Naughty or nice? Buddhists might contend E, All of the Above, conflating dilemma horns into the whole animal. The Five Senses Bench, too, includes some tiles that are beauteous and uplifting, some funny, some rather crude, and some, like this Tibetan Wrathful Offering to the Five Senses tile, that function as wake-up calls to everything. That is, if you can read the stylized symbology.
If you didn’t click over to the Wrathful Offering to the Five Senses link, that’s OK. And if you did, it doesn’t really tell you what you need to know, so I will describe what you are looking at: Several upside down human skulls at the bottom are holding organs. Above them are a tongue, two loose eyes on stalks with ears behind, and between them an upside down heart. On top are more waving clouds and other common Tibetan/Nepalese imagery. Flames edge it all. (And I am sure someone more knowledgeable could make more points and connections for you.)
The whole is meant to appease wrathful deities, and maybe scare the bejeebers out of us humans with its upsetting dismemberment. But it goes beyond that as a Five Senses Bench tile: it is a very real balance to maudlin treacle.
Nothing I say here is meant as judgment: maudlin treacle needs love just like wrathful offerings. In the grand scheme of things, maybe this bench will contain a Whole beyond anything we currently may think it is. Art is open to waves of interpretation over the centuries, even millennia, which this bench thing can certainly last for. Case in point:
Yesterday I watched a passle of pre-schoolers on a field trip swarm the bench. They were all eye-high to seat level. Eye-high, too, to this particular tile, which rounds the knee area between Taste and Hearing. Did they see it?
Or did they spend time with what was in front of their faces that they could recognize, thereby forging new neuron pathways? Did their teachers point out anything? The knife? The Butt Stop tile? The soft-serve poo tile that PMcN gleefully created? Or did they just experience colorful mosaic enormity and then run down the slope into the nearby wildish Glen?
Well, whatever…they looked with 3-year-old wonder that will become 30-year-old wonder in a twinkling. If they came back in 27 years, I know for a fact they will think the bench is much smaller than they remembered, but it just might contain more narrative that they can hook their lives to. It is a magical object either way.
Anne Lamott said/wrote one of the finest perspective giving lines ever: “A hundred years from now? All new people.” Must remember that. Naughty or nice? Both!