weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Month: October, 2016

Myth and Mystery

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“Mystery is the essential element to every work of art”  by Luis Bunuel

One of the more important insights from our trip to Scotland and Ireland that I came away with is how special the elements of myth, mystery and folklore are in the culture of Scotland and Ireland. The ancient Celtic culture is filled with myth and mystery and the great stories that were orally passed down from generation to generation. The folklore of Scotland and Ireland is very rich and has a long history. The photo at the top of this blog is of a water spirit called a Kelpie. The Kelpie is a powerful and beautiful black horse inhabiting the deep pools of rivers and streams of Scotland, preying on any humans it encounters. Stories of malevolent water spirits served the practical purpose of keeping children away from perilous areas of water. These 30 metre-high horse-head sculptures were in Falkirk, Scotland on the Forth and Clyde canal (a 35 mile canal crossing Scotland).

It is my believe that in America we suffer from the lack of mystery and myth. We don’t have this long history like they do in these Celtic countries (although the Native American tribes certainly had the long heritage of myth, folklore and mystery). In the United States, we mostly have a “scientific method” mindset. We have the belief that there is an answer to every question or problem (even if we don’t know right now what it is we believe science will discover it someday). There is no such thing as a mystery. I think we are missing something even though I am not sure I can put my finger on it.

Maybe it has something to do with the quote that I included at the top of this blog. It is making the linkage between a work of art and mystery. That work of art is really something that comes out of someone and in many cases the artist doesn’t even know how it works. It just comes out. There is no scientific answer to how this works. I love that. It inspires me in some way. I guess I really do embrace mystery and maybe that is why I love the creative and artsy photography that I have been drawn to lately. Not sure.

Blessings,

John

Photograph of the Week

Mystery is in the Air

I loved the wonderful skies of Ireland and Scotland. They were endlessly changing and were so dynamic and breathtaking. This “work of art” was created from a very dynamic sky above the treeline in the distance. The pattern of the trees seemed to be repeated by the sky. I love how the sky made me feel.I hope you also can feel the mystery of it.

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A Deeper Reading

160927-mohr-burren-82-finalI have a favorite photographer (David Du Chemin) that I like to follow and I have read most of his e-books as well. He wrote a book called the “A Deeper Frame, Creating Deeper Photographs & More Engaging Experiences” a few years ago that I was recently re-reading. He draws a distinction between what he refers to as “readers” and “viewers” of photographs. He sees “viewing”of something as a passive activity, the opposite of participation or interaction. David feels that when we are a “reader” of something when we are more engaged or a participant in it. He (and I) hope that our photographs engage people, draw them in, make them more than viewers but readers, instead.

I certainly have noticed the difference between the readers and the viewers of my photography. During the Art Festivals I have done over the years, I have seen folks come into my booth and spend time really looking at each image and reading the labels about the image. They take their time and you can see they are getting enjoyment from the experience. I love it when I see that behavior. It means I have told a good story and they are enjoying reading it.

Now that we have been home now for several days from our long journey to Scotland and Ireland, I have had some time to reflect a bit more on our trip. It came to me that we definitely were not “viewers” but were went deeper and were true “readers” of our Scotland and Ireland experience.

The length of our trip was close to six weeks in length and we used a combination of guided tours (Road Scholar) and independent time on our own exploring. We really got a deeper reading of Scotland and Ireland. It as awesome learning experience and we both now have a much better understanding of the people, the culture, the history, the archeology and landscapes of these most amazing people and lands.

All travel is good for us as it breaks down myths and builds up understanding. It is even better if you can have a “deeper reading” during your travels rather than the brief “viewer” experience. We are more likely to be lastingly affected.

Blessings,

John

P.S. The photograph above is from the area of Ireland called “The Burren”. This image is a good one, I think, of what is meant by a “deeper frame” image. I draws you in and you are left with a little mystery as the landscape is strange and different you wonder that the story is about it.

What Have We Learned?

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As our long journey through Scotland and Ireland is about to end, I was thinking to myself, “What Have We Learned” from our experience? Since we took two long trips in Scotland and Ireland with the “Learning Tour” agency, Road Scholar it is a fair question to ask ourselves.

During our 4 weeks of touring with Road Scholar, we have had outstanding, professional teaching experiences, in fact, many of the guides that we had were teachers at university or other institutes. We had so many wonderful guides too, that were expert in “peeling the onion” on the very layered and complex history and culture of Scotland and Ireland. Our eyes were opened and we had a number of “myths” dispelled as well.

One lesson, I was thinking about lately, was how both countries were shaped so much by those who wielded the power and how religion played such a powerful role for both good and bad. I guess this is not a shocker for any of you but it was such a strong theme in the history of this region, right up to the present day that it just is so real and present.

Terri and I both experienced great empathy for those that were “conquered” and lost their land and heritage. It makes you sad at times to see how they were so dramatically impacted and changed by those that “conquered” them.

Our Ireland guide, Alan, is a delightful young man (same age as our son, Matt). When we traveled through Northern Ireland on our way down to Dublin he gave us the story of “The Troubles” (the war that raged in Ireland between the Protestants and the Catholics between 1969 and 1998). Before he began his talk, he provided us his personal position he had reached in his young life, regarding “identity” to religion, country, language and blood. He felt that he had reached a point where he was able to not tie his identity to a particular religion (he was raised Catholic), region or country, or even sports team he rooted for. He told us he considered himself a “citizen of the world”. That was his identity.

I thought about this and was wondering if I could feel and think the same way. Not sure I have come as far as this young man has in his short life. I passed on to him yesterday and article I read that I found really spoke to this important point he was making. It was written by my favorite writer, Fr Ron Rolheiser.

The article is titled “The Struggle To Not Make Our God Our Own Tribal Deity“. I encourage you to take the time to read it. The article provides some very profound insights for us all to ponder and some takeaways on what we can do about this problem we are all prone to have.

I will end this blog with a quote from the last lines of the article:

“God is everyone’s God equally, not especially ours, and God is too great to be reduced to serving the interests of family, ethnicity, church, and patriotism.”

Blessings,

John

 

 

A Hard Scrabble Life

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We recently visited, Inis Mor island, it is located 7 miles off the west coast of Ireland near Galway. The island has about 850 people living on it and has 2 primary schools and one secondary school. As seen in this photo below the landscape is quite barren as the island surface is mostly limestone rock similar to the region nearby called the Burren. We visited the Burren and I thought the area looked like a alien planet surface. (check out this photo I made from our visit to the Burren – Out of this World)

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What is amazing to think about is that this island they believe has been inhabited by man since about year 3000 BC. The island has a number of “ring forts” that date from year 500 BC. Carving out a life on this remote island by living off the sea and the land is not easy by any means! The thought that kept coming to me was the word “hard scrabble life”, these folks sure know what this means.

The method they used to build up a bit of soil on which to grow plants was to haul seaweed and layer it with sand and then turn back into the soil the plants after harvesting. It made me think of the movie, “The Martian” with Matt Damon growing potatoes from the recycled waste. Hard work and ingenuity.

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I think it is such a good reminder for us all about the key ingredients to success in anything we do. Be consistent, work hard and work smart.

Like Cal Ripken, Sr said about his son when asked about the record he broke for consecutive games played:

“What all this is about is a man going to work to do his job.”

Blessings,

John

Photograph of Ireland

Amazing Ireland – Full of Beauty

This is photo was made on our visit to the ancient ring fort on the island of Inis Mor. I love the way the huge wave crashing up on the wall is a mirror of the beautiful clouds above.