Posts Tagged ‘Bertrand Russell’


Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

–Bertrand Russell, How to Grow Old


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) is one of those names I come across whose words seem to always make incredible amounts of sense. That is, the words and thoughts that my pea-sized brain can comprehend. Russell was one of those multiple threats, with great proficiency and expertise in a number of fields– history, mathematics, philosophy, logic and political activism, to name just a few. I guess you might just call him a deep thinker or a great mind.

The words above are from a short selection, How to Grow Old, from a collection of his essays, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays. It’s a surprisingly down to earth collection of observations about facing the aging process.

It was the section featured at the top that caught my eye. I was entranced by this idea of going through life beginning as a narrow, rushing stream that gradually widens and slows into a river that heads to the gathering of waters that is the sea.

It made me think of my own father’s life and how he never actively tried to widen his course, never sought to expand his interests in his later years. If anything, his stream somehow became narrower, even as it slowed.

That might sound like harsh criticism to some but it’s a simple observation and I think if it were presented to him at a point when he could still understand what you were trying to say, he might even agree. He might not like it and might tell you to mind your own effin’ business but he probably wouldn’t argue the point. Not much interested him as he aged and the things that once brought him a degree of enjoyment, such as sports, no longer interested him.

Not much did. His stream narrowed and slowed.

It is one of the things about my dad’s life that sadden me. On Father’s Day, I see all of the glowing tributes to other people’s dads, about all the good traits handed down to them from their dads and I am a bit embarrassed. Because for all the worthy traits I have inherited– and there are a few– it is the object lessons learned from the deficits in his life, behaviors and traits I want to avoid, that I find most valuable.

And while there are more than a few of these from which to choose and which I will not go into here, this narrowing of one’s stream is the one I seek most to avoid. I think I have been able to do it thus far. But, even so, though there are days when some genetic predisposition start whispering to me to stop paying attention, to show no interest.

To just sit and stare into the void. To slow my stream and narrow the banks.

But I fight that feeling. Fight it hard.

Years ago, I echoed Russell’s words, writing here that I sometimes see myself and my interests and knowledge as a river– a mile wide and an inch deep. I am still as shallow but I am forever trying to carve my course wider and maybe just a bit deeper.

I am shooting for two miles wide.

And two inches deep.

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GC Myers- smThe world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Bertrand Russell


These handful of words from the great British thinker Bertrand Russell succinctly sums up the idea behind my current show at the Principle Gallery as well as that of my next West End Gallery show, Contact, which opens July 22.  And that is that there is a world of wonder within our grasp if only we make the effort to recognize the patterns and forces of which they are comprised.

I have said before that we are part of a greater pattern.  I believe that it can be found in two simple ways– either looking inward or looking outward.  Since we are are formed from this pattern we can find parts of by examining our own inner world, our thoughts and dreams.  Or we can examine the world immediately around us for the hints of the pattern that are everywhere if only we can identify them.

Unfortunately, in this busy modern world we too often  find ourselves doing neither.  We live in a sort of limbo where we are mesmerized by the glossy lure of technologies that occupy our every moment.  It’s hard to look inward or outward when our eyes and thoughts are fixed on the screen in our hands.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m no technology-resisting Luddite.  I embrace the wonders of this technology when it serves a real purpose, when it expands our knowledge and sends it to the far corners of the world.  The possibilities for good things are seemingly endless.

But none of it matters if we lose contact with the greater powers and wonders that surround us every day, forces and patterns that patiently wait for us to unravel the magic that makes them invisible to us.

I know to some, this sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo.  Maybe the idea of great forces and patterns surrounding us seems a bit loony to some.  I get that.  But set that aside, if you must, and  simply consider the benefits of looking away from your smartphone or laptop for a short time each day to examine the inner and outer world outside of that screen.  Maybe if we do this on a regular basis our wits will sharpen to the point that we will better see that world of magical things as Bertrand Russell pointed out.

The painting above is 11″ by 16″ on paper and is called Point of Contact.  Part of the upcoming July show at the West End Gallery, I believe this piece very much mirrors the thoughts above.

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A World To Call One's Own smMen fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death.  Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages.  Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid … Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

–Bertrand Russell


I was looking at the painting above, a newly finished  12″ by 12″ canvas, trying to ascertain what it was saying to me.  I was picking up all sorts of symbols from it and was seeing it in from all sorts of perspectives but finally it came clear to me what I was seeing in this piece.  It was the freedom to create our own worlds, to define our own way of seeing and experiencing that world.  That freedom, that need to create my own world, is what always drew me to creative outlets.  It is certainly what drive me in my painting.

I didn’t always like what I saw in the outer world of reality and was usually powerless to change it.  But in my thoughts I could create an inner world that had reason and empathy or at least what I saw as reason and empathy.  It would be a place where these better thoughts could live and grow without the fear of being crushed by thoughtless others, people shackled to ideologies and beliefs that they accept and follow without questioning.  Without thinking.

That’s what these blood-red rows in the fields and the teal mound  and the cascading colors in the sky say to me.  This is my world and there, these all make perfect sense.  It is a place where one is always free to think what they might.  I think that’s why I chose the quote above from Bertrand Russell.  We all too often choose to not think, to just float along with the prevailing thought  of others, never trusting our own thoughts enough to fully live by them.  I know I certainly have fallen into that category in the past.

But we all have our own private worlds of wonder  inside of us if we dare to simply think.

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