Dreaming of Becoming Zhuangzi

The title caught my eye. Zhuangzi means Master Zhuang. The Butterfly Dream. As in this song:

Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly…Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

— Zhuangzi

This is the painting by Xiyao Wang called The Butterfly Dreaming of Becoming Zhuangzi No.1 – 2023:

About the artist:
Why Xiyao Wang’s Relationship With the Canvas Is Physical, Personal, And Even Transcendental

Gallery Info


Regarding yesterday’s post I have a few thoughts I want to add.

Since writing that post I came up with several ideas that would be fun. One of those ideas, and perhaps my favorite one, will require some engineering, although the concept is simple enough. Food for body and soul. I thought of the age old trope of baking a key into a loaf of bread, which is then smuggled to the captive who can at last free themselves. I think you will already see where this is going. A loaf of sourdough bread with music inside. The problem is the temperature… CDs can withstand quite a bit of heat but bread is baked at 450º. I looked for industrial memory cards that might be able to better cope with some heat but haven found anything…. yet. To me it only works if the music is baked into the loaf – cutting the finished loaf and slipping a memory card or CD inside just doesn’t feel right. I should test how hot the inside of a loaf gets, if my meat thermometer goes that high. The temp in the center may be lower than 450º but probably not low enough. The only solution I could think of was to put a piece of paper containing a URL into a small metal container that gets baked into the bread. I don’t love that, though. If you have an idea that would help me, please put it in the comments.

Another idea I had yesterday was to sew a CD and a booklet of some kind into a piece of fabric. Similar to the bread that has to be cut open, the fabric would have to be cut, or the thread removed, in order to get to the music. 

It would be really really really cool to grow something with memory inside it. Japanese farmers can grow square pumpkins and French farmers grow pears inside a bottle… so…

As you can see I am not aiming to sell memory sticks dipped in gold or anything like that. But it would be cool to create a special package once in a while. 


The novel The Dervish House by Ian McDonald features a hunt for a mellified man.

Mellified man – Wikipedia

I finished Hopeland a while ago and enjoyed it very much. So I started reading an older novel by McDonald, from 2010, called The Dervish House. I am digging this one, too, and learned about the Mellified Man. The book describes the process at length, but the above linked entry in Wikipedia will tell you enough. What a wild and crazy idea? Did anyone actually do this? 

Staying with the honey theme, here is something I saw on Colossal: Honeycomb Swells Across Ava Roth’s Embroidered Works Made in Collaboration with Bees

And I remember seeing this vase at the MoMA years ago:

The Honeycomb Vase “Made by Bees”:

Libertíny constructed vase-shaped beehive scaffolds (removed at the end of the process) and then let nature take its course: a group of bees went to work building a hive, layer by layer, in the same shape as the scaffold. The work took from two to ten days, depending on the weather, the season, the size of the colony, and its need to expand. It took one week and approximately forty thousand bees to complete this particular Honeycomb Vase. The process, which the designer calls “slow prototyping” in an ironic counterpoint to today’s rapid manufacturing technologies, poetically brings a natural phenomenon full circle, starting with flowers, which nourish bees and enabled them to produce the vase, and ending with a vessel that is meant to contain flowers.

Creativity Versus Consistency

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

Creativity is rejected: Teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

I came across that article on Slate after following a number of different links this afternoon. It is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also came across this quote, by Aldous Huxley:

Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life

I find that the two quotes, although ostensibly about different subjects, namely creativity and consistency, are very much connected. Creativity always threatens consistency, and that is why creativity is vaunted but not actually encouraged or liked by the establishment. In an uncertain world we desire consistency, solidity, something we can count on. Certainly the merchants (manufacturers, corporations, including record companies, publishers, etc.) desire consistency. I am not knocking merchants, but that’s where the tension lies. 

Creativity isn’t part of that. New ideas always threaten the status quo, whether they are musical ideas, new ways of seeing and painting, or breakthrough scientific ideas. Many corporations started with one brilliant idea but soon management took over and dictated that one should not evolve the idea, just keep the machine going and do not revolutionize it.

It means accepting that creativity cannot be comfortable at all times. Neither for the person holding the lightning rod, artist or not, nor for everyone else. But, as Huxley correctly noted, consistency is contrary to nature and merely an illusion we like to maintain.

I feel that there is so much more to be said about this subject… consistency is necessary for an artist to be discovered and to be marketed. An artist that does radically different work every year will struggle to get noticed. So that is one of the pitfalls we struggle with: on one hand it is important to strive for a personal and recognizable voice (think Santana, Jeff Beck, Warhol, Picasso, Miles Davis, etc.) but on the other hand this can also turn into empty repetition. Masters, such as Picasso and Miles Davis, seem to create new cycles of work that are each distinctive but also different from their other periods. (Picasso Periods for example)

I don’t know whether this can be taught and feel that it is something each artist has to work/struggle with on their own.


The Irish government is trialling a creative scheme to provide artists with a guaranteed basic income and many nations are watching with interest. For the next three years, a test group of 2,000 people including musicians, novelists and, yes, circus performers will be paid €16,900 a year in weekly instalments of €325 – no strings attached, even for the contortionists.
Monday 27 March 2023 – Monocle Minute | Monocle