This March I had the pleasure of teaching with Sabine Danielzig in Taos, New Mexico- as when I was last teaching in her classroom in Solingen, Germany, she confessed that she has always dreamed of coming to Taos… in 2020 I will join her again in her classroom in Solingen.
We began with the idea, expressed in many traditions, that we are each born with a seed, an acorn, a particular something that we have to offer back to this world that has been given to us. The clue to what this is, as Joseph Campbell has said, is this question: What did you do as a child that gave you a sense of timelessness? Even if this doesn’t directly answer what your “seed” is, it is the thread for you to follow. Here is the same idea posed by an Italian born, German priest, Romano Guardini, talking about his dream:
Last night, but probably it was the morning, when dreams come, one then came to me. What happened in it I no longer know, but something was said, either to me or by me, which also I no longer know.
So, it was said that when a man is born, a word is given with him, and it was important, what the meaning was: not just a predisposition, but a word. It is spoken unto him in his essence, and it is like the password of everything, what then will happen. It is at once the strength and the weakness. It is the commission and the promise. It is the guard and the dangers. Everything that will then happen through the course of the years is the effect of this word, it is the explanation and the fulfillment. And everything comes to pass for him to whom it was pronounced -- each man, to each to which one was spoken -- he understands it and it comes into agreement with him. –Romano Guardini
Sabine read it in German first, then I read it in English. There is something about having two languages in the room that deepens listening. Our work was filled with thoughts from Rilke, on “living the questions”. What word were you given before you were born?
I was able to photograph some of the books the students made. Here are some of the experiments with line:
Below are some examples from my sketchbook of the alphabet I designed for these classes:
Here are some of the book covers from the students.
Sabine delighted the students by demonstrating how to add gold leaf with her hand crafted gesso– you can see the tiny dots of gold on some of the books below.
Here is the poem from Rilke that we began with, returning to the idea of reaching inside to find your thread, “like a word I’m coming to understand” :
I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
just as it is.
I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtimes;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
– From Rilke’s Book Of Hours translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy
Soon I will post the updated classes for 2020 and 2021. What did you do as a child that gave you a sense of timelessness? I’d love to hear from you.