by Celia Coates
Last week Brenda Molloy sent an email that I wanted to open immediately. Brenda is an artist who works with fractals to create stunningly beautiful images. (You can find her two earlier posts by clicking on “By Author” at the top of the Home Page.)
In the email she wrote,
“This week I started making conceptual art using Artificial Intelligence. Think text to image, I have only just begun.”
What a beginning! She created the white lotus that leads this post.
“These images are made with an application called MidJourney. It’s a text to image platform which means that I input text and the software uses compiled internet information to create an image. The white lotus is a fractal which means that it has self-similar repeating shapes. I am thinking that in dark times there is a light and it’s growing exponentially stronger minute by minute.”
Some coincidences are so lucky that it’s easy to delight in the way they “just happen” and create good fortune. That’s the way it was with first getting the spirit-lifting beauty of the fractals from Brenda and then listening to an On Being radio broadcast in which Krista Tippett interviewed visionary author Adrienne Maree Brown. Brown said, “We are living in a time of new suns.”
“New suns” – that’s a vivid way of describing what Brenda named as a light that is growing exponentially stronger. We certainly need something to break through the darkness of violence, injustice, lies, and greed that has dimmed our lives.
Adrienne Maree Brown found inspiration in the work of Octavia Butler who wrote science fiction for the 15-year-olds who, she said, already had a sense of destiny and a sense that the world needed to change. She wanted to shape that, to be part of that. Butler was solution-oriented and practical. Her writing caught Brown’s attention who said about the older author,
“She wrote so many stories where the main message was like, ‘Change is coming. You can be prepared for it, and you don’t have to be a victim of it. You can actually shape it.’”
That opened it up for Brown. She said that she found Butler’s disappointment in humanity comforting because she shared that view herself,
“…we have this amazing, awesome Earth, and we are just fumbling the bag because we are so obsessed with using our intelligence to enact hierarchies over each other.”
After working on electoral organizing in 2003 and 2004, Brown became strongly interested in “what happens on the ground.” Talking to Krista Tippett she said,
“Oh, we are trying to just change the top layer of this very layered cake, this very layered process, this system of governance. We think that if we just win the presidency, then we’ll be able to change the world. And it clicked for me that it’s like, actually, it’s a fractal system. And it’s layer on top of layer on top of layer. And if none of us are practicing democracy anywhere, it’s not going to just suddenly work at the top layer. And I got it.”
“And then I realized – so something about smallness, I was able to gain respect for it, because I was like, every single large system or structure or network or political protocol is made up of small things: of humans either having or not having necessary conversations, and humans being willing to stand up for what is right and stand up against what is wrong. It is all small activities that we need to get great at if we want to actually have anything that would be a real democracy.”
Brown went on to say more about fractals, about the Fibonacci sequence,
“…this sequence is basically how something repeats at scale, no matter how small it gets and no matter how large it is.”
Brown said that she’s not math-oriented, but she found it was fine for her to think in terms of fractals,
“Sometimes I’ll use the language of fractals. Sometimes I’ll just point to actual examples. … Look at a head of broccoli. Look at a fern. Look at the delta around New Orleans, and then look at how these veins and artery systems move through your system and your heart and your lungs. Look at the spiral shapes on your fingertips, and then look at the shapes of the galaxies.”
She said in this way, we can begin to see there are no isolated patterns,
“The universe has some favorites, and they repeat and they repeat and they repeat at every scale….”
She finds it empowering to locate herself somewhere in those connected, fractal patterns.
We don’t have to achieve great success – we don’t have to be limited by trying to change the grand top layer. I heard pastor Raphael Warnock, the Senator from Georgia, say that,
“Democracy is a political statement of a spiritual ideal.”
We can each use our spiritual ideals to find a way to become part of the light. We can let go of feeling smothered by darkness, helpless to change what is wrong, by starting small with the part of the pattern around us. For me finding spirit-lifting beauty is vital. And now I am wondering what necessary conversation I could join – or start. How can I stand up for what is right, stand up against what is wrong in the layer of events that are part of my small life?
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You can see more of Brenda Molloy’s art on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brenda  molloy art/?hl=en
You can hear the interview with Adrienne Maree Brown, or read the transcript, at onbeing.org. The interview was broadcast on June 23, 2022.
The quote of Raphael Warnock is from his appearance on Morning Joe, MSNBC, last week.