Morning Coffee with Dave & James

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Another morning spent reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Towards Findlater’s church a quartet of young men were striding along with linked arms, swaying their heads and stepping to the agile melody of their leader’s concertina. The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind, dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children. Smiling at the trivial air he raised his eyes to the priest’s face and, seeing in it a mirthless reflection of the sunken day, detached his hand slowly which had acquiesced faintly in that companionship.

As he descended the steps the impression which effaced his troubled selfcommunion was that of a mirthless mask reflecting a sunken day from the threshold of the college. The shadow, then, of the life of the college passed gravely over his consciousness. It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him . . .

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The abstract artist Robert Motherwell assessed James Joyce as “the Shakespeare of modernism.” As for myself, I was reading James Joyce long before I encountered the art and life of Motherwell. I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while dispatching for the Fort Worth Police Department. As a call taker on the police non-emergency line, there were long gaps of quiet between phone calls, and I was tethered to the work station with a headset, so there was plenty of space for quality reading and thought. The book changed my life and prompted me to keep a journal, which I have done since the late 1980’s.

Over the past few days, I have been re-reading journals of mine from years past, and an entry from December 2014 recorded the Joyce text above, and my comments about it that particular morning. What strikes me today is a recurring theme from my own past life that Joyce prompted me to recall, that notion of a “mirthless” countenance. In describing myself, I would never use words such as “ebullient” or “joyful”. I have often envied those who exuded such qualities, but always felt that if I myself tried to project such an image, I would be just as repulsive as . . . well, I won’t complete that sentence. I’ll just say that I abhor certain public figures who try to sell a particular product or lifestyle with facial expressions, specific words and general posturing that I think are phony. I never wanted to be one of those.

A friend from my past always referred to me as “that gloomy guy.” It was all in fun, and the friend respected me, knowing that I often wished I could naturally reflect a more cheerful countenance. Now, with all that being said, I don’t describe myself as mirthless, joyless, or unhappy with life. Quite the contrary. I believe that life is a precious gift, and as I continue to grow older, I am grateful for every day of it, and wake each morning, happy to be handed another gift.

Looking over my past, I am haunted by a myriad of memories of college, pastoral ministry, graduate school, and public school teaching, where I was surrounded by mirthless expressions depicting genuinely unhappy people. And I always fought aggressively against that outlook, swearing I would never let it pull me beneath the waves. I don’t believe that one’s profession in life guarantees a mirthless life; rather, I believe unhappy people tend to bring that into the workplace, into the family and into the friendship circles.

Much of my inspiration in life comes from reading, and that has been true for most of my life. Making art also brings joy that I cannot explain. Soon, I will return to Palestine and occupy The Gallery at Redlands along with the music that Smoothrock 93.5 now brings into the environment. And I look forward to picking up the watercolor brush once again. For the past two days, my life has been tied up with college grading and printing over one hundred new greeting cards of my art (I will post a couple of the cards below). I sell these 5×7″ cards (blank inside) with envelope in a plastic sleeve for $5 each or 5 for $25. Printing off the images the past couple of days has made me ache to make new work, so I plan to resume that this afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Christmas card workspace 2nd version

Dryden scan

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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2 Responses to “Morning Coffee with Dave & James”

  1. Dian Darr Says:

    I can see your inner happiness (especially during the last year) even when your face might be “mirthless.” Your inner happiness with your life changes is reflected in your mannerisms.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, I am so happy to hear that from someone who knows me. I have always envied the “sunny” dispositions of certain people I know. I just never felt I had that, though I love life and try to find ways to express what I feel.

      Like

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