Posts Tagged ‘Hegel’

Morning Coffee with Dave and a New Semester

January 9, 2019

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. . . within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself . . .

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

This bright winter early morning finds me preparing for classes. College begins in a week for me and I just about have everything ready to load online. This will be my first semester to teach exclusively online. I’m curious to find out how it feels, not having to report to a classroom schedule.

For years, I laughingly told my students that teaching was my karma. That would make sense. I hated public school and was extremely lazy regarding assignments. I was bored beyond description in classes. But there was a poster hanging on one of the walls of a high school English class that I never forgot, the quote is posted above. A few years back I found out that it was a quote from Siddhartha, so I just now got around to reading it. Last night at bedtime, I came across the quote and felt the same soothing calm I felt in those lazy school days when I drew sustenance from the poster on the wall.

The Julia Cameron book I am reading has me writing my memoir for the first time, and there is a fulfilment I feel, getting the words onto a page. Currently, I can only describe my years from childhood through high school as years of listlessness. I felt lost and clueless. I had no identity, and knew of no skills except as an artist. And I felt that artistic skills would not find me employment as an adult. I’ll likely write more of that in future blogs once I get it written out more clearly.

The bottom line: I did not care about reading and pondering Ideas until entering college. Fifteen years later I graduated with a Ph.D., and after working blue-collar jobs a short time, decided to enter the teaching profession. Now, as a semi-retiree, I choose not to leave the profession totally; I have more to share with students than ever before.

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Our month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was depicted as two-faced–one looking ahead and the other looking backward. Knowing this changed my attitude about the New Year. Since learning that, I have enjoyed January periods, finding time to write more, evaluating my own past and projecting where I wished to go next. I also find more meaning teaching when the New Year commences than in August when summer is still scorching us in Texas.

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This is a famous drawing of G. W. F. Hegel lecturing his students. I have it at my desk, because this semester I will be teaching the second half of Humanities at Texas Wesleyan University, covering philosophy, literature and art from the Age of the Enlightenment to the present age. January, for me, is a great month for rehashing the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment. I will be sharing with the students online an essay from Immanuel Kant: “Was Ist Aufklärung?” (What is Enlightenment)).  My favorite portion of the essay follows:

When we ask, Are we now living in an enlightened age? the answer is, No, but we live in an age of enlightenment. 

In many ways, times have not changed since Kant laid down those words in 1784. In 2019, I personally do not feel that we live in an enlightened age, despite all the technological advances that have provided for us an age of enlightenment. I am preparing to instruct students enriched with smart phones, computer, Internet, email–all the gifts making possible a college-level education without leaving their homes. Yet we still in many ways live in a culture more fitting for donkeys than humans, with little respect for the quality of life and community.

When the curtain goes up next week and I type out my first words to the new students coming in, I will do it with the faith that improvement is still possible with education, and I shall earnestly strive to impart to these new minds life-changing truths gleaned from some of the best creative individuals from our past.

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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The Sublime in the Pre-Dawn

September 6, 2017

Hegel

Like a bird which alights nowhere, but hops perpetually from bough to bough, is the Power which abides in no man and in no woman, but for a moment speaks from this one, and for another moment from that one.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I could not resist pushing aside my morning’s work for a moment to hang out another blog entry. While looking for an Emerson reference to illustrate one of my points in this morning’s lecture, I came across this one that I underlined in my book about a week ago and forgot, until this morning’s reminder. What a wonderfully poetic way to describe what I’ve known for decades–that the “power” of ideas is always flitting from one voice to another, and we can never pin it down in one place to stay put for us to dissect. I recall the theologian Karl Barth saying that attempting to describe God was like painting a bird in flight; you can only follow it with your eye.

My semi-retirement rhythms have found a nice pattern, despite the flitting of ideas from branch to branch. I’m teaching a course at the university that I’ve never taught before, yet as I research the themes necessary, I continually uncover thinkers I have studied over the years, and synthesizing my old knowledge with the new discussions keeps me fresh (I hope) and certainly enthusiastic. My pattern has emerged thus: I teach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 and 10:00 (same course, twice). Preparing one fifty-minute lecture every forty-eight hours has not been as difficult as I had imagined. I’m only sorry I couldn’t do this over the past twenty-eight years. My routine has been to write out the lecture and power-point it the night before. Then, rising at 5 a.m. the morning of, I go over it one more time, always refining, consolidating, rewriting, cutting, adding . . . with coffee steaming in my mug. By the time class arrives, I am ready and enthusiastic. I cannot express the contrast of this newly-found university freshness and joy against the high school treadmill of a four-or-five subject load, Monday-through-Friday delivery, with grading and paperwork and deadlines stacked atop all that. I had no idea how difficult my past was. I know I am older, but feel much, much younger now. The feeling of hope and enthusiasm often borders on euphoria.

I have always enjoyed working at my desk, when I knew that I could put quality time into the work. My routine now often entails extensive reading and note-taking through the daytime hours. As night descends, I draft the lecture on the laptop, then reshape it in a powerpoint presentation. Later, as I sleep through the night, I believe that my mind has its way of composting all the raw materials I have poured into the class lecture. Rising at 5 a.m., knowing that I have another four hours before class time, I re-open the lecture, and as I re-read it, I find all kinds of ways to tighten it up with revisions, and the structure of it firms up. All the while, I find myself smiling inwardly, enjoying the work as it grows in me.

Today we focus on Machiavelli and Hobbes, and I’m using the philosophical framework of the later Hegel to package the discussion. I’m loving this because the final form of my lecture is not copied and pasted from someone else’s textbook, yet the subject I’m covering is congruent with the chapter of assigned reading from the class text.

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Cartoon of Hegel lecturing his students

Before my re-writing session this morning, I found this image on the Internet that I have enjoyed over the years, printed it and placed it in front of me as I worked.

The light is finally coming up at my window, reminding me that it is time to finish up my classwork and get to the university. I have a job to do, and I am loving it.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Clarity, Crystallization (Probably Over-Simplification)

July 7, 2015

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, http://www.dfwreallifetalk.com/. 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.

Another One of those Multi-Faceted, Rewarding Days

December 9, 2014
Continued Work Tonight in the Studio

Continued Work Tonight in the Studio

Every life is many days, day after day.  We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love.  But always meeting ourselves.

James Joyce, Ulysses

As the evening hour draws late, I hardly know how to set forth this day in words.  The classes at school were as energetic as always, with AVID students tearing into their tutorial sessions with a vigor unlike what I’m used to seeing as a semester winds down.  The energy was electric and I still tingle at every remembrance.  Philosophy came later and Nietzsche was our man of the hour.  I’m not used to lecturing for such long stretches, but the students seemed to give me the space ungrudgingly, and I took it.  I felt their passion as I endeavored to lead them through his lifetime contributions and point out his tragedies and triumphs.  Quiet hours in my classroom/studio later yielded some excellent reading in texts from Hegel and Joyce.  I still cannot stop thinking about what our guest lecturer brought to our class last Friday.  I also was privileged to pass some afternoon time in conversation with outstanding business associates in the art and retail business.  I always come away from those encounters with a renewed sense of optimism and enthusiasm for making and selling art.

After some afternoon studio activity, I got to spend time over dinner in conversation with a fascinating, engaging man who shares so many of my interests, in philosophy, theology, art, politics–the longer we talked the more convinced I was that I had found a kindred spirit on more levels than I could imagine.  I can’t wait for follow-up conversations.  This is the kind of man I wish I could have had regular conversations with during my graduate school years–I look back on those lonely, solitary times when I continually wished I could find one, just one creative spirit with whom I could engage in these kinds of exchanges.  Why is good conversation so rare?

When I got home, I found an email waiting from the West Coast from a creative spirit who always says the right things to encourage me in what I’m trying to do with watercolor.  I just had to read the letter again and again and again.  Though I was tired, I knew I had no choice but to get back into the garage and pick up that brush again.  By the time I re-entered the studio tonight, I knew my physical energy was in decline.  But I broke all rules of common sense, put on a pot of coffee, and resumed work on the still life that has absorbed my attention for days.

I spent most of these late hours drawing, erasing, re-drawing, erasing some more, yet never frustrated with the revisions, just drawn in by the whole process.  There are no deadlines here.  I want to get it right.

After about an hour of intense concentration over the watercolor, I decided it was time for some decompression.  I pulled up a chair, drank my final cup of coffee, and resumed reading some excellent secondary material on Joyce’s Ulysses.  Our high school librarian is a rich resource who provided me today with a remarkable James Joyce bibliography.  I was wanting to read some critical discussion on his style and contribution to modern thought, and she put the right books in my hand.  Thank you, Suzanne!

Pouring out my soul tonight feels good.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for sharing in what has been a fulfilling day.  As I moved from person to person throughout this day, I was allowed to meet myself.  Thanks all of you.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.