Monday, February 29, 2016

that small place we come upon

How terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living.

- Jostein Gaarder

- via riskywiver

From a short but wonderful interview with Karen Armstrong on Parabola:

KA: The exercise of compassion is what matters in our world. The Dalai Lama says “my religion is kindness.” Confucious said “religion is altruism” – dethroning yourself from the center of your world and putting another there. Now this requires intelligent thought. You really have to think and practice the golden rule about what the other person really wants rather than what you think he ought to want. When we speak to people we should behave as Buddha or Socrates did. Address them where they really are and not where we think they should be. We have to put ourselves in the place of another, and we have to be able to do this globally.


P: How do we find our way out of this trap of spiritual materialism? Can we think our way out?
KA: Basically, I don’t think we need any great figure to come along. We know what to do. The golden rule, that’s all it is. All the traditions teach the same. Instead of waiting for some lead, just go on, just start practicing. And perhaps start demanding it from our politicians and religious leaders, too.

P: That is a radical suggestion.
KA: But everybody knows about the golden rule or compassion. “I may have faith that moves mountains,” says St. Paul. “But if I lack charity it’s worth nothing at all.” And then there’s imagination, which is the ability to think yourself into the position of another.

From a review of The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong written by Barbara King:

I soaked up this book, and have no intention of attempting to analyze it critically. Indeed, I have no strong knowledge base from which to do so. Ask me about the compassion expressed by the gorilla Binti Jua or about the graveside rituals of the extinct Neanderthals, sure, but don’t expect me to distinguish readily Xunzi from Laozi or Biblical author J from E. I admit to only glancing at maps labeled “Judea During the Persian Period” and “The Seleucid, Ptolemaic, and Mauryan Empires.” For the glossary of key concepts at the back of the book that helped me keep straight Brahman and Brahmin, mystai and mythos, I was grateful.

As usual, this post is going to go off in all directions, but of course, with all the familiar themes. How to live, how to find beauty, how to be kind, how to get down to the work of writing, how to find silence. So. Let us continue.

And I just think that “Why is the world so beautiful?” is a question that we all ought to be embracing.

- Robin Wall Kimmerer from The Intelligence in all Kinds of Life, on the On Being Blog

The interview begins:

MS. KRISTA TIPPETT, HOST: “Why is the world so beautiful?” This is a question Robin Wall Kimmerer pursues as a botanist and also as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She writes, “Science polishes the gift of seeing, indigenous traditions work with gifts of listening and language.” An expert in moss — a bryologist — she describes mosses as the “coral reefs of the forest.” She opens a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in all kinds of life we are used to naming and imagining as inanimate.
DR. ROBIN WALL KIMMERER: I can’t think of a single scientific study in the last few decades that has demonstrated that plants or animals are dumber than we think. It’s always the opposite, right? What we’re revealing is the fact that they have a capacity to learn, to have memory, and we’re at the edge of a wonderful revolution in really understanding the sentience of other beings.

And then, the random, how do we feed ourselves as artists thing. 

Flowers were very necessary this past week. So I told myself...

"The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case." 

- Chuck Close

- via Patron of the Arts

A poet I came across reading Anthony Wilson's blogMyra Schneider. Her book is Door to Colour, which is very lovely. Many stand-out poems, though this next one is a favourite of mine:

Finding Silence

by Myra Schneider

Dictionaries define the word in negative terms:
muteness, reticence, taciturnity, noiselessness.
The second volume of The Shorter Oxford English
does include quiet in its weighty considerations

but fails to recognize that at the heart of it
is presence, not absence. I think I already knew
when I was a child running through the wildness
of the moors that silence was a dimension of sound

for there it was fed by curlew cries, by the wind
rushing through untidy cotton-grass and clumps
of marsh marigold, by sheep baaing and great
grey ships honking far below on the Firth of Clyde.

Silence isn't a plant to be cultivated in a solitary house
perched on a hill, not the cave-single-minded seekers
hunt out so that they can contemplate meanings
away from the hurly-burly of the over-peopled world

with its cash machines and quarrels, ceaseless phones,
splashes of laughter. Silence is that small place
we come upon, the patch we clear to be with our selves
in shop, train, lane, doctor's waiting room - anywhere.

- buy The Door to Colour 

It's nearly the end of winter, and I'm drained, I'm drooping, colourless. Like these roses.

Still, there is this majesty, this light.

The Freshness

by Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)

When it's cold and raining
you are more beautiful.

And the snow brings me
even closer to your lips.

The inner secret, that which was never born,
you are that freshness, and I am with you now.

I can't explain the goings,
or the comings. You enter suddenly,

and I am nowhere again.
Inside the majesty.

My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I'm with.

- Rumi

And are we getting tired of this?

I don't get tired of you. Don't grow weary
of being compassionate toward me!

- Rumi

Each day you didn't enjoy wasn't yours:
You just got through it. Whatever you live
        Without enjoying, you don't live.
You don't have to love or drink or smile.
The sun's reflection in a puddle of water
        Is enough, if it pleases you.
Happy those who, placing their delight
in slight things, are never deprived
        Of each day's natural fortune!

- Fernando Pessoa

One morning, a sundog, which kept getting caught in tree tops as I walked.

And this again,

The astonishing reality of things
Is my discovery each day.
Each thing is what it is,
And it's hard to explain to someone how happy this makes me
and how much this suffices me.

All it takes to be complete is to exist.

- Fernando Pessoa

Last things. 

Pinnings (pinings). 

Wishing you a gorgeous week ahead, small quiet places, astonishments, the ordinary beauty a day holds. 

- Shawna


  1. Beautiful. I love how you took us from inside with the warmth of tea to the chill of winter outside.

  2. Astonishing! And I agree with Staci's comment. Thinking about that Chuck Close quote and how true it is. Yesterday I felt very uninspired. I spent the day trying to come up with ideas for images. Finally, I gave up and decided to take a walk in the woods, where I came upon all kinds of wonderful light and birch trees and weeds...did the trick!

  3. You know, the thing that grabbed me with this post were the light in your images -- both indoors and out. There is a new brightness to it, a spring light. Fresh, open and revealing. Loved the tracks of the magpies in the snow.
    Oh boy, do I ever agree with Chuck Close about inspiration -- he's nailed it.
    Various life changes have me living each day in the moment, which really is was Pessoa is saying isn't it? Have a lovely week Shawna.


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