Awakening the Aesthetic Within
By Hwaa Irfan
When we look at something and it pleases us, in general, in today’s world it pleases us through one of five senses, but not from within. We like it, then not like it, according to our mood, while our souls are left malnourished for the chance to know if it is good for us or bad for us. As such we may find ourselves forever wanting to improve or replace.
Lost to modernity, many people equate lack of modernity as being backward, but what is not understood by the use of the word modernity, is that it is in fact a culture, a culture with a systemic belief in a perfection that is deprived of one’s soul.
Our body is one great receptor, with every cell in our body functioning along a certain wavelength like a string on a guitar. Certain types of cells form a community which takes the shape of an organ, and each organ in our body has a certain resonance at which it vibrates. If that resonance is disturbed by “foods” that vibrate at a lower level, it negatively affects the resonance of that organ, and so that organ in our body begins to vibrate at a rate other than its own frequency.
But we have been entrained moreso through a process of a singular globalized culture to go against our respective frequencies of resonance, and in so doing we stop listening to ourselves, and become increasingly lost in a series of identities ‘designed’ to maintain a singular globalized culture instead of the diversity that we are born into. It is this measure of ‘perfection’ that causes us to stray from ourselves, thus self knowledge. Then it becomes the “other”, the thing/person which is not like “us”. By doing so we polarize the world after we have polarized aspects of our selves.
Being Put to Sleep
We are schooled on this singular globalized to define beauty as defined by that culture, and with that perception of beauty the modern world ticks along without our souls intact. It then becomes a race, to the ‘prefect’ personality, the ‘perfect’ friend, the ‘perfect’ career, the ‘perfect’ spouse, the ‘perfect’ children all of which culminates in a collection of individuals that form the ‘perfect’ society full of shapes, lines, and colours that may please us, but only superficially.
A recent interview by a well known woman in the healing arts, led such a life, and referred to her ‘perfect’ suburban American town as a “Stepford” town. If anyone has watched the original version of the film “The Stepford Wives,” one realizes what is meant by ‘perfection’ in this context. And so her life went ‘happily’ along as an accomplished CEO until one day, she collapsed, and remained unconscious for five minutes. Of course she went to the doctors for a thorough check up, and was told that there was nothing wrong with her physically. The wise doctor then asked about her life – was she happy. He asked her an incomprehensible question, that is, did she do anything for herself. The question as difficult to fathom until she realized that she did not do anything for herself – she was used to ordering her world, and making things happen. He then advised her to take one hour a day that was totally for her, even if it was in a room that nobody was allowed to enter, and to take another hour each day for walks. With time, she realized that she was not happy at all. To say the least, her whole world began to change as she began to discover the needs of her soul.
What caused me to write this is the love that a brother known simply as Jinan has for awakening aesthetic awareness. Running regular workshops for children in his country India, Jinan strongly believes:
“Beauty is the most fundamental of human existence. Beauty is what truly makes one authentic. Beauty is what binds us to the external world. Beauty is what creates culture-the architecture, the music, the artifacts, various dance forms and agriculture and off course knowledge. Senses are our doors to knowledge and beauty. What is fundamental to any culture is its sense of beauty. This is what creates all the elements of any culture. The beautiful architecture, various functional products, songs and dances, women and men etc.”
What Jinan refers to as beauty is not the beauty of the singular globalized culture, that conveys a narrowness upon which we live our lives making us more materialistic, and less open to the knowledge that presents itself, and therefore less tolerant of “others”, but the beauty that brings harmony into the world. What Jinan observed is:
“What is clear is the natural biological aspect of learning is lost from the modern world. The schooling definitely kills it – so also the ‘educated’ parents. The so called educated are the most distanced form.
“NATURE and its ways. Children, before we condition them, offer us a possibility for learning to reconnect with nature. Or at least to witness how much children are NATURE! But there are rules to be imposed on ourselves. To allow children to teach us we need to be like them. Innocent, truthful, trusting, open. More than this we need to give up our power over them. The feeling that we know better is what prevents any learning and added to this is the physical power we use and so also the emotional black mailings. We need to learn to respect them.”
Jinan aims to nurture:
– The wholistic way of being in the world.
– ‘re integrating art, science and language’ ‘re integrating work, play and learn’
– ‘re integrating intuition and reasoning’ ‘re integrating the mind and body’
– ‘re integrating the feminine and masculine’ ‘becoming PRESENT to the moment’
The ideas may seem new, and for sure an increasingly number of people around the world feel this to be true, but as the world goes through a process of change, our individual lives are presented with an opportunity to give birth to the expression of our souls. It is an act of worship in Islam, an act that brings about spiritual union empowering one’s higher self. In Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya`Ulum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) it is explained as:
“Know, O dear readers, that every which is beautiful is dear to one of the senses. Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Material beauty can be perceived by the eye. The beauty of divine glory can only be appreciated by the mind. The word beauty is used to describe the attributes of individuals. It is therefore said that man has a beautiful character. The word applies to his qualities, and not to his physical appearance. He is loved for his beautiful attributes as one is loved for his beautiful appearance. If this love is deep, it is called ishq. Even more wonderful is when a dead man is loved, not for his appearance , but for the innate qualities he possessed. All worldly beauty is a spark of that permanent beauty of Allah and a spark of His light. So, how can he not love Him who is ever beautiful and the prime source of beauty ? He who realizes this, loves Him the most. Nothing can be compared to the beauty of the sun and the moon. Allah is creator of these beautiful things. So how should He be loved?”
It is that process of loving that we learn to live, to remove the barriers that separate us from ourselves, our loved ones, each other, and therefore from Him. This is argued by Ibn Sina who refers to an innate aesthetic that is implanted in every intellectual being. It nurtures within us a sense of harmony within our lives the purpose of which is for the outer world to mirror the inner world, which is lost if the outer world is purely a creation of the ego, the personality which knows not the yearnings of the soul.
So intrinsic to our soul is this need for harmony that we can see it expressed in children when they are faced with ugliness before they become entrained to accept the imbalanced globalized world of the adult. Is it not for this reason why as adults we can become enchanted by the child’s view of reality – the innocence, the spontaneity, and the reminder which they present to us. Jinan found this to be true and explored what has become of it has they grow older:
“Some time ago, in 1996 or so I had done a workshop called “Against the Tyranny of Reason.” An year later I did another workshop called “De-textualising Experience.” All these issues seem to me very much connected to loss of our connection with the core of our being which is biological, sensorial, experiential, autonomous etc. My work with the non literate artisans due to its paradigm of respect for their creativity and cultural rooted-ness gave insight in to a very different way of knowing and being- humble, innocent, respectful of nature and at the same time original and creative. The modern notion of creativity is very much centred around commerce and market driven which stems from greed and not need)”
There is a growing reality in the education systems of many countries that should be explored, and that is increasingly a number of students are not opting for the subjects that we as adults would like to impose on them for the sake of a decided future. That growing reality is that of the arts over math, or science. Increasingly one listens to why a person takes up dance for example long after they have left the formal education process, to find that their souls are calling for expression when they comment because they “feel connected” or “ feel free”. Yet the inner aesthetic is not something to relegated to the corner of our lives, but to be reflected in all parts of our lives, from how we live, to how we work, to how we interact.
Ironically, this is one of the findings on those designated with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Researchers from the University of Michigan and Eckerd College, U.S. found that adults who have been designated with having ADHD are more creative than those who have not been designated as ADHD. Again, scientists at the University of Montreal found that the brains of autistic people are more developed when it comes to visual information, and are more highly developed in that respect. Dr Laurent Mottron of from the team commented:
“The natural tendency is to think that autism is a form of disorganization. Here, what we see is that it is a reorganization of the brain.”
It is our limited perception of what is deemed ‘perfect’, and therefore ‘acceptable’ that is crippling the potential within so many whether classified as mentally challenged or not. Dr Christine Ecker from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, London reflected on these findings by stating:
“This review highlights that autism should not only be seen as a condition with behavioral difficulties, but should also be associated with particular skill.”
We all have particular skills, and the way in which the world around us is receptive to those skills, and accepts those skills is what is disabling. I know this to be true in working with those designated as schizophrenics, with many of the violent symptoms being a product of the way in which they are perceived. Many cases of depression and social anxiety disorder follow the same path, leaving little room for their aesthetic expression of those souls in a world that has limited expression. The process by which this is done is through the standardized globalized factory education.
“School prepares us for processing and storing information by excessive importance given to memorization and development of conscious and instrumentalist reasoning. These two skills seems to be incapable of perception, creativity which is what is required in the realm of the unknown.
“Schools makes us in to rigid, mechanical and second hand beings, ready to serve or to order as we learn ‘authority’ at schools. Authority of teacher, authority of knowledge.
“Another damage is the inability for creativity as we lose our intuitive ability because of over use of logic and dependency on memorized knowledge. The reasoning ability is often used to reason away, to maintain status quo of our rigid and static mind. Since our link to the world is through text our experience is textualised.”
Jinan aims to reach the children for then they are more able to make the turn around before it is too late, and will be running another workshop from16th May till 22nd May 2011 entitled ‘Learning from Children’ . (www.kumbham.org, http://www.rediscoveringchildhood.org, http://www.my.opera.com/jinankb )
Be like the artisans of Iranian carpet-making, who make the most sought after carpets, but with a flaw. That flaw was and is intentional, because like life, we are here to learn from the heart and the mind together insha-Allah.
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