Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.
Wilde, from The Soul of Man Under Socialism
Art cannot play to the demand because it inheres precisely in bringing forth the unexpected, the New. It unearths what normality buries away. No wonder so many people are afraid of it.
Above two quotes from Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice, J.F. Martel, 2015
What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing — with a rather shaky hand — a labyrinth into which I can venture, in which I can move my discourse, opening up underground passages, forcing it to go far from itself, finding overhangs that reduce and deform its itinerary, in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same…
Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, 1969, 1972, 1989, (this above from the 2002 Routledge edition, p 18)
In the kitchen, in the street, in the forest, n the sea, in my cells and in the cache of breaths I cannot count — there is something holding all of this together, all of us together. There is an alive order that we are within and that is within us.
Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, 2017. Such a beautiful book, from a beautiful mind. Or, minds.
Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own. Scientists too, as J Robert Oppenheimer once remarked, “live always at the ‘edge of mystery’ – the boundary of the unknown”. But they transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2006)
- Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.
Kalil GibranKeep in mind always the present you are constructing; it should be the future you want.
It isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
Anonymous is a wise wise woman.
No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.
We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.
- “Difficulty itself may be a path toward concentration — expended effort weaves us into a task, and successful engagement, however laborious, becomes also a labor of love. The work of writing brings replenishment even to the writer dealing with painful subjects or working out formal problems, and there are times when suffering’s only open path is through an immersion in what is. The eighteenth-century Urdu poet Ghalib described the principle this way: ‘For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river — / Unbearable pain becomes its own cure.’
“Difficulty then, whether of life or of craft, is not a hindrance to an artist. Sartre called genius ‘not a gift, but the way a person invents in desperate circumstances.’ Just as geological pressure transforms ocean sediment into limestone, the pressure of an artist’s concentration goes into the making of any fully realized work. Much of beauty, both in art and in life, is a balancing of the lines of forward-flowing desire with those of resistance — a gnarled tree, the flow of a statue’s draped cloth. Through such tensions, physical or mental, the world in which we exist becomes itself. Great art, we might say, is thought that has been concentrated in just this way: honed and shaped by a silky attention brought to bear on the recalcitrant matter of earth and of life. We seek in art the elusive intensity by which it knows.”
― Jane Hirshfield
- Sunday January 1, 2017 – A Tennyson poem appropriate to the New Year
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
- Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
- For those that here we see no more,
- Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
- Ring in redress to all mankind.
- Ring out a slowly dying cause,
- And ancient forms of party strife;
- Ring in the nobler modes of life,
- With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson’s elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister’s fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two.
According to a story widely held in Waltham Abbey, and repeated on many websites (see two examples below), the ‘wild bells’ in question were the bells of the Abbey Church. According to the local story, Tennyson was staying at High Beach in the vicinity and heard the bells being rung. In some versions of the story it was a particularly stormy night and the bells were being swung by the wind rather than deliberately. (Wikipedia)
“The self in exile remains the self, as a bell unstruck for years is still a bell,”
poet Jane Hirshfield.
Seize from every moment its unique novelty, and do not prepare your joys
If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.
Jack Dixon, Author (The Pict, Jerusalem Falls, The Barn)
One of my favourite feeds of human information is Krista Tippet’s On Being. I’ve quoted some of her offerings below (excerpts from her interview with Yo Yo Ma for example). Here is a tantalizing set of links from this week’s column,
“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”
Courtney Martin quotes the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to open her two-part column on avoiding the caricature trap and dehumanizing individuals. In part one, she discusses drawing out the richness of characters (http://onbeing.us4.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=c4ce343e5cb83e8b16dffbf08&id=b8d3701046&e=2732f52bda) . In part two, she gives some helpful tips and examples of how to tell others’ stories better (http://onbeing.us4.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=c4ce343e5cb83e8b16dffbf08&id=0bd07b17b9&e=2732f52bda) . In the end, it’s just good, sound advice on how to look at and think about the people around you!
“A wolf who cannot howl is like a human who cannot laugh.”
I read: a human who cannot laugh is like a wolf who cannot howl.
If the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.
Parker Palmer, Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of theCenter for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.
Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion.
…who also wrote this,
Every creative act involves…a new innocence of perception, liberated from the cataract of accepted belief.
Habit is the denial of creativity and the negation of freedom; a self-imposed straitjacket of which the wearer is unaware.
I would add that ritual is not habit. It is the long form of persistence.
Koestler was born in Budapest and, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria. In 1931 Koestler joined the Communist Party of Germany until, disillusioned by Stalinism, he resigned in 1938. In 1940 he published his novel Darkness at Noon, an anti-totalitarian work, which gained him international fame. Over the next 43 years from his residence in Great Britain, Koestler espoused many political causes and wrote novels, memoirs, biographies, and numerous essays. In 1968, he was awarded the Sonning Prize “for outstanding contribution to European culture” and, in 1972, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1976, Koestler was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and, in 1979, with terminal leukaemia. In 1983 he and his wife committed suicide at home in London.
Art requires that we travel a certain space in a certain direction on a certain road in order to forget the I and encounter the other.” —Paul Celan
MS. TIPPETT: We just have a few minutes, but I think maybe where I’ll end is — I’m collecting definitions of beauty. I feel like beauty is — well, so I’ll give you some that I love. In Islam, beauty is a core moral value. Scientists and mathematicians, and you’ve named a few, talk about — if an equation is not elegant and beautiful, it’s probably not true. There’s this equation of beauty with truth. The philosopher and poet John O’Donohue said, “Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive.” I wonder — beauty is a word you’ve used in this conversation. You use it a lot. Obviously it’s just there in what you do, whether you’re talking about it or not. I wonder if you’d talk to me about the meaning of beauty for you, or the power of beauty in the world?
MR. MA: Wow. What a simple question you’ve posed.
MS. TIPPETT: I know. [laughs]
MR. MA: I think I can’t say the word “beauty” without also equating it with the word “transcendence,” because it seems like there’s so many different things that are beautiful to so many different people. But I think beauty is often an encapsulation of a lot of different things in a certain moment — a frame, let’s say. It could be music. It could be a poem. It could be an event. It could be in nature — and often, possibly most often, in nature. But when that encapsulated form is received, there’s a moment of reception and cognition of the thing that is, in some ways, startling.
And the moment you solve an equation. The moment that something is revealed, either in your own head or physically, materially revealed. When that moment happens, when, in the Sistine Chapel, when you see the finger — Adam just about to touch — there’s that moment where something is being transferred. I think even when we observe nature — so if we are part of nature and we observe nature, but we’re part of the human realm, and there’s that moment which — essentially, there’s a transfer of life. So even if you think nature is inanimate, and therefore — but the beauty of nature, it’s the human cognition of that vastness, the awe and the wonder, something that’s, in a way, bigger than yourself.
From Krista Tippett’s interview with Yo Yo Ma for On Being. See the entire interview here.
To the privileged, equality feels like abuse.
I’ve been looking for a source for this statement, but can’t find anything reliable. So I will call it an aphorism, with the caveat that the subject who feels abused is not aware of, or conscious of his/her position of privilege. ‘..some are more equal than others.’ comes to mind (Orwell).
Common Sense is Genius dressed in it’s working clothes
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”
― Mary Oliver
” Nothing in human life, least of all in religion, is ever right until it is beautiful “
[I agree, but skeptic me would ask further, Is there just one ‘Beautiful’? If there is one definition, it must certainly be political. Who defines the greatest beauty? Obama? Carl Jung? Billy Graham? Hitler? The Industrial Military Complex? Toyota? Hollywood?
I do, professionally and personally, for myself. Also you for you and she for herself, he for himself, they for themselves. Is it possible to agree, without politics & power involved, about what is Beautiful for all of us? Maybe clean water, air, food?]
Truth exists. Only lies are invented
” A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car “
Kenneth Peacock Tynan (2 April 1927 – 26 July 1980), English theatre critic and writer
The genuine artist is as much a dissatisfied person as the revolutionary, yet how diametrically opposed are the products each distils from his dissatisfaction
[Keira] I spent many many years studying art and revolution, curious about the role of the artist in times of great cultural tension (like these we live in now). A lot of my curiosity was focused on the Russian and French revolutions; those Neo-Classicists – Ingres, David with their still still paintings – only a subtle leak of blood. I wonder if they supported the guillotine, or if they were horrified.
“To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.”
All our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling
Excerpts from a letter to his son Thom, about love, 1958, from John Steinbeck: A Life in Letters
November 10, 1958
…First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
…The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
…And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Love, [Dad. Or so I imagine.]
From a letter written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, from Ever Yours: The Essential Letters,
Launching out into the deep is what we too must do if we want to catch anything, and if it sometimes happens that we have to work the whole night and catch nothing, then it is good not to give up after all but to let down the nets again at dawn.
So let us simply go on quietly, each his own way, always following the light ‘sursum corda’, and as such who know that we are what others are and that others are what we are, and that it is good to have love one to another namely of the best kind, that believeth all things and hopeth all things, endureth all things and never faileth.
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
Cheryl Strayed, from Tiny Beautiful Things. There’s more & it’s worth going there. Follow the Farnam Street links here: http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2014/11/cheryl-strayed-tiny-beautiful-things/
” Art upsets, science reassures “
Here, then, are “V. S. Naipaul’s Rules for Beginners”:
Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than 10 or 12 words.
Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
Never use words whose meanings you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of color, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.
In their simplicity and directness, I do not think the above rules can be improved upon. A beginner should take them daily, like a dose of much-needed vitamins.
A sample of wisdom from “Lunch With a Bigot” (Duke University Press) © 2015 by Amitava Kumar.
Nietzche wrote in The Birth of Tragedy that when we are faced with the most dreadful circumstances, “art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing. She alone knows how to turn these nauseous thoughts about the horror or absurdity of existence into notions with which one can live.”
From “Liberating Creativity“, by Shaun McNiff, published 2005 in Art Heals (Shambala)
“You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”
…Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter. Such openness and empathy M. had in abundance, and gave away freely… I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and well filled with a sense of my own thoughts, my own presence. I was eager to address the world of words — to address the world with words. Then M. instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visibles to the heavenly invisibles….
Mary Oliver, Poet, from her eulogy for her beloved, Photographer Molly Malone Cook, 2005
“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”
The (gnostic) Gospel of Thomas
So resonant with #Selfie 9:
Of our conflicts with others we make rhetoric; of our conflicts with ourselves we make poetry
William Butler Yeats
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
― Erich Fromm
“The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism. The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences as real only that which exists within oneself, while the phenomena in the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to narcissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see other people and things as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and fears.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.
Vikton Frankl, introduction to Man’s Search for Meaning
This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love… A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”
It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds. … The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.
Viktor Frankl, born on March 26, 1905, best-known for his indispensable 1946 psychological memoir Man’s Search for Meaning
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
Annie Dillard, author:
A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time…. It is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.
This man’s work is haunting and achingly beautiful. Good article. Thanks Marcus Vichert for the link…
View at Medium.com
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.William Butler Yeats
”O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?”
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). “Never Give All the Heart.”
” Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people
wanting to be important ”
Seamus Heaney, from “The Peninsula”
When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all around the peninsula
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The Land without marks so you will not arrive
Ted Hughes, excerpt from a letter to his son, Nicholas, in 1985
…when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
Henry Miller, from The World of Sex
In that first year or two, in Paris, I was literally annihilated. There was nothing left of the writer I had hoped to be, only the writer I had to be. (In finding my way I found my voice.) The Tropic of Cancer is a blood-soaked testament revealing the ravages of my struggle in the womb of death. The strong odor of sex which it purveys is really the aroma of birth; it is disagreeable or repulsive only to those who fail to recognize its significance.
… Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent.”
― Emily Dickinson
It seems Emily Dickinson had the same experience as some of my better known musician friends – I think this can be so, and it’s sad. Perhaps the key is to devalue celebrity, and celebrate genuine hard work and skill.
“I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
― Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems
” We are all born mad. Some remain so ”
Glow in the Dark – Keira, January 2014
It started early
the hunker down
I wasn’t ready
the slumber town
to the walls
there were falls
in the dark
I kept tears in a bowl
From bowl into jar
urn to pool
stream to lake
A Great Lake full of me
No beauty to show
for ten years
with a killjoy
glow in the dark
I started late
the hunger growl
and I was ready
the dumbing down
there were calls
in the dark
dive in deep
dive to the shock
dive from the dock I named for you
Come up clean like dew
Clean, like autumn dew
Random from Rainer Maria Rilke
“Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Random via Robert Alton from the Tom Thomson Art Gallery – do watch:
Not-so Random 4: Zoltan Kodaly on music education
The Kodály philosophy of music education is based upon a vision of the role of music in the intellectual, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual development of every child. A central tenet of the Kodály approach is that music belongs to everyone – that an education in music is the right of every human being and cannot be left to chance.
Kodály believed that music is meant to develop one’s entire being – personality, intellect, and emotions. “. . . music is a spiritual food for everybody. So, I studied how to make more people accessible to good music.” (Kodály , in The Kodály Concept, 1966, p. 2) …
Jenö Adám, an early and prominent colleague of Kodály stated, “The most important thing is to actualize the instinctive love of the child for singing and playing, to realize the changing of his moods through the songs, his feelings, his experiences. . . in other words, to bring about the miracle of music.” (Adám, in The Kodály Concept, 1966, p. 2)
Fundamentally, a main goal of the Kodaly approach is to develop, to the fullest extent possible, the innate musicality present in all human beings. Thus, music experience and instruction must begin in a child’s life as early as possible. In fact, Kodály advocated that a child’s musical education should begin nine months before the birth of his mother
From “The Kodaly Approach”, by Jill Trinka, Ph.D.
Random 3: Paul Shepard on nature
There is a secret person undamaged in every individual
Paul Howe Shepard, Jr. (June 12, 1925 – July 27, 1996)
Paul Shepard was an American environmentalist and Author. Based on his early study of modern ethnographic literature examining contemporary nature-based peoples, Shepard created a developmental model for understanding the role of sustained contact with nature in healthy human psychological development, positing that humans, having spent 99% of their social history in hunting and gathering environments, are therefore evolutionarily dependent on nature for proper emotional and psychological growth and development. Drawing from ideas of neoteny, Shepard postulated that many humans in post-agricultural society are often not fully mature, but are trapped in infantilism or an adolescent state. Some of his most influential books are The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game (1973), Nature and Madness (1992), Coming Home to the Pleistocene (1998), The Only World We’ve Got (1996), and The Others: How Animals Made Us Human (1996).
Random 2: Krishnamurti on self-revelation
Relationship has true significance only when it is a process of self-revelation, when it is revealing oneself in the very action of relationship. But most of us do not want to be revealed in relationship. On the contrary, we use relationship as a means of covering up our own insufficiency, our own troubles, our own uncertainty. So relationship becomes mere movement, mere activity. I do not know if you have noticed that relationship is very painful, and that as long as it is not a revealing process, in which you are discovering yourself, relationship is merely a means of escape from yourself.
– Krishnamurti, The Collected Works vol V p 230
Random 1: Allen Ginsberg on conscious action
From A Talk with Allen Ginsburg After the Tomkins Square Police Riot, 1988
…I think you have to follow the kharmic rule — that any action
taken in anxiety, creates more anxiety. Any action taken in anger,
spreads anger. Any action taken in violence, spreads violence.
Any action taken in calm, spreads calm. Any action taken in
equanimity, spreads equanimity. Any action taken gently,
full article here: http://www.newcombat.net/allen_ginsberg_interview.html
More on Ginsberg here: http://www.allenginsberg.org/index.php?page=home