“The enjoyment of art is an act of recreation, or rather of creation in the reverse direction, towards the source of intuition, i.e., an act of absorption, in which we lose our small self in the creative experience of a greater universe.”
Anagarika B. Govinda
I happen to have a small sweet book titled Art & Meditation (actually a few years back I took it from my brother), written by Lama Anagarika B. Govinda – an artist, a Buddhist monk, traveller and writer.
Sharing his paintings, poems and thoughts with us, he talks about the ineffaceable, elusive yet real, sublimely beautiful link between art and meditation; how true art merges with true religion and vice-versa.
It is not digressive or sluggishly cumbersome, this thought, rather it is stimulating for the one who is not in a hurry.
The author wishes his essays and artwork to serve as koans i.e. ‘meditative problems’ for his readers that churn our thoughts and act as an impetus for continuing the search.
I have gone through this insightful book twice now. What struck me this time was its size, how come Lama Anagarika Govinda’s lectures on art and meditation along with his artwork were capsuled in such a tiny book?
Of course, there must be other collections of his essays and pictures, surely in not-so-tiny a book.
But here I would intentionally turn this coincidence into a grand undertaking and happily say something ambitious.
This beautiful book holds, yes-yes it does, the secret to enlightenment and simply because of its humble, calm and forgiving nature, affordable price, elucidations of the artwork and colour schemes given and the profound ideas shared.
With these balmy thoughts, I will read this book again in the near future for then it will reveal a new secret to me.
Leaving you with an edifying thought –
“Art in itself is a sort of a paradox, a Koan in the deepest sense of the word, and that is why the followers of Zen prefer it to all other mediums of expression. For only the paradox escapes the dilemma of logical limitation, of partiality and one-sidedness. It cannot be bound down to principles or conceptual definitions, because it exaggerates or abstracts intentionally in such a way that it is impossible to take it literally: its meaning is beyond the incongruity of the words.”
From the pre-historic art to the Ottonian, Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic art, covering eras and some more eras to reach the Italian renaissance, the Baroque and the Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Impressionism, taking a leap, leisurely, one day at a time, to reach the “Graffiti” modern times, we have successfully lived so many lives.
I say successfully because the story is still in circulation.
Brushstrokes, texture and colour freeze a moment so beautifully that we often forget to read. Every painting speaks of its era and teaches sincerely. Without feeling ashamed it presents both the charming and the grotesque.
Leafing through the book of art frequently, I believe, is necessary.
For at all times it will be there, telling you about the truth and the fact, the mystery and the mystical, the mundane and the historical, the forgotten and forgiving tradition, the sinner and the redeemer, mirroring every mind and thought.
Yes, the intensity with which it glares overwhelms the hassled mind. Studying art is difficult, it asks for patience and openness, but for this very reason, we should revisit the art world, for these are values which always come handy.
Phenomenal, simple, even funny, a painting adjusts to our understanding of it. How empowering!
As I continue collecting stories, I will look into the art story again. What about you?
What is the moony secret? It is the personal conversation that one has with the moon. It is intense yet quick, fierce yet soothing, honest yet an illusion.
Sidereus Nuncius (Latin for Sidereal/ Starry Messenger or Sidereal Message; published in 1610) talks in-depth about the moony secret; it is an astronomical treatise written by Galileo Galilei, the father of modern science.
Becoming one of the first few who used a telescope to study the surface of the moon (along with some constellations and Jupiter’s four moons) Galileo discovered that the moon was not translucent and ‘a perfect sphere’ like Aristotle had believed it to be, that it had mountains and craters which were formed after it was hit by asteroids and comets, just like our planet Earth was.
The moon is imperfect (its surface is irregular), said Galileo’s theory, and this magnificent, and at the same time, tumultuous discovery brought it (the moon) closer to us mortal beings, providing exhaustive research material for the future scientists, accelerating the world towards a change.
“And yet it (Earth) moves”, a rebellious phrase at that time, allegedly spoken by Galileo, led to his imprisonment.
The Copernican heliocentric view (1543) that the Sun is in the centre of the solar system, with Earth and the other planets orbiting around it in circular paths, was a theory which Galileo studied and defended.
Centuries later, Galileo’s moony secret reached the moon when astronaut David Scott, during the 1972 Apollo 15 mission, demonstrated through the ‘Falling Bodies’ experiment what Galileo had proved long back, that the “acceleration is the same for all bodies subject to gravity on the Moon, even for a hammer and a feather” (watch the video here).
A space race between the USA and the Soviet Union led to many successful moon exploration missions, both manned and unmanned ones.
While the US Surveyor probes (1966-1968) transmitted 87,000 pictures of the surface of the moon and measured its chemical properties, the manned missions brought back pieces of the moon; Apollo 11 alone brought 47.5 pounds (21.5 Kg) of the lunar material.
The twelve people who have walked on the surface of the moon also left behind items, some as meaningful gifts to the moon and some out of necessity as they needed free space to carry moon rocks home.
A golden olive branch, the Bible, a silicon disk inscribed with goodwill messages from world leaders of 74 countries, American flags, a family photo, three golf balls, scientific pieces of equipment and also, bags full of human waste are some of the “artificial objects” still lying, in worn-out or wiped-out condition, on the moon.
Lying there as a symbol of victory, of advancement, of trust and of human life itself – humans, the mortal beings of the lonely planet Earth.
Or maybe these items are just a message for the Moon Rabbit who, according to some East Asian folklore, lives on the moon, pounding elixir of life for the moon goddess Chang’e.
After all, Apollo 11 astronauts were also aware of this story; command module pilot Michael Collins had said to the NASA mission control – “Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”
We are connecting pieces, we are steadily moving towards the darkness out there, hoping to see the light. We are all reaching out for the moon with our eyes glued to the telescope, our minds calculating the numbers, our hands painting a masterpiece, our words penning an epic, our voices singing a moony melody and our hearts feeling the moony secret.
“I wish I could send you some, it is amazing stuff, said Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. It’s soft like snow, yet strangely abrasive. Not half bad (sic), said John Young Apollo 16 astronaut. It smells like spent (sic) gunpowder, said Cernan.”
Our love affair with the moon has only grown stronger with time; it is a part of our story and vice-versa, right, dear moon?
Science with its meticulous explorations and art with its colourful gravity will keep bringing us closer to the moon; it will take us to the moon and back.
Till then let us admire the only memento left on the moon that may last for millions of years, which is, the tracks left by the astronauts. Because there is no air or water on the moon, nothing will wipe it off, neither the extreme cold conditions nor the savage sunlight.
Till then let us continue revelling in the moony secret.
And the Warli drama unfolds… thunderous applause… come and watch the puppets dancing, dancing to the tunes of folktales… look at, but beware, the bewitching dance movements will make you happy and take you to the wonderland. And you will dream the original dream. Ohhs and aahs and wows and wahs!
Hey puppeteer, where are the strings and where are you hiding? “I am over here”, said the puppeteer and added, “the strings are invisible and so am I, my dear.”
But the puppets were ready, the performance had started. Shush! Shush! The tale of a King heard never before by some.
“Where is my horse, commander?”, asked the portly King. “Sir, you’re riding it”, gasped the tired commander. The horse neighed and snorted.
Meanwhile his subjects went through their daily chores of dancing little more…
Arched perfectly in peaceful white/
Talking rarely via windows and hanging lights/
With those who look up.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
Big thanks to my readers. Stay tuned!
Also, a humble request to the new subscribers to check the spam folder after subscribing. Silly (but necessary) confirmation emails often land there instead of the bright inboxes. Merci!
Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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Gabbeh, the 1996 film, is a simple tale of a gipsy girl, her clan and the way their life goes on. Unfolding beautifully just like an artist painting a canvas, Gabbeh quietly touches the grand questions.
Godard… Breathless and Alive
A Tribute to Jean-Luc Godard, the Film Philologist who Reinvented Cinema.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.
Universe’s a Disciplined Place
Silver cascade shimmering the night sky, music to the waves and surreal beauty to the eyes, the Moon loves the art of discipline.
It may be difficult to believe for the Moon’s splendour defies time, it stupefies the clock, it follows the path of a dreamer, but how could this be possible if the Moon knew not discipline?