Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dancing Storm Spirit

Floating Corset, by Frances Pellegrini
via Biddington's

"Praised be this wild, good, free spirit of the storm, which dances upon swamps and afflictions, as upon meadows! . . . Lift up your hearts, you good dancers, high! Higher! And do not forget the goodness of laughter! This crown of laughter, this rose garland crown: to you my brothers do I throw this crown! Laughing have I consecrated; you higher men, learn, I pray you - to laugh!" 
  —Friederich Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra, "The Higher Man," #20 

This quotation is partially the inspiration for "the Dancing Alchemist," both the name and the focus of the blog. There's something almost Taoist about the storm spirit's affirmation of all conditions, and there's something magically alchemical about laughter being able to transform the one who laughs, through affirmation, to embrace all circumstances. Isn't that part of the Great Work, to take joy in life as it is given?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

King of Hearts

Scene from The King of Hearts
via Bitchin' Flicks
The King of Hearts, the cult-classic anti-war film, offers an excellent commentary of the insanity of violence and modern society. In case you haven't seen it, it is about an ornithologist (Alan Bates) who is sent to save a French town from being destroyed by a bomb. The setting is World War II, but it has a classic late 60s feel.

Besides making an anti-war statement, it also offers a beautiful parable about the struggle that each of us faces with death and love. 

via Nader Library

The King of Hearts manages to dismantle the bomb, which is hidden in the great clock tower of the church, and thus acknowledges the suffering that can be caused by time. Shortly after comes his great scene of enlightenment: he takes of his clothes and stands at the gate of the insane asylum. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Artful Folding

by Akira Yoshizawa
via Origami Maniacs

"I also want to make in origami the joy of living. In Buddhism we call it 'throwing your body to the ground to thank God.' It might be a little hard to understand, but that's the feeling I've been searching for and trying to put into origami my whole life."
    —Akira Yoshizawa, in Origami: From Anglefish to Zen

Akira Yoshizawa is famous for revolutionizing the art of origami. He invented the wet-folding technique and created the diagram system that is used today for origami directions. What I really love about him is his almost mystical concern for the living world—the story goes that he would create animals not with a goal of simply mimicking their outward appearance, but with an understanding of how the animals developed out of single-cell beginnings. 

"There are two ways to the style of Zen living. One is to know the space around you, to know the world, and accept it. We all inhale the same air, for one thing, so we share nature with one another. The other way is to know yourself, your feelings, and what's inside you. . . . If you know yourself and at the same time love nature and the people around you, the two ways of Zen will be united."
    —Akira Yoshizawa, in Origami: From Anglefish to Zen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: Bottom of a River

Adam Arcuragi would like to share the gospel of death with us. Shall we listen?

I heard about Adam Arcuragi through a fantastic article on Sightings, where M. Cooper Harris describes the genre of Death Gospel and discusses the various artists who could be included in such a label:

"Death Gospel offers an interesting rejoinder to a culture that denies death and decay, insisting instead that particular individualities require a universal point of convergence; it addresses a generation of young adults (and their elders) who, despite their spirituality and electronic connections, feel alienated from their traditions (religious or otherwise), from their humanity, and from one another."

"Death Gospel offers no assurances. What it holds out for is the possibility that people may, together, be transformed in their attitudes toward living, may love and be loved, and thereby recognize in these fleeting moments of community a measure of authentic existence regardless of what lies beyond knowing."

Yes. Amen. I think I'll be learning the whole Death Gospel hymnal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Food for the Soul: Almond Pancakes

by Angela Eata
via el Baul que no tenia mi abeula

Use this recipe to get a little levity in your world. Our first try at almond pancakes yielded some pretty dense cakes, but these are light and fluffy.

Mix: 1 banana, 4 eggs (or 3 jumbo eggs plus a little milk), a cup of almond meal, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Add a little cinnamon and sugar if you need some extra spice or sweetness.

Cook the batter like normal pancakes, and eat like normal pancakes, too. Remember that life doesn't need to be heavy all the time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Golden Rule

Golden Rule Poster, by Koen, age 6
And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of." (Matt 18:3)

When I think of grown ups becoming like little children, I usually don't think of them in positive terms--usually a childish adult comes across as petulant and insecure. But isn't there a better side of childishness, too? One that involves a willingness to laugh, to change focus instantaneously, to see the good in others? What aspects of children do you most admire?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mucha's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in Heaven"
Excerpt from Le Pater, by Alphonse Mucha
via Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha is known for his advertisements featuring alluring Art Nouveau women, but he also created a beautiful book illustrating the Lord's Prayer (Le Pater). I happened to be visiting Prague when there was an exhibition on his work. 

For each phrase of the prayer, Mucha created a symbolic design, an illustrated scene, and a meditation on the meaning of the phrase. 

"Give us this day our daily bread"
Excerpt from Le Pater, by Alphonse Mucha
via Surface Fragments

"Give us this day our daily bread"
Excerpt from Le Pater, by Alphonse Mucha
via Art Nouveau

I love how personal and how thoughtful this work is! You can see the book in its entirety here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

I Opened My Heart, by Rob Ryan
Via Emma Hill

Celebrate the day by opening your heart. What better way to center yourself in harmony with the world?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: Brother Sun Sister Moon

Let's continue on with medieval Christianity, shall we? (Seeing as my last post was on Hildegarde.)

"Brother Sun Sister Moon" isn't really a postmodern hymn, because it was written by Saint Francis back in the day. What makes it postmodern is Donovan's singing of it, and the layer of 60s earthiness that Zeffirelli added to the film. I think this is appropriation and reinterpretation at its best.

This song comes from the movie of the same name, and Brother Sun Sister Moon is one of my favorite movies ever. You must watch it if you haven't already!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Cosmic Egg of Creation

Cosmos, by Hildegarde von Bingen

Above is Hildegarde's vision of the universe: "round and shadowy . . . pointed at the top, like an egg . . . its outermost layer of a bright fire."

What I love about Hildegarde's religion was how filled with viriditas (fertility, fecundity) it was. She was a knowledgeable herbalist and healer, and she used her music to heal and uplift listeners. I think many of her ideas would be seen as novel today; just imagine a woman chanting in an infirmary in this modern world.

If  you're at all interested in her life, I would recommend the movie Vision. It is visually beautiful and gives, what seemed to me, an honest account of her intellectual, spiritual, and social life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Way of the Bodhisattva

"Bathers," by Georges Barbier?
via Orbs of Zenith, via mpt. 1607

"When you look at others think
That it will be through them
That you will come to Buddhahood.
So look on them with frank and loving hearts."
    —The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva

There must be thousands of opportunities to do this in a single day; maybe I can choose to do this just once!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sacred Space: St. Stephen's Church

Let's travel up to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, to visit St. Stephen's Church.

St. Stephen's Church, in Arapahoe, Wyoming

Writing about these kinds of places can never be easy. The forced conversion of native peoples, the banning of their religious rituals, and the general taking of their land is reprehensible. In spite of these facts, though, my first reaction when I saw St. Stephen's Church was one of joy. How wonderful that the artist, Raphael Norse, used his cultural background to transform the church. I really appreciate these allowed forms of diversity, and I wish there was more of it.

Having inherited religious traditions that I'm not so sure I agree with, buildings like this give me hope that there is some room for creative reinterpretation. (Don't be pessimistic and tell me these reinterpretations are just window dressings . . . )

How would you paint your place of worship? 

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Short Mantra

The Tale of the Golden Toad, by Madeline Von Foerster 

May I bring . . .

good out of evil, hope from hopelessness, meaning from absurdity, and save what appeared to be lost.

(via the Enneagram website)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Catch the Moon

Lassoed! by Laurent Laveder

Sometimes you want to just reach into the sky and bring the magic down to earth. 

And it is that very gesture that creates magic.


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