week ten – mirror, mirror

May 8th, 2014 by lydiachen


conference of the birds

This week I felt particularly inspired by the simple elegance I found in the writing and message of The Conference of the Birds. Although each bird had an elaborate tale to tell and plenty of words to explain their inability or unwillingness to seek out the Simorgh, they all seemed a bit empty in their claims of grandeur, weakness, purity, and so on. Ultimately, each story was a new excuse and I chose to represent this as words on each bird’s belly. These are things that they carry with them wherever they choose to fly; yet to them the words may be invisible. They show them to the outside world yet never stop to consider how the words might look or sound coming from their body.

the parrot the hawk

The hoopoe responds to each of the birds’ complaints and excuses in turn but for me, the ultimate response comes in the words of a dervish:

This various world is like a toy / A coloured palm-tree given to a boy / But made of wax – now knead it in your fist / And there’s the wax of which its shapes consist / The lovely forms and colours are undone / And what seemed many things is only one / All things are one – there isn’t any two / It isn’t me who speaks; it isn’t you (Attar 191).

Each of the things the birds hold dear, even the birds themselves, are made of the same material. Ultimately, though they may live a colorful and varied life, they should seek a return to and understanding of their primordial form, and important concept in the Sufi context. Besides the words that they say, and their basic form, I have stripped away the material possessions and superficial differences from the birds in their flight toward the Simorgh, to represent the realizations that must be made to attain the truth.


The final component of this creative piece is the mirror that exposes the words on the birds’ bodies. I found the twist—the play on the word Simorgh—delightfully clever. As the lake in the poem, the mirror here represents the Sufi belief that God is within all of Creation. The journey of the birds is one to find and understand themselves and their place in the universe as much as it is one to find and understand God, as these two things end up being one and the same. Alone the birds have only their excuses, but together they can discover the true face of God.

I am a mirror set before your eyes / And all who come before my splendor see / Themselves, their own unique reality.

Medium: Clay

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