layers of doubt or hesitation instilled by our rationalising, discerning intellect. This is particularly well portrayed in Takuan Soho’s letters to the sword masters recorded in “The Unfettered Mind“.  This is also the essential beauty and power of traditional painting in the Zen and Ch’an traditions

The mirror of the Void reflects nothing in particular.

3 thoughts on “Deconstructing Self in Zen

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