Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

Morning Coffee with Dave, Ezra Pound, and a Swirling Fog of Tasks

November 28, 2018

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Genius… is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one.
Ezra Pound

Clouds of thoughts thicker than swarms of mosquitoes greeted my waking moments this morning. Having now showered, dressed, made coffee, finished breakfast and taken a seat at my favorite writing desk, I assumed the clouds would have dispersed, or at least thinned by now. Not to be. Two large queues of college work wait for grading, and my self-imposed deadline says “Get that done today” (I also sent a promised email to all students last evening). The Brodnax and Friends 40th Annual Christmas Show opens at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas Friday evening and I have devoted this entire day to packaging my latest inventory. Tomorrow I load the Jeep and leave for my gallery in Palestine to gather the rest of my freight for a Friday morning load-in and set up. A stack of 100 stamped greeting cards lies at my elbow. A Mail Chimp invitation still needs to be composed and emailed out to the rest of my online friends who have registered for updates. I am three-quarters finished with reading  Hiking with Nietzsche and yesterday I picked up a copy of Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf to read for the second time in about thirty years. No matter how busy my day, I force myself to read for awhile in the morning to get my mind “centered” somewhat. And there is still this Ezra Pound 5 x 7″ collage that I haven’t quite decided whether or not is finished or needs further attention.

So, if Ezra Pound’s quote above is to be taken seriously, then I am a genius. Since I have my last Logic class of the semester tomorrow morning, I supposed it is also appropriate to  begin thinking in terms of propositional logic and convert “If Ezra pound is accurate, then I am a genius” to symbolic form:

E ⸧ G

Now, having done that, I am going to finish my coffee, read awhile, then attack this fog of tasks that will not go away.

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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Sifting through the Layers

November 26, 2018

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Beginning an Ezra Pound Collage

Pound turned a jumble of good and bad passages into a poem.

Helen Gardner, speaking of Ezra Pound’s editing of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Monday morning, 27 degrees and dark, has found me unable to focus on preparations for tomorrow’s class, so I decided to go to a coffee house and set up my “office” for awhile.  After a couple of days reading 127 pages of Hiking with Nietzsche (and enjoying it profoundly), I decided this morning to graze from some other books. Returning to Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds, I resumed the chapter on T. S. Eliot and found some fascinating details concerning his lost manuscript to The Waste Land, having been rediscovered in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. It was Ezra Pound who convinced him to cut the thousand-line draft to about half its size. Helen Gardner uttered the immortal words posted above.

After reading awhile, I was seized with the impulse to begin a collage of Ezra Pound, and immediately pushed aside my books and pulled my file of collage scrap papers from the carry-on bag. Getting lost in the drawing of Pound’s portrait and then pasting a text from my Greek New Testament on one side, and then tearing papers and pushing them around the 5 x 7″ composition, my imagination began trekking over the landscape of thoughts and images from years gone by. I stopped the collage, put it away, and drew out my journal to catch the fleeting thoughts quickly before they had a chance to evaporate.

I welcome moments like this. Visitations. In the midst of a busy schedule, a door unexpectedly swings open, inviting me to enter a spacious chamber of memories and sit for awhile with a cup of coffee and listen to them. This is the Proustian moment that cannot be summoned. All we can do is adjust our sails to catch the breeze of the muse when it stirs, and let it take us to another place. The occasion may last only a few minutes or endure for a few hours. But it is always a gift, gladly received.

This morning I was taken back to days of study at the seminary (the late seventies and early eighties). I also lingered in classrooms and lecture halls at University of North Texas and Texas Christian University, and saw in my mind’s eye the study carrel on the top floor of Texas Wesleyan University where I spent winter evenings reading and occasionally gazing out the window into the darkness, fixing my eyes on lovely Christmas lights outlining homes in neighboring residential areas. Thoughts of Christmas seasons past warmed me in these moments as well.

At this stage of my life, I am grateful for good thoughts, good memories, as I sift through the layers of past chapters in my life that now come to the present and invite a fresh visitation and interpretation. People whom I have known and loved reach out to me, and I touch them again with my memories and thoughts of profound gratitude.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to excavate.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Morning Coffee with thoughts concerning The Word

November 15, 2018

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Excellent Morning Poring over Pages from Karl Barth

. . . as the gaps between my digital tasks disappeared, so did the opportunities for depth.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Sometimes, when ideas are not clicking at home, I load the Jeep and drive away, looking for a friendly environment for reading and writing. Yesterday, I had an engagement to meet my dear friends in Keller, Texas at noon, so I decided to get there two hours early so I could have some time and space to reflect and write.  The activities and chores and responsibilities at home cluttered my morning, and I could not stop to reflect.

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.

Seneca, On Noise

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

When I force myself to write, even when I feel that I am writing junk, I often find that good ideas will eventually emerge. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that the water pump initially brings up the dirty water before the clean. I find that true in writing; I often have to flush the junk from my mind to cleanse it and hope for epiphany.

As I wrote, I returned to an idea I broached recently on the blog that often consumes my thinking–the power of the genuine Word. My mind reached back to the writings of Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian whom I studied during seminary years, in fact I took a one-year seminar on his work during my Ph.D. studies. Returning home, I pulled the first two volumes of his Church Dogmatics from my shelf, and opened them to texts I had annotated back in 1983.

The distinction between word and act is that mere word is the mere self-expression of a person, while act is the resultant relative alteration in the world around. Mere word is passive, act is an active participation in history. But this kind of distinction does not apply to the Word of God. As mere Word it is act.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume 1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1

Studying the biblical writings, I recall that the creation of the world is described as a series of God’s spoken words: he spoke the world into existence. He spoke, and it was so. I recall also the Isaiah passage where God says his word will not return void. In the prophetic works, when the words are translated “the word of the LORD came”, a better rendering of the Hebrew is “the word of the LORD happened.” In the Semitic mind, it seems that the word was an event, not just a noise articulated or a mark on the parchment.

Why am I thinking of this? Because our culture is polluted with words that either mean little to nothing, or even worse, are used as weapons to wreak havoc on life. I shudder when I think of a child hearing words directed at him or her that say: “You will never amount to anything,” or “you are weak,” or “you lack intelligence.” Words contain the power to effect change. Words are actions, a most powerful resource.

I am writing a blog. Some people actually read these words. And often I second-guess whether I have made a contribution, or if my writing has any effect on a reader at all.

–What are you reading Hamlet?

–Words, words, words.

Our culture is media-driven and digitally-driven. That translates into billions of words pouring into our consciousness. We cannot stop the verbal deluge, but we can find a way to sift the mud from the pure, the hate from the love, the excess from the essential. And I will endeavor to write blogs that have value; I don’t want to waste readers’ time. Time is precious.

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Karl Barth: Acrylic Collage on Canvas, 30 x 24″

During my years teaching high school, this collage hung in the back of my classroom, in my line of vision when I addressed my students. I recently sold a paper collage of Barth at an art festival, happy that a patron knew what she was purchasing. This morning, I found this larger canvas and hung it in my living room so I could spend more time in its presence. I hope that over the holidays I can create some space to make new art. I am feeling the urge to create.

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.

 

Leaving

November 12, 2018

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Hickory Hill Cabin, Beaver’s Bend Resort–a Comfortable 4-Day Respite

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. . . but now I’m a big seacaptain again, lookout–that is, faroff eyes in the gray morning . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Wrapped in a 36-degree gray rainy Monday morning, I’m fortunate to be in this warm, cozy cabin with my friends. Check out isn’t until 11:00, and we’re all agreed that when the cabin is paid for, and the weather outside is uncomfortable, we may as well postpone the 3 1/2 hour drive home till we are forced to leave. What I enjoy most about my friends is their love of quiet space and time with books and leisure. As I write this, we are scattered about the cabin with our thoughts and pleasant sentiments. I am enjoying Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, a book he worked on while creating On the Road, but Wow! what a different kind of book! On the Road has been described as a horizontal narrative of life on the road, with the narrator (Kerouac) recording his bemused observations of his hero Neal Cassady. Visions of Cody is described as a more vertical, metaphysical exploration of the same heroic character Neal Cassady. I am enjoying this second book much more, because of its stream-of-consciousness presentation, much of it reminding me of the writings of Joyce or Proust.

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Patio Fireplace

Yesterday, we decided we needed to burn up all the firewood that was delivered for our four-day stay at the cabin. There was still a considerable stack remaining. So, beginning around 11:00, we started the fire and it burned all day as we continued to add logs, finally leaving it for good around 5:00. Throughout the day, we enjoyed its warmth as the winds poked around the perimeter of the patio, and temperatures hovered around 31 degrees. The coffee seemed to taste better, the books tended to read with more intimacy, and when I finally felt ready to doze in my chair from all the reading, I decided instead to work on a second Jack Kerouac collage on the picnic table.

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Kerouac Collage at Patio Fireside

Since I was outdoors, I felt freer to spatter colored inks with a toothbrush and experiment with torn papers. That, along with sketching, made the experience enjoyable. On my second night in the cabin I worked on a different Kerouac collage. While reading Visions of Cody on this trip, I have felt the tug to experiment more with this medium.

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Kerouac Collage on the Second Night

I was notified on my smart phone that Amazon has delivered my package–a volume on Homeric Greek. I had purchased the grammar twenty years ago, and it somehow got away from me. So, I finally ordered a replacement. I always liked using this book when probing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Homeric Greek doesn’t come easy for me, but thanks to my learning Koinē Greek, I can manage it with a little work. As we prepare to leave this wonderful retreat and transition into the holidays, I feel a sense of leaning forward into an epic adventure. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and already anticipate good things on the road ahead.

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee Before the Escape

November 8, 2018

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Preparing more Collage Materials

. . . the might-have-been is but boggy ground to build on.

Herman Melville, Billy Budd

“The things we could have done together.”

Steve Jobs speaking to John Sculley near the close of the film Steve Jobs

Days have rolled by since my last post. I just finished a whirlwind of activity between my college classes, art gallery and art festivals. In addition, there was plenty of travel for business purposes. And I have had some meaningful visits and conversations with friends. The fall season is always busy for art. And, I experienced a profound loss as well during this space in time. Hence, the quotes above.

At the time of this writing, I am preparing to meet my last college class of the week, and then will leave for the wilderness for awhile. The vacation was planned long ago, and it includes my closest and steadiest friends over the past thirty years. In fact, they were the ones that made the cabin arrangements and invited me to join. I am glad the day has finally arrived. I need the rest. This could prove to be the fullness of time.

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My Favorite Trout Stream within Driving Distance

Years ago, on a chilly November morning, I pulled four 20-inch rainbow trout out of this stream. It was the best fishing I had known in years, and I haven’t returned, until today. I hope the re-visit will fill me with the same calm that I knew back then. Few things stir me more deeply than the sounds of a flowing trout stream beneath towering bluffs. Times like this call to memory a text I read long ago:

Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. 

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

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My Attempt to Paint that Scene

I have packed my supplies for watercolor as the fall colors are peaking at this location (hopefully I can do some plein air painting, though forecasts call for temperatures to dip into the thirties). I also have a number of collage ideas surging in my head, mostly of Jack Kerouac themes. Happily, I sold my recent Kerouac collage to genuine friends I have happily known for a number of years. And of course, a stack of books have been packed along as well, mostly Kerouac, Thoreau, Annie Dillard, and a few others. I intend to devote days to meaningful conversations with my close friends, reading, writing, painting, journaling and thinking. I don’t yet know if I will have Wi-fii access where I am. So, if I go quiet a few days, the readers will know I am off the grid, which is also good.

At this time, I also wish to offer my sincere “Congratulations” to the Historic Redlands Hotel for being awarded Best Renovation/Rehab/Restoration by the Texas Downtown Association! I still cannot believe I have been offered the most beautiful gallery space in this special building!  And now, I have been joined by the best roommates I could ever imagine: Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. I miss the “boys” already. “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” from 7-10:00 provides great company for me at my desk every weekday morning.

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 Redlands Hotel, Palestine, Texas

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Joined by the “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” Personalities

So, until next time . . . thanks for reading.

I make art, hoping to discover.

I journal, being mostly alone.

I blog to remind myself sometimes I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Jack Kerouac

November 1, 2018

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Kerouac Collage in Progress

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I did not anticipate this, but since my retirement in June 2017, I have spent more time on the road than home. Such a life was always a fantasy of mine, but I never expected it to become reality. And now that it is reality, I am surprised to find it even better than I had visualized it. What I call “windshield time” is a great clearing out for me, perhaps in ways that Buddhists speak of their experience during zazen. 

This weekend, I will be taking my art to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas (Saturday only). There are two links, one general and the second one is their Facebook page:

http://bullardmission.org/category/fundraising/genny-wood-fine-art-show/

https://www.facebook.com/gennywoodart/

My daily reading recently has taken me back to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  I really don’t know how many times I have read the book myself (at least twice), but I have had the audio books read to me countless times over the past ten-plus years. But now I am reading the original scroll for the first time, and after about fifty pages, I must say that the experience is much richer than I had imagined. Kerouac’s original manuscript was typed on a continuous roll of paper like one would obtain from a teletype office. I actually saw this scroll on display in recent years at an exhibit in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–the Original Scroll

Reading the continuous text with no paragraphs indeed reads more like a stream of consciousness piece of literature. And I got the sense of the narrative unrolling much like the highway does in front of me when I am actually on the road. Whether I am reading (or rather, trying to read!) James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kerouac’s On the Road, I am thrilled at the sense of odyssey and adventure. After teaching my morning Logic class at Texas Wesleyan University, I’ll travel the two hours across the wide-open countryside to Palestine, Texas to gather my art work from The Gallery at Redlands to load into the Jeep for tomorrow’s set up in Bullard, Texas (an additional hour’s drive). I am fortunate that I get to stay as a guest tonight in the historic Redlands Hotel. In the morning, I’ll enjoy “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” as Smooth Rock 93.5 FM shares studio space in the gallery with me. After the broadcast, I will travel to Bullard to set up, and then Saturday spend the day at the art show. I’ll be grateful for that extra hour of sleep when the clocks change Sunday.

In the picture at the top of the blog, I have included a new collage of Kerouac that is still in progress. At the Genny Wood Show, I will be bringing out collages, a medium I have not displayed and sold for a number of years now. Yesterday, I picked up an extra print bin from Pro Panels in Irving, Texas that I will take out of the box tomorrow and set up with a host of collages of Kerouac, Whitman, Emerson, Proust, Tillich and many, many more. As I posted in yesterday’s blog, I am finding new life and inspiration as I make collages of the creative spirits who fuel my imagination on a daily basis.

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.

I Live in Two Worlds

October 31, 2018

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Cutting, Tearing and Pasting

And at 4 in the morning wrote 500-words again, with the admonition to “Keep it moving.” Thank God for work!

Jack Kerouac, Journal entry , Friday, April 29, 1949

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Shakespeare and Descartes

While meeting with my artist friends last night over dinner, we discussed new directions we are taking with our art. I resolved yesterday that I was bringing collage back into my body of work. I have been restricted to watercolor in recent years because of the higher-end art festivals requiring us to display a single, unified genre. I understand that. And my “signature” is in the body of watercolors I have put together over the years. But during those years, I have never ceased to pursue academic subjects in my reading, drawing and collage endeavors. And so, this weekend, at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas, I am adding an extra bin to my booth which will feature collages of Shakespeare, Kerouac, Tillich, T. S. Eliot, and a host of luminaries in the fields of literature, philosophy and theology.

It has been a joy in the studio recently, tearing and cutting papers and materials and combining drawing and watercolor and manuscript fragments into my compositions. I am able to live in my two worlds as I make art while at the same time reading, journaling and pursuing new ideas from my heroes of literature. Jack Kerouac has held my attention the past few days, so today I will turn my attention to collages bearing his images.

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.

Shifting Gears

October 30, 2018

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A Moment with “Kevin and Marc in the Morning”

I am back at my own desk at home this morning, preparing for my Logic class, but my heart is still beating in Palestine. The weekend was filled with great moments, as I enjoyed my new friends, Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell, while they hosted the Hot Pepper Festival. Spending the entire Sunday in the old country store was also a profound blessing, especially watching the deer come out in the evening to graze. Yesterday was a labor intensive Monday, as I rearranged the gallery yet again and took down all my art work in the lobby of the Redlands Hotel. Weekday morning hours in the gallery are always electric, as “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” pulsates just twenty feet to my right, in the same gallery. The fellows surprised me by calling me over to the microphone twice this time. I never know what will happen when I sit at the broadcast table with them. I wish everyone could experience firsthand the dynamics of a live radio broadcast.

Now it is back to my other job–teaching Logic at Texas Wesleyan University, the institution that has been so good to me since the year 2000, providing adjunct contracts that help keep my mind sharp. Nietzsche wrote of the dual forces of Apollo and Dionysus that work in our psychological makeup, with Apollo representing order and Dionysus providing spontaneity (many like to speak of left brain/right brain issues). With my art and passion and overall lifestyle, I have been closer to Dionysus, often feeling more disorganized and undisciplined than creative. Yet, Apollo has had his say in many of my life skill disciplines as well, and most particularly, teaching Logic, with all its inflexible structures.

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This morning I will introduce the Traditional Square of Opposition, credited to Aristotle. I particularly enjoy this part of the semester, and appreciate the positive attitude of this semester’s students.  And of course, a ton of grading will be waiting for me once I return home from class. But . . . by bedtime, all of this will be completed and tucked away. Meanwhile, I continue to seek quality in the day.

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.

Morning Coffee with Homeric Heroes

October 24, 2018

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Reading often Bleeds over into Collaging

Morning brings back the heroic ages.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Years ago, seated at a Border’s Book Store coffee bar and reading Thoreau’s “Reading” chapter in Walden, I came across these words and jotted them into my journal:

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.

Recalling that Thoreau’s favorite book of all time was Homer’s Iliad, which he read at least once a year in Greek, I went to the shelves and picked out this volume:

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The Loeb Classical Library features the original texts on the left pages with the English translation on the facing pages. Grateful that my seminary training included Koine Greek, I found Homeric Greek a little difficult, but still doable. I read the opening seven lines of this epic, and immediately understood why Thoreau loved a book that I thought was rather dull in English translation. The Greek text revealed many layers of meaning that I had never encountered before. Suddenly, I knew the sentiment of the poet John Keats when he stayed up all night reading from the “deep-brow’d Homer”–

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

            When a new planet swims into his ken

John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

I purchased the volume and have used it countless times in my years teaching Humanities at Martin High School and Texas Wesleyan University. In the spirit of Thoreau, this epic poem truly opened a new chapter in my life.

Rising before daylight this morning, I resumed reading The Iliad, having opened the volume last night and regretfully closing it after midnight, too sleepy to continue reading.

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Frequently while reading, images float through my consciousness, and I am inspired to push the books aside and take out scissors, X-acto knife, glue stick, stencils, templates, pencils, tech pens. The top of my desk is suddenly cluttered with layers of cut-outs, papers and books as I enter my playground of drawing, collaging, scribbling in the journal–all the while hoping that something good will emerge.

Iliad card

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.

Morning Coffee in the Wet Wasteland

October 19, 2018

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Waking to yet another cold, wet, dark Texas rainy morning, my first thoughts were recollections of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man being read to me via audiobooks as I drove on yet another long business road trip yesterday. I’ve posted these words before, but they are always worth repeating:

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him! His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly. It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

The serenity I felt as I drove for hours yesterday, listening to this book of abundance cannot be overstated. The theme that resounded the most with me yesterday was that notion of living a life alone. This morning, I opened the volume to a couple of texts that jarred me yesterday while driving:

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amidst of a waste of wild air . . . 

–You’re a terrible man, Stevie, said Davin, taking the short pipe from his mouth. Always alone.

Long ago, in the sermon by Paul Tillich, “Loneliness and Solitude”, I found an ace I could play repeatedly throughout my life: loneliness is the injury suffered from being alone, whereas solitude is the healing balm. And since the day I read that sermon, I have unfailingly acknowledged that I, though living and traveling alone, am very seldom lonely, instead feeling solitude. I relish the space, the internal quiet, and even the frequent feeling of disconnectedness.

It does not alarm me, the feeling of being tossed headlong into the midst of an enormous, chaotic, swirling planet that seems to follow no logical plan. Reading existential writers perhaps helped me with this sentiment. But the way I see it, I am surrounded by currents of activity that sometimes include me in the “plan”, but most of the time seem oblivious that I am here. And I don’t find this threatening. Rather, I feel a dizzying freedom to follow my bliss, live the dream.

In chapter one of Melville’s Moby Dick, Ishmael muses that Providence has cast his life as a minor role between two major plays:

“Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States”  “WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.”  “BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.”

As the world population, fixated on the news, chattered away about a presidential election or a bloody conflict, an obscure young fellow named Ishmael boarded a whaling ship and sailed out to sea. His odyssey, important to him, would go unnoticed by the world at large. And alone in that odyssey, he spun his story.

I have always had a fascination with a biblical passage that I’m sure most readers would pass over without a second thought. It is from The Prophet Jeremiah 1:1-5:

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.  It came also in the days of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.  Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

In my studies, I have read commentators writing page after page of text concerning those final words of the LORD knowing Jeremiah before he was conceived. But what has always held my attention is the larger context: Jeremiah arrived on this planet in the matrix of enormous national and political events that would hold the attention of the population of his day. As the nation of Judah swirled in the maelstrom of the news of its day, a Word came to a solitary man in a small town obscured in the shadows of the metropolis of Jerusalem. The Word of the LORD came (“happened” is a better rendering of the Hebrew text). Something HAPPENED while the world at large chased the swirling winds of the national news.

Whether it is Ishmael tossed on the unruly waves of a boundless ocean odyssey or Jeremiah receiving enlightenment in a small town, my heart quickens when I think of solitary people engaged in large ideas even as their surrounding climate is oblivious to what is going on inside them. Yesterday as I drove, I savored the text of Joyce’s Portrait, thinking of this young self-exiled writer recalling his youth in Ireland and laying out those powerful lines of text.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson suffered the loss of his wife at a tender age, and then resigned the ministry, no one accompanied him to the docks when he sailed out of Boston harbor for a two-year European odyssey, seeking some kind of purpose to his existence. A solitary man, he finally found his voice and launched New England Transcendentalism. In later years, as he penned “Self-Reliance”, he gave us this challenge:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.  Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.  Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age . . .

In those words, all of us can find hope. We have been placed on this planet and given a number of years to find our way, to seek something that matters, to pursue our bliss and offer no apology for it. And the great majority of us are destined to obscurity. The world at large is not going to read about us, talk about us, and the footprint we leave behind may not affect a large multitude, But still, we have been given this gift, this opportunity, to explore life and decide what we wish to do. As for myself, I am still enjoying this gift of adventure, and if anything I write and send up as a smoke signal offers good to others, then I am all the more happy.

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 (though being alone is O.K.)