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Still Runs the Water: Beneath the Surface of Shimmering Thoughts


Virtually in the same way as there is a difference between deep and shallow sleep, there are thoughts which occur deep down and thoughts which bustle about on the surface.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein


Even on windless days, the placid surface of the sea is bottomed out by perpetual war. Threatened schools of fish scatter and gather, willing to sacrifice the few for the sake of the whole, in a pragmatic exhibition of beauty and survival. In the deeps of the depths beyond light, eyeless creatures smell their way to the preserved corpses of the fallen, carcasses of whales and sharks and ‘things’ beyond recognition. Skimming the surface of the water, gulls and terns pluck the same fish that had survived as a school, now alone and left to the choking air before an eager beak puts the lights out. Not far from the low-hanging cumulus clouds, falcons dive at speeds that make the wind whistle, taking both tern and the half-swallowed fish, a flighty lesson in reciprocity. Things move things, especially the uncertain movements of living things. Nothing simply shows itself for all, hardly even a few, if any. Even koi in a pond often need coaxing through fingers dancing on the water before they show themselves enough to be recognized as fish, rather than passing sunset-jewels. The thoughts that dance on the surface of our perception are the surface of the sea. Fish have been known to leap into a fishing boat, but never out of concern for the one who was fishing.


Still runs the water where the brook is deep.

— Shakespeare’s, Henry VI part 2


Nothing is always on fire, not even the eternal flames of ceremony, since there was always a before and there will be an after. Inspiration is often portrayed as some kind of wild-eyed moment when the artist picks up the brush with resolution, as if being struck by metaphysical lightning, where paint finds palette like rain finds the scorching pavement in a Midsummer storm. There is no delving beneath the surface without first skimming that surface, where fingers might dance and the boat tips over from the foolery, only for the disturbed water to shock the school of fish below that scatter, sending the gulls and terns into a frenzy, before the falcons make the wind whistle and what seemed like an idle action turns from a breeze to a hurricane. Take a breath… Words follow. A paint brush is dipped in black. Chisel finds stone. A voice sounds a minor note, a note not unlike the fell cry of the falcon after taking the tern. Poor tern…an end not unlike the little fish in its mouth, just a touch of abstract expressionism, all feathers and drops of blood. Blood finds water and…


Things keep their secrets.

— Heraclitus


A giant squid might wash ashore, gray and lifeless, nothing but a dead thought on the dead sand. To find the splendor and shimmer of the squid, risking the danger of its inky power, one has to prepare. It might take a deep sea vessel and heaps of persuasion, fathoms of luck and a dash of courage. Deep thoughts come at a cost and never surface on their own, not in their raw and vibrant forms. Everything begins on the surface, whether it’s the still water of the calm sea, or the ground at the bottom of the sea of the sky. To discover that thought looming in the dark depths, one must put the fingers to the keys, dip the brush in the paint, close one’s eyes and think beyond the superficial surface of the moment at hand.


Hayden Moore

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