Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Courage of the Artist

"I think that sometimes the beauty in art is not in the image itself, but in the delayed reaction of the viewer. It is beautiful if it inspires deep emotions in the viewer, including disdain. And partly too, the beauty is in the courage of the artist—the willingness to explore his or her inner world." Roderick McIver, Heron Dance

If you haven't been introduced to Heron Dance, I hope you will visit McIver's site. I received their newsletter years ago and have enjoyed lots of aspects of their work since. Recently I read the bit McIver wrote and quoted about Matisse in the painter's early years of exhibitions, when his paintings were jeered at by the public. The overall collective responses seemed to be ridicule, because the images or portraits were not what "the public" thought was appropriate as a "realistic representation." Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas bought one of the paintings because it was disturbing. This gave Matisse confidence, and he painted a new portrait of his wife, this time emphasizing aspects that were ridiculed before (the green line on her face, for example - see reference for the description).

I remember an old New Yorker cartoon which showed an old guy in a white toga (or something), long white beard, sitting lotus-like on top of a mountain peak. The caption said something like, How's that enlightenment working for you? When I think about courage, and about art lately, this cartoon comes to mind. Over the weekend I went to my 3-year-old niece's birthday party, which was attended by her friends of many ages. What joy it is to be with such joyful energy! She, even so tired her eyes glazed over, was a bundle of energy, smiling, jumping, dancing, bouncing the brightly colored balls given to party-goers.  I'm so glad to have such reminders of this joyful exuberance - with my tasty (adult) margarita in hand, I danced to the happy sounds of the steel pan band along with the others, and it was wonderful.  Later in the evening, when my eyes began to water and itch, and my sinuses began to hurt, I suddenly remembered that some chemicals in some margarita mixes are "poison" to my sinuses! I began to drink more water to ease the flow. This didn't diminish the joy I felt during the party  - it reminded me of how we, as adults, are responsible for learning these details of what supports and encourages that "pure joy" that keeps our feet happy, our sinuses open, and our cells singing. When we are children, our parents guide us, protect us, enjoy and support that joy of life - if we are in tune with this responsibility and love it and ourselves and our children.

My brother and his wife are good hosts, and they tend well to encourage everyone's comfort. The party is not just a "child's moment," but our moment of acknowledging this beautiful child's creation, and the family of friends who live busy lives coming together to enjoy collective moments of celebration. I think of this and how I am host of my own cells, my own brain, my own energy every moment that I breathe and move. A true artist of life, to me, lives the exuberance of a child and the responsibility of a spiritual human being. As I live I keep learning what it takes to use my mind in this ethical energy which is our design as a living human being.  Live well, choose wisely, love forever. Next time maybe I'll (think) remember the sinus-bomb before I have the margarita!  The guacamole was fantastic!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Help - Living Our Truth

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” 

TED is a small non-profit dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading, and Jamie Oliver is their 2010 prize winner. I watched his presentation a few weeks ago, and it lit more sparks in me about what we can each do to LEARN, to "save lives," beginning with our own. As I've watched Anderson Cooper and so many more covering the stories, the real dramas in Haiti over the last 6 weeks, I've been profoundly reminded of how easily distracted we are with so much, in our world of "so much." When Anderson Cooper relayed how tears would well up in his eyes at random moments, such as climbing a stairwell, how people he met clasped his hand hard and warmly, looking right into his eyes, my heart was touched by the beautiful humanity we are, when love is visible as we live. Living love, for me, now also means understanding this miracle of our design as energy and matter. In Jamie Oliver's video, he shares a moment with friends he made in West Virginia. You're killing your children, he says to one friend, a mother whose eyes fill with tears as she sits facing him, touching, listening intently. We can change this, he says. Ignorance is what kills. Why do we pay more attention to killing than we do "saving," healing, learning?

I think of my Dad and his simple appreciation of all life offered. He had such an appreciation of the gifts of life, and how the truth of life was in the living, the humanity before the abundance of " things." I've been reading Kathy Oddenino's first book again - The Joy of Health (1989), as we prepare to reprint it. The information is more important now than ever. As we work with the book I am reminded, Our thoughts are living energy. Awareness is not static, but it is a fluid sense of knowing self.  I'm eager to begin this year's focus of classes on The Joy of Health, because this is lifetimes' worth of growth potential, and, as Sean Penn said on Larry King last night referring to helping Haiti, this is a turning point - we can make a difference NOW that will affect all of our relationships, as a country, as nations, as a world. Beyond that, my/our choices affect our past, present, and our future.

I'm reminded NOW to "smell the roses."  To love.  We are energy. What gifts.

Monday, February 01, 2010

We Have a Lot to Learn!

While going through some of my parents' papers, including some letters from their early time in Nigeria (mid-1950s), I came across this. A double-sided photocopy with no other references. I have no idea where it came from or when.  So far in my immediate Google search, I haven't found the exact copy. Thinking about Kathy Oddenino's upcoming Joy of Health class (Feb. 28) makes this find all the more amusing and emphatic! It's always important to "get a second opinion"! Do most modern "medicine men" really have "low vital energy"? Superstition? Spirits? Gold sickness? Primitive cutting? Machines? Poisons? A good laugh. We have a lot to learn!

"Notes on Primitive & Superstitious Practices of U.S. Medicine Men Observed During Visit"

By Dr. Baba Sigidi, Oka Village, West Africa

In the U.S. all sick people must leave village and go to house of medicine man just to get naming-of-sickness. They wait many hours with other sick people. They have much time to teach each other names of new sicknesses, medicine man then must treat each man for his sickness plus several new ones that the sick man learned while waiting.

Medicine man cannot see inside body without special machines that damage the body. He cannot see spirits of dead ancestors or elementals near sick man. He cannot see colored light around head made by sick man's spirit. We meet many medicine men here, but none are able to see spirit activity. This is shocking to us and we wonder how U.S. doctors have remained so primitive while our medicine has advanced so far.

In first room we watched medicine man try to have an eye and cheek sickness. He had forgotten his demon masks and tried to scare the evil spirits with ropes from his ears to look like snakes and a large round shiny eye on forehead. But it did not fool evil spirits. They called uncles and grandfathers and all the spirits were rolling on the floor having a good laugh.

Dr. Chan wonders why no one in medicine man house can see spirits work? At least one child in ten is born with this gift. Where are they? Why aren't they used as medicine men in U.S.?

Do U.S. people have special disease (like the white-hair-pink-eye disease) that goes from father to son and which blinds them to spirit? Very puzzling. We must do special research on this. Maybe it is just superstition which blinds them, bu tit is hard to believe that such ignorance still exists in the 20th century.

U.S. medicine men still do the cutting medicine which most of us gave up many centuries ago, we see much cutting and killing of body parts in these medicine houses, but the sick man's will to live and the spirits of his ancestors are able to save him in spite of this barbarism. It seems that this is how the great spirit makes Americans survive. He gives Americans cutting medicine to eliminate the weak and to control the population so that he can save famine for us.

For example, a sick man who is going to have body parts cut out, is given strong poison to drive his spirit out for several hours. This they do to reduce noise of screaming in medicine house, but it makes much more work for ancestor's spirits who must work extra hard to keep sick man's spirit from continuing on to the home of ancestors. Sometimes a sick man doesn't have enough ancestors to save him from both the poison and the cutting.

Other poisons are given to drive out sickness but this works poorly because many times poison does more harm to body than sickness did. Must send root and flowers specialists to help them learn proper way to drive out sickness without killing body. (Also send out latest technical journals on uses of urine and manure.)

Many U.S. medicine men seem to be suffering from the epidemic of gold sickness which has swept the world in recent years. Their minds are so occupied with dreams of gold do nothing but collect gold from the sick people and whole houses of helpers who count the gold. They have other helpers who loan beds and healing equipment to sick people in exchange for much gold. As we have learned in our own countries, no one is safe from the gold sickness. It has destroyed some of our best medicine men. U.S. medicine men must be taught the special prayers to cure gold sickness because if it does not stop, we fear the American sick people will start cutting off body parts on the medicine men.

U.S. healing equipment is very poor, absolutely no imagination- no masks and costumes. During cutting of body parts they all use same pale green cloth without decorations on them. No wonder they have trouble controlling evil spirits. Those masks could not scare running nose-sickness. No rattles observed. Not enough noise in curing room - need gongs and bull roarers. Evil spirits falling asleep with boredom.

Most medicine men here have low level of vital energy and are not strong enough to battle with sickness spirits. This is because of poor diet in U.S. wood grubs and seaweed not regular food for U.S. medicine man.

Our last day we visit special government house for crazy sickness. We see many people with evil spirits controlling their mind, but medicine men do not know how to start treatment. They know nothing of prayers and meditations. Nothing of root teas, we also find out why we do not meet anyone in U.S. who can see spirits and see into body organs. In America it is called a sickness and people who have it and talk about it are put in crazy house for their time on earth.

Then we find idea for our foreign aid program. We will tell our governments that gold, which we have plenty of in our countries, will be sent to U.S. and given to medicine men if they promise to stop primitive and superstitious ways. This will make America healthier right away. In return for gold, U.S. government will send us all the people from their crazy houses. We will exorcise them and return them home quickly. We will keep those who have spirit vision and make them strong with seaweed, wood grubs and sexual revitalizations. They will be taught by our best medicine men in the jungle villages in the ways of modern demonology, use of natural foods, naming of sickness by spirit colors, balancing of energies, acupuncture, etc. When they are skillful, we will send them back to native villages in U.S. to teach their fathers and brothers to give up primitive cutting and poisoning and learn our modern ways which are better and safer."