“Making your unknown known is the important thing” Georgia O’Keeffe (artist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I’m sharing two drawings with an underlying Easter thread maybe because Easter is coming up here in Greece. Of course, everything will be different this year with the enforced lock down. Customarily, many small businesses like guest houses, cafes, restaurants, hotels and other shops would be looking forward to this period, the many visitors and tourists and the additional income. Also, it is more an outdoor celebration. Now the town is empty, the roads are quieter, the buses are not running and very few people travel to and from the island by boat. It is hard wrap one’s mind around the global consequences of job and income loss for so many people here and around the world. We will eventually all make different meaning of these events depending on our prior experiences, circumstances, value system and general outlook on life. For me it seems that the only way to move forward and to survive both as a species and a planet is to embrace a more collaborative, respectful view of both other people and the world at large. One invisible virus seems to have sent a big part of the world on an enforced lock down with consequences that we will fully understand as the health crisis recedes and the fiscal and social collateral damage comes into full view.

Maybe this general experience of being housebound could lead us to rethink prevalent cut throat competitive and aggressive attitudes and behaviours at work, at school settings and in other social group contexts. Instead of being at war with each other we could experiment with coexisting respectfully despite our diversity, considering that others are like us and have similar fundamental needs. In his book, The Winter of our Discontent, John Steinbeck wrote: “No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.” After all, our own humanity is intertwined with recognising others’ humanity. Desmond Tutu has said “When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” For the many of us who are healthy it could also become a time of retreat, rest and reflection and spending time in nature. We have been taking walks in places we hadn’t walked before, and have found that after decades of living here I am still moved by the beauty of the scenery of this small island. A few photos of places we have ventured recently.

Along with the photos and drawings I am posting poems in the form of journal entries, by the Greek Nobel prize winner poet Odysseas Elytis, of Saturday and Easter Sunday

The Journal of an Unseen April, which has been translated into English by David Connolly contains 49 poems in the form of journal entries, beginning on 1 April and ending on 7 May, and covers the whole period of an unspecified Greek Easter (though some critics specify the year as being 1981 when Easter fell, as in the Journal, on 26 April). ……..’

Από τη συλλογή «Ημερολόγιο ενός αθέατου Απριλίου» που αποτελείται από 49 ποιήματα με τη μορφή σελίδων ημερολογίου, που ξεκινά 1η Απριλίου και τελειώνει 7 Μαΐου, καλύπτοντας όλη την περίοδο του Ελληνικού Πάσχα (πιθανά του 1981), η οποία περιλαμβάνεται στην έκδοση: «ΟΔΥΣΣΕΑΣ ΕΛΥΤΗΣ – ΠΟΙΗΣΗ», Ίκαρος 2002)

 Μ. ΣΑΒΒΑΤΟ, 25

Περαστική από τη χθεσινή αϋπνία μου       /       λίγο, για μια στιγμή, μου χαμογέλασε

η θεούλα με τη μωβ κορδέλα          /        που από παιδάκι μού κυκλοφοράει τα μυστικά

Ύστερα χάθηκε πλέοντας δεξιά       /       να πάει ν’ αδειάσει τον κουβά με τ’ απορρίμματά μου –

της ψυχής αποτσίγαρα κι αποποιηματάκια – εκεί που βράζει ακόμη όλο παλιά νεότητα  /  και αγέρωχο το πέλαγος.

Μ. ΣΑΒΒΑΤΟ, 25 β

Πάλι μες στην κοιλιά της θάλασσας το μαύρο εκείνο σύννεφο  / που ανεβάζει κάπνες  /  όπως φωνές επάνω από ναυάγιο

Χαμένοι αυτοί που πιάνονται από τ’ Άπιαστα

Όπως εγώ προχθές του αγίου Γεωργίου ανήμερα

που πήγα να παραβγώ μ’ αλόγατα όρθια και θωρακοφόρους

και μου χύθηκε όλη, όξω απ’ τη γης, η ερωτοπαθής ψυχή μου.

ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ (ΠΑΣΧΑ), 26

Καθαρή διάφανη μέρα. Φαίνεται ο άνεμος που ακινητεί με τη μορφή βουνού κει κατά τα δυτικά. Κι η θάλασσα με τα φτερά διπλωμένα, πολύ χαμηλά, κάτω από το παράθυρο.

Σου ’ρχεται να πετάξεις ψηλά κι από κει να μοιράσεις δωρεάν την  ψυχή σου. Ύστερα να κατεβείς και, θαρραλέα, να καταλάβεις τη  θέση στον τάφο που σου ανήκει.

ΚΥΡΙΑΚΗ (ΠΑΣΧΑ), 26 β

Ανεμόεσσα κόρη ενήλικη θάλασσα   /  πάρε το κίτρο που μου ’δωκε ο Κάλβος   /   δικιά σου η χρυσή μυρωδία

Μεθαύριο θα ’ρθουν τ’ άλλα πουλιά  /  θα ’ναι πάλι ελαφρές των βουνών οι γραμμές   /   μα βαριά η δική μου καρδία.

The evolution of a birthday drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On gratitude for the gifted nature of life by David Whyte

Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given. Gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event; it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life. Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege, that we are miraculously part of something rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape’

On Healing the Child Within by Thich Nhat Hanh

‘In each of us, there is a young, suffering child. We have all had times of difficulty as children and many of us have experienced trauma. To protect and defend ourselves against future suffering, we often try to forget those painful times. Every time we’re in touch with the experience of suffering, we believe we can’t bear it, and we stuff our feelings and memories deep down in our unconscious mind. It may be that we haven’t dared to face this child for many decades. But just because we may have ignored the child doesn’t mean she or he isn’t there. The wounded child is always there, trying to get our attention. The child says, “I’m here. I’m here. You can’t avoid me. You can’t run away from me.” We want to end our suffering by sending the child to a deep place inside, and staying as far away as possible. But running away doesn’t end our suffering; it only prolongs it.

The wounded child asks for care and love, but we do the opposite. We run away because we’re afraid of suffering. The block of pain and sorrow in us feels overwhelming. Even if we have time, we don’t come home to ourselves. We try to keep ourselves constantly entertained—watching television or movies, socializing, or using alcohol or drugs—because we don’t want to experience that suffering all over again.

The wounded child is there and we don’t even know she is there. The wounded child in us is a reality, but we can’t see her. That inability to see is a kind of ignorance. This child has been severely wounded. She or he really needs us to return. Instead we turn away. Ignorance is in each cell of our body and our consciousness. It’s like a drop of ink diffused in a glass of water. That ignorance stops us from seeing reality; it pushes us to do foolish things that make us suffer even more and wound again the already-wounded child in us.

The wounded child is also in each cell of our body. There is no cell of our body that does not have that wounded child in it. We don’t have to look far into the past for that child. We only have to look deeply and we can be in touch with him. The suffering of that wounded child is lying inside us right now in the present moment………

When we become aware that we’ve forgotten the wounded child in ourselves, we feel great compassion for that child and we begin to generate the energy of mindfulness. The practices of mindful walking, mindful sitting, and mindful breathing are our foundation. With our mindful breath and mindful steps, we can produce the energy of mindfulness and return to the awakened wisdom lying in each cell of our body. That energy will embrace us and heal us, and will heal the wounded child in us.

When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside us. Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all our attention. That little child might emerge from the depths of your consciousness and ask for your attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment, instead of paying attention to whatever is in front of you, go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child. You can talk directly to the child with the language of love, saying, “In the past, I left you alone. I went away from you. Now, I am very sorry. I am going to embrace you.” You can say, “Darling, I am here for you. I will take good care of you. I know you suffer so much. I have been so busy. I have neglected you, and now I have learned a way to come back to you.” If necessary, you have to cry together with that child…….

Embracing your child tenderly, you reassure him that you will never let him down again or leave him unattended. The little child has been left alone for so long. That is why you need to begin this practice right away. If you don’t do it now, when will you do it?  ………    Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. The wounded child in you needs you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things. Practice mindful walking and mindful breathing. Do everything in mindfulness so you can really be there, so you can love’  (Extract from an article adapted from Reconciliation: Healing The Inner Child (2010) by Thich Nhat Hanh)

Walking

‘Ο ήλιος σκάει μέσα μας κι εμείς κρατάμε την παλάμη στο στόμα έντρομοι’ Οδυσσέας Ελύτης

Για να πατάς στέρεα στη γη, πρέπει το ένα πόδι σου να είναι έξω από τη γη’ Οδυσσέας Ελύτης

‘Kiss the Earth with your feet’  Thich Nhat Hanh

Αs I was walking by the sea my attention was caught by the orange-crimson sun that was setting and the shifts of colour and clouds in the sky for a while, and then I drifted into thoughts about what to make for dinner and if I needed to get anything from the market. Then I pondered on the memoir I had just finished by Ariana Neumann*. It’s a Holocaust related story of her ten year quest to know more about her father, his family and early life in Europe.  She writes ‘My father left the world of which he seldom spoke as a riddle for me to unlock…… The boxes held a jigsaw puzzle for me to reconstruct, with pieces just large enough to allow a sense of the theme. But there were also missing parts, fragments that I had to find to complete the picture.’

The book traces her journey from her own childhood in Latin America, where her father had built a prosperous life as an immigrant to her father’s death and the beginning of her journey back in time and in history to reclaim her father’s past, and ultimately, parts of herself and extended family unknown to her. She covers the period prior to the deportation of her grandparents and other relatives to camps and talks about the culmination of events and aggression as a constructed political strategy. She writes: ‘The first tier had been to exclude the Jews from society, the second to concentrate them as a segregated temporary work force in places like Terezín, and then, finally, to deport them to extermination camps further east.’  In the book we witness how throughout the thirties people were gradually deprived of legal rights and subjected to systematic public humiliation and intimidation. They were made, for example, to scrub the streets with their toothbrushes or consume grass like animals. They lost their right to vote and were banned from state-sector jobs in government, law, farming, publishing, journalism and the arts. And even before the official decree that banned Jews from schools and universities her uncle had received a letter informing him that he must leave college.

Today in our democracies and societies we talk about social exclusion as the process in which people are blocked from or denied full access to rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of another group, and which are fundamental to social integration.  Even though laws protect many of these rights, deprivation and alienation resulting from social exclusion connected to social class, skin color, sexual orientation, appearance or age, religion or non religion, gender, ethnic origin, educational status, childhood relationships, political opinions or a combination of the above, take place. However, we tend to forget that many terrible things are hatched over a long stretch of time, and this is true both at a collective level and at an individual. And then maybe a global health crisis arises and we are shaken out of our trance and reminded of our deep interdependence, and that our own health and safety are inherently dependent on others’ well being and the health of our planet.

Meanwhile, as I was lost in all this thinking the road got busier and I realised that I wasn’t paying much attention to life around me. Walking is usually a habituated action that requires little concentration and it is easy to slip into a semi conscious state of walking. So, I left my political musings for later and turned to being mindfully aware of each step, my breath and bodily sensations, as well, as the magnificent sky, the sounds of nature and vehicles, and those around me.

Below is the poem, A Walk, by Rainer Maria Rilke that came to my mind as I was writing this today

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far beyond the road I have begun,
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has an inner light, even from a distance-
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

* Ariana Neumann, 2020, When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains