Archives for August 2008

Weekly Free Association : The Rock

From the height of the Mountains, we now concentrate on their building blocks : the rocks.

Rocks, given their solidity, are often symbols of eternity. And given that they alter less perceptibly than other physical manifestations, they are often taken as divine symbols. The mightiest examples of this are Menhirs and dolmens.

In India, rocks that would emerge from the top of the mountains are considered as the lingams of Shiva , whilst in ancient China, to draw rocks would represent long life according to the yang principle (whilst to draw waterfalls would be associated with the yin principle).

In Judaism the block of stone placed as the altar of the temple is considered to be the middle of the equator and thus as the origin of the world.

But the rock “on the rough”can also be pictured in certain sects as the novice that still has to pass through many phases before becoming a “sculpted” rock, in which the tradition will carve it’s teachings.
In this sense then the rocks is the symbol of potentialities – of the qualities inherent to a person but not yet manifest.
The rock waits then to be transformed and is considered as a path looking for it’s destination.

Now you take the floor, what do you associate with the rocks?

Image of the Day : Ancient of days by William Blake

Ancient of days by William Blake

The three cedar trees

By Paulo Coelho

My grandmother told the following story: three cedar trees sprouted in the once beautiful forests of Lebanon. As is known, cedar trees take a long time to grow, and these trees spent whole centuries contemplating life, death, nature and mankind.

They witnessed the arrival of an expedition from Israel, sent by Solomon, and later saw the earth covered with blood, during the wars with Syria. They saw Jezebel and the prophet Elijah, who were mortal enemies. They watched the invention of the alphabet, and enjoyed seeing the caravans passing, laden with colorful textiles.

One fine day, they decided to talk about the future.

– After all I have seen – said the first tree – I wish to be made into the throne of the most powerful king on earth.

– I’d like to be part of something that turns Evil to Good forever – commented the second.

– Myself, I’d like it if every time someone looked at me, they thought of God – replied the third.

More time passed, and some woodcutters came. The cedars were felled, and a ship carried them far away.

Each of those trees had a wish, but reality never asks what to do with dreams; the first was used to build a shelter for animals, and what was left over was used as a prop for bales of hay. The second tree was turned into a very simple tree, which was soon sold to a furniture tradesman. Since the timber from the third tree had no buyers as yet, it was cut up and stored in the warehouse of a large town.

They lamented woefully: "Our wood was so good, and no one found anything fine to use it for."

Some time passed and, one starry night, a couple with nowhere to stay, decided to spend the night in the stable which had been built from the first tree. The woman groaned, in the throes of labor, and gave birth, placing her son between the hay and the wood propping it up.

Just then, the first tree understood that his dream had come true: that this was the greatest king on Earth.

Years later, in a modest house, several men sat around the table which had been made from the second tree. Before they ate, one of them said a few words about the bread and wine before them.

And the second tree understood that, at that moment, it hadn’t just been supporting a goblet and a piece of bread, but the union between man and Divinity.

The next day, two pieces of the third tree were taken and assembled to form a cross. It was left to one side, until, hours later, a cruelly beaten man was brought in and nailed to the wood. Horrified, the cedar lamented the barbaric destiny life had left it.

Before three days had passed, however, the third tree understood its destiny: the man nailed there was now the Light which illuminated all around. The cross made from its wood was now no longer a symbol of torture, but became a sign of victory.

As always with dreams, the three cedar trees from Lebanon had fulfilled the destiny they desired – but not in the way they imagined.

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Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

We go out into the world in search of our dreams and ideals.
Often we store away in some inaccessible place what is already there within reach of our hands.
(Maktub)

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

How do you perceive the multiple identities in this increasingly shrinking world?

When you talk of a “shrinking world” you are highlighting the fact that communication is omnipresent, that people can interact virtually anywhere in the world and this gives us the feeling that borders are being erased, differences blurred.

It’s true that these ever increasing flows of communication have an impact in different cultures but one cannot forget that this also fosters new type of culture.

I believe that this new culture – based in communication tools – actually enables people to assume a wider variety of identities. Take a typical internet user: one has the freedom to create an avatar, build up a character, or reveal a hidden side… Internet enables people to play a part, extract and exhibit their desires, their demons, their hopes.

I have the feeling that in today’s world, multiple identities are encouraged by this new culture of hyper-communication.

Image of the Day : The Virgin by Filippino Lippi

The Virgin by Filippino Lippi

Two angels in Brazil

By Paulo Coelho

According to an old, well-know legend, whose origins are uncertain, a week before Christmas, Michael the Archangel asked his angels to visit Earth; he wanted to know whether everything was ready for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He sent them out in pairs, always one older angel and one younger one, so that he might obtain a broader picture of what was going on in Christendom.

One of these pairs was allotted Brazil, where they arrived late at night. Since they had nowhere to sleep, the took shelter in one of the great mansions which are to be found in certain parts of Rio de Janeiro.

The owner of the house, a nobleman on the verge of bankruptcy (something which happens to many people in that city, by the way), was a devout Catholic, and quickly recognized the celestial envoys, with their golden halos above their heads. But he was very busy making preparations for a great feast to celebrate Christmas, and didn’t want to disturb the decorations, which were almost all in place, so he asked them to sleep in the cellar.

Although the cards celebrating Christmas always carry illustrations with falling snow, in Brazil the date falls in the middle of summer; so the place where the angels were sent was scorching hot, and the air – which was very humid – was practically unbreathable. They lay down on the hard ground, but before starting their prayers, the older angel noticed a crack in the wall. He stood up and fixed it using divine powers, and returned to his evening prayers. The heat was so great, it was as if they spent the night in hell itself.

They slept terribly, but had to fulfill the mission which had been entrusted to them by God. The following day, they walked about the great city – with its 12 million inhabitants, its beaches and mountains, its contrasts, its beautiful landscapes and miserable neighborhoods. They wrote their reports, and when night began to fall again, they journeyed into the countryside. Still confused by the time difference, they again found themselves with nowhere to sleep.

They knocked on the door of a humble house, and the door was opened by a couple. Since they had never had access to the medieval engravings portraying God’s messengers, they didn’t recognize the two pilgrims – but seeing that they needed shelter, the house was put at their entire disposal. The couple made dinner, introduced the angels to their newborn child, and offered them their own bedroom, apologizing that they were poor, that it was so hot but they hadn’t the money to buy an air conditioning unit.

When they awoke the following day, they found the couple in floods of tears. Their only possession, a cow which gave the family milk, cheese and sustenance, had been found dead in the field. They bid the pilgrims farewell, ashamed that they were unable to offer them breakfast.

As they wandered along the dirt track, the younger angel was filled with rage:

– I cannot understand such behavior! The first man had everything he needed, and nevertheless you helped him. But this poor couple who received us so well, you did nothing to relieve their suffering!

– Things are not what they seem – said the older angel. – When we were in that awful cellar, I noticed there was much gold hidden in the wall of the mansion, left there by a previous owner. The crack was exposing part of the treasure, and I resolved to hide it again, because the owner of the house did not know how to help those in need.

“Yesterday, as we slept in the bed the couple had provided for us, I noticed a third guest had arrived: the angel of death. He had been sent to take the child, but since I have known him for many years, I was able to convince him to take the life of the cow instead.”

“Remember the day which is about the be celebrated: since people value appearances so greatly, no one wanted to take Mary in. But the shepherds protected her, and because of this, they were rewarded and were the first to contemplate the smile of the Savior of the World.”

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Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

We do not need to know “how” or “where”, but there is one question that we should all ask whenever we start something : What am I doing this for?
(The Valkyries)

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

You have been a non-conformist throughout your life. What do you think of the man-made organisations? Do they, in any way, obstruct the path of progressives like you?

In today’s society (as was the case in the past) there is a tremendous amount of energy spent on trying to make people conform: to established behavior, to established religions, namely, to a certain type of thought. This uniformity is very tricky because it comes through a certain «political correctness» that stifles people’s spontaneity.

This should not though make us despair, all of these man-made organizations are made by individuals and I believe that change is possible in this scale, as long as people dare to take risks and pay the price for their freedom.

Image of the Day : Paradise Lost John Milton Illustrated by Gustave Doré

Paradise Lost John Milton Illustrated by Gustave Doré

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Man needs to choose, not just accept his destiny.
(The Fifth Mountain)

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

You have also spoken about “empty spaces.” But aren’t some inner spaces better left empty? Do you agree? How important is an understanding of the inner organisation for you as a writer and also as a human being?

Of course I do. Who doesn’t? The whole problem is not about having empty spaces, but about admitting that they exist. Today’s society is so preoccupied about coherence that many get trapped in the misconception that all is explainable. Society tries to convince us that we have to be completely transparent, not only to the world but to ourselves. There is where the danger lies. It’s necessary to admit that some things can’t be grasped, that our empty spaces exist and that we have to respect and honor the mystery.

Image of the Day : Artemis

Artemis

Emptying the cup

By Paulo Coelho

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master in Kyoto, in search of knowledge. While the monk served tea, the professor commented exercises, analyzed writings, interpreted stories and traditions, and deliberated on the ancient processes of meditation. He did everything to impress his host, in the hopes that he might be accepted as a disciple.

As he spoke, the monk continued to fill his cup, until it overflowed, and tea began to flow across the whole table.

– What are you doing? Can’t you see the cup is full, and that nothing more will fit in it?

– Your soul is like this cup – replied the master. – How can I teach you the true art of Zen Buddhism, if it is already filled with theories?

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Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

Profound commitment to a dream does not confine or constrain: it liberates. Even a difficult, winding path can lead to your goal if you follow to the end.
(Maktub)

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

Is it deliberate that your novels have an underlining emphasis on “awakening of energy”? Do you have a broader objective in mind which serves as an end of your purpose?

I think, that despite all the fanaticisms, we are seeing the beginning of an era where feminine values, such as generosity and tolerance, are surfacing again. This is what I mean when I talk of this new awareness, this new awakening of certain of my characters.

Image of the Day : Convex and Concave by Escher

Convex and Concave by Escher