Monday, 28 July 2014

Reflections on Beauty from the AoC Group in South Africa 26 July 2014

What do we find beautiful?

Naughty little kiddies are beautiful, because they have imagination, light and life.

Nature, art, cupcakes and food, the sea is beautiful, and so are people and animals.

Beautiful art makes me inspired.  I appreciate inner beauty - when you hear about kindness and empathy, that inspires me - not necessarily to create, but to live life, and to give back.

Walking on the mountain, just off the path, there was a young couple watching the sun go down - totally at ease and at peace, and it was lovely to see people getting nurture from nature, and being recharged by it.  It made the whole world feel complete for that moment.

Beauty is subjective, but it can appear anywhere, in touch, beetles, birds, but also the sharing of it with other people, which deepens interactions and means that it radiates out in layers.

Beauty as encouragement

Performance is encouraging, not necessarily to do, but also to watch.

Dancing eg Step Up 4, makes me feel like I'd like to dance.  If I could sing like some people do, I'd sing forever.

Live music, jazz, intimacy between the performer and the audience, passion, melody, flowing and recognizing the songs.

Music. like the earth, has a rhythm, day and night, and the ocean has a rhythm, and these rhythms are in music too.  And I'm unable to not respond to it.  It calls you to do something, to interact with it, and you want to connect.  There is a beat like hooves, or a heart beat.  It inspires imagination.  We connect with the music and become absorbed, taken away into a hypnotic state.  Music makes me want to write down visions, always nature based and forest related.  Squirrels pattering, water, leaves rustling.  Clouds and waterfalls.  Landscapes.

Poems have sounds, rhythm, metre, and I can't believe people can write so well.  I want to put it on the wall.  Rituals, holidays and coming together feel beautiful to me too, and particularly when there is ceremony.

Appreciating beauty

When we notice beauty, it makes you wonder about the fast pace of your life, driving everywhere, where the world zooms by.  When you walk, you see flowers and plants and walking makes the word different.  You see flowers like highly charged stars.  Fur lined leaves on plants.

Made things like buildings, clothes, textures, are a form of creativity to me.  I think they show expression and humanity.  Old buildings, new buildings, architecture and jewellery, and houses in New York, old houses with trees, and the city centre with tall buildings show a mix and show how the past lives with us.

Fynbos in flower on the mountain have pink flowers like bells, flowers are sometimes dry and you can rustle them.  Some plants look like ballerinas, then there are snow drops, daffodills.  Leaves can be smallish and sandpapery with a strong aroma and a herbal, peppery smell.  Some look like hundreds of pointing shields, and some have textures like silk and velvet.

There's all of the effort and love which go into art and beauty.  Everything is the result of someone's work and care.  In nature it comes from a creator, way beyond what anybody can do, but what people do is remembered through eras of history because it matters so much.

Poetry and metaphor help you relate to the imagery and see connections between different things.  The world becomes linked.  Hearts become wild animals, and it helps you connect to the wildness and soul within you.

Openness to beauty - what makes us open?

Beauty is just there, and I respond to it, unless I am frustrated.  But even then, my senses are always switched on, and so when I smell something, it gets me out of what I am thinking.  Smells are about memory.  But I think beauty is a part of us, because it even comes into dreams, even though dreams are just images.  I dream of flying and seeing beautiful things.  In real life, beauty is sensual, touch impacts upon our senses.  We have lives where you have to fit into society and work, buy food, and you have a sequence or rhythm of events, but beauty pulls you out of automatic life, and a different sequence comes into being, outside of mundane thinking, and gets you lost in the world of senses for a little while.

Walking makes me open to beauty, because I take time for it instead of going somewhere for a purpose.  Life is what happens when you are making other plans.  Birds look at you with black eyes, while eating fruit.  Plants rattle. But you have to be respectful, because if you just put your face into the plants, you can frighten little spiders who live there.  You have to move slowly and be careful.

Walking clubs are a way of sharing, but sometimes people talk about work.  So being alone, clouds, wind, mountain, sound of birds, self crunching on the ground, smell of damp earth, the sun on the rocks, places where the water runs down.  Frogs come out and croak sometimes.  Secluded areas have beautiful sounds.  There is green moss.  But I am also able to see beauty when I look at the patterns on hot, sun baked earth.

Shapes and textures open my heart.  I think there is beauty in a cup of coffee somebody makes for you, and then food, and an appreciation of having food.  Detail fascinates me.  But so do fruits, chocolates, strawberries and pomegrannettes.  The body shop, texture, drawing with texture, glitter, having fun.  When I watch people create with care it makes me curious.  I know people can go beyond how things are and into what could be happening.  Becuase there are things in life we don't know yet, and I don't know what they are.  But I know we can do things which we feel would be right, even if we know it isn't in place yet.

I enjoy creativity, people are interesting, and what they create is the result of perseverance and hard work.  People have so many creative ideas, textures, and they create something for everyone.  Little things, books, writing, jokes on books which make me smile, make me feel open.  I like alternative worlds and difference.

Beauty, life and capitalism

I think it's hard to put a price on imagination.  I feel uncomfortable about that, because we kind of say what inventions are right by giving an abstract value to them.  And the things people make, and the efforts they put into them feel far more valuable than the money they get.  I don't know what we can do, or if we should barter.  We could exchange creativity, effort or work rather than money.

Beauty can't be possessed.  You don't have to take it or have it, because it is right where it is.  If you pick the flower from the plant and you take it, you stop it growing and being in the right place.  So letting go of ownership/possession is important.

Appreciation of beauty feels more important than having things to take and store away.  If you buy it, maybe you just put it away and want something else.  So somebody put in an effort, and you don't really appreciate it.

The idea of buying and selling animals feels wrong.  You should prove your own worthiness to share in their lives.  We can't own animals, we can only be their companions.  But people sell animals.  Puppies belong to their mothers, not to people.  And they don't belong to new owners either, they belong to themselves.  Swapping money for animals and so changing animals for stuff feels wrong.  Everybody who has an animal should honour them, not feel as though they own them.  But buying animals feels wrong.

Animals as food, when they are living creatures with a soul feels strange to me.  There are the bushmen ceremonies with prayer, which feels as though they value the animal.  But factory farms and processing animals by making them live in prison style means treating animals badly, and without empathy and care.  If we knew animals we would never be able to see them as just part of a system which was about killing them or eating them.  We turn them into objects.  We can't be aware of what we are doing and then still eat the body of animals with ease.

People aren't different to animals.  We can't communicate with other living beings, only ourselves.  It's just we're clever.  And we can abuse that cleverness.  We live in a world where we value cleverness but I think we need to live in a world where we value kindness.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

'Return of the Goddess' By Edward C Whitmont- quoting Colin Turnbull, in Africa, with the pygmies : From Nicci Attfield

One night in particular will always live for me, because that night I think I learned just how far we civilized human beings have drifted from reality.  The moon was full, so that the dancing had gone on for longer than usual.  Just before going to sleep, I was standing outside my hut when I heard a curious noise from the nearby children's bopi (playground).  This surprised me, because at nighttime, the pygmies generally never set foot outside the main camp.  I wandered over to see what it was.

There, in the tiny clearing, splashed with silver, was the sophisticated Kenge, clad in black cloth, adorned with leaves, with a flower stuck in his hair.  He was all alone, dancing around and singing softly to himself as he gazed up at the tree-tops.

Now Kenge was the biggest flirt for miles, so, after watching for a while, I came into the clearing and asked, jokingly, why he was dancing alone.  He stopped, turned slowly around and looked at me as though I was the biggest fool he had ever seen; and he was plainly surprised by my stupidity.

"But I'm not dancing alone," he said.  "I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon." Then with the utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life.

By contrast, the author considers this testimony by the elderly Yeats:

Seventy years I have lived
No ragged beggar-man
Seventy years I have lived
Seventy years man and boy
And I have never danced for joy.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Pan and the Concept of the Soul by Nicci Attfield

Ian McCallum is a jungian therapist who works in Cape Town.  He's written a book called Ecological Intelligence, which looks at the need for nature in the lives of people, and he looks at the way the divide between nature and people can be healed by seeing our deep evolutionary roots, and awakening to the ecological intelligence which exists within us.  Ian McCalllum believes that our connection to nature is a part of our genetic make up, which is why we feel as though natural places are within our blood.

Although western culture shapes us, and is a part of us, Ian McCallum calls for us to remember Pan, the pagan god and the personification of all of nature.  Pan was playful.  His name means 'All', and he was cast aside and said to have been killed off with the birth of Christ.  Many years later, when spirit and body became divided, James Hillman would say that soul lost it's place on earth.  Soul, the earthy, moist and feminine aspect of life was replaced by the more masculine perception of spirit.  However, in his image of the soul's code, as encapsulated by the acorn, Hillman shows that we are meant to grow down into the earth, as well as up into the heavens.  The loss of soul brings pain to people.  Soul is earth bound, and McCallum explains that in order to heal the wounds of spirit, we need to access soul.

The modern feminist movements, as well as environmental movements are said to be a rebellion against masculine values, and the repression of soul.  However, Ian McCallum explains that Pan, the pagan god of the wild (and of soul) has not been killed off at all.  Instead, he has hidden within the very depths of the human psyche.  He remains within the shadow, and his repression is symbolized by the stiffled instinct to spontaneity, and the raw or wild parts of the psyche.  Civilization has subdued Pan, and our connection to the wild nature, the fields and the earth has been stifled, but not killed.

Ian McCallum explains:

 It's time to shed our prejudices against things that are wild, untamed or unconverted, more especially our animal nature.  Historically, almost every animal - from the fabulous beasts, the phoenix, sphinx, centaur, to birds, sea creatures, insects and domestic animals - has in some way, struck a cord in the human psyche.  How can we forget them?  (p102-103).

Link to James Hillman:  psychology is afraid of soul:

Ian McCallum:  Ecological Intelligence:  Rediscovering ourselves in nature.  Africa Geographic.

James Hillman:  Soul Code.

Lesiba Baloyi:  Psychology and Psychotherapy redefined from the African Experience.  Doctoral Thesis.  Unisa.