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I myself incline to drift, to accept a lesser situation rather than strive for a greater, and yet, I know that character in life and art is only made by an effort that is quite beyond one’s ordinary everyday acceptance of things as they are. 

–Lawren Harris, Letter to Catherine Whyte

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Came across this quote from one of my favorites, the painter Lawren Harris, and it really stood out for me on a couple of fronts.

Personally, it was a reminder that an artist’s character is developed by continuing to push beyond what they know they can do. To become more and not settle for the situation as it is. It’s easy to do what you know is possible but trying to do what you are not sure is within your grasp builds confidence, builds character. That is what moves the needle.

That’s an important thing for any artist to have in mind. I know I have to kick myself on a regular basis to not lull myself to sleep by doing what I know I can do and not attempting to do that new thing that seems too much for me to handle.

But on a larger scale, Harris’ words speak to where we are as a nation at this very moment, We are in a crucial moment and what happens in the coming days and weeks will determine both where we are headed as a nation and what makes up our collective character. Do we take the easy way that just accepts things as they are? Or do we pull from deep within our character and do that which is right even though it might require true effort and perhaps even sacrifice?

I wish I could say which way it will go but I don’t know. I believe that there is so much more that will be soon uncovered that to maintain the status quo will be untenable and there will be big change.

That the character we aspire to as a nation will finally come forward.

But that’s just my belief. Like all beliefs, without effort, it’s not worth much.

I thought the painting at the top, Light House at Father Point, was a great symbol for this post. The light house is a warning device, one that alerts sailors that they are approaching an area where they must proceed with caution.

We are at such a point as well. If we don’t pay attention we could end up on the rocks.

Let’s heed the warning from our own light house and not just take what is at hand as being the way things should be.

Let’s make an effort.

Let’s be more.

Let that define our character.

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The Seven Social Sins

1- Wealth without work.
2- Pleasure without conscience.
3- Knowledge without character.
4- Commerce without morality.
5- Science without humanity.
6- Religion without sacrifice.
7- Politics without principle.

–Frederick Lewis Donaldson, Westminster Abbey sermon, March, 1925

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The list above has been attributed for years to Mahatma Gandhi who published this same list later in the year in 1925 but it first came from a sermon given by Anglican priest, Frederick Lewis Donaldson, at Westminster Abbey in March of that year.  Gandhi published it in his newspaper, Young India, in October, stating in a very short commentary that the list was sent to him by a “fair friend,” adding “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Though Gandhi may not have originated the list, his reputation sent the message worldwide.

Reading the list early this morning, I was struck that the entirety of the list could be applied to many of those who wield the power of government, most notably the person(?) who sits in our white house. He is devoid of all the positive social attributes on the right side of this list, existing without conscience, character, morality,humanity, or principle. Nor is he unwilling to work or sacrifice anything of his own to make the world better for those beneath him in the social pecking order.

Based on his comments stating that traumatic head injuries suffered by our soldiers weren’t real wounds, I think you can throw empathy and a few other positives into the list of things missing from his being.

In short, he is a hollow man.

A husk.

And the more we follow his lead, giving in to his twisted and selfish worldview, the more hollow we become as a nation. You can easily see it in the way he has affected the republican party which has many members in power who, like him, are crossing off more and more items on the list above. They have become a husk of a political party, one without conscience or principle or shame of any sort, all too willing to carry the water for the hollow man.

As a result, he is going to be acquitted in this trial. That’s a forgone conclusion.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote over two thousand years ago: “Here is a man whose life and actions the world has already condemned – yet whose enormous fortune…has already brought him acquittal!

Some things remain the same. That doesn’t make it right nor does it undo the harm already done and the damage yet to come.

And the more hollow we become as a nation, the more of these sins that we normalize, the less able we will become to recover when that damage fully arrives.

We must ask more of our leaders. And ourselves.

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There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

——Isaac Asimov, Newsweek interview, 1980

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We’re on the eve of a dramatic and historic event starting tomorrow with the impeachment trial in the Senate. The stakes from this trial are as high as we have ever faced as a nation, far more than the two previous impeachment proceedings of the last fifty years, the Nixon and Clinton affairs. Neither of those had imminent national security issues. Neither had the sitting president asking for and receiving assistance from foreign nations in gaming our elections. Neither had the president using the whole power of his office and the many agencies at his disposal to obstruct and evade investigation.

As serious as those prior impeachments were, they pale in comparison to this trial and the ramifications that emerge from its outcome. With an acquittal of charges, the current president** will be totally unrestrained in his actions with, for all practical purposes, no oversight. An acquittal basically says that any president from this point forward can do whatever he desires. He can smother any investigation, refuse to release any information and persecute those who stand against him.

The president**, if you believe the hackneyed rationale of his attorney Alan Dershowitz, is unimpeachable for abuse of power or obstruction of justice.

Dershowitz has written that this president** could allow Russia to retake Alaska, in the same way it is attempting to reclaim Ukraine, without ordering resistance from our troops. As wrong as he claims it would be, Dershowitz writes that this would not constitute an impeachable offense.

As insane as that sounds, it may not be out of the realm of possibility for this president**, given his subservient stance toward Putin and Russia.

His power, according to Dershowitz–at least at this time–is near absolute. To put it plainly, he is above the law.

That is the nightmare scenario we are facing in this trial– a man with little, if any, self-restraint who may be given the green light to indulge his deepest and darkest desires. And to think that he won’t head that way with this newly found freedom is foolishness. Can you think of a single day in the past three years where he has tried to unify this nation in any way? His time in office has been a blur of self-serving actions, befuddling lies that are pawned off by his willing accomplices as truths, attacks of retribution and an almost nihilistic attack on the functional systems of our nation.

With acquittal, the last three years of madness and stupidity will be seen as the “good old days” as we go forward.

How did we get to this point? Well, it’s been heading this way for about forty years. For one thing, there is the unrestricted money in political campaigns which allows the wealthiest among us to parlay their wealth into political power that would give them even more advantages. So they can amass more wealth and more political power.

That might be the biggest contributing factor. But much of it comes down to the words at the top of the page from Isaac Asimov.

This cult of ignorance has been nurtured greatly in the past forty years. Minds that are easily distracted and lazy are easily manipulated. Those who wish to cultivate these people feed them misinformation, disinformation and outright lies, stoking their fears and angers while at the same time bringing them to the belief that their only hope lies in the very people who are fanning the flames and profiting from it.

Ignorance is a powerful force.

Ignorance becomes a belief system. It’s almost impossible to fight this belief with rational and fact based arguments. The line my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge” could easily be replaced now with “my belief, as unfounded and ridiculous as it is, is greater than your facts.

I try to maintain a sense of hopefulness in the face of the tide of ignorance that swirls around us. But today, as we wait on a trial that whose outcome seems almost preordained to hurl us into an abyss, I am not particularly filled with optimism.

I want to be wrong and hope I am proven so.

But I don’t think I am and don’t think I will be at this point.

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Vincent Van Gogh- Memory of the Garden at Etten 1888

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My aim in life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life… looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking, ‘Oh, the pictures I might have made!’ But this does not exclude making what is possible…

–Vincent Van Gogh

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Love this painting from Vincent Van Gogh with its wonderful color and the abstraction of the forms that comes from eliminating the horizon line. It was a piece that came to mind when I ran across this passage from Van Gogh. The words reminded me of something else, a thought that has been on my mind in recent times.

I was asked at my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery this past September if I ever had thoughts of retiring from my painting career. I think I made a bit of a joke about it, saying that I would no doubt die working away at a painting.

And that’s most likely true. I couldn’t imagine ever saying I am done as a painter.

It goes back to Van Gogh’s words above. I still see my artistic future brighter than my past, still envision important projects and better works to come. I still see my best work as being in the future, not dwelling in the distant past.

I can’t imagine that feeling ever changing. I can see myself on the day of my death, if I am capable of taking a moment to reflect on that day, will have that same regret that Van Gogh expressed: Oh, the pictures I might have made!

That being said, I must get to work. I am not retired yet and there are pictures to be made. The future is calling.

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GC Myers- Listening to the Muse

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I thought I would rerun the blog entry below that first ran in January of 2015. It might be the only piece of advice I truly feel comfortable in giving to aspiring artists in any discipline. Plus, it can be applied to everyone in their lives even if they aren’t engaged in creative endeavors because, at its base, it’s not just about making things, as much as it might seem at first glance. It’s about an attitude of being proactive in altering the world around us in what we see as being a positive manner. It’s about seeing something that doesn’t fully satisfy you and taking action to change that.

Moreover, at its root, it is about determining the person we want to be and moving consciously towards that goal.

Take a look and decide for yourself:

 

I spent quite a bit of time this morning looking at the image of the painting above, Listening to the Muse. It’s part of my show at the Kada Gallery [That show opened in December of 2014] which is in it’s last weekend there. This painting really captivates me on a personal level and reminds me of  a thought that once drove me forward as a younger painter. It’s a thought that I often pass along as a bit of advice to aspiring artists:

Paint the paintings you want to see.

Sounds too simple to be of any help, doesn’t it? But that simplicity is the beauty and strength of it.

For me, I wasn’t seeing the paintings out there that satisfied an inner desire I had to see certain deep colors that were being used in a manner that was both abstract and representative. If I had seen something that fulfilled these desires, I most likely would not have went ahead as a painter. I wouldn’t have felt the need to keep pushing.

It was this simple thought that marked the change in my evolution as a painter. Before it, I was still trying to paint the paintings that I was seeing in the outer world, attempting to emulate those pieces and styles that already existed as created by other artists. But it was unsatisfying, still echoing the work of others, forever judged in comparison to these others.

But after the realization that I should simply paint what I wanted to see, my work changed and I went from a bondage to that which existed to the freedom of what could be found in creating something new. For me, that meant finding certain colors such as the deep reds and oranges tinged with dark edges that mark this piece. It meant trying to simplify the forms of world I was portraying so that the colors and shapes collectively took on the same meditative quality that I was seeing in each of them.

In my case this seems to be the advice I needed. But I think it’s advice that works for nearly anything you might attempt.

Paint the paintings you want to see.

Write the book you want to read. [Toni Morrison said this very thing at one point]

Play the music you want to hear. Make the film you want to see. Cook the food you want to eat. Make the clothes you want to wear.

Make the world in which you want to live.

Simple.

Now go do it.

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I was going to write something about gullibility this morning and while I was searching for something to kick off the post, a quote or an image, I came across this little bit of mirth from the late Shel Silverstein. It pretty much summed up everything you need to know about our willingness to often accept things that make no sense or are demonstrably false.

Of course, none of us will admit to wearing the plunger. We convince ourselves it’s a damn fine hat because Teddy or someone else, maybe someone named Donnie, says it is just that. If he says it looks good then it must, because he always tells us just what we want to hear and believe. We’re to smart and wary to fall for something other than the truth.

But in fact, we are actually like the character in All the King’s Men that Robert Penn Warren described: “I suppose that Willie had his natural quota of ordinary suspicion and caginess, but those things tend to evaporate when what people tell you is what you want to hear.”

And when someone is telling you that the toilet plunger on your head looks great, you really want to believe him. Because otherwise you’re just an idiot with a damn toilet plunger stuck on your head.

You know, whenever I see one of those godawful red hats on someone from now on, all I am going to see is that person with a toilet plunger on their head.

There’s a brain somewhere inside that bony box sitting between your shoulders, people. Take off the plunger and use it.

 

 

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Another Grateful Moment

Grateful Moment- GC Myers 2014

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

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I thought I would rerun the post below about gratitude that ran last year on the day before Thanksgiving.

I am a firm believer in the words of Cicero above, feeling that, if it is fully embraced, gratitude permeates everything we do in a positive way.

I also believe that nobody achieves anything solely on their own, that everyone owes someone something for getting them where they are. Someone along the way taught them something, pointed them in a direction or opened a door that greatly helped them move along. 

As much I would like to think I have done everything on my own, even the small amount of success I have achieved is the result of a lot of help and encouragement from hosts of people. Without them I am nothing.

A sense of gratitude makes everything it touches better. And as I wrote below, a lack of gratitude debases everything. Take a look:

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It’s Gratitude Week here on RedTreeTimes. It’s kind of like Shark Week without the carnage. Or sharks.

Well, there is a little carnage but I can guarantee there are no sharks.

For today’s installment, the great Roman orator Cicero certainly has it right. When you think of the great virtues– honor, courage, loyalty, honesty, compassion, respect, and grace along with so many others– you can easily place gratitude as a contributing factor to each. These virtues are often just gratitude set in motion.

If gratitude is not the parent of all virtues, it is at least a conjoined twin.

I am not harping on gratitude now just because it is the week of Thanksgiving. No, it has become painfully obvious that there is a lack of gratitude, and by extension, the absence of accompanying virtues, being shown by many of our public leaders. This includes one person in particular.

Simply put, this lack of gratitude trickles down ( much more so than any tax cuts!) from the top to the general population. As a result, we end up with ugly attitudes permeating our daily life.

Gratitude transforms into a sense of entitlement

Humility becomes boastful self-aggrandizement.

Respect is replaced by insult and denigration.

Courage becomes cowardice.

Loyalty becomes a temporary transaction where one’s loyalty is given only for as long as the other person remains useful.

Empathy devolves into a mocking of the shortcomings and weaknesses of others.

Responsibility is replaced by a need to place blame on others.

Honor becomes disgrace.

Trust turns to deep skepticism.

Grace transforms into insolence and coarseness.

And honesty?

Honesty has turned into a sort of mythological creature, like the Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster– seldom seen and so shocking that when it finally shows itself, we don’t believe what we are seeing with our own eyes. Dishonesty becomes the accepted norm and we lose the ability — or even the will–to recognize the lies from the truth.

We become a nation of liars, a land without virtue or honor that can no longer be trusted.

It doesn’t have to continue in this way. We are a nation based for centuries on its virtues, always moving towards doing what is right, no matter the cost. We can reclaim that. We can be a country of virtue.

It all starts with simple gratitude.

Be thankful for all that you have. Express it in your words and, more importantly, in your actions.

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