February - dharma arts round-up
Reading the review section of the Sunday paper I started making notes of all the things I wanted to check out; films, podcasts, books, music, radio and TV programmes, exhibitions and so on. It struck me that loads of this stuff is free, wow, that really is incredible.
I know it’s not all accessible to everyone, and I did think about how fortunate I am to be able to read, to have the internet, and to be able to afford to buy that newspaper in the first place. But isn’t it amazing that for most of us reading this email these things are available at little or no cost?
Blimey, it’s easy to feel wealthy sometimes. Thank you universe!
Watching Movies on Retreat
I seemed to have developed a habit of including movies in my retreat programmes. I love it, it goes beyond even the pleasure of watching a movie in the cinema. Film, as a medium, is really powerful. Yet it’s often sandwiched between other activities and rarely gets our full attention.
On retreat we’ll watch the film as if it were a meditation. Beforehand there is lots of space and afterwards there’s silence, which is bliss. I detest leaving the cinema with a friend and having to immediately say something about the film. On retreat I just go to bed, sleep and let impressions of the film mingle with my dream world. Then I wake in silence and sit in mediation and it’s often in that meditation that some clear teaching or understanding comes through.
On our “Life of Objects’ retreat we watched two films which, to my mind, contained teachings on how we could relate to the world of objects. I thoroughly recommend them both.
How to Cook Your Life
Made by the german film director, Dorris Dorrie, who is herself a Buddhist. About the American Zen priest, Ed Brown. He’s running a retreat in Germany based on Dogen’s ‘Instructions for a Zen Cook’. On this retreat they are practicing cooking together, as well as meditation. It’s hilarious, he gives us everything, his insights, his grumpiness and his vulnerability.
The Man Without a Past
Ari Kaurismäki’s film, from 2002, is about a man who’s hit on the head and loses everything, everything he owns, and everything he is. With no possessions and no memory he wakes up in Helsinki and is completely dependent on the kindness of strangers. In the end he gains so much more than he has lost.
Ricky Gervais - Afterlife
I thought Ricky Gervais’s new series on Netflix might be something to watch with the kids. They’re teenage boys and our taste in TV doesn’t always coincide. What can I say? I’m amazed. It’s utterly brilliant. How can you write something that funny, and that true, about grief?
One definition of compassion is ‘the heartfelt desire to alleviate suffering’, and reading some comments on his facebook page makes me think he’s doing just that.
The last of the Bohemians
Here’s what the makers say of The Last of the Bohemians - it’s an independent new audio series that meets female firebrands and controversial outsiders from significant eras in culture and the arts.
So far I’ve listened to, and fallen in love with, Molly Parkin. At 86 she talks of how she loves living alone. She wakes early and has sex with herself, before going out to sit in the garden and wait for the sun to come up. By the time it does a new poem or painting has ‘come to her’, then she comes inside to write or to paint.
Then Bonnie Greer, talking about how to educate ourselves, how to challenge ourselves and our views. For example, why it is important to read, and understand, people that you really don’t like. Others on the playlist are Pamela Des Barres, Pauline Black, Amanda Feilding and Cosey Fanni Tutti!
I think the youngest is 65, listening to them has made me look forward to growing older!
You can listen to the series in all the usual podcast places but I recommend checking out their Last of the Bohemians website, because it’s super nice and there are cool portraits of each woman.
Art and Activism
I happened to catch this profile of Nan Goldin on Radio 4. I’ve always loved her, she seems to capture compassion like no other photographer. But now she’s in the news for another reason. She’s protesting about art institutions taking money for the Sackler family. They own the pharmaceutical company that produces the highly-addictive opioid prescription painkiller OxyContin that’s been responsible for 1000s of deaths in the US.
Nan Goldin has been in discussion with the National Portrait Gallery about doing a retrospective (a must see!) but has said she won’t do it if they accept the £1 million gift currently on offer from the Sacklers.
As someone in the programme says, Nan Goldin’s work has always been about -
Dragging things into the light, making things visible that people wouldn’t otherwise see.
Nan Goldin had been addicted to drugs in the past and then was given OxyContin when she had a wrist operation and got hooked again. The ethical issue here is the extent to which the company deliberately played down the addictive nature on the drug.
Then today I read in the Guardian that the National Portrait Gallery has turned down the money, and that the Tate Galleries have decided, unasked, to do the same. I’ve often thought about the ethical implications of how I spend my money, but who am I willing to take money from?