Archive for December, 2021

Committed Optimist

GC Myers- The Durable Will sm

The Durable Will – Now at the West End Gallery, Corning, NY

Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.

― Noam Chomsky

Tonight is New Year’s Eve with the year 2022 beginning at midnight. The last several year’s have been racing with increasing urgency to this moment and it almost feels like we are near the point where all the storylines merge and hopefully come to an end. The threats of pandemic, climate related disasters, potential government overthrow and civil war all hang in the air, all with outcomes that are yet to be determined.

But despite the threats that sometimes haunt my fevered dreams, I have found myself in recent days feeling oddly optimistic.

I am optimistic about the work I will produce but even more than that, I have a feeling of positivity that these more daunting and dangerous matters can be resolved.

Well, maybe not the climate related disasters. That can’t be resolved in short order, if ever. But the  optimistic part of me believes that we as a species will find the will to adapt to the coming changes in our environment.

So, call me an optimist this morning. I am proud to wear that label after the last five awful years.

Optimists sometimes get a bad name. Maybe rightfully so.

I mean, they sometimes gloss over glaring and seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. They sometimes overestimate their abilities and potentials. They sometimes forget that others may not have the same forward looking attitude and, as a result, will not assist in the mission.

And they are sometimes dreadfully wrong and their attempts fail in gloriously awful crashes.

But you know what? They fail only because they have the daring and foresight to start and do things. Big things.

Optimists get things get done. Plain and simple.

Pessimists have never accomplished a thing worth remembering. If they have, it eludes my memory.  Pessimism is easy, without any commitment or acceptance of responsibility. It doesn’t take any daring or effort to criticize, to point out flaws or the doomed outcomes that they believe will come.

No, pessimists do nothing. I know. I have been a part-time pessimist for long stretches of my life and during those periods, I was worthless and miserable.

Any great accomplishment, any breakthrough, anything that has moved or benefitted mankind, came from an optimist. They had a visions, saw a need, and plunged in. They brushed aside the naysayers, the pessimists, and did what needed to be done.

They saw a future.

But optimism is not easy. Not by a long shot.

We’re not talking Pollyanna, rose-colored glasses stuff here. I’m talking hardcore, roll-up-your-sleeves, bare-your-knuckles and show-your-teeth optimism. 

The optimism I am talking about requires steely determination and willingness to sweat and bleed to achieve the envisioned future. It requires taking on a responsibility for others besides yourself. It takes the daring to move on even as you know that you could very easily fall flat on your face and outright fail.

Most importantly, it requires absolute, unwavering commitment. This is the real key to everything.

Commitment is a dangerous thing in the hands of the misguided or the more evil among us. We see evidence of this all the time. But in the hands of those who work and struggle for a better future for all people- even those creative sorts who want to leave the world evidence of the grace that resides here– commitment is a force of nature.

Commitment in the hands of an optimist is the engine that makes the world a better place and creates a better future for us all.

Look at the history of human achievement– it gets stuff done. Plain and simple. 

I want to see a better future. I want to see it in my work but, more importantly, I need to see it in the world around me. And I am optimistic that it will be done.

So for this last entry in the year 2021, let me state that I plan to enter the New Year as a Committed Optimist.

Might even put that on my business card, if I had one.

Let’s play one last song for this year. This is When Your Minds Made Up From Glen Hansard, from his creation that became an enchanting movie and stageplay, Once. I chose it because this performance is filled with commitment. Its finishing moments are filled with absolute, primal and ethereal commitment.

And that– absolute, primal and ethereal commitment– is my wish for the New Year.

My mind’s made up.

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Chill Out

Paul Klee- Redgreen and Violets-Yellow Rhythms 1920

Paul KleeRedgreen and Violets-Yellow Rhythms, 1920

He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.

–Paul Klee

Been doing some pairings of quotes, music and paintings recently, trying to highlight the connections between them. At least, as they appear to me. Today the painting and the quote come from one of my favorites, Paul Klee, the Swiss artist who died in 1940 at the age of 60.

He knew a little about style.

You can usually immediately spot a piece of art as being from his hand and mind. The compositions, the colors, the way the paint is applied, the rhythm– it all speaks a one in his voice. One that creates and describes its own world, its own environment.

As his words above infer, he had no choice in the matter.

This wasn’t something I totally understood until I was well into my career as an artist. Early on, nearly everything in a piece of mine was done with conscious intent, even when I didn’t know what the outcome might be.

But as time passed, the decision making process became less conscious, more ingrained and intuitive. As a result, the work had a certain look.

It was certainly in my voice. I guess you could call it style.

At that point, I began to recognize that that was the only way I could work effectively. I couldn’t do it any other way.

It was only then that I understood what Klee meant.

For the pairing with Klee’s work, I have selected a piece from another of my favorites, the late blues legend John Lee Hooker, who is the musical embodiment of Klee’s statement. His work, his style was unique and unmistakably his own.

It was well described in SPIN magazine:

Hooker’s style is style, the blood essence of style, a style so strong and so fiercely established in the self that there’s no more chance of another man copying his sound than there is of trying to steal his heartbeat.

Even though he was a musician and not a visual artist, Hooker was a huge influence early on in my career. I used the quality of his uniqueness as a goal to hold in mind, a mission to fulfill. I wanted to create something that would be instantly recognizable as mine yet would be difficult and hopefully impossible to fully replicate.

It’s an ongoing mission.

Here’s song, Chill Out, that is a collaboration with Carlos Santana, another man who knows a bit about style. I think this song shows off Hooker’s singular style, even as it combines with Santana’s own signature work.

Neither can do it any other way…

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Trio in Fire & Ice

GC Myers- Fire and Ice sm

Fire and Ice“- At the West End Gallery

XXX Others, I Am Not The First

Others, I am not the first,
Have willed more mischief than they durst:
If in the breathless night I too
Shiver now, ’tis nothing new.

More than I, if truth were told,
Have stood and sweated hot and cold,
And through their reins in ice and fire
Fear contended with desire.

Agued once like me were they,
But I like them shall win my way
Lastly to the bed of mould
Where there’s neither heat nor cold.

But from my grave across my brow
Plays no wind of healing now,
And fire and ice within me fight
Beneath the suffocating night.

–A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

In a bit of a hurry but I thought I’d share a trio of offerings this morning. They are somewhat connected, mainly in subject but not necessarily in tone.

The poem above is from A.E. Housman and his 1896 work, A Shropshire Lad. It has to do with fear and desire, represented in the forms of fire and ice.

The painting at the top is Fire and Ice. I think it can also be viewed in terms of fear and desire, maybe with a sense of resolution between the two. Here, the cold lifelessness of the snow and ice is set against the deep blood red of the living trees.

The final piece of this trio is a song below, The Snow It Melts the Soonest, from Sting and his performance at Durham Cathedral. This song dates back to 1821.

Not too challenging a puzzle, I know. But who needs a challenge all the time?

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Inarticulate Desire

GC Myers- Night's Desire

Night’s Desire– At the Principle Gallery

 I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life. 

― Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

Desire is often associated with the tangible– the desire for money, sex, power, or simply more of anything. Nothing good usually comes from such desire.

After all, Buddha did state that desire is the root of evil.

But what if you have, as Virginia Woolf wrote, an inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life?

I can’t say with any degree of certainty what Woolf would recognize as her desire. I can only imagine that she desired a world that gave her peace of mind, one that was filled with gentleness of spirit and love.

One with revealed moments of grace.

Is that sort of desire in the same category as the lust and greed associated with other desires?

Unfortunately, it probably does. Especially in a world such as ours, one covered in deep layers of obvious evils such as greed, hatred, and injustice, to name but a few.

This inarticulate desire for something more in such a place can only lead to despair.

And that certainly is disheartening for those of us who have felt that desire.

Perhaps you can reconcile it in your mind and soul that this desire is most likely unattainable in this world.

So, you live your life as best you can, doing those things you can do and trying to not be crushed by those things you cannot do or control.

But even then, the desire remains within you and you often find yourself on the lookout for mere glimpses of anything that might give you hope that this desire could one day be fulfilled.

That’s what I see in this small painting above.

Dark wandering and an inarticulate moment of grace and light– enough to make you continue the journey.

Sometimes that’s all we get. And need…

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Where Memory Rests

GC Myers- Where Memory Rests sm

Where Memory Rests — At the Principle Gallery

The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.

― Czesław Miłosz, The Issa Valley

Though I had never read this particular book from the late Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, the spirit of his words above have served somewhat as a mantra for me in my life. I have always been interested in the lives and stories of others from the past, especially those who were often overlooked and otherwise forgotten in the time since their demise.

For some unknown reason, I have felt a duty to keep their memories alive.

This has been a natural lead-in to genealogy where the stories and lives I reveal have ancestral links with myself. Piecing together connections and clues to recreate the storylines of ancestors gives them a fullness, a living quality, that has faded through the years since their deaths.

I find it personally satisfying but as anyone who has spent any time doing this sort of thing knows, these stories often don’t interest many other people, even those who share the same ancestral connections. I love to tell these tales, to share the oddities and the connections to history we share.

But I have to learned to quickly stop when I see that faraway look in their eyes, that glazed over gaze where I can almost see their mind beginning to focus on what they are going to have for dinner later in the day.

I don’t blame anyone for this reaction. After all, living mainly consists of looking and moving forward for most folks. One’s own immediately recalled memories are all that most folks feel a need to maintain. Stories and memories of people they never will know seem to have little to do with their lives going forward.

I certainly get that.

This time of year around the holidays always makes me more reminiscent of my own memories and these stories of my ancestors, most notably my parents and grandparents. You want the memories of those you loved to remain beyond yourself. I feel like I do owe it to them to tell their stories, to have their memory stay alive and to create a connection to those who will follow them, even those who have never known them.

It’s a fool’s errand, I know.

But it somehow feels like it has a real purpose and that satisfies some part of me that I will never fully understand. Makes it feel worth doing.

Are all fool’s errands foolish?

Who knows? Maybe not…

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Both Sides, Now

Georgia O'Keeffe Sky Above Clouds IV

Georgia O’Keeffe- Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965

I was reading Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.

— Joni Mitchell, On her song Both Sides, Now

I knew immediately when I heard Brittany Howard and Herbie Hancock performing Both Sides, Now as part of the Joni Mitchell section of this years Kennedy Center Honors, that I would put it up for this week’s Sunday Morning musical selection.

It is a lovingly performed version that respects and honors the song and Mitchell. It’s a song whose power is derived from vocal pauses and quiet passages from Hancock’s piano, and the spacious venue at the Kennedy Center really accentuated that aspect of it.

Simple and elegant.

One of my favorite covers of this song which is saying a lot since it has been recorded by over 1000 artists.

Do yourself a favor and give a listen. On the morning after Christmas, a pause and a bit of quiet does the soul some good.

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2015 Christmas  -GC Myers

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells

The lines above are the last two stanzas of a poem Longfellow wrote in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War. Several years later, in 1872, the poem was incorporated into the Christmas carol we know as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I am hoping that the last three lines hold true for us going into the future.

The short bit above was written several years ago. I’ve reran this post a couple of times in the past, still hoping and waiting for Longfellow’s prediction to come to fruition.

As for the poem which later became the carol, there is a little more to add to the story which I thought I would add this morning.

At the time it was written, Longfellow was still deeply grieving the tragic death of his wife in July of 1861. She caught on fire while using sealing wax on an envelope and despite Longfellow’s efforts died the next day from her burns. Longfellow also suffered severe burns, to the point that he was unable to attend her funeral. It also left scars on his face which prevented him from shaving so that he wore a full beard until his death in 1882.

After his wife’s death, Longfellow suffered extreme depression, turning at times to using laudanum to ease his sorrow. In the winter of 1863, as he began writing the verses above, he was deeply depressed by his continued grief, his worry over the war that raged between the states, and the fact that his son had been severely wounded in combat. As he wrote, he heard two church pealing for the holiday and he felt his demeanor changed by it, feeling hope that indeed wrong would fail and that right would prevail.

It made for a powerful bit of verse. This morning, I am filled with the hope that right has indeed prevailed and will continue to do so. Let’s hope that this Christmas day, taking place under the dark clouds of pandemic and disorder, offers us the light of hope on the horizon.

Below is a nice version of the carol with lyrics from the late folksinger and damn fine actor, Burl Ives.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you have a good and loving day. Peace.

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Creepy Santa

I’ve played this song, Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan, a couple of times over the past decade. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel that takes Dylan back his Jewish roots and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

In past posts with this song, I have included a group of photos of Santa that were less than jovial and maybe a little menacing– the Kreepy Kringles. These seedy Santas seemed about right for this year’s holiday season.

While looking for an photo or two to accompany the original post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness.

It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with Circus Clowns in the amount of Creep Factor they exhibit.

You might see a rogue clown wandering through the woods every now and then and that is pretty spooky. The idea of Bozo chasing me through a darkened forest still haunts me. Thank god for those big floppy clown shoes that slowed him down in the woods.

But Santa shows up in your house. He is, simply put, a bearded home intruder and flamboyant dresser who crawls down your chimney in the dark of night. He drinks your milk –or makes himself a 7/7– and eats all your cookies. Sometimes he even makes out with your Mom.

Who knows what else he’s does?

He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

When I was kid I had a difficult time going to sleep on Christmas Eve because of the excitement and anticipation that Santa was on his way. Now, after looking at those photos of these Psycho Santas, I won’t be able sleep for fear that he actually might heading my way!

For that first post with these borderline Santas, I picked a few that were pretty strange but there were plenty more of them out there, some which just made me a little queasy. A couple look like they were taken in a secret room in Santa’s basement. I have a feeling that many of them are also contained in a police registry somewhere.

Or should be.

I thought I would include a fresh batch of Kreepy Kringles this year. I kept the one from the original, at the top here, because he just weirds me out on multiple levels.

I don’t know about you but I will be sleeping with one eye open tonight. Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday evening.

Santacreepy santa 3creepy santa 6

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Seasonal Selections

2019 Christmas -- GC Myers sm

If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that—warm things, kind things, sweet things—help and comfort and laughter—and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Not going to say much today. Just leaving a few things out there today for you, if you’re interested. You can take away what you want.

There’s a painting for a Christmas card from a few years back. Then there’s a short passage on the spirit of generosity from author Frances Hodgson Burnett, who is best known for her book The Secret Garden. And below there’s a version of the Carol of the Bells from the fabulous ukulelist Taimane Gardner. Check out her website for more on her music. This carol is recorded on a Hawaiian mountaintop, giving it a more tropical feel than the northern, midwestern scene with snow that normally populate seasonal songs.

But the season is not about where one is, is it?

The open heart can be anywhere and everywhere…

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Blue Christmas


Deliver me from men who are without doubt. Doubt makes a man decent. My most steadfast conviction is that every man ought to doubt everything he holds dearest. Not all the time, but now and then. Sometime.

— Harry Crews, We Are All of Us Passing Through

I am not exactly sure why I used the passage above this morning. I came across it in an biographical sketch from novelist Harry Crews that ran in the Georgia Review back in 2011.

These words from this passage immediately jumped at me.

Doubt makes a man decent…

When you’re uncertain, you not sure how to behave, not sure what is true or accepted. Most times, you tend to be more cautious as a result. Less on the offensive– more reaching out with the open hands of doubt than lashing out with the closed fist of certainty. 

More rational, more thoughtful. 

More decent.

In recent times, it seems like so many people are filled with misguided certainty and, as a result, have lost any shreds of doubt they may have once possessed. And along with it, all decency.

Doubt makes a man decent.

Maybe these words struck me so directly this morning because I see people so filled with and hardened by certainty that I believe they have lost the ability or willingness to simply ask themselves: What if these thoughts and beliefs I hold so dear are wrong? What then?

I think we all need to question ourselves, all those thought and beliefs that make us up, on a regular basis. We need to feel the uncertainty that will make us decent once again.

I don’t know where this came from this morning. I was just going to play the new version of Blue Christmas from Norah Jones that was recently recorded atop the Empire State Building. Thought it was a fine version with great visuals. And the song itself, with the even slower tempo of Jones’ version, felt like a fitting match for our current state of mind. So many people have been lost — to death, to long term illness or the indecency derived from certainty that has split apart many families and friendships during these times.

It certainly feels like a bit of a Blue Christmas for us, collectively, again this year. Fortunately, there is still plenty of decency out there, if we can only set aside our own certainty long enough to recognize it.

I’m trying…

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