Gallery 227, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
There's something beautiful about creation stories. In the quest to unravel the mystery of how and why we all are, cultures have been staggeringly creative. I don't recall having heard the creation story from Hinduism, but I love that an ocean of milk is sort of the sub-in for "primordial ooze."
If you've spent any time on my blog, you know that I'm often preoccupied with the frightening prospect of death. (My last post pondered how and why I became so terrified by it.) This sculpture and the mythology that comes along with it represent life and creation. What a strange feeling to ponder how existence was formed rather than how it will end.
Did an omnipotent God sculpt us out of clay? Or did one divide Himself in two and form us from those halves? Did a water beetle fish mud out of the water? Or did we simply appear, our true origin unknown, shrouded in mystery or open to broad interpretation?
Apart from the grander sense of creation, I find myself zeroing in on the more insular side of things. I understand the biology of birth, but what of the metaphysical? That spark, what some call a soul, others consciousness, where does it come from? Christians believe it's God's breath, breathed into the one figure crafted from mud and the other crafted out of one of the former figure's rib.
And though the how of my spirit and consciousness is important, the why is so much heavier. So much more...necessary? Do we have a purpose? If so, is it dictated by something external? A deity? A scientific design? Society? Is it self-imposed? Do we mold and shape our purpose out of those passions just as the Christian God shaped Adam from the mud of the earth he'd manifested earlier that week? It just seems so unlikely and bewildering that we should exist only by chance, a series of "accidents" that come together to make something so specific and complex.
But purposeful creation... For a god (or capital-G God) to fabricate us in His image, grant us a purpose, but then fail to leave behind clear and explicit instructions seems callous, cold, incomplete, and contrary to most of the creation myths I've familiarized myself with. "What sort of deity," I ask no one in particular, "would give me a finite amount of time within which to suss out my reason for existing without leaving me a page of clues like a supernatural scavenger hunt?"
Perhaps, then, the goal really is creating our own purpose rather than seeking out some grand plan bequeathed unto us by an external source, be it God, nature, society, or whatever.
I fight daily to define and build my purpose. One day it may be abundantly clear, but for now I'm peeling an onion, making painstakingly slow progress from the outer skin down to the center where my soul resides.