There’s something about being in the countryside. More than just the air, or the space, the stillness, or rawness. Maybe its the combination of all of them; the smells, the sights the sounds. But one things for sure I’m making the most of being here. Sitting today in my favourite little spot, the corner of the woods and fields with views over Lincolnshire, I feel miles away from the rest of the world, while in actuality I’m just minutes away from home. This conceptual distance allows a disconnect from the hectic realities of day-to-day life. Almost like meditation, this pure feeling of just ‘being it the world’ is soothing for the soul.
I guess you could describe this ‘being in the world’, as being at one with the world. Very zen I know but then again I have been stepping up my meditation time, so the Zen was bound to spill out at some point, sorry! What I’m trying to explain is that with this oneness, this sense of being, has brought a new set of insights into my life. I guess it’s true what they say; it’s only when you find you balance that you understand just how hard you been working in an attempt to stay balanced. When you no longer have to work so hard to maintain your balancing act you’ve got more, well… you to spare. More scope, an ability to see beyond, to see the bigger picture.
More than that, the peace lets you just be. To be still. To be at peace. To be free; to be yourself. To be yourself, well sure, you’re yourself everyday right? But are you really? I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that who I’m with seems to dictate the me that I am. With some people I’m more upbeat, funny, bubbly, excitable, with others I’m more caring, motherly, almost sensible, well as sensible as I’m capable of, while with others I’m fearless, free from any worries or stress, invincible. True, the changes we make in ourselves to accommodate those around us aren’t always that pronounced. Sometimes the changes in our behaviour are so tiny, so subtle we barely notice them ourself, and more often than not we equate it to our surroundings, or maybe even the people were with.
I have a friend who is so blindly optimistic, and perpetually happy, that I find myself hoping for the impossible and grinning for ear to ear when I’m with her, and yes smiles are catching, but its more than that. People don’t change us, they just effect us making a change to ourself. We make these changes to ourselves so often, and without thinking that it’s hard to know who you really are. I mean sure, we all know who we are, but how do we know which aspects of our personally are truly ours and which are reactionary. But who are we when the dust settles, when everything else has stopped? In that instance we are just us.
When starting to learn yoga, many moons ago, I wanted to do just that- to sooth my soul. But I was told that only through self reflection could I gain that sense of oneness, and through that an understanding of the world around me. For how can we hope to know the truths of the world if we don’t know the truths of ourselves. But how to know oneself when surrounded by so many influences? This is a question no one really seems to know the answer to, but the best answer I got was from a most unlikely source, via a friends guru:
“You are who you are when no one else is watching” – Stephen Fry
Yes ok, an answer about self reflection from a guru, not exactly unexpected but Stephen Fry, well that wasn’t what I was expecting. But I think that is what being out here has given me, the freedom to be myself. The distance and the time apart to shrug of the reactionary layers so I can just be me. It’s liberating, really, you should try it. But more that, it is a freedom; I am free to be myself. I have the right to be myself and the knowledge that I have the liberty to do so. In other words we live in a world where we are free to not only be ourselves, but to be who we want to be, and to do as we please. We are free to change not only ourself but to change the world around us. We live in a world where we are all attributed the same worth, the same rights, the same liberties. The rights to live our lives, with out having to be anyone other than ourselves.
“This above all: to thine self be true” – Hamlet, William Shakespeare
This freedom, which we all too often take for granted, and sadly also too often see taken away feels particularly important to acknowledge at this time. Given the global events of the last, not only did the world witness horrors and loss of freedom, but also the anniversary of the birth of freedom; the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta (well, is better explained by the British Library, and Monty Python’s Terry Jones in the awesome little animation) was essentially a 1215 bill of rights. Stop any man, king or not, from been above the law, and laying down the rights of free men. From its signing 12 copies were made, and sent to the important Cathedrals across England and today only 4 copies survive, the 3 copies in good condition residing at the British Library, Salisbury Cathedral and Lincoln Castle. Although it has been change and adapted many times over the years and has eventually fallen out of use, it has inspired many of the modern constitutions around the world.
It as a document has become totemic, an iconic piece of legislation defending the rights of the people. It’s two infamous clause:
“No free man shall be taken, or imprisoned… or in any way ruined; nor shall we go against him… except by the lawful judgement of his peers, his equals by the law of the land”
“To no one will we sell… refuse or delay rights or justice”
have been a global inspiration, becoming the corner stone of international equality. It is often argued that in fact the Magna Carta did not actually set a president for equality as it only referred to a select subset of people (free men), so should therefore not be credited as such in the struggle for universal human rights. However, without it we would not have the rights we have today. It’s sentiment which echoes around the world, was cemented in the International Declaration of Human Rights, December 10th, 1948. The liberties ensured in the Magna Carta have stood the test of time, inspiring generations of people to strive toward equality, and better the world they see around them, to ensure that each human being is given the same basic freedoms.
“…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world….” – International Declaration of Human Rights
This foundation for freedom, justice and peace is not one many of us have had to fight for, and that I personally take for granted. I expect freedom, equality, peace, hope, dignity prosperity and justice, but I rarely think of those who fought so I would have these right, or died to protect them. Even less frequently do I spare a though for those living with out them today, or the brave men, women and children still fighting the fight to ensure none of us have our human rights denied.
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity” – Nelson Mandela
One activist who has a special place in my heart is Ai Weiwei, who I was first introduced to through his work on the Jinhua Architecture Park. He speaks out about the atrocities of the world, melding together activism and art. Ai Weiwei was himself denied his fundamental rights when he was detained by the Chinese government for speaking out against them in 2011. His 2014 @Large exhibition on Alcatraz took the iconic penitentiary and fortress, and turned it into a space in which to express the issues of Human Rights and the Freedom of expression. Provoking visitors to think about basic human rights globally and how they are denied daily; in Truly Yours he urges and creates the opportunity for visitors to write to the prisoners of conscious they have see in Trace, further pushing the realism these atrocities. While With Wind emphasises our personal freedoms, showcasing individual power with quotes from imprisoned activist past and present. Blossom is about giving compassion to those imprisoned, making reference to the 1956 Hundred Flowers Campaign, highlighting how tolerance and compassion are worth nothing if they are not sustained.
“Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress the truth” – Liu Xiaobo
Ai Weiwei’s current exhibition of 50 pieces at Blenheim Palace, and his upcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy of arts will hopefully serve as a reminder to all those who see them to think about the rights they take for granted and inspire all who visit to consider fighting for those who aren’t as lucky. From his commentary on censorship and the Chinese Government in He Xie, to the ode to his incarceration left on Churchill’s bed, Ai Weiwei’s art has a lot to say if we’d only listen.
Even if all else falls on deaf ears hopefully the
“real sense of loss of life” – Adrian Lock
resonating from Straight. Straight is just one of Ai Weiwei’s responses to the devastating effects of substandard government construction of campuses that lead to 5,385 student deaths during the Sichuan earthquake . This mammoth piece was created after he lead a ‘Citizen’s Investigation’ with fellow volunteers
“We will seek out the names of each departed child, and we will remember them” – Ai Weiwei
The government were unwilling to release the names of the children lost due to this substandard work, so the Citizens Investigation set about doing so. Each of those 5,385 had a right to be know, heard and remembered, and the government denied them that final right. Now each visitor to the RA will feel their loss, and remember them; hopefully the whole world will remember them. If we can remember, every time someone reminds us to just be ourselves the freedoms we are exercising to do just that. If we can spare a though for those without such basic rights, and all those who have fought to preserve our human rights, then maybe, we too can be a part of that fight. Maybe we can help ensure that one day everybody is free to just be.
Yours, Disaster Dreaming x