CALLIGRAPHY – A Sacred Tradition

What an extraordinary way the reed pen has of drinking darkness and pouring out light!

– Abu Hafs Ibn Burd Al-Asghar –

As usual, I had no idea what I would be writing about this morning. I most often write about injustice, activism, and/or faith. These days are filled with so much injustice and disaster it’s nearly overwhelming. I appreciate the Spirit telling me the topic of the day.

There are two meanings for writing. To compose, or to put pen to paper. When I talk about writing I mean to compose. Calligraphy is about putting pen to paper, of course.

Calligraphy is a real surprise for today’s subject. But a welcome relief from the usual subjects. Art can be a more effective way to speak of injustice than writing about it, I think.

Maybe I should stop writing (composing). Or start writing (calligraphy). Or use calligraphy to record what I compose.

There are calligraphy fonts, but to use them almost seems dishonest. I’m just realizing typing in a calligraphy font would provide an example to copy, learn to write that way.

Calligraphy is one of those things that interest me, but I haven’t gotten around to doing/learning. I got as far as putting the calligraphy pen to paper and watching the thickness of the line change.

The quote above, and the title of the article, Calligraphy-A Sacred Tradition, caught my attention this morning. Ann Hechle, the distinguished calligrapher, talks to Barbara Vellacott about her work and her lifelong quest to understand the underlying unity of the world.

Calligraphy is more than fine writing

Calligraphy in the East, the Middle East and the West has always been a spiritual discipline, deeply embodied in the gestures of the body, the pressure of the pen and flow of the ink onto the open space of the page. It requires a quality of attention that is meditative. The demands of the words – both as letterforms and as meanings – can bring the wandering mind back to the moment, and when this kind of focus is found, the writing flows. The meditative practice involved is emphasised particularly in Buddhism, though it is present as an important strand in all spiritual traditions.

The role of calligraphers is often distinct from that of other visual artists, as they are frequently called upon to engage with significant events in human life where words are wanted to express deeply felt experience and emotion – birth, death, friendship, to enshrine memory, to celebrate achievements. The words chosen are full of meaning, and in contemplating and expressing them in writing, the calligrapher is performing a spiritual service to the community. A truthful engagement with words is absolutely required; it is said that “good writing makes the truth stand out” (a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad).

Calligraphy-A Sacred Tradition

the calligrapher is performing a spiritual service to the community

Barbara Vellacott

Getting started with calligraphy this morning was frustrating. I found the calligraphy set and then found the paper. Thank goodness for YouTube to help me get started. Loading the pen with ink wasn’t what I was used to with cartridge filled pens in the past.

Then there was the frustration I remembered from the past of getting the ink to flow. Lots of pounding my wrist that was holding the pen. And the flow was intermittent. As it says below, calligraphy requires a quality of attention that is meditative. Frustration won out over mediation this morning. I plan to work on that. Here’s what I was able to do as a beginner.

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