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Private Prayers/Public Rituals: For Gaia by Norman Lowrey
(Originally presented as “Private Prayers/Public Rituals: For Peace” for the 6th Annual Peace Day, SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art space, Santa Fe, NM, Aug. 5, 2005)

In Greek mythology, Gaia was the personification of the Earth, one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia was the great mother of all: the primal Greek Mother Goddess; creator and giver of birth to the Earth and to the entire Universe. The mythological name was revived in 1979 by James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. His Gaia hypothesis was supported by the biologist Lynn Margulis. The hypothesis proposes that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shapes the Earth’s biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches, the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions.

Context:
I am an unabashed animist. I believe that everything is infused with spirit. There is intelligence at the heart of all matter. Human intelligence is just one peculiar manifestation of this larger ground of being. Other manifestations are radically different, incomprehensible to conventional human sensibilities. Yet all things give voice to the underlying cohering essence, the spirit swirling through cells, molecules, atoms, quarks and superstrings. If we listen carefully we can resonate along with these primary vibrations and receive information, knowledge, altered understanding, and possibly even reciprocate in affecting change at a most fundamental level. This communion is one of the ways in which I like to think of prayer.

Private Prayers/Public Rituals is, then, the generic title I use for an on-going project whose core notion is to listen deeply, "through" the iconography of my singing masks, to local small-scale environments, and to offer a prayer to/for these environments with masks, performing a little sacred ceremony. These private prayers are recorded, then recast into a soundscape, which becomes part of a public ritual, taking on many forms depending upon the occasion. The rituals entail an immersion in sound, mostly of non-human origin, together with a spontaneous sounding of the masks, creating a kind of music intended to be mysterious, meditative, prayerful and at heart re-connective to the sacred in all life.

The Ceremony:

"All finite things reveal infinitude... " -Theodore Roethke

Every location, however small or seemingly insignificant, may be thought of as a holographic image containing the whole, a kind of portal into infinity. With this in mind, all present are invited to listen intently wherever you are located, and to offer a prayer, however you may define that, through your portal, for the healing of the earth, for the growing of awareness among all peoples that we are inseparably connected to the earth and need to treat everything with respect and caring. You may think of this as an act of sending thoughts of healing around the earth. Your prayer may be completely silent, just listening profoundly, or sounded in any way you wish. Movement is welcome, though not required.

As you are listening/praying, Singing Masks will function as resonators, amplifying all thoughts of peace into DreamTime, wherein we may experience everything as connected and sacred. A recording of prior Singing Mask private prayers together with birds, katydids and the World Peace Bell in Newport, Kentucky will provide an accompanying soundscape for our public ritual. You may offer as many prayers as you wish, and are certainly welcome to continue beyond the boundaries of this event whenever and wherever you want.

Live recording mp3 (8'21")




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