“for the life and progress toward well-being…”

 

I came across this spectacular short film. I don’t know how long it is (barely 8 minutes?) because I was so engrossed in it the entire time. I experienced one of those blessed moments when we forget time. I enjoyed it for many reasons but primarily because it was wonderful storytelling in every aspect.

This morning I woke up very early to work on an essay about how social media has destroyed the word art beyond repair. What am I to do with this state of the world? Am I? The very tools that were supposed to help us innovate have become just one more way to destroy that which is REAL and innovative.  I have been working on this essay for some weeks now. Words come and go. I am cognizant enough to know when it is my ego trying to assert a point (that’s when I stop writing unless my intention is that to make a personal point) and when I am just a conduit who must share a universal truth. How Grand must be the Source from where eternal Truths keep flowing! for it comes together ever so slowly. So, having serendipitously discovered this short moving film I had to save it for myself at the Vault. I hope you too will find it valuable.

I am not sure if the embedded video will open for those subscribed. I was informed it doesn’t show up within a post if it is a youtube video but this is vimeo so I hope it does. Please do click on it and see it in a new window.

It also reminded me of the following by Leo Tolstoy from his essay “What is Art?” which is akin to my own view and understanding about Art with a capital “A”.

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity

 

Here is to the guardians of Real!

 

~a.q.s.

 

MAN AND BEAST from peter simonite on Vimeo.

Please Support Panthera:

http://www.panthera.org/people/alan-rabinowitz-phd

Dir – Dante Ariola
Producer – Natalie G. Hill
DP – Jeff Cronenweth
2nd unit DP – Peter Simonite
Production Designer – Christopher Glass

full credits:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2303634/fullcredits

Third Avenue, BX

Some days I work part time in the South Bronx.

It is one of the most dilapidated parts of Bronx, a borough of New York City.

Most people don’t know that New York City is comprised of five boroughs and that Harlem is in Manhattan and quite expensive.

“The hub” is the retail heart of the South Bronx, located where four roads converge: East 149th Street, Willis, Melrose and Third Avenue. In the 1930s the Hub had movie palaces and vaudeville theaters and a few decades after it became a national symbol of urban decay.

 

I have witnessed some extreme poverty in my life given my travels and work in legal and education fields. I have seen five children eating out of one plate in a village near Lahore located next to a swamp where the city dumps trash without regard to the people living there. I have also seen a family of eight living in a shack—literally a box— in a “shanty town” near Jo’burg in South Africa. Of course I don’t offer these statements as representative of the entire country. Some of the wealthiest people I have ever encountered in my work and travels are from the many so called “developing countries.”

Poverty has neither skin color nor geographic boundaries and is not always material. All this is to say: and yet! And yet I have never seen a group of people so hardened by poverty as in the South Bronx. Only here have I come across a population that borders on glorifying some of the harshest conditions. Unlike in the so called “developing countries” here I seldom bump across any humility.

I came across a photo essay recently via Mother Jones titled “Portraits of Addiction: A Manhattan banker shoots portraits of drug abuse, sex work, and homelessness in the Bronx.” It is all very accurate. Please do take the time to take a peek there.

I don’t ignore it—I can’t!—and I am not immune to any of it.

I took the photos below walking along Third Avenue long before I read the aforementioned article. As anyone who knows me, or is familiar with the Vault, knows I am often taking and sharing photos of ordinary streets, walls, and objects. After reading the article and seeing the portraits I thought some of my photos—albeit inanimate—could offer what else I see when I am in the South Bronx.

I believe the images that exist of South Bronx are true and in their own way beautiful despite the stories of dispirited reality.

I think with light we can show how a story can be, not just how it is.

Most days, even the sunniest and brightest days, this is how everything and everyone looks: departed shadows inside bodies on automatic pilot.

 

 

I am grateful for the blue sky when it chooses to clean itself blue. It is always gray in that little pocket or so it seems. Maybe because no one looks up enough…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think all places are pretty. I think a place we neglect has a way of hardening us that is beyond our scope of understanding. We do it to small places, we do it to our earth. I know people who go all over the world to ‘help’ and offer aid across continents and won’t work in their own cities or towns. I don’t blame them. It really is too close to home sometimes and it hits a nerve every time. And sometimes the only way to continue is to become numb to it. But I see light naturally. I don’t look for it. It is as if there is some magnet within that alerts me to it. I believe that magnet for light is within all of us. I just walk slower…

 

Today I came home and checked my mailbox and was delighted to find The Sun Magazine.  I flipped open to the last page like I always do with any magazine as I walked up the stairs. The following quote brought tears to my eyes because of impeccable timing. Oh sweet sweet synchronicity! This hammock made of serendipitous synchronizations is a grand comfort as our collective humanity trembles.

We are made for Light. There are moments of perfect happiness, moments when one feels so well, at peace with oneself and with others. Such moments of fullness exist. They are rare, perhaps, but we have all experienced them. Each of us is capable of living such moments. They continue to send signals to us even when we are in despair.        ~ Jacques Gaillot

Once inside my apartment I flipped open to the beginning where there is always an insightful interview. The April issue offers “Julia Butterfly Hill: On Activism, Tax Resistance, And what She Learned from a Thousand-Year-Old Redwood” by Leslee Goodman.

Julia Butterfly Hill:

I feel I have no right to demand that change if I’m not constantly looking to see how I can lighten my own footprint. It’s not about judgment or moralism or perfection. It’s about integrity. The word integrity shares the same root as integral. Both refer to how things are connected. I constantly look for ways that I’m becoming disconnected from my vision for the world.

[…]

It’s impossible not to make a difference. Every choice we make leads either toward health or toward disease; there’s no other direction. The question is not “How can I, one person, make a difference?” The question is “What kind of difference do I want to make?”

 

I am looking forward to the rest of the April issue.
Most people don’t understand that the purpose of yoga, meditation, all our experiences, the tiny moments, the big ones, everything, is integration. We can’t be ‘aware’ in one area of our lives and betray our consciousness in another. We don’t always succeed but through ‘practice, practice, practice’ ultimately integration is the goal if one can even call it a ‘goal’.  Integration is oneness.

As Marco Rojas teaches during yoga practice:  if you can hold the “posture that is stable and comfortable, strong and sweet”  it “leads to courage which is the foundation for integrity.”

What is integrity? As explained to a four-year-old: doing the right thing when no one is looking.

What’s the ‘right’ thing? We always know if we hang out long enough in Stillness.

And sometimes we find Stillness in the most cracked corners.

Photos: House of Czech photographer Jan Pohribny

This morning in New York City I was thinking about Jan Pohribny and his family in Prague. I recalled that I had photos from their wonderful house that I enjoyed visiting very much. While looking through them, I really missed them…and, in ways I can’t quite articulate, Prague…one of the most mysterious and haunted cities.

I decided to share these today (I had their permission to share when I took them, just didn’t get around to posting them).

You can learn more about the talented Jan Pohribny here. And in an older post, you can learn more about his magical village,  Únětice , where their house is located.

Thinking of them today. Their house was poetry reflective of their passions, art and ecclectic tastes.

~a.q.s.

 

 

 

This is their fireplace in the main living room.

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This is one of the photos Jan took. He can do amazing things with light!

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These are around the house.

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These are things sitting around windows.

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I absolutely love the upstairs.

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Some other cool things.

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When I was visiting their house I thought of Anthony Lawlor‘s work as he is one of the few architects who has had a tremendous influence over my re-thinking about the architecture and design of one’s “dwelling”.  

I found this fitting from his blog:

Want would happen if we created homes and neighborhoods more for our animal selves and less for our clever minds. Imagine redesigning the room you are in so it focused less on visual/mental aesthetics and more on touch, sound, and smell. Would the material of your chairs have a softer, rougher texture or a harder, smoother one? When you walked across your living [room], would you like to hear beneath your feet the crisp crunch of gravel or the spongy hush of moss? How would your bedroom change if it were designed around fragrance of lavender or the sound of rain on the roof? What color would your stomach paint your dinning room? How would your arms and legs redesign your shower? Getting out of that brain space between our ears and designing from our bellies opens entirely different ways of shaping nature into architecture, and crafting buildings into nature. This way, we might begin to get beyond the idea of green and learn to touch, smell, taste and hear green.

A Quote by the famous and talented photographer Yousuf Karsh

“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize.” ~ Yousuf Karsh

from the article 10 Famous Photographers and what you can learn from them...

of course there are many others that are not on the list. all lists are personal. after prague there are a few others i would like to add if I was making the list. : )

and here is a portrait of a creature called Mr. Rust, on a wall in Central Park.

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“Friendship is a fashion accessory.”

Found this in the Meatpacking district near High Line in New York City: “Friendship is a fashion accessory.”

I thought about what could have compelled someone to graffiti this? Like what must he or she have felt to just scribble this…not much effort…

In this social media world where much is mostly a performance (unless you just what to simply share information and NOTHING more and Lord forbid if people can let you do that in peace) and world at large too I suppose, people want something special, unique, beautiful, without the effort and honesty required. When transitory is enough, how can you ever go deep?

Indeed, friendship is often a fashion accessory.

 

 

But then I took photos that turned out differently and created other thoughts….

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Sometimes friendship is a door that never opens the way you want it. There is no key. Or the wrong key. Or it leads to nothing. For there are indeed walls with doors that don’t have rooms. Just a door in the wall. They lead no where even if you have the right key.

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But sometimes friendship is a bird that can take you to view the world, your life, from another perspective. These birds offer to carry you when you can’t fly. They teach you how to fly when you forget. They remind you that sky is only a limit in your head. And the door is always within.

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In my life I have such birds but only because I have shut a lot of doors over and over again. I am grateful for them and for the courage that I know not comes from where that overcomes fear to have it real.

 

Photo of how I feel after I am ‘done’ writing

From Still Sundays:

On Friday evening I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was mesmerized by this amazing sculpture. I am sure most people who visit there often are quite used to it and hence could and couldn’t understand my state of awe. I took many photos and I felt none captured how I was actually feeling when I saw it. I gave up and in my silence contemplated why I was so drawn to it. I thought about it rest of the night and then while listening to a group of percussion drummers outside an art gallery in downtown Philly it finally clicked. That sculpture is precisely how I feel after I am done writing—be it a paragraph for fiction that traces the thoughts which usually defy conforming to the mold of words or after I am done writing Sunday mornings or an email which states exactly how I feel or a hand written letter to a friend and so and so forth. That sculpture captures how I feel about the written word: words are a bow and an arrow.

Here is the statue of Diana, daughter of Jupiter, equated with Artemis (I am more familiar with the story of Artemis than Diana—in fact my very first email account when email was first introduced was Artemis followed by some digits), created by the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Of course I knew none of this when I sat there hypnotized by this statute.

Falling in love is some recognizing.

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More information on the sculpture is here.

I have some other photos from my adventures in Philly this weekend which I will share later as time allows.

~a.q.s.

When the lightest touch wakes you up…A Nap In the Únětice Village

The wonderful and inspiring Czech photographer  Jan Pohribny invited me to his village where he lives with his wife, a beautiful woman and amazing artist and photographer too, and their son who enjoys playing the guitar and can cook a wonderful meal! I didn’t join his photography students for a project but when I saw the photos through others, I knew I had to make a trip on my own. I did and I am grateful.

However, getting there was a bit tricky. The bus that was supposed to be a simple ride from Prague to the last stop, which was the village, terminated the route two stops prior to the last stop. It was just that bus! I had gotten on the anomaly bus! The 12:00 p.m. bus doesn’t go all the way to the last stop which is the village. I had no airtime on my Prague simcard and no cash to purchase any and there was no ATM or restaurant in site given it was a very residential area, part of some other village.

I didn’t worry because the worst case scenario was for me to wait until a “normally” scheduled bus came after 45 minutes and once at Jan’s village I would try to call him. Village has to mean “small”, I decided, so I would somehow find him once there. Meanwhile, I walked into this car dealership near the bus stop and asked if anyone spoke English. And one man replied, “Very small English.” Good enough for me. I told him I was sorry that I would not be buying a car that day but instead just needed to call this number since I had no airtime.

I left Jan a message that I was near and well either he could come to pick me now or I will get on the next bus and he can pick me up from the last stop in 45 minutes.

I didn’t know what to else to do….except…relax…

20 minutes later Jan came looking for me and said, “I knew you would be taking a nap somewhere around here. They didn’t know where you had gone after you left the car dealer ship.”

 

I was amazed to learn that an important historical period and culture, Únětice, is named after this small village just outside Prague. It´s due to the excavations carried out in 1879 by local doctor and amateur archeologist Čeněk Rýzner on Holy Vrch (bare hill) that overlooks Únětice. It was here that he uncovered 56 graves dating from the late bronze age (roughly from 200 to 1500 BC) . In later years, far bigger and more important sites were discovered in the near locality and elsewhere in Central Bohemia. You can read more here.

 

We walked down the road from Jan’s home to the green fields. There I saw a very colorful cemetary. And a very trendy tree!

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While walking Jan pointed that the plant on the ground was a healing plant of some sort. He didn’t know the name.

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The poppy fields in Unetice are not home to the same kind of poppy in Afghanistan, the hub of opium trade.

This is Jan taking a photo. “For any real photographer there is always something new no matter how many times you have seen something before,” he said.

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This is looking down at the village from the top of a hill that we walked up. There was a beautiful creek to explore and much more but I started getting sleepy. So Jan told me how to get back once we got back down the open field. As I have mentioned before, I am a light sleeper when taking naps in parks, but perhaps because this was such a small village, or perhaps this part of the earth really had some unique magnetism pulsating from the core, but I was knocked out!

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I was in such a deep slumber that I didn’t even notice this woman’s dog sitting next to me for at least 5 minutes! She came running after him because she was worried he was chewing my shoes which I had taken off to nap! I was startled because I didn’t hear this hyper noisy dog at all. I took their photo and went back to sleepy.

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And then an hour later was woken up by the softest, slightest touch. Mr. Lady!

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I sat there too happy that I couldn’t trace a single dream—best kind of deep sleep—and noted the little guy on my finger. I was overcome by the contrast: the vast green field, the deep hills, the trees, the noisy dog, earthlings, cars and then this little ‘bug’.

There really is enough space for all of us if we can just stop stepping on each other.

Reminded me the end exchange between a mountain and a squirrel in Emerson’s poem “The Mountain and the Squirrel” which Iqbal translated in Farsi and Urdu as well.

“If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

A sleep so deep that only a little lady bug could wake me up…

 

Young Woman Paints In Front of Duende Cafe in Prague; “A Walk” by Rilke (literally literary…)

Lorca writes: “The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’ […] it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation. […] everything that has black sounds in it, has duende […] This mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, […] The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm. […] All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present.

 

“If I told you the whole story it would never end…What’s happened to me has happened to a thousand woman.”  ~ Federico García Lorca from Dona Rosita la soltera/ Dona Rosita the Spinster 

A random discovery by a poet stranger-friend in the program. Happy he shared with a few of us who are Lorca fans!

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This I randomly came across while walking! Restaurant R.M. Rilke.

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“A Walk” By Rainer Maria Rilke. Translated by Robert Bly.

 

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

 

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

 

And the beautiful, mysterious Prague…

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So there I was minding my own nap business…when I heard something move…

After lunch I continued writing. Then it got sunny. This meant I had to rush and avail the opportunity to finally get recharged (it has been cloudy and cool lately in Prague and I can’t function too long without the sun). So I walked into a new park in the middle of a busy street but once you enter through the door in the wall everything outside the park disappears.

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This spot was already reserved. I would have liked it given it was V.I.P seating for sun rays.

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I saw some  humans who were napping and reading. Unless the ground is very dirty, I prefer the earth to benches.

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Found a cool Mr. Tree but it wasn’t warm enough for me to be under shade.

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Finally I found a spot.

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I stared at hearts in the sky till I fell into a semi-sleep.

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And then I heard something move. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or if there was really something moving around me. Before I continue…

This has recently been brought up by some folks here: how come you feel safe taking a nap in a park? I really didn’t know people felt unsafe. For me it is like ordering tap water with a meal unless I am in that part of the world where clean water is not available and it known and understood that one must buy bottled water.

Moreover, I don’t know how most people forget that skin is a sensory organ! It is the body’s largest organ. Organ! There are at least (don’t quote me, I am recalling human biology days from back back in the day) 2,500 nerve receptors per square centimeter in the human hand alone!

The brain (the mind is a more apt term I suppose) usually alerts us due to fear, memory etc. but the body–the body—is hyperalert to the now. In short, I am quite aware of my surroundings without rising to the level of anxiety unless the occasion really calls for it.

 

Anyway, there I was, minding my own nap business when I heard something move. I was quite startled but I think Mr. Peacock was more scared of me!

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Then his friend followed.

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Then there were more!

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They were clearly having a party and I had to leave.

On my way out, I found a beautiful tree with lots of hairZ. I think it was a MissTree.

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Then I saw this pond…

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With two reflections I liked…

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reminded me of feeling cool mercury in one’s hand…

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and then I walked out of the park into the streets of Prague…

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This one poet-strangerfriend in the program joked and said, “Is there any park in Prague where you haven’t slept?” The program director jumped in and said that would make for an interesting essay: “Sleeping Around in Prague: Naps in Parks.” Yes, joke on… : )

After the readings tonight, another writer-strangerfriend asked, “Were you walking around in a park today? A park that had peacocks?” I exclaimed, “But of course! You saw me? Why didn’t you say anything? Where were you?” She had seen me from a far when I was walking out of the park.

What is interesting is that I took a photo (it is one of the tree sets) and she is in it! Sitting under a tree, writing, wearing blue! I didn’t even know.

The End.

 

 

Some notes on naps:

I walk around till I find the best spot. Sometimes I don’t and I have to continue walking or do without a nap. I am well aware naps are a luxury and I firmly believe we would all be better if we made them a priority in our lifestyles. Also, running through Central Park in New York City at 11:oo p.m. by yourself, especially if you are a female, is not the safest thing to do. However, napping in Central Park during the day is something almost every other person does. My point, common sense, although not so common, goes a long way. Finding a nap space that is ‘open’ and not closed in is a good idea. As long as you can hear children nearby, it is fair to assume you will be okay. If the elderly are sitting on benches nearby that too is a plus. Naps are best if done in 20 minutes or full cycle of 1.5 hours or 3 hours, otherwise one feels more tired than rested. Finally, even if one doesn’t sleep, just closing one’s eyes for 15 minutes is great for all kinds of alignment. Naps are not to make up for lost sleep, although that is what we mostly use them for.

Of course, the best part of napping in a park is when you wake up. Be it after 15 minutes or 45 minutes the people that were around have left and are replaced by new ones or no one and you really feel you escaped somewhere for a moment, with or without dreams.