Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kahlil Gibran Exhibition

Kahlil Gibran and the Feminine Divine

JEPSON CENTERApril 21, 2017–January 2, 2018
Renowned for his literary masterpiece The Prophet(1923), Lebanese-American artist and writer Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) began experimenting with the visual arts at a young age. Telfair Museums boasts the largest public collection of visual art by Kahlil Gibran in the United States, donated in 1950 by his lifelong supporter and mentor, Southern native Mary Haskell Minis. This exhibition concentrates on works that capture Gibran’s enduring belief in the oneness of all things, often characterized in his paintings and drawings as the feminine divine.
His representation of goddess imagery not only reflects his holistic belief in a Universal Spirit, embodied through symbolic female figures, but also reveals the powerful influence women exerted in his own life, molding him into the visionary poet and artist known to the world today. Gibran’s visual and literary works continue to inspire and resonate, as evidenced through contemporary women artists like Sawsan Al-Saraf, Sundus Abdul Hadi, and Tamara Abdul Hadi, whose work will be presented from May 26 through September 10 in the Jepson Center, creating a powerful dialogue between exhibitions.
Funding is provided by the City of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

Kahlil Gibran
Mother Earth from Earth Gods, c. 1931
watercolor and pencil on paper
gift of Mary Haskell Minis, 1950; 1950.8.10

The Spirit Never Dies

That which you are
is eternal and all-pervading
This Being does not pass away
with the passing away of the body.
The Spirit never dies.

It can never die
because it was never born.
It has always existed
and it can never cease to exist.
The Unborn Spirit never dies.

It is indestructible and imperishable.
No fire can burn it
nor any weapon ever harm it.
It is absolute, innocent and free.
The Changeless Spirit never dies.

It is embodied in all
Do not mourn it in any form,
neither in the form of the dead
nor of the living.
The Universal Spirit, who you are, never dies.

- Adapted by Graham Brown from the Bhagavad Gita

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Two Poems by Wu-men

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

One instant is eternity;
eternity is the now.
When you see through this one instant,
you see through the one who sees.

—Wumen Huikai (1183-1260), translated by Stephen Mitchell from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, (Harper and Row, 1989)

Wumen Huikai was a Chinese Chan (Zen in Japanese) master most famous as the compiler of and commentator on the 48-koan collection The Gateless Gate.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Peter Matthiessen

“Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers.” 

-Peter Matthiessen

Saturday, May 06, 2017


A virtuous man when alone loves the quiet 
of the mountains.
A wise man in nature enjoys the purity
of water.
One must not be suspicious of the fool who
takes pleasure in mountains and streams,
But rather measure how well he sharpens 
his spirit by them.

Muso Soseki was a 14th century Japanese Zen master, poet, and calligrapher. Today he is probably best known for developing the art of traditional Japanese Zen gardening.

To pursue his meditative practice he resorted to remote places in nature, but was often summoned back to court where his advice was sought by officials, and even by the emperor himself.

Muso was instrumental in the formation of the Five Mountain System network of Zen temples which became centres of learning and the arts, and had a long-lasting influence on Japanese culture.

In the realm of True Purity, there is no such thing as self or other.

When there is nowhere 
that you have determined
to call your own, 
then no matter where you go
you are always going home.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Rumi's Celebrity

The American translator, Coleman Barks, has helped make Djalleledin Maulana Rumi’s spiritual and mystical epics, the Masnavi and the Divan, amongst the most loved poetry in the US. The growing popularity of the the 13th century Muslim poet has even spawned an upcoming Hollywood biopic, with Leonardo DiCaprio at one time favoured to play the lead role. 
Though, as a mystic, Rumi transcended man-made religious dogmas, he was also a devout Muslim, and a renowned Islamic scholar. Barks' translations are beautiful, but his interpretations downplay the Islamic inspiration of the Rumi's works almost to the point of erasure. In New Age quotations and anthologies of Rumi, there is often little or no acknowledgement of Rumi's religion. Instead, images of people doing hatha yoga on beaches, or even photos of Buddhist statues, are likely to accompany the quotes. 

On one level there is nothing wrong with this - it is a testimony to Rumi's universality - but it may also be a kind of whitewashing, as some have suggested is the case with the choice of an actor of European background to play a Persian historical figure. 
This article in The New Yorker examines this phenomenon:


... Like many others, Omid Safi credits Barks with introducing Rumi to millions of readers in the United States; in morphing Rumi into American verse, Barks has dedicated considerable time and love to the poet’s works and life. And there are other versions of Rumi that are even further removed from the original—such as the New Age books by Deepak Chopra and Daniel Ladinsky which are marketed and sold as Rumi but bear little resemblance to the poet’s writing. Chopra, an author of spiritual works and an alternative-medicine enthusiast, admits that his poems are not Rumi’s words. Rather, as he writes in the introduction to “The Love Poems of Rumi,” they are “ ‘moods’ we have captured as certain phrases radiated from the original Farsi, giving life to a new creation but retaining the essence of its source.”

Discussing these New Age “translations,” Safi said, “I see a type of ‘spiritual colonialism’ at work here: bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer,” including by General Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national-security adviser, and, even today, policymakers suggestthat non-Western and nonwhite groups have not contributed to civilization.

For his part, Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Safi has compared reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.

Read full article: here