Yesterday I wrote about a relatively new social group on the historical stage: open-minded, self-reflective individuals who are seeking they know not what through the regular practice of meditation. Today, I’d like to explore what led Alexandra and me to create Meditative Jewelry.
Inspired by life in rural Appalachia, Alexandra’s collection is conceived in that fertile space in which meaning is harmonized with style, quietude with clarity; the collection can be viewed on her Etsy page.
Who are Our People?
Our people are neither traditionalists nor trend spotters but seekers open to inquirying. On the one hand, traditionalists insist that only the way things have been said or done is the way to do something going forward. In the case of meditation jewelry, a traditionalist would thereby be inclined to use Tibetan Tingsha cymbals, Hindu mala beads, or Catholic rosaries in the course of his meditative practice or her prayer. Thus, being traditional involves a certain closedness, a following of the past without deviation.
On the other hand, fashionistas and trend-setters seem to obliterate the past in order to ‘make it new’: for each season a new color palette; for each line, some high-minded irony. The drawback of traditionalism is that nothing new can come into being while the pitfall of fashion is that everything is reduced to utter transience and, thereafter, to forgetfulness.
Our people refuse traditionalism and fashion both, wishing instead to appreciate how the new and newly valued can emerge reverently and elegantly out of the past without being identical with it. Our people want their lives to be musical, to sing beautifully.
What’s Missing in Meditative Practice?
What’s missing in meditative practice can be analyzed in terms of three aspects: innovation, honor, and direction.
Our puzzle was to figure out how to combine the musicality of a musical instrument and the everyday wearability and physical beauty of a piece of jewelry with the calm contemplativeness of meditation. Nothing like this exists but it seemed to us that it was necessary and vital, so we realized that we’d have to innovate.
When you think about this puzzle seriously, however, you quickly run into a number of difficulties with coming up with a good design:
- a musical instrument can play well but is cumbersome or inelegant and, in many cases, it can’t be worn or easily taken with you.
- jewelry may be beautiful yet tends to have no function, i.e., rarely serves any purpose apart from being an ornament, charm, or status symbol.
- some meditative traditions already utilize musical instruments, but these can’t be worn on one’s person and, even if they can, they lack a sense of style. Moreover, some traditions allow for pieces of jewelry, but these tend to cheap (think Etsy), uninteresting, and are not meant to be musical.
We wondered, therefore, how we could take the excellences of music, accessories, and meditation and bring them into a new, organic whole.
Another difficulty we had was how to honor the past without being weighed down by it. Nietzsche suggests that history should be put in the service of our time, and we agree. Traditionalism seems ‘weighed down’ by the past whereas fashion seems to obliterate it in a patchwork of lost citations and shameless pastiche. We hoped to honor the past, to pay it good heed.
Perhaps what has been most intriguing of all has been our attempt to raise beautiful appearance (say, that of an object) up to its essence. This is not so easy. In fashion and in ‘gym culture,’ the physical appearance of the body elicits the wrong kinds of desires: hedonic pleasure, vanity, jealousy, and envy. But it does not follow that plainness (the absence of adornment) or ugliness (which tends, when it goes so far as the grotesque, to elicit perverse curiosity together with revulsion) are good solutions to how one dresses or what one is concerned with, so long as one lives in this human world.
We reasoned instead that a beautiful object would have to be put in the service of something higher. It is in this sense that we feel it appropriate to call some objects ‘meditation aids’. A well-designed object, one with a beautiful appearance, may draw the focus of our attention away from the beautiful appearance and toward the higher essence–be that calmness, disinterestedness, or wholeness. Throughout, this has been our humble aim.
During an evening walk, we asked whether jewelry could sing beautifully, and we heard necklaces resonating with life.