Enter Into Joy

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Great Peacemakers Like You & Me!

Great Peacemakers Like You and Me // The children from the MasterPEACE program of 29 Pieces (formerly Today Marks the Beginning) say it all. It’s up to us! Happy International Day of Peace!! Kudos to John Katz, James Neel and Fast Cut Edits for this video. 

Since late 2007, it has been our privilege to work with over 2000 Dallas children in the MasterPEACE program. Thank you to all the generous people and organizations who have made this work possible. Just look at what you started! Thank you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peace Day is tomorrow!

For hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law. People forget that their lives will end soon. For those who remember, quarrels come to an end.
— From "Twin Verses", the Dhammapada

Twin Verses This is the opening chapter of the Dhammapada, an ancient collection of the Buddha's teachings in verse form. Buddha – literally“he who is awake” – is the title given to the young prince Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563–483 B.C.) after he attained nirvana or self-realization. The translation is by Eknath Easwaran, adapted for meditation from The Dhammapada (Petaluma, California: Nilgiri Press, 1985).

Monday, September 19, 2011

2 days to International Day of Peace

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of all the world and to the community for which it stands: one people loved into existence by God, breathing an indivisible air, warmed by a sun that shines on good and bad alike, kept alive by rain that falls on the just and unjust. I commit myself to spend my life for this world for liberty and justice for all. Amen.
— Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen 

Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen, SND, taught history at UD from 1967 to 1971.  She worked with students who were struggling with their response to the war in Vietnam and considering conscientious objection.  This experience changed her response to war itself, and some years later she became a pacifist.  She eventually became the first national coordinator of Pax Christi USA, in 1979, and in 1984 was elected vice president of Pax Christi International.  Dr. Jegen served on a team representing Pax Christi at the United Nations, 1991-2000 (Pax Christi International has special consultative status as a nongovernmental organization at the United Nations).

She is the author of several books, including Just Peacemakers: An Introduction to Peace and Justice (Paulist Press, paperback 2005), and How You Can Be a Peacemaker: Catholic Teachings and Practical Suggestions (Liguori Publications, 1985).

Sister Mary Evelyn received her doctorate in medieval European history from St. Louis University.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

3 Days to International Day of Peace!

Sri Sarada Devi
I tell you one thing — if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own. 
 Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi

Sarada Devi (Bengali) (22 December 1853 – 20 July 1920), born Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya, was the wife and spiritual counterpart of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a nineteenth century mystic of Bengal. Sarada Devi is also reverentially addressed as the Holy Mother (Sri Maa) by the followers of the Ramakrishna monastic order. Sarada Devi played an important role in the growth of the Ramakrishna Movement.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Countdown to September 21

By Charlotte Miller

Peaceful thought for the day . . .
Hospitality.  It is more than having friends over for dinner, and more than a guest bedroom with clean sheets, though these common practices are things of wonder. The practice of hospitality is a two way street, it is giving and receiving, like a dance in which no one can tell who is leading and who is following, and it moves to the rhythm of the oneness of humanity.
— Charme Robarts

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Countdown to Peace Day, Sept. 21!

The earth is too small a star and we too brief a visitor upon it for anything to matter more than the struggle for peace. 
— Colman McCarthy 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Time of Peace: Dr. Barbara Miller

Dr. Barbara Miller, as featured in the Baylor Dental Journal
Dr. Barbara Miller, co-founder of Today Marks the Beginning, and Board Member of 29 Pieces, is featured in the current Baylor Dental Journal! In her day job, Barbara is the Executive Director of recruitment and admissions at Baylor College of Dentistry. To read the full article, please go to either of the following links. The story tells of Barbara's love of art as a tool to transform lives and enrich communities.
This is to the entire Journal:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Big Spanish Art

The Valencia Opera House, designed by Santiago Calatrava
I just came back from Spain. In the middle of the city of Valencia, which was one of my stops, I accidentally came across their “cultural area” named “The City of Arts & Science.” This astounding collection of buildings were all designed by local son made good, Santiago Calatrava. The “City” houses an opera house (shown), a Planetarium, a Science Museum and an Oceanarium. The area is capped by an amazing bridge that spans the old riverbed where the buildings were erected. I think that Architecture at this level can be considered Art. That being so . . . this is one of the biggest canvases in existence.
— John Katz
The Valencia City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 29 Pieces Story

Film by John Katz, Editing by Fast Cut Edits, Special Effects by Radium, Music by James Neel Music House, scripting by Poppy Sundeen. This is the back story of 29 Pieces.

Monday, April 25, 2011

They've got the ArtLoveMagic

Karen Blessen on ArtLoveMagic Radio with Michael Lagocki and Deborah Driscoll

Our friends Michael Lagocki and Deborah Driscoll have been terrific . . .  they had me on ArtLoveMagic Radio and then also gave 29 Pieces and my work a shout out in one of their artlovemagic online publications. Our gratitudes!
— Karen Blessen

Friday, March 25, 2011

You got the fight?

Joni Mitchell transformed Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' into a beautiful 
adaptation on her album, 'Shine.' See Mitchell's version below, and then read on for the original Kipling version. Both tap into essential skills of faith, confidence and tenacity, but end with radically different life views. See for yourself.

Joni Mitchell

by Joni Mitchell 

If you can keep your head
While all about you
People are losing theirs and blaming you
If you can trust yourself
When everybody doubts you
And make allowance for their doubting too.

If you can wait
And not get tired of waiting
And when lied about
Stand tall
Don't deal in lies
And when hated
Don't give in to hating back
Don't need to look so good
Don't need to talk too wise.

If you can dream
And not make dreams your master
If you can think
And not make intellect your game
If you can meet
With triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same

If you can force your heart
And nerve and sinew
To serve you
After all of them are gone
And so hold on
When there is nothing in you
Nothing but the will
That's telling you to hold on!
Hold on!

If you can bear to hear
The truth you've spoken
Twisted and misconstrued
By some smug fool
Or watch your life''s work
Torn apart and broken down
And still stoop to build again
With worn out tools.

If you can draw a crowd
And keep your virtue
Or walk with Kings
And keep the common touch
If neither enemies nor loving friends
Can hurt you
If everybody counts with you
But none too much.

If you can fill the journey
Of a minute
With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight
The Earth is yours
And Everything that's in it
But more than that
I know
You'll be alright
You'll be alright.

Cause you've got the fight
You've got the insight
You've got the fight
You've got the insight

© 2007; Crazy Crow Music

by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Poet Rudyard Kipling, below.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One bite of the elephant at a time

Photo from tsunami,
photographer unknown
In context of the current disaster in Japan, the loss of life, the possible nuclear meltdown, and the untold misery beset on hapless people, how significant or meaningful is an art project? If you are one of the victims or in any way connected with this disaster . . . no matter how peripherally, the obvious immediate answer is none at all. But, I think it is a matter of scale and perspective. Against a different backdrop and over a longer period of time, art can have a much longer and just as profound an impact as an immediate crisis. (Think Picasso’s Guernica.)
— By John Katz

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teach me to seek you

Photograph by Eugene Atget 

Originally written September 7, 2010

Teach me to seek thee, and reveal thyself to me when I seek thee, for I cannot seek thee except thou teach me, nor find thee except thou reveal thyself.
— by Saint Anselm

Right hand:
This is a complex thought, a complex plea. Let’s start with “Teach me to seek thee.” “Teach me to seek you.” What does that mean? It means the one making the pleas has picked a teacher and recognizes that there is some action required to go on the quest to be in the presence of that teacher. Is it a pilgrimage to Lourdes? Or Jerusalem? Or through much more treacherous territory? Past, through the fears, the compulsions, the little pleasures, until we finally, finally, finally arrive at this quiet, safe, irrepressible place. And getting there requires the instruction of a teacher, offering guidance on what shield to use, what to leave behind, what are the best shoes for the long journey, and what kind of sustenance will I need?

Left hand:
Slap my hand with a ruler. Go ahead. Really. It’s OK. Maybe that’s the quick route to bring me back to you, to Love, to trust, to wonder.

September 8, 2010

“. . .  and reveal thyself to me when I seek thee.”

Right hand:
The plea continues. You’ve taught me to look for you . . . in meditation, in nature, in another’s kindness and patience, in the quiet time of making art, in the beauty of raindrops clinging to an ornate pine branch, in the creative vortex of children, in a child’s happiness, in the animals who live in my home, in a shared meal. The search is elementary, really, right? The sought after is everywhere, and the lesson so simple  . . . just slow down, give attention where attention is due, look . . . listen . . . respect. You don’t make this journey particularly difficult. We do.

Left hand:
“. . . and reveal thyself to me when I seek thee. “

There you are, in plain sight – patiently waiting for me – in the same way that I patiently stand, waiting for my dog to sniff every scent that wafts her way, stop in her tracks and bark at every errant sound, get in a barking match with the shrill puppies across the street, relieve herself, leave her mark as many places as possible – finally. She is done, and she notices me again – maybe hears my voice calling to her – and she comes – smiling or sheepish — back, to my protection, kind words + embrace. Reunited.
— Karen Blessen

Friday, March 11, 2011

Principles of Flight 1.01

Air Dynamics 1.01

There are, basically, four forces of flight: lift, drag, thrust and weight.

1. Forward speed is necessary to fly.

2. For an object to fly, it must always engage in a tug of war between the opposing forces of lift versus weight and thrust versus drag.

3. Lift force points upward, opposite to the weight.

4. Thrust pushes the object forward, as drag slows it down.

5. The lift force must be greater than the weight and the thrust more powerful than the drag for the plane to fly.

6. If the thrust is powerful enough it will overcome weight and drag and the plane will fly.

7. Drag works against thrust to slow an aircraft.

8. The difference in speed between object and horizontally moving air increases as object increases speed.

9. If object is flat, it is pushed back. If object has speed and lift, it will fly.

10. Too much lift may cause aeronautical stall.

11. During take off and landing, it is necessary for a plane to fly as slowly as possible.

Monday, March 7, 2011

29 Pieces in Dallas Morning News

Karen Blessen in 29 Pieces studio
 Photo by Kye R. Lee, Staff Photographer, The Dallas Morning News

The Path to Peace
For Karen Blessen,
it's where creativity and spirituality converge

By ERIN BOOKE, Staff Writer, The Dallas Morning News, ebooke@dallasnews.com
Published, The Dallas Morning News, 05 March 2011

For Karen Blessen, creativity and spirituality must coexist.
About 11 years ago, the local artist and illustrator witnessed a murder in front of her home that changed her creative and spiritual paths. She began a meditation practice in order to bring them together.
“I asked myself, am I where I want to be?” Blessen says. “Meaning spiritually, not even careerwise or financially. And the answer was no.”
Her meditation involves memorizing passages from major faith traditions — Christian, Buddhist, American Indian — and creating a response.
“Let me walk in beauty.”
“If the very world should stop.”
“Dying of love is what I hope for.”

Repeating these sacred phrases led to an “outrageous burst of creative spirit,” Blessen says. During a five-month period in 2006 she created mixed-media, small-scale models to represent each passage. She envisions the project, called 29 Pieces, as a collection of enormous sculptures where others can gather and seek spiritual inspiration.
“It was a very compelling conviction,” she says. “It encapsulates everything I have in me, and in a way, it’s way bigger than me. Because what’s being expressed is a universal longing.”
For now, the pieces can be seen at Blessen’s studio in Deep Ellum. The clean, cool, spare gallery space creates a serene atmosphere that lets visitors focus on the message and forget the world around them.
“This space is a sanctuary for this work,” Blessen says. “It has a quietness to it that allows people to listen to the creative message that we don’t hear when we have a lot of cacophony around us.”
The collection of 29 models lines one wall, while images of what the large installations would look like line another.
Blessen comes to this space to write, think and envision. “I wanted it to be a white, restrained and simple space that wouldn’t stir up my mind or agitate me. A sacred, quiet space.”
When Blessen sits down to create, be it her personal work or illustrations for clients, she requires some privacy and a quiet room of her own. At her M Streets home, Blessen’s workspace is a loft studio in her woodsy backyard.
“I find it impossible to work in my own home,” she says. “I need a separation of some kind, a ritualistic separation from the day-to-day. In the home it’s too tempting to do laundry.”
To get to her backyard studio, Blessen begins the separation by walking 100 feet down a rocky path and up a turquoise spiral staircase.
The studio, designed by Phillips-Ryburn Associates and inspired by the Mexico home of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, is filled with color and more visual stimulation than her spiritual space in Deep Ellum.
The industrial windows allow the sights and sounds of nature to encapsulate Blessen as she works. “I’m definitely a light addict,” she says.
Yes, KB's desk is ALWAYS this tidy.
Photo by Kye R. Lee, Staff Photographer, The Dallas Morning News
She surrounds herself with past works of art, personal photos, folk art pieces made by her husband, and mementos that remind her of travels, family members and other artists who’ve inspired her.
“I do have the presence of people who were instrumental to me,” she says.
Her dad was a carpenter and built a collapsible ruler that Blessen keeps on a nearby shelf. “It always impressed me that he could make things,” she says. Her mother also is a big presence. There’s a large poster of an illustration that Blessen designed for a Mother’s Day piece she wrote.
“My mom really inspired me with her kindness,” she says. “In some ways she was my spiritual teacher … in a church lady kind of way. I learned about how to treat people. To be kind to people and each other. She guided me more than anybody else.”
Blessen now guides others in their artistic and spiritual quests. Local spoken-word artist and creative-writing teacher Will Richey asked Blessen to mentor him, and he eventually came to use her Deep Ellum studio as his own space to create. He’s not just inspired by the space, but by Blessen’s presence.
“It’s a place where I can get away and get some peace,” he says. “It also embodies who she is — a beautiful, unconditional person. The studio is synonymous with the spirit of Karen.”
Richey is used to writing and working in busier, louder places, and even listens to music on headphones in order to block out the world. So Blessen’s space is a nice retreat.
“While I’ve learned to write and communicate in the midst of the world we live in,” he says, “there’s something about going to such a peaceful place.”
To learn more about Karen Blessen’s 29 Pieces art project, visit 29Pieces.org.

KB in front of the backyard studio
Photo by Kye R. Lee, Staff Photographer, The Dallas Morning News

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who Are You?”

Piece #13. In the pupil of an eye, an endless heaven. From 29 Pieces.

“What we are looking for is what is looking.” — St. Francis of Assisi 
I’m still processing last month’s “Who Are You” Masquerade Ball, produced by the Green Bandana Group to benefit the 29 Pieces project.  Over 400 artists and art supporters contributed their skills, time, and resources to celebrate and further the 29 Pieces mission.
There were beaucoups creative masks & costumes, and three of the best bands in Dallas – Ishi spreading Love like Dandelion seeds, the psychedelic swagger of Hello Lover, and the midnight groove of The Gritz. There was poet Will Richey bringing the Agape rain down on us, magical food by chef Richard Pratt, and an open bar (thank you Dewars, Dripping Springs, and Bacardi). There was the brain-and-body stretching Muscle Memory dance troupe, bright sound-spins from DJ B3, cool visual art displays & videos, the unique sound and shadow-puppets of Able Youth, Texas Fencing Institute sword-fights (!), and much more, all in a perfect and huge space provided by Life in Deep Ellum (see photos and interviews on the Art Star blog).
The raw power of collaborating artists in Dallas just blows my mind. They just keep making art and sharing it with each other and anyone who cares to notice, and they don’t wait for an invitation to the museum to put it out there.  
What an exciting time to live in! Art as a force of its own is a relatively recent concept. People have been making art for a million years or more, but just 200 years ago, it referred to a particular skill, and now phrases like “the art of war” sound terribly anachronistic, don’t they? Now Art has a capital A, and it is a creative force that’s moving culture forward right along with technology.   
Speaking of technology, there’s a great book I’m reading now - “What Technology Wants”, by Kevin Kelly. The idea is that technology has evolved now to become a little bit independent.  For example, the electric grid and the internet, are programmed to overcome obstacles on their own.  The products of technology, which are also the products of humankind, are getting lighter and lighter. It reminds me of the Vivekenanda quote in my first post here: “If you carry evolution to its logical conclusion, there must come a time when that power that was in the amoeba, and which evolved as man, will have conquered all the obstructions that nature can bring before it, and will thus escape from all its environments.”
Communication and software - ideas - are becoming more important than steel and fabrics. And who better to fashion the ideas that have value than artists?
— Kelly Nash

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thank You + Stay Tuned

I am happy to report that the January 29 Masquerade Ball was a smashing success, with 4 terrific bands, fencing demonstrations, dancers, poets, a DJ, food, drink, and more elaborate masks and costumes than you can imagine. There were 415 fabulous people in attendance, a tremendous turnout. An upcoming video will be released soon, and there are lots of pix of the goings on, on Facebook. 29 Pieces is on a ROLL. The success of this event is due entirely to Kevin Spurgin  & Darryl Ratcliff of the Green Bandana Group, who made the whole event the success it was. If you were there, thanks very much for showing your support, and if you were not, you missed a GREAT party. Not to worry though. You will have an opportunity to redeem your error at the NEXT 29 Pieces EVENT.    

Stay Tuned.

Thanks again.

— John Katz, Board Member, 29 Pieces

Friday, January 28, 2011

Genghis Khan & Jeanne Moreau

The spirit of Genghis Khan or Jeanne Moreau? You choose.
A woman I know recently went to Malta – a tiny island in the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, to go on a “Goddess Retreat.” She told me that this trip was to reconnect with the feminine side of things and to reinforce her own sense of feminine empowerment, which she feels has been taken out of modern religious and western society in general. She feels that doing this experience will help her with feminine self esteem in general and therefore improve how people are treated as a whole. I was intrigued by this very energetic display and willingness to improve one’s self and therefore everyone that a person might consequently come in touch with. It seems that very few people in general are willing (or able) to go to these lengths in a quest for self-improvement. Going to Malta is probably not a prerequisite. Your own living room might provide an adequate venue. How far each  person is willing to go is up to them, but it is surely a journey worth embarking upon (once the kids are put to bed, hubby is suitably engaged watching “Dave,” the dog has been brushed and walked, the cat’s hairballs have been vacuumed up, and the kitty litter has been “de pooed.”) I admire people (usually women) with this kind of self awareness.
Genghis Khan – through brute force – carved out an enormous empire, at an estimated cost of 40 million lives. He united his people, gave them a unified writing system and promoted religious freedom. All of these achievements for his people have vanished today.

Jeanne Moreau, a star of the French New Wave cinema, and leading lady of “Jules and Jim,” introduced millions to the power of love, commitment and romance.  You Choose.
— John Katz
Click HERE for tickets to 29 Pieces Masquerade Ball 

Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Take a plane. Take a bus. Be there.

Who Are You?
A Masquerade Ball Benefiting Karen Blessen’s 29 Pieces
Hosted by Green Bandana Group                          
Saturday January 29, 2011, 7:30 PM – 1:00 AM
 at  Life in Deep Ellum
2803 Taylor Street, Dallas, TX 75226

Click HERE to purchase tickets

Who are you?  Pause for a moment and really think about it.
We have crafted a one of a kind amazing event, a huge bang for your buck value (open bar, food, concert by Ishi/The Gritz/Hello Lover/Able Youth, DJ B3, performance art, $25), and the best thing to do in Dallas on January 29th (who doesn't love a masquerade ball?) - but why have we gone to all of this trouble?
Because we believe that it is more important than ever to take the time to think about life's big questions, and Pulitzer Prize winner Karen Blessen's 29 Pieces challenges us to do just that - and we are better people for it.
First, go to www.29pieces.org and explore some timeless wisdom and learn more about the mission and vision of the nonprofit.
Next go to www.29pieces.eventbrite.com and get your ticket for the event, because trust us, you want to be there.
Whether it's for the music lineup of Ishi, Hello Lover, Erykah Badu's band The Gritz, Able Youth, and DJ B3 (seriously how great is this show!?), for the great cocktails by Dripping Springs Vodka, Bacardi, and Dewars and great food by Celebrity Chef Richard Pratt, for the interactive art displays and the Variety Stage that will keep the night even more lively (we are keeping it a surprise but think fire, magic, dueling, etc), or for the hundreds of wonderful interesting people, dressed in fashionable attire, wearing masks, dedicated to actually holding real and thought-provoking conversations, it is all happening on January 29th, and it is happening to support a great cause, 29 Pieces, headed by a great visionary, Karen Blessen.
Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door and can be purchased here: www.29pieces.eventbrite.com
We thank our wonderful sponsors Yelp, Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Ideal Events, Life in Deep Ellum, Nomad Arts, Art Star, Dripping Springs, Bacardi, and Dewars for their generous support.
Special Thanks to Ollie Mayr, Arielle Rivera, Matthew Whitenack, Johnathan Merla, Tom Currie, Richard Pratt, and John Katz for all their help in putting this together.
For more information check out