Munch: Meer der liebe (On the Waves of Love)

“I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city,” wrote Edvard Munch in his diary. This was the birth of The Scream, Munch’s self-portrait of anxiety and isolation in hellish colors.

Edvard Munch:  Meer der Liebe

Edvard Munch: Meer der Liebe

Fast-forward from 1893 (the year of The Scream), however, to 1896 with Munch’s Meer der Liebe (“On the Waves of Love”). The swirling strokes from his more famous painting are there, minus the color. Perhaps because of this combination — the black and white palette with the waved lines flowing from the woman’s hair into the sea water — that it’s hard to see where the sea ends and the woman’s hair begins.

Our anxieties may place us in the landscape of The Scream — alone, independent — but what I love about Meer der Liebe is that it is us stripped of our anxiety. In our buddhanature, we, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "live our daily life in this way, seeing everything in the light of interbeing." If we are able to do this, Hanh adds, “then we will not be caught in our small self. We will see our joy and our suffering everywhere.”

I’d wager that Munch would concur: “I felt it as a sensual delight that I should become one with — become this earth which is forever radiated by the sun in such a constant ferment and which lives — lives — and which will grow plants from my decaying body — trees and flowers — and the sun will warm them and I will exist in them — and nothing will perish — and that is eternity.”

Today’s Contemplation

In your space of practice today, notice the sounds coming into the room. Consider them to be part of your practice. Notice the feel of your seat, the feeling of your feet on the floor or whatever parts of the room you touch as you practice. Consider these to be part of your practice. Notice the smells of the space, notice what comes into your line of sight. You don’t exist separately from the space you’re in. Neither, too does your practice.