Artifice, a derivative of art, is the very opposite of nature. In literature, art refers to a character's ability to manipulate and is therefore a malevolent type. But imagine art and nature are in love with each other as humans long for the natural motivations that they expelled in childhood and desire to enter back into that wild realm, to understand on a fundamental level that part of themselves, which is the very natural desire to express, and play, to manipulate, to create. Origami is the marriage between the human relationship to nature, art and the practice of creating a sturdy structure in our bodies, minds, and in the world.
The Dutch painter, Pieter Breughel wrote that a drawing was "an original assembly of lines." A drawing is an artist's story bound by the time it is represented, abstract and dependent upon the choices of the artist. But origami is prescribed, its value lying in how close to perfect the outcome. Despite decades of nature inspiring art practice from the cave paintings, to the Dutch still lives, scientific studies. Most recently Anika Yi in The Flavor Genome presents a three dimensional neon tinted exploration of organic recomposition through scientific mutation, featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. All of this work aims to understand our relationship to nature through the form of art. Origami is a practice that, though highly structured, forces the creator to enter a calm state of folding that, in turn, produces a sturdy object. While Western practice relies on the artist's ability to constantly be in a place of building, in a sense the practice of origami switches places with the Western art practice: the paper is structured, so the mind can be liberated. The creation of the crane brings centeredness. There is no conscious act of making "different," of promoting that idealized individuality.
Fold the paper with perfect calm so that you won't explode in impatience and tear it: the modern origami practice. A painter will notice how cartoonish the frame of a bed looks because it was not made to look at. Things are not made to ingest with the senses. If anything, materials are made to dull the senses, make us less animal. Nothing is meant to spend time on. But the practice of origami requires that kind of time, attention through slow creases of the paper with pressure and patience. The most important and least valuable thing in the age of the 2017 Beauty and the Beast movie, a dizzying glamorous, and yet cheap and derivative view on the times, is to calm your mind as you fold, let the paper (and the instructions, if you need them) guide you.
Once you make a wrong crease, scrap it, the paper is done for. That's the saddest part. But a piece of origami paper must only make up the creases that hold it, otherwise it will not be a sturdy structure and you will become confused.
This perfect instinct, is the way of returning to our souls. What is not right is simply not right: you must know the difference between now and then because our hearts, like paper, will remain creased, not for pain, but to build us into sturdy creatures and vessels. But if you don't understand the larger pain within yourself you will not be so strong. Like a strangely placed crease, the thing will wear at you.
The paper crane is the most common form of origami, slightly more difficult than a simple fortune teller or box, but easy enough to learn. The Japanese motifs are studies of animals. The belief in Japan is that 1,000 paper cranes will grant a wish or eternal happiness. Often cranes are given at weddings to wish the couple a lifetime of happiness or given to a newborn. Maybe the reason why your deepest wish will come after making the cranes is the inevitable cause of calming your mind and spending time with yourself.
Birds are the messengers of the wilderness. And a crane is the most graceful of them, inspiring calm and beauty in their form. The trickster takes the form of a bird, flying over the world: a symbol of freedom connecting the earth with the sky and initiating transcendence the way Hermes leads through weightlessness, flight, the plights of a man who tumbles into the limitless sky of wisdom. The earth as the ego and the sky is the spiritual realm while the underworld represents the physical body. But the bird, who walks on land and flies, connects the two.
Our hearts are the nature we maneuver, they are our landscape, from this place we will know where to fold, from this calm we don't need to impose individuality, with perfect precision, with eyes half closed, we understand our nature one crease at a time.
Challenge: Make your own 1,000 paper cranes one year from when you are reading this. Welcome to the beginning of your heart’s true desire.