The first official week of 2009 ⎯ back to work, openings, and all the rest. It was great to receive a wonderful poem by Rumi from my friend Steve. The poem, translated by Coleman Barks, is entitled Chinese Art and Greek Art. It’s a good read for everyone, but especially for artists. I just loved it, thanks Steve!
Also, my friend Lynne, who knows how much I like birds, introduced me to the album, You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell. Although the album is for children, I think adults can enjoy it as well. It has really wonderful interpretations of songs by Bob Marley, Velvet Underground and many others. My favorite song so far is: If You Listen. The album explains that the song was “originally recorded by French singer Francoise Hardy, and is all about how listening can be a magical experience”.
I agree…and hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Chinese Art and Greek Art
by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
The Prophet said, “There are some who see me
by the same light in which I am seeing them.
Our natures are one.
Without reference to any strands
of lineage, without reference to texts or traditions,
we drink the life-water together.”
Here’s a story
about that hidden mystery:
The Chinese and the Greeks
were arguing as to who were the better artists.
The king said,
“We’ll settle this matter with a debate.”
The Chinese began talking,
but the Greeks wouldn’t say anything.
The Chinese suggested then
that they each be given a room to work on
with their artistry, two rooms facing each other
and divided by a curtain.
The Chinese asked the king
for a hundred colors, all the variations,
and each morning they came to where
the dyes were kept and took them all.
The Greeks took no colors.
“They’re not part of our work.”
They went to their room
and began cleaning and polishing the walls. All day
every day they made those walls as pure and clear
as an open sky.
There is a way that leads from all-colors
to colorlessness. Know that the magnificent variety
of the clouds and the weather comes from
the total simplicity of the sun and the moon.
The Chinese finished, and they were so happy.
They beat the drums in the joy of completion.
The king entered their room,
astonished by the gorgeous color and detail.
The Greeks then pulled the curtain dividing the rooms.
The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected
on the clear Greek walls. They lived there,
even more beautifully, and always
changing in the light.
The Greek art is the Sufi way.
They don’t study books of philosophical thought.
They make their loving clearer and clearer.
No wantings, no anger. In that purity
they receive and reflect the images of every moment,
from here, from the stars, from the void.
They take them in
as though they were seeing
with the lighted clarity
that sees them.
If You Listen
By Francoise Hardy
If you listen you can hear
birds sing and flowers grow
If you listen you can hear
my love for you just grow
In the silence that’s around
deep peace and love are found
In the days that will be here
my love will call you loud and clear
And in the silent place
where loneliness is found
I’ll wander through the open door
to look for you
There in that magic land
that lies beyond the clouds
floating on the sea of dreams
I’ll sing to you
Image: One of my favorite birds, the bowerbird, working on his blue monochrome nest.