Honesty | #Friday500

In 1759 the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire published his satirical piece CandideIt tells the fantastical journeys of the simple Candide and his tutor Dr Pangloss. The saga commences when he is expelled from the idyllic Westphalia after being discovered in an innocent romantic liaison with the Baron’s daughter Cunegonde.

Candide is thrust out into a garishly tragicomic world of suffering armed only with the positivist ideas of Pangloss, with whom he is quickly reunited.

All is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.

Voltaire was lampooning Gottfried Leibniz, the Christian mathematician-philosopher  whose Théodicée built a theological philosophy coining a similar phrasing. (Voltaire considered Leibniz to be a bit of a preening dabbler, and thus credentialed Pangloss a “professor of meta-physico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology”. That one got me!)

It’s a frolicking tale; one in which the obsolescence of Candide’s outlook must be reckoned with. It cannot hold up under the honest scrutiny of even the simplest, so he is forced to form a truer view of the world.

Honesty is a personal varietal of truth, is it not? But it is elusive because it is both objective and subjective simultaneously. (That you are anxious could be honest, but why? That’s a harder truth to name.)

Like Voltaire, we know optimism falls short of truth. But so too does pessimism. Flattery and gossip, cynicism and naiveté, histrionics and denial all evade, to quote Emily Dickinson, “all the truth.” We know this. We usually know when we’re being dishonest.

But the real problem is why. Continue reading “Honesty | #Friday500”

For Your Consideration (02/08/17)

HEY ROSETTA! (KINTUKUROI)

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about writing, is the way it fosters new connections and ideas through the power of conversation.

After my last post (featuring the art of Yeesookyung and the Japanese Kintukuroi  method), I was made aware by a friend of the band Hey Rosetta and their song of based off this art form.

They draw many inferences that jibe with what I wrote. Here are some lyrics:

Oh stand in front of me
Open your eyes like you know me

Oh see inside of me
Lay the heels of your hands upon me
And let your fingers fall

Bless the broken bowl
Make it whole, make it better than it was before
Make it better than it was before!

Continue reading “For Your Consideration (02/08/17)”

Translated Vases (Yeesookyung)

 

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Art often seeps from the gaskets of culture imperceptibly as fluids from an engine. Not until we note the surface-level slick they’ve left do we remark to ourselves, “So that’s what flows around in there!”

The above vase, pieced-together by gilded seams, is a ceramic work by the Korean artist Yeesookyung. It is part of a series she calls Translated Vase.

These pieces are assembled from the discarded shards of Korean-style ceramics.  “She acquires her ‘ceramic trash’ directly from an elderly Korean master potter, who intentionally breaks and discards vessels that he feels are imperfect.” [per the museum label at the Smart Museum of Art]

She says of her work:

…what I am trying to do is literally ‘translating’ the … pieces of broken vases and mending their ‘wounds’… The crack, which symbolizes the wound, is emphasized with gold.

Yeesookyung describes her process as being intuitive; she does not impose any predetermined form, but, rather, works in unison with the pieces allowing the form to emerge naturally into its own unique creation. The finished works achieve for themselves a captivating asymmetry. Continue reading “Translated Vases (Yeesookyung)”

Truth | #Friday500

I went to bed on Saturday thinking about the topic of truth; truth, truth, what needs to be said about truth? 

I’d already cued up my Monday Emily Dickinson post:

Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

I awoke the next morning to see a picture my friend had posted of the New York Times full page truth ad; accompanied that night by an unprecedented (sp?) TV spot during the Oscars.

I’m not alone! I thought.

As I mentioned in my meta post, the human assignment of life is (to quote Viktor Frankl), “…taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

The human assignment is to discover and live in congruence with truth, and, while this is incumbent upon each individual, it is most successfully completed among company. And this is what makes deceit so unnerving, is it not? It makes this assignment an unbearably lonely affair, fraught with risk, threat and painful betrayal; a hopeless, nihilistic errand.

Truth, while absolute and objective, is always arrived at through very subjective processes; what the philosophers call epistemologyLike bats, we echolocate ourselves in a world of darkness, trusting in a dynamic matrix of feedbacks; hoping (needing?) to find them reliable!

This, I sense, was the tenor of the New York Times ad. Truth has no agenda; it simply is. And, like the obstinate, arrogant ship captain insisting an oncoming vessel change course, until alerted that what he’d presumed was a vessel is actually a lighthouse, so too we all must accept that truth is no respecter of power or pride or even position. Continue reading “Truth | #Friday500”

For Your Consideration (03/01/17)

 

sof_onbeingHUMANS OF NY

In my last post I referenced the resultant microscopism that comes from situating one’s identity in the political realm—the dehumanized, dehumanizing effects of viewing the world through a political lens.

There are a lot of voices out there right now who are championing the cause of the humane, and Brandon Stanton is one of them. Stanton is, for all intents and purposes, a street photographer—specifically a portraiture . However, his tender, non-critical treatment of his subjects is the poignant power behind what he does.

While typically shooting and captioning his subjects around the Big Apple, he will on occasion take his act on the road. He is currently in Brazil.

The picture and caption below illustrate Stanton’s ability to bring us into human stories. If we are going to grow more philanthropic, it is important to make it the soil in which we plant ourselves. Continue reading “For Your Consideration (03/01/17)”

Tell It Slant (Emily Dickinson)

tellitslant

Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and died in 1886 at the age of 55. Though considered one of the most important of American poets, she never published a single poem in her lifetime.

Upon her death, her family discovered 40 notebooks containing over 1800 poems. Many were of metaphysical themes—she’d attended some seminary. Dickinson was known to use non-conforming dashes and slashes and other punctuation, making it hard to print her work.

I think often about the poem below, probably through some vague acquaintance with Eugene Peterson’s book of the same title.

I believe truth to be on the mind of many these days, so too must be truth-telling.

I’ve heard you can sing her poems to the Gilligan’s Island theme song, but I’ve found it doesn’t always work.

TELL ALL THE TRUTH BUT TELL IT SLANT

by Emily Dickenson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
 

Politics | #Friday500

When Facebook first came into existence we were—each of us—required to create a profile. As I recollect, it was displayed fairly prominently. We entered data like: name, birthday, religion and political beliefs.

I remember thinking about that last one a lot (probably too much). Initially, I opted for the term apolitical, because I wasn’t keen on needlessly pegging myself to a political ideology.

Later I landed on a quote by the eminent Gregory Jacobs (AKA Shock G AKA Humpty Hump):

Hypothetical, political, lyrical, miracle whip

And here, all these years later, I think I made the right choice. 1 Continue reading “Politics | #Friday500”

For Your Consideration (02/22/17)

Friday’s post involved an avalanche illustration, and I couldn’t help feeling a pang of sorrow about the death of skier JP Auclair in September of 2014 in an avalanche. He was skiing for a shoot in Chile when it happened.

It’s not that I knew Auclair, but the above video of him skiing through streets Trail, BC (from All.I.Can) is only one the most enthralling and inspiring things I’ve ever watched.

The cinematography, the music (LCD Soundsystem) and the skiing—the skiing!—make for a spellbinding piece of film.

There was a phase of my life when I would watch this often. When I think of the power and purpose of art in human living, I can at least attest to its power to inspire; to “give breath.”

I would watch this and think, “Is there anything I want to do this beautifully? What would it take to make that happen?” Continue reading “For Your Consideration (02/22/17)”

Shattered Tree

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“Shttered Tree” by  Otto Dix (1941)

When I first laid eyes on the above painting I thought, “Whoa, I guess Bob Ross had a dark side!”

Not quite.

The above piece is titled “Shattered Tree” and it is by the German painter Otto Dix.

Dix was part of a cultural movement-cum-art-exhibition called Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which rejected the Romantic sentimental outlook of expressionism.

Understandably.

While many artists, thinkers and spiritual leaders fled Germany during the instability of the Weimar era and the rise of National Socialism, Dix joined others who described themselves as “inner emigrants“—opting rather to live as ostensible immigrants within the boarders of a nation that was becoming increasingly foreign to them.

I happened upon this painting last week at the Art Institute of Chicago and snapped the picture. I’m indebted to Janis Staggs (Curator at Neue Galerie New York) for featuring the piece on her site (as I didn’t initially write down the details). She writes:

…he was classified as “degenerate” under the Nazi regime and went into an “inner emigration” in southern Germany rather than leaving the country. Dix continued to paint during WWII but focused subjects with a non-overt political nature, such as this 1941 painting entitled “Shattered Tree.”

This piece reflects Dix’s thoughts and feelings about the state of his country. It is gloomy. There are signs of death and decay. What appears to be a once-regal tree is now fracturing; cleft by brutal, destructive forces.

And I find myself resonating with the notions of inner emigration, which mirrors St. Peter’s sentiment of living as “aliens and strangers in the land” (1 Pet 2:11), connoting that one can feel like a foreigner or alien within one’s society. The term “stranger” could be translated sojourner, exile, pilgrim or even refugee. 

If we ask art to fit into our lingual categories or to say something explicitly, we will often find art loath to accommodate our demand.

Art says those things we cannot say; because they cannot be put cogently into words, can find no hearer on which to alight, and, in some cases, are strictly forbidden (streng verboten).

In this way, art can be a lonely, prophetic business; the voice crying in the wilderness! And yet art also has power to ping the cosmos; to transmit though space and time the message, “You are not alone!”, and, perchance, to be pinged back.

Meta | #Friday500

They say one of the more unexpected perils of being buried in an avalanche is that when you find yourself entirely encased in snow (having been tumbled repeatedly), you simply cannot sense which direction is up. If you were able to get your limbs free and start digging yourself out, the chances are high that you’d start digging the wrong direction; maybe even further down.

There’s a trick though. You spit. You dig out a little cavity around your face and spit. Depending on which direction your spit goes, you can orient yourself—you can determine which end is up!

Have you ever found yourself upended? I’m not necessarily talking about catastrophic circumstances, though they may lead to the upendedness I have in mind. But have you ever found yourself not knowing which end is up? Not knowing whom to trust (even one’s own thoughts), not knowing how to make sense of things, afraid you may be digging yourself further in?

How do you spit? Continue reading “Meta | #Friday500”