RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: 21st century life

Witness and Solitude

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To witness and to be witnessed is a form of acknowledgement of our own and others’ existence.  It is the sibling of ‘belonging’  identified by Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of basic needs as crucial to our emotional well-being.  Few are able to live entirely in the absence of either.

As I approach my mid-fifties, I suddenly find myself without parents – officially an orphan as one friend stated!  Neither uncommon or unexpected.  And yet I was unprepared for the sense of aloneness I experienced, even though I’m not from what you would describe as a close family either geographically or emotionally.  It has surprised me, since I live and work alone I’m used to and comfortable with my own company.  But parents or carers are our primary witnesses, they watch over us when we are young, validate our efforts as young adults and observe  from the sidelines as we progress through life.  And then at some point the witness becomes the observed as we in turn keep an eye on them in their advanced twilight years.

The threshold over which we take our first steps into aloneness is often experienced as abandonment.  Many will step back in fear and seek distraction, the company of an unsuitable partner or live at the edge of other people’s lives, rather than allow the space and time for a solitary life to flourish.  Alone we are faced with nothing but our own reflection, our repetitive inner voice, no-one to be impatient with but ourselves!  Tired of our own story, we eventually begin to tell it in a different way, we no longer need to filter it for the ears or expectations of others and we can live our life as a question rather than a fiercely guarded certainty.  Sooner or later a fresh complexion begins to appear, the gentle re-weaving of our inner and outer forms.

In the 21st century to seek solitude is considered odd, others feel rejected and offended by it.  But to allow ourselves – and others – to be alone, whether for hours or days or weeks, is to live something that feels like a choice again.  In this space we can experience our own truth, not to sink into despair of a mis-spent past or regret a decision made long ago, but to inhabit the space in a fresh way, to navigate the movable frontier between what has been and what we are about to become.  Self-knowledge allows us to adopt the manner of the fledgling novice once more, humble and gracious in our attention to ourselves, others and life.  It is good to remove ourselves from time to time from the chaotic flow of a world which never stands still, to find our place within it once more.

Painting ‘Field of Dreams’ Rebecca Pells Fine Art

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Just a Moment

In our busy lives the opportunity to seek sanctuary, even for a few moments is ever important to our wellbeing.  My latest painting ‘Just a Moment’ tries to capture just such a place – the meeting of time with the timeless; the passing moment framed by what has happened and what is about to occur.  Favouring a muted palette the subject and colours suggest an essence of time spilling over the threshold into the 21st century.

'Just a Moment' Acrylic on Canvas 40x40cms

‘Just a Moment’
Acrylic on Canvas
40x40cms

You can find more of my fledgling work on www.rebeccapells.co.uk

 

 

Orgasm of the Mind

In my time alone my life happens.

I’m at my most peaceful sitting in dappled shade, the dancing of the shadows reflecting my thoughts as they skip between the light and darker corners of my mind.  This dipping in and out is the intercourse of creative life – the place where ideas are conceived, nurtured and born; where conversations take place without saying a word.

Reflection, thought, solitude and contemplation.

Words which seem to jar and sit ill at ease with 21st century vocabulary, which in order to be heard above the mayhem of tweeting, trending and texting would need to shout and present themselves loudly, the very antithesis of their meaning.  They are unfashionable words, the execution of which is seen as odd or eccentric.  And yet we should cherish and practice them at every opportunity. Until 50 or so years ago it was only the elite who had time to stand and stare but now with so many labour saving devices in the average western home we too have that luxury if only we choose to embrace it.  Instead many of us fill those disposable hours with online activity, encouraged to put ourselves forward, to shout the loudest and follow the latest viral trend or else we have somehow failed . . . the irony of which as I type this post is not lost on me!  We have ceased to become self-reliant, choosing instead to escape into this world of hyper-activity in preference to our own company.

And yet it is a precious thing, to be still and reflect, to explore our thoughts away from the influences of the external world.  To be self-reliant is to breed tenacity, the will and self-determination to follow our own path when those around us are walking the other way.  It develops imaginative curiosity to seek out answers for ourselves rather than an easy following of the crowd.

And it takes courage to be different.

To be alone and not defined by someone or something else, to avoid being influenced by outside things – this is what creates strength and individuality.  We live in the age of individualism and yet, in reality our world is strictly regulated and the individual is merely on a treadmill that keeps the social template moving. It is only by removing ourselves from the system – however briefly – that we are truly ourselves; to be brave enough to navigate our own path is to develop the ability to re-engage more intensely and purposefully without risking loss of identity.

If we dare to withhold from immersive over-sharing and delve into speculative thought, we may be rewarded with creative inspiration, the courting of a fresh passion, the desire to perfect a new skill and the exquisite experience as it all comes together into something tangible.  It can afford you one of the greatest pleasures of all – what Michael Foley in his excellent book ‘The Age of Absurdity’ refers to as the orgasm of the mind.

To be actively individual is not passive or reclusive, rather it is like standing back from a painting in order to see it more clearly.

And it is from here that we may find our purpose and thus our meaning.

 Quiet Contemplation

‘Quiet Contemplation’

Rebecca Pells    2014

Knowledge, Intelligence and Wisdom

Two weeks ago the New Birmingham Library was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai.  It struck me that this 16 year old girl, thrust into the limelight following her fight for education in her homeland of Pakistan, already displays the hallmarks of wisdom.  Having visited the library last week, I cannot deny that it is a wonderful facility, crammed with information gathered, written and published through previous generations and which can now be accessed in any number of traditional and technical ways.

As time goes by and our understanding of the world expands, new discoveries are made and life becomes increasingly complex, so does the amount of knowledge recorded, shared and passed onto our children.  Each generation has to start at the beginning to learn the basics and despite increasing years spent in formal education, most of us can only hope to ever reach the lower echelons of the pyramid of knowledge. Our way of handling this overwhelming amount of information is to specialize and become experts in one tiny sphere and as such our outlook on life is forever skewed by our lens of choice.  When faced with challenges beyond that field of vision we believe it is not our problem, that someone else will have the knowledge to fix it and we relinquish any sense of personal responsibility.

How we record and share copious amounts of knowledge is one thing,  but for me the moot point is whether our propensity to spend greater amounts of time in formal education is producing the collective wisdom required to tackle the global challenges of 21st century life. Just 80 years ago in the so called western countries it was the norm to leave school at 14; today many are studying well into their twenties and yet the evidence that this has produced an equivalent increase in wisdom is not obvious. If we look at those individuals whose actions have had positive benefits for large numbers of people – Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela – they are few and far between, perhaps one or two per generation.  None of them benefited from extended formal education and yet arguably they displayed a wisdom most of us are in awe of.  Can such wisdom be taught in a classroom or is it something which is innate in a few individuals and which given the opportunity, will propel that person to act for the greater good?  Do they perhaps view the world through a wide angle lens rather than one which has narrowed it’s focus?  In trying to increase our knowledge with unprecedented amounts of information are we actually overloading our minds and cluttering our ability for clear and wise thinking?

In an era which has for the first time in history enabled us to be acutely aware of global issues, does the forum and delivery of knowledge and the nurturing of intelligence require a different approach?  The encouragement of modern individualism seems at odds with the challenges which need addressing in the 21st century.  In Malala maybe we are witnessing one such wise individual but it seems we are far from knowing how to harness, share and encourage a collective wisdom.

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