Time to recalibrate spiritually

Stephen Cartwright Kinetic Mesh

Stephen Cartwright Kinetic Mesh

I just returned from the fabulous Strata Conference where among the numerous big data and data visualization talks, a personal highlight for me was randomly meeting Stephen Cartwright during lunch. How and why I got to sit next to him among the several thousand conference participants might be an example of synchronicity which seems to happen quite often to me and, when I pay attention, truly enriches my life.

Digital Datascapes

As Stephen and I sat at the same table, the usual small talk transpired with the standard question: “Where are you from?”. To my surprise, Stephen had crossed Bulgaria on bicycle from north to south on a 9 month long adventure which took him throughout the world and provided some of the data he collected and used for his fascinating kinetic sculptures. One could not miss the juxtaposition of the idea of putting vast organizational data to work, which the conference was about, and the massive personal tracking data Stephen had collected — and used in his own artistic way in the Digital Datascapes he creates. Consider this excerpt from his website:

Stephen Cartwright at the Strata Conference

Stephen Cartwright at the Strata Conference

Since 1999 Stephen Cartwright has recorded his exact latitude, longitude and elevation every hour of every day. Cartwright uses digital and traditional fabrication techniques to translate his collected data into his sculptural projects. Since the inception of the Latitude and Longitude recording project Stephen Cartwright has completed several grand bicycle journeys through North America, Europe and Asia, totaling more than 20,000 miles. Prolonged observation of his location has led Cartwright to his recent work investigating the use and alteration of the landscape.

You can see why talking with such a fascinating person was a delight. We shared about our broad interests and I encouraged him to visit the Baha’i House of Worship when he is its vicinities for his solo exhibition at the

Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL
Feb 24 – Apr 7, 2013

After the lunch, I went to see Stephen’s “Kinetic Mesh” again and he was kind enough to explain how it works in an improvised interview:

Unfortunately, the video did not capture the moment when all the moving parts slowly came down in order for the system to recalibrate before renewing its cycling.

Spiritual Recalibration

Now that got me thinking. What if this kinetic sculpture is a physical symbol of our pilgrimage through life with all its ups and downs — not just physical but spiritual as well. What if instead of tracking physical coordinates in relation to the Greenwich meridian, I were to track my spiritual coordinates in relation to my true self, true purpose, and ultimately, God. And what better way to start this experiment than during the Baha’i Fast — a time of spiritual recalibration.

Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory
prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God.
Shoghi Effendi indicates that the fasting period, which involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset, is

essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 176)

Beyond the originality of his creative work, I found Stephen’s persistence in following on his mission of updating his coordinates quite inspiring! Indeed, consider the far-reaching implications if, with similar tenacity, we were to check and realign our thoughts and motives, not on a daily but on an hourly basis — it  would definitely help our ability to be mindful and present in the moment, and it would certainly make our daily reflections easier:

Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning…
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 236)

Happy spiritual recalibration! Happy Fasting!

4 Responses to “Time to recalibrate spiritually

  • I am a new Bahai and am fasting for the first time. I got up late so I needed a cup of weak tea. I will make it a point of getting up early tomorrow and do it properly. My heart and my intention is in the right place though.

  • Mike, welcome to this wonderful faith and my humble blog. Good luck with your fast — over the years I learned to appreciate its regenerating power, and I have no doubt you will too! You are correct in focusing on the heart and intention — happy fasting!

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