17 Quotes on Vulnerability that will inspire an Authentic Life

Vulnerability is the language of the soul and the voice of the heart. ~ Virginia Burges

To open up to life is to be vulnerable. To follow a dream is to be vulnerable. To be who YOU truly are is to be vulnerable. Whenever we strike up a friendship, embark on a relationship, start a new project, or pretty much any activity; we are vulnerable.

Every time we close our eyes and go to sleep we are vulnerable, and we trust that after our dreaming we will soon open them again…

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

I feel vulnerable every time I publish a blog post. A part of me always hopes that it will be helpful and interesting to at least one person! I’m exposing my inner self, a tiny voice in the vastness of the universe. But I’m not the only one, we’re all in this thing called ‘life’ together.

One of the biggest things in my life that forced me to be vulnerable was being pregnant and becoming a mother. You have no choice but to trust what is happening inside your body, and that you can support another life.

vulnerability-baby-hand

A new mum with a baby to care for can be vulnerable to the well meaning opinion of others, to sheer exhaustion, to not knowing what she is doing. We rely on the help and support of family, midwives, partners and other mums. But eventually we find our own way, and we realise how rewarding being a parent is, we embrace the responsibility of raising another human being; even though we are vulnerable as parents and they are vulnerable as children.

Suffering also made me accept and own my vulnerability. Being creative invites learning and growth, but also risks ridicule. When I published my novel I was terrified of what feedback might come my way.

Dr. Brené Brown really connected with me through her TED talk about the power of vulnerability.  A short summary of her wisdom and insights:

The first thing I usually feel like doing after a setback, a rejection or a failure is to retreat back into my shell. My inner voice pronounces, “You can’t do it, you’re not good enough,” triumphant in its ‘I told you so’ moment – just when I’m at my most vulnerable. I listen to it to be polite, (there’s no avoiding freedom of speech when it comes from within), and then I mentally reply, “Thank you for your opinion, but I’m doing it anyway. You can go back to your little corner now!”

In the spirit of vulnerability I’m going to wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s quite a worn sleeve, frayed at the edges, but the material has a certain faded toughness about it after all these years…

vulnerability-rumi

It seems to me that vulnerability is the only true path to your authentic self, the ultimate form of surrender; leading to what Brené Brown calls whole-hearted living: embracing compassion, courage and connection. But it’s a path strewn with pot holes of uncertainty, stones of insecurity and boulders of disappointments. It is the path less travelled.

I hope you enjoy these few verses; however, as promised in the title, I’ve saved the heavy hitting to the quotes that follow!

Vulnerability

Vulnerability opens up all possibility;

Tantalising outcome shrouded from view,

Emotions are unguarded, genuine,

To lower defences, let others in.

vulnerability-lone-tree

Hiding behind high walls, we are safe,

But life is not a medieval siege,

Vulnerability requires a two-way trade;

Open the gate and reception is made.

vulnerability-chateau-de-chenonceau

Over protection is airless, like a vacuum,

Do we breathe vulnerability or stifling safety?

Extreme caution leads to emptiness, numbness;

Is your life locked away inside a fortress?

vulnerability-girl-travelling-in-asia

We risk everything to show our light

And lay bare our earthly plight.

We may be misunderstood, maligned,

But also loved, appreciated and aligned.

vulnerability-elephants

The path to fulfillment and passion

Can only be navigated with the soul;

It knows the terrain, where to travel,

No light is hidden under a bushel.

vulnerability-tea-lights

A broken heart understands all hearts,

A failure procures respect for all who try;

A wounded soul does not aim verbal blows,

If it embraces the vulnerability we all know..

vulnerability-heart-rope

Introspection – arch enemy of arrogance,

Vulnerability tenderly accepts warts and all,

Blame vainly attempts to dissipate pain,

But without vulnerability it will remain.

vulnerability-bridge-hoikku-gorge

We may be rejected, insulted, ignored,

But shame and guilt win if we shield

Ourselves from joy, happiness and gratitude;

Forgive – move on, relax our attitude.

vulnerability-leopard

Flowers do not refuse to open tightly curled buds,

They do not fuss over a passing opinion,

Never ask admiration of their beauty, from seeing;

They simply blossom into a glorious statement of being.

vulnerability-wild-rose

Vulnerability keeps us humble, honest – alive.

Vulnerability embraces risk, uncertainty,

Vulnerability shows our true self, limits control;

Vulnerability is a map for the journey of the soul…

By Virginia Burges

17 inspiring quotes on vulnerability:

  1. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ~ Brené Brown
  2. “The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.” ~ Paulo Coelho, (Eleven Minutes)
  3. “What happens when people open their hearts?” “They get better.” ~ Haruki Murakami, (Norwegian Wood)
  4. “To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~ Criss Jami
  5. “Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.” ~ Stephen Russell (Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior)
  6. “We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful.” ~ Eric Micha’el Leventhal
  7. “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Brené Brown
  8. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” ~ C.S. Lewis
  9. “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. “ ~ M. Scott Peck
  10. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Hellen Keller
  11. “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strengths.” ~ Sigmund Freud
  12. “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” ~ Brené Brown
  13. “I feel like I’m a much better person when I’m developing my imagination and my innocence and my vulnerability. I like that version of me better than the version where I’m just working on my analytical mind.” ~ Brit Marling
  14. “Heroes are higher than their vulnerability. That is why they are heroes.” ~ Amit Kalantri
  15. “And maybe that was love. Being so vulnerable and allowing someone else in so far they could hurt you, but they also give you everything.” ~ Christine Feehan, (Water Bound)
  16. “What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.” ~ Brené Brown
  17. “I think one’s relationship with one’s vulnerability is a very delicate and precious relationship. Most people try to hide, disguise that vulnerability, and in doing that, you, I think, diminish a great source of power.” ~ Philip Schultz

Until the next time- stay vulnerable!

#SundayBlogShare – The Sound of Silence

Some days there’s so much noise around me I think I’m going to lose my mind. Noise from thoughts, caterwauling from the kids, traffic, horns, sirens, TV, radio and so on. Some days I long for silence; to retreat into an inner sanctum, where there’s respite from the onslaught of the world. Meditation helps, and so does playing the violin. Sometimes I long to hear the sound of your voice. But sometimes only silence will do…

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The sound of silence, substrate of creation…

Noise of nothingness filling, expanding senses,

Priming them to detect violent vibrations,

Scales of dainty decibels, sonorous caresses.

Listen well; distinguish subtle intonations,

Auditory input on waves of turbulent air,

A tendency to love pulsing impressions,

Emanating forth, emulating, wishing to share…

silence-harp-in-concert

Silence surrounds; the base note of existence…

Without that peace, would I appreciate sound?

Lilting of inner voice, harmony not dissonance,

A palette on which to speak, sing and listen is profound.

Silence: a constant companion, blank canvas for music,

The space between notes, said Claude Debussy,

Clasping violin, I perform my favourite acoustic,

Exploring the infinite waters of a fathomless sea.

silence-panorama

Sounds can nourish – biting into crunchy apple,

Or jangle cells, like long finger nails on a blackboard,

The terrifying cacophony of war, sound of battle,

Some are sweet, like a lover’s kiss, desired, adored.

Some are jolting, startling – a sudden, strident scream,

Soft tears of God; comforting, steady rain drops,

Splashing onto Earth, in relentless, rhythmic stream,

Solace for my soul, time to ponder, until it stops.

silence-rain

Sounds carry me to exotic, far flung places,

Where turbulent waves crash over distant lands,

Creatures howl and cry, endless echoes, many faces,

Inaudible grains of sand slip through my hands.

Floating on a breeze, flowers whisper the joy of scent,

Icy, cruel winds have their own sharp language,

Thunder fulminates across quivering landscapes, spent,

Hear my heartbeat; primordial thud – free from anguish.

silence-barn-thunderstorm

Life force emanates from all that is – eternal silence,

Out of the divine shroud a rustle, a breath: quiet, loud,

Familiar sounds bond to heart, enable resilience,

Earth’s endless maelstrom, amorphous as clouds.

Energy fields to immerse in, align with…

No tone goes unheard by the universe,

Flight – the whirring of gossamer wings will give,

A soprano’s broken heart, on an audience does disperse.

silence-maria-bayo-orchestra

Silence sets the stage, from birth to old age,

In-tune with tranquil Self, absorb oscillations,

To travel down memory lane, from same page,

Exulting in emotions of pitch and modulation.

Healing human wounds, retreating back to source,

Stillness resides there, diaphanous spark of essence,

Surrender to the vibrations, relinquish force,

Return always, into the sound of silence…

By Virginia Burges

silence-stained-glass

#SundayBlogShare – Elegy for Earth 🐝🏔🌎

“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” ~ David Attenborough

In many respects the success of the human race has caused as many problems as it has solved for us collectively. Population explosion, the demands for food, pollution, the endless pursuit of profits at the expense of people, plants and animals, (especially the mega corporations such as Monsanto), who produce and use some of the most harmful ingredients known to man and nature.

monsanto-pollution

Governments only seem to care about the environment when there’s something in it for them, such as tourist trade. Don’t even get me started on the destruction of rainforest for palm oil and other ingredients that fuel our ‘convenience’ lifestyle.

So many endangered species in Asia and the Amazon are seeing their habitats destroyed for the sake of a few companies and individuals making more than a few bucks. This is the dark side of capitalism. Making money no matter the cost.

But the end does not justify the means, because billions of people live on this planet. Harvesting huge swathes of the ‘lungs of the earth’ for timber and other land use may give a short term economic gain, but how can we measure the huge cost to humanity in terms of loss of diversity and disasters bought about as a result of such ecological destruction?

gibbon

We can all do our bit, reducing waste, recycling, walking instead of taking a car, being aware of our buying habits, and asking ourselves, do we support environmentally conscious businesses? Do we buy cosmetics and food that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way?

Planet Earth II

I admire Sir David Attenborough in many ways, he is a brilliant broadcaster and passionate naturalist, but it’s mostly because of the man he is; the way he has dedicated his life to bringing the beauty of nature to the masses. Definitely a national treasure! He has done more in his life than probably any other person (except maybe Darwin), to help us understand and love the natural world, open our eyes to how complex and amazing planet Earth really is, showing us that humans and the natural world are interdependent. Their survival aids our survival.

Planet Earth II has been compelling viewing! Some highlights:

The last episode of Planet Earth II is airing tonight on BBC One, and it focuses on animals in urban environments. Here’s the trailer for Cities:

I hope you enjoy my poem, Elegy for Earth. It’s a bittersweet musing on what we’ve done to the animal kingdom and the planet we call home – Earth.

Elegy for Earth

Gravity pulls us to your perfect, rounded bosom,

Our feet, able to walk in soft earth, grass and sand,

Your endless bounty is a gift, pure and fulsome,

Evolved have we, to wield a greedy, grasping hand,

Eager to harvest, destroy and plunder your riches,

We continue to rape and pillage; burn nature’s bridges.

 brazil-amazon-caracol

Many of our people appreciate and value such utopia,

Those who do not, give no thought to rainforests or

Wildlife; they are deaf to earth’s cry of melancholia,

No longer can she sustain this global ravage before

We reach the point of no return – alas, this is it.

Improve stewardship, or spin on a barren crypt.

apollo-butterfly

Industrialisation supported our growing population,

Without thought of the consequences for our home,

We paused not, to notice the result of human invasion,

We lost the wisdom of our forebears, who used to roam

Mother Earth. Her resources are finite and dwindling fast,

If we heed not nature’s warnings; humanity will not last.

forest-stag-and-boars

Poisonous fumes, silent smoke lace the air; breathe death

Plastic and detritus fill oceans deep and clog sunny shores,

Living rainforest cut-down, decimated, with startling breadth,

Pyres of man-made rubbish, polluting Earth’s pristine pores,

How far we have strayed, in the name of material progress,

We reap what we sow, our ultimate destruction to manifest.

smoke

How much wiser, to preserve this green and vibrant land,

As indigenous tribes have done, no need for fossil fuels

Instead we mine, we frack, we drill, we kill; be damned,

Pause, notice our impact; let’s protect our precious jewel.

Climate change accelerates, while man still procrastinates,

To continue unabated means the end of the master-race.

pollution

Ancient, tall trees and rolling seas offer healing escape,

Mountain air revives, soul solace, fresh foods replenish,

Let’s not take more than we need – replant and replace,

Waste is unforgivable when so many, from hunger, perish.

What polluted wasteland will we create for our descendants?

In all haste, will we act, to save Earth’s divine resplendence?

water-lily

If thriving pastures and woodlands are turned to dust,

As we wage chemical warfare on all that is pure and good,

Complain we cannot, about modern plagues’ relentless thrust,

Wars, droughts and floods; apocalypse no longer misunderstood,

Through hardship of experience, source of harmful disease,

Species wiped out; no fish, no tigers, no monkeys or bees.

tiger

The ghost of Christmas past says, stop! Look! See!

How hunting made animals extinct, and smog is choking,

The spirit of the present says, you will not get off scot-free,

Serious consequences to stand and face; no point hoping…

For the ghost of Christmas future, to bring good tidings,

Redemption lies only in ceasing madness; our silver linings.

man-in-the-wilderness

Imagine hell on Earth; no pristine wilderness left to explore,

No clean seas to sail on or swim in, surf polluted waves,

Dante’s Inferno would be a nightmare reality to deplore,

We have the power to do our bit, our planet to save,

Halt the mindless massacre, before it’s too late,

If we do nothing together, then we seal our fate…

glowing-sunrise-canim-lake

By Virginia Burges

#SundayBlogShare – Honouring The Fallen on Remembrance Sunday

The Fallen

The fallen have no voice, our freedom is their sign,

Oh, brave heroes, selfless deeds claimed your prime,

Your words were left unspoken, on hellish frontiers,

But we still hear you, even after all these years…

History has veiled your suffering, sacrifice never to forget,

So many wars, too many battles; faced by general and cadet,

Greedy death, your serpent like tongue, too fast ran,

Devouring life after life; from cruel carnage of man.

The Somme’s sodden, bloody fields saw many a charge,

Cut down by a hail of bullets, bombs small and large,

Pounding hooves, feet and tanks, cover pestilent ground,

Ear splitting screams, explosions, to stealthy silence sound.

washington-memorial

When the smoke has cleared, gritty eyes cannot bear indignity,

Of mangled and missing bodies; but in courage lies nobility,

A debt we can never repay, you faced evil, settled the score,

Faces we cannot see, but your deeds are the stuff of lore,

Our hearts fill with gratitude, for your unwaivering duty,

Concrete shells of empty buildings, stripped of beauty,

Serve as reminders of lost limbs and shattered homes,

Your graves tended, sought are your lost, scattered bones.

The dice has been shaken; the dice has been rolled,

Your number is up; time to cross the eternal threshold,

You went into danger, knowing you may never return,

A mission impossible, no easy final sojourn…

war-graves

Last post played, last drink downed, from life’s bitter-sweet cup,

If lucky, you could savour the taste, before going up,

Was it sweet? Was it sour? Did you know we wear your flower?

Red petals bloom in a sea of crimson; your poppies empower.

You drew a line in the sand, to defend our cherished homeland,

But the tragic loss of life, is hard to fully understand,

Our freedom is won, and the many thank the few,

Conflict resolved, because of what you went through.

Stories of the fallen continue to be told; as is just,

Their tales must not pass unknown, into shadows and dust,

The fallen show us the true meaning of extraordinary bravery,

So that we may never again, be shackled by tyranny and slavery.

poppy-in-wheat-field

You answered the call; sentinels of the skies, preserving lands,

Plummeting the depths of oceans, with protective hands,

Platoons, divisions, armies of ordinary men and women,

You saw and did, more of your share, of spying and killing.

Infiltrating enemy lines, up against cold, hunger and snipers,

Risking it all, to intercept and thwart, cleverly coded ciphers,

Through ninety percent of human history a war has waged…

Worthy causes hailed by leaders, for followers to engage.

The fallen will cry no more: anguish and pain disappear,

The fallen paid the highest price for valour through fear,

The fallen fought for peace: to preserve a free society,

Honour and respect the fallen, by living with humanity.

canon-in-landscape

By Virginia Burges

‘Metamorphosis’ 🍂🍁🐛

“What’s happened to me,’ he thought. It was no dream.”  ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

This stunning performance on the harp by Lavinia Meijer, of Metamorphosis II by Philip Glass, plus a lovely violin and guitar duo make a perfect accompaniment for my poetry on the subject. I hope you enjoy the music, the prose and the paintings!

‘Metamorphosis’

What is this force that draws me, inexorably towards you?

The Earth’s four seasons, unfaltering, come and go,

Red, orange and yellow foliage now proliferates,

Love, like burnt leaves, clings precariously,

To rustic boughs; fearing annihilation from the gusts of life.

Pompeo Mariani - Autunno

Pompeo Mariani – Autunno

Thoughts and feelings transmute like the elements,

Hot for a time, cold the next, perhaps even icy…

But passions warm like a glorious autumn day,

Lighting up your life while they burn and glow; evolution

Is inevitable, yet the heart yearns for what has passed.

The Stone Bench in the Garden at Saint-Paul Hospital by Vincent van Gogh

The Stone Bench in the Garden at Saint-Paul Hospital by Vincent van Gogh

Learning to embrace the wisdom of changing seasons;

Both life and death. All effort against nature is futile,

Souls are forged within molecular metamorphosis,

Dipping in and out of an infinite, primordial panoply,

Merging with other souls, individual but connected.

Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte c. 1888 by Camille Pissarro

Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte c. 1888 by Camille Pissarro

The concertina caterpillar chews quietly on his leaf,

Unremarkable on the surface, evolving inside his chrysalis,

Hidden from the world, he is overtaken by energy,

Emerging from his self-imposed cocoon transfigured,

All of life is metamorphosis, an explosion of alteration.

Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue by Dosso Dossi circa late 16th Century

Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue by Dosso Dossi circa late 16th Century

The new butterfly tests his dynamic, vibrant wings,

Fluttering to and from the sweet scent of flowers,

Thus an old heart may beat to a new tune,

But it remembers the shared music of before,

Where unforgotten melodies are woven into DNA.

Autumn Leaves by Sir John Everett Millais

Autumn Leaves by Sir John Everett Millais

A new phase, a new masterpiece will be written,

As the trees release their golden halos, ready

For preordained progression, so it is with spirit.

The journey of metamorphosis and rebirth carries us

To infinity, where we are ever the same – yet different.

~ By Virginia Burges

Autumn c. 1904 by Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933).

Autumn c. 1904 by Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933).

Philip Glass on the piano playing his Metamorphosis IV and V:

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

#SundayBlogShare – The Paradox of Polarities 🌞🌛☺️😭

Lately I have been trying to make sense of how I act unconsciously. Watching to see what happens when I allow certain situations or people to push my buttons!

It has been a busy and somewhat stressful time for me over the past few weeks, and to get through this intense phase I know I need to be more aware of the emotions that I have disowned in myself, and therefore rub me up the wrong way when other people display that very ‘thing’.

To shine the light of awareness on my my own internal state is not easy, but it is helpful. For when we become conscious of a hidden belief or shadow that is driving us, we can integrate and ‘own’ it, and the dysfunctional behaviour that surrounds it will drop away. We rarely act in a way that is detrimental to our well-being once we are conscious of it.

Writing about this subject in the form of poetry has helped me to understand the concept better and apply it in my own life. I hope you enjoy the poem in its own right, along with the sublime art (which always reflects beautifully the human condition).

Long may the light shine on you (and your shadows!) Happy Sunday!

The Paradox of Polarities

Juliet lamented to Romeo: ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’,

Yet we love…yearning to insatiably consume,

Maybe fearing, perhaps craving the morrow.

What will fate serve us: fortune or doom?

Whatever may manifest in these given hours,

That which we truly see, is endowed with powers…

The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet by Francesco Hayez

The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet by Francesco Hayez

Where our vision dares to go, energy will flow,

Born are we, into the realm of black and white,

Intrepid into the shadow side, we must not go.

To survive this masquerade we stay in the light,

Reprisals in childhood make us afraid to venture,

As adults, what is perceived as dark, we censure…

Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld by Peter Paul Rubens

Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld by Peter Paul Rubens

Lurking somewhere beneath, dark soils unconscious mind,

It cannot be disowned, denied and repressed forever,

Expressing covertly as dysfunctional, not kind.

To exhibit that which we thought of never,

The voice we accept not in ourselves, or in others,

Speaks the loudest, drowns out, and smothers.

Othello and Desdemona by Christian Köhler

Othello and Desdemona by Christian Köhler

Despite our best efforts, eventually in vain,

We never will destroy shadows; our other side,

As night follows day, with pleasure comes pain.

The vast spectrum of life is not easy to divide,

Opposites attract, nay, depend on each other to exist,

Demarcation is purely conceptual, shrouded in mist…

Hamlet - Act IV Scene V - Ophelia Before the King and Queen by Benjamin West

Hamlet – Act IV Scene V – Ophelia Before the King and Queen by Benjamin West

How humans define polarity is arbitrary,

Endless primordial cauldron of emotion,

Good against evil can be so contrary.

Life and death, clarity and confusion,

Appear they, to be separate ideas of reality,

Isolated by social convention, for the sake of sanity…

Macbeth and the Ghost of Duncan by Theodore Chasseriau

Macbeth and the Ghost of Duncan by Theodore Chasseriau

Thus, one ‘thing’ is split into a patchwork field,

We can only appreciate health because of illness,

Energy delineated, to create our journey we wield.

We can harm or heal; by practice, learn to witness,

The inner states with which we play the game,

Be we happy or sad, empty or full, of pride or shame…

The Illness of Antiochus from Antiochus and Stratonice by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Illness of Antiochus from Antiochus and Stratonice by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

To avoid any experience is to fall on our sword,

Better to watch and feel, then move forward,

Enjoy passion, shun apathy, either inspired or bored.

Awareness frees us from stagnation and being cornered,

To surf the panoply and panorama of tides,

Waves of dichotomy ebb and flow from all sides…

Tristan and Isolde by Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde by Herbert James Draper

The paths we take are followed in physics,

Nature’s eternal, divine laws unfold regardless,

To deny a part of the whole is to set limits.

What is buried, resisted and guarded will surface,

Dip into darkness again; find a flicker of light,

A single, bright, dancing flame expands in sight…

The taking of Christ by Caravaggio

The taking of Christ by Caravaggio

We make up right and wrong as we go along,

Physical forms of the infinite, quantum reality,

Both here and not here; is a part of our song.

For singing softens the immutable tree of polarity,

Rotting roots, scarred bark, broken branches, lofty leaves;

Wild forest, shaped into desired topiary: thus life weaves…

By Virginia Burges

Socrates tears Alcibiades from the embrace of sensual pleasure by Jean-Baptiste Regnault c. 1791

Socrates tears Alcibiades from the embrace of sensual pleasure by Jean-Baptiste Regnault circa 1791

#SundayBlogShare – A British Summer 🌳🌺💨☔🌞

After waking up with a bit of a hangover I felt the urge to write about the weather… How very British! I was also pondering on how the collective unconscious affects our perception of nature. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps even relate to it on some level.

As I love the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner, Britain’s most prolific and famous landscape painter, I have used his art to help illustrate my prose.

Happy Sunday!

A British Summer

Heavy grey clouds claim the sky, suffocating hope,

Reflecting the changing moods of the nation,

Temperatures fluctuate; oppressive then cool,

Winnie-the-Pooh’s blustery day is upon us…

Raby Castle, the seat of the Earl of Darlington, by JMW Turner

Raby Castle, the seat of the Earl of Darlington, by JMW Turner

Towering trees adorned with lush, verdant leaves,

Shimmer, bend and wave in nature’s breathy puff,

Wild flowers populate meadows and hedgerows,

Colourful petals spread succour for broken hearts

Thomson's Aeolian Harp by JMW Turner c. 1809

Thomson’s Aeolian Harp by JMW Turner c. 1809

Rays of sun breakthrough, beaming sporadic warmth,

Threat of violent showers always present, looming,

A green and pleasant land supports uncertain steps,

Whether bold or timid; blades of grass in their billions.

Abergavenny Bridge Monmouthshire by JMW Turner

Abergavenny Bridge Monmouthshire by JMW Turner

Pimms and tennis distract weary, outraged citizens,

Quintessential Hundred Acre Wood of our nation,

Still holds surprises. The worker bees hide not;

Streams babble and burst lowly banks.

Arundel Castle on the River Arun, with a Rainbow c. 1824-5 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Arundel Castle on the River Arun, with a Rainbow c. 1824-5 Joseph Mallord William Turner

Life abounds in forests, fields and flowers,

Towns and cities go about their daily grind,

Forgotten worms thrive in velvety brown sludge,

Birds soar above gardens, manicured or wild.

Oxford High Street by JMW Turner

Oxford High Street by JMW Turner

In times of trouble the land is earthy and stable,

The cycle of death and rebirth ceaseless, reliable.

Gain strength from longer, lighter days, be

Fortified by the season of playfulness and revelry.

Pope's Villa at Twickenham by JMW Turner

Pope’s Villa at Twickenham by JMW Turner

History lives on in ancient stone walls,

Land of democracy and freedom decays,

Only to grow back around human drama,

Scenery of ups and downs: metamorphosis.

Stonehenge by JMW Turner c. 1827

Stonehenge by JMW Turner c. 1827

Lakes and mountains, coasts and cliffs,

Magnificent island refuge to everyday strife,

Spires look upwards over quaint village greens,

Season of vitality to revive cynical souls.

Scottish landscape by JMW Turner

Scottish landscape by JMW Turner

English rose, soft symbol of beauty and summer,

She attracts us with her sweet, heady scent,

Draws blood with her protective, thorny fingers,

But we love her essence and fullness of life.

The Old Library: A Vase of Lilies, Dahlias and Other Flowers 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

The Old Library: A Vase of Lilies, Dahlias and Other Flowers 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner

Is this the summer of our discontent?

Rough winds do shake wounded spirits,

Sprites commit their mischief then sneakily retreat,

But Bacchus’s bounty exists for all who seek it…

By Virginia Burges

jmw-turner-petworth-house

Petworth House and Park by JMW Turner

#SundayBlogShare 🎼🎻🎹🎸🎷🎧 Music: An Unsurpassed Social Gift

“All art aspires towards the condition of music.” ~ Walter Pater

Playing a musical instrument is the best workout I know for my brain, as well as for invigorating my whole body. Meditation follows a close second alongside some other pleasurable activities…

The Music Lesson by Manet c. 1868

The Music Lesson by Manet c. 1868

During a practice session I feel totally alive; my mind seems to be at its most creative, and yet clear of life’s ‘junk’. I can be myself when I’m playing my violin; happily ensconced in a ‘flow state’ with no judgment or expectation other than to enjoy my activity.

I may not be on stage in a world-class concert hall, (only in my imagination), in reality I’m in my lounge and completely engaged in a joyful fusion of physical and mental exercise.

The thought of not being able to play inspired the premise for my novel, The Virtuoso.

Music score to accompany The Virtuoso by Tim Johnson

Music score to accompany The Virtuoso by Tim Johnson

While I’m playing Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi my brain is doing the ultimate multi-tasking, coordinating on an epic scale:

It’s enabling me to read the notes, to perform challenging passages of semi-quaver notes, to react quickly with tricky  incidental notes, trills and possible key changes during the piece, let alone changing position on the fingerboard, deciding what digit goes where, what bowing technique is required, the dynamics of the music and, of course intonation and my unique interpretation based on how the music makes me feel as I play it.

Jeanne Saint Cheron - violinist

Violinist by Jeanne Saint Cheron

Imagine coordinating that many processes in a split second. Brain plasticity is an incredible process. It must be an orchestra of simultaneous sparks, a symphony of synapses in there, lighting up all over the place!

Science has backed me up on that one. How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins:

Afterwards I find myself in a special space, my mind is empty yet energised and I just write. Ideas flow. It doesn’t last forever, but I try to make the most of it! Those alpha brain waves are the good guys, they usher in our most creative moments when we’re in a state of relaxed concentration.

The Music Lesson by Caspar Netscher

The Music Lesson by Caspar Netscher

Music really is instrumental in improving brain function and cognitive ability.

You may relate to my joy if you play an instrument. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily sombre, but if music disappeared overnight, for whatever reason, what would become of our species? I don’t think I could live in a world devoid of such a rich, cultural heritage…

A fascinating talk from the late neurologist Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain:

This short video shows Dr. Sacks’s brain activity as he listens to music by Bach, his favourite composer compared with that of Beethoven:

A great excerpt from a talk about the history of music by Dr. Daniel Levitin, who argues against Steven Pinker, asserting that music preceded language:

I wanted to share with you my own verses; poetry which most certainly does not compare to the likes of Keats or Shelley, but which is nonetheless genuinely reflective of my love for music; both playing and listening.

Music Makes Me Feel…

First came the hypnotic rhythm of Beethoven,

Moonlight tones passing through my mother’s womb;

Loving piano gently infiltrates fleshy oven,

Beautiful harmony surrounds the warm, watery tomb

My whole being is receptive, active, listening,

Later in life, it will make my spirit sing.

Woman at the Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Woman at the Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Orchestras fill our home, my education starts,

Lessons begin on the violin; fun but hard,

Before long I am hooked, for joy it imparts,

Bowing, scraping, hand stretching on fingerboard,

The right note eludes me, again and again,

Eventually, fingers know their place more than pain.

Berthe Morisot - The artist's daughterplaying the violin

Berthe Morisot – The artist’s daughter playing the violin

Pulsing air waves elicit ecstasy, and poignant lingering,

Oscillations match to memories from the deep,

Such moving melody, well-spring of suffering,

Black notes on treble or bass clef; ready to leap

From musicians instruments, creating composer’s passions

Hypnotism says Ludwig van, to force same emotions.

The Kreutzer Sonata by Xavier Prinet

The Kreutzer Sonata by Xavier Prinet

Major or minor key, varying dynamics and tempo

Music mirrors every sacred moment of life,

Soft, soothing adagio or a galloping allegro,

Good vibrations comfort me when in strife;

Open your heart to its flowing, healing tune,

And fill your soul with rapture, thrilling croon.

Music - Ancient Greek vase - music lesson

Ancient, divine sounds, evolving over millennia,

Effect is more visceral than art, sculpture, literature.

No mode of communication stirs like an aria;

Universal language communes with our nature,

Eclectic music of mankind, such profound apotheosis,

Ultimate expression of humanity: Quo Vadis?

The Music Lesson by Jan Vermeer

The Music Lesson by Jan Vermeer

Apart from the sound of my mother’s voice, this timeless and peaceful composition by Beethoven that my mum used to play was probably one of the first things I ever heard:

Sound when stretched is music.

Movement when stretched is dance.

Mind when stretched is meditation.

Life when stretched is celebration. ~ Sri Sri Ravishankar

The Special and Noble Tradition of Being a Bard (Part 2)

“All the world’s a stage,

and all the men and women merely players:

they have their exits and their entrances;

and one man in his time plays many parts …”

~ William Shakespeare from As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, 139–42

I’m going to commence part 2 unapologetic for my continued worship binge of William Shakespeare! Especially after his recent #Shakespeare400 anniversary.

For me, text comes alive when you can see and hear actors performing it. So there’s going to be lots of media in this post.

Here’s a comic Hamlet taster from the celebrations held at the RSC in Stratford in conjunction with the BBC:

The first published mention of Shakespeare’s plays was made  in Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury, by Francis Meres in 1598:

Palladis_Tamia,_Wits_Treasury_Francis_Meres_Love_labours_won_excerpt_1598

His sonnets weren’t published as a collective work for a further eleven years.

Love’s Labour’s Won

Because so little is known about William Shakespeare the man, the mention of an unknown play, Love’s Labour’s Won adds to the mystery surrounding his life and work. It was originally thought that Love’s Labour Won was the same play as The Taming of the Shrew, it wasn’t uncommon for his plays to be known under different names: Twelfth Night was sometimes called Malvolio and Much Ado About Nothing was sometimes referred to as Benedict and Beatrice, so the possibility of an alternative title was entirely plausible.

But in 1953 the mystery deepened when a book dealer in London came across a fragment of a bookseller’s inventory from 1603, listing both Love Labour’s Won and The Taming of the Shrew together, indicating that they were indeed separate plays. If it ever existed in printed form there is hope that one of the potential 1500 lost copies may surface one day…

It leads on to the question, if Love’s Labour’s Won really is a separate play, why wasn’t it included by Heminges and Condell in the First Folio?

Shakespeare vs Milton – Fascinating debate about the kings of English literature:

Shakespeare in film

Films continue to be made of his plays, and even about Shakespeare himself. For your viewing pleasure!

Macbeth:

The Merchant of Venice (2004):

Much Ado About Nothing (1993):

Coriolanus:

Romeo and Juliet (2013):

Richard III (1955):

Henry V:

Hamlet: (1996):

Othello (1995):

Twelfth Night (1996):

Shakespeare In Love:

I’d like to dedicate the remainder of the post with excerpts from some of the greatest bards the world has ever known.

Christopher Marlowe – Excerpt from Doctor Faustus

You stars that reign’d at my nativity,

Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,

Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist

Into entrails of yon labouring clouds,

That when they vomit forth into the air,

My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths,

So that my soul may but ascend to Heaven.

Mephisto before Faust by Eugene Delacroix

Mephisto before Faust by Eugene Delacroix

William Blake ~ (Notebook 40)

Abstinence sows sand all over

The ruddy limbs and flaming hair

But Desire Gratified

Plants fruits and beauty there.

Cremation of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier

Cremation of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier

Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley, read beautifully by Tom O’Bedlam:

Ulysses ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses by JW Waterhouse

Ulysses by JW Waterhouse

BBC Documentary about Byron, Keats, and Shelley – The Romantics – Eternity:

Edgar Allan Poe-The Raven- Read by James Earl Jones:

Audio book playlist by Random House – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Rabindranath Tagore on boundaries and understanding:

Audiobook of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (Part 1 of 4):

Great website covering classic literature, explaining here about the epic poem The Iliad by Homer.

Achilles Slays Hector by Peter Paul Rubens

Achilles Slays Hector by Peter Paul Rubens

I’m going to finish with Shakespeare, probably the greatest Bard of all time and the greatest soliloquy of all time: To be, or not to be from Hamlet.

Kenneth Brannagh is electrifying:

Going back through the ages, oral tradition was everything, however, when the written word came into being all the ‘Bards’ that have come since could be immortalised.

True Bardic tradition may be a thing of the past, but modern authors, poets and musicians can leave a legacy of their work. Perhaps not on the scale of the likes of Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare and Tagore, but we all have an imagination, which Einstein reminded us is more important than intelligence.

Excerpt from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Excerpt from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Art and culture as we know it owes everything to the bards of the ages, and in this digital age we can all be a ‘Bard’ or even ‘Bardess’, to a larger or lesser extent…

#SundayBlogShare – Benediction for Bluebells

In honour of time spent in nature’s bright and gentle company yesterday, I wanted to share some reflective verse and photographs:

Benediction for Bluebells

Woodland floor, engulfed in precious purple petals,

Hues of magical violet softly illuminate my sight,

Shine forth, ye gathering crowds of bluebells,

Your springtime violet copse spreads pure delight!

Fragrant faces of flowers, grace the sodden ground,

No greater English beauty; there can be found.

By Virginia Burges

22 April - Bluebell carpet6

**

The Bluebell ~ by Emily Bronte

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower

That waves in summer air:

Its blossoms have the mightiest power

To soothe my spirit’s care.

 

There is a spell in purple heath

Too wildly, sadly dear;

The violet has a fragrant breath,

But fragrance will not cheer,

22 April - Bluebell carpet5

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,

And seldom, seldom seen;

The heavens have lost their zone of gold,

And earth her robe of green.

 

 

And ice upon the glancing stream

Has cast its sombre shade;

And distant hills and valleys seem

In frozen mist arrayed.

22 April - Bluebell carpet distance

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,

The heath has lost its bloom;

The violets in the glen below,

They yield no sweet perfume.

 

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,

‘Tis better far away;

I know how fast my tears would swell

To see it smile to-day.

22 April - Bluebell path

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall

Adown that dreary sky,

And gild yon dank and darkened wall

With transient brilliancy;

 

How do I weep, how do I pine

For the time of flowers to come,

And turn me from that fading shine,

To mourn the fields of home!

22 April - Bluebell carpet4