A New Year Approaching and Thoughts on a Life of the Mind

Another Dellicious Morning for Reading and Reflection

Another Dellicious Morning for Reading and Reflection

Bob told me the reason he’s after Newsweek is so they’ll do a cover story on me, but I don’t want one.  I mean, what’re they going to say?  Reporters will just rehash.  “He lives on the Upper East Side with two dachshunds and he’s a sometimes walking-stick for Paulette Goddard.”  Well maybe they’ll feel the same way I do, too, that it’s too boring.  I mean you have to do something different like get married and have a couple of kids or take a few drugs or lose a few hundred pounds or die, to be good copy.

The Andy Warhol Diaries, September 17, 1979

I was amused beyond words when I read this from Andy Warhol this morning over coffee.  As I think of the life he lived, I don’t think of the details he just dropped; I think of an artist who was driven hard by creative endeavors and business decisions during the morning and afternoon hours each day, who then spent every evening chasing parties, nightclubs, gallery openings and headlines.  And from my own personal perspective, I find his nightlife boring material for reading, but his art and business affairs I find endlessly fascinating.

I remain surprised at the vacuity of the Warhol Diaries.  I don’t know if he thought the gossip was good copy worth selling, or if he really did not spend much of his life in contemplation.  There is the testimony from one of his staffers that he spent the morning “paying the rent” (working on commission portraits).  Then, in the afternoon he would go into the Think Tank with his associates and ask: “But what can we do for Art?”  After reading several more pages of him, I pulled from the shelf my copy of Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind and began experiencing deeper satisfaction in reading.  I should have read this treasure decades ago.  I love her introduction as she discusses the classic Western disjunctive between thinking and acting.  Citing the work of Thomas Aquinas, she presents the following:

Seen from that perspective, the active way of life is “laborious,” the contemplative way is sheer quietness; the active one goes on in public, the contemplative one in the “desert”; the active one is devoted to “the necessity of one’s neighbor,” the contemplative one to the “vision of God.”

As a school teacher, I surprise and disappoint some in that I’m almost never seen at school-related extra-curricular events.  I go home.  And I don’t read long hours in the evening because I feel the compulsion to create better lesson plans (I know that after a quarter-century of teaching, I could enter the classroom with zero preparation); I read long hours in the evening because I love the contemplative life, and have at least since before my years in graduate school.  It has become my lifestyle.  And currently, my division between thinking and acting is my division between reading and making art.  The two dimensions feed off each other.  And I would concur with Andy Warhol that my lifestyle would not provide good copy.  By today’s standards, it would be judged as boring.  However, I am not bored.  This holiday season has been bliss-filled because I have been able to devote entire days and evenings to reading, journaling and making art.  And I offer no apology for that.

We are not on this earth for long.  Part of what a midlife crisis is about is figuring out what gives you pleasure and doing more of that in the time you have left without asking for permission or a financial or emotional subsidy from anyone else.

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis

Hannah has been excellent company this morning, and she has inspired me to begin a second watercolor, to work on alongside the one I began yesterday.  Who knows, tomorrow I may choose to begin a third.  It’s great to have some time and space to chase these delights.

Thanks fo reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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5 Responses to “A New Year Approaching and Thoughts on a Life of the Mind”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    Great post. Your time for reflection has prompted me to be more diligent about that. I was very accustomed to reading so I could write, always learning so I could do rather than be–even though the doing was often intellectual–that I developed some bad habits. On your recommendation I bought The Art Spirit for myself and my dad. What a great book. Learning a lot already and enjoying it for what it is and the thought it provokes. Even my five year old liked hearing me read from it tonight. She related it to her own art.

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    • davidtripp Says:

      Corey, I could never adequately express how inspirational your work has been to me this past year. I often think you are one of the key reasons I did not go through a dry spell creating (even if I got away from the blog for a week at a time). I have missplaced my “Art Spirit” book (perhaps it’s been stolen from my classroom?) so today I went and bought a new copy, and am beginning on this New Years Eve to read it afresh. And one of my Resolutions for the New Year is to sketch more–it is your diligence in this discipline that has spurred me to get back to it, and I thank you for that as well. Have a splendid 2014!

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      • coreyaber Says:

        Thank you! Likewise. I wouldn’t have started blogging at all if not for finding and following yours, nor would I have started taking painting seriously and consistently. I can’t thank you enough for that. A fortunate 2013 for sure.

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  2. ann Says:

    I was reflecting back on the past year and how I can redeem the time more for the future days to come. The balanced life of the one who contemplates much and shares her thoughts in her actions… And I read your post this morning. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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    • davidtripp Says:

      How wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you for reaching out. I’m glad to find a circle of friends who do not find the need to apologize for being quiet and contemplative. Sometimes our chores don’t get done, but I think the quiet reflective times in life are irreplaceable. Thank you again for posting.

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