Showing posts from March, 2015

Easter looking

"The Resurrection" by Paolo della Francesca is housed in the museum of his home town, Sansepolcro in Tuscany. It is a striking painting, the figures almost life size, Christ emergent from his tomb, three guards asleep, a fourth covers his eyes, as if knowing what is unfolding and unable to look.

Being unable to look seems an appropriate response to the unfolding moment when death is rolled back into its place as a transient moment between life and Life and sin, the capacity to miss the mark of our being, is no more. Humanity is on target, once more, the divine image being realised as divine likeness, all being restored to one.

That is the gift of it, the freedom of it, yet we slumber on or refuse to look and receive.

Today I was having a conversation about the tendency of theologians to make the simple, complex, it is a comforting response to the simplicity of the Gospel that rather than receive the gift and practice the life it offers, we first examine it, seek to explain …

Being Leonora

Having finished 'Leonora', a novel based on the life of the artist and writer, Leonora Carrington, by Elena Poniatowska, I came away ever more deeply both captivated by the beauty and complexity of her work (that I have been looking at, in parallel, to the unfolding narrative) and by her story.

I had known that she had found herself incarcerated in an asylum in Spain during the Second World War but I had never caught both the intensity of her descent into derangement nor the horrors of her treatment. It was an inferno of suffering where the relative brevity of the timeframe is wholly irrelevant. Its waves flowed on in her life, always threatening to upset its hard won stability. That it did not is testimony to her sheer resilience, key friendships, motherhood and her persistent, necessary vocation.

Reading it I was reminded of James Hillman's 'The Soul's Code' his re-telling, in contemporary guise, of Plato's myth of Ur, where the soul, having seen its chosen…

Wandering the Cosmoses

Today I went to Zurich's wonderful Museum Rietburg, focused on non-Western art, to their exhibition, 'The Cosmos - An Enduring Mystery'.

Cosmic Man from Jain tradition
It was a beautiful and informative walk through the cosmological imagination of diverse cultures, exploring how we have envisaged our place within a meaningful order and how we have depicted it in story, image, artefact. You journey through the vast spaces of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain universes (and in the Hindu case, cycles of universes) or find yourself with the Haida (in the Pacific North West of the Americas) telling stories of a trickster raven whose antics bring forth key components of the world both necessary such as light or useful as in weaving.

The story 'ends' with the Copernican revolution and the birth of modern science and there is a film, hosted by a professor of theoretical physics, that compresses the story of the unfolding uni…


'Leonora' is a novel based on the life of the artist and writer, Leonora Carrington, written by Elena Poniatowska, a friend of Carrington's for more than fifty years. It is, at the outset, a wonderful performance that tells the life of a 'cuckoo' born in a (very comfortable) nest not her own. A highly privileged and wealthy family acquire an only daughter (of four) who is highly imaginative, directly perceptive and gloriously unpredictable.

From the beginning art was a core preoccupation. She draws incessantly and drinks paintings down, absorbing masters and traditions. Likewise she is subject to visions, her imagination was concrete and before her, not fancifully 'within her head', and expressed in a language that is reminiscent of the youthful Blake, except that for Carrington the reference points were more the Irish folklore of her beloved nanny, and of the sidhe,  the people of the mounds, rather than the informing Biblical actors of Blake's format…

The Spirit of Place

I was ten, once again on holiday in Cornwall, and I had come, one weekday, to my favourite spot - Polruan Castle. In truth, it was a ruined tower, on the edge of this fishing village, from which a boom had been swung in the sixteenth century, across the Fowey estuary, to keep the Spanish out. I spent hours their playing, wrapped in a solitary happiness.

It was usually deserted, the tower and the rocks running from it to the sea, but that day, I found a family occupying it. I was uncharacteristically outraged! They were violating 'my place'. The boy, my age or slightly younger, had a football and it rested, away from him, by the rocky sea edge. I fixated on it. If I cannot have it, no one will, I thought. It was a thought that utterly surprised me for I had no interest, at the best of times, in football. I kicked it into the sea (from which, owing to the rocks, its recovery was unlikely). It was an action that cleaved me in two - my normal self looked on, aghast, at the behavi…

On economic determinism...

Reading Duncan Green's excellent blog on development today, I was reminded of the perils of economic determinism. This curious affliction not only infects the world's shrinking number of Marxists but also the practitioners of the more 'classical' versions of that dismal pseudo-science.

I am sometimes tempted to think that a century hence, if we blunder our way through to a happier world, that we will look back on economics as we now are presumed to do on 'astrology' or 'alchemy' - except I think that the predictive power of the former and the spiritual richness of the latter both outstrip any offering of the peculiar modern priesthood that is comprised of economists. (I am deeply comforted that they never appear in Star Trek or indeed in any imaginative, peaceable view of the future I can think of).

Hesse's way

Bernhard Zeller wrote his biography of Hermann Hesse before Hesse became an icon of Sixties' counter culture when, had he lived, Hesse's mailbag would be swollen even further. By the end of his life, Hesse's principal preoccupation, served diligently, was responding to his correspondents, many of them young, that had sprung up in the post Second World War era.

Many of the letters, Zeller, tells us were confessional and saw Hesse as a sage, able to find a 'word by which they might live' (to quote the oft used expression of the earliest disciples of the first Christian elders of the desert, a tradition which Hesse knew and wrote about). Though Hesse was skeptical of his own sage status, recognising that he bore as many questions as he did answers, he nevertheless offered his readers encouragement and hope, always individually tailored, always trying to treat each as the unique person he believed them to be. Their right to follow their own path was a right both Hesse…

God is wherever we allow God in

When I was ten, I discovered there were people called 'atheists'. I was surprised. How was it possible that people could not be touched by presence, presence that enfolded and gifted the world and addressed you, drawing you on into meaning. They were, obviously, using now a word I did not know then, 'obtuse'!

Also they required you apparently to believe (or not) in God. God was not a question of belief. I did not believe that the fabric of the breakfast table furniture bench was blue nor that my parents loved me. They both simply (or complexly) were part of the fabric of reality just as that fabric was woven on the weft of God's presence.

I was reminded of this reading Kenneth Paul Kramer's 'Martin Buber's I and Thou: Practicing Living Dialogue', one of a series of books where Kramer explicates and makes practical the thinking and spirituality of this great, Jewish, teacher. This book focuses on the meaning and purpose of his seminal text.

In the c…

Today's crop

The New Year resolution has long since been forgotten and the 'postperson', on their fab tricycle, has kept feeding my habit for books.

Today, as opposed to yesterday's one, there were three! I wish I could say that they were reflective of a disciplined and focused mind; however, as usual they reflect my dispersed interests - though if you stare hard enough you can trace a common thread (or two or three).

Yesterday's offering was 'The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning' which is not, as its title might suggest, a tract that having demolished science pulls form its hat the rabbit of religion. It is by Marcelo Gleiser who is a double Professor (of Natural Philosophy and Physics and Astronomy) at Dartmouth College and wishes to explore the inherent limits in our capacity for knowledge as an invitation both to a better understanding of ourselves and to the adventure of fashioning ever more compelling models of reality whilst neve…

The dictatorship of law

Karl Kraus, the Austrian intellectual, satirist and 'anti-journalist' confessed that over Hitler he had nothing to say because satire has its limits and when the 'reality' has appeared to step over the bounds of the known into the 'surreal' (and potentially terrifying), it falls silent as there is nothing to exaggerate to illuminating or humorous effect. Kraus did not live to see his intuition completed, dying in 1936, he saw neither the annexation of his homeland nor the fate of the Jews, a fate, that as a Jew, he would have shared.

This brings me to Mr Putin, not to compare him with Hitler with regard to the latter's terrible results, but as someone who is increasingly immune to satire. Indeed perhaps this is a warning indicator around any regime that as soon as it achieves this immunity, it ought to, in truth, be time for it to go (or, at the very least, for everyone to be highly wary of it and, sadly, prepare for the worst). Or as Lao Tzu would say if …