Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star of Wonder, Star of Hope


Deutsch: Herrnhuter Sterne auf dem 571. Dresdn...
Moravian Stars Image via Wikipedia
 O Star of wonder, Star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
            We Three Kings of Orient Are


Upon hearing of my progress with my vision, my Occupational Therapist, Wilma, decided to check me out.   So, she had me make a Moravian Star.   

Moravian Stars were first made at the Moravian School at Niesky, Germany, about 1850, to teach young boys about geometry.   There are many types of Moravian Stars but the most common is the 26-point form, composed of eighteen square and eight triangular cone shaped points.  
Rhombicuboctahedron
Rhombicubocatehdron
Image via Wikipedia
Geometrically, this type of star is a  "Great Stellated Rhombicuboctahedron" Bet you didn't know that!

According to Wikipedia:  In Moravian Stars,  "Each face of the geometric solid in the middle, the Rhombicuboctahedron, serves as the base for the "stellations" or starburst points. No matter how many points a star has, a Moravian star has a regular shape, based on polyhedrons such as  the Great Stellated Rhombicuboctahedron. Each face of the geometric solid in the middle, the 
Rhombicuboctahedron Net
Rhombicuboctahedron Net
Image via Wikipedia
Rhombicuboctahedron, serves as the base for the "stellations" or starburst points. No matter how many points a star has, a Moravian star has a regular shape, based on polyhedrons."

Froebel Star
Wilma had me make my Moravian Star out of 4 ribbons.  If you want to be absolutely technical about it, we didn't make a Moravian Star but a Froebel Star as my star had 18 tips and not 26.  However, we will go with the word Moravian as most references on the web are for Moravian Stars.  Making a Moravian Star is kind of like origami with a lot of folding and turning of paper but we did it with ribbons.  

So, why would an occupational therapist make me work on a Moravian Star?  
Well, it involves a lot of rotation of an object, hand-eye coordination, attention span, concentration, sociability, etc.  It built on a number of things that I have been working on in vision therapy.  Lately, we have been doing a lot of "rotation" exercises where I am shown a shape and I have to reproduce it by rotating it 90 degrees.   Vision Therapy Hand-eye coordination exercises like threading a straw with a pointer also help me grab things much better.  Also, Moravian Stars are three dimensional.  Unfortunately, I don't have real 3D vision at close range, so I didn't get to use my new found powers of some binocular vision.  But I do think being able to see things better has helped. 

There are a certain number of Wilma's clients who can't make Moravian Stars so I did feel quite good about it. 

But, some of this exercise does make me a little sad.  I can't tell you how many childhood Girl Scout projects or 4H camp activities that I have sat out of or just watched the clock waiting for the unpleasantness to end.  Or felt kind of foolish with my madcap, askew, half-finished piece whether it was origami, chewing gum wrapper chains, macramed plastic lanyards, or bird feeders.   I always had liked the idea of doing these things, got excited by the materials, had schemes for grand projects in my mind,  but unfortunately, the execution had much to be desired.  At the end of the project, most of the kids would be happily playing with or wearing their creations but I would be rather left out and looking kind of pitiful.   These types of classes would generally seem very confusing to me and a bit disorienting as I TRIED to do the activity but just couldn't match up how to rotate an object in order to do the next step.  Or, I would somehow mash up the creation or just be too disorganized to complete the project in the given time allowed.  

It is a rather curious coincidence that I am making a star invented by  Frederich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten.  Kinderarten is a garden for children, a location where they can observe and interact with nature, and also a garden of children, where they themselves can grow and develop in freedom from arbitrary political and social imperatives.  

Froebel, himself, did not have a happy childhood.  His mother died when he was one years and his pastor father was often absent.  His severe and over-religious stepmother never bonded with him and never used the familiar intimate forms of German with him and instead used language reserved for strangers or outsiders. A “dreamer” with learning problems, Froebel was placed in the local school for girls until age 10.  Froebel was very much left alone with only an occasional servant looking in on him. He spent a lot of his childhood in a garden tending plants or looking outside a window at workmen and trying unsuccessfully to emulate them with his building blocks.

Froebel believed that a child's spirit comes from something invisible and implicit within the child.  A child was part of Nature, whose growth was to be tended and nurtured. A Child acts in harmony with the cosmos.   The link between the nature and life of the child with the nature and life of the cosmos is made through playthings.  Froebel saw that the mathematics provided a key to the unity of Creation and Life.   The cosmos is designed in geometrical forms and through handling, observing and imitating actions arising from them, symbolical and meaningful play results.  Play is the link between what's inside a child and what's outside in the universe.  


 Froebel used mathematical forms, or various combinations of blocks, upright and supine, for mathematical exercises. He connected these physical forms to the forms of knowledge in Logic (Also called by Froebel forms of truth, forms of instruction, forms of learning.)  Spheres were connected to the heart, the emotional side of knowledge. "The sphere and the cube together represented Knowledge, Beauty and Life, the sphere predominantly corresponding with the feelings or heart, (affective) and the cube to the thought and intellect (cognitive). The conceptual understanding of geometrical cubic forms occurred through a metaphorical dance in which the child became acquainted with surfaces, sides, edges and lines which Froebel called dance forms."

Froebel encouraged children to explore basic forms of blocks and by playing with the dance forms of surfaces, sides, edges and lines to create more complex and sophisticated forms.  He led children to explore symmetrical forms, or flat designs formed by opposites and their intermediates. These are figures in which four of the blocks generally revolve in order around the other four as a centre.  These new forms often evolved into picture forms, flower forms, star forms, dance forms.  In other words, beautiful forms that often reflected natural patterns.

So,  I really missed out on a portion of childhood on many levels.  Not just the joy of creating and fooling around with a toy.  But a way of participating in and not just watching the world and interacting with the people around me.  A way of linking what is inside me with what's outside.  However, God works in mysterious ways.  What he takes with one hand, he gives with another.  What was taken in terms of the ability to interact directly with the world has also allowed an opportunity and the space for reflection. 

While children were playing with blocks, Froebel also encouraged the telling of stories.  So, maybe there is a story in all of this.

The Moravians are a Protestant sect which began in 1457 in KunvaldBohemia, Czechoslovakia that emphasizes simplicity, happiness, unintrusiveness, fellowship, and the ideal of service.  You may have heard about them through their music as many of their hymns or musical arrangements have made it into other denomination's services.  But, they are also known for their stars. As I drive out to Pennsylvania Dutch country to do vision therapy, I see Moravian Stars hung out especially during Advent.  The Moravian Church in Lititz has one of the few 110-point stars.  It is very warming to see the multipoint stars lit on the farmhouse porches in the evening as I drive to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In the weeks before Christmas, the Moravian Star is a prophecy of the advent of Christ-- a preparation.  On Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day, the Star takes on more meaning as it becomes a symbol of Christ himself. And, of course, the star was the guide for the Three Wise Men to lead them to the manger-- the star was a herald of a new age to come.  In  "whatever its form, the star reminds us of God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness and of the light which is the life of humanity."  

Maybe, making this star is a good way to look back at what happened as a kid and forward to the possibilities, wonder and hope in a new life with new abilities.  Maybe, this star is an Epiphany.



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