Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wheels of Mystery

I went to the Art Institute of Chicago this week, and not only has the museum changed, but I, too have changed. This time phone beeping interrupted my experience of the art. Oh, an email! Oh, a message! Oh, I’ll return that call later! These were unnecessary interruptions that I humored for a while. Later I wised up and silenced my phone.

The Nataraja sculpture was in the long hall that used to hold the suits of armor, chain mail and swords. It seems to be symbolic of world changes, that the symbols of combat have now been replaced with representations of spirituality. Part of the symbolism of the Nataraja (picture above), the royal dance of Shiva, is about creation and destruction in life.

The painting, Dance of Life by Edvard Munch, also on view at the Art Institute, shows a cycle of hopeful love, creation of connection, loss and grief all participating in a mad dance. I spent a long time looking at this painting, and identified with its mythology. I also saw it when I was a child going to museums with my grandmother, and wondered if it had somehow guided my emotional life-path.

The movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, brings the reality of life cycles into focus by reversing the life trajectory of Brad Pitt’s character. He is born old, and dies young—at least physically, while the love of his life, Cate Blanchett’s character ages normally (yet beautifully). This dynamic forces them to consciously address aging and youth-ing with difficult choices.

This year, I find myself the oldest I have ever been. I have experienced hopefulness. I have experienced loss. And I am looking forward to seeing how the cycle of my life continues because even though a life can be seen as one cycle from birth to death, within every life is a constant movement of inspiration for growth and the reality of decay. So I don't know what's next.

And, just as the earth rotates and is held by gravity as it goes around the sun, as we go through a life cycle we are held by the great mystery at our center.

Also, Ashtanga yoga is sometimes represented with its eight limbs coming out from a center like spokes coming out from the central axis of a wheel. When seen this way one can get a sense of evolving in multiple ways simultaneously. All spokes of a wheel support the movement or evolution, development, and realization along the path of yoga.

Let’s roll with it. Here are a couple more wheel links:

Buddhist Wheel of life
Tarot Wheel of Fortune

1 comment:

RB said...

There is a song called "My Back Pages" with a line I always loved: "Oh but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now."

I think that the cycles of life let us embody more alleged qualities of youth as we get older. I was just writing too about shivasana has a component of rebirth, even in being "corpse pose."