I’m sitting in a Gloria Jeans cafe in Lviv drinking coffee and mineral water. There’s something very existential about cafe sitting. I remember as a student in college in the 70s of the last century when I spent many days reading Jean Paul Sartre imagining what it would have been like drinking coffee with him and other prominent French thinkers. Years later, when I finally got to Paris, I actually went and had a wonderful cup of coffee at the Cafe Margot where Sartre hung out.
Coffee and cafes are palaces of the imaginal—images of passersby, shoppers, merchants, students, and all that is transitional and momentary, but anchored in the depths of our dreams and reveries. Revolutions are generated by cafe talk. Lovers meet for a cup of coffee. Cafes are the cathedrals of existential cries and sighs—a place of escape and intrigue.
Tom Cheetham’s latest book: All the world an icon: Henry Corbin and the angelic function of beings (2012) offers much inspiration. I will be quoting passages from this book from time to time. Hopefully, dear reader, you will find much solace in this work.
Here is a quote about the French philosopher Henry Corbin and the importance of Imagination in our lives:
“Henry Corbin was a partisan of the freedom of the Imagination and an implacable enemy of fundamentalism and totalitarianisms of all kinds. He stands as a champion of the individual human spirit against the power of social institutions of every sort—religious, political, academic. His work provides us with an example of how we might live the Mosaic prohibition against idolatry. Every time we find a new truth, cling to a new fashion, believe in a new idea, a new savior—whether in science, in art, in politics, in the life of the mind, or in religion—we erect a new idol. Corbin’s entire metaphysics denies us the false security of putting faith in anything fixed and immobile. The Imagination never stops.” (p. 15)
In short, the idol must be transmuted into an icon. More about this later.
For the time being, I invite everyone to begin chewing on the notion of active imagination, i.e. engaging in the images and figures from our daydreams and night dreams.
At O’hare airport on the 21st of August, I checked in with Swissair for my flight to Lviv. The customer service attendant looked at my passport and starting talking to me in Ukrainian. I thought: “wow, this is cool.” He said: “I was pretty sure that anyone with the last name of Panchuk has to be Ukrainian. Of course, he was right. What’s amazing to me was that he is an immigrant from the Middle East–married to a Ukrainian girl–and lived in Ivano-Frankivsk for many years.
Small world indeed!
Once I got to Lviv, attended the Plast 100th anniversary activities, I just kept bumping into more and more friends from the USA and Canada. The Plast Conference was wonderful, and the thousands of plastuny in attendance inspiring. I’m proud of our young contingent from Chicago. Twenty years ago Plast was still coming out of the underground—from the shadows, but now is a thriving, energetic, and dynamic scouting organization. Times have changed.
It’s time for me to start blogging. I have been toying around with the idea that our wonderful Ukrainian soup–borscht–is central to our cuisine and to social life. Nothing like sitting down and eating this superb blend of beets, tons of vegetables, and a myriad of spices and seasonings! When you add those pampushky with garlic—heaven! All the elements are at play—water, fire, the earth, sky, sun, wind—you name it—borscht integrates the elements.
So–let’s all share a good cup of virtual borscht. Let’s talk, chat, commiserate.
I’m flying to Lviv in a few hours and will begin posting there. Hopefully, lots of pictures and images, and good soulful feelings and thoughts.
But, for now everyone who read my posts—take care of yourself, relax, stop the running around, and enjoy a cup of virtual borscht. There may be something to this yet.
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