Things are not what they appear to be …

untitled #098 (invisible city) 26 June 2014

untitled #098 (invisible city) 26 June 2014

“Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise.” (The Surangama Sutra)

The image is a detail of “Invisible City”, created in 2003 by Anton Parsons, and located on Lambton Quay, Wellington, at the intersection with Grey Street. But I have reoriented and cropped my image to emphasise the illusion of steel balls falling.

The Wellington Sculptures web-site notes that “The stainless steel of this sculpture seems to glow with an inner light. The magnified Braille text suggests a message, but the artist chooses to deny us access, raising issues of communication in the contemporary world, and the difficult interface between the disabled and the rest of the community.”

Anton Parsons explains: “Invisible City is an appropriate public work because it functions on several levels: Aesthetics – even without understanding that the dots on the two boxes are braille text, Invisible City is an aesthetically pleasing object – it doesn’t have to be read to be appreciated. Tactile – it is made to be touched. Surface – Invisible City is polished stainless steel, and reflects its surroundings. When looking at it you see a reflection of Wellington.”

 

On Good Friday

Stations of the Cross #5, "Simon of Cyrene carries the cross", Notre-Dame Basilica, Geneva.

Stations of the Cross #5, “Simon of Cyrene carries the cross”, Notre-Dame Basilica, Geneva.

On Good Friday I sat in church, watching and listening as most of the congregation followed the priest around the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The woman with the walking-frame, stoically devout, completed the circuit with the others, while her white-muzzled black dog hobbled back and forth up and down the nave, stopping to receive attention from some of those who, like me, had remained in their pews.

Meditations translated from the words of French poet Paul Claudel were spoken gently by a man known for his work as a broadcaster. Between the meditations, periods of silence were terminated by spells of difficult and discordant organ music – some strident, some morose – which I could have done without.

I had earlier told the woman who had welcomed me that my parents had been married in this church, and that I had been baptized here.

I will return to St Peter’s on Willis on Easter Day, looking forward to the Eucharistic ritual I have not shared in since Midnight Mass at Wellington Cathedral on Christmas Eve.

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The tradition of moving around the Stations to commemorate the Passion of Christ began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It is also observed in Lutheranism and Anglo-Catholicism. It is most commonly done during Lent, especially on Good Friday (from Wikipedia: Stations of the Cross).

Wikimedia Commons includes a page with links to images of twelve of the fourteen Stations of the Cross by sculptor Jean-Bernard Duseigneur. (This page gives his name as Jean-Baptiste Du Seigneur, and he is elsewhere known as Jehan Duseigneur; eg, on Paris Sculptures.) Born in Paris in 1808, Duseigneur studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1831 achieved renown when he exhibited Roland Furieux, often regarded as the first romantic sculpture (now in the Louvre). Soon afterwards he turned almost exclusively to the production of religious works (adapted from a brief article in Wikipedia).

PS – Easter Day: The old black dog, Emma, was there again today; she, like the other “regulars”, was wearing her name-tag. 

 

Culture of encounter – the foundation of peace

Pope Francis with dove

Pope Francis

“Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope Francis said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae …” (Vatican Radio, 22 May 2013)

“In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.” (Salon, 24 May 2013)

The pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “Pope Francis … stated that it doesn’t matter if people are non-believers as long as ‘we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.'” (Free Your Mind and Think (24 May 2013))

But doing good, according to Francis, is not a matter of faith. On 16 March this year, the new pontiff told journalists he was “inspired to take the 11th-century saint’s name because he was ‘the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,’ the same created world ‘with which we don’t have such a good relationship.'” (Catholic News Service) For Francis, doing good clearly means tackling the world’s problems.

“This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace,” Francis explains. The story in Salon calls the pope’s words “a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be ‘precious allies … to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.'” (Salon, 24 May 2013)

The words of the Dalai Lama come to mind here: “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”

Predictably, Pope Francis’ call to “do good” has met with a wide range of responses. One comment on Facebook was quick to remind us that “he still condemns same-sex marriage, last I heard.” Other comments accuse the Roman Catholic Church of “protecting pedophile priests”.

On and on it goes.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. (Rūmī)

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. (Rūmī)

We can’t all be right … or can we?

vast emptiness nothing holy

vast emptiness nothing holy

I have more than a few friends who all seem desperately to need to be right. Each and every one of them has a favourite topic – a hobby-horse – and an incontrovertible line of argument.

And well-thought-out opinions, in fact, on every subject, whether crucial or trivial.

But they don’t agree among themselves … and not one of them agrees with me.

There must be some over-arching or all-embracing truth somewhere, but the only thing I’m sure about is that I haven’t got it sussed.

It would appear that the “grumpy cat avatar” has become a sacred icon, an oracle, the mouthpiece of truth. Click on him and you’ll find he redirects to a painting by Seki Seisetsu (1877-1944), which features the same text.

And when you’re done with that, you might look at a piece about some famous words of Seng-ts’an: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

__________

“Do you ever doubt your own ideas? All the time. You should read what happens in linguistics. I keep changing what I said. Any person who is intellectually alive changes his ideas. If anyone at a university is teaching the same thing they were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead, or they haven’t been thinking.” (Noam Chomsky)

What is looking?

What you are looking for is what is looking. (attributed to St Francis of Assisi)

"blue bauble"

“blue bauble”

What you are in your essence is the lucid, unchanging consciousness giving birth to everything in the world of the senses, including all your thoughts, stories, memories, and to your body, mind, and this unique personality called “you.” To understand this is to grasp the literal meaning of the words attributed to St Francis: “What we are looking for is what is looking.” You become aware of yourself, your true nature, as consciousness, awareness, or presence itself. (from a website called “Truth Contest : What is the Ultimate Truth?“)