Archives for August 2009

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Dialogue as Art

This evening, thanks to my friend and colleague Natalie Shell, I learned the story of two Irish artists who have created an unusual work of art …

Here is the story in their own words:

In April 2009, we sent a personal, handwritten letter to each of the 467 households in the small Irish village of Cushendall. We hoped these unsolicited letters would prompt neighbourly discussion, spreading across the town, promoting community curiosity.

The art work consists solely of the discussion between the recipients about what on Earth these letters are, who sent them and why, etc.

Lenka Clayton & Michael Crowe

Owritingn their blog website, Mysterious Letters, you can watch a video news story about their venture and also see a number of the letters – in themselves also a work of art. :) You’ll need to be patient, because it’s a long page and will take some time to load – but it’s worth the wait!

A fascinating story that left me with many thoughts whirling around in my head tonight.

Encouraging folk to talk to one another as a form of art. I love that idea.

I imagined folk who previously hadn’t exchanged more than a word or two with one another finding themselves in longer conversations – connecting, speculating and wondering. I imagined a buzz of conversation filling the air across the village, helping folks make connection and find synergies with one another beyond their shared experience of the letters.  Like an electric current of energy travelling through a grid and lighting up the atmosphere.

But isn’t it kind of sad to hear some folk were ‘scared’ to receive a friendly letter because it was from someone they didn’t know?

I also find myself wondering how many of us actually know enough about our neighbours to personalise a letter to them – let alone to do so for over 400 people in our neighbourhood.

And how many of us take the time and trouble to hand-write anything these days?

But … creating curiosity, wonderment and conversation. From where I sit, that is indeed art.

How would you have reacted to such a letter?

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Why Does Writing Matter?

I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird.

Anne is a published author who also teaches others how to write. Bird By Bird is a distillation of what she has learned about writing and ‘being a writer’ throughout her life.  It’s a witty, warm and practical read for anyone who writes – or who wants to write.

The last segment of the book resonated so strongly for me, that I decided to share it here.

When Anne’s students ask “So why does our writing matter, again?”, this is her answer:

boat_in_stormBecause of the spirit … Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on the ship.

For me her words were an affirmation and a confirmation.

So I’ll keep writing, keep reading – and have my shot at dancing with the absurdity of life.

Who wants to sail and sing with me? :)

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Evening Seashore

Evening ShoreI drop back
letting the others and their voices
fade ahead of me.
This is not a talking place,
this beach –
I don’t even want
to follow their footsteps.
The sun has gone
But its echo warms my feet
in the rock pools.
I wriggle my toes
in the sand
near intricately
limpet-patterned rocks.
All I can hear is the sea –
even the seagulls are quiet
at this end of the day.
And I bask
in the sensuality
of silence.

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I Don’t Know

I’ve been listening to a lovely song by Lisa Hannigan, called I Don’t Know.

I’m  inspired to reflect yet again on the importance of connecting with other people and listening to their stories.

When I meet you, I don’t know anything about you.

I don’t know what your special gifts are; I don’t know what challenges you most. I don’t know what you like or what you don’t like to do.

I don’t know what joys and pains have carved out your being. And I don’t know what makes your spirit soar.

I don’t know until I listen to your story. Until I bring open ears and an open heart to time spent with you. I don’t know until I ask. And, as Alan Alda once said:

The difference between listening and pretending to listen, I discovered, is enormous. … Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you. When I’m willing to let them change me, something happens between us that’s more interesting than a pair of duelling monologues.

Here’s Lisa Hannigan singing I Don’t Know:

I also love the way that Lisa, as she sings, cuts paper to make a beautiful world out of the blank room in which she begins.

For me it was a reminder that listening to your story also helps me build my own world – because listening to your story helps me re-story my own.

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10 Lessons From Cats

I’ve been watching my two beautiful Tonkinese cats this morning and reflecting that the way they live holds great lessons for life.

Here are some of those things for which cats are such wonderful reminders.

  1. Creamy and Hershey Be sure to make time every day for play.
  2. Look for sunshine in your life and, when you find it, take the time to stretch your soul into it and enjoy.
  3. Develop the art of stillness.
  4. Take care of those close to you. Watch out for them, spend time with them and share life’s fun as much as you can.
  5. When you’ve had a spat with someone, forgive and forget. True friendship dwells above and beyond those differences.
  6. Explore new spaces, new places, and new things with insatiable curiosity – but gently and safely, taking care of yourself at the same time.
  7. You don’t have to be tense to stay alert, so relax those muscles. You can remain alert and completely, totally relaxed at the same time.
  8. When life seems cold, look for the warmest spot you can find and stay there. It’s ok to curl up under the doona sometimes and stay hidden for a while.
  9. When you know what you want in life, be sure to ask for it – loudly if necessary – in the certainty it will come to you in the end …
  10. … but most of the time you don’t have to put your claws out. A soft touch may be all you need to gain attention. :)

I have studied many philosophers and many cats.  The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.  (Hippolyte Taine)