Archive for March, 2015

Opera Paris


That most human of practices. Yes, I know birds sing and so on, but look at the place of music in human life.

Is there any other creature which creates and enjoys music as much as human beings? I don’t think so. Indeed, I think we tend to hear the music in Nature, or rather, that we turn the sounds we hear into music. We even talk about the music of the spheres, as a way of thinking about the structure of the cosmos.

Iain McGilchrist, in his wonderful The Master and His Emissary, discusses the theory that music preceded language and that rings true for me.

Music is as individual as we are. How easy we find it to recognise a particular singer, or guitarist for example? Or to recognise the work of a particular composer?

Music moves us. It can affect our mood, lifting us up, getting us going, slowing us down, calming us.

Music opens the floodgates of memory taking us back in an instant to a particular time of our lives, or to a particular event.

Music connects us. It connects us to individuals in our lives, both those still with us, and those who have passed on. Sharing the experience of a concert can create an intense feeling of solidarity and belonging with the others in the audience.

Music moves us physically too, affecting our heart rate, our breathing, the release of a cascade of hormones in our bodies which change our internal environment…..one of the ways in which music can heal.

Music can inspire us, stimulating our creativity or helping us to achieve certain goals.

These days it is so easy to create playlists, to gather together particular works of music which can influence us in certain ways. And we can share those playlists with others too.

So, here’s an idea. Why not make yourself some playlists? List some of the ways in which music affects YOU and then gather some particular examples together to make playlists for each of those ways. Then use those playlists where and whenever you desire. Experience for yourself just how music can re-enchant your life.

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Living stories

Human beings are story telling creatures.

I think our daily lives are influenced by stories. The question is which stories and who is telling them?

I took this photo in Paris a couple of weeks ago and two things strike me about it – the large sculpture, and the solo man walking by, apparently oblivious. Paris has these kinds of sculpture everywhere, and often they are of characters from classical mythology. Every one of these works of art tells a story. But most people today probably don’t know these myths. When you don’t know these myths, the sculptures become statues, and we either don’t notice them once they become familiar to us, or we notice them and can be affected by them as works of art. In the latter case, they retain the power to enchant, but what might life be like if their stories come to our minds when we pass these great works?

I think the man in this photo may be passing by uninfluenced, and somehow I get a forlorn or lonely feeling looking at him.

In the classical era, the people of Greece were surrounded by such art, but they interacted with it, dressing their sculptures, contemplating them. They represented living gods to them. Great powers which could influence their daily lives.

What stories surround us now?

Stories of fear, of violence, of injustice? Stories of hatred, division and alienation? Stories of celebrities, famous for being famous? Stories of desire and calls to consume (advertising)?

Are some of these stories responsible for the common feelings of disenchantment?

We can re-enchant our lives, give them more depth and more meaning by choosing to create and live our own stories. We can choose what art, what symbols, what music, what objects imbued with personal meaning to surround ourselves with. We can choose to focus on certain stories we find delight us, challenge us, wake us up, stir our hearts, touch our souls.

We can tell our stories to ourselves as we write in our journals. We can share our stories in our blogs. We can tell our stories to each other.

You do this all the time.

But what stories do you tell? And what stories flow through your head? The first step in moving from zombie to hero (the hero is the main protagonist in a story) is to become aware. The second step is choosing to act…..moving from passive mode to active mode. You’ll find plenty of posts on this site about that. Start by putting “story” into the search box at the top of this page. Or try the “a to z of becoming”.

Storytelling is not optional. It never stops. Time to choose which stories you pay attention to?

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In my A to Z of Becoming, I’ve reached “L” again, and so the chance to contemplate LOVE again.

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago. I won’t tell the whole dream here, but the relevant part is that in this dream I heard a voice. You know how sometimes in a dream there is a voice, not coming from a character in the dream but clear all the same, maybe like the voice of the narrator in a movie, or maybe your own voice in your own head. The voice said

“Love, the greatest creative force in the Universe. Love, the greatest destructive force in the Universe”

Then I woke up.

The creative force I understand. I’m comfortable with that. It seems to me that love is necessary to build relationships which are mutually beneficial (the essence of “integration”, the creation of mutually beneficial bonds). I can see that love is a law of attraction. Even as two molecules come together, what binds them and so creates a more complex compound, is affinity and attraction. Aren’t they qualities of love? At the level of molecules we aren’t thinking about consciousness of course, but in the story of the Universe from the time of only hydrogen molecules, through the creation of stars and planets, to the emergence of Life on Earth, and on towards the creation of human beings with consciousness, we see an ever increasing complexity, uniqueness and diversity from the constant creation of affinities, attractions and integrative bonds.

But the destructive force? That bothered me, and it popped into my head many times in the following days. Then I had the thought……on this planet Earth, as far as we know, from the time the world was created, there have been no new atoms. Every object,  every plant, every animal, every person who exists today is created from the exact same atoms which have created every object, every plant, every animal and every person who existed before us.

Nature, and the Universe, create by breaking down what exists to make new objects and new life.

So, if love is THE creative force, then it too can be seen to be a destructive one. It’s just that those terms are value laden terms for us – one good, one bad, or one positive and one negative – and so opposites. But if love is both of these then maybe this judging and placing into opposite categories is stopping us from seeing the inter-connectedness of everything.

Then, this week I got a copy of Mary Oliver’s “A Thousand Mornings”, and in that collection of poems is one entitled “Lines written in the days of growing darkness”. In that poem are these lines –

And therefore

who would cry out

to the petals on the ground

to stay,

knowing as we must,

how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?

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Having been inspired to write about the re-enchantment of life by my trip to Paris last week, I have started to write a series of posts. The day before yesterday I focused on beauty – how becoming aware of beauty can make life more magical.

Later that morning I opened a novel which I purchased last week. It is “Le Principe” by Jérôme Ferrari. I bought it because it’s about Heisenberg and his uncertainty principle, which is something which has fascinated me for ages, and because I decided to start reading French novels to improve my French language skills.

I won’t quote specific passages or try to translate them here, but on page 3, the author says that Heisenberg and other Physicists investigating subatomic phenomena were startled by how their experimental results could not be explained by classical physics, and it was all very confusing and baffling for them, but what drove Heisenberg on, what stimulated and supported his determination, was “his faith in beauty”.

His faith in beauty! Not his dedication to reason, mathematics or science, but his faith in beauty.

Wow! I didn’t see that coming! How does that happen? That synchronicity? I have a number of ideas about re-enchanting life, and beauty is one of them. I happen to pick that to write about that day, then two hours later I open this French novel about a scientist, and read that passage.

Suddenly, in that moment, I sit bolt upright, put the book town and sigh. How amazing! How incredible life is! How unpredictable and curious it is! I pick it up again and re-read it carefully (I’m still a learner and might have misunderstood) and there it is – beauty – the motivating principle.

So in that moment I find another way to re-enchant life – to be aware of, and to relish, the moments of synchronicity.

Those experiences are certainly not a daily occurrence for me, but they do happen frequently. How about you? Do you experience synchronicities? If you do, take your time to savour them. They are a gift.

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I am a great believer in “l’émerveillement du quotidien” – the amazing marvel of the everyday, but there are also experiences we have which are far from everyday, which profoundly influence our experience of life.
Great, truly great, Art, is one of those far from everyday experiences for me.

A visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris is one of those. So unique, so astonishing…..sadly photographs won’t capture that experience and me telling you about it won’t either, but if at all possible, at some point in your life, if you have the opportunity to visit, DO!

There are two oval rooms filled with Monet’s paintings of the waterlilies in his garden.

When you stand in the room your field of vision in every direction is filled with them. It is as if you really are IN these paintings. A total immersion experience.

Here are some photos I took. First of all two taken using the panorama function on my iPhone, then a couple of close ups of details.





Far from everyday, but another way to counter “dis-enchantment” with enchantment.

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Paris Spring

If you choose to look for beauty you can find it very easily. There is so much beauty in this world.

Setting an intention is a good way of raising your level of awareness and increasing your chances of making what you intend transpire.

Why not try today? A simple thought or affirmation will do. You can write it down or just think it.

I am going to see beauty today.

Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder. Look at this image here. Do you agree it is beautiful?

For me, the image itself is beautiful (if you agree you’ve already started seeing what is beautiful today)

I see beauty in Nature every single day. This cherry blossom is gorgeous for me.

But I also see beauty in creation – in art, architecture, design and so on. Look at Notre Dame from this angle. Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it an astonishing creation?

And finally, look at them in relation to each other. Such different kinds of beauty, the one enhancing the other.

When you look for beauty, and you see beauty, and you contemplate beauty, how does that influence the quality of your day?


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Pont de l'Ardevêché

On the Pont de l’Ardevêche in Paris lovers fasten a padlock to the bridge, or more likely to other padlocks padlocked to the bridge, then they throw the key in the Seine.

Love locks Paris

It sounds a bit silly, or like a fad, but when I walked onto the bridge, and I saw the immensity of it, every single lock the physical marking and declaration of the love between two people, I was deeply, and suddenly, moved.
It is beautiful, not in an artistic way, but in that way in which we humans make the important invisible visible.

I thought of the loving wishes hung on temple trees in Kyoto, similar, but very different……


Then I turned and saw Notre Dame, that incredible cathedral of great beauty, and I kneeled down and took this.

Love locks

How many ways to make the important invisible, visible?

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Recently when I went to Paris I discovered a magical cinema – La Pagode

You can see some of the photos above.

I went to see a movie in the main auditorium which is called the “Salle Japonaise”.

There is often something magical and enchanting about going to the movies, but it seems to me that most multiplexes take some of that magic away.

The physical spaces where we have our experiences definitely colour, or even determine, the quality of the what we do there.

How I wish I could find more truly magical cinemas like the Pagode! 

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In my A to Z of Becoming, one of the K verbs is KISS.

What makes us human?

There are many answers to that question of course, but it strikes me that art is one of the answers. Why art? For me, partly because art is an act of creation, and I think creating is at the heart of becoming. But also because I think art enchants life.

It seems to me that there is a lot of dis-enchantment around, so I’m exploring the ways in which we can re-enchant our lives.

Art can rekindle the magic in our lives. And, wow, can human beings create art?!

I was lucky to be in Paris last week, and popped into one of my favourite places there – the Rodin Museum. The main building is being refurbished just now but many of the great works were on display including “The Kiss”. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the Rodin Museum but every single time the work astonishes me. That these soft, flowing, sensitive and sensual forms can be carved out of a block of marble! Really, it takes my breath away.

And look at this kiss. What a kiss!

Sometimes I think words aren’t enough…..art and kisses……words can’t substitute for either.

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Cou cou

Sometimes, rather than the big, in your face, can’t miss it experiences grabbing your attention, it’s the little, subtle ones which are really the best.

Sacre Coeur from afar

See Sacre Coeur peeking over the end of the street?

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