The Mirror in Indian Art and Literature

I recently read a fascinating article by Christopher P Jones, ‘Decoding Reflections: The Meaning of Mirrors in Art’, where the author talks about some important European paintings featuring mirrors, and explains the role and symbolism of the mirror in each painting.  After reading it, I thought of the depiction of mirrors in Indian art and how these might reflect Indian ideas (pun intended!) about the symbolism of the mirror in religious thought and practice.

Read More The Mirror in Indian Art and Literature

Animals and the sacred

How did humans first acquire language?  It’s is a fascinating and important question.  The ancient Egyptians believed that that speech and writing had been taught to humans by the deity Thoth, alternately conceived as an ibis-headed god or a baboon-headed god.

Read More Animals and the sacred

Haruki Murakami and Buddhist philosophy

Over Christmas I read ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’, a novel by Haruki Murakami, in the English translation by Jay Rubin.  The strange tale of the protagonist, named Toru Okada, seemed to have a loose affinity with concepts and themes from Buddhist philosophy, which I briefly sketch out here,  but whether or not this affinity is the intention of the author or not I can’t say.

Read More Haruki Murakami and Buddhist philosophy

On the moment of insight

This description nicely illustrates something about how the brain works to generate new ideas, alternating between periods of focused intensity of thought and stillness in order to arrive at a sudden moment of insight or intuition.  A similar process is behind many such ‘eureka moments’, where the would-be inventor or discoverer sets aside his or her work and allows their conscious thinking to clear, seemingly so that the unconscious mind can do its own distinctive work.

Read More On the moment of insight

On poetic understanding

Just as scientists strive to crystallize deeper truths about the world, so too do poets.  However, whereas scientists further our understanding of reality through a process of abstraction, poets develop insights that resists abstraction and stays at the level of ordinary things.

Read More On poetic understanding

On monarchy in literature and life

Monarchy has been a feature of human societies since time immemorial, and is ensconced in our literary traditions.  The two passages above are both taken from the funerals of famous leaders depicted in literature, and remind us of recent scenes following the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  That is to say, they both display two profound elements that must come into play on any such occasion, namely, solemn ritual and sorrowful emotion.

Read More On monarchy in literature and life