Art – Cycladic figure

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Marble head of a figure from the Cycladic culture dated 2’700-2’500 BC.

In all probability, it is the head of a woman given that most figures of this kind were of women. Little is known of the Cycladic culture that strived during the Bronze Age in the Aegean Sea, nor of the meaning of the statues. It seems there are as many experts who say they were related to a cult, as they are who say they were not.

For us, almost 5’000 years after they were made, they are stunning for their simplicity and quiet elegance.

One may understand perhaps where contemporary sculptors such as Constantin Brâncusi, Jean Arp and even Henry Moore, may have gotten some inspiration for their clean lines and sculptures free of frills.

Figure in marble, H: 23.5 cm – via the Met, NY.

Let us not fret about the world

“We live no more than one hundred years” wrote Sikong Tu at the start of a poem more than one thousand years ago.

We live but a speck in timelessness.

So, why not let our hair turn white and the soft breeze rustle through our clothes?

Why not let the moss cover the stone?

Let us not fret about the world, shall we?

Kenza.

Inspiration: Sikong Tu (China, 837-908), Tang Dynasty poet, known for his poems and for writing the Chinese poetry manual “The twenty-four styles of poetry.”

A bowl of rice

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A bowl of rice.

Simplicity, austerity.

Each gesture from washing the rice to serving it with a bamboo spoon done with utmost care and full attention.

Giving thanks before eating, then with a straight back, savoring it in full presence.

So much beauty in the ordinary.

A simple bowl of rice you say, and yet, one of the many doors towards serenity.

Kenza.


Photo – in the kitchen, Kenza.

Humility

Humility is one of the foundations for achieving peaceful and respectful social relations. The truth is that it has not been mankind’s forte since it came out of the cave; to the contrary, we would not have had so many wars.

What I have observed recently though, is that very few people even mention the word anymore. One has to read old texts of philosophy and wisdom to find references to it.

Today, instead of humility, people talk about loving oneself as a path to happiness. The same way, being humble is seldom taught to children any more, while boosting one’s self-esteem is seen as the sine qua non to success in life. I find it unsettling.

Ego ad infinitum

There is a very thin line between self-worth and arrogance, and perhaps an even thinner one between loving oneself and egotism. Humility however can prevent one from encroaching upon the other.

In my view, humility is a way to step away from oneself, because by being humble, one recognizes his own fallibility. As a result, through “constructive doubt,” as Bertrand Russell once called it, one becomes open-minded, considers the position of others with respect, and hence acts with compassion avoiding the infliction of harm.

Bernard de Clairvaux, the French Abbot better known as Saint Bernard, came to the same conclusion eight centuries earlier when he said, “humility engenders compassion.”

Imagine a world where everyone loves oneself more than others, where they believe their self-worth is such that they can actually achieve anything. Given the current literature on “self-improvement” you may see these as positive qualities. For me, they are simple ego boosters, soothing an artificial sense of self.

Take the same attitude and multiply it, mix it with nationalism and religion and what do you get? – almost always conflict, and most often, violent conflict. Or take a step back and think of harassment at work or on the street, of a despotic parent, or of abuse of authority at a border crossing.

A drop in the ocean

The moment you realize that you are just a “drop in the ocean,” to quote Rumi, you can finally let go of that ego that binds you. Every drop is needed to make an ocean. And when you contemplate the ocean, no drop is larger than another one because they all form one ocean.

Being humble does not mean being less worthy, because the very notion of “worth” becomes irrelevant, and that, you see, is most liberating and does lead to the tranquillity of the heart.

Thank you for reading.

Kenza.


References:
– For Bertrand Russell’s writings on critical thinking, see “Philosophy” (1927), “Portraits From Memory” (1956) and “The Problems of Philosophy” (1973). All of Bertrand Russell’s writings are available on the Internet via the Bertrand Russell Society.
– For Bernard de Clairvaux, see “The twelve degrees of humility and pride,” written in 1127.

Sunday flowers

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A bouquet of lavender.

I trimmed some of the lavender growing in large pots on the terrace, as temperatures are expected to drop to zero degrees Celcius at night next week. Where I live, lavender flowers all year long but we are almost 2’000 meters above sea level so the nights can be chilly.

I regularly make small, very simple flower arrangements that I place on the kitchen table. It need not be sophisticated, just a few sprigs of herbs or vine flowers or even left over flowers from a withering more grandiose arrangement.

Try it! It will brighten your kitchen or desk, or wherever you chose to place it.

Kenza.

Photo – Kenza. 

Layers upon layers

Layers upon layers
of thoughts and memories and emotions.
We are wrapped in layers like onions.
One by one they stack upon us from childhood,
and as adult we strive to take them off.

I want to get rid of those heavy layers.
The ones of the past that weight on my back,
that impede me from dancing freely
and laughing like a child.
It is so easy to say that the past is gone,
you need a generous environment
or emptiness, for it to be so.

Emptiness.
It seems easier as it requires no one to lean on.
Emptiness holds no expectations.
Maybe that is why I seek silence
and the poetry of the ancients.
Maybe that is why I shun the complex
and the superfluous.

There is no wisdom in my words,
just the perpetual questioning
of how to find tranquility of the heart
in a world that too often remains incomprehensible.

Kenza.