Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chief Seattle's Letter : The Web of Life

Daubigny's Garden by Vincent Van Gogh ( 1890)

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We are all brothers after all."

- This letter was written by Chief Seattle, a Susquamish chief , who lived on the islands of the Puget Sound, in response to the United States government's inquiry in 1852 about buying the tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States. I read it in the Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell in relation to a discussion on ethics and morality. It speaks volumes about our timeless relationship to earth and need to respect the web of life of which humans are but a small part of.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Through the eyes

The Open Window by Henri Matisse

So through the eyes love attains the heart:
For the eyes are the scouts of the heart,
And the eyes go reconnoitering
For what it would please the heart to possess.
And when they are in full accord
And firm, all three, in the one resolve,
At that time, perfect love is born
From what the eyes have made welcome to the heart.
Not otherwise can love either be born or have commencement
Than by this birth and commencement moved by inclination.

By the grace and by command
Of these three, and from their pleasure,
Love is born, who its fair hope
Goes comforting her friends.
For as all true lovers
Know, love is perfect kindness,
Which is born--there is no doubt--from the heart and eyes.
The eyes make it blossom; the heart matures it:
Love, which is the fruit of their very seed.

-GUIRAUT DE BORNEILH (ca. 1138-1200?) , From "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Cambell, VII- Tales of Love and Marriage

Sunday, January 09, 2011

My Voice

"The Kiss" by Gustave Klimt ( 1862-1918)

Within this restless, hurried, modern world
  We took our hearts’ full pleasure—You and I,
And now the white sails of our ship are furled,
  And spent the lading of our argosy.

Wherefore my cheeks before their time are wan,
  For very weeping is my gladness fled,
Sorrow hath paled my lip’s vermilion,
  And Ruin draws the curtains of my bed.

But all this crowded life has been to thee
  No more than lyre, or lute, or subtle spell
Of viols, or the music of the sea
  That sleeps, a mimic echo, in the shell.

- Oscar Wilde

Notes: Oscar Wilde wrote " My voice" after penning "Her Voice". Together the two pieces form a kind of dialogue and provide two perspectives on the same situation. Read an interesting analysis here:

Her Voice

"Lady with Fan" by Gustav Klimt ( 1862-1918)

The wild bee reels from bough to bough
  With his furry coat and his gauzy wing.
Now in a lily-cup, and now
  Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
    In his wandering;
Sit closer love: it was here I trow
    I made that vow,

Swore that two lives should be like one
  As long as the sea-gull loved the sea,
As long as the sunflower sought the sun,—
  It shall be, I said, for eternity
    ’Twixt you and me!
Dear friend, those times are over and done,
    Love’s web is spun.

Look upward where the poplar trees
  Sway and sway in the summer air,
Here in the valley never a breeze
  Scatters the thistledown, but there
    Great winds blow fair
From the mighty murmuring mystical seas,
    And the wave-lashed leas.

Look upward where the white gull screams,
  What does it see that we do not see?
Is that a star? or the lamp that gleams
  On some outward voyaging argosy,—
    Ah! can it be
We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
    How sad it seems.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say
  But this, that love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breasts of May
  Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
    Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
    And so we may.

And there is nothing left to do
  But to kiss once again, and part,
Nay, there is nothing we should rue,
  I have my beauty,—you your Art,
    Nay, do not start,
One world was not enough for two
    Like me and you.

- Oscar Wilde

1) Learn more about Gustav Klimt- Austrian Symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement at:
2) Listen to this poem at:

Saturday, January 08, 2011

In between

" The Crown" by Neha

In between first glance
and half moon smile
along printed word and
pencil arrow on sideline

In between songs sung
on sylvan sojourn
a place where the word
met its meaning as meant

In between unforgotton
dance and untold story
on the edge of a memory
near a butterfly's dream

In between the signpost
and destination
the world of no beauty
no beast no guise

In between the first thought
and the last sigh
as a painting springing
to life on its own

In between the echo
and its delicate whisper
sometimes as messenger
sometimes as message..

I wait..


Thursday, January 06, 2011

In a dark time

" The Hour" by Neha

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

- Theodore Roethke

Was directed to this vivid poem by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers' "The Power of Myth" that I'm reading. Learn more about Roethke and read more of his work here :

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Nigahein milaney ko

"kaleidoscope" by Neha

raaz kee baat hain mahafil mein kahey, ya na kahey
bas gaya hai koi, is dil mein kahe, ya na kahey

nigaahey milaane ko, jee chahata hai
dil-o-jaan lutaane ko, jee chahata hai

wo tohumat jise ishk kahatee hain duniyaa
wo tohumat uthhane ko, jee chaahataa hai

kisee ke manaane me, lajjat wo paayee
ke fir ruthh jaane ko, jee chahata hain

wo jalawaa jo ojhal bhee, hain saamane bhee
wo jalawaa churaane ko, jee chahata hain

jis ghadee meree nigaahon ko teree did huyee
wo ghadee mere liye ayesh kee tamaheed huyee
jab kabhee maine teraa chaand saa cheharaa dekhaa
eed ho yaa ke naa ho, mere liye eed huyee
wo jalawaa jo ojhal bhee, hain saamane bhee
wo jalawaa churaane ko, jee chaahataa hain

mulaakaat kaa koi paigaam dije
ke chup chup ke aane ko jee chahata hain
aur aa ke na jaane ko jee chahata hain

-Sahir Ludhianvi, Movie : Dil Hi to Hai (1963)

Listen to this beautiful ghazal at: