GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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Beauty is often a harbinger of goodness and truth, as I've observed in a previous post. And there is certainly no shortage of beauty in Twin Peaks-The Return. For a time, Cooper's journey through the non-exist-ent to the violet world in Part Three was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen on television. Then, the journey through atomic fire in Part Eight came to occupy the top spot. And now Mr. C.'s journey into the dark heart of The Dutchman's has become a serious contender for the most beautiful of them all.
For me, being enveloped in beautiful images and sounds lifts the veil of the ordinary, enabling me to transcend the natural skepticism and atomistic thinking of "practical" day-to-day life where we are constantly assaulted by the need to predict, control, and consume discrete objects, as if the world were just the sum total of the individual things rattling around in our narrowly construed field of vision--the objects that allow us to get a foothold in a world of near to overwhelming experiential possibilities. When beauty lifts the veil, there is a vulnerability--a naked exposure--to the all in which in which particular things have their individual being and meaning as collective participants in a great mystery. This is why--after a particularly intense experience of beauty--we often find that our vision is transformed upon our return to the ordinary world. Where once we saw merely disjointed objects arrayed for our conspicuous consumption, we now see things enveloped by a breathtaking mystery.
This truth and the feeling of deep, world-transforming goodness that follows in the wake of an experience of revelatory beauty came home to me in an astonishing way during Mr. C.'s journey to confront Phillip Jeffries. As Mr. C. crosses the threshold of door 8, he enters a room facing a wood paneled wall with an old steam radiator in the right corner.
In the middle of the wall is a prominent amber stain that--in my heightened state of awareness of the whole--immediately but atmospherically illuminated the present experience in the light of the atomic blast from Part Eight. As Mr. C. gazes at the wall--a perfect symbol of the ordinariness of everyday experience--it begins to peel away like a veil obscuring a great abyss, and Mr. C. finds himself in the presence of something extraordinary.
The straightforward importance of this scene is Mr. C.'s confrontation with the Judy mystery: Who is Judy and what does s/he want of him? We get the sense that Mr. C. is staring into the abyss of his own origins, vulnerable for the first time (we've witnessed so far) to the existential need of knowing who he is rather than the pedestrian wanting for things and objects to dominate, which he has thus far understood as his destiny.
But I am less interested here in the straightforward importance of this scene as a moment on Mr. C.'s journey than I am in its holistic importance for the unfolding of the mystery we are experiencing both in this episode in particular and in the series as a whole. And what we are shown as the veil rolls back over the abyss and the room returns to the ordinary wall and the radiator behind door number 8 is astonishingly illuminating of both the individual episode and the entire series.
What we find in the combined image of the veil and the abyss is nothing short of breathtaking: in my heightened state of consciousness, something deep within me chose to experience it as the sacred alchemy of Laura Palmer hovering above an atomic blast, enveloped in the Fireman's protective spirit, converting the devastation into a radiant log that is turning gold. There is fear in letting go, to be sure, but there is infinite, radiant, transformational beauty there too.
Here are twenty of my favorite still images from this exquisite painting come to life, including the startling tableau above of this sacred alchemy. What do you see in these images? How do they illuminate for you what lies behind the veil? And how do they bring that glory back into renewed vision of the everyday?