I was very fortunate yesterday to hear Annie Fennymore speaking about her process of creating art. Annie gradually went blind as a young woman until she lost her sight completely in her forties. At the age of 49, she lost her grand daughter which turned to be the last straw but also proved to be the start of her career as an artist. Her husband gave her some quick drying DIY putty and using the long ‘ropes’ made with putty, she created her first painting which she is holding in the above photograph. This painting of a cottage is very simple, almost childlike-but for her this was a huge step forward. In the years following, she developed her style to a mature style of abstract colourful paintings that she says reveal her passion and love for life. She has exhibited all over the UK and has won awards including a commendation for Helen Keeler International awards. A selection of her works are exhibited at the moment at the Moorfields eye hospital in London where I am am outpatient too, with my eye problems. Do go and visit if you can.
Initially Annie depended on her memory for colours and shapes. Today she uses a number of electronic aids (colour identifiers) for the blind all of which have the software that converts all text into speech. These gadgets enable her to label her tubes of paint using a system which tells her the colour of the paint or the surface. She uses her finger tips to ‘paint’ on her colours after realising the painting in her head. Using ‘glue tack’ she outlines her painting just as someone would use a pencil and then she colours it in. Annie jokes that her adorable guide dog, Amber, often emerges out of her studios covered in paint! The drawing on the right is of Amber. Annie uses putty, PVA, paper and even toilet paper to create textures on her paintings. The painting on the left was made on driftwood.
I have written about ‘blind art’ before but Annie made me realise something very deep about being an artist. She said that she accepted her situation, she did not fight it. Instead she funnelled that energy into creativity. Now, I have spent a lot of my life fighting for things, fighting on behalf of other people. As I grow older and with increasing ill health, I see that sadly that energy could have been spent creatively instead. However, it is never too late to learn. Today, with great humbleness, I accept many of the situations I find myself and have decided to move on, concentrating instead on revealing my creativity and following my heart. Thank you, Annie!
The universe started with a bang. Out of that explosion, came gases, cosmic dust and energy that formed our galaxy and our solar system. In that solar system, is our planet earth, also the product of those gases and dust. And out of that dust on one of the planets circling the sun, came life and after many millions of years, came the amazing thing that is the human being.
A mass of cells, fluids and bones and millions of tiny electrical sparks that keep our heads and hearts functioning from the day we were conceived to the day we pass on. Truly, when we die, we return to our origins. As the book of common prayer says, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. This is so profound. Even just thinking of all this puts a shiver up my back when I think that the book of common prayer was written in 1662- long before the theory of big bang was known. Other religions also talk about going back to dust when we die.
Like us, the stars also go through life and death and turning to dust and light. They expand and contract, have their systems and life spans. The whole universe seems like a gigantic system of life. When I meditate, I picture the light and energy from the universe permeating my life and re-uniting with the bits of the cosmic dust that must be part of my body and were part of the lives of the stars before we separated and became different things. I imagine the light echoes or the light reflected from the gases around an exploding star coming to me through the vastness of space.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how close the photos of galaxies taken by the Hubble telescope are to the images of inside our body taken by a micro cameras. We are the universe in miniature. I tell myself I am part of this giant cosmic drama, I am this dust, I am this light, I am the energy and I am the star!
Joseph Conrad asked us to run towards something we love, rather than run away from something we hated. The difference is very important for our life energy and direction.
Running away from negativity is a panic reaction- we simply run without knowing where we are going and mostly we end up being in the fire right from the frying pan. Recently I had many people were asking me for help in resolving a negative situation created by someone else. Although I had some interest in this and usually I would have jumped right in bursting with righteous anger and wanting ‘justice’, this I time I felt a different approach was needed.
I felt that rather than getting involved in denials, accusations and bad mouthing that others were in, it was more productive to be silent and just do something positive instead. This has saved me from being implicated in slandering and negativity while I have continued to be engaged creatively and constructively. I am sure this situation will resolve soon and I wish everyone happiness. I have run to happiness and creativity myself and feel at peace. I have not let the negativity of others affect my own creativity. I feel I am doing good by being creative and peaceful. This is my conviction. Justice comes in different forms and not at the time when we may want to see it. But it does come and we don’t have to spend our life energy all the time on dispensing ‘justice’ to others. We must trust that the universal law of cause and effect will work. In the meanwhile, ‘Do good, be good and think good’ and spread positive energy ourselves.
I don’t remember where I got this from but this sums it up-
An important feature of conviction is that it’s for something, e.g., the wellbeing of loved ones, justice, fair treatment, or equality, while resentment (derived from feelings of certainty) is against something – mistreatment of loved ones, injustice, or unfairness. The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s crucial. Those who hate injustice want retribution and triumph, not fairness. They fantasize about punishment of their unjust opponents, who stir “justifiable” contempt. Being for something creates positive feelings of interest, passion, or joy, which tend to improve health and relationships.
The power of the mind has been in the news this week a lot- from Indian mystic who claims to have lived on ‘cosmic energy’ harnessed by the power of the mind for 70 years (yes, 70 years!) to the volunteers at the University of Minnesota who managed to fly model helicopters through hoops using the power of thoughts (you can see it on youtube if you like).
What many new age thinkers have been saying based on age old traditional wisdom, has now been proved scientifically. Buddhism talks about the one-ness of mind and body and for too long, mind and body have been treated separately by medical practitioners and science. So it is worth looking into what we have been thinking when we fall ill- did we have negative thoughts about ourselves or for others? Does a particular food or surrounding trigger off negative emotions or depression? How does lack of exercise make you feel?
While it is not always practical to remove ourselves from negative environments or people, we can limit their presence and as soon our interaction with them is over, we can send out positive thoughts to them and ourselves. I did that recently with a woman I met on the street- although I initially felt angry at what she said to me, as I walked on, I continued to smile and send her smiles as well. I had the most amazing day!
As Daisaku Ikeda says- “One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact.” I truly believe this now. So do start using this from now on- it may be the best thing you have done for yourself and for others!
I practice architectural design that is based on low energy principles- materials that use little energy to manufacture, materials that are from recycled sources and can be recycled and buildings that are low maintenance and need little energy to run. Low energy appears to be something that gives the building long life.
Hearing about an Indian actor, Abir Goswami, who sadly died today aged 33 after having a massive heart attack on an exercise machine in the gym, I think low energy works for human beings too. My Uncle, whose first death anniversary falls today, was a ‘low energy’ person- he practised yoga, not the gym, he ate and spoke slowly and calmly, living and enjoying every moment. He lived up to an age of 96, looked no more than 60 years old and died peacefully in his sleep. He used to say, “Hurry and worry are the worst things in life.” There is a theory that we have certain amount of life energy and if we use it too quickly, then we fall ill or our bodies fail in some way. That is why we have to rest when we are ill and often feel rejuvenated after such a forced rest. Indian yogis who are reputed to live for around 100 years, practice meditation and yoga- both of which are low energy activities. “Hurry too much and you will miss the boat”- so goes the saying.
With all the slow movements such as slow food, idleness, tai-chi, etc getting very popular today and even medical research supporting the view of slowness, I am convinced that going slow helps us all. No matter how much faster your latest computer or telephone may work, the ultimate processor, i.e. your brain, will always work at a certain peak speed and will often slow down in moments of concentration. Being slow is not the same as being lazy- my Uncle was always busy doing things that mattered to him, i.e. using his life energy purposefully. Slow induces calmness and tranquility that I associate with water, so I made up with my son’s help this haiku to help me remember to slow down and enjoy the moment-
Still, Life, Open Water- slow
Your tranquil head
Flows down to follow your heart