26 May 2012
Art and Design, Magic & Spirituality, Media, Teaching
Made with Paper
The eleventh mansion is numinous charisma, awe, wonder, and prestige. It signifies power, gain, and respect. It indicates success when making a petition to a person in authors, whether a boss or a client, we must emulate the strength of the lion, yes, but also its noble qualities. Shrink not from confrontation, nor hide, for boldness will win the day.
I’m not happy with my “lion”. It’s rather too foxlike, even while trying to emulate the work of Nigel Jackson. I like the ribbons and banners, but I wish I’d painted the sky before doing erasures to create the banners, the lion and the rider. It COULD be so much better. But Ira Glass is right — you have to make a lot of crap before your abilities match your own taste for what is quality work. Stay dissatisfied in your own work — it’s what makes you better.
26 May 2012
Art and Design, FutureShock, Magic & Spirituality, Teaching
alchemy, basic carpentry, learning, nature, spagyric, technique
One of the harder things to get across — to my students, to fellow teachers (at my school and away), and even to myself — is how much one has to learn by doing. It’s dumb, of course, that we have to keep experimenting and keep trying stuff. But I was chatting with a colleague yesterday about how much I want to learn to (and teach kids to) do basic carpentry and plaster moulding and … lost wax casting. For bronze working.
Ok, the last step is a little radical. I grant you that. No one is going to want their kids learning out to pour molten bronze into a mould they made themselves, and… who knows if they did it right? What? The teacher doesn’t know that the kids are going to be perfectly safe? Or even imperfectly safe?
So, I grant that one. We’re not going to be doing THAT anytime soon in my school’s design program.
But, hey… I’ve admitted here that I’m a magician. Not the kind who pulls rabbits out of hats, but the kind who waves wands about and tries to make real-world stuff happen. And one of the things real-world magicians did is alchemy, which is just a kind of primitive chemistry, if our history textbooks are correct.
Down under my countertop in the kitchen is a glass Mason jar wrapped in plastic. It’s gently cooking a Spagyric, a kind of medical preparation discussed in Paracelsus’s textbooks on alchemy and early chemistry. The steps involved in making a spagyric are not particularly complicated:
- Take a particular herb (someone had given me mint from their garden to try it on)
- soak it in highly concentrated alcohol for a couple of weeks without letting it touch metal or other reactive substances
- shake it daily.
- Separate out the plant matter from the alcohol and keep separate.
- In a fire-safe non-metal dish, burn the plant matter to ash.
- Cook the ash in the oven until it’s gray-to-white colored.
- Add the still-warm ashes to the alcohol.
- After a week, strain the alcohol through a coffee filter and bottle the alcohol so it can be dispensed in 1-2 droplets.
- Take 1-2 droplets as medicine, in a large glass of water.
Down under the sink is such a jar, somewhere between steps 8 and 9. I think… I think I did it wrong, somehow. Maybe the ashes were really more dark gray than white. Maybe they didn’t cook under the broiler for as long as they should have. Maybe I didn’t shake them every day. Maybe I didn’t prepare the herb as much as I should have. Maybe…
It’s all water under the bridge. There’s not a single step that I’ve already done that I can go back and change. But even the failure will be instructive, won’t it? Even this admittedly primitive chemistry (or is it alchemy’s first apprentice steps?) has taught me things I would never have found out, had I just left the process on a page, in a book.
The sound and smell. The accidental taste on the tongue. The way the wind carries away allegedly precious ash, and the heart-sink as I watch part of my experiment fail; the sudden resolve to do better next time.
These are things not found in books, friends. If you are not doing, and you are not failing, you are not truly designing. And our failure to let our kids fail at times, has serious long-range implications. We have educated a generation of readers and writers who largely hate to read or write, and often know nothing of what to do nor how to do it.
26 May 2012
I am rising much later today than I usually do. It’s been a crazy week at school, the last full five-day week before graduation. Spring concert, final presentations, exam review, and more. Some of my colleagues think it’s crazy that I’m planning to work this weekend. But hey, this is what I do: look at student papers and presentations, and try to offer rational thoughts about how to get better.
So, back to taiji. It was a slow start. My left hip is bothering me a lot (that’s the one the car hit me on), and I can’t sit for very long, but I’m sitting for a long time these days grading papers. (I’m going to try working at the coffee house where they have standing tables, but it’s a Saturday and there will be people wanting to socialize… no, not going to work). I’ve messed up this snake creeps down… do that one again. Wait, is this where box ears with fists goes? I thought it was later in the form. Yes, it is. Drop all pretense of knowing where I am in the form, and return to center. I’ll have to start over. Breathe deep, and …
Why am I on Facebook? Why am I sitting in the living room, reading Facebook?
Back to the office, to the open floor, and that slight gap between floorboards. Do the form. Do Eight Pieces of Silk. Do Five Golden Coins. Do them right this time, and don’t get distracted. One after the other. Flow between postures. Slow, fast, whatever, get them done.
The Watcher on the Threshold chuckles. He almost had me today. Breaks from routine are always the hardest to achieve follow-through. But he has no power, if you have the discipline.