Tag Archives: spirit

Gaiao

13 Jun

Neried

photo credit: Alan Howden

Gaia was the name the ancient Greeks gave to the elemental Goddess of the Earth. She was the mother of Kronos – the God of Time. In 1979 the name was appropriated by the polymath James Lovelock to describe his novel idea that Earth herself behaved like a ‘living’ organism – capable of regulating her own climate through gross perturbation: Gaia, a new look at life on Earth.

In 1979 I was a final year student of Zoology – I thought James Lovelock’s book was sensational. The idea that the Earth’s biota (all living organisms on the planet), the chemistry of inorganic cycles and the physics of the atmosphere all powered by the sun, could form part of a gigantic coherent negative feedback system simply blew my mind.

Negative feedback, the basis of biology and life-chemistry expanded to encompass Earth.

We humans live within a constantly changing environment. Night and day,  cold and heat, moisture and dryness, from pole to pole through temperate climes to the tropics all these geographical locations exert significant physical changes on the organisms that live there. Vertebrate animals – particularly mammals, have developed efficient ways of regulating their internal environment to maintain the best working conditions for the proteins within their cells. Proteins – enzymes and structural molecules – require very narrow parameters of temperature, salt concentration, pH and so on to work at all, otherwise they become ‘denatured‘ (permanently damaged).

We call this cellular ‘fighting back against change’ Homeostasis:

“the maintenance of metabolic equilibrium within an animal by tendency to compensate for disrupting changes”

In March this year, with the help of Yorkshire Artspace I was given permission to set up my oak Ruskin Sculpture on the roof of Persistence Works in Sheffield. To organise an artistic event with contemporary dancer, Simone Thompson. There was no script and no direction, just a few creative humans having an open dialogue around a strange structure on a roof top. Simone brought her own music to dance to:

I’d seen Simone perform at a street fayre in Sheffield in 2015 with her students and was struck by the energy and vitality she drew from her young students and her own wild, eclectic performance when she treated us too her own extemporised dance.

I guess I wanted to create a living substrate – in equilibrium – that would allow us to create something that was dynamic, rooted in the environment and a celebrating of life.

To live in harmony with the Earth and with each other is the single greatest challenge of our age. If we don’t we will perish.

“Nature favours those organisms which leave the environment in better shape for their progeny to survive. James Lovelock”

Spirit

19 Jun

Image

Jazz is learning how to make a spatula on a shave horse using a draw knife. Her brother George is pictured here shaping a piece of Rowan with a carpenter’s axe for a spoon blank.

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These photographs were kindly sent to me by the mum of these lovely children – Lynn. In so doing she has given me an insight into how all of us learn.

At first I was struck by the look of concentrated delight on the little girl’s face as she let me help her pull the draw knife to shape her spatula – I was sat right behind her so I had no idea what thoughts were crossing her mind, or how she was taking the experience. Then I realised just how big I am in comparison to her, and this is echoed in the shot of George who is manfully struggling with an axe which I wield nearly every day (as a natural extension of my arm), on a chopping block that is clearly too big for him.

I could have chosen to miniaturise the experience for these youngsters, but I wanted to make my demonstration as real as possible. In so doing I hoped to be the bridge from the unfamiliar, and faintly scary, to the commonplace and useful: using real tools in the correct way to make really useful things.

I remember long ago an old teacher saying to me that Education was about taking a person from a position of safety to a position of ‘danger’ by helping them to conquer their fear. I would add to that, and say, anyone wanting to teach must find the source of their skill and generosity (for this is the true spirit of education) by acknowledging their true nature.

Teaching is a social enterprise which involves trust. Parents invest an immense amount of trust in teachers, which is a fact often overlooked by professionals in their hunt for better grades, greater performance, compliance with inspections and professional advancement. This trust is a gift which should be acknowledged.

We often forget that in the act of teaching we ourselves are being taught, Lynn, through her trust and generosity has showed me a reflection of myself I rarely get to see – true contentment.

Thank you!

x

H