Clarity, Crystallization (Probably Over-Simplification)

imageThought is only a flash between two long nights.

Poincaré, French mathematician

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

How exhilarating that shock of recognition, that moment the light goes on in your head, that gleam of light that flashes across your consciousness! I experienced that last evening while sitting at my writing desk, working on an assignment. And today, the idea continues to take shape. Last night, I was completing paperwork forwarded to me by the radio station that will interview me tomorrow afternoon, and as they revealed their intention to tell my story, I asked myself: What is my Story? I asked the same question during my week’s stay on the Laguna Madre, knowing the media would come out one day, looking for a story. What exactly is my “story”? What have I done with my life? What am I seeking at this point?

I believe most of us, in our later years, look back and attempt some kind of a retrospective, some kind of effort to find meaning in what we have done. Maybe we think of this as our legacy. During graduate school days, I was required to read Lewis Joseph Sherrill’s book The Struggle of the Soul. All my colleagues chafed at having to read the volume, and I expected to be underwhelmed when it came my turn, but I actually found the book very engaging. It was he who first pointed out to me something I’ve heard many times since: that Jewish rabbis in ancient times were expected to summarize their respective lives in a short, pithy proverb before completing their life’s journey. From that early age, I myself have thought back on this time and again–what is my story? What have I done? How do I reduce my life to a short saying, or at least a paragraph?

Last night, I put down on paper my first effort to summarize, fully aware that this could change again and again as long as I’m still here. But here is my summary:

My life at this point is easily divided into thirds. The first third was spent developing my craft as an artist, assembling my toolbox, so to speak. Throughout my formal schooling, I had zero-to-little interest in academic subjects, or learning in general; I only wanted to make art. To that end I entered college to earn a Bachelor’s degree in art. The second third was spent pursuing ideas. Early in my Bachelor’s degree program, I experienced a Renaissance so to speak, and wanted to know everything. All subjects were fascinating. That led me to graduate school. I devoured religion, literature, philosophy, history and the arts, loving every semester of it, every term paper, every research project, even my dissertation. My final third, beginning quickly after I emerged with my doctorate, was synthesizing my craftsmanship with my scholarship. The visual arts and the world of ideas belonged together in some kind of relationship. That is where I am now, and loving it. Though he didn’t use the actual words, the philosopher Hegel pointed out history as a triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The first two movements are adverse to one another, and the third attempts to bring them together in something greater than either branch. That is my life: a craftsman, an idealogue, and now one wishing to express my reservoir of ideas with a visual representation. Had I not studied ideas seriously for decades, I would have been a mere craftsman. Had I not developed my artistic skills, I would be merely a speaker or writer. As I live out the remainder of my life, I seek to express my ideas in visual art, hoping I have something important enough to say or view.

Tomorrow, from 3:00-5:00, I will be on a live radio broadcast, That’s when I’m expected to share my story the first hour, and discuss the adventures of the Laguna Madre experiment the second. For anyone interested in calling in, the phone number is: 214-431-5062. The link above will allow you to stream the broadcast, if you’re available and interested. I would love you to participate with me in this.

I don’t know what else to do with the painting posted above. It is the third one I started while in Athens, Texas over the Fourth of July holidays. I worked on the interior of the base shell today, and tweaked the background colors a bit more. I could be finished with it. Other paintings await.

Thanks for 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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