Presentations

HUMANITIES.ORG Speakers Bureau Audition
July 7, 2012, Seattle

  A Search for Harmonious Life: Life as a Project

Daniela Ivanova-Nyberg, Ph.D.
 

Introduction: My Perspective

We can all probably agree that there is no such thing as “the” search for a harmonious life; there are as many approaches as there are people. I believe, however, that there are searches that are more fruitful than others and  that’s why we study philosophy, for example. What I am going to do today is to share a way, or a search I am familiar with, based on my experience as a Bulgariaborn artist and scholar and as a resident of the State of Washington. My main point is that the most powerful means for achieving harmony in our lives today are knowledge and the various forms of art. There is nothing new to this idea. It is my hope, however, that my dual background as a theoretician and practitioner, and as a person who has lived in two different political, economic and cultural environments, will allow me to present examples that will bring new ideas, thoughts or initiatives.

When I was a child in my native city, Sofia,  neighborhood children and I played a  game on the street called “Gradove i Dӑrzhavi” [cities and countries]. I don’t remember the exact gamerules  but I do remember that everyone had to have beforehand-drawn chalk-circles on the asphalt so when another kid tried to catch the rest of “the citizens” we ran like  crazy to reach and jump inside our own circle, saying “Kӑshta!” “Kӑshta” in Bulgarian means “a house” – in  this case, our protected  place, our home, so “I am on MY territory,  you can not  bother me here!

It took some years of growing up and  studying other languages, dance, literature, folklore, culture and philosophy, to start realizing how heavily overloaded by symbolic meanings and interpretations the circle is. I began noticing the circle as one’s-own protected place over and over again: early human beings’ home, a yurt,  a  moat around ancient villages  and medieval castles.  I began recognizing the circle as an entity, as “One”, as a completion… Mother earth, sun, fire, universe… Yin and yang in their harmonious unity of opposites (male and female, day and night, life and death, up and down, inhalation and exhalation, giving and receiving…)  Circles…. Spheres…. Endless and beginingless….

I was fascinated by myths and practices related to sun worship,  by The Myth of the Eternal Return, i.e. the idea of life cycle, so thoughtfully analyzed by  Mircea Eliade, Romanian-born historian of religion, by Jung’s archetypical approach… Analyses of these and additional readings and writings helped me understand the meaning of the circle in ritual dance and other ritual practices…

About twenty years ago one of my philosophy professors at St. Kliment Ohridski Sofia University started his lecture by drawing a small circle on the chalk board, like this:

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 A Search for Harmonious Life