Wednesday 20 March 2024

The spiritual significance of that "holiday" feeling

"Holiday" by William Arkle (painted in the 1950s)

Edited from notes by Arkle for Holiday from his collection of pictures, prose and poetry: The Great Gift (1977).


"Holiday" portrays the joy and zest and expansion of awareness that can come with the true spirit of holiday, in which many poetic elements of beauty are mixed together and concentrated into moments of splendour. 

As we all know, these moments come to us in unpredictable ways, and not always in settings of this sort. 

We also know that it is unlikely we will be able to repeat the moments just as we would like. We can return to the same place and try to reproduce the same physical situation again, yet nothing will happen.

We must therefore cherish such moments and value them deeply; in so doing we are more likely to extract the content of them, after which we may be blessed by another experience. 

But if we don't take the trouble to work on the first experience, we can understand that it would be bad for us to get others gratuitously, for this would weaken our ability to generate our own strength and endeavor. 


My Notes on Arkle's notes:

Arkle's simple little picture Holiday, depicts that kind of "opening-out" of consciousness that may be experienced at the very start of an ideal holiday - when we are in a place of our choice, relieved from work and duties, and with leisure to notice and engage with the simple things of living in this world. 

The first point, is that such experiences should be regarded as significant, worth considering. They are not merely pleasant-but-temporary hedonic emotional states, with merely physical causes. They ought to be seen as potentially spiritually worthwhile.   

But Arkle also makes clear that this delightful mental state is not wholly a spiritual end in itself - but ought to be regarded as an experience from which we are supposed to learn. 

Nor is the holiday mood something that we should seek to repeat and repeat; because this will not work - ultimately because to desire to repeat without change is to fail to learn. (Neither should we try to overcome jadedness with one place by seeking novelty from holidaying elsewhere - for the same reason.)

We can think of all this in terms of Arkle's last sentence, which relates to what God wants from us in this mortal life: he wants that we should (as much as possible) "generate our own strength and endeavour". 

That is: God wants that we should do as much as possible for ourselves - spiritually, metaphysically, with respect to baseline understandings and motivations - rather than passively responding to our surroundings. 

And similarly that we should do so, for "our own" reasons that come from within. What this means to Arkle is: know and act for reasons derived from our True Self (an eternal and potentially-divine entity that incarnated into mortal life and survives "death")  -- rather than behaving in obedience to "others" such as to deny primary responsibility; or behaving in response to to motivations from that externally-constructed False Personality which tends to monopolize our internal stream of consciousness.  

Briefly put: Arkle is encouraging an attitude that seeks to learn from our experiences, rather than an attitude of seeking pleasurable experiences. And that we should strive to understand, and to live, from-within; rather than passively to absorb stimuli and be-shaped from-without. 


William Wildblood said...

Interesting you post this on the first day of spring which does feel rather holiday-like.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I regard the true advent of Spring as a local and variable (Not astronomically-defined) phenomenon. This year it arrived here, palpably, some days ago (but I didn't make a note of it) - or at least, that's what everyone in this house felt!

William Wildblood said...

Oddly enough today in the south of England really does feel like the first day of spring. I even took my coat off when I went for a walk at lunchtime!

Lucas said...

Spring arrived where I live last week, when all the bees came out to celebrate and look for food.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I checked with my son - 2024 spring in Jesmond was Friday 15th March! For me, it was a moist warmth of the air between my fingers as I walked.