I am preparing an exhibition in November in Sarajevo. The theme is the Elements. It is a fusion of oriental thought (Feng Shui) with Western view of elemental chemistry, of music, dance and painting, but also a creative endeavor based on friendship! More details to come!
” I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the anciently, stealing, fighting.”
This traditional view that adolescence (and part of youth) is a natural period of rebellion, thrill-seeking activities, is unfortunately deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Parents are defeated and helpless when confronted with their teenage children. Teachers entering classrooms feel like entering an arena. And more importantly youth and pre-youth feel darkness and despair because their aspirations for justice, high ideals are not finding a way of expression.
The years immediately before this age, then, take on special significance. This is the time when fundamental concepts about individual and collective life are formulated in the mind of an adolescent struggling to leave behind the habits of childhood. Youth between the ages of 12 to 15 have much to say, and whoever treats them as children misses the opportunity to help them form a proper identity.
To empower junior youth and assist them to direct their energies towards the advancement of civilization is an endeavor in which all can participate. It is not a time to “leave and let live” but a time of thoughtful guidance, of continuous dialogue and respectful consideration. It is the time to put into practice patience and compassion you’ve acquired during the long nights of sleepless caring for an infant. Being a parent/teacher is an organic process, little by little, day by day…
*(The Winter’s Tale 3.3.59-63. One of the shepherds complains of young men scaring away his sheep.)
Three in the morning is the time when our blood pressure is the lowest, our wakefulness as well. Paradoxically it gets our bodies to wake up to avoid total shutdown. It is also the time when most industrial accidents happen, think Chernobyl for example.
What Scott Fitzgerald did not know is that our biological clocks, the center in the brain setting the pace to our hormonal cycles, sleep-wake patterns etc.. is reset by the light our eyes perceive. Even the blind mole which has a couple of retina cells left knows there is light during the day. So the blindest mole will know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now, a mole drinking straight gin like Scott Fitzgerald would have trouble finding it’s way out of the tunnel and believe life is a long dark night.
One amazing soul who embodies hope in darkness is Mahvash Sabet who as one of the leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran has been sentenced to 20 years of emprisonnement. Baha’is in Iran are subjected to increased persecutions ( see Iran Watch and BIC ). Mahvash Sabet was for a time sharing a cell with American journalist Roxana Saberi who shared her experience when she was released. Mahvash Sabet now spends her time in isolation with very limited contact with the outside world. However, her family was able to smuggle poems she wrote. These have been published in their English adaptation. In her “Prison poems” she writes about the hardships of captivity she and her fellow inmates suffer from, yet she does not complain for herself. And she talks about hope:
” Remember me,
for I am naught without you,
a beggar at your feet,
dependent on you,
whose very life relies entirely on you.
You are the spirit and I,
the body only:
and yet we are united and intact,
in a single rhyme. – ”
and in the poem addressed to Fariba Kamalabadi the other baha’i women leader sentenced to 20 years with her she shares her vision of the future, a bright light at the end of the tunnel:
” May your land flourish, your heart leap in ecstasy forever, and your memory rebound with the jubilation of the people of Iran. ”
On my yearly trip back to one of my homelands, France, I took a slower pace to savour the meeting of friends and family. I had the great pleasure of spending a full day with two friends from school. We used to be called the three musketeers then as we were always prompt to raise to a verbal duel. Now that our mane has withened, we still love a challenge but as our hearts bear their scars proudly our words have mellowed and strive to heal rather than cut.
We went to visit the musee Marmottan in the 16th arrondissement. It hosts an amazing collections of paintings from Monet as well as personal artifacts from his home and the one of Berthe Morisot one of the few female impressionists. It is not well known by parisians and unjustly so. It is well worth a visit. Certainly visiting it for me added images I will treasure to the soundtrack of our 36 year old friendship!
Having spent my childhood in a country where one is constantly reminded of the transient nature of life; beggars, lepers, stray dogs in the street would not be there the next week. And when history decided to play a trick on my parents plans, family and friends where gone. The unexpected sweetness of life afterwards was always coloured by the nostalgia of the life that had been and the apprehension that this too would pass. In this beautiful film, Jason Silva captures the essence of what makes us carry on, never letting go and turning the ephemeral into permanence. Contrary to what he says though I think this is exactly the essence of detachment: being able to love profoundly and yet being able to not be hindered with that love, turning our longings, our needs, our fears into steps that carry us towards the eternal life. That is the paradox of detachment. If you don’t start with being attached you cannot experience the dizziness of reaching the altitude! I will not let go but for that I have to let go! Existential bummer indeed!
Apparently this song “Papaoutai” is a hit this summer in France. The title is a funny rendition of the sentence ” Dad, where are you?”
The lyrics are quite sad as the singer Stromae reflects on the absence of his father and that although he was told how to make babies he was never told how to become a father.
As a teacher, there is nothing more fulfilling than the glee of a child saying “look, I did it myself!” As we advance in life, this exhilarating feeling is rarely felt unless one takes courses, classes, learns a new language or just tries something new or silly like jumping over a bridge with a rope tied to your legs. But this is still well-named child’s play compared to conquering the self.
Conquering our fears, taming our character, channeling our emotions is indeed a steeper trail. Some useful pickaxes: prayer, reflection and meditation. Prayer helps us tap into this mysterious well of spirituality, gives us strength to develop our virtues and connect to others. While reflection combined with meditation ” frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.”(1). For those who like me have vertigo standing on a stool, there is a beauty in having tools that do not require to go up a mountain or be locked in an isolated spot. We can use them every day as we go about our daily business. Daily prayer for ourselves, our loved ones or by working in a spirit of service; reflection at the end of each day on our actions and how to improve; meditation (2) on the meaning of events, words, concepts. So one day, I might conquer myself and my self, pulverize this monstrous mountain in me and become the person God had intended me to be.
“Great is indeed your blessedness inasmuch as His unfailing grace hath been vouchsafed unto you and ye have been aided to recognize this Cause — a Cause through whose potency the heavens have been folded together and every lofty and towering mountain hath been scattered in dust.”(3)
(1) Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174
(2) disclaimer: I do not advocate any particular technique. Holding still in silence for a couple of minutes is already a feat in my too talkative, hyperactive opinion.
(3) Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)