Sunday, 11 October 2015

Oriental Symbols

"Traditional Dress and Chinese Symbols", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

For years now I have been fascinated by the way Oriental languages are written -- especially Chinese characters or logograms.

Chinese characters are actually called logograms (each symbol represents a concept rather than a sound). These are used in the writing of Chinese and some other Asian languages. In Standard Chinese they are called Hanzi. They have been adapted to write a number of other languages including: Japanese, where they are known as kanji, Korean, where they are known as hanja, and Vietnamese in a system known as chữ Nôm. In English, they are sometimes called Han characters. Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world. 

Chinese logograms for the four seasons
In my drawing above, I used three of the four logograms representing the seasons of the year. Since the particular decoration pictured normally has only three sections, I chose to use Autumn, Winter and Summer -- leaving Spring for some future drawing. 

When I look at this type of writing, the artist in me often tries to figure out the "picture" they represent as I know that some of the most commonly used characters were originally pictograms (these depict the objects denoted) or simple ideograms (these express their meaning iconically). Although I know that it is not really that simple, I still find myself looking for a "picture". For example, when I look at the "picture" for Winter (see above), it looks to me as though the symbol depicts the blowing winds of wintertime while the one for Autumn (see above) seems, to me, to show leaves falling from a tree.

In the past, I have tried on occasion to teach myself the art of Chinese calligraphy so that I could actually draw these characters; however, I always realized after a short while that this is a skill that can only be properly learned with time and a proper teacher. Some years ago, I was able to teach myself ordinary calligraphy and managed to achieve a certain proficiency.  Of course, now, with my hands full of arthritis, calligraphy of any type is no longer an option. So, instead, I just enjoy looking at the work of others.

One last comment about this week's drawing -- it really wasn't the Chinese symbols that first attracted me to the photo I ended up using as a model -- no, it was the challenging position of the woman's right hand which made me choose the particular picture I used as a guide for my own drawing.

The information on Chinese logograms was taken from various Internet sources.


Suki in sepia -- starring intently at me!
The past week has been a difficult one for poor Suki. She has spent a inordinate amount of time growling menacingly and hiding in the bedroom closet -- all because I decided that I wanted to order a few items online.

For example, Joycelyn needed a new shopping buggy as the wheels on the old one had gotten all wobbly and seemed to be close to falling off.  I ordered a very elegant buggy -- gray with white polka dots!  As well, Suki's old scratching boxes (you know the cardboard kind that are scented with catnip) had reached the point where Joycelyn was finding little bits of cardboard all over the floor each Monday when she did the vacuuming.  I ordered two of these -- one for the hallway and one for the bedroom.
Suki on her scratching box
 Then there was the new tower fan that I had been wanting to order from the "points" catalogue for some some time and I discovered that I had accumulated just enough points to get it.  

Of course, each of these three items could not be delivered on the same day -- that would have made things too easy.  Instead, even though they were all ordered at the same time the previous week, they arrived separately causing the mail person to knock loudly (why do they always have to knock so loudly?) on my door on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, each time they knocked, Suki, like Superwoman, instantly leapt from a sleeping position into the very image of an angry cat: fur bristling, throat growling, not sure whether to stay and fight or run for cover!

I tried to tell her that it was not the monster come back to get her, but only a delivery person.  She, however, would hear none of it and, after a moment or two of hesitation, made a mad dash for the bedroom closet where she stayed for the next hour or so until she felt it was safe to emerge.  

After her emergence from the closet, she had to spend a good bit of time sniffing the new arrival.  I placed each parcel in the entry hallway so that Joycelyn could open them for me on her next visit as the opening of well-sealed parcels is just too painful for my hands.  

There was one parcel in particular that Suki spent a great deal of time investigating -- you guessed it, the package containing her new scratching boxes.  Even though the things were heat-sealed in clear plastic, wrapped in bubble-wrap and covered on the outside with white plastic sheeting, she was still able to smell the catnip through it all.  I tried sniffing the package and all I could smell was plastic.  Cats, like dogs, truly have an extraordinary sense of smell.

Anyway, since the third package arrived on Thursday and no others are expected, Suki should have a quiet long weekend.  Yes, it is a long weekend here in Canada as Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October.  So, "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my Canadian readers! 

Otherwise, things remain much the same at the Thayer residence.  I did have an appointment with a specialist this past week; however, he wants to send me for a particular procedure before he makes his diagnosis -- so I will not know if there is anything new happening with my poor, old body until after the procedure which won't be happening until late November.  Meanwhile, I continue to deal, as best as possible, with all the things that have already been diagnosed.



"Icon -- Christ the Teacher (All Things Are Possible)", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revision

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  Mk. 10:[17] 23-30

Recently, I have been watching a series of shows detailing the history of the drug cartels in various countries.  These criminal groups bring in obscene amounts of money daily which gives them an incredible amount of power over other human beings.  And, as we all know, their use of that power has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people -- men, women and children who simply got in the way or were "collateral damage." As has been said in various ways by different people over the centuries, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

I mention this because of Christ's statement about it being "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  I, of course, cannot say with any certainty exactly what was meant by this comment; however, I, personally, have always thought it meant that without the littleness of humility, one could not enter into a place where Love reigns supreme. Remember, "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth." (I Cor. 13:4-6)  Those whom power (wealth) has left totally corrupted are anything but lovingly humble!

Is it humanly possible to have absolute power and not be corrupted by it?  I would have to say that while I think it is possible, it seems to me to be highly improbable unless the person remained, at all times, aware of their littleness in the face of universal Truth and Love.  Even those of us who think of ourselves as powerless, need to be aware, I think, that we, especially here in the West, have so much more power than many throughout the world.  For example, I need to ask myself if I am allowing whatever power I have to corrupt me as I daily make choices about what to buy, about where to make these purchases, about what to do with my garbage, about how to care for the earth and about whom to vote for as another election approaches!

May we walk gently through this fragile world never forgetting that power without humility may forever prevent us from entering into the Kingdom of God -- that Kingdom of Unconditional Love so deeply desired by every human heart.


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