June 6th, 2010
The image above is known as the Mandelbulb, Daniel White and Paul Nylander’s 3-D rendering of the famous, complex fractal known as the Mandelbrot Set. The Mandelbrot Set was first rendered in 2D about 30 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2007 or so that progress was made in rendering it in three dimensions. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
To get the full effect, zoom in on the Mandelbulb here, and try this further zoom-in of a section of the bulb here, and others here, the latter links being from White’s site, which offers, among other things, a fascinating history of how the Mandelbrot Set became rendered as a Mandelbulb.
I once sent the above Mandelbulb image to some friends, without explanation or subject heading, in an email. I didn’t want to frame it with any language that would predispose them to view it as startling, beautiful, awe-inspiring, scary, weird, ugly, ad inf. — rather, I wanted to see what people would feel presented with the image in its absolute is-ness, because for me, nature’s moments of infinite outgrowth & cluster (an incredibly fitting symbol of which is the Mandelbulb) simultaneously inspire all the above feelings and none. The fringes on curly kale, the natural fractal of Romanesco broccoli, the lung’s alveoli, the detail of certain crystals at the microscopic level, the infinite expansion of the universe itself — all these phenomena showcasing nature at her most endlessly dense, whether seen or unseen, implosive or expansive, micro- or macrosopic, all are capable of filling me with way too many feelings to ever hope to catalogue, not all of them pleasant.
Take the Mandelbulb — I can stare at it and feel dread at its magnitude and infinite zoom-in-ability, and at my negligible smallness in relation. Or horror at the Bulb’s endless devouring outgrowth, like one would feel suddenly deposited deep in the middle of the densest, most claustrophobic tangle of jungle, unsure of what creeps or breathes under this leaf or among those vines. Or amazement at the complexity of it, and of creation in general, at the magnificent architecture inherent in so many of its manifestations. Or awe at the haunting, almost gothic beauty of its spikes and whorls and serrations. Or sheer rapturous, sensual delight in the decadent superabundance of it, eye-roving across all its innumerable crusts, ornaments, swirls, whirlpools, scrolls, apertures, arcs, florets, teeth, maws and its other, unnameable growths upon growths upon growths. Or other feelings I couldn’t name if I tried. And, if the conditions are right, slowly, sometimes quickly, I’ll feel all those feelings in succession, or even at once. What happens next is a super-saturation of feelings and observations, all cross-canceling & blending, like all colors coalescing to Black, leaving me with only a rare kind of Stillness. This Stillness is not the same as impassivity, or void, or emptiness (which would be White, the absence of color) — rather it is a focused, charged state of being, when all you can do is experience an aspect of creation, like the Mandelbulb, on its terms alone, as it is in itself, without recourse to ideas or feelings — and not because ideas or feelings are dispensable, or unnecessary, but because all of them are occurring at once, and therefore all canceled-out, and can therefore no longer interfere with your direct channel to the thing itself.
To the extent that White and Nylander were able to construct an object which, to me, can produce this state — like the ocean can, or a Mandala, or the greatest of stained glass windows — a state of absolute contemplation that becomes nothing but pure relating to the object before you — no screen, no filter — I thank them.
(White’s site, with more Mandelbulb history/imagery, lives here).
All Writing © 2010 C. Way/ SnailCrow.com