Naw Ruz marks the end of the Fast and the beginning of a new year in the Baha’i calendar. Naw-Ruz is a celebration of a “spiritual springtime” that symbolizes both individual renewal and mankind’s revitalization.
I’ve been following the visual artist Misha Blaise for a while on Instagram. There’s an infectious exuberance to her work. Her use of colour revives my heart and I’m pleased and delighted that she just created a gift book for adults (that older children and teens will love too) called This Phenomenal Life: The Amazing Ways We Are Connected with Our Universe. The book shares short incredible thought-provoking facts about the universe and concludes with a quotation you may recognize. I’m not the only one smitten with Misha’s work: the book got a starred review on Publishers Weekly! We’re excited to present this small gallery of some of the gorgeous work included in This Phenomenal Life and to share with you her own words about putting the book together. Without further ado, here’s the bright, loveable, incredible work of Misha Blaise!
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us! To begin, could you tell us a little about yourself and your work as an artist?
I live in Austin, Texas with my husband Nick, and we own a green building company called Equitable Green Group. We are interested in using new, innovative materials in residential construction, and also in merging the environmental movement with the race equity movement. We have two sons and some chickens. As an artist, I’ve designed for several major corporate brands, and I’ve also self published a children’s book, but This Phenomenal Life is my first book published by a mainstream publisher (Lyon’s Press).
Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration behind This Phenomenal Life?
I really wanted to show that our profound connection to nature and to other human beings is our birthright; it is part of who we essentially are. No matter who you are or what you are doing, you are participating in the great cosmic drama of the universe.
One of the first concepts I explore in my book is that carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the elements we are made of actually originated in massive supernova explosions billions of years ago. We are literally made of stardust! I mean, what a beautiful and mysterious thing to contemplate. When we step back and look at life through this perspective, everything that seems mundane suddenly has all these deeper significances. I wanted to provoke a sense of wonder with all the weird and wonderful variations of existence that are connected to our own seemingly isolated individual reality.
Baha’i Blog: How did you go about designing your book and deciding what fascinating factoids to include?
I designed my book as a sort of step-by-step exploration of how profoundly connected we are to the universe and to all life on Earth, and I just chose whatever factoids that I felt made this point in a compelling way. To offset the serious, dry science-ness of the research, I used humor and lightness in my illustrations. The format is pretty simple and accessible—it’s a giftbook; you can open to any page and learn something interesting.
Baha’i Blog: The book culminates with an incredible quote from the Writings, “love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe.” Can you tell us a little bit about this quote and why you choose it?
This is a very mystical quote by Abdu’l-Baha, just one of the many astounding ways He describes love. He also describes love as “the one law which causeth and controleth order among the existing atoms,” and “the universal magnetic power between the planets and stars.” My book is filled with scientific research about the incredible interconnection of all things, but the question science doesn’t answer is why? Why should an infinitesimal speck explode and eventually create infinite stars and planets and people and trees? Why should humans even be a part of this complex design? The Baha’i Writings, like many other religious traditions, tell us it’s because of this mystical love from the unknowable essence we call God.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something you learned in the process of making this book?
I learned that people don’t want to read anything that’s didactic or lecture-y. I was originally working on an illustrated book about the global water crisis and several editors said that no one would want to buy something so depressing. So I went in a completely different direction and just focused entirely on what fundamentally connects us to water, to earth, and to each other. I don’t ever say in my book “Now that you see how connected everything is, you should go promote racial justice and save a forest.” I know my readers are intelligent and I hope this book just gives them a blast of inspiration to continue working for positive change.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Misha, for giving us a glimpse of your incredible book and for giving us a bit of its back story!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Fantastic work. I have been teaching Y9 students the creation of all elements in the hearts of stars, and the work of the Human Genographic Project in providing DNA evidence that we are all connected, (to all lifeforms, all the way back to L.U.C.A.) and migrated out of Africa, as modern day scientific evidence for DNA ADAM and Mitochondrial Eve, for Hidden words 48 and “Ye are all the leaves of one Tree”
Sam Sara (July 7, 2018 at 1:04 AM)