Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beauty of Impermanence

Life has become increasingly complicated. To cope, we're told to try to balance our work and life, balance our budgets, balance our diet, maintain our psychic equilibrium and weigh the good vs bad within our personal sense of justice.

Artists, designers, photographers and illustrators all strive every day for  the perfect combination of color, composition, visual and layout.

Nowhere is this whole concept epitomized better than in the balancing act of rock vs wind vs current in the Remic Rapids, Ottawa River, Canada.

In 2011, Ottawa artist John Felice Ceprano will be celebrating 25 years of creating his rock sculptures on the river. He puts up these creations every year, knowing that they are subject to the ravages of nature. In truth, it's part of the reason they are so valuable. Inherent in the process of attempting to create balance is the reason for creation itself. And vital to this process is its impermanence.

Because all who view these creations know that eventually; perhaps in a few moments, days, or during the ravages of winter - they fall. It's meant to be.

Who hasn't done something that we hoped might last but knew deep down it may not, and all the while believing it was a worthwhile expenditure of energy? Answer: every single one of us worth our salt.

We all set things up so they work and none of us should be surprised when the wind or waves come along to say "Ha! Gotcha!"

And then, with renewed energy, we begin again.

Footnote: Although I am not a Buddhist, I note with interest that impermanence is understood by Buddhists as one of the three marks of existence.


  1. Funny thing this obsession with permanence. We know we won't be here for very long. Our time here seems unfairly short, even though most of us wouldn't know what to do with an extra fifty years. We think we should leave something behind for people to remember us by. It's one of the driving forces behind artistic creation. But of course we won't be around to hear people say that what we did was great and worth preserving (or not).

    If you make something that obviously gives pleasure while you're alive, even if it's only for a moment, to me it's as worthwhile as making something that's going to resound down the ages. And if it does give someone pleasure now, there's a (slim) chance it might give some pleasure after you're gone. It'd be nice to be remembered kindly but -- unless we fake our death and attend the funeral -- we're not going to know about it.

    Maybe that's why those rock sculptures are so engaging. They remind us of ourselves. Here today, gone tomorrow.

  2. The soul of an artist speaks... :o)

  3. I guess there is a difference between impermanance and planned obsolescence, eh! Interesting the difference between the art of the river (and sidewalk art and, I suppose, artistic graffiti) and the effort to keep the masters and such intact in galleries and museums.

  4. Part of the hope of impermanence is that the not so perfect things we do can blow away! And the beautiful ones leave to open space for new beauty. Thanks for the great pictures and the reminder.

  5. Thank you all, Saxton Studio, Mac and Dr. Ada. Great words from the eyes of the beholders!