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Bella's landscaping phoenix is the first in the history of the phoenix to not only fly but actually mate with a firebird!
I'm not going to even try to explain that. It will take weeks or months of analysis to figure out the mechanics of this.
I'll just give you the big picture.
So, first off: what's going on? The story tells us that the phoenix is a reincarnated being who is actually a firebird and that's what we see in the picture: a phoenix and a firebird. But what's the real deal? Why is this happening?
We are told by a character named Dostoevsky that the phoenix has died and reincarnated. There are things we do see, though, that don't seem to fit in with this. One is that this phoenix is a female and another is that this phoenix isn't actually dying, that the whole thing is, instead, being performed to honor her dead lover, an avian friend, who is actually a firebird.
I'll try to explain some of this... because I've been wrestling with it since this morning.
In general, we know that the phoenix is dead or, at least, the phoenix is reborn out of the ashes of the deceased. Now, this phoenix is not only the first in the history of the phoenix to die and be reborn out of the ashes of a dead avian, it's also a firebird! As I just said, we are told the female phoenix is a reincarnation of a dead lover, an avian, which we know from the story to be a firebird. This is also something I've been wrestling with and I have to admit, my first response to this picture is a simple one. I think it looks like a phoenix and a firebird, even though it says 'phoenix.' However, this is a much bigger deal than it might at first appear to be. The firebird is the spirit of life, of the power of the sun, while the phoenix is the spirit of death. They are not necessarily opposites. A phoenix can live its whole life in the realm of the phoenix and be perfectly at home there. However, a firebird cannot be in the realm of the firebird and be at home there. A firebird must be in the realm of the sun.
Now, there is more to the symbolism of these two than this. There's a much deeper meaning. There's something that isn't quite clear to me... like in the other phoenix picture that, I think, I posted on Facebook yesterday. There's something about the firebird, about the phoenix that really isn't right for it. There's something not quite right about the firebird and the phoenix working together. And, on top of that, there is something not quite right about this painting, too. Like, for instance, if I were to say it were simply that the sun hadn't risen and the firebird wasn't alive, I think we might say that is not a phoenix. But, it's like it just somehow feels wrong. A phoenix wouldn't look like that, or be in the place where it is. It is a much more complicated picture than that. I don't know how to explain it without just making it sound way too mystical, but there is something off about it. Maybe I can't put my finger on it, but something doesn't sit right about it.
Tuesday, June 12, 2015
In some ways, this morning's meditation was simple. There's a very interesting quote by Thomas Aquinas that I've used in previous meditations that are posted here, but the one I did yesterday was a slightly simplified version of it. I've said in the past, and am likely to say it again, that I don't think of a Buddhist meditation as a ritual, but more as a ritualized version of what a human being might do in a calm moment.
Here it is, as I stated it yesterday:
A true and honest meditation is a meditation where you think about nothing but that which is in front of you, and your heart fills with wonder as you look at it. It is not a time to think about the past or future, but a time to feel your place in the universe. It is a time to look around at your place in the world, at your place in the sun, at your place in the sky. You see a tree, a cloud, a rock, a river, a person. You don't say: "Oh, a tree. A perfect example of the wonder of nature." You don't say: "This river is beautiful." You don't say: "That river is so peaceful." You don't say: "Those people over there are so beautiful." You say: "Oh, a tree. And trees will be with me in my time of need. A river. I will feel my place in the world every time I see a river." A rock. How does a rock know who it is? A cloud. I can understand this rock. A tree. I can understand this tree. This man I can feel so strong. I can feel that he has so much life in him. A rock. It's still as beautiful as the first time I saw it. A cloud. I can feel how beautiful this cloud is. A tree. I can feel the power of the tree and I can feel the power in myself. And I can feel how powerful I am. A rock. A river. How is this even happening? And that man. I wonder if he has anything like this in him.
The first time I did this meditation, I was watching a tree as I sat with my back to the rock wall. I found myself sitting and thinking about something else, some other thing—the feeling of loneliness. I heard a sound and was startled by it. I turned and saw a bird flying past. I watched it fly into the tree and sit there among the branches. I watched it flutter and fly in between the branches and looked at the beautiful tree and the strong branches reaching out as if to help the bird, to let it land and to be warm and safe. I looked at the tree, saw its beauty and how it needed the help of the branches, and was aware that they would reach out to help, and I had that feeling of loneliness, but I found myself so much bigger and more powerful and with so much more going on in me than I had even realized. Then it was as if I reached out and touched the bird's feathers. It turned and looked at me.
I was surprised. I had forgotten about the man walking by. "I'm so sorry," I said to the bird. "I didn't know you were there."
"Well, it's your fault," it said. "You didn't look."
I smiled, because I knew the bird was right, but I also thought about the bird's parents, about the woman and the children who taught the children how to feed and care for the bird. I had made a promise. I wondered if I could keep it.
As I sat on the rock wall, I went back and forth between this meditation and another one I had read in a book and had tried. In the book I read about a man on a train, about how he had been sitting on a seat, but he wasn't able to sleep. He was watching the scenery outside the window, and he saw the trees. They were beautiful, he said to himself. They were alive. He reached out and touched the tree.
"They're trees," he said. "