Some time ago I watched a UN webinar on the power of art for peace and conflict resolution. One of the panellists, Lily Yeh, who founded the Barefoot Artists organisation, works with disadvantaged communities across the world, supporting them to create artworks and beautiful spaces within their local communities.
I wrote down some of the things she said:
'Creativity and beauty are powerful means to bring about healing and change'
'Art has the power to transform public space, to transform individuals'
' When we see beauty, we see hope' (Rwandan genocide survivor).
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Beauty isn't a luxury add-on, but a necessity. Along with kindness, peace, compassion and joy, the ability to recognise and celebrate beauty in all its forms, in nature, art, colour, music, inspiring architecture, the face of our beloved, is a mark of our inner divinity, our humanity, and our unity.
This is why extremists of all types always set out to ban or destroy things that are beautiful. They are too much of a threat to their nihilistic agenda. As essential as beauty, and intimately connected with it, is imagination. I think it was Einstein who said that 'Imagination is Everything'. Without imagination we can't put ourselves in someone else's shoes, or feel compassion, (including compassion for terrorists). We can't forgive others, or ourselves. or look towards a hopeful and creative future.
Only new and imaginative responses will work to create a more peaceful world, otherwise we get locked into the old stories of fear, revenge and counter-attack, and the sad cycle perpetuates itself.
I feel more than ever now that honouring and encouraging the creative imagination in others, and recognising and creating beauty myself, is my own small, radical act of (peaceful) defiance and love for our beautiful, troubled world.
This post was originally written and published on a different site in November 2015.
Maybe because I grew up on an island, and live on a larger island at the edge of mainland Europe, I've always been drawn to the sea, while being very respectful (that is, scared) of it. The power and energy of the waves pulls me towards them, while fear and sea-sickness generally keep me firmly on dry land.
So I was fascinated to learn about ocean roads and sea lanes in Robert McFarlane's book 'The Old Ways'. These invisible trackways through the sea are apparently called in Gaelic 'Aster Mara'. He writes:
'Along these sea paths for thousands of years have travelled ships, boats, people, objects and language; letters, folk tales, sea songs, shanties, rumours, slang, jokes and visions'.
I love the idea of invisible channels running between people and places; channels you can see, once you know how to look We always assume that our (very limited) version of the world is the real one, when other people/birds/insects/trees can perceive beyond consensual reality, and inhabit an entirely different world, which overlaps with ours, but is also uniquely theirs.
Same with stories; my inner stories about the world, and about other people (what happens/ why/what 'should' happen instead etc...), are different from 'yours' or 'theirs'. I think I'm right and therefore you/they must be wrong. You think you're right, therefore I must be wrong, or stupid or both.
Acknowledging and accepting that someone or something perceives the world differently is, I think, a good first step towards peace.
After several years of travelling and painting through mainland Europe, New Zealand and the UK, starting this website and blog is a new adventure for me. I'm planning to write about some of my favourite things, like the intricacies of language, the magic of colour and line and how these can capture the fragile beauty of our earth home.
Words, storytelling, poetry, painting and exploring the natural world are all passions of mine, so rather than trying to choose between them, I thought I'd roll them up together and see what happens....
It is said that the Innuit have 100 words for snow.Words can tune us into the subtleties of the natural world, which otherwise we might (literally) not be able to recognise. So here's a new word I learned recently- 'smirr': a dialect for the sort of very fine, misty, mizzly rain, which soaks you to the skin, almost without you realising it...the sort of weather we often have here in the UK in fact. It suggests a combination of murk and mist, as well as rain. I love this kind of weather, and find it very comforting for some reason (but maybe only when I'm indoors, looking out).
And this picture I painted last year, based on many rainy beach walks, in different parts of the world....