Charcoal lesson on being fans for each other’s spirit

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 15, 2012


'Discarded' by Caleb Booth

Cochrane artist Caleb Booth’s charcoal of flames rising from a fire pit evokes thoughts on rekindling life’s glowing embers of love and longing. Drawing by Caleb Booth
Click to enlarge

As is my habit, I visited Marla Blackwell’s Cochrane Arts Central the other day to contemplate some of the thought-provoking works by local artists on display there.

This time, a large charcoal drawing of a burning branch held my attention. It reminded me of a conversation I had recently on how we can be each other’s rekindling fans.

The charcoal is one of a series of five by Cochrane artist Caleb Booth. Titled “Discarded,” the series tells the story of a branch discarded by nature. It is part of his larger show, “Implications of Compassion.”

“These five charcoal drawings work as a set of windows into a narrative, depicting a most elemental and universal sense of compassion,” Caleb says. “I am using nature as a metaphor for people” in the hope of stimulating “an internal or social dialogue.”

Well, that certainly worked for me. This particular image reminded me of another, closely related aspect of our humanity: our spirit.

First, what especially struck me about Caleb’s burning branch was the transparency of the flames. I had no difficulty seeing through the flames to the log and other features beyond.

In fact, if it weren’t for my fear of winding up in the hospital with severe burns, I could reach right through those flames as if they weren’t even there. They are simply the manifestation of a non-material reality expressed through heat and light.

The charcoal drawing evoked memories of times around my own campfires when the flames had died down and all that was left were glowing embers. To revive the flames, I would feed and fan the embers till the firewood once more served its delightful, life-affirming purpose.

All this brings me around to a conversation I had recently with Lori Craig, the soon-to-retire HR director for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation at Morley.

Besides being an energetic outdoors person and global volunteer in far-away places like Peru, Lori is also a workshop facilitator in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

She often draws on that rich background in our all-too-infrequent coffee chats, as she did the other day at the Cochrane A&W.

I was sharing with her my interest in the life of the spirit. I mentioned how, when we are born, our spirit – the breath of the non-material life within us – is fully aflame in its longing for God just as strong as a newborn’s instinctive longing for its mother. But as we get older, that flame sometimes fades, till all that is left is glowing embers – O we of faintly glowing embers!

“What can we do to help rekindle that flame in each other?” I asked Lori.

Simple, she said. “We can be each other’s fans!”

And here, it was clear she was not referring to superficial things like stroking each other’s egos. This had to do with rekindling the flames of being fully alive human beings. And just as the non-material fire expresses itself through light and heat, so the rekindled spirit expresses itself through love.

Or, as Caleb suggests in his series of five charcoals, through compassion.

Put another way, the word for “spirit” in languages like Hebrew and Greek is the same as the word for “wind,” “breeze” and “breath.” This is the same word used in the Bible about God, whose loving essence is breath/wind: the Holy Spirit.

And we can be instruments of that Revitalizing Breath/Breeze for each other, where possible, to rekindle the faintly glowing sacred embers to full, purposeful flame.

Thanks, Caleb and Lori, for your stimulating thoughts.


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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