TIES THAT BIND
Themes of compassion and attachment
One of the main beliefs shared among nearly every religion is the importance of compassion and respect for one another as well as ourselves. In Buddhism one of the main tenets of belief is that all living beings are suffering. Those exact circumstances may differ from person to person, but we all perceive suffering. This pain and uncertainty is something everyone can understand, although not every being has experienced losing a limb or surviving genocide. For this reason the ability to empathize and feel compassion towards one another is absolutely vital.
A rat king is a phenomena where multiple rats become physically entangled by their tails, they can become bound in a lethal situation. Essentially, they become dependent on each other in order to survive. If they do not work together they will all perish in their own individual, selfish struggles. Like a rat king, we humans must work together in order to survive in this world. Because of this shared pain, we are all chained in this world, all connected and thus all sentient beings must take care of one another despite how difficult it may be to do. In the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous, it states, “As long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well.”(1). The ties that bind are our connection of mutual suffering, and we must not let this experience consume us, but rather use it to take care of one another.
This compassion comes from within, Buddhist practitioner Pema Chodron believes, “we learn first to be honest, loving, and compassionate towards ourselves.”(2). To begin to take care of each other, first we must take care of ourselves. The self portraits of “Ties That Bind,” were created to demonstrate this. They attempt to show examples of self denigration, self destruction, suffering, and self indulgence, while being a personal reminder to treat yourself better, in order to treat others better.
Since we are all connected, we must take care of each other, but we should keep in mind our attachment and dependency on one another. The emaciated Buddah represents the “middle path,” a stage in Prince Sidharta’s life when he stripped himself of attachment by only consuming a few sesame seeds or grains of rice each day. This imagery is used in the consideration that despite all sentient life being tied, bound, and connected, we should be careful in our dependence on one another to the extent where it becomes debilitating. Holding a thoughtful “middle path” sentient, beings may mitigate further suffering by reaching a sustainable level of independence.
“Ties That Bind” is the artist’s struggle towards compassion through self care, understanding attachment, and dependency towards others. Ultimately, this exhibition is an attempt of learning and growth. In this time of pandemic, many are struggling, many are suffering, many haven’t seen friends of loved ones in months. Now more than ever we must help each other. Remember that we all bleed, we all suffer, all creatures are deserving of love, and to do no harm on one another.
(1) Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text. 5th ed. Van Nuys: World Service Office, 1988. Page 48
(2) Chodron, Pema. Comfortable with Uncertainty. Random House USA, 2003. Page 10
Ray Mueller (b. 1994) is an artist from Nevada. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelors of Art in History, and a minor in Printmaking. He is a founding member of Laika Press in Reno, Nevada and has exhibited work alongside the Press at the Holland Project. He has been living in Oakland and San Francisco working as a bike courier. In 2020 he will be cycling throughout the United States.