Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category



“They are all in the same category, both those who are afflicted with fickleness, boredom and a ceaseless change of purpose, and who always yearn for what they left behind, and those who just yawn from apathy. There are those too who toss around like insomniacs, and keep changing their position until they find rest through sheer weariness. They keep altering the condition of their lives, and eventually stick to that one in which they are trapped not by weariness with further change but by old age which is too sluggish for novelty. There are those too who suffer not from moral steadfastness but from inertia, and so lack the fickleness to live as they wish, and just live as they have begun. In fact there are innumerable characteristics of the malady, but one effect – dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not dare or do not achieve all they long for, and all they grasp at is hope: they are always unbalanced and fickle, an inevitable consequence of living in suspense. They struggle to gain their prayers by every path, and they teach and force themselves to do dishonourable and difficult things; and when their efforts are unrewarded the fruitless disgrace tortures them, and they regret not the wickedness but the frustration of their desires. Then they are gripped by repentance for their attempt and fear of trying again, and they are undermined by the restlessness of a mind that can discover no outlet, because they can neither control nor obey their desires, by the dithering of life that cannot see its way ahead, and by the lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes.”

― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



I was reading an article that referenced the essay De Brevitate Vitae ( On the Shortness of Life) from the Stoic philosopher Seneca that written sometime around 49 AD. The passage above really struck me because it seemed to describe the dissatisfaction so many people have with their lives and the actions that result from this.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the underlying current of what we’re seeing take place these days in this country. I have tried to discern what the desired outcome for the insurrectionists is or what drove them to act as a violent mob and I keep coming up with blanks.

What do they want?

They are not the downtrodden nor poor. They are not voiceless or without political power. There’s a high probability that most of them have livelihoods and assets that place them well above that of the average American. They are not trying to gain rights for themselves or others that have been denied. They are not fighting injustice.

And if they succeed, they have no plans for a future. Certainly not a future that will be in any way better.

All they have is anger and dissatisfaction with their lot in life. As entitled and privileged as they are, their lives lack purpose, lack meaning. It is a spoiled and bored existence, devoid of real consequences for bad behavior and fortified by the highs and unreality of video games and action flicks combined with conspiratorial bravado and cosplay costuming.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. 

This is just an observation this morning. Like I said, I am not sure I have a finger on what really is behind it. I am just trying to understand it so that I can begin to make sense of what I am seeing.

Still not there.

Here’s a topical song, Unsatisfied, a favorite of mine from The Replacements and their great 1984 album Let It Be.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



Read Full Post »

“The Observer” At the West End Gallery



The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



Isn’t this the truth?

We often aspire to greater heights, setting a course for bigger and better things, only at some point along the way finding ourselves unwilling to actually do the hard climbing required to reach our desired destination. 

I know that I have walked the plains for some time, all the time charmed by the heights ahead. They are often far in the distance but sometimes they loom so close that they seem easily attainable. But like most of us, I usually turn away from the harder paths that go directly to the higher ground and take those easier but less rewarding lower ones, all the while searching for some shortcut that will send me around the the difficult part of the climb.

Of course, time shows that there are no true shortcuts.

You have to put in the heavy climbing yourself.

This is a metaphor that could represent so many aspects of our lives beyond its obvious reference to personal aspiration but for this morning, I am leaving it as it is. Feel free to insert your own perspective and interpretation into it.

The thing I hope you take away from this is that we, individually and as a whole, must aspire to greater heights for our betterment. Then we must be willing to do the heavy climbing, pulled up by others from above while ourselves pulling up those still below us. Otherwise, we’re destined to roam the plains aimlessly.

Start your climb today. Have a good one.

Read Full Post »



Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity



Good and evil both increase at compound interest.

Think about that for a minute.

Think about examples from your own life that you may recognize.

Speaking for myself, I will admit to having made both good and bad decisions in my life. The good ones lifted me higher and allowed me to experience the better things in my life– the victories as Lewis puts it. The good decisions generally came from looking outward, from considering someone other than myself. The good decisions began an upward spiral.

On the other hand, the bad decisions almost always resulted from selfishness ego, and anger.

I spent much of the first half my life making bad decisions. And it did indeed compound. The plummet on the downward spiral quickened and each level lower was worse than the one above it. It seemed as though there was no way to stop it. It was dark and awful in those times and places.

Without going further into my personal experience, I believe we are seeing a group of politicians and their followers who make up a substantial portion of the public who are in the midst of a downward spiral, one that is increasing at compound interest. 

I watched the newly released video yesterday showing the crowd on the steps pulling a DC Metro Police Officer from the doorway and dragging him down the stairs by the back of his helmet. A photo from the attack is above. He was tasered and beaten, one attacker pounding on him with the flag pole holding an American flag. Fortunately, that officer survived the attack.

I don’t know how anyone could watch that video and not be shocked or infuriated. It shook my day.

It was evil at compound interest– naked and pure.

It was based on absolute lies and bad decisions, from the very highest levels to those at the bottom with blood on their hands. 

And unfortunately, we are all– ALL— still trapped in this dark downward spiral because there are politicians and their followers still unable to recognize that they are making one bad and evil decision after another. And like my personal bad decisions, theirs are also based in selfishness, ego, and anger, with little thought as to where their actions might ultimately take them. 

They don’t see that they are the very antithesis of patriots. They don’t understand that they are the spearpoint of a movement that would result in a fascist dictatorship that would ultimately eat them as well. A fascist dictatorship that will ultimately fail and fall as they always do, often in a bloody purge brought on by disillusioned adherents of the movement. 

That misguided yet evil spearpoint is still there. They are still plotting, making evil decisions as they are shielded and egged on by their cohorts in power who still believe they can somehow ride and selfishly profit from the wave their riotous followers are creating.

That is yet another bad and evil decision by the power hungry.

Our peril as democratic nation compounds so long as there are no consequences, no accountability, for these people. There can be no unity or move forward until this happens. Those who incited and enabled this must be removed from their positions of power now. There is no shrugging this off and just moving on as though this were a mere aberration, a blip on the screen.

No, there must be accountability and action now to stop further compounding of this evil.

Now.

They hide behind the shield of politics but this is not political. This is life and death, right and wrong.

Good and evil.

I have intimately known good and evil. I choose good but know that we must first rid ourselves of this evil before we can move upward again.

Be careful out there and think about your decisions. Do some good in your own lives, please.

Read Full Post »

 



“A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.”

― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince



Character matters.

I have written this before. The words, the actions, and the manner of the leader of a nation are tremendously important. They shape the words, actions and manner of the nation.

Think of the great and revered leaders of our past. Abraham Lincoln. FDR. JFK. MLK. Even LBJ in those moments that mattered. All were fallible men with human flaws, yet for the most part all spoke in aspirational terms, for the betterment and elevation of all people. Their words, their actions, and their manner gave us a template for behavior.

What we are experiencing now is the result of the words, the actions and the manner of a person unfit to lead this nation, a man who does not seek to elevate all the citizens of this land. He and his apologists and enablers, especially those in power who take their cues from him, have set a divisive tone, one that pits us one against another. 

His ugly manner, his crude behavior, his hateful words, and the embrace of lies and lurid conspiracies with no basis in reality have taken hold in his followers. This along with his selfish and narcissistic behavior have become the template for his followers. They exhibit the same selfish, illogical and uninformed thinking as their leader.

I have asked how those who have stood behind the president can justify their support for a man who deals exclusively in lies and hate speech. I have been told that while they don’t particularly his “style,” they endorse his actions. 

This is a justification I have never understood. This Machiavellian bargain is totally unacceptable because, for those who lead nations, “style” matters. Style comes in the form of their words, their actions and the manner in which they treat the totality of their citizens. It is character.

You can’t accept his actions without accepting the whole of his character. He and the wreckage he has produced are a result of those who thought they could pussyfoot around his style, that they could somehow rationalize away those many ugly parts of  his character in exchange for a few things that they coveted for their own benefit. 

Well, it doesn’t work that way, folks.

It’s a package deal. 

In for a penny, in for a pound” as the saying goes. 

Everything in his character, including his racism and acceptance of white supremacy, belongs to those folks now.  

Some will say they never saw this type of thing coming, that nothing pointed to this sort of thing happening. 

My response to that, as our next president likes to say, is Come on, Man!

It has been in the open and in plain sight since long before he was first nominated to be the Republican candidate in 2016. It was written in his words, his actions and his behavior in the years he has been a public figure. Nothing in his character suggested he would be anything but a disaster as the leader of this country.

He even pointed out plainly that this time was on the horizon for this nation under his leadership. In his inaugural address in 2017, he promised us American Carnage.

That is truly the one promise he made good on.

Character matters.

Once you accept the deal to overlook the character of your leaders, your own character becomes attached to theirs. It goes to the quote at the top from The Prince, the classic written in the 1530’s by Niccolo Machiavelli that gave the world the phrase The ends justifies the means. While there are many who hold this as a principle, Machiavelli advised people to try to follow great men so that they might attain at least a tinge of that greatness for themselves.

Conversely, we are tinged and marked as well by our bonds to the horrible and the evil. 

We know what this man is– a cheap gold-plated shell filled with lies and hatred.

Those who were attracted to appearance of his shiny surface in the past now carry his tinge.

Those who support him going forward have adopted his character.

And character matters.



“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince



 

Read Full Post »



That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

― Erich Fromm, The Sane Society



Wow. Just wow.

There are a lot of different connotations for the word crazy.

It’s used to describe pathological insanity.

Or used to describe situations that are wild and excessive, beyond the norm. That party was crazy!

Or it can describe enthusiasm. I’m crazy about pie. And I am crazy about pie, by the way.

Or it can describe foolishness. I was crazy to think there would be pie.

Or annoyance. Your talking about pie all the time is driving me crazy!

There are probably more. But almost any use of it could be applied to the phone call that was released yesterday. I am not going to get into details, which are all over the news if you’re not yet aware, except to say this is not pie crazy.

It is crazy crazy. Dangerously crazy. Criminally crazy.

The terrible thing is that it’s been this way for the last four years and way too many people have twisted themselves into pretzels and diminished their own integrity in trying to explain, justify, and rationalize their continued backing of this man* and his administration. But the craziness of the revelations of this weekend provide a strong and fitting exclamation point to mark the end of this presidency.

Those who continue to back and believe this man* and the multitude of conspiracies associated with him at this point might want to pause and examine their own state of mind and their personal motivations.

Perhaps ask themselves, “Do I want my name forever associated with this kind of crazy?” They might want to take note of the words at the top from Erich Fromm

History will note their decision.

Unfortunately, this is not yet the absolute end and exclamation point to this presidency***. There are still fifteen days of escalating craziness ahead as this man* tries to hold onto the power and protection of the office. If you don’t think this is a dangerous moment, note that yesterday’s crazy antics overshadowed the release of a letter signed by the 10 living former Secretaries of Defense stating that the elections have been decided and that the military should not under any circumstance be involved in any effort to overturn the results. Not something you see under more normal and saner circumstances.

Yeah, crazy days still ahead.

Here’s some good crazy– no, it’s not pie— to cleanse your palate. A little Patsy Cline with her legendary rendition of the Willie Nelson classic, Crazy.



Read Full Post »

Bloom


 

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King



I came across the video below first thing this morning, just before 6 AM. It’s titled Bloom and is written and directed by Emily Johnstone and Brian Kistler and animated by the students from San Jose State Animation Illustration. It’s a simple but lovely vignette that illustrates the effect that one person making one small effort to reach out to another can have on the life of the recipient of that effort.

The current time of the year coupled with the isolation of the pandemic and the uncertainty throughout this nation fostered by the unsteady handling from the current people in power make it a ripe time for those suffer from the darkness of depression. I thought about how terrible a time it is for those folks who haven’t developed methods and mechanisms for dealing with it. This, in turn, made me think about my own struggles through the years and how fortunate I have been to have survived long enough to develop my own personal system for dealing with it.

I don’t even know if I have openly mentioned them here. Such is the stigma of depression. We openly discuss the most intimate details of our lives but depression remains a difficult subject to broach because we still see it as a sign of weakness or a character flaw rather than an affliction. 

If you’re a regular reader you probably have deduced by now that I have had bouts of depression without me ever coming out and stating it plainly. I really wasn’t planning on talking about it this morning and don’t really want to go too far without a little more consideration on my part. But I will say that the simple message in this short animation is essential to dealing with depression. The thought that one person is concerned about your well being is often enough to get through a dark period. And the care and dedication required to foster a living thing such as a plant or a pet often gives us the validation that one is needed.

I know for myself, this blog is one of my primary mechanisms for dealing with my own darkness. It provides structure and a sense of dedicated obligation. Having that task in front of me every morning helps greatly and makes me seek things to discuss which goes to the blurb at the top from The Once and Future King, a favorite book from my youth from T.H. White, which speaks to the effect of learning something new on one’s sadness. It’s a beautiful paragraph.

Learning alters the path that the mind is traveling and for the depressed person sometimes that is enough to elevate their state, even if its only a small bit. And sometimes that small lift takes them to a point where they can see new horizons that remained hidden to them before.

The other obvious benefit of this blog for me is the human contact and feedback it provides. Just knowing there are people out there, even if only a small handful, that might read this and respond once in a great while is enough to fulfill the void.

Enough to reach across the darkness.

I really don’t want to go any further into the subject this morning. As I said, I had no intention in doing so this morning. But seeing this short film and knowing how many folks are struggling right now, feeling the hopelessness and isolation that comes with depression, I thought it was important to at least speak briefly to it.

I am often hesitant in speaking too much about it because there are no one-size-fits-all fixes here. One of the aspects of depression that make it so insidious is that each person’s experience is personally formed that it is sometimes difficult to find the mechanisms and methods that will get that person through their dark patches.

I can only speak to m own experience. For me, it is in having set routines, such as this blog or caring for my beloved studio cat, Hobie. In having methods of making contact that allow me to feel that my voice and concerns are being heard. In setting goals that force me to work and not fall into the idleness that often brings the darkness.

I could go on and maybe I will at some point. But for today, try to look outside yourself and recognize the indications of depression in others. Something as small as a quick note or text or call might be the difference that changes another person’s whole outlook for the day.

And that one day might make a crucial difference in their life.

So, have a good day. Learn something new. But mainly, reach out and try to bring a little bloom into someone else’s day. 

(The video is below. There’s a little gap so make sure to scroll just a little lower if you don’t see it immediately. I have to learn how to better embed videos. Ah, learning!)



https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js

Read Full Post »

Invincible Summer

“Calidum Frigus”- At the West End Gallery



O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

–Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa



Camus wrote the much quoted line above after revisiting the Roman ruins at Tipasa in Algeria in the aftermath of World War II. He had visited that site a number of times and finally recognized that unlike the modern Europe still reeling from the effects of war and fascism, there was a freshness there in those seaside ruins, an elemental dimension in them that couldn’t be smothered by time or modern events.

A sense of newness and the joy that comes with it was part of that place, was something that couldn’t be eroded by time and the elements. 

He was able to equate that with the part of our nature that we all carry, that being our will to go on, our will to find joy and meaning.

An invincible summer contained within us all.

Here’s an expanded version of the excerpt from Camus’ essay:

I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool wellspring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice, and return to combat having won that light. Here I recaptured the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, realizing at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of that sky had never left me. This was what in the end had kept me from despairing. I had always known that the ruins of Tipasa were younger than our new constructions or our bomb damage. There the world began over again every day in an ever new light. O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

In these crazy times, it’s especially easy to fall prey to the somber melancholy of winter, to forget that you carry your own invincible summer within you when the sky is slate gray and the cold winds blow.

But it remains there in this winter and in other dark times of our lives. Our invincible summer.

So, hold on to that and have a good day.

 

Read Full Post »



The past slips from our grasp. It leaves us only scattered things. The bond that united them eludes us. Our imagination usually fills in the void by making use of preconceived theories…Archaeology, then, does not supply us with certitudes, but rather with vague hypotheses. And in the shade of these hypotheses some artists are content to dream, considering them less as scientific facts than as sources of inspiration.

-Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form – Six Lessons



I was looking through some older posts and came across the quote and painting above which caught my eye. It was probably because the painting, Archaeology: The Golden Age, was the last piece I had painted in the Archaeology series and may well be the last of that series.

It is one of those pieces that still live with me here in the studio, having never found a home. While I want it to find a place where it can satisfy someone other than myself, I am happy to have it here. From the time it was completed, I considered it one of the stronger pieces in the series. That might even be the reason it has continued to be the last in the Archaeology series.

Maybe the series had reached its potential, its endpoint, with this painting. I don’t know.

I also was captured once again by Stravinsky’s thoughts on the artistic process, how we use our imagination and what little knowledge we have to fill out the blank spots among our scattered fragments of memory to create something new. He equated it to archaeology which is a similar process, taking bits and pieces from the past and filling in the blanks with imagination and knowledge to create a theory of what might have been. 

As he says archaeology does not supply us with certitudes. There are too many voids to fill before one can deal in absolutes.

And so it is with art. Art seldom deals in strict factual representation. Art comes together as a mixture of the facts of the work, the imagination and process of the artist, and the emotions and imagination of those who take it in. 

It’s as much alchemy as it is archaeology.

Whatever it is, I am happy to deal in this strange world of imagination, one that often offers me more questions than answers.

Reading the older post this morning also reminded me of an old Jethro Tull tune that I haven’t heard or thought of in many years. Probably decades. Here’s a blast from the past, as the old AM deejays used to say. This is Living in the Past.

Have a good day.



 

Read Full Post »

“Culmination”- Now at the West End Gallery



Each man is always in the middle of the surface of the earth and under the zenith of his own hemisphere, and over the centre of the earth.

-Leonardo da Vinci



As we count down the last four days of this excruciatingly long year of 2020, I was looking for a a painting that had to do with the endpoint of things. I immediately thought of the piece shown here, Culmination, that is currently at the West End Gallery.

Its title came about because I saw the path in it as being the trunk of a tree with the paths going off each side as its limbs. The Red Tree at the top was the endpoint of this tree much like each of us are in our own genealogies.

Genealogically, each of us sits at the very top of a pyramid where everyone below us in that pyramid has endured wars, illnesses, pandemic and plague, persecution and imprisonment, and even slavery and holocaust just to get us to this place and time. We are the culmination, the very pinnacle of our family tree. 

For now.

Eventually, we are just part of the trunk with a branch that goes on and on. Or one that breaks off and abruptly ends.

I thought this piece would fit well with the end of this year. So many of the things that came to bear in this strange and awful 2020 were the culmination of events, lives, and organisms that developed and grew– and often worsened– in the years and decades before.

They all seemed to converge to make this year feel like an endpoint, a culmination of some sort.

For some, it was the ultimate endpoint, maybe the end of days as the evangelicals call them. For some, it felt like the end of democracy was all too close to its end here. And this year certainly felt like it marked the end of civil discourse and civility in general.

And of course, for hundreds of thousands of families, the pandemic brought an end to the lives of all too many loved ones. 

2020 was a year that sits atop a pyramid of horrors and atrocities. Hopefully, as it draws to a close later this week, it’s a position it maintains for a long time to come. The year that pushes it further down this monstrous pyramid is not one I wish to endure.

Have a good day, okay?

Read Full Post »

 



We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore



Murakami’s words above are a continuation of yesterday’s theme, how early memory embeds deeply and remain with us forever. It’s one of those obvious truths that becomes more and more evident as the years pile up. I’ll probably revisit some deep recollections today, as I usually do around this time every year.

Polishing the touchstone.

Here’s a warm wish to all of you for a happy holiday. May you assist your young ones in creating their own touchstones of happiness or even create a new one for yourself.

Here’s a Christmas tune that goes back to the basis for the day, Christmas Must Be Tonight, from The Band. As with most everything they did, it feels right.

Stay safe out there. Merry Christmas.



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: