Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

by J. J. Granville
via Little Hokum Rag

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
    —Matthew 7:3

Lately I've been thinking a lot about stories we tell ourselves, and the verse above keeps popping into my head. I feel like it has beautiful applicability to current postmodern concepts of personal narratives. 

There are times when I don't enjoy the stories other people tell about themselves. The stories seem so detached from the reality that I'm seeing. But then I remember that the stories I tell about myself are just as strange and unfathomable. So what can I do?

Surely there is a way to be gentle and loving that shows our friends the unexplored sides to the stories they tell. It probably doesn't do much good to get indignant about little mythologies (unless they're tending towards weirdo, evil delusions), because for the person who's telling them, these mythologies are true. If we are craving gentleness from others, it seems only kind to be gentle with others' stories.

And maybe we can open our own life story up to the contributing views of others. What do you think? Is it possible to allow someone else to share in the authorship of your life?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

4: Earth and Harmony

"Diamond in a Square" Quilt Top
via Cowan's
Let's continue on with the number series based on The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider. 

With number four comes the square, the symbol of matter and stability—four directions, four seasons, four elements (reinterpreted by Schneider as solid, liquid, gas, and plasma), and so on. 

Part of the beauty of the square is the way it can be diminished or expanded by using its midpoints to create a diamond or using its endpoints as the midpoints of a bigger diamond. 

This expanding and diminishing pattern makes a great metaphor for the common saying "as above, so below": as we see the pattern in the physical world, so can we look creatively into our inner worlds to see patterns of fourness. Jung saw four psychological functions: thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation (see his Psychological Types). Schneider describes Adam's dominion over the earth as mastery over the four elements of his inner nature. 

Part of me feels uncomfortable with the assertions of that last paragraph, that there is truly some fourfold aspect to our psyches, but I do think these metaphors can be helpful. If we can learn from the harmony outside of us, perhaps we can transform our inner lives to be more harmonious as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Admiring: Brave Artist

La Llamada (The Call) , by Remedios Varo
via wikiart
Artworks by Remedios Varo capture inner worlds that aren't always discernible in every day life. I love that she was courageous enough to paint these surreal visions, even if her viewers are as unaware as the citizens sleeping in the city walls, as in La Llamada, above. In many paintings, she honors women for having a connection to creativity and intuition, gifts that seem to come from a higher, otherworldy source.

Sometimes, this connection can make exhausting, inescapable demands, as in Papilla Estellar below. The woman feeds the moon ground up stars, but neither the moon nor the woman look particularly healthy or happy.
Papilla Estellar ("Celestial Pabulum"), by Remedios Varo
Sometimes, men are able to harness the "female" connection to dreams and creativity, but, as suggested in Troubador, they don't always feel safe in what they are doing.

Troubador, by Remedios Varo
Regardless of whether you agree with her differentiation of the genders, I do think it's true that getting in touch with dreamworlds can be scary and uncomfortable. Hence, my admiration for Remedios—she was truly a heroic artist.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sacred Space: Church Ruins and Angel Oaks

by Dustin K. Ryan

Sheldon Church, north of Savannah, Georgia, located in South Carolina, was destroyed twice: once in the Revolutionary War and once during the Civil War. And yet, despite what has been done to it, it's beautiful, don't you think? 

Can you imagine looking out of the arches and back out into the trees? Somehow the landscape would be transformed, and the trees would be part of the church.

Walking back through the arches of the ruins, and into the trees, maybe our relationship to the landscape would be changed, and maybe everything would feel a little more sacred.

Angel Oak

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food for the Soul: Spring Onions and Eggs

Plate V, by John Ridgway
 from Charles Bendire's Life Histories of North American Birds, 
With Special Reference to Their Breeding Habits and Eggs
via Classic Nature Prints

This past Saturday, our farmer's market opened up for the spring. At this time, there isn't much available for us besides greens of different sorts—lettuce, broccoli, spring onions. I think one of the best ways to celebrate early spring is to make a simple dish of sauteed spring onions and poached eggs. (It works best with spring onions that have grown bigger than the regular scallions you get at the grocery story and with orange-yolk eggs that have come from healthy chickens.)

All you do is halve the onions length-wise and sautee them until they're carmelized and tender. In the meantime, poach two eggs for each person. (We have a handy egg-poacher that my father-in-law got us after I had a slight melt down in the kitchen one breakfast . . . Word to the wise: don't try to poach eggs at altitude—they'll never set!) Go ahead and toast some bread to soak up the egg yolk when you're done with the main event.

The beauty of this dish is that the flavors are sweet and delicate, and the textures are also soft and tender, so the final combination is a celebration of all that is new this season. Eat it and give thanks for all that's new and tender and just beginning to grow in your life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Imitating the Habit of Twilight

Untitled landscape, by Rabindranath Tagore

I've been feeling at odds with time lately. I say 'lately' not because my racing around is an entirely new feeling, but rather the same old feeling has been stronger the past few weeks, despite my best intentions to slow down. I know I'm partially making up for a few weekends of missed productivity, and I know I'm also being too concerned with getting everything done.

John O'Donohue has gave a fantastic interview with Krista Tippet of On Being, where he described stress as "a perverted relationship with time." A harmonious relationship with time, in his view, is being a subject within time and seeing the "deep heart" of time, which is possibility and transfiguration. It's such a beautiful thought, to see time as our invisible friend instead of our cruel tormentor. 

John O'Donohue also has a beautiful blessing for "one who is exhausted." Here is the end of it:

"Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Postmodern Hymn: Morning Has Broken

Foxglove, by Beatrix Potter
via Shelley Bean, via Victoria Albert Museum

Here's another hymn that isn't entirely new (see my post on Brother Sun Sister Moon for another example). Cat Stevens brings a earnest, hippie feeling to this classic hymn, and the tone seemed just right for these spring days we've been having. I walk outside and see bursts of new color each day—what a miracle this world is!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Doing Nothing

The Night before Footrace, by Toshio Ebine

"The Tao does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone."
    —Tao Te Ching, verse 37, Lao Tzu

Lately I've been doing everything, and leaving everything undone, so this little reminder of wu-wei is beyond helpful for me.  

For me this piece of wisdom specifically applies to my inner world, where I feel so tempted to fix everything and work to achieve a blissful, peaceful state of mind. But maybe I could let go of trying to work out every little problem. Maybe I could just go on with my life and live it well, and then maybe things would naturally come into alignment. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ritual for a Bad Day

Cherry Blossom, by Kirra Jamison
via Black Eiffel
Some days just throw it all at you, and all you can do is go with the flow. Here is my ritual for a bad day:

1. Listen to Joni Mitchell sing about laughing it all away.
2. Look at art that looks back at you. Looking at Kirra Jamison's art is like having a conversation with all the magic in the world.
3. Cuddle your dog after a good walk, and trade your worried human mind for calm dog mind. 
4. Eat the most colorful food you can find.

Music, art, food, love are the things that can reorient your whole day. I'd seek these types of "rituals" out even on a good day, but there's something about having a bad day that makes you cling/take refuge to those things you know to be good for you.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bringing Forth What Is Within

via Vintage Fan Girl

Elaine Pagels has been making the rounds to publicize her latest book on the Book of Revelation, and in listening to and reading some of her interviews, I've been reminded of her past work with gnostic texts. One of her favorite passages from the Gospel of Thomas is also one of my favorites:

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

How's that for a short Easter message? What a beautiful celebration and affirmation of life! The message fits with so many philosophies that inspire me. Allow what's within you, whether it's shadowy or angelic, to be integrated within you, and you will be reborn, and you will see the world with new eyes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Which Color Do You See?

Jungla n.1, Carnovsky
via A Daily Riot

Jungla n.1 in blue light

This art is such a great metaphor for how we go through life. We all have our own filters that show only part of the story. Not that filtering is a bad thing; how else will you arrive at a narrative and meaning? But if the narrative isn't working for you, don't forget that you can change it!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Personal Myth: The World

Here are is the second part to my series on my personal myth. You can see the first here.

I've been hesitating to continue posting my personal myth series, first of all because it is personal, and second of all because my art is going through some transformation and it feels strange to post something that would look completely different if I were to make it today. But, regardless, I want to share.

In "The World," I'm trying to think about what it means that the world is the way it is—that there are sentient beings, that there is life and death—and how humans fit into that narrative.

The World, by me

The World, by me

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day of the Fool

The Fool, by Beatriz Inglessis

Happy April Fool's Day!

How wonderful is it that our culture has a day to celebrate fools and jokes? Because aren't we all "fools" in some way or another? Isn't the joke always on us? We go through life, thinking we're somehow different from all the other crazy people out there, but we're not any different! 

In the tarot world, the major cards of the deck tell the story of the Fool's journey towards wisdom and understanding. Unlike some hero born for greatness, the Fool starts out with very little besides hope and a smile on his face.

Often there is a small dog following behind the Fool, nipping at his heels or pulling at his pants. I like to think of the dog as the trickster, or the un-integrated parts of ourselves that like to make jokes at our expense. 

Today, honor the Fool by noticing how many times the joke's on you, and then laugh and enjoy the journey. 


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