Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Of Pets and People


Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully - John Katz


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Bowl

 By John Hutchinson


In The Crest Jewel of Wisdom, the Indian philosopher Shankara tells us that just as stone, wood, grass, grain and straw are all in time reduced to dust, so the body, the senses, the mind and the life-breath return to the nature of the higher Self. Darkness is dissolved in the radiance of the sun, and all that is manifest melts away in the Eternal. And just as space remains untouched when a clay pot is destroyed, so the Eternal remains Eternal.

The first bowl was probably intended to contain water or food: its form is therefore dependent on one of the most basic of human activities, that of eating and drinking. On another, more metaphorical level, it can also be said that a full and open bowl both withholds and offers in a single measure and in the same gesture. An empty bowl is different, as it holds the potential for either giving or receiving. This coincidence is a reflection of the state of contemplative consciousness, in which all things are born and to which they all return.

When a potter throws a bowl, a plane of clay is extended into three dimensions. As it expands, the clay both contains and is contained by space. This ordinary and wonderful characteristic, which is shared by all objects in the world, is emphasized by the process of making; the potter causes the clay to move upwards, defying the law of gravity, and then counters that action by using centrifugal force to open out the rising mass into the shape of a bowl. The interplay of these movements, one vertical, the other horizontal, is revealed as a balance of opposing energies. This relationship is individualized by the film of clay, which has the capacity to retain, in three-dimensional form, every trace of the potter's touch. This form, perhaps glazed or otherwise decorated, is then sensed and interpreted in relation to other things, both found and made. A 'good' bowl is brought to a point where all these qualities cohere and coincide. There it rests, suggesting the possibility of further growth, but restrained by poise and balance.


In the Daodejing, Laozi speaks about the importance of 'what is not'. Although the spokes are indispensable, he says, they are not the hub of the wheel. Cut doors and windows into the walls of a house, using their nothingness to make a room. Mold clay to make a vessel. Adapt its nothingness for the purpose in hand.

Is the bowl a specific form of spatial articulation, or is it that with which the space is articulated? It is both these things, and neither. A bowl, in its totality, is beyond definition. A truly beautiful bowl is suggestive of infinity; it is perched on the boundary between fullness and emptiness, revealing their inseparable identity.

Such bowls have the capacity to lead us back from the physicality of an object to the state of pure consciousness in which it was conceived and manifested. When this happens, the bowl, as a material object, seems barely to be present. It challenges and plays with our understanding of reality; it defies conventional notions of substantiality. Something that is beautiful, according to this definition, holds our attention without allowing it to become static, leading us effortlessly to that which is present but non-objective. In that respect, the beautiful thing could be said to 'vanish'. It follows that there is little that can helpfully be said about a bowl of this nature; it leaves little trace of itself and yet transforms the viewer or user - not dramatically, but with subtlety and gentleness. Such a bowl is both impersonal and intimate.

The making of this kind of impersonal object, perhaps paradoxically, demands extraordinary attention to detail. Every aspect of the creation of a beautiful bowl must be considered with great clarity and affection, and it may take many years of mastery of all the physical and technical aspects of making pots before the prerequisite skills are internalized and become instinctive. Even then, this special element of selflessness cannot deliberately be attained; it chooses, in a sense, to be manifested. Consequently, the artist or craftsman cannot directly aspire to the accomplishment of beauty, but if the potter's work is going to be anything other than physically functional or superficially attractive, this ideal must be embraced and given the opportunity to realize itself.


The quality of selflessness cannot be understood, much less attained, without a degree of transformation, or clarification, of individual consciousness. This clarification involves the unfolding realization that all activity (be it thinking, feeling, sensing, perceiving, or acting) is fundamentally spoiled and reduced by the belief or feeling that what we are is limited, finite, or separate. The dawning of the understanding that real being is, in fact, infinite, is not a great or extraordinary experience; it is, rather, thoroughly intimate and familiar, precisely because it is always before and within us, even though it may be temporarily veiled by the conviction that the opposite is true.

A consequence of this understanding is the perception that beauty is not the property of an object, and that it is inherent in the true substance of all things. Substance, pure consciousness, is externalized as loving awareness and action. The more clearly that this is seen, the less certainty there can be about anything other than the presence of selfless being. A condition of fearless uncertainty, open and unknowing from moment to moment, that is both vulnerable and indestructible, then makes itself felt.

From such a perspective it might be proposed that a bowl embodies a form of consciousness. In that respect, the maker of bowls is involved in an outward activity that is the reflection of an inner openness, a state of absence that must, with all possible dedication and commitment, be maintained. It is a task that is difficult and demanding, offering the ego's sense of permanence little hope or consolation. In a certain sense it is the lifelong remaking of a single, and utterly unique, bowl - a bowl, what is more, that is ultimately invisible. It is, and contains, no thing.

John Hutchinson is an art historian


Friday, July 10, 2015

Omar Sharif Dies at 83

Omar Sharif (April 10, 1932 - July 10, 2015)
Omar Sharif (April 10, 1932 - July 10, 2015)

I want to live every moment totally and intensely. Even when I'm giving an interview or talking to people, that's all that I'm thinking about. - Omar Sharif

The charismatic Egyptian-born actor, known for his performances in movies such as "Doctor Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia" died on July 10th, 2015 at the age of 83.  

Sharif won three Golden Globes and was Oscar nominated for his 1962 role as Sherif Ali in David Lean’s epic movie "Lawrence of Arabia." 

With his dark flashing eyes, black curly hair, prominent mustache, brigand-like looks, refined features and oily, pained, little smile, he set millions of female hearts a-flutter in a Hollywood tradition that went back to Rudolph Valentino. - The Telegraph

Sharif's career began in 1954 in an Egyptian movie "The Blazing Sun," and continued on a big screen till mid-1980s at the sight of such movie stars as Peter O'Toole, Julie Christie, Sir Alec Guinness, Geraldine Chaplin, Julie Andrews, Barbara Streisand, and Sophia Loren. In later years of his life he acted in a few television productions that included American mini-series "The Ten Commandments" and movies such as "Peter The Great," "Anastasia" and "Catherine The Great." 

Sharif was known not only for his acting talent, but also for his addiction to gambling, an activity that not only greatly affected his finances, but may have coast him his career as he was willing to accept any role in order to pay his debts. 

With the passing of Omar Sharif cinema lost another iconic actor, but the sparkle in his eyes will be shining forever in the personages he brought to life on the big screen. 

By Dominique Allmon 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Travel and Leave a Trace

Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia
Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you - it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you... Hopefully, you leave something good behind. - Anthony Bourdain


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Roswell 2015 UFO Festival

The one of a kind Crashed in the Dirt
Roswell T-Shirt by James W. Allmon

We are in the middle of the Roswell UFO Festival that is celebrated every year from 3-5th July to commemorate the legendary UFO crash of 1947. 

Roswell does not have much to offer to tourists and yet, every year people are coming to this sleepy Southwestern town to have some fun. Unfortunately, from one year to another, the festival becomes a pitiful and rather boring event as if the organizers were determined to discourage people from future visits. And truly, if this was not for the UFO fame, no one would even stop here on their way to or from the Carlsbad Caverns. Roswell is one of those small American towns you pass through very quickly and hope you do not have to come back. 

Alien eyes on a Roswell lantern by Larry Welz

When we first moved to Roswell in 2009 the sight of tumbleweeds rolling dawn the road near our house was a sign of the doom that was soon to spread over Roswell like an impenetrable cosmic fog from a science fiction movie. 

Roswell McDonald's mural by Larry Welz, fragment

Things changed from bad to worse over the past few years. The 55th anniversary of the UFO crash in 2012, for instance, did not even have the alien parade. You could see slightly disoriented and very disappointed tourists wandering around the town. The gift shops selling kitchy UFO-inspired gifts were dying off like flies. The artist who created beautiful murals in the city and adorned the street lanterns with alien eyes, moved out of town.

Roswell space ship shaped McDonald's restaurant

The few remaining gift stores and UFO aficionados are struggling against the dictatorship of the Roswell UFO Museum who imposes strict interpretation of events and does not tolerate creativity. And yet, there are few determined local artists who bring out unique designs not seen anywhere else. 

Roswell Lantern with Alien Eyes by Larry Welz

One such artist, James W. Allmon, created a nearly famous Crashed In The Dirt Roswell T-shirt. Each shirt was dyed in the same Roswell dirt that a UFO is believed to have crashed in 1947.

The dirt used in the process is a red oxide that was dug out by James near the city of Roswell. The dyeing process that was perfected by the artist takes almost a week. Because the garment was hand dyed there are some variations in color that make the T-shirt even more attractive. A noticeable thing about the Crashed in the Dirt T-shit is that it’ll fade a bit over time, but the color never washes out completely. Currently there is one such shirt left on sale, but the artist will produce another batch of shirts before this year is over.

James also makes magnets, Space Age inspired Christmas tree ornaments, greeting cards and other items that cannot be obtained in any of the Roswell stores. He just started a blog called The Galactic Enquirer and a Facebook page of the same name.

If you happen to visit New Mexico you may not want to waste your time on Roswell. People here are not necessarily hostile to visitors, but they do not want to be remembered as a freak town. They are very proud of their cheese factory and the pecan plantations, but UFOs? Not really. 

By Dominique Allmon

The Crushed In the Dirt T-Shirt can be purchased here

To visit The Galactic Enquirer please click here


Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Independence Day America!

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. - Erma Bombeck

Wishing everybody a very Happy Independence Day! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pebbles on the Beach

Those pebbles on the beach.
Each has its own destiny.
Each represents a miracle of creation.
But you are more unique
Because the life force
Has made you more exquisite.
Cherish the pebbles.
But revere Life
Of which you are a custodian and a priest.
Life is religion.
You are a priest.

By Henryk Skolimowski 

Image source here