This mandala was inspired after a trip to the ancient monastic site of Glendalough in County Wicklow here in Ireland. You can see also a photo of the round tower with a celtic cross beside it. In medieval Ireland, round towers had many uses. They acted as beacons to point pilgrims from afar. They were also bell towers (their Gaeilic name is Cloig-theach meaning bell-tower). They served as storehouses for food supplies and valuable manuscripts and treasures. They were lookouts and places of safety in times of attack.
As I stood looking up at the tower, the birds were wheeling in and out of the windows at the top. Magical. The leaves on the trees were so beautiful, the lakes like glass and a stillness in the air with the smell of Autumn. For me, the tower appeared to be a symbol of fortitude, pointing towards the sky, the heavens, the universe, something bigger than ourselves. I noticed that as the birds moved in and out through the windows, there was one bird who was dancing away from the others.
The mandala was completed the same weekend as I visited and it was a very peaceful experience to create. I never have any intention with the pieces and so it is always a surprise as to what will emerge. It feels as though the bird flock are circling within the safety of the the thick walls of the tower, or the perimeter…perhaps a metaphor for our society and the expectations and rules imposed therein. One solo bird has broken through the thick wall and is flying away into an infinite unknown. The bird has chosen to leave the place of safety and to explore further afield.
It then brought to mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Picture a cave with a small tunnel of light leading out and hundreds of people tied up so that they cannot move. They just look straight ahead all day long because that is all they know. There is a fire lit and on the wall in front of them, the prisioners can see shadows dancing. They believe that this shadow show is reality, because they have never seen the real thing. They accept this.
So that is how life goes on in the cave until one fine day, one of the prisoners manages to break free and takes a chance and leaves the cave. It takes a while for his eyes to adjust but gradually he sees that there is a much brighter speck of light at the end of another tunnel. He goes down that tunnel... and wow, you can imagine how amazing and beautiful the real world looks to him compared to that two-dimensional dark cave of shadows that he has spent all his life in until now.
Wanting to share what he found with his fellow prisoners, the freed prisoner goes back down the tunnel into the cave and explains to everyone that they're all trapped in this cave and everything they think is real is actually an illusion, only a shadow world. His story falls upon deaf ears. The other prisoners think he is crazy. He keeps trying to convince them. He manages to persuade a few... but the rest choose to remain where they are in the safety of what they know to be true.
This round tower at Glendalough has stood for almost one thousand years and is still in near perfect condition . One thousand years standing unchanged, without yielding to the forces of nature or man. We too in our own lives often become complacent and stay still and unchanging within our perceived realities. It is comfortable I suppose. We talk to the same people, take the same route home from work, sit in the same seat at the table.
This mandala seems to say "why not push at the wall of comfort a little. Talk to somebody that you don’t normally talk to. Take a different route when traveling. Sit in a different seat at the dinner table (note: this tiny change can confound family members and can be quite amusing!) Or do something completely and utterly outside of your comfort zone! Dance away from the flock for a bit."