An Artist's Ode to a Turtle

Recently I have been thinking about how to get ahead.  Not "ahead" financially - but emotionally and in my art practice.  I frequently look to nature for inspiration . . . usually that would mean the trees, the ocean, the clouds and, always, earth's rocks. 

But today my inspiration is the lowly and 'slow-LY' TURTLE.

According to www.animaltotem.com, having a turtle totem has the following inclinations:  "Turtle teaches us to be careful in new situations and to be patient in reaching our goals. Turtle also teaches us to take things slow, for it gives us time to figure out if we need to protect our self or forge ahead. Turtle shows up in our lives when we need to go into [our] shell and wait until our thoughts & ideas are ready to be expressed. He also teaches us to be adaptable to our environment so we can find the harmony within it."

  

 I think the most important attribute I am working on right now is patience.  I want to run down the studio stairs and immerse myself in making art - I guess that art space is my shell in a sense.  I can truly block out the entire world while I am lost down there.  Yes, it is a true protection . . . but I also might miss something important or meaningful.

So we come full circle (woot, there is a turtle analogy), to audacity.  That turtle needs a whole hunk of it to stick his neck out (this is the most dangerous time for the turtle) to get anywhere.  Can you imagine not only having to risk your very LIFE if you headed out on a journey/goal, but that you had to drag your entire shell/house/studio/life WITH you!!!??????

Today TURTLE has taught me many things . . . the importance of patience, the need for risk taking, and the acceptance of life's baggage (home, children, extended families, work, etc).  I am so encouraged that if nature has given TURTLE such a divine purpose and way to accomplish against all odds - I, too, have received the same potential and ways of progress.

I hope to live long, just like the wise old TURTLE . . . learning to work with and within my environment and balance the risk-taking with the necessary time of self-protection.

If you are interested in more meanings of turtles, please check here .  One last item I found, which I am going to print out and use for inspiration:

Mother Earth

 

Turtle is the oldest symbol for the Earth.
It is the personification of goddess energy and the eternal Earth itself.

If you have a Turtle totem,
you must be mindful of returning to the Earth what she has given you.
Honor the creative source within you.
Use water and earth energies to create a harmonious flow in your life.
Ask the Earth for assistance and her riches will pour forth.

If a Turtle totem shows up in your life,
slow down the pace.
Bigger, stronger, faster are not always the best ways to reach your goals.

Turtle is a fine teacher of the art of grounding.
When you learn to ground yourself to Earth's power and strength,
you place focus on your thoughts and actions
and use the Earth's limitless energies rather than your own to accomplish your will.

 

(excerpt from LinsDomain 

 

 

 

Another Sleepless Night

Here we go again. It is creeping towards 4 a.m. and I am more awake now than I have been all day (er, confession, since I got up at 10:30 a.m.) So we did our much anticipated vacation last week.  Good things about vacation:  no alarm clock.  Beautiful weather in the North Carolina Western Mountains for the first few days, it didn't top 80 degrees, which is HEAVEN to me!  Lazy days, listening to my daughter and her friend laughing . . . even enjoying the rain (although I was slightly worried about the camera when we got caught in a deluge). Nature's Cathedral - My True Spiritual Home Nature's Cathedral - My True Spiritual Home Iffy things about vacation . . . NO internet.  In theory, this is good, right?  No work.  However, lots of my 'joy' is on the internet . . . blogging, researching, looking at other artists' work . . . so I felt pretty cut off. In the end I did lots of reading.  Knitting.  Quiet time with the husband.   Marks the spot of my journey Marks the spot of my journey On our first day we hiked around the top of Whiteside Mountain.  This was glorious.  As I walked I began to notice true calmness creeping through my being.  Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.  It startled me when fellow hikers said 'hi" - I was so in my inner world with nature that I was surprised anyone else was there.  I found a bird on a limb overhanging a chasm and it was happily trilling . . ."helLO, here, here!" . .. seriously, and the way its' trills echoed and bounced off the rock walls - it was a chorus of heavenly proportions. I could have stayed there listening to my singing bird friend forever.  It felt great to share this with Don and the bird sang for him, too.  We were worshipping nature and all that it brings.   As we descended a toursit was smoking and I wanted to scream "Hey, a-hole, what makes you think you can smoke in my church!!!!?????" But, I didn't.  But that is how I felt.  It is confirmed - Nature is where I worship and find sanctuary.  It isn't in a particular building . . . all I have to do is open a window, step outside, or from my studio - look out upon the creek and hundreds year old tree . . . I dwell there, in my church . . . daily.  May nature continue to entwine me . . . all the days of my life.
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What I Have Learned From Trees

I began this post several weeks ago, which now seems like years. Since then, many events have occurred in my life and the lives of my most beloved of souls.  The thoughts I was having seem even more timely now.  Perhaps my soul was preparing itself . . . in any event, I feel led to make these observations on TREES.   Right View: A view as seen along the Natchez Trace in Rural Tennessee.  Taken May, 2009. If I could choose to be any kind of tree, it would be a POPLAR.  Poplar trees have the added bonus of filtering toxins from the soil/ground water.  I would love to be considered a filter - to take in the poison and give out only cleansed energy. From my early days as a barefooted, country girl growing up in rural Illinois and Indiana, trees have framed my life.  From the giant, canopy of grandpa's oak tree on the Indiana farm to the Ginkgo Trees that grew across the street, I have been drawn to the strength and beauty they provide.        What intrigues me most about trees is that they internally and externally exhibit their key characteristic of RESILIENCE - which if you follow me at all, you will know is my eternal quest to grasp.
re·sil·ience [ ri zílly?nss ] or re·sil·ien·cy [ ri zílly?nssee ]
noun 
Definition:
 
1. speedy recovery from problems: the ability to recover quickly from setbacks
2. elasticity: the ability of matter to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched, or deformed It is amazing to me that a view of the tree's internal rings reveal it's entire biography - the year it was born, the travail of injury, the years of abundance and nurture.  I am amazed at the individuality of each scar.  Not only the individuality, but the fact that these scars are the cause of so much beauty and the site of resilience and self-healing.  In a way, these trees are my 'heroes' and nature is where I can instantly receive the succor and peace from everyday challenges.  It is like an instant realignment of internal and external health.  See, echophsycology posting, http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/01/essay-eco-psych.html (Eco-psychology and Inner-World Balance) as well as a previous posting http://sherfickart.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/10/natures-gifts.html (Nature's Gifts)   Along the Natchez Trace I became lost.  Lost, literally, but emotionally as well.  This sojourn provided time to dwell in the bucolic world.  I saw the way nature ate away at the attempted confinement of man.  The trees were devouring the very man-made structures used to tame them.  As time passed, the con-finements were devoured, but the fact of them was left behind - the trees had continued to grow about the chains of man and left behind the visualization of their conquering spirits.   I, too,  seek to be triumphant and to devour my oppression and create a beautiful outcome.  Just like these trees, I hope to heal and transform my internal and external scars into marks of strength.   So, once again, my ruminations return to WHAT REMAINS?  What we keep and why? What will my story say at the end?   To learn more about the Life of a Tree, visit

http://www.arborday.org

 

 
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May Day - Happy Beltane, to Dylan

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, but then . . . I put away childish things. One of the 'childish things' I put away was the making of, and delivering of. May Baskets.
  • May Day, holiday of ancient origin, observed on the first day of May, especially in Europe. It has traditionally been celebrated with merrymaking and festivities. May Day has been set aside to commemorate the labor movement in many countries around the world.
  • Beltane (a/k/a MayDay) http://www.mythinglinks.org/Beltane.html
 
...Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain ('opposite Samhain'), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church's name). This last came from Church Fathers who were hoping to shift the common people's allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham - symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross - Roman instrument of death)....
On the date itself:
...This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Bull, one of the 'tetramorph' figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft.  Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers.... In Ireland, the Fire-Eye organization hopes to light Beltane bonfires on the ancient hills to invoke larger protection and healing for all the animals.  They ask the rest of us, worldwide, to join in this vigil with candles:
...*Light a Bealtine Candle. From April 27 through May 1, place a light in your window to signify your solidarity with the animals and those who tend them. The soft flame of a candle is a tiny echo of those ancient blazes (for safety reasons you may wish to use an electric light).... In a recent interview cosmologist Brian Swimme gave a short version of the whole story of evolution: he said: “You take hydrogen gas, and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes, giraffes, and humans.” If possible, celebrate Beltane in a forest or near a living tree. If this is impossible, bring a small tree within the circle, preferably potted; it can be of any type. Create a small token or charm in honour of the wedding of the Goddess and God to hang upon the tree.  You can make several if you desire. These tokens can be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings, flower garlands - whatever your talents an imagination can conjure....
If you were a child in the mid-70's in the Midwest, you, too, would have woven baskets out of pastel-colored construction paper.  You would have stapled on a construction paper handle and then filled the basket with flowers from your yard, or your neighbors yard ;), and then hung them on doors, knocked (or rung the doorbell), and then RAN REALLY FAST to hide in the bushes and watch the housewives exclaim in wonder as they buried their faces in their posies.   "A tisket, a tasket, a blue and yellow basket . . . " I'm hoping to have time later today (um, it is 1:30 a.m. and I have yet to go to bed) to make some May Baskets and enjoy this lost tradition with my son Dylan, who is turning 17, but this is one of the days he celebrates, and with my daughter, Claire, age 6. My wish to all my friends, near and far, the ones that have supported me in the rough spots and held me high to the spirit of love, to those far who have celebrated with me through the joys of life, career, and family.   I send you this day a virtual posie: may this feed your spirit and renew you in rebirth of energy and joy for the coming season of growth. My heart is always with you, even if my body is not. For Dylan, my son, who is struggling through the tempest of teenage angst and anxious for his real life to begin - please remember to smell the roses, to enjoy each day as it comes for what it is - I am so proud of you - your courage each day as you face life's challenges.  How you not only rise to the occasion, but surpass all I could ever dream for you to be and to become. You are my heart. Dylan, you and I, we share so many good and 'bad' qualities: 1. Curiosity 2. Strong Work Ethic 3. Inbred/inborn moral code. 4. Strength to stand and think on OUR OWN . . . if only this didn't get us in so much trouble. But I can promise you two things, my firstborn, my only son: 1.  You are a miracle and you will one day be able to choose your environment, friends, and family to nurture your soul and mind in the way you deserve. 2.  You are worthy and deserve goodness from life.  I believe in YOU and your soul and I am so looking forward to seeing you blossom into the wonderful, senstive man I know you will become.  As a husband you will be gentle and understanding.  As a father you will be nurturing and guide gently.  As a teacher/explorer - you will show the world things they have never conceived before. Just give it a few years - I promise, your life is unfolding, just as this spring does.  In Hope of Re-Birth, In Celebration of a Blooming World, For Art's Sake, Sher
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The Excavation UNEARTH Series - Encaustic Paintings & Assemblages

    UNEARTH Encaustic on Watercolor Paper on Wood, Mica, River Rocks 15.25”h x 19”w 2006 - Private Collection of John Svara/Haven Kimmel Statement on Series, of which UNEARTH was the 'focal' piece . . . This body of work, titled Excavations, is an ongoing exploration of archaeological content begun in 2004.  It includes 3 sub-categories: but I will focus on Identification of Personal Archeology for this posting. These works explore and integrate both my personal and cultural iconography.  Repeated media includes encaustic (molten wax with pigment) and found objects on wood.  I choose to work in encaustic for its properties of luminosity and layering, as well as its flexibility with mixed media.  The found objects represent personal associations of childhood [in UNEARTH the river rocks are like the ones on my Grandfather's Indiana Farm and the mica was actually found, in its natural rock state, while hiking in North Georgia, as I peeled the layers apart, it metaphorically revealed the translucency of my life/humanity], as well as the broadened idea of cultural experiences.  By exploring contemporary interpretations and pushing the limits of idea, material, and presentation, I celebrate the sacredness as well as the irony of the objects. Here is a link to an Essay regarding my theories on Eco-psychology, which was the impetus for the Diptych UNEARTH. http://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a00e54eea3ea0883400e54eea3ea38834/post/6a00e54eea3ea0883400e550033d268833/edit More specifically, what I do is question what sparks my childhood interests and then delve into that from every direction . . . archaeology blows my mind - not just the history but the literal physical act of searching, digging, failing, revealing.  The organic lines UNEARTH are actual topographic lines and the grid is created from real archaeological screening material (my kids took a Summer Archaeological class at the college I taught at in FLORIDA) . . . that sifting can reveal many things - trash, organic manner, man-made relics, etc. - - by overlaying the translucent theories of virtual psychological archaeology with the empirical science of archaeology, using personal icons from my childhood & beyond, this came up. The blue squares contained in the grid represent the metaphorical "treasures" found (and is the same way that found items are recorded by archaeologist's). Other works in the EXCAVATION series include:   Reliquary, 7"h x 18"w x 11"d.  Encaustic on Watercolor Paper on Pine Wine Box, Sliding Box Top, Interior contains black river rocks.  Floor Installation. AVAILABLE.     Open view of SLICE OF LIFE, altered Wine Storage Box, Private Collection: John W. & Sarah MacMullen.   Closed view of SLICE OF LIFE. 14"h x 8"w x 3"d  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

INCENDIARY (above, right)

Souvenier Matchbox, Matches, Mica, Encaustic in Found Box

Opened size: 10” x 5”

2006 - AVAILABLE

 

 

SAFETY ISSUES (left)

Box, Safety Pins (personal icon of artist), Encaustic, Rusted Mesh, Iron Tacks

4" x 8.25" open

2006 - AVAILABLE

 

 

Remnants of Truth (left)

Encaustic, Box, Wire, Rice Paper, Oil Pastel, Found Wire from East Green (Central Park)

2006

Available 6"x 8.25" (open)

 

 

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

 

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Nature's Gifts

 This is the glorious view I woke up to this morning in our little corner of Tennessee.  We don't have real acreage, but we are blessed enough, and have worked hard enough to be backed up to this undeveloped and protected lowland.  Within about 10 minutes it went from a complete blanket of fog to this softly-filtered divine light. I can't express how beautiful it was and how grateful I feel to live in such a beautiful spot on our planet earth.  It holds up to all the beauty I have seen in Italy, or anywhere else in the United States - all in my backyard!! Here is a view of what remains of the Tibetan-style Prayer Flag I created for the health of my favorite author, Haven Kimmel.  If you haven't read "A Girl Named Zippy," yet - buy it tomorrow.  It will bring a smile to your heart and a laugh to your soul. May Nature Shine Her Light Upon You, For Art's Sake,

Sher

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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part II)

continued from Part I . . .

More importantly than the skills which are applied in our business worlds are the values gained through an exposure to the arts.  Values can be practiced where it really counts for something - in our communities and family relations.  Tolerance of racial and ethnic traditions is required to move our communities forward in cultural and socio-economic settings.  Peace can only be achieved through communication, and the arts are a universal form of communication.  Isadora Duncan has stated: "If I could tell you what I mean, there would be no point in dancing".  The language of the arts can bridge any cultural schism.  Marianne Williamson reminds us in A Return to Love that to communicate is to love and to attack is to separate (160).

Otto Dix, a visual artist who lived through both World Wars, refers to the creative energy as a form of "exorcise"; and Frida Kahlo, another visual artist who lived with physical torments from an accident, stated that painting "purged her memory" and helped her deal with chronic pain and physical anguish.  Eco-psychologists consider art to be an integral form of therapy, one in which our communion with nature may be fully expressed and that our psyches require this communion with nature to effect emotional and spiritual balance for atonement (being at one with nature) in our lives.

Through open mindedness and an ability to express oneself, a generation schooled in the arts will be capable of reaching the peace and cultural acceptance unknown on our planet since "civilization" began.  Only through seeking creative solutions to our differences can we avoid the apparently automatic urge to "bear arms" (emphasis mine).  When an individual is unable to express their confusion and disillusionment with their world in a non-violent manner, we view their expression through violence.  As is apparently the case in the recent phenomenon of adolescent males using firepower to demand recognition and retribution in our schools.  This irrepressible need for attention was obviously not fulfilled in their younger days, they were not taught or given examples of acceptable expression, therefore they need to act out against their supposed or imagined oppressors.  World wars have always begun because of intolerance of others; we are currently suffering the consequences of our own condoning attitude towards intolerance.  One cannot hide these attitudes from family and communities.  Intolerance needs to be recognized for what it is - a sickness of the heart and soul and treated as such.  When words are not heeded, actions will follow.

Once an individual has learned for themselves "non-judgment and patience" (Carbonetti 102) through arts, these same values can be enacted in their families and communities and, eventually, universally.  By learning to express oneself through art so that one might live authentically; and by expressing one's own realizations and manifesting (i.e., making evident or plainly show something) those beliefs, an individual will be capable of sharing with the world the greatest gift.  A human who understands and has experienced their own beliefs can authentically express himself or herself.

Ackerman refers to art as a form of "deep play", wherein an individual may reach balance of mind and spirit.  Having "peace with one's self and the world" is a necessary element of living the human experience in a fulfilling manner.  To choose an outlet for one's emotions, whether it be through writing, drama, visual arts, dance or any other form of expression is to lose yourself in the merging of the creative moment.  By doing so an alternate reality is reached, troubles may be left behind, and an individual becomes the conqueror, creator, invincible; literally - "an ideal version of oneself".

Therefore, children must be given the means with which to express themselves.  Children must view peaceful and meaningful examples of communication.  Our perceptions are comprised of more than the written word; therefore, our training should include other forms of communication.  We express our emotions through body language, visual aids, cadence, and eye contact, and many more forms.  However, rarely do you ever see a curriculum that lists "non-verbal communication" other than sign language for the deaf.  A class need not be so literal, but the attitude needs to be in the learning institution that art is vital to the overall emotional and intellectual development of a child and has an inherent worth in and of itself (emphasis mine).  Art is an essential part of being human and in expressing ourselves as individuals within a larger society.  Only through expression can similarities be identified and those similarities can be the building blocks of a new understanding between cultures.  Art historians have been the major contributors of theological study in ancient cultural beliefs, daily regimes, and historical significance.  It is through their arts that we can visualize ancient Rome, Pompeii, and Egypt.    Understanding of diverse cultures may be reinterpreted into any form of dance, theater, philosophy, poetry,  . . . the list is endless.  Through shared expression a new relationship is born between the cultures and the grand collaboration of peace can begin.

. . . to be continued in Part III along with Works Cited references.

copyright 1999 - Sher Fick, all rights reserved

 

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Why, In Our Current Culture, Bother Making Art?

Throughout human existence, individuals have spoken through their arts. 

By studying a culture’s uncovered arts, we discover clues to their spiritual beliefs, daily lives, traditions, and human relationships - to name just a few benefits.

 

Therefore, artists in today’s world can bring forth these same revelations.  An artist has a chance to make social commentary (to me the most important), statements on spirituality, celebrate life, question the unanswerable, and reconcile their struggles. 

 

By communicating visually, the artist traverses the cultural/lingual divide.

No one needs to know your race, religion, or gender in order to view and interpret your art.

Ideally, art can be the great connector.  I believe expressing yourself also sends energies into the Universe – thus communicating with all forms of life.

 

It is of vital importance to express yourself in some creative manner (all liberal arts are inclusive in expression) in order to avoid repression and illnesses of mind and body.

 

 

 

Written August 2000 for Advanced Sculptural Form, University of West Florida, Professor John P. Donovan’s class.

 

 

 

Post Script - "Note on SOLE MATES, above":

 

 

 

Assignment was for a found object/recycling project: 

 

I utilized junk from the trash pile at my favorite antique/junk store in Niceville, FL - the legs and an old cabinet door was part of my loot.  I wanted to reassign the purpose of objects as well, thus changing a door into a table, etc.  While working on this project my favorite pair of boots literally fell apart while I was working in the studio.  It was a pair of "parachute" boots I had purchased while engaged in 1990 (so they were 10 years old by this time).  I was so mad, they had molded to my feet and were like working in bare feet, but safe!  I was ticked and was dropping them in the trash can (something I would NEVER do since) when I glimpsed some ART? on the sole of the boot . . . I quickly retrieved them and found this amazing rubber stamp design on the sole - in fact it was THE SOLE of the boots!  A gorgeous global map with "leave footprints of peace" or something like that . . .

 

 

 

I had been leaving those footprints for 10 years, completely unaware of my effect on my environment.  It was what we consciously and unconsciously do in our daily lives that effect the world around us. 

 

 

 

I now try to be aware and choose the footprints I leave behind.  I still re-cycle/pre-cycle my garbage, as any view of my studio can attest . . . you NEVER know when you can use/re-use something.

 

 

 

For Art's Sake,

sher

 

 

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Integrating the Liberal Arts, Education, and Human Potential (Part I)

Written April 27, 1999 for Philosophy/Ethics Class, with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, University of West Florida.

If we want our world to be still, gray and silent, then we should keep the arts out of school, shut down the neighborhood theatre, and barricade the museum doors.  When we let the arts into the arena of learning, we run the risk that color and motion and music will enter our lives.

-David Rockefeller, Jr.

By examining the benefits of integrating the liberal arts (theater, music, philosophy, dance, and visual arts) into our educational system, we see that humans can learn to effectively change the course of our culture and environment.  Through directly integrating the liberal arts into our educational curriculum, the enhancement of all individuals will be achieved.  Currently the "arts" are viewed as "extra-curricular" activities, which are not considered essential to a child's emotional or intellectual development.  Required subjects are the "three R's - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic".  Only if additional funds, volunteers, and resources are available do the children receive the benefit of exposure to the arts.  Yet, "the arts, properly taught, are basic to individual development, since they, more than any other subject, awaken the senses - the learning pores" (Panel 6).

Humans require means through which to express themselves, separate from the written word.  If an individual is unsuccessful in expressing themselves through the visual, theatrical or musical fields, we know that frustrations build up from repression and anxiety - these stresses lead to physical and emotional illnesses.  Art can be a catalyst for filtering and expressing our life experiences, positive and negative, so that one might better handle the future, and not be buried in the past or in negative experiences.  Through exposing children to the act of collaborating with others on art projects (writing plays, painting murals, building large sculptures) they will learn how to work with others.  By working out divergent opinions and ideas, by problem-solving, and by creating their own joint successes - confidence in themselves and other humans can be experienced.  World leaders of today could utilize these same collaborative skills in effecting world peace.  In learning to respect differing beliefs, yet by focusing on commonalities, human potential can be achieved.

Unfortunately, to date, most conventional educators have not accepted the integral necessity of incorporating the arts into the everyday experiences of our lives, "nor as a legitimate part of education" (Panel 6).  By separating the importance of arts from education, the educational community is sending a clear message that art is not necessary for success and wellbeing.  Clearly, the opposite is true:  "Segregation of art from education is unnatural . . . art is indivisible from life and education" (Panel 6).  By providing our children with artistic experiences from their earliest learning experiences we will offer unique ways of viewing the world.  Art teaches diversity, patience, and problem solving; while at the same time motivates the individuals by creating successful experiences which will encourage deeper and further learning challenges.  Direct benefits are currently being revealed:  music study leads to higher mathematical comprehension; dance positively influences physical wellness; visual arts expand problem solving and communication skills; and philosophy teaches tolerance and flexible thinking.  "Art is power . . . it influences the mind, the nerves, the feelings, the soul . . . " (Panel 7, 16; Gaines 58-72, Barzun 21).  As an example, VH1's "Save The Music" program is trying to insure that all children will be able to "expand their brain cells" by being exposed to musical education in public elementary schools (http://vh1.com/insidevh1/savethemus/ . . . April 1999).

 

Once the arts are encouraged and the natural creativity of a child is nurtured, or in essence midwifed/birthed" (emphasis mine), these skills will be carried throughout their lives.  In the professional world, artistic skills are highly coveted.  The ability of an individual to think "outside the lines" (emphasis mine) is beneficial in the technological fields where capabilities are challenged in this constantly evolving field.  Being able to think originally is what sets apart individuals and businesses into the successes of a generation.  For instance, the world would be less enjoyable without the creative thinking of Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, or Rosa Parks, to name a few.

(to be continued, Part II & III, with Works Cited provided on last installment)

 

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Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza   By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars. It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance. Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology. Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing. Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact? Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world? To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries. Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2). By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society. Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment). Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006 By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children. Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents. After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love). We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia. Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view. Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there. In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us. WORKS CITED: Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992. Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991. Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961. Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995. Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992. Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998. Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995. Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.
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Essay: Anthropocentrism v. Ecocentrism

  Left - Ephemeral EarthWork created at Grand Canyon, 2001 by Sher Fick When considering the effects of anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism one must reflect upon societies which based their communal existence on either and compare the two.  We know that originally, all humans were ecocentric in their manner of living in communion with the earth and, literally, worshiped the ground from whence they emerged.  Anthropologists note the major shift from the "earth mother" native cultures occurred when communities became tied to one piece of earth and to agricultural development.  The agriculturalist belief system spread and conquered surrounding societies to fulfill their need for food and shelter. Continuing the agricultural movement has led to the now coined "techno-man" (see, philosopher Sam Keen) who seeks to conquer even the world in which we live.  The techno-men propose ways in which to prevent natural catastrophes (for example, proposing to hang a 2-mile wide mirror in space to reflect the sun onto the ocean surfaces to warm water to prevent hurricanes).  Maybe the hurricanes are Mother Nature's way of getting rid of fleas off her back, a type of population control.  It might be brutal, but so is birth and death, a natural life cycle. While some advances are clearly beneficial to humankind (eradication of small pox and polio for example) and improve our quality of life, it is unknown what the ultimate outcome of technology shall be.  Considering the atomic bomb, which has killed thousands of people and destroyed acres of nature, to be a beneficial technology seems rather ludicrous as the technological aim is supposed to be improving upon nature, not destroying it. It is the man-centered technologist who is making advances without due consideration to the world population as a whole.  It is a dreadful gift to create something which leads to ultimate destruction of any being.  This changes the creator into a destroyer.  If man's legacy upon this earth is measured only by his technical creations, we see that more has been destroyed than "created" in the last two hundred years. An emotional wound is also left by this worship of technology over the natural world.  We view the phenomenon of serial killers and rapists in particular, most who profess a need to "overpower" the weaker individuals in an effort to prove their own superiority.  The belief systems have been inbred from childhood in the grand hierarchy of abuse - - - father abuses son, son abuses smaller children, smaller children abuse animals, so on and so forth, each generation increasing its abuse and victims evolving into abusers.  The grand pecking order of the anthropocentric belief system does not allow for empathy and compassion to any other individual, unless it serves one man's needs, let alone extending to women, animals, and the earth. For thousands of years before techno/anthropocentric man, ecocentric humans inhabited our earth, communing with nature and surviving in a peaceable manner.  Communities moved with the seasons, gathered together when desired, yet left what they did not need.  The Kouri (Australian Aboriginal people) still live today the way they did for thousands of years.  The earliest art known is found in an Australian cave, dating back 14,000 years.  For millenniums the dreamtime tales have been passed down through verbal records, the same manner of building, harvesting and art making have continued unchanged.  Who has the right to say "This is not the right way," certainly not anyone outside of their culture.  Yet they have been dwindled in number down to only a few thousand, pushed time and time again from their ancient lands, forced to live on the outskirts of their sacred earth and ancestral dwelling places, to view in horror as "modern man" destroys the tundra and thousands of its species.  Native Americans have lived this same experience. Anthropocentrism has all but killed out the ancient ecocentric way of life.  Only recently has the negative effects of anthropocentrism (war, bigotry, massive consumption of natural resources, etc.) become apparent to the general public and the positive effects of ecocentrism has made it to the forefront (complementary medicine, benefits of cultural diversity, conservation of nature, animal rights, etc.).  Not until the balance has been reached between the two will the outcome be known. We have the power and technology with which to destroy ourselves and our planet, it is yet to be seen whether or not we have the power and technology to save ourselves and our planet. written March 1999, Ethics Class with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, copyright Sher Fick
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