Surrealism is an art style that combines unusual elements together to produce a dreamlike effect; merging reality with fantasy, simulating the subconscious mind. But sometimes paintings are just “a little bit” surreal. The unexpected, unreal, or dreamlike qualities may be so subtle that viewers of this style of art may not even be aware of it, and yet, they’ll probably sense that something is different that they can’t quite put their finger on.
In “Kitchen Devotions“, there are several elements in the composition that are unexpected. Why are the flowers in a food bowl? Why is one side of the curtain moving slightly, even though the window is closed and the other side of the curtain is standing still? Why are the walls that odd color and pattern? Why does the mug look like it was made by a pottery student? Why is the bookmark floating rather than in perspective? Why does the book look “ghostly” and blank? Why are the flowers spaced evenly apart and straight?
Artists who paint “freestyle” (painting an idea rather than prioritizing a careful, realistic technique), may inadvertently paint in a slightly surreal style. “Kitchen Devotions” was a freestyle exercise to paint whatever came to mind, without looking at a reference or planning ahead. This type of exercise is beneficial for any skill level of artist and may even emerge to become a favorite work or a signature style.
-from blog post “Painting Surreal“
What I want to add today, is a different perspective on Distorted Reality. Rather than looking at it from the artist viewpoint of surrealism, what about when life itself feels surreal? These days I’ve been waking up after vivid, disjointed, and disturbing dreams. For a few seconds upon waking I’m not sure if the dream is real or not… and then later in the day, I may still not be completely able to sort the dream state from reality.
For example, yesterday I had a dream that I had flooded the bathroom of a house I’ve never seen before, but in the dream it was my house. I flooded it with clean soapy water, but I was still concerned that water had seeped inside the walls and would be trapped there to mold or cause water damage to the home.
Later in the day, I was cleaning the real life shower stall of this house, when suddenly I realized that a repaired spot in the stall had fallen out, revealing an open hole that had been apparently plugged with putty at some point. Now I had a real life concern that soapy water had gone into the wall!
Fortunately the hole was very small and I’d noticed the exact moment when the repair patch had fallen off. I cleaned and dried the area, texted my husband, and he stopped by the store on the way home from work to get putty. He re-patched it in seconds. It was really not a big deal, unlike my dream that had me standing in about three feet of water!
But, real life was a smaller version of the dream and it was unnerving to have dreamed something so similar just before it happened. I felt a lot of stress when I saw the gaping hole, even though it was small and turned out to be easy to repair. What a trivial psychic ability! Not much prophetic use for predicting minor anxiety-producing events that are quickly resolved!
However, there have been other times when my portent dreams were not trivial, and it was very sobering when the predictions of my subconscious mind came true. Dreams are sometimes prophetic, but not usually. Many dreams feel like nonsense, or are a boring play about regular life activities. Sometimes dreams are a confusing distorted mix of people and places from our past jumbled together with current places and places we don’t recognize- and maybe don’t even exist!
We might wonder what the purpose of dreams are, but usually we don’t think much about it… until we have an unsettling dream, a vivid dream, or a dream that feels like a portent. I’ve felt lately that life itself feels like we’re in a dream state. More and more, as we merge the surrealism of our sleeping mind with the distorted reality of 2021, it can be difficult to sort out the truth. What is real?
In dreams, we may fear things that aren’t real. Anything can be dangerous in a dream. In our waking life, do we ever fear things that aren’t quite real, or at least not at the level of danger that merits the terror that is conjured up? What is real, and to what degree should we fear the dangers of 2021? Who are the truthtellers? Who are the “experts”? Who do we trust? Who should we fear?
Perhaps my dream of flooding a home, causing lasting damage and dangerous toxins, when the reality was vastly different: one small hole that merely needed to be patched, is an example of a bigger paradigm. Sometimes we fear a flood when the problem is much more manageable. We may even have a fast and easy solution to repair the damage and resolve the problem.
The trouble is, we may not know which way things are going. Life may feel surreal. Is it a flood or a small hole? Does this situation merit a small amount of anxiety and stress, or fear and escalating terror? We may feel confused, disoriented, and exhausted. Conflicting perspectives reach our ears and we may not be able to sort out what is real.
If something or someone is driving fear using hostility, ridicule, and disrespectful, dehumanizing and tyrannical methods that are devoid of empathy, are full of control and manipulation, and possibly even frothing with malice, condemnation and discrimination against those who disagree, then fear isn’t real… not fully real. Because when fear serves a master, the driver is hate (deception), the opposite of love (truth). It is not loving to be unkind, to use bribery or punishment to coerce people (rather than information, patience, and evidence). It is not love that whips up fear. Hate does that.
So when fear hits you from a source of hate, it is NOT real. We must stand against it. Step back, analyze the situation, research it, be patient with ourselves as we sort things out, and treat ourselves kindly. Never take on shame that doesn’t belong to us. Humanity is precious, and our sovereignty is essential. When fear comes through a person, entity, or government that wants us to control us, then we must question its validity.
Emotion and anxiety are not reliable indicators for testing if the things we fear are real. In dreams we may fear things that are not dangerous. That is true of our waking self as well. So we must use logic, facts, accounts from trusted sources, and stories relayed by fellow human beings who have nothing to gain by sharing their truth.
We must also trust ourselves, beyond our emotional self. Intuition is more than a feeling. It is defined as the ability to acquire knowledge without (or maybe ahead of) the evidence, conscious reasoning, etc. to properly analyze the situation as fact. Psychologists recognize intuition as nothing magical, but rather a way in which our minds generate “hunches” in our unconscious minds. It is referred to as a type of knowledge.
Spiritual people have much more to say about the power of intuition. They may refer to it as the voice of your true self, your highest self, or even the voice of the Holy Spirit. Humans have acknowledged and defined intuition in many ways, and hold dear the idea that intuition is meant to help us know what is true. It is mean to protect us from bad things.
When our intuition seems to shout, “Pray NOW”, stop and pray. When our intuition says, “Don’t go that way today, take another route”, do it. There are so many stories of people who mysteriously felt an urgent tug on their hearts to go a different route and avoided a tragic end. Others tell of going a different route and being on the scene to save a life. We may never know why we are meant to go here, or not go there, but often we recognize immediately why we were “told” in our hearts to do something, or not do something. The important thing is to pay attention to what our intuition tells us, and do it.
When the world feels surreal… when things don’t look quite right… when something is off, and we have trouble sorting out the distortion from reality… when we don’t know who is lying, and who is telling the truth… when we don’t know what to fear, or how much to fear… we must trust our intuition.
Often, a flood is just a hole. There is a remedy. All will be well. When our intuition says, “Do not fear”, we must remain strong, steady, healthy, and positive. We will endure. We will persevere. We will live fearlessly.