Monday, 24 August 2009

Drawing Mandalas

Partly inspired by our trip to the V&A and the "Artists Way" recommendation to "fill your well" I looked into the question of how to draw mandalas. Mandalas are a creative and spiritual practice, most closely associated with the eastern traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Mandalas are constructed from the centre-point of a circle, working outwards in a symmetrical pattern. In a sense it then grows like a fractal.
Mandalas can be drawn or coloured in. My minister in Manchester said she used to draw them as a way of recording her thoughts. Buddhists make them out of sand as a meditative practice and then blow them away as a symbol of the impermanance of all things. The psychologist CG Jung found the process theraputic and part of his connection with the mystical.
That said, given the use of repetition in the construction of these patterns, digital technology also has its uses. I cooked this one up using MS Paint and a sample of William Morris wallpaper. I think it is quite apt!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Khalil Gibran

On Sunday Jim Robinson's sermon focused on the writer Khalil Gibran, a man who lived deeply and intensely and who was able to experience the pain in his life as growth and transformation.
Gibran writes:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The idea that our being is 'carved' by our experience is simple yet beautiful because it conveys a sense of 'depth' in experience as well as the transforming qualities of the pain of life. The same 'depth' that is needed to be transformed by pain is the kind of intensity of living that we are meant to seek if we want to live a meaningful life.

Gibran writes about religion:

Your daily life is your temple and your religion

Whenever you enter into it take with you your all

Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute

The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

For in reverie you cannot rise above your achievements

nor fall lower than your failures.

And take with you all men.

For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles

Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

To pause and make one's daily life a temple, to experience life in all its mystery and greatness (pain and joy alike) is one of our hardest tasks. We can merely have moments in which we feel the earth below our feet and the presence of our loved ones around us and then do we truly worship and then are we truly grateful.

(posted by Eleanor)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Review: Reason, Faith and Revolution

As I mentioned in my post about Darwin, I am inclined to regard Richard Dawkins to be worth hearing out in his critique of religious orthodoxy. However, for a well informed counter-argument I would recommend the literary critic Terry Eagleton’s book “”Reason, Faith and Revolution”. Richard Dawkins considers the humanist values of the liberal enlightenment to be at odds with those of religion. Unitarians find themselves having an anomalous fusion of both. A frequently cited criticism of humanism, with its positive view of human nature is humanity’s failure to always progress with the fruits of science and learning. The most obvious examples of this failure include Auschwitz and Hiroshima. It is perhaps fair to say that examples of religious bigotry can be attributed to all faiths, only in as much as the production of an atomic bomb can be blamed on the study of nuclear physics. Hence Eagleton argues, “the distinction.. comes down in the end to one between liberal humanism and tragic humanism. There are those who hold that if only we can shake off the poisonous legacy of myth and superstition we can be free. This is in my own view a myth, though a generous spirited one. Tragic humanism shares liberal humanisms vision of the free flourishing of humanity; but it holds that this is possible only by confronting the very worst.” Personally I agree with much of what Eagleton has to say about Jesus’ true message being in-keeping with modern day liberation theologians. In particular, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive”. That said, is final presentation of Christianity is quite orthodox, particularly when he says “if Jesus’ body is mingled with the dust of Palestine, Christian faith is in vain.” As a young Unitarian I reserve the right to take issue with this. I also recall how the question of progress came up when we had our discussion with the Hampstead Humanists. I do not think modern humanists who dogmatically believe unfettered science and reason without being wise to the lessons of twentieth century history. I think a case might be made saying “liberal” and “tragic” humanism present something of a false dichotomy.
By Scott