Posts Tagged ‘Enlightenment’

Philosophy is Next

August 22, 2016


Exhausted but Content, after Day One

No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and thus draw out of the past, genuine life for the present hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Literary Ethics”

Emerson delivered these bold words at Dartmouth College, two weeks after infuriating the Harvard Divinity School faculty with his infamous (and still unnamed) “Address” of 1838. Choosing not to grouse over the public rejection he endured, Emerson continued to play ball, pitching these encouraging words to young minds who dared to think independently. Emerson, immortalized by his “Self-Reliance” essay, pointed out how dismissive we are of our own independent ideas.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Tomorrow is the second day of school for me, and the first meeting of my Philosophy class. Every time I open a new semester with this class, I try to challenge the students to find their own voice and dare to speak their own mind. In 1784, when the European Enlightenment was at its peak, Immanuel Kant published his essay, What is Enlightenment (Was ist Aufklärung?). He described the experience as the individual emerging from his/her own tutelage, daring to think independently (Sapere aude). That’s what I wish to challenge my students to do: dare to know. We stand on the stratified centuries of intellectual tradition, yet too often pride ourselves only in mastering and reciting the material rather than believing that we can do it better, that we can push the envelope further than earlier visionaries saw or dared to push.

This day has been very satisfying. I’m hoping that tomorrow is as well.

Thanks for reading.


Was ist Aufklärung?

July 8, 2014


Immanuel Kant Drawing/Collage

Immanuel Kant Drawing/Collage

Aufklärung ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit.

Immanuel Kant, “Was ist Aufklärung?” 1784

My German is extremely weak and clumsy, but my attempt to translate the above quote would be: “Enlightenment is one’s starting point from self-imposed dependence.”  Today was the last day of the first summer school term, and my Senior English class was in the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.  I always come back to Kant’s published article of 1784 “What is Enlightenment” and try to point out to students that this was the amazing European century when citizens came of age, realizing that most of them were more intelligent than the king who ruled by “divine right”, and more moral than the ecclesiastical leaders of their day.  The European mind shed its dependence on the authority figures of the day and dared to think for themselves–sapere aude!  The philosophes took advantage of an available printing press to distribute their ideas, much the way we are able to do in our day of social networking and blogging.  Above is a quick drawing/collage that I whipped out during the course of our morning study.  I’m glad to see this first term draw to a close.  After finals tomorrow, I am free until the following Monday when we begin the second term.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not actually alone.


Resuming Work on the Ridglea Theater Watercolor

February 29, 2012

Ridglea Theater, Fort Worth, Texas

Texas temperatures soared above the 70’s today, and the landscape of my neighborhood is bathed in yellow light as the afternoon fades.  One-third of me wants to go out with the watercolor block and find a plein air setting to sketch.  But there is this other third that has missed this large watercolor languishing for two days in my garage.  And then, the final third misses reading and decompressing.  The week in school has sucked most of the intellectual juices out of me.  So . . . I just took another large bite out of this 30 x 22″ watercolor, getting lost in the large letters hanging on the tower, as well as all the wonderful rusticated cut stone of this magnificent structure.  I had to stop when the entire tower flooded with washes of  warm layers of rose and gold.  Now, the entire painting is very wet, and will remain so for quite awhile.  When working on 300-lb. paper, I notice that the pools of wash tend to linger forever.

I have pulled out some reading on Kant and the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.  I have been immersed in this topic for a couple of weeks now, and even when I’m not reading, I’m composting all the ideas that have been stored up from the texts, and as the days go by, more thoughts begin to fertilize and grow.  Right now, I’m enjoying in the most profound sense the sounds of the mocking birds all over my watered lawn, the jazz playing on my stereo, and the whispered approvals of Kant and Company as I continue to try and understand what these great thinkers were all about in their day, and what they can offer to mine.

As for this painting, I have not been able to reach any satisfaction with the tonal colors of the tower, on either the shadow side or the lighted one.  Right now, I am liking more the color on the sunny side.  I mixed some cadmium yellow deep with a little cadmium red medium, along with whatever was still in my brush (some sepia, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue).  The large washes of warm color are looking good (while the painting is wet–we’ll see what happens when it dries out).  The shadow sides are still eluding me.  I have tried mixtures of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow deep, and a little sepia, and am still unsatisfied with the colors emerging.  I’m glad watercolor is transparent.  I’ll just have to keep glazing and see what finally comes to the surface.  I’m not frustrated, just intrigued as I try to match the colors of the cut stone that makes up this tower.  I’m also finding the neon tubing in the letters a challenge.  Once I feel that I have what I want, I’ll strengthen the colors and contrasts and let them stand out a little better.  Right now, I’m keeping them subtle, because I still haven’t really “solved” them.

I thought this painting was going to be easy.  Serves me right, I guess.  Perhaps I’ll get more done on it tonight.  As I write this, the sun has disappeared behind the ridge and I now have to resort to artificial lamp light and fluorescent overheads in my garage–not my favorite way to work, but still, it beats waiting for the next day to roll up.  A large black cat with a red collar has just dropped by to say Hello.  He does this at some point every evening that I spend working in the garage.  I have no idea who owns him, but I know his visit is always good for about five minutes–long enough to examine and sniff everything around the perimeter of my garage–and then he moves on without a word, I guess to his next stop.  But he always comes to me to rise on his hind legs like a kangaroo and let me scratch the back of his neck, a friendly soul.

It’s good to be painting again.  Thanks for reading.