Collateral Beauty

Mother and Child, Relationships, Soul searching
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“Memories of my lost child” 2016. Sam Shendi

I have been struggling to write about this piece mainly because I have no experience of losing a child; for which I am thankful for. Nevertheless, it is my greatest fear and in some kind of cathartic practise when I embarked on writing a piece of fiction two years ago (which amounted in a huge number of words now sat festering in my computer’s memory) I made my central theme the idea of losing a child. With the idea of finding some sort of peace and resolve afterwards. However, I still feel a fraud and so perhaps that is why I can’t finish it.

Recently we watched a film, which reminded me that there is no original thought and my idea had almost already been explored-so good at making excuses. The film didn’t get good reviews but I loved it.  The idea of time, death and love personified. That our children come through us (I think that idea was probably taken from Gibran : see below) and that when someone dies, “be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”

On Children –Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Something traumatic in loosing someone through death, especially when they are young may take a lifetime to understand if ever. The concept of the film though is that in that dark and unhappy place there was still love. The beauty is that love continues even after and through death. Death reminds us that we need to be present in every moment because we have no control over our last.

I started to think of other meanings for this piece of work, not just “The memory of my lost child” to death but loosing a child just for a moment. I have experienced that and it is scary enough. It is hard to stop all the fears and worries that flood the mind. It led me to thinking about when parents feel they have lost their child to something else or someone else or somewhere else and how in the mind of the parent they think they have ‘lost’ their child. The complexity of the parent-child relationship is that they are so dependant on you and at each stage you are aware of them “moving away” becoming more independent. As a parent the need may seem to disappear but  the role changes and continually shifts.

The inspiration for this piece for my husband was a strong awareness of the impact the death of his cousin had on his Uncle. The story is tragic and traumatic causing a ripple within the family. This piece is a dedication of that event in my husband’s life but one that resonates with so many for their own individual reason.

However ‘whole’ you might appear the loss means there is always part of you missing. You are missing someone and that has an effect on your whole being.

lost child shafow

Can ‘Candy’ and ‘Candid’ result in an awakening?

Colour, Philosophy, Public Art, Soul searching

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Collection of work at Newby Hall ready for installing

“The intelligent want self-control: children want candy” Rumi.

My husband took the work to Newby Hall ready for installation (Exhibition now open). A member of staff commented that the sculptures looked like sweets. They do look like candy canes. Lick-able, as though each colour would taste different. Eating sweets has been a bit of a topic of discussion recently with our boys having, had lots of parties and sweet handouts at school. So candy has been on my mind…but now it is time to start focusing on more aspirational things as we approach our month of retreat, guarding of our lower beings and those animal instincts!

pair of candy

‘Awaken’ and ‘Reaching’ outside the studio

My husband did an interview for Candid magazine once which brought the word ‘Candid’ into my vocabulary a bit more. It was a great discovery. I not only like the word which sounds like candy. I like the meaning. Truthful, straightforward; frank, because I think most of the time we skirt around honesty in preference for politeness.  We ‘English’ like politeness and whilst we value honesty I am not sure we can handle candid comments very well. We want things sugar-coated and sweet. Makes me think of the line “some people can’t handle the truth” which I don’t think many of us can. We don’t want that raw reality preferring the hazy safety of polite untruths and staying within our comfort ones. Rather than thinking of our own faults we like to judge others faults before seeing their virtues. It makes us feel better about ourselves but before we do that we need to call ourselves to account. The capacity for self blame is a heathy soul and it humbles us. The importance of scrutinising ourselves and being brutally honest can often lead to an awakening.

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‘Awaken’ by Sam Shendi

Awakening of a realisation of our own actions, behaviours, habits. In a secular context self-awareness has now become mindfulness which although is good practice has no moral dimensions.  As Immanual Kant said: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”   The moral dimension of self-awareness includes nobleness. In the battery farm of the modern capitalist system which aim is producing eggs regularly, getting along with the other chickens and then ultimately you die and get made into cat food. The process goes on and there is no higher aspiration.  So preoccupied with all the other chickens, even mindful chickens, we are left at the level of the zoological. Yet, we were made for something higher than the lower self ‘zoo’. Nobility is what happens when we leave behind the animal desires. The thing that makes us human and not animal. Our higher being, one of virtuosity is nobel.

If we awaken to reality in this world we need to consider what we do, what we have been doing.

Forget the sweets, be honest and look at the day that is to come and hope for an awakening.

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‘Awaken’ by Sam Shendi currently showing at Newby Hall, Ripon

(reference T.J Winters, Cambridge University)

Change

Colour, Conceptual, Soul searching

The summer has really felt like a summer this year, dry and sunny days, picnics and playing in the river, riding bikes and long evenings. The shift into a new season will be a noticeable change. My youngest is starting nursery preschool and so we are having a change in our daily pattern after the holidays and return to school routine. I feel nostaligc but a sense of renewed energy to come and a chance to refocus. Change is a necessary part of life.

The new work needs considering,more time to prepare the words alongside them. We need to do the writings now in preperation for the exhibition at the end of October. The sculptures had their photoshoot and we have a set of fantastic images to use.

I am reshowing one of the ‘Souls’ here. The idea of a ‘sculpture within’.

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I will leave it with you to sit and stare at the image and let me know what you can see within it.

Some people change, some remain the same, unwilling or unable. As we head into autumn we need to start reflecting on how to improve our characters, to be a little kinder, be a little calmer, draw a little closer to the depths of our soul. Think about our attitudes, our belief systems. There are some disturbing things happening globally. Behaviour which need to change.

Change comes from within.