Siddhena’s Book ‘Regardless’

Book Reviews

Madhuri reviews Siddhena’s book with paintings and poetry.

Siddhena RegardlessThe magic of a book is just like that of a CD: you are pulled into the world of another soul who shares with you this bizarre and miraculous planet. While you are there, you think different thoughts, feel different feelings, see different sights, differently. It is a kind of empathy; a thing surely good for us, as long as we tend our own world too.

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Siddhena’s book, Regardless. The credits page says it was published in 2013, but this was the first I’d heard of it. I certainly remembered seeing Sid around for all those years, and had always felt his presence to be easy and affable, with something deep and quiet to it. In those days we were all working together to further the Commune, and people’s individual artistic activities were often practised in private, if at all. I knew that (more recently) Premdevi, in Sedona, thought very highly of him as a painting teacher; she told me about this in numerous long telephone conversations. And her own work was taking off beautifully under his tutelage.

Stepping into Regardless is like stepping into a room: the book is almost square, 6 3/4” by 6 not-quite-3/4”. The cover shows flowing grey shapes like water drops under a microscope, or like kirlian fingertips. The title seems to glow against the pale background, inviting and strange: for what does it mean? It’s a barely-there word, and the dictionary tells us it means “having no regard or consideration; heedless, negligent. Colloq: In spite of everything.” Really, it just means “anyway,” as in, “Regardless, they decided to have the picnic, even under that inky, lowering, hot-breathed sky.”

But artists and poets do many things regardless. They write and they paint regardless of whether the world gives a fig for their creations or not. They make challenging, peculiar things regardless of whether people understand them. They see and interpret (both, actually, very regardful things) regardless of whether anyone can go the distance with them, see through their eyes. They spend time, money, passion, energy, sweat and tears – and laughter – regardless of whether they will make any money at all. Regardless of whether they really have that time to spend…shouldn’t they be doing something useful?

I feel this grey cover, this ambiguous word, inviting me in. It says, “Hmmm, there might be something here, or there might not. But I’m not going to stick it in your face Disney-like. The book’s not locked – come in if you like.”

Inside, the title page says, regardless: paintings and poetry. Aha! Now it’s giving a little more of itself away – but in pale grey lettering – mild and understated. I’ve always gotten drawn in by an understated man…so here I go….

The first poem I like already:

End of the day brings
paint under my nails
and color in the shadows

Ah. So. We get to have the chewy, relaxed delight of little poems – to read over and over, getting out of each one what is somehow mysteriously released in us.

“…and color in the shadows”…I’m taken back to a memory so full of happiness it still raises wings in my shoulderblades, earlobes, sides of my head. As if I’m suddenly sitting in one of Osho’s wingy chairs! …It was 2007. I’d been painting for hours, a mountain scene commissioned by someone for her office, and alongside that another mountain painting, just for myself. And then I washed out my brushes, turned on the CD player, and did Natraj. And it was if I was flying on color, in color; color pushed up my arms, fuelled my feet. I was full of it, drenched in it, spinning it out in front of myself, behind me – ochre, turquoise, hot pink, emerald green – flaming and flying.

And so Sid’s poem has already spoken to me. When we bring color in to ourselves, we see it around us too. We’re alive to color then, and even shadows have it.

The next poem:

The fog
so pretty in gray
slightly moving

siddhena fog

I see this one too. Those times in California when an unlikely fog covered the desert, or when the almost-daily fog of San Francisco came rolling in from the sea, covering the hills – that fog moved about, as you walked through it. This poem enchants me, because it is exactly my relationship to fog. I love fog, love the blurred outlines, the mystery, the chill. “So pretty in gray” – and, yes, the prettiness of it. And its aliveness – it does move.

On the next page we have a painting. And I begin to muse on Japan – I know Siddhena lives there – because the accompanying poem is about cicadas, and I’ve experienced their rhythmic sawing shout in a hot end-of-summer in Kyushu. The painting makes me look again and again: gold, egg-yolk, bush, butte, white horses? – I don’t know; maybe it’s just abstract; Turner-esque, musing, peaceful, alive. Great distances seem captured in it. As I gaze and gaze, I’m drawn to a stripe of diffuse emptiness across the canvas, a little above the midline: a sky with space in it, beneath ochre clouds. The space is bluish, greenish, pale. It looks like an escape route, a hara, a place to go to and be unbothered by things. A place of peace.

I turn the page. Says a tiny poem:

In the end
it is the strange things
that make sense

siddhena in the end

This one just gets inside me instantly, comes home! Yes! I feel seen, personally! …And on the facing page there’s a painting, like a half-disintegrated cicada husk, frail and powdery and criss-crossed with tiny filaments. And at the lower right, a little flame of yellow coming up. Deliciously.

I won’t tell you more poems – well, ok, one more, I can’t resist:

Warm night
unbuttons the moon
at your throat

siddhena warm night

This one’s printed in white on a dark night-painting, with the full moon in it, bisected by a tree-trunk, or just a line of paint, an abstraction; but when you look at the page, you are wholly pulled in to a thrilling world, of night-shadows and ambiguous shrubbery, maybe a couple of triceratops dancing, some jungly dripping fat-trunked liana. And that classic moon.

Later in the book the first poem is repeated – as the first line of a poem repeats later on – but this time there’s a painting with it, textured, as if done on brocade; an explosion of colors moving across above a bowl. I see fabric, tile, Van Gogh, a Zen bowl, empty and yet offering the most vibrant hues of life.

The poems are variously playful, profound (Snow / makes the parking lot / into a garden) and philosophical. Some are longer – and these need re-reading too, as they invite and suggest, and depend upon our own resonance, trust, and let-go to become animate, nuanced, layered.

So here’s what I want to say about this collection: Out of the cradle that Osho gave us, a great variety of creativities naturally arises. This book is by a man who has not had to live his life lonely, not had to become a misanthrope, has not had to be secretly bitter, out of longing for his own kind. He has been cushioned and cradled in love, and so has the luxury of being able to create in placid happiness, describing intimate, unsayable moments in a style and medium that defies the rush of our tiny-attention-span world. Safe in the fact that we were all there, and we had a safe fence around us, and we got to celebrate gently, as few peoples on this earth have ever been allowed to do, the very fact of our aliveness – in the blazing light of some extraordinary comet which shone on us night and day.

And so, within the safe fence of the covers of a book, the poet-artist has recreated that essential quietude: the quiet of “I am here, and I get to sit down and be here, un-jangled by phenomena.” And then, within that, he plays – as we played, hugging each other, working, flirting, drinking tea. Sitting while Osho’s voice drew up in us a sparkling awareness of what strange oddities flowed through our exquisite inner body / mind / soul fields.

And he plays as a master of his paints and brushes; one who lets them have their say without overly bothering them. Who respects their subtle, pagan voices and reasonless ways. Who finds a way to build into this the grace of fog, the silence of a long twilight on the water; a landscape seen vaguely from far away, which nevertheless touches one strangely. Each composition has its own message, in the way the body feels as you look upon it – its own balance – giving, opening, suggestion. And each poem has its own window to flutter the shutters of.

That’s Siddhena’s book – there’s nothing hard about it – but only things that give space for you to grow in, and discover, and look further – like putting your head and shoulders out an upper-floor window into cool air on a night of stars and shadow. And so, I found, I wasn’t just in Siddhena’s world – but my own became bigger and tenderer too.

Review by Madhuri

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Siddhena-TNSiddhena (Sidd Murray-Clark): In 1977 I dropped out of a London career of art and design, and into the world of Osho. In ‘Poona 1’, whether bricklaying or designing the theatre group sets, my creativity continued. I found myself flying to New Jersey, USA to prepare for Osho’s arrival in 1981. In Rajneeshpuram, my ‘worship’ was in the city planning and landscaping. Returning to Pune in 1989, Osho invited me to again live in his commune. I was once again blessed with the opportunity to contribute in many creative ways, designing for Osho’s books, laying out Osho Teerth park and designing interiors for the new buildings. I left Pune in 2000 and now live and create in Japan.

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