Wednesday, April 16, 2003

"to add that decisive note of literary drama to our sorrows"

i read that in a book somewhere - i can't remember the context- and thought it was the funniest thing.

i'm working on the first of two 20-page papers that are due in about ten days, and the monumental task of actually writing these cursed papers is bringing me down. these will be the 6th and 7th papers of this length that i will have written for my master's, and i am really, really tired of this.

i had contemplated posting one or both of the papers to my blog once i was finished with them, but now, as i'm writing them, i'm too sick of them to do that. so i'll post an old email instead- much more pleasant to read than post-colonial theory, believe me!
buddhist sand mandala

the buddha of great compassion, chenrezig, a tibetan monk, came to loyola and created this incredible sand mandala last week. for seven days he toiled over this- it is such painstaking work, and the finished creation was absolutely breathtaking. before seeing it, i never imagined how intricate the mandala would be- the detail that he was able to achieve with grains of colored sand amazed me.

the mandala is seen as an expression of the buddha's enlightened mind, and is said to nourish enlightenment in the minds of those who contemplate and watch the mandala's creation. as he created it the buddha meditated- observing him create the mandala was meditative for the audience, as well- i found myself transfixed, watching him create this absolute beauty with such extreme patience and concentration.

the mandala is supposed to be a lesson in impermanence and non-attachment, in that after it is completed, it is ritualistically destroyed. this way of thinking is so radically different from our own- the entire campus grew so attached to this mandala that the thought of its destruction was actually painful. i went to see it almost everyday, to see how far the buddha had progressed, and i was not alone in wishing we could prolong the destruction. yet i also understand the lesson behind it, and this is one i don't have to be buddhist to learn. this mandala, into which the buddha poured himself, body and mind, for seven days, can be destroyed so quickly, can be forgotten a second after its completion. i think there are a lot of things i work hard for that are just as transient, just as temporary- the mandala is a representation of what is true in life, and it makes no sense to become attached to the mandala because the mandala itself is meaningless. this is a metaphor relevant to aspects of my life, and thus the experience of watching the creation and subsequent destruction of the mandala was a meaningful experience for me.

to push this just a bit further, apart from the significance of the mandala, on the purely aesthetic level, it was amazing as well- at a beach near my campus, there are a row of stone benches, perhaps a half a mile long, which are covered with artwork by artists from the surrounding community- everyone from accomplished talents to amateurs to children. they are fascinating, in that everyone who painted a bench did so to help foster and unite the community, and the subjects of the paintings differ widely but all exude a sense of wonder at the world- there are paintings of people playing at the beach, there are paintings of the lake and the sky and the earth, there are paintings that represent diversity and there are paintings that represent oneness. amid a neighborhood better known for its crime than its beauty, these benches make me truly happy- they show me that i will never stop being amazed by what people can do, by the way both extreme emotion and complete peace can be palpable in a work of art, from the intricacies of a sand mandala to the simplicity of a painted bench.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003


one of the reasons i respect this organization so much is that they don't assume the role of the rich first-worlders coming in to help the poor third-worlders; they employ people from within each country, from the community itself. it results in a greater reach (they have ongoing relief efforts in iraq right now that are possible because many of the CARE staff in iraq is iraqi). beyond that, it makes each program more about people helping themselves. when the people themselves are given leadership positions and the skills and information necessary to those positions, and the funding to get the programs off the ground, then the effects are long-lasting. this is a world apart from simply distributing food for a while and then departing.

if you haven't already, just check out the website. it's and it's just inspiring to look through the site and see what people are capable of doing. i know this sounds like an advertisment but really it's not that- it's just that so many people ask me what the org is about, what i'm writing, why i want to be a part of this movement, and i just cannot sum it up. but if you look through the site a bit, you'll begin to see how positive the whole thing is. it actually feels celebratory to me instead of woeful; it's all about victories over poverty instead of victimization...

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

for you

my cousin once asked me to send her some of the little bits of poetry that i like, and i don't know if i ever did that- and recently, she was telling me that she thought that the discussion of art was reserved for those who are experts on the matter. i told her to take it from me- you don't need to be an accomplished artist to have a sense of connection with art- her response to a piece is as valid as anyone else's. to help remind her of that, this post is dedicated to her. it's just a collection of little phrases that i've collected here and there, that i deem poetry- the music of the following phrases help me remember what is beautiful in my life. those of you who know me well have heard me quote these more than once, i am sure: i'm leaving out the credits, so if you want to know who said what, ask me...

"and i or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth." ( i LOVE this- it is a beautiful way of saying that the best things in life are free...)

"a violet by a mossy stone,
half hidden from the eye!
fair as a star, when only one
is shining in the sky."

"you cannot control your laughter,
you cannot control your love."

"as i read 'jane eyre', i wondered what women dreamt as they gazed at men and at the sea."

"the moment he saw her something inside him knelt down."

"i read my soul by the light of her face." (this is the most gorgeous sentiment i have ever come across in my life. this runs through my head at random moments and i sigh at the words.)

"you must choose between pain and drudgery." (i could write a paragraph about what i think this means, but i don't want to color your interpretations... ask me though, and i'll be glad to expound!)

"he cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world." (from the novel 'the english patient.' that entire book is full of the romance of poetry- romance in an inspired sense, at least in my opinion.)

"massacred time falling with ashes to the floor, tipped by tapered fingers no artist could ignore." (by a friend of mine, from one of many poems she has sent to me without quite realizing how good they are.)

"goethe's poems are like tiny paintings in beautiful frames."

"to live is to be marked.
to live is to change, to acquire the words of a story,
and that is the only celebration we mortals really know."

"as i walk, as i walk, the universe is walking with me." (from the navajo rain dance ceremony. i wrote a paper on walking in victorian literature last year, and this was the entire prologue.)

"i resist anything better than my own diversity
and breathe the air, and leave plenty after me
and am not stuck up, and am in my place." (whitman)

"if literature is more than an escapist pastime, then it should be understood to offer a testimony to what concerns us as alive and thoughtful people..." (walder, postcolonial literatures in english.)

"the magic suggestiveness of music"

so there you have it. an overload of quotes! take them in and take from them what you will. remember- as oscar wilde said-

"it is the spectator and not life that art really mirrors."