Category Archives: love

Art Gallery Hop

I had a great time at work yesterday, organizing and leading an Art Gallery Hop.  I took four of my students to view the art in several local art galleries in the Exchange District, taking the bus to the heart of downtown, and then walking from gallery to gallery.  It was a great opportunity to not only discuss art created by local artists, but also to discuss  the history of the city.

I had called the galleries in advance, so they knew we were coming, and some owners were especially eager to share their love of art with my students, taking them behind the scenes in the workshops where they do custom framing and where several exhibits sat waiting to be put on display.

Before we had finished our tour, each student had found a piece of artwork that especially resonated within them. 

One of my students loved a group of 4 multi-media pieces, one blue, one green, one black, and one red.  They looked kind of like branches to me, and she said the reason she liked them so much was because how well they all fit together. 

 Another student was particularly drawn to a painting of an Eden-like setting, full of different kind of animals.  The closer you looked at the painting, the more creatures you could see. 

Another student was in love with all things dragons, and there was a painting made entirely of tiles, with little bits of black on them.  When all of these tiles were set together, they took on the form of a regal looking black dragon.

The last student had two favourites.  One was an etching of a frozen river, where many stories were intersecting.  The more attention you paid to the piece, the more stories you could see.  There were also some well-known landmarks in the background, and my student remarked, “This one is all about US.”

The other painting this student particularly enjoyed was a painting of a woman in a red coat.  Her back was turned to the audience, and her face was hidden.  She looked like she was waiting for maybe a taxi, but the background was also hidden in darkness.  She told me she liked this painting because you could tell what it was, not like some of the other abstract paintings that surrounded it.  We talked about it for a bit, and I tried to help her see that this picture was telling a story, just like the abstract ones, and that what it was could change depending on the story you created for it.

My favourite painting was a symbolic piece.  I didn’t even get the significance until one of students pointed it out.  At first it looked like a human breaking out of an egg, until this student pointed out that the egg from which it was hatching was actually the world, and that the breaking out of the egg was destroying the world.  We looked at it again, from a different perspective, and it appeared that the arm of the person was coming out of North America, and that it was North America who was destroying the earth while an emmaciated woman stood by with an arm raised, watching.

I want to do this again, perhaps in the summer, with another group of students.  It was particualarly rewarding, and this experience may very well be my favourite activity we led at work over the holidays.


Back to Work I Go

Yesterday was my first day back at work after the holidays.  At first I was a little reluctant to go, not wanting to leave the warmth of my bed and of my home.  It’s hard to go to work, even when you love your job, when you’re so entirely content at home.

Once I got there, though, I was glad to be back.  I was able to connect with a kid I haven’t seen since October, played some rugby (badly) with her, and was able to invite her to some other holiday break activities.  We sat around drinking hot chocolate and eating chili, and then she turned to me and  said, very casually, “You’re coming to the talent show, right?”

One of the high schools I work out of is hosting a Talent show.  Apparently a  TA class is organizing it, and had auditions before the break.  I hadn’t even known that this kid tried out, but she did, and she was awarded with a place in the show.  She’ll be singing a Mary J. Blige song in February in front of the whole school, and I was honoured that she wanted me to be there to support her.  I felt very much like a proud parent.

These little things mean so much to me.  I love my kids, I love my job, and I love my life.

You Should Not Bear the Cross

I’ve had a very excellent Christmas this year, full of celebration and reflection.  Thinking of the person I was and the person I have become led me to reread many of the  posts on my “myspace blog”.  I read the self-righteous and venomous words that scorched the pages (or rather the screen, I suppose), and could not believe that those were my thoughts.

And yet, I do lament the amount of spiritual messages, the outpouring of my psyche from the chaos, that I experienced then and do not seem to experience now.  Post after post of prophesy screaming to me from my subconscious self misunderstood and misinterpreted!  That screaming has quieted, perhaps because I’ve heard and understood.  I need to focus on remembering to hear myself now, even when all feels well and the screaming is reduced to pleasant murmuring.  It’s too easy to forget the murmur.

One post that especially resonated within me was the day I had had a strange outburst in the shower, and cried out, “You should not bear the cross for he who dies upon the stone!”  At the time, it was merely a thought that came to me and I didn’t understand what I meant.  I didn’t understand where it came from.  I just knew that it was true.

I later imagined I had meant that I shouldn’t take responsibility for a former friend of mine when I felt she had sacrificed herself to her hedonistic drives.  I thought that this meant I should tear myself from her and end the friendship, that I ought not to be a martyr and sacrifice my well-being for this individual.  This is what I did (terribly self-righteously!).

But now I’m re-investigating the interpretation of this phrase and I’ve found that both parts of this phrase (the cross and the stone) are unmistakably Christian.  The Stone is not “pagan”, but rather represents the foundation of the Church, which are the teachings of the Anointed One.  I’ve even found a Biblical verse which seems to reflect the phrase exactly:

“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” -Matthew 21:44.

And the cross I should not bear was not literally carrying another’s burden, but rather following a leader who was unable to withstand the stone, the teaching, his own ideas, who was false and a hypocrite… Myself.  And not only myself!  It was a call to examine the nature of my reality more closely, to look at things carefully before making quick judgements.

This call came out again and again.  And again and again I misunderstood and misinterpreted, redirecting personal responsibility and believing that everyone in the world was either stupid or evil, and that I myself remained uncorrupted and aloof.

I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this.  I certainly don’t feel this way anymore, and furthermore, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove when it comes to my own spirituality.  I’m not wary of sounding neo-pagan, and I’m not worried about sounding Christian.  I’m not concerned that others will misunderstand me and classify me as a madman.

Spirituality to me is merely one way of expressing in figurative language all of the truths that I cannot name, and if I use metaphors others have used, it’s no different than using a language another has invented to communicate the commonplace happenings of my Experience.

And I think that is the substantial difference between the I that was and the I that is.

Reflecting on Demian Again

I helped one of my kids write a poem yesterday.

This student, who is a brilliant grade 9 student, struggles more with English than any other subject.  He came into the tutoring centre stressed out by this overwhelming task his teacher had set out for him.  So we sat down together to figure out how to best begin.  First he wrote a short story, saying the things he wanted to say in the poem.  Next, he broke it up into “stanzas” whenever he thought there was a thought-change.  From there, he looked at each sentence, and cut the sentence into fragments to emphasize the most important parts. It was a very scientific approach to poetry, not an approach I would ever be able to take myself, but this is the way his mind functions best.  And he ended up writing a pretty good piece of work.

This is the kind of thing I like best about my job: the ability to teach without having to be labeled as Teacher, to instruct and guide, but not be forced to evaluate based on generic criteria.  And really, the role I have now is a  role I have always felt I was destined to play.

Awhile ago, years ago now, when I was reading Hermann Hesse’s Demian for the first time, I wrote:

I have always wanted to be something.  My pride wishes to be sustained by affecting the lives of others.  I want to be a teacher, and a Master.  I want disciples to learn from me, and I want to spread Truth to as wide an audience as possible.  I want to be a nurturer and a guide.

I am none of these things.

If I am honest with myself, I am impatient and intolerant.  I am rash and fearful.  I can guide myself, but not others.  I am harsh and blunt, and while I may offer protection, it is only a temporary protection; it is not in me to nurture.  In fact, the only function I think I serve is as one who smashes the illusions held by an individual in order to prepare him or her for a true teacher.”

I think, basically, the same is true today.  Although I no longer “smash illusions”, I do still try to help individuals see not only illusions but also to understand their own perception of reality and the world around them.  By doing this, I AM preparing my students for a true teacher and  am “acting out my natural function”, one that I did not pick out myself but when performed seems to complete me, just as Hesse instructed us to do.

What About LOVE?

I’ve been thinking about love recently and the myriad different aspects of it I have encountered.  I have found Love to be an Argus figure, whose hundred eyes are all different ways that it not only sees but is also seen. 

When I was an adolescent I did not love.  I did not love my parents, I did not love my siblings, I had no friends to love.  I felt only the love found in books, a love that I understood to be unreal and unattainable.  From this empty shell, this essential lack within me, came an experience of genuine Love, the first I had ever felt, and it was necessarily influenced by the unreal nature of the closest thing to Love I had ever experienced.  This love was what I call Romantic Love, Romantic in the sense that it was idealistic and not necessarily grounded in reason. 

With the collapse of this Love came a period in which I indulged in Self-Love, in narcissism.  I could not yet understand that the Love I had believed in, the Love I had bowed down to, had been a false idol.  I didn’t understand that this Romantic Love was not “True Love”, that like “The Way”, “True Love” does not exist.  Friendships crumbled, familial relationships crumbled, everything that could possibly lead me to any kind of Love crumbled.  What could be smashed was smashed, and I left a lot of desolation in my wake.

 I was nearly lost, alone and wandering in the abyss.

And then, slowly, I came to understand that Love is everywhere and in everything.  I still don’t know when or how it happened, what sparked this realization.  But it solidified in the past six months with the kind of work I try to do every day.

There exists a Love of Beauty, a Love of the Sublime, a Love of Wisdom, a Nurturing and Protecting Love, Love of the Senses, Love of the Absence of the Senses, Love of Life, Love in Sickness, Love of Warmth, Love of Action… There is Love in everything.  But today, we seem to feel like we must reserve this word, alienating the feeling and making ourselves feel ashamed that we love.

Or maybe, to be more truthful, it was only I who was ashamed to love.