Islamic art: We look at it, we admire it, but how much do we know about it and why should we bother?
Not only is Islamic art beautiful, it tells us about the past and the future. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today and it is predicted to become the only religion. Islam is rigid, disciplined and aimed at survival. That said, as things stand we, as a people, are undisciplined and destroying everything around us. We no longer have prophets to save us. Even the Torah notes the importance of Muhammad as the last prophet. Many people make judgements about Islam based on false information. Sometimes what is promulgated as Islam is really just political and fundamentalist. The true Islam is in the Quran.
There is a discussion of crime and punishment in the Talmud that reminds me of the modern notion of deterrents. Do they work? The evidence suggests they do not work. From the position of psychotherapy deterrents fail to work because what drives us to action is not always a matter of conscious awareness. We are by and large, not rational human beings, we tend more towards the emotions and the chemicals that thrive on drama and challenge, the same chemicals that make us creative individuals and keep us alive. “An eye for an eye” appears to be a suitable form of natural justice, but it does not take account of the power relations that sit beneath almost all forms of harmful activity. As Freud pointed out, we are taught to love our neighbour, but who truly loves their neighbour when they throw rubbish into your yard or they keep you up all night with heavy metal music? Love becomes a false premise! I spent several years working in criminal justice in the belief that regardless of the crime, every human being has a right to dignity and fair treatment. Retribution in any form does not resolve the underlying features that create societal problems which are grounded largely in inequality and a lack of opportunity to thrive. All crime and retribution is, in my view, a form of neurosis because it takes place in the context of fear. There are some people who commit offences regardless of their social disposition because they are fully embedded into a competitive capitalist system and need to express emotionally as well as physically. The system itself generates immense fear in the minds of those who must live in it. Society creates its own criminals, but rather than address the aetiology of the offence we punish the perpetrators because it provides a feeling of being in control. However, the reverse is true. When we demand rights, we do not consider the number of new laws we need to enforce them. The more laws we have the more incentive to break them. The very nature of this duality insists that when one side of the duality gains more power the other must rise to match it. Studies have shown that when perpetrators of crimes are forced to confront their victims to explain why they committed the offence, the discussion is far more effective for behavioural change than locking someone up in detention. This is a hard process for the victim, but it also opens the pathways for healing because it is only when we confront our worst fears that we can be truly healed.
I recently finished reading a book called We’ve Never Been Alone by Paul Von Ward who is a Christian minister. He is not like any Christian minister I have met before. He writes about what he calls Advanced Beings (ABs).
We should love animals because we too are animals. Living on Land for Wildlife has provided me with some important lessons about nature and the creatures that inhabit it. Animals might share our landscape, sometimes courtesy of fashion or, hopefully in loving kindness, but wild animals are entitled to their own domain and it is gradually being taken away from them. We are losing a precious part of our worldly existence, the pleasure of seeing animals in their own environment. In removing animal habitat, we change the landscape and invite plagues and feral species and we turn passive animals into dangerous predatory creatures. Some years ago, I lived up in the forested mountains of a small town called Warburton. It is a picturesque town, which is today a mecca for tourists. When I lived there it was a timber town and the ancient forests of mountain ash, streams and water falls were being decimated by the forestry industry. One could say, okay, we need timber, our cities were built on forest timber, but this harvesting of timber that I speak of, was being shredded for woodchip and exported abroad. So much timber was taken that it sat on the docks for weeks before there were enough vessels to transport it. Harvesting the timber in gluttonous amounts was not the only problem, it was being harvested from a water catchment area, which provided the fresh water for the City of Melbourne. Battles over this harvesting ensued for years and they are still ongoing. Watching the logging trucks steaming through the town was difficult enough, but when the forest coup was cleared what was left in debris was set alight and burned to ashes. This was the most painful experience of all because every small animal emerged out of its burrow frightened and confused and one had to stand helpless and watch as these creatures tried to find an escape from the smoke and flames. There were snakes, wombats, possums, birds and more, often burned alive. We love our pets, we fight to save them, but how much do we love and fight to save our wildlife? It takes a mass population to hold influence over the multinational industries that destroy our lands. Those who do protest are up against some of the most powerful corporations in the world. We are called the “greenies”, we march in protest, campaign outside public buildings, climb tall bridges to hang protest banners and the rest. We are beaten up, spat upon, kicked, hit and abused, but still we protest. I got too old to protest. I have been protesting since the 1960s. Now I just pray and thank G-d for giving me my own small plot of land so I can have a sanctuary for some of the wildlife. I feel truly blessed and not a day goes by when I do not feel as though I am in my own piece of Paradise and those animals, often thought to be dangerous, live with me in harmony on my land.
I live on Land for Wildlife, just one acre near the south east coast of Australia. Many creatures live here from snakes and lizards to possums and some of the most beautiful birds in the country. It is rolling hills, very green in winter and dry in summer. There is a woodland and a wetlands. The garden is full of trees and beautiful wild flowers with the occasional rose because I can’t live without my roses. It was while walking through the woodlands on the property that I began thinking about the animals in Jewish history. There are many, too many for one painting. Nevertheless, I and decided to gather a few creatures together on a canvas 60 x 80 cm .The work is in oils. It is a reminder to be kind to all creatures.
For decades now nations have being going to war over the need for oil. Almost everything we use in this modern world requires oil. Most mining and manufacturing also requires huge amounts of water. We reached a point in history where we were told oil would peak and it would not be available at a price people could afford. There were predictions of a return to the Dark Ages. There was no mention of the water. We took the water for granted. The apocalyptic oil depletion discourse was truly mind blowing, we all started to collect our plastic and we began recycling it. In rich countries we recycled water with desalination plants, but they are expensive to build and to run. Water across the world is becoming scarce. The cost of water is rising. The fight over oil has become a fight over water. It can only get worse if we in the rich world do not help those who are poor. We will both be at war. This will be the real and final apocalypse. We cannot live without water. How we take our clean water for granted. I have been to places where there was only one well to serve a whole village and the water came up brown and full of sediment. The situation is much worse. The entire world is running out of clean drinkable water. It is happening in places where water was abundant. The oceans are being polluted, the mountains and springs are running dry. We must change our priorities and take care of our world, we must better assist our poorer nations and we must preserve every single drop of water and not waste it on frivolous goods and entertainments. Clean water is a gift. We must honour it.