Issue 866
This week's practice

 

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Dear Friends,

On Saturday we had a typically English Summer experience, an outdoor concert.  It was put on by the Queille Festival in the garden of The Master Shipwright’s House in Deptford. The house was built in 1708 next door to the Royal Dockyard , an amazing place with grounds that run down to the river.  The programme of music was wonderful: Purcell, Mozart, Haydn: quartet, sextet, octet and full orchestra, plus the lovely singer, Lucy Crowe.  

As I say, it was a truly English experience.  Half way through the concert the first drops of rain could be felt.  Within half an hour there was the spectacle of the rain gushing down. 

The audience ran for cover or shrank beneath their umbrellas.  The orchestra also huddled under their awning, bravely pressing on until in the end, fearful for their instruments, they packed up before the final piece: Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate.  Sorry to have missed that, but were we disappointed in the event?  Not at all.  There was something truly magical about the whole thing.  It was wonderful, and, might I say, unforgettable.  It was easy enough to totally embrace the situation, to bathe in it - quite literally.

All the best, William

This week's reflection

THE WONDER OF THINGS

These are the words of Monet, talking of his endeavour to paint the moment:

Wherever I go I try to grasp the fleeting, to understand the inexpressible mystery of things, and to savour the endlessly changing spectacle of life with heightened awareness.  Life takes place in the setting of a miracle, and man can derive endless joy from contemplating it.

In the endlessly changing spectacle of life there is according to Monet  not only the possibility of heightened awareness, there is joy.  What he discovered was that heightened awareness and joy go together.  It's impossible to experience the one without the other.  What he also discovered was that in moments like this we appreciate the miraculous nature of things.  When this is discovered beauty must be there also.  How else could he have painted such wonderful pictures?  Wonder, beauty, miraculous nature and heightened awareness, all of these are intimately linked.

Max Planck one of the world's greatest scientist has some interesting things to say about the nature of beauty and of mystery. He speaks of how science can never hope to solve the ultimate mystery of nature, but he did believe that science was capable of bringing us into harmony.  In his estimation the more we progress with both science and art the more we are brought into harmony with nature.  This is the great service that they both perform.  In an interview the following was put to him:

Goethe once said that the highest achievement to which the human mind can attain is an attitude of wonder before the elemental phenomena of nature.

And this was his remarkable reply, all the more remarkable from a man with a rational mind of immense brilliance:

Yes, we are always being brought face to face with the irrational.  Else we couldn't have faith.  And if we didn't have faith but could solve every puzzle in life with an application of human reason, what an unbearable burden life would be.  We should have no art and no music and no wonderment.

Monet, Goethe and Plank are no materialists.  They, in their different ways, have come into the immediate present and even though they claim no final understanding, they have, through their work, expressed something of the magic and the mystery and the beauty that's discovered when entering the place where wonder is known.

Our task is to do the same.  By thinking materially it's so easy to see things in a material way, and by so doing we become isolated from their inherent beauty.  We may glimpse some surface impression, but this isn't the same thing as the deep wonder in things.  That’s our task, to be open to that possibility regardless of the weather.

Practice:

Find the deep wonder in things
by  not dismissing the world
as something merely material.

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