We cannot be erased

Photos of paintings by Shamsia Hassani

We Planted the seeds  :  Female graffiti artists of Afghanistan

I was drawn to a profoudly moving article, in this week’s Observer newspaper, by Ruchi Kamar, an Indian journalist reporting from Kabul.
On Twitter she has reported,  “Last week I was a journalist. Today I can’t write under my own name. My whole life has been obliterated in days. I’m not safe because I’m a 22-year-old woman. and because I’m a journalist”

Ruchi is one of a group of women in Afghanistan who have challenged inequality, violence and the progress of women in an hitherto male dominated society. They have spoken through the medium of art, particularly graffiti art, using the buildings of their cities as their canvas. Art was the seed of change they planted in the fabric and the hearts of progressive Afghanstan. It was never plain sailing but since the takeover by the Taliban it has become, for the time being, almost an impossible dream.

Most of the women artists have fled from Afghanistan but even where the Taliban has whitewashed their art, the power of their story lives on. Most are continuing to paint and offer cartoons which challenge us all in the global struggle to foster inclusivity, peace, justice and freedom for all.

One of the leaders of the Art movement is Shamsia Hassani  (born 1988). She is a graffiti artist, was until the Taliban arrived a fine arts lecturer and was associate professor of Drawing and Anatomy Drawing at Kabul University. She has popularized street art in Kabul and exhibited in a number of countries round the world. Excluded currently from Afghanistan, their voice lives on in their drawings.

After reading Ruchi Kumar’s article, I was moved to write this poem:

We cannot be erased

Men in black came.
Shrouded in rags of darkness,
they carried pots and crumpled brushes,
grubby paint under their dirt-ridden fingernails.

But we eluded them.
They did not capture our spirit, or even our fears
and we slipped behind our art.

They found our murals –
not hidden, but filling the streets.
Statements of freedom, love and hope
on walls and doorways, houses, alleyways and souks.
Art in the public domain:
picture-words addressed to those
who would be changed by them,
engaged through them.
Hope, constantly embraced.

Dangerous words for those who want control,
power and demonic servitude.
So they came with their little pots to erase them –
to erase us!
Frantically obliterating all we stood for.

But by then we had gone,
slipping beyond the darkness out of reach.
We cannot be silenced – not even in Kabul.
Our identity, our message, our struggle, our hopes
are all there in the soil of our country,
planted deep, but growing up through the darkness
watered by tears shed abroad,
until, one day…

Our hearts hurt yet also yearn.
Sad now, but with joyful expectations
and the determination to open our hearts one day
to a new dawning…

We cannot be erased.

© Mr.G Oct 2021

Pausing in solitude

Another offering from my friend, Joyce Smith

In various forms, the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words, holds a truth. One carefully taken photo can hold us spellbound, our hearts touched.
Joyce Smith’s offering here, of a Grey Heron, pausing in solitude among the beauty of autumn colours is one of those photographs.

It stills us and invites us to sit, pause from whatever we are doing or from things that worry or make us anxious. This can move us into a prayer pause. We let God touch our lives and remind us that whatever is occupying our thoughts, God is holding us.
Change the direction of our thoughts and we will know this. The Heron seems to be sure.

All this photo needs is a prayer. Here is one by George Appleton.
It is one of my favourites.

QUIET HEARTS

O Spirit of God,
set at rest the crowded, hurrying, anxious thoughts
within our minds and hearts.
Let the peace and quiet of thy presence
take possession of us.
Help us to rest, to relax,
to become open and receptive to thee.
Thou dost know our imost spirits,
the hidden unconscius life within us,
the forgotten memories of hurts and fears,
the frustrated desires,
the unresolved tensions and dilemmas.
Cleanse and sweeten the springs of our being,
that freedom, life and love
may flow into both our conscious and hidden life.
Lord, we lie open before thee,
waiting for thy peace,
thy healing,
thy word.

[Mr G]  with thanks to Joyce.

P.S. St Bruno was the founder of the religious order known as the Carthusians

Bee in Autumn

The last lone bee of the season
caresses the flowers of autumn,
dusting the late pollen
leaving us a legacy,
a final squeeze of nectar.

The leaves turn gently,
a golden and red canopy of grandeur.
a delicious carpet of rustic colour
forming flightpath lights
guiding the bee to her winter resting place.

Will there be honey still for tea?

[Mr. G]
October 2021

God is very Near

St. Teresa’s Cell, Convent of the Incarnation, Avila.

St Teresa of Avila   :  God is found in our ordinary lives.
A reflection for her festival Day, October 15th.

TERESA of Avila  was often referred to as God’s Gadbout because she spent a lot of her energy in founding convents of nuns throughout Spain in the 16th century.  She was forever on the move and yet she is remembered best for her teaching about Prayer and particularly about Contemplative prayer which requires stillness.  No matter how busy she was – and she was very busy – she made sure her heart was constantly fixed on God, whom she referred to as Your Majesty.  God for her was very near.  Indeed she coined a famous phrase – ‘God walks among the pots and pans’. We find God in the ordinariness of life, and if we train ourselves to recognize that, we shall meet Him in the everyday events of our lives and in the people we meet.  This is about finding Heaven in Ordinary.

Teresa believed that God was within us as well as beside us, and here she took up our Lord’s own teaching that the Kingdom of God is within us.  We encounter Him in the silent depths of our hearts.

You know that God is everywhere, she says, which is a great truth; wherever God dwells there is heaven, and you may feel sure that all which is glorious is near His Majesty.

Then she refers to St Augustine who sought God in many places and at last found the Almighty within himself.  We don’t need to go to heaven to find God, she says, We are not forced to take wings to find Him, but have only to seek solitude and to look within ourselves.

She calls this seeking God in solitude within ourselves, the prayer of Recollection – or Contemplation.  In her work Interior Castle she develops this using the imagery of a King in his Palace.

Let us realize that we have within us a most splendid palace built entirely of gold and precious stones – in short, one that is fit for such a Lord – and that we are partly responsible for the condition of this building, because there is no structure so beautiful as the soul full of pure virtues, and the more perfect these virtues are, the more brilliantly do the jewels shine

What we find in this Palace is the mighty King who, she says,  has deigned to become your Father and Who is seated on a throne of precious value, by which I mean your heart.

Realizing this took her quite a while.:

Had I understood always, as I do now, that so great a King resided in my soul I should not have left Him alone so often, but should have stayed with Him sometimes and not kept His dwelling place in such disorder.

For Teresa, then, it is when we enter into silence and spend a little time with God in our hearts, that the soul makes progress in the prayer.  God becomes the centre of our being, always to be found when we still the voices of the world that claim so much of our attention!

Teresa says that it is only through silence that we can encounter the love of God and receive it into our hearts.  God is very near.  We should seek him within. He is much closer to us than we might imagine.
We are not ordinary to Him who loves us  and who calls us to be near to His heart.
Of course, it is when we recognize this that we can  actually discover that we are  quite extraordinary!

St Teresa’s Cell looking out.

The two photographs could represent our looking inwards to God as the heart of our prayer (top)
and looking out as we inhabit the world with God’s love.
We are sent out to find God in the ordinary or, where we find it lacking, we can take note of what
Teresa’s great spiritual friend, St John of the Cross once said:
“Where there is no love, put love in and you will draw love out.”

[Mr. G]

A Prayer of St Teresa

(often known as Teresa’s bookmark. It was found in her prayer book after her death)

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.

Who has God wants nothing.

God alone suffices.