Benevolence

An old word rooted in Latin often forgotten or misused.

Benevolence.

The gift of kindness, the act of helping that seeks nothing in return but the wellness of others.

A humble blue flower that keeps on giving amidst the chaos of the world. Yes, a fragile flower with the divine potential of awakening.

Kenza.

Inspiration: despite the rise of unrestrained individualism, there are gestures of kindness that create hope and can inspire us to do the same. 

Observing the world: performance

Performance— it is all about it these days.

But what is it for?

To be better than another? To earn more so as to buy more? Then it is akin to getting a watch that runs faster.

Rather absurd I would think.

Now, if performance means products or actions that help the general interest, and especially the most precarious among us, then it makes sense.

Kenza.

Inspiration: observing the world. 

I seldom discuss

I seldom discuss. I used to with almost everyone, now it is very rare.

To discuss a topic means that one is open; that there is harmony between the ones holding a discussion, a harmony based on respect. Every discussion no matter how banal a subject may appear, engages the mind and hence must be honest. By exchanging ideas, one enters into confidence and reveals himself. And I repeat, no matter the subject matter.

To discuss, one should thus be present, fully present, aware of the other, his gestures and eyes and voice, his degree of attention and his thoughts. But it has to be both ways, otherwise the limits that so often isolate a person from another strengthen rather than wither.

Without candidness on all parts, our words run into mud, stall and little of their meaning gets through. If the heart is not open, there will be no current and there will be no light. Each will remain alone with his ideas and opinions, and little would have actually been achieved on the path of knowledge or wisdom.

As I said, the subject that is being discussed has no impact on the process because honesty and openness should always prevail. If you are exchanging ideas on how to make the best omelet, do so. Listen to the other, learn, explain. If you are discussing a political or a social issue, do so as well. We are in control of our words and we must make the effort to listen, to establish a real exchange. Convincing the other is never the aim of a discussion. Rather a discussion is an exchange. If one changes his mind, fine; if not, fine as well; at least both communicated and there was real human contact.

I have so often felt alone during a discussion, and I do not enjoy the sound of my own voice echoing in the void. So now, I do not discuss anymore and retreat in silence. It takes a most special person to get me to actually discuss a subject, and I am grateful to have a few of those in my life.

Kenza.

Peace

These days, peace has a general definition based on a negative. Take anyone at random and ask what peace is, and they will tell you that it is the absence of war, the opposite of strife.

Peace is thus seen as something beyond us, something that has to do with the “grand scheme of things” rather than our everyday life.

This understanding influences greatly how we think, how we speak and how we act.

I find that increasingly, people become annoyed and too often resort to agressiveness as their first reaction when faced with something they dislike —be it being stuck in traffic, waiting in line, not getting an immediate answer to a message, or anything that goes against what they had expected.

The reaction can go from cursing internally (I personally see that as self-inflicted harm) and blaming others, to straight out shouting.

A mix in various degrees of (1) impatience; (2) an exaggerated sense of self, in other words a lack of humility; and (3) the idea that living means imposing oneself on the world, are some of the causes that lead to such reactions.

Where am I heading with this you may ask?

I am heading towards peace. Yes, peace, salam, shalom, paz, мир(mir)—say it in whatever language you chose.

Peace is the ability to react in a gentle way to any situation, be it annoying or not.

Peace is not the ability to control or eliminate anything, be it anger or impatience or war.

Peace is not a state of mind.

Peace itself is an act.

Peace is positive and purposeful.

Peace is humility. It is patience and it is kindness.

Peace is filled with the potential for love and is itself a product of love.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” John 14:27.

Kenza.

Caveat: in some parts of the world I had the privilege to visit or to live, agressiveness, even in its mildest form, was very rare and politeness, and hence respect, generally prevailed. 

Inspiration: peace, and the persistent inability to understand much of the world. 

Kadō – 華道

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On Thursdays, I give an art appreciation class to children between the age of 8 and 12. Today, we spoke about Japanese esthetics and they experienced the “way of flowers,” known as Kadō (華道) in Japanese.

It was one of the loveliest classes I have ever given, filled with beauty and simplicity. So I came here to share some of it.

Inspiration: children inspired by simplicity and the beauty of nature. 

The tree

The tree spreads its roots. The tree opens its branches to the sky and offers them for little birds to nest. It flowers with full splendor, and gives fruits and shade. The tree also brings rain.

The tree is potential displayed unabashed.

The tree is divine for its very existence, humble for its splendor, and generous for its nature.

The tree is not alone. All elements of nature display their beauty and give without limits. The moon shines and the sun warms. The night sky and the clouds are there for all to admire. Immense galaxies churn across the limitless universe. No tinkering is needed.

Mankind may have been thus once. Today, he is a being perpetually busy, disconnected from the cycle of day and night and seasons. Mankind is increasingly immersed in unhealthy dynamics of needing objects that add nothing to his being nor give to others. But for a few exceptions, he rarely looks up at the sky nor takes the time to remain in harmony with nature. A stunning sunset has become an exception; and to see beauty, he has to stand in line at a museum. Charity and compassion have become emotions displayed in full view, rather than natural and discreet inclines of his very existence. Anything that cannot be rationalized or objectified is rejected, even love, even grace.

The tree still stands effortlessly giving beauty without a spec of pride, but rather with infinite and divine humility. Mankind could learn a thing or two from the tree.

Kenza.

Inspirations: incomprehension of this busy and noisy world; love of trees; and the divine, the Tao. 

Dawn and dusk

I am one of those who, everyday, watches the sun rise and set.

It is for me a way to remain aware that we are part of nature, of a cycle of day and night, and of a movement vaster and faster than we can ever imagine.

Watching the sun rising and setting does not require a view upon the sea or even a large window, a small patch of sky suffices.

Days are filled with activities and noise, so I like the simplicity of seeing the slow lightning up of the sky announcing the start of a new day in total silence. And I like taking a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of a late afternoon to witness the sun setting, even if it is a simple reflection on a glass pane.

Every dawn and every dusk are distinct in sights, with different colors and sometimes birds flying across the sky; and in sounds, with silence or the echos of thunder. Each rising and setting of the sun has its own atmosphere, and I am grateful for being a witness to it all.

These are simple pleasures really, reminding us that beyond the fracas of the world, there is serenity and there is beauty.

Kenza.

Inspiration: changing skies.