I often wonder if the impressive and extravagant architecture of cathedrals is meant to distance believers from what is heavenly and saintly, almost belittling mere humans in the face of religion. But when I think of religion, the image that comes into my mind is a special place in nature that is so inspiring that it draws on all the awe that lives in me and leaves me in sympathy with the mysteries of life, not scared, not feeling smaller, why would it? Aren’t love and kindness the essence of religion?
How often does it happen to you that you are in museum looking at art and you notice people going first to the little cards or papers that hold a description about the art and reading it before even looking at what it describes? By doing that, don’t we prejudge an artwork and fill ourselves with another person’s impression and facts that end up closing us to the natural way of being with something? Aren’t there two parts of us (at least) that can register new impressions? Don’t we register things consciously with our senses while another unseen part of us takes it in in a whole other manner that we cannot consciously comprehend? Wouldn’t it be better to give ourselves the chance first to detect art before filling our heads with information?
photo~ The beautiful Andrea in a long exposure on the bank of the Arno river in Pisa
It is in cities like Siena that the ghosts of the past remain to haunt us with the mystery of what has been as we meander in its old cobble stone streets. Can you blame them? Would you want to leave a city this beautiful?
After many years of fascination and research of cathedrals, I have come to discover that these massive houses of worship were mostly constructed over generations in places that held a great historical significance. If you dig deeper into the history of cathedrals like Chartres in France and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, you will find out that the land they were built on used to be home of other much older churches and religious places. This all perhaps points to the significance of the exact location on the planet and much less to convenience or coincidence. It is fantastic to see the villages and towns you drive by in Tuscany and to see that the focal point of each one of them is a church or cathedral around which people gather in the Piazza.
Real faith is spending your days building what you know you will never see completed in your lifetime.
We build giant cathedrals to prove our faith to the world, but isn’t religion best demonstrated with a small act of kindness?
A remnant of the French presence in a Hanoi suburb, a stamp of another religion that made its way East into Asia, this gothic looking church stood out so much from its surroundings and it begged to be photographed.
Somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi~ Vietnam
Houses were built so that we may hide behind their windows and doors…
The old city of Kashgar is a maze of old narrow alleys, meandering around and around, some leading to the city center, others ending with stone walls that bar your entry. I was told that the cobble stones in the alley are shaped in code, letting you know what kind of alley it is. Square stones lead you to a dead end, while hexagonal ones will merge into another alley. The old city is filled with old codes, with mystery, with agreed to signs that only the inhabitants know of. And when you walk down those alleys, there is no knowing what eyes are watching you from behind the old Kashgar doors.
I do have a passion about diving into the records of the past. The wealth of impressions in historical artifacts is too great to ignore, it is awe-inspiring, magnificent and a perfect playground for mystery dreaming.
Why did the ancients record important events so meticulously on reliefs, on temple walls, on pyramids, on tombs, on cave walls, on rocks, on cathedrals and on anything that seemed durable and fit to last a very long time. Did they have a significant message to pass on to future generations? Was the information so important that they found it necessary to assign skilled artists to work on the recording of it for years and years?
And if this is the case, isn’t it frightening that whatever we have to say today, we are recording digitally and virtually? Wouldn’t it be disastrous if all modern digital media were to fail setting us back years with nothing to physical to hang on to? I mean if all the digital manuals were to be lost, how would we explain the design of an airplane, a computer or a microwave to a future generation?
Just some thoughts on a quiet Sunday morning in Shanghai…
Nature always finds a way to erode away human traces on its surfaces around the planet. In the temples of Angkor Wat, like in this old one in Ta Prohm, nature’s ways are not very subtle. The magnificent banyan trees just march over the great temples with their large trunks and extend their roots to wrap them around the great rocks and squeeze them till they simply fall apart under the intense pressure. And no matter how many times humans try to cut the trees and free the ruins, the trees just keep coming back. Such are the mysterious ways of the jungle temples of Cambodia. In these places you don’t have to squint or extend your arms to try and feel any energies or vibrations of mystery, because it all stares you straight in the face and if you stand there long enough, it just might warp you in its powerful grip.