Archive for January, 2010

Happy Birthday Thomas Merton

Oh Sweet Irrational Worship
Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,
When I was on fire
When this valley was
Made out of fresh air
You spoke my name
In naming Your silence:
O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart’s love
Bursts with hay and flowers.
I am a lake of blue air
In which my own appointed place
Field and valley
Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart
Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.
Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who believed deeply in contemplation and interfaith dialogue. The Website of Unknowing has a great overview of his life.

The video below is of the dedication of Thomas Merton Square in Louisville Kentucky. It made me tear up around the 4 minute mark when they had representatives from about 8 different religions taking turns reading Merton’s Shining Like the Sun Vision. He was a great man. I am really looking forward to sculpting him as part of my Mystic Vessel series.

Here is the direct link for my email subscribers.

The Pregnant Virgin Mary

Annunciation
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Denise Levertov

I recut the video of my pregnant Virgin Mary sculpture. I think it’s a lot better, much more informative. it also includes some of my etchings and woodcuts of the Annunciation. I hope you like it!

On Birthing, Artwork and Finding Joy

Christine over at Abby of the Arts (one of my favorite blogs) posted this Meister Eckhart quote last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it:

All beings
are words of God,
His music, His
art.

Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps
in our
souls.

Every act reveals God and expands His being.
I know that may be hard
to comprehend.

All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth
of Himself.

Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;

I need to be silent
for a while,

worlds are forming
in my heart.
-Meister Eckhart

An artist needs to be silent to create, but how to find this elusive silence?

It’s clear that the Divine Creator wants me to find silence because my life in recent years has been stripped down to bare bones, the noise and chaos cleared out. Using my health as an agent, God has sent me into exile. First from work and late-night socializing, then from volunteering and now even from my friends and family. I’ve written about this before, but last year my family and I were forced to move from the northeast, south in search of warmer winters. So here I sit with a large share of the doing purged from my life, but what of silence?

I assumed that in my exile I would find nothing but space to unfold and work. Instead I found everything that the doing was designed to suppress. I found fear and anxiety, anger and sadness- a lifetime of regrets I never had time to feel. Now after years of learning to sit with these feelings, many have processed through. I am emptier than I have ever been. But still I have resistance to entering into that sacred space. Why?

It is the same reason that has always caused artists to drink and spiral into depression and fear. It’s not that life is so dark, it is that it is so beautiful and dear. I am only beginning to be able to tolerate the tiniest drop of the joy and pleasure that God offers us. An artist brushes that pleasure each time we create.

I have emptied myself to such a degree that there is no barrier left to that deep connection with my maker, that deep intimacy and joy. I find it difficult to proceed. But for me there is nothing else left, there is my connection to God which is expressed in two ways alone: my relationships to the people I interact with (most particularly my friends & family) and my creative process.

I am terrified to pick up my brush, to mold my clay. But there is nothing else for me to do. I will take baby steps and breath, just as I learned to tolerate my fear and still function, I will learn to tolerate and embrace my joy. This is what I was born for, to be one of God’s wombs. Rilke’s advice to an aspiring poet says it all:

Go into yourself. Search for that reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest place of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the silent hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Rilke, Letters to a young Poet, Trans. Herter Norton

On the Importance of the Physical

It seems I have finally sorted out all my technical problems with this blog. (Knock wood!) So as a thank you for your patience, below is a beautiful Rilke poem. I recently realized that even though I am an avid reader, it has been several years since I read a new novel. I thought this is very unlike myself until realizing that my book reading has been almost exclusively poetry with a few mystical texts thrown in for flavor. So I splurged on the Amazon.com used-book market and ordered about 20 books of poetry. I love used books, esp when someone has lovingly (but sparingly) notated them. They have been arriving in dribs and drabs each day, clothed in stained and crumpled wrappings that give no hint of the precious jewels hidden inside. Here is a poem I received today.

The Winged Energy of Delight
Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.

Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.

To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes–
being carried along is not enough.

Take you well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.
-Rilke trans. Robert Bly

I love this poem because it is reminds me of the importance of living in the physical world. That we need to enmesh ourselves in life not only for ourselves, but for God. Physicality has its Divine purpose and it’s not just a race to return to our Source whether that be by death or spiritual withdraw from life. My greatest struggle has been detaching myself enough from the Divine to live fully. Ironically, now that I am really here in my body, I am more closely connected to my Source than ever.

Blog Issues

Well there seem to be some serious problems going on with this blog. If you try and click on any post to comment you can’t. My apologies. I’m working on getting it solved. In the meantime I’ve written several new posts but I’m waiting to sort out these issues to post them. Any prayers will be greatly appreciated.

UPDATE: I guess my theme was broken. Please excuse the look of this blog while I work on the problem.

Sybil

Art of the Spirit Business: Success!

I successfully transferred this site to a new host and upgraded WordPress. It’s nothing short of a miracle, how easily it went! However, you will notice a few kinks around the site which I will get cleaned up this weekend, but as it is almost 2am I must listen to my grumpy husband and go to sleep.

Thanks for your patience during this transition.

Sybil

The Binding of Isaac

Love came and emptied me of self,
every vein and every pore,
made into a container to be filled by the Beloved.
Of me, only a name is left,
the rest is You my Friend, my Beloved.
-Abil-Kheir (967 – 1049)

I am in the process of updating my art website and I wrote this about a couple pieces I did on the Binding of Isaac. I thought you might enjoy it:

The Binding of Isaac is a story that I have wrestled with for many years. When I first came to it, was overwhelming in its injustice. But now I understand that this is a story, not of God’s cruelty, but of God’s infinite love and kindness toward humanity. It is also a story of the power of surrender.

The Binding of Isaac is about being in an impossible situation, something that is so terrible that we think we cannot face it. This is a common human experience. It is not a question of the justice or injustice of a situation, it is a question of how we face a situation we cannot change or escape. Can we trust the Divine forces in our lives or do we fight and struggle? I have been in this situation over and over again with my health, how do you accept the unacceptable? But I have accepted it and learned to surrender as Abraham did and just as Abraham was shown such compassion and kindness, so have I. The Divine desires us to be creative luminous beings and if we won’t listen to this desire, the we will be forced to listen but in the kindest possible way that we can listen to. The act of surrender is the act of hearing God.

The first piece is Abraham’s Annunciation when he is told by God of his task. The second piece is the Binding of Isaac. There are two more pieces in this series to be completed, the moment Abraham puts the knife to Isaac’s neck and the unbinding of Isaac. These pieces are in progress and will be posted. 

Spiritual meaning of material used: These pieces are on sheep skin parchment representing the ram that Abraham sacrificed. The 22k gold leaf represents the spiritual perfection achieved by Abraham in his of of surrender. The pigments are handmade, for the most part from stones and plants representing the mountain Abraham climbed for his sacrifice. I also used bone black a pigment made from charred bones to represent the ram.

Image #1: Abraham’s Annunciation
The writing pouring into Abraham’s head is the Hebrew text from the Bible.

Image #2: The Binding of Isaac
The Hebrew lettering around his wrists is the text from the Bible, translation on edge of the box.18″x14″.
The Binding of Isaac, Abraham's Annunciation by Sybil Archibald

The Binding of Isaac, Abraham's Annunciation by Sybil Archibald

On Peace, Resistance & Creativity

Peace
Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea.

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies, —
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.
-Sara Teasdale

My theme for this year is creating peace. In my last post, I wrote about my belief that we can release some of the pressure building up in the wider world by addressing that chaos and pressure in our own little garden. By changing our interior selves we powerfully effect those around us for the good. With this in mind, I have been ferreting out all the sources of pressure and turmoil in my own life. To my surprise, I find they are all internal. It’s not the breaking of a glass in the kitchen that brings turmoil, it’s my response. The more I resist a situation, the more upset is created.

I recently became aware of just how much I resist everything. My greatest resistance turns out to be to my own feelings. I resist feeling angry, sad, or experiencing uncomfortable memories; I even resist feelings of love and connection which are too intense. When I am resisting, I have to throw myself into doing something, anything so I won’t have time to feel. This unconscious need to do, causes more turmoil than anything else in my life. I end up forcing things to happen in ways are destructive instead of allow things to unfold in their own time. And because art cannot be forced (it must be allow to unfold), this behavior also kills the creative impulse and the artist’s connection to the divine flow. It clogs the divine well and gums up its receiving vessel.

Since Thanksgiving, I have worked tirelessly to not resist my feelings. As a result, I experienced about a month of intense, overpowering anxiety- an anxiety so strong I almost felt I wouldn’t make it through. It woke me at night and stalked me during the day. But I stuck with it. When anxiety bubbled up, I would stop and be still, embracing the fear as long as I could hold it. Then I’d take a break and enter back in. Eventually, I passed through this intense cloud. It was breathing that got me through, huffing and panting, almost like I was in a month long labor.

Amazingly, this has experience has shifted my whole being. I know real quiet and peace for the first time in my life. My connection to my family is deeper because I can tolerate and hold more feelings of love. Now when something comes up, whether it’s anger, anxiety or pleasure, I’m there to I feel it instead of running away. For the first time ever, I have a physical sense of being here on this planet and a consciousness of my “vesselhood” and the value that that holds. I’m tossing out the clutter from my vessel left, right and center. I am an open jar waiting for Divine creativity to fill me.

In closing, here is a picture of my newest sculpture of St. Francis and a link an old post containing his writing on what is perfect joy. I’m going to put together a video of him, but this week it’s so cold I just have to stay in bed with a heating blanket! Peace- Sybil

St. Francis by Sybil Archibald
St. Francis by Sybil Archibald St. Francis by Sybil Archibald

Art of the Spirit Business

Happy New Year everyone!

This blog was down for a day due to technical issues with my hosting service. These issues seem to be on going so I have made the decision to switch hosts. This is probably going to mean my blog is out of commission for a day or two coming up. I’ll keep you posted when it will happen. It should not effect feeds or anything else- I hope! The ways of the internet are strange and varied.

A poem for your time:

Calligraphy
How easily you have untied my tongue
and handcuffed my heart!
Poetry was a dead thing, a forgotten thing.
The icy caverns of my heart have thawed,
churning waters of words wind through its chambers,
cascading fires of my soul coming to life,
all senses open to the world’s music now,
a calligraphy of fire!water!earth!air!
ears!eyes!mouth!skin! opening their doors to the world,
the world comes pouring in,
light and color and sound and sense and beauty and life again.
A tree has grandeur and soft beauty, the green
spilling a hushed message from God,
the sky somersaulting in color,
a clown of orange and red stripes.
Yes! You have untied nature and my heart,
Poetry has burst through her cage to sing again,
You have come, and I spin madly around your presence
spinning…spinning …around your presence.
Usha Akella

Thanks for reading,

Sybil