Posts Tagged ‘Heraclitus’

Saturday Morning Thoughts from The Gallery at Redlands

January 16, 2021

Heraclitus attracts exegetes as an empty jampot wasps; and each new wasp discerns traces of his own favorite flavor.

Jonathan Barnes, Presocratics

Good morning from the sunny Gallery at Redlands! Every time I come back here, I am warmed by greetings from friends I haven’t seen in awhile, and last evening in the Gallery was no exception. This morning’s reading from the fragments of Heraclitus (2500 years ago) has gotten my head spinning, and just as I was second-guessing myself as to how much of my own thoughts I was reading into the writings of this ancient sage, I came across the statement posted above from Jonathan Barnes.

I will always be grateful that the seminary taught me to read Greek long ago. Lingering over fragment 80 of Heraclitus this morning spurred me to “darkening” many pages from my journal (I love Leonard Cohen’s “darkening” vs. scribbling when it comes to journaling). Heraclitus regarded the world’s dynamic as a perpetual clash of opposites. These clashes, according to Heraclitus, created harmonies the same way as happens with the bow and lyre.

They do not understand how, while differing from, it is in agreement with itself. There is a back-turning connection, like that of a bow or lyre.

Heraclitus, Fragment 51

In previous blogs, I have shared Heidegger’s philosophy of art as a strife between earth and world. “Earth”, to Heidegger, refers to the natural world as it is. “World” refers to everything the artist brings to earth when s/he attempts to create art. There emerges a struggle, because earth does not surrender willingly what it conceals. At the same time, the artist’s world does not remain unchanged during this struggle to make art. Out of the struggle, a third element, “art”, rises. Art is the result of the collision of earth and world.

Heraclitus describes the clash as one that results in harmonies. The Greek word translated “harmonies” could be rendered “construction” or “connection.” Another translator renders it “fitting together” or “attunement.” At this point, I found my imagination firing with applications to my own processes in trying to make a successful watercolor.

New work in progress in the Gallery

As I continue experimenting with 8 x 10″ compositions of evergreens in snow, the observations of Heraclitus are giving me some clarity. The collision of opposites is going on constantly, between wet and dry surface, warm vs. cool colors, contrasts of dark and light, movments between space and form, and the struggle between complementary colors.

Today I have been adjusting my colors between the complements of green and red, and feel that I have learned a great deal about how those two colors and their variations work side-by-side in these forest compositions. I’m going to continue exploring the fragments of Heraclitus to see what else I can glean about unity in diversity, harmony in conflict, etc.

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.

Resolution and Revolution

January 1, 2021
Cozy New Year on a 28-degree Morning

As they step into the same rivers, different waters flow upon them.

Heraclitus

For as long as I can remember, I have savored waking early in the morning on New Year’s Day. I have heard the sentiments repeatedly, that January 1 is an arbitrary beginning point, that our lives are linear rather than cyclical, and New Year’s resolutions are a farce. I understand that mindset, and could choose to adopt it as my own, if I wished. But I don’t wish. Heraclitus stated it well–it may be the same river we step into, but the waters are different. And I anticipate 2021 not to be a repeat of 2020. As for myself, I don’t plan to continue any kind of routine that feels like a dead routine.

For a few weeks now, I have drafted and edited resolutions, as I feel that compulsion to resolve some important matters in my personal life. And the resolution is felt more strongly when the New Year comes around. I also am fond of the idea of revolution. From my perspective, life is cyclical; not only do we revolve, but our society revolves. And I am more than ready to see my personal life, as well as the culture that surrounds me, revolve. Progress demands another turn of the wheel, another turn of the page.

Possibly finished with this #2 Bison Painting

One matter I have resolved is not only to become more prolific in making art, but to return to abandoned works to see if they can be completed. Yesterday and today, I took out a pair of bison compositions that had been tossed aside, and am now working to finish them. While lingering over the paintings, all the warm memories from that September evening in Utah washed over me. The sun was about to set. For the first time in three days as I drove past this ranch outside of Zion National Park, there were no tourists lined up at the fence. I scrambled out of the truck, crossed the pasture, and, lingering at the fence, took at least thirty photos with my phone of this bison herd. A cloud of dust hung about them (that I still cannot seem to capture in watercolor, but I’ll keep trying!), the cool winds stirred the tall grasses, and I felt for a few moments that the world had reached a stage of perfection. Moments before taking this picture, the cow and calf faced me directly, and walked toward me directly, then turned and entered the pond for a drink. I’m still contemplating the photo of them facing me, wondering if that could produce a decent watercolor.

On this first day of 2021, I wish all my readers a life filled with wonder and love going forward. And I wish for any of you seeking resolution and revolution that you are successful in pursuing them.

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.

The River Calls to Me

July 25, 2016

cliff

River Bluff photographed by Wayne White http://www.doubledacres.com/

Everything flows; nothing remains.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Cooling rains have darkened Missouri this Monday morning for a spell. Over coffee, I’m enjoying a quiet space before I pack and drive ninety minutes to join two high school comrades for a fishing excursion on the Gasconade River. Reports of smallmouth bass activity are encouraging, and I am ready to leave civilization for awhile once again. The rhythm of advance and retreat has punctuated my spiritual pulse throughout the life cycles between society and wilderness, public and private. From my early years in the ministry and later years in education, I have recalled with interest the traffic patterns of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, a life of advance and retreat between the Galilean villages and the wilderness. Every time his public ministry heated up with intensity, a pericope follows recording his withdrawal into solitude. Likewise my vacation stretch over the past week has vacillated between a roomful of relatives or friends and my withdrawal into quiet solitude.

My imagination wanders down many corridors as I contemplate that pregnant passage from Heraclitus, as he viewed the essence of reality as a river–always flowing, changing, and never remaining fixed.  Later, Parmenides would counter with his worldview of Being as a static, eternal essence, with change existing only as an illusion. My personal view sees both extremes, like that bluff pictured above, holding steadfast as a river flows past it. The older I get, the more initrigued I become with life, looking over my own past, as well as studying the history of our magnificent globe, pondering the changes while at the same time seeking some kind of bedrock, some fixed point, some kind of an anchor.  I think we all do that.  Every time I retreat to a vacation and abandon my personal day-to-day work schedule, I think on the myriad of details that flow by around the clock, and muse over what matters, what remains fixed in my consciousness and desire.  Moments like this are the best portions of a vacation, to me.

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.

Multi-Tasking in Colorado

June 27, 2016

Tucker Pond multi tasking

Geez! Fumbling with my Phone while Plein Air Painting and Trout Fishing!

Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work, and helps make something of the world.

Heraclitus

Sleep did not come easy last night as my mind flowed with a myriad of thoughts and would not shut down. Yet I awoke at 5:00 this morning, filled with a spirit of expectancy, believing that today was going to be an excellent day.

Annie

Sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I enjoyed the snap to the air with temperatures hanging around 45 degrees. I read until Ron and Dian picked me up at 6:45 and we embarked on our 45-minute drive up to an altitude of 9600 feet and temperatures registering 38 degrees. Tucker Pond was beautiful with the mist rolling off its surface and trout constantly roiling the waters.

Multi-tasking seems to be my way of life.  I set up the easel as soon as I had my line cast into the waters.  Sure enough, just as I finished blocking in the sky, my rod jerked hard, and I saw a rainbow about 18 inches long fighting for his freedom.  He won, as I was too impatient to play him out, trying to put a net on him when he still had plenty of strength. I knew better.  On a more positive note, I always think trout are easier to cook when smaller anyway.

As I painted the morning away, I would lose several quality trout as they struck and stole my bait before I could lay down the brush and take up the rod.  Nevertheless, we intended to take four for our evening meal, and we each managed to land a pair.

trout

The entire time I gazed into the forest adjoining Tucker Pond, I thought of what I was reading from Annie Dillard about “color patches” and the way it reminded me of Paul Cezanne’s theories of color when painting in plein air.  I was smitten by the sight of the golden greens in the pine trees and how they contrasted with the blue spruce colors. The rose colors of the distant mountain to the left of the forest also held my attention. The morning was everything I had anticipated when I awoke with a sense of gladness before dawn.

Tucker Pond painting (2)

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

At the Still Point of the Turning World

January 17, 2015

At the still point of the turning world.  Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

From the moment I awoke this Saturday morning, I saw my bedroom bathed in bright sunlight, and my blood was stirred by these sentiments gleaned last evening from T. S. Eliot.  Words for the Sublime will apparently never exhaust our vocabulary–God, Religion, Art, Spirituality,Truth, Enlightenment.  But since I’ve been meditating on Eliot’s “Four Quartets” I’ve been jolted by his hints of “those rare moments when eternity intersects the temporal continuum, while treating also the relations between those moments and the flux of time.”  And now, reading this poem that calls these sublime, transcendent moments “the dance”–what a word to describe the primal ecstasy I’ve known my entire life and have read with pleasure from the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and the British Romantic poets.

In Friday’s philosophy class, while contrasting Plato’s eternal with Aristotle’s movement, we pushed our research backward into the Presocratic fragments, and I chose to take my Heraclitus texts home with me to translate and to read essays on his work from Eliot and Heidegger.  For years I’ve played with the notion of flux in Heraclitus and the explanation that nothing in life remains constant, but recently I’ve been reading critical works pointing out his obsession to know the underlying unity beneath the flux.  As I spent hours yesterday and today translating ancient Greek texts discussing the source as well as the destiny of life, I found myself returning to T. S. Eliot repeatedly to read his comments that follow a number of Presocratic utterances–the end is already in the beginning.  At my current age, this resonates with me more than ever before.  I think that many of us during these senior years are puzzling out just exactly what our sense of purpose has been in this life, and how early we intuited that purpose.  As we take our retrospective looks at our personal odysseys, we tend to extract meanings to the things we’ve done and are now doing.  And I believe there is much reward in thinking over these things.

I apologize if these comments are scattered.  I’m still puzzlling it all out, and plan to continue in this endeavor.  So far, this is turning out to be one of my better holiday weekends on record, and I’m thankful for the time and space to read, reflect and write on these things.

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.

A Presence Emerging from the Loss

January 15, 2013

Still Life with Pepsi-Cola Carrier

Still Life with Pepsi-Cola Carrier

Many fail to grasp what they have seen,

and cannot judge what they have learned,

although they tell themselves they know.

Heraclitus

How splendid to be able to enter the Man Cave, having finished tomorrow’s school assignments by 8:30.  Temperatures hover around 34 degrees now, and are expected to drop to 25 by the time I rise to go to school in the morning.  Some freezing precipitation may occur, but not enough to close school–nothing would excite me more than to be given the Gift of painting in the Cave all day tomorrow.  But alas, I daydream.

My first class in the morning will be Philosophy, and we will begin research on the Presocratics (a real highlight for me).  Hence, I dropped a Heraclitus fragment above to open tonight’s blog.  And the quote has an amazing application to my current practice of still-life painting.  I acknowledge that I have failed in times past to grasp the objects before me when attempting to paint them, that I have assumed too much knowledge of art technique, and used that knowledge as a substitute for a basic apprehension of the nature of the objects before me–Mr. Scucchi, my first of four high school art teachers, said: “I am not teaching you to draw; I am trying to teach you to see.”  That stays with me.  In drawing and painting, vision is everything, the alleged steadiness of the hand is very little.  And I laugh when I recall a line from the motion picture Lust for Life, when Paul Gauguin criticizes Vincent Van Gogh, yelling: “You paint too fast!”  To which Vincent retorts: “You LOOK too fast!”  I stand guilty of the same.  So, tonight, I am spending more time staring at this doorknob and Pepsi-Cola carrier than actually drawing and painting.

And while I look at these antique objects, I feel something splendid as I contemplate the worlds from which these came, a world that is no longer here.  In preparing for tomorrow’s Presocratic lecture, I came across a statement concerning four Presocratic fragments that Martin Heidegger translated and published:

Four fragments of early Greek thinking dominate Heidegger’s thoughts in the present collection.  Each is a truncated monument of thinking.  Like the torso of a river god or the temple of Poseidon at Sounion, each fragment conveys a sense of loss, of tragic withdrawal and absence; yet each is a remnant of an exhilarating presence.

Loss and presence.  What a juxtaposition!  Of course, I have spent much of this evening thinking about Steve, my recently deceased artist friend whom I knew for fifty-four years.  I have lost him, but in the quiet of the studio, he is present.  Words he spoke, his laughter, our discussions of what we wanted from our art.  It’s all there.  He’s still here.  A loss, and at the same time, a presence, a comfort.  That is a Gift.

Thanks for reading.  I’m ready to go back and stare at these objects a little while longer before sleep overpowers me.

Christmas Cheer and Nostalgia at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri

March 1, 2011

Christmas at Spencers Grill

Though it’s been two months since I left St. Louis, my heart still stirs at the memory of a bright winter morning at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri along historic Route 66.  My wife and I had just ducked inside this historic cafe from the late 1940’s for breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, scrapple and coffee.  This historic sign at Spencer’s Grill I had seen since my pre-literate childhood, and will always remember, Proust-like, as a monument from my remote past.

Recently I’ve been reading plenty of Ezra Pound, and studying his tragic life.  From his poem “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” I found these lines:

All things are aflowing,

Sage Heracleitus says;

But a tawdry cheapness

Shall outlast our days.

For over a decade, I’ve been fascinated with the Presocratic fragments, particularly the pieces from Heraclitus.   I mused over this phenomena of traffic perennially rushing north-south on Kirkwood Road, while the ageless, changeless Spencer’s Grill remains.  With my company Recollections 54 (www.recollections54.com) I try to capture in watercolor the images of an America from the 1950’s that remains in spite of the changes that nearly sweep the ground out from under us as we live out our fast-paced, deadline-driven lives.

Thanks for reading.