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Dali painting

Week Four – Visio Divina and more

By Languages of Contemplation, School of Contemplation No Comments

This week Rachael introduced visio divina (“divine seeing” – contemplating images or nature to open ourselves to what we receive through them). She brought a folder full of images and we chose one and spent some minutes in silence asking ourselves questions like: Where do I see myself in this image? If you missed it, see an introduction to the practice here.

Walter also introduced why one reason for exploring different “languages” of contemplation is because different senses seem associated with different ways of processing in different people. For some people auditory input touches our heart while images bring out our analytical side; for others kinesthetic (participation/action) touches our heart, etc.

Jump Right In

By 2016, Asia No Comments

It was our first Saturday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and we were ready to explore the city.  There were so many activities to choose from. Cafes and restaurants, elephants and nature parks, even the famous Thai massage.  A bunch of us squeezed into the back of a Songtaew and set out. Our decided destination was a museum called Art in Paradise. This was unlike any museum I have ever been to. The entire museum is interactive. You take pictures the entire time as you pose with the art.

Sharing the LOVE outside Art in Paradise.

Sharing the LOVE outside Art in Paradise.

When I first got there I had a difficult time with the whole premise of the museum. I had a thought of how our generation is addicted to taking selfies. Then I realized that I was thinking of how many pictures there would be of me on my Facebook page.  We paid for our tickets and started taking pictures. At first we were kind of clumsy and didn’t know how to pose but then we looked at some of the pictures. It was amazing! It looked like we were really standing inside of the art.  Once we felt excited about being at the museum there was a spark of creativity. We came up with fun ways to pose and it turned out that we had a lot of fun together.

Looking back on the pictures now I can see how the artist brilliantly painted each scene to make it look 3D.  In every picture there is also each one of us. We are part of the art.  This wasn’t by accident- the artist intended for the people coming to the museum to not just pass by but to jump in.

We made the cover of TIME!

We made the cover of TIME!

Throughout the rest of our trip through Thailand and Laos we took many more pictures.  We took pictures with friends we met along the way, at waterfalls, on top of mountains and in the middle of fields. There was art all around us. The Creator had made vast scenes and if we so choose we could jump right in and become part of it all.

As I sit here now back in Canada watching the fresh snow cover the trees I’m thinking how amazing it is that God, like those artists, wants us to jump right in. He wants us to part of his art. I must say I’m also thinking how great it would be to be back in South East Asia right now…. Soaking up that warm, gorgeous sun.

Sunny days in Thailand

Sunny days in Thailand

One Well Rounded Individual Please

By 2011, Europe No Comments

Since returning home I have tried to devote at least a little bit of time each day, or each week towards processing my trip.  There is so much that happened, so much that I did, and so much that I learned that it is no small task to look back on it all.  During one of these processing times I was reflecting on the wide range of interests that people who were on this trip had.  I was thinking back on how so many people were passionate about at least one thing that they had encountered on the trip.  These passions included things like, art, music, history, humanitarian issues, etc.  But what made it so special was that it was usually something more specific instead of a broad category.  What I realize, having now viewed things from a distance, is that I learned how to appreciate some of these things simply because others appreciated them.  Where I would usually be disinterested and bored, for example the opera, or Picasso’s work, I was able to at least appreciate the fact that someone else found it interesting.  Instead of being resistant to these things, I gradually learned to accept them and share in others excitement over them.  I can see my progression from the annoying guy who keeps criticizing something he doesn’t like to the one who asks questions and engages with the person who is excited about it.  Not only does this help with my interactions with other people, but it also helps me to learn about things that I normally would avoid.  I like to think it makes me a little bit more well rounded, if it is even possible to be more well rounded than I already am…


Life after…

By 2011, Europe No Comments

As some of the others have pointed out, we’re back in the scramble of normal life. What is the Europe trip experience to me now? I returned home eagerly looking forward to the simplicity of sleeping in a bed, having eggs for breakfast, not having to walk a half mile to the nearest washroom or live out of a backpack. Those trifles have vanished now as I suddenly am missing my travel companions, the camaraderie, the teamwork and just living a crazy life for two months with 30 amazing people. I won’t forget singing the doxology in the Pantheon, climbing into the hills of Montserrat, biking through Montserrat and around Lake Zug, and so much more! Seeing the progression of art as we travelled and visited many different museums gave me a sense for a side of art I have never appreciated–painting. The evolution in style in response to world events or rigid backwards thinking, became fascinating to learn about and observe. Along the way we met some stellar people, from our guides in various cities to our hosts in others. This trip has been carefully designed to promote and facilitate the rapid expansion of ones worldview while also pacing all of us and giving us time to mentally process, experience and enjoy.

I want to thank our leaders who patiently walked with us through this experience. Mentors, pastors, professors, facilitators–our leaders wore many hats and it’s thanks to their work and determination that everything went as well as it did. Thanks you guys, you know who you are.

To my fellow students, my extended family even, I say thank you for treating me as one of you–despite an arguably sizable age-gap! We lived, learned, laughed, cooked, and moved together for so long and then in a flash we were saying goodbye and going our own ways. I can’t wait to see all of you back next Fall and will be praying for all of you. Blessings,


drawing stickmen

By 2011, Europe No Comments

So. In Assisi I talked about my contradiction between my personal and institutional faith life (strongly associated with my religious heritage seen in Europe). I talked about how I was hurt and prideful against the Church, and how St. Francis (my favorite ‘spiritual great’) had been a major balancing/centering figure for me on the trip (he saw the problems in the Church and loved it/them even more; humbly and selflessly).

I’ve come a long way! I’ve realized I’m even more prideful than I originally thought, and living in an intense (or shall we say, ‘in-tents’?) community has made me realize that I am greedy of my comforts and possessions, I’m easily irritable, I would rather buy an Italian coffee or Belgian beer over tithing my change… *sigh. In short, I am so, so, so far away from the spiritual ‘greats’ we’re learning about (St. Antony, St. Therese de lisieux, St. Francis…). I study them, and I want what they have… I really, really want it. I do. But, I just… can’t reconcile the distance that divides me from them.

And so we talked about it (we do that sometimes when with friends 24/7). We were talking about art (we see a lot of art)… and about how we might feel pressured to be the next artistic ‘great’. I don’t feel the pressured to be the next artistic ‘great’. Honore Daumier and Franz von Stuck (two people who I had never heard about before 2 months ago and now I am in love with their work… look them up. seriously.) can keep their crowns. But… give me a second to experience the intimacy that Erasmus or Francis might have felt in their relationship with my God and I will mimic ‘The Ecstasy of Theresa’ (google it?)… or so I feel sometimes.

Maybe if the art galleries inspire so much as a stickmen from our pencil tips – some form of impression – some form of expression – than maybe we can hope to draw stickmen with our mumbling, tripping, and fumbling faith. Nygel said in reply, ‘generosity is my stickman’. It is. In the rain, after a full day of museums, when I’m cooking and the sky hasn’t been blue for days (or even when it has (the sky, I mean – being blue) and everything is ammazzing) I often feel as though I don’t have enough generosity to even draw a stickman with. But I try. I try to try. I want to try to try. And Jesus said that, ‘those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled’, right? In the process. In the trying. In the wanting to try to try. In the wanting to want.

And with every trying to try to want to try to want (?) maybe I can hope to bring a little bit of heaven to earth, to be pleasing to my God (oh, yes please)… to participate in bringing heaven to earth, like all those spiritual greats.

I want to share about all the art that has touched me: about the morning dips in a Swiss lake; about walking to the Florentine Duomo in bare feet late (late) at night; about para-gliding in the alps; about lying on the ground and then dancing beneath the Eiffel Tower at night; about running to catch the North Sea sunset. But I talk instead about drawing stickmen. I just feel like… if I don’t learn to do this, if I don’t learn to better exhibit the qualities that my God wants in his heaven, then all of this is useless. It is.

Oh, let me draw stickmen.


Art Matters

By 2011, Europe No Comments

In my travels thus far most art, or art that was considered great, was created by the white European male. I know this is not a new observation but its implications still apply. Where are the voices of the female population, the Black artist, the Asian sculptor; and so on. I enjoy the direction art is going… ‘liberating itself from the chains of white mediocracy’. Contemporary art is almost the exact opposite of our historical conception of art. Contemporary art disregards all rules.

My quarrels with contemporary art is the very thing that defines it. If there are no rules — can anything be art? Should anything be art? It’s difficult to rectify the two art histories. Without our past heritage of male dominated art; would we have the same art that now litters the walls of modern museums? These are just the thoughts of a tired traveler who seeks to find truth in art, no matter its history art a hundred years ago as well as today has the ability to change and move you.


Art history from the beginning

By 2011, Europe No Comments

From the beginning of this trip it has been pretty obvious to me that my focus would be drawn toward all of the amazing art that I knew  I would be seeing. Having studied art history on and off throughout my education, and completed extensive pre-Europe work, I had laid a firm foundation for the art pieces I would encounter. Since mid-May I have been privileged to see so many of The Greats of art history. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Chagall’s Biblical Series. Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel. Raphael’s School of Athens. Boticelli’s Primavera and the Birth of Venus. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Klimt’s Kiss. Monet’s waterlilies. Van Gogh’s self portrait. There are so many more masterpieces and artists that this whole blog could be one long list, but I digress.
Despite all of The Greats it has bees some of the lesser known artists that have moved me the most. The unexpected surprises that really stopped me in my tracks. One such moment was in the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. It was there that I found a four inch tall curvaceous little fertility icon. Her name was the Venus of Willendorf and she dates back to the Paleolithic times. The Venus is essentially the beginning of art history as we know it. I was so struck by this little figure’s intricate details, still visible many thousand years later.

I am working out my relationship with art everyday, juggling feelings about it’s value or materialism or elitism, one thing is becoming more and more clear to me through self examination and interaction with the masters. We are creators, made to replicate or interpret the world around us as we see it. This is in everyone in some way, I think. And for those who impacted us the most either because we love them or hate them, think they are full of it, or we see ourselves or our culture through their work, thank you.


Can this be called great art?

By 2011, Europe No Comments

Nudity in art never used to bother me. It’s everywhere, and you get used to it pretty quickly. Besides, you can’t draw realistic people with clothes if you don’t know how to draw them without clothes. Apparently.
   However, I’m starting to see a frustrating trend. I’m pretty sure artists weren’t fascinated with subjects like the rape of the Sabine women or Susanna and the elders because of their historical or theological importance. And artistic inspiration is not an excuse for having a string of models/assistants/mistresses to use and throw away. Maybe our art is creating a tribute to the beauty of the human form, but maybe it’s just a classier way of objectifying women.
   Sexism is alive and well, a drive through Czech Republic will demonstrate that quickly enough. And it is not confined to Eastern Europe, as a walk through Paris can so clearly illustrate. Violence against women goes unpunished everywhere; they are not people, they are whores, skanks, asking for trouble. I am sick of it.
   Unfortunately, I have no brilliant solutions. Only a deep sadness that these attitudes are so ingrained in our world that they can slip almost unnoticed into our business, our justice systems, even our art.


Contained on Walls

By 2011, Europe No Comments

All the best artists in the world traveled to Europe. They traveled by boat, horse and car. During the Renaissance such artists as Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci called Italy their artistic home. A week ago I sat by the river in the South of France. I saw the landscape of people walking their dogs, people sprawled out on blankets. Up until this moment art was an idea, something contained on walls and canvas. The real beauty of Western Europe is found on long bus rides and hot hot days traveling the urban and rural sprawl of Spain and France.

For me these past few weeks have been an actualization of inspiration. I now understand the desire to express the beauty of this land. The passion behind their art whether it was politics, religion, or human beauty makes my experience of their art more savory.

The beginning of this trip has been a realization of abstract ideas. While traveling to France I have stood where thousands of protestants hid during their prosecution. I have stood on the outskirts of the Coliseum, where martyrs of my faith stood and triumphantly died for their beliefs. I have been able to taste the fresh French croissant, smell the handmade Italian leather bags, and see the marble beauty of the David statue. These concepts have shed their fictional facade and have become real life experiences. These experiences have become a part of my history. My journeys are now intertwined with those historical figures from my history textbook.

The writer craves experiences, similarly the artists craves new landscapes. Understanding the vast geographical beauty of Western Europe has made my experience of art, architecture and food a daily exercise of thought and reflection.  I can not wait to experience all that Europe has to offer.


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