We hear “life’s short slow down”. It’s so the opposite of “life’s short, hurry up” and “sleep in the afterlife”. I think life’s secrets lay in the small details and the only way to see them is to slow down. So often people say, I never noticed, I never saw or I never thought. It seems so very sad we miss so much, so very busy doing what? In 10 years I doubt we will remember what we bought today but my guess is we will remember what what we noticed for the first time. It’s all in the details in so many ways.
Ancient ones among us
waiting to be asked
afraid we won’t listen.
The need to share so great.
Pull weeds, sweep the path.
Ugly old dog
cold rain drips
Do you remember when
last you heard?
He’s such a cute puppy.
Do you remember when
everyone wanted to pet you,
especially the cute girls?
Do you remember when
you didn’t feel the cold?
Come sit by the fire with me
and we’ll remember when.
Handmade, what does it mean? Most would say you use your hands but that pretty much covers everything. Some might say you create from start to finish but that doesn’t work either, the woodworker doesn’t make the wood, the weaver didn’t make the wool so the craftsman is starting midway. Is writing handmade? How about music? Food? Does being handmade imply or even require uniqueness? Not really. I’ve spent some time thinking about this and have decided that for something to be handmade it must be capable of containing some part of the creator’s soul. Now how about speech? My thought is if it passionate, from the heart then it has soul and would be “handmade”.
Does the length of time spent on a project make it handmade? Probably not, as a skyscraper takes many years to build but few would say it is handmade and even fewer would say it has a soul. Yet a master calligrapher’s work might take seconds to complete but it is surely handmade.
Back in the 70s handmade was a big deal and there was a move to a style such as “imperfect” finishes on furniture, lumpy yarns, irregular bubbly glazes and pretty much anything that would make the item seem less machine made. Ironic really, craftsmen before the 70s had spent their lives perfecting their craft and then when machines had to a large extent replaced them they had to demonstrate their humanness by being imperfect. They perhaps mistakenly tried to show their soul by manifesting artificial imperfections. We are hungry, actually starving, for what we called back in the 70s the real. It’s our soul that makes things “real”, our energy imparted into our creation whether words on a page or a sweater, lumpy or not or a beautiful piece of calligraphy it’s all handmade. It is our soul that keeps us human.
Keep coming back to calligraphy, I just love the letter shapes, especially when they are pen driven forms where the process is integral to the form, which is one thing you really miss with a ball point pen, no function driving form at all. But, my fear is form will become more important than content which may be ok sometimes, I mean beauty is beauty. Do you ever think about how 26 letters can create the world? Throw in the numbers and you pretty much have got it all.
On a side, random note the schools in my area in their infinite wisdom have decided to stop teaching cursive writing, they say it is too expensive. This feels like one of those moments when we will look back and say this is when society collapsed. Learning handwriting teaches so much more than just how to write faster. It’s about form, space,balance, weight, well actually it’s life and one of those things that makes and keeps us human. Pretty much why there is art don’t you know.
We have become a risk averse culture, pathetic really. I just did a Bing search for “risk averse” and got 61,600,000 hits, curiously Google gave me 5,970,000 hits not sure why the difference. We seem to demand protection or a “do over” at every turn. So many people wonder when asking about a particular art or skill want to know what happens if you make a mistake, you mean you have to start over, oh my God I could never do that they say. When doing any art so much of it is about the doing why not do it over and over again? When a singer sings and they make a mistake guess what they usually don’t quit singing they do it over and get it right or better or maybe if they are blessed more beautiful. Why should it be any different for the visual or physical arts?
So where am I going with this? Well, I think one of the things I love so much about calligraphy is that each piece is the one and only. The slice of time that created the work will never be the same again. There are so few things in our lives that have so much risk, make a mistake and it’s toast, no eraser, no do over. It’s invigorating. So write with ink, hide the erasers and take a risk and let you soul come through to your work.
There is something so much more than just a sound representative or place holder to letters. There is a sacredness that I have been trying to explore for sometime. It is easy for some to just say our letters are just mechanical but I think they are the same people that think love is purely chemical or is a figment of our imaginations. While I don’t know Japanese or Chinese I have tried to learn some kangi calligraphy and even though I only slightly know the meanings and surely have no cultural background there I can feel the sacredness and power of the shapes or form or is it the space around the form? Recently I’ve begun to investigate Runes and the Hebrew letters where it all begins with Aleph. We are all one and our sacredness and our sense of sacredness is far more connected than we have been taught. We or most of us have been educated by people who are splitters, those who make their living by finding separateness and division. I think this process helps them feel secure by making them feel exclusive and pervertedly more powerful.
So I’m going to try and find out more about our letters and the sacred world, stay tuned let’s see where this goes.
That natural or unnatural aversion to things we love to do confuses me. I’ll find myself cleaning the window sills, shopping for the newest whatever or something else equally unimportant on my day off rather than taking the time to read that growing stack of unread books or taking some time to write. It’s easy for me to blame the consumer society but I think consumerism is a sympton rather than the cause. Once I start the writing or whatever I always feel better, calmer more focused and satisfied, comfortable really. The daily edginess goes away and is replaced by peace, no matter how intense the project is. Perhaps we have become addicted to this edginess, the tenuous aspect of daily modern life. Sort of the mailman who craves a comfortable chair but gets up and goes for a walk and then wonders why he has tired feet. In our case our “walk” is unsettling and leaves us feeling hollow.
Words bouncing about in my head, waiting for the dart of my pen to stick them to the page.
With this thought I begin.