The lecture called “Art as Spirit among the Australian Aborigines” by James Cowan was great!
First, I got to meet him before the talk.
Second, the talk was fun. He said a couple of things that really stuck in my mind: "the land is the mythic hero," and that this is essentially "spiritual ecology." Also that the Aboriginal painters weren't creating "art" but ritual, that they were telling the story of their Dreaming. He had many slides of the paintings.
Third, I was in the group that went to lunch with him after the talk.
Fourth and best of all, I drove him back to the place he is staying--so we got some time to chat privately. We talked about mysticism in spirituality/religion. I asked him how we live the connection to God/live the Dreaming and still live in the world, especially when we as a society are so cut off from the earth? We talked a bit about that (Quakers have a mystic religion and try to take the leadings we receive from the Spirit into the world--a continuous cycle; he is Greek Orthodox and finds this to be the most mystical of the Christian denominations). We have to live a more ascetic life, he said--live with restraint. (Simplicity to Quakers.) We also have to live out looking for the gem ("that of God" in Quaker language) in each person we meet. He is trying to convey this mysticism in his writing--especially in Desert Father. He sees some movement in American society moving in this direction (the "emergent church") yet also sees the backlash from those who are trying to hold onto the past tradition of needing to have answers for everything. He said that the "cave" of the desert fathers/abbas has to be in our mind, not a literal ascetic shelter. He suggested that I read Desert Father and email him with my thoughts (email supplied).
How cool is that?