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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Crossing Over

August 12th, 2009

Björn Olinder’s Pictures

I have learned about dying by looking at two pictures
Björn Olinder needed to look at when he was dying:
a girl whose features are obscured by the fall of her hair
planting a flower,
and a seascape: beyond the headland
a glimpse of immaculate sand that awaits our footprints.

Michael Longley (1937), in anthology Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (2003)

Hermeticism as Art

August 8th, 2009

From the BBC website:

A hermit is re-entering society after spending 40 days and 40 nights in Manchester Museum’s Gothic tower.

Ansuman Biswas, 43, from London, chose 40 objects from the museum collection during his isolation, where he contemplated “loss and extinction”.

He posted his thoughts on the items on a blog, as well as practising yoga and meditation for up to five hours a day.

Mr Biswas, an artist, told the BBC it had been a wonderful experience which he hoped to repeat in the future.

“It’s flown by really. I wish I could have another 40 days and 40 nights,” said the hermit.

“There’s so much to do still and I’ve got lots of ideas that I’ve run out of time now to realise.

“Except I could continue to do them in real life, or whatever real life is.”

Human skull

Each day Mr Biswas studied one object from the museum’s vast collection of 4.5 million artefacts, which he had chosen in advance.

He mused on its relevance to the world and posted his thoughts on a blog, sparking debate among members of the public.

The items included a human skull, an extinct St Helena giant earwig and a honey bee.

“The objects have been a revelation,” said Mr Biswas.

“They’ve just opened up areas of thinking and it’s been a chance to really look into different disciplines and different ways of looking at the world.

“So the opportunity and the time to do that has been the most amazing thing, really.”

See a videoclip of the hermit at the BBC site here.

From Artdaily
Born in Calcutta and now based in London, Ansuman Biswas has a wide-ranging international practice encompassing music, film, live art, installation, writing and theatre. He often works across and between conventional boundaries, those between science, art and industry, for instance, or between music, dance and visual art.

He has an established solo practice and also works in collaboration with other artists. He has worked with a range of art institutions such as the Royal Opera House, The National Theatre, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, but he has also been invited to work with many non-arts institutions. Amongst these are the National Institute of Medical Research, Hewlett-Packard’s Research lab in Bangalore, Portsmouth Cathedral and the Russian Space Agency.

Over the last few years his work has included directing Shakespeare in America, translating Tagore’s poetry from the Bengali, designing underwater sculptures in the Red Sea, living with wandering minstrels in India, being employed as an ornamental hermit in the English countryside, touring with Björk, spending two days blindfolded in an unknown place, travelling with shamans in the Gobi Desert, playing with Oasis, collaborating with neuroscientists in Arizona, co-coordinating grassroots activists in Soweto, being sealed in a box for ten days with no food or light, making a musical in a maximum security prison, redesigning Maidstone High Street, being a soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, running seminars on democracy for monks in a Burmese monastery, and even flying on a real magic carpet in Russia.


Lady Godiva is Alive & Well and Living in…

August 8th, 2009

Regular visitors may have noticed that the most popular post of all time on this blog is mysteriously (to me) entitled Saluting Pru Porretta aka Lady Godiva

In order to research whether this is due to Pru Poretta’s immense popularity, or to a fascination with Lady Godiva that outstrips interest in, say, Climate Change, Druids or Alanis Morisette, or whether it is perhaps a WordPress malfunction, I’ve decided to try checking the Lady Godiva angle first…. Forgive me for involving you in this research project. So that you get something interesting about Lady Godiva if you have surfed here, here is an extract from my forthcoming book (Reaktion, Spring 2010) ‘A Brief History of Nakedness: Nudity in Religion, Politics & Popular Culture’ :

The Legend of Lady Godiva

The first instance in British history of naked protest is probably apocryphal. In the Flowers of History by Roger of Wendover, written in St.Albans and Westminster Abbey in the thirteenth-century, the story is told of an eleventh century couple, Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric of Mercia. Taking pity on the local townsfolk of Coventry, Godiva asked her husband again and again to lower the crippling taxes he was imposing on them. He refused to listen, until one day, growing tired of her constant entreaties, he said that he would, provided she agreed to ride naked through the town. She accepted his challenge but issued a proclamation that all citizens should remain behind closed doors and not look out of their windows when she rode her horse with nothing but her long tresses of hair to hide her nakedness. In a later version of this story, written in the seventeenth century, an extra character was introduced: Peeping Tom, who disobeyed the order not to watch. It was this incident that provided the comedian Tony Hancock with perfect material for a joke:  ‘Take the case of Doubting Thomas who was sent to Coventry for staring through a keyhole at Lady Godiva. Can anybody prove he was looking at her? Can anybody prove it was he who shouted ‘Get your hair cut!’
Historians now believe the story is legendary. It is such a striking tale, they believe that if it really happened it would have been recorded in contemporary histories. In addition, there is only evidence of a tax on horses rather than people or property in that region, and since Coventry was only established as a town in the eleventh century it would hardly have been big enough for such a gesture. The evidence is stacked against it having taken place. But like all good stories, if it isn’t true it ought to be, and people have found the incident inspiring from the moment it was recounted.

Earth Pilgrim

August 8th, 2009

I have just finished Satish Kumar’s biography ‘No Destination’ and have felt so inspired by it I have joined The Resurgence Trust, which produces Resurgence magazine, which focuses on eco-spiritual issues. If you join online they will send you a free copy of Satish’s documentary film ‘Earth Pilgrim’ which is the closest television has ever got to creating a meditative experience. It features him talking about life and his love of Dartmoor, and has the most beautiful photography. You can see read details about the trust here.

Here is a quote from the penultimate page of ‘No Destination’:

“The Roman Empire did not last forever. The British Empire, over which the sun never set, came to an end. Communist control of the Societ bloc, once so powerful, has disappeared into history. Slavery ended, apartheid ended, and there is no reason to believe that the ecologicaly unsustainable and personally dissatisfying forces of materialism manifested in money-dominated economies will last forever.” Satish Kumar

Travel & History -The Two Great Teachers of Space and of Time

August 5th, 2009

In the previous post I pasted in a section from the latest Mt Haemus Award paper. The whole paper can now be read in the Mount Haemus section of the OBOD website. (Scroll down to the last paper listed ‘What is A Bard?’). Each year the Order is able to grant a substantial award for original research in Druidism. We have called this scholarship the Mount Haemus Award, after the apocryphal Druid grove of Mt Haemus that was said to have been established near Oxford in 1245. Here is an explanation for why we set it up at the beginning of the millennium:

Some people think history isn’t important. After all, why dwell on the past when it’s over and done with?
The future and the present seem much more exciting because they are happening or are about to happen. But the Druid, and the Bard in particular, knows that the pleasure of memory can be equal to that of anticipation.
In addition, history offers us not only the possibility of understanding the causes of present-day situations, but also a gift which at first may seem nebulous, but which is in fact essential for a truly satisfactory experience of being alive in the world: and that is a sense of context. Without context we are lost – doomed to misunderstanding and superficiality.
When we hear of the actions or decisions of a friend, a group or a country, we need to understand the context in which these decisions or actions were taken. Without knowing this we cannot hope to understand their significance. This is why gossip is so worthless when it is not harmful: without knowing a person’s history we stand ignorant and helpless before the facts presented to us. And so if we want a truly meaningful and deep relationship with another we need to learn their history, to understand the world that they live in, and how they came to be there. This is one of the most interesting experiences of being a psychotherapist: an individual about whom you have no knowledge, visits you once a week, say, for several months, and slowly tells their story, revealing their history as someone might show you their garden or their house. And slowly someone who was simply a body, a face, a voice, becomes multi-dimensional and leads you, like a storyteller, into the past and across the country, or the world.
Travel and history, then, become the two great teachers of Space and of Time, that give our lives context: breadth and depth, substance and roots.
And this explains why history is of such importance to Druids who seek to deepen their understanding of life. Recognising the vital part that history plays within Druidry, we have decided to establish an award for important historical research that relates to Druidism.

To be Pelted with Projections and Fantasies

August 3rd, 2009

Every year the Order gives an award for a paper on a subject related to Druidry. This year’s Mount Haemus Scholar, Dr.Andy Letcher, author of the magnificent ‘Shroom’, has written a paper on what it might mean to be a bard in the modern age. The whole paper will be up soon on the Order’s website. Meanwhile here is an extract:

Performing is undoubtedly tempering. It necessitates honest introspection, a thorough self-examination of one’s limitations and motivations, one that is forcibly imposed during those lean periods of creative stagnation. The demon of self-doubt is never far away. One misconception about the word ‘performance’ is that it implies pretence or make-believe, and yet the opposite is true. The very act of standing up in front of others is willingly to place oneself in the stocks, to be pelted with projections and fantasies, desires and jealousies. In turn, the temptation is for the performer to project his own needs and vulnerabilities onto the audience. It takes courage and self-knowledge to stand firm, buffeted on all sides by these pushes and pulls.
Good performance requires integrity and honesty. What is it about someone like Chris Wood that when they walk on stage we fall into an expectant hush? Confidence, certainly. Presence, yes. But also humility, a humility born of honesty. Bards work to be more honest, to be more faithful to themselves and the tradition, so that the truth can be heard.

Andy Letcher, ‘What Is a Bard?’ The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Mount Haemus Lecture for 2009