Spirituality in Calligraphy
All last week, I facilitated a group using Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms. It's a book on spiritual practice.
Going into the experience, I didn't expect to learn anything new— hubris, I know! One of the best things though? The group was attended by three Chinese-speaking participants. This made for a lot of interesting conversation regarding language and cultural perspectives. My favorite conversation revolved around Chinese calligraphy.
We'd gotten into a discussion about loving one's neighbor. I can hardly understand how to do that! one person said. Suddenly, I got this thought. Lucy, can you write 'neighbor' for us in Chinese? Lucy obliged (see pic above). Then I asked her to explain the component pictures contained in the character. Fascinating...
sunset... cow... rice... ear... mummy... ancient
This led us to consider that being a neighbor is something one does all day long, from birth to death, sharing our milk and our meat, our grain and our sympathy. And we listen. Because this is, from ancient times far into the future, part of the beauty of human relationship.
All this reminded me of something Tod Bolsinger says in It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian, ...Christian community is not just about neighborliness...nor is it just about proximity...It's not just about being friends or living in the same housing development. It's about sharing more than a cup of sugar and the lawn mower: sharing core values and a vision for living. (p.24)
I do believe that the Chinese character for neighbor contains some of this deeper spiritual aspect, in a way that is particularly memorable and enchanting. Which reminds me that perhaps when I've come to the dangerous place of thinking there's nothing much I'm going to learn in a certain arena, I need to get outside myself... cross culture or gender or age or status boundaries... so I can hear something unexpectedly beautiful, new.
Chinese Calligraphy photo, by L.L. Barkat.
Nancy's Awesome Picture of SC
Ted's book club post Lava Rock: Witness