Posts Tagged ‘Hermann Hesse’

Sunday Morning Coffee in the Gallery at Redlands

January 13, 2019

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View from my Desk as the Morning Finally Breaks

Just as the potter’s wheel, once set in motion, still turns for a long time and then turns only very slowly and stops, so did the wheel of the ascetic, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of discrimination still revolve for a long time in Siddhartha’s soul; it still revolved, but slowly and hesitatingly, and it had nearly come to a standstill.  . . . But on the other hand his senses became more awakend, they learned a geat deal, experienced a great deal.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Sunday morning, daybreak in The Gallery at Redlands is providing rich sanctuary. The words from Siddhartha come back to me:

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

A long shadow looms across my desk, crosses the floor and climbs the gallery wall before me: the towering edifice of Sacred Heart Catholic Church rises behind me. In a few hours, the sounds of traffic will increase, joined by myriads of voices of worshipers moving along the sidewalk and crossing the street to attend mass. The silence I know now will soon yield to that white noise. At this point in my life, I feel I live more in the silence than in the white noise, and the change is welcome.

As I move to the closing chapters of Siddhartha, the passage at the top of this blog came along, and I felt something stirring from deep within. My mind drifted back eighteen years to an intersection in my life calling for a life-altering decision. At that time I was teaching high school full time, university part time, and serving as education director of a large urban Methodist Church. I was commuting a considerable distance to all three of those locations. Life was spinning out of control, as all my time was chewed up by tasks–lectures, lesson plans, administrative meetings, and constant driving to appointments. I had just taken up the brush again, after a couple of decades of artistic hiatus, and wished for some quality studio time to create. I was just getting accepted into art galleries. I wanted to experience the soulful calming effect of the arts, but felt my life was burning out with too many occupational demands.

Things suddenly came to a head, and I immediately severed all my connections accept the full-time high school teaching post, deciding it was time to slow things down. But as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. All the empty spaces created by the terminations were immediately filled as my high school saddled me with more courses and more responsibilities. So I continued to spin my wheels, cranking out lectures, lesson plans, tests and activities for new courses that just kept coming. In my final eighteen years of high school instruction, I taught ten different subjects, six of them brand new subjects for me. I switched to a different university for adjunct duties, and ended up teaching five new subjects, all of them for the first time in my life. In addition to this, I began to find more galleries to carry my art work, and began participaing in art festivals. So again I found my life incinerating in an inferno of responsibilities.

In May 2017, after twenty-eight years, I retired from full-time high school teaching, and I feel that life has finally slowed and calmed. My university courses are now online, and the subjects I know comfortably. My time in the studio, painting and drawing, is quiet, and my calendar has very few appointments. Of course, this has required quite an adjustment in my thinking: after decades of living in the hurricane, I frequently second-guess my status, sensing that there is some assignment I am forgetting to do. I am continually shocked to awaken to a day absent of demands.

Those who know me well are probably chuckling by now, knowing that I always seem to be “somewhere else”, always driving to another place. But I choose that; it is not demanded of me. What is most precious in my life now is that I generally awaken before daylight, but don’t have to dash into the shower, dress and eat quickly to make my 7:35 a.m. class (after twenty-eight years!). And I no longer have to come home tired at the end of the day, having watched 125 students storm through my classroom. I can enjoy bliss in my home, because I no longer have a myriad of tasks to accomplish in order to show up prepared for classes the following day. The league of morons in American society who believe public school teachers are overpaid for very little work have no clue at all. They don’t know that teachers face a stampede of students five days a week and then bring their work home at the end of the day–grading, preparing for the next day, returning phone calls to parents, going to bed late at night–and as for myself, I was never, never, NEVER caught up. There was always a task delayed, a report not filed, papers not yet graded, and then at the worst time, someone would manage to let me know that the students deserved better. (I just needed to get that off my chest. Two years after leaving it behind, I still taste the gall).

O.K. Finally to get to the real point of this post, the quote at the top of this page: The potter’s wheel of my life turns more slowly now. With the erasure of all those calendar deadlines, I now find quality time–hours–for daily reading and pondering and recording of ideas. Quality time for scribbling in the journal. Quality time to compose lectures now delivered to an audience of one–me. And I love and embrace this. I feel as if finally a reward is offered for all those decades of chasing deadlines and performing tasks on command. The wheel turns slowly now, but there is genuine quality in those revolutions. I can now savor what I read, take more time to write and revise, and create art at my leisure. And when I decide to travel the open road, I can.

These are truly turning out to be Golden Years. I am so happy I decided not to push my service to thirty years. Twenty-eight was more than enough. My life is worth more than the few extra dollars earned by staying another year or two at a profession that was chewing me up. I am extremely happy to be in this new life.

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.

 

 

A New Chapter in the Continuing Odyssey

January 3, 2019

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Every child is born an artist. The trick is remaining one as an adult.

Pablo Picasso

Still warmed by the rich feelings of Christmas and New Year’s Day, I just picked up from the bookstore a copy of Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.  Over the yearsI have returned several times to her seminal work The Artist’s Way, and have appreciated the insights and exercises suggested in the reading, though I don’t really believe I’ve ever been “blocked” as an artist. If I am not producing works of art, I am either on the road, in the company of others, or obsessed with reading and writing. I never feel far away from the enterprise of art, even if visual images are not flowing out of my pencil or brush.

I purchased this book because it targets retirees. I have been semi-retired since June 2017, but went straight into the university classroom, so I still had a place to go either two or three times weekly, and so never really felt fully “retired”. That is over for now. All my spring classes are online, so I find myself in a different environment, and thought that this book would provide some structure to my artistic inclinations during the “wide open” days and weeks to come.

I also chose this book because its creative exercises include writing a memoir, something I haven’t yet done, but have been interested in pursuing for a number of years. With this being the commencement of a new year, I believe the timing is ripe for exploring a memoir. And since the beginning of my memoir will expore the importance of drawing in my life (my earliest memories include pencil and paper and my attempt to respond to my environment in pictures), I made a resolution for this new year to concentrate more on drawing, and attempt to hone my skills in that area.

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This book I purchased during the Christmas season of 2014, and I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so, but somehow it got pushed aside from new books (I’ve been such an addict when it comes to purchasing and stockpiling books) and I pulled it from my shelf just before Christmas arrived this time.

As stated before, I am ready to return to some serious winter tree drawing. Problem is, the temperatures here have remained in the 20’s and I don’t have the initiative to bundle up like an Eskimo and go out into the freezing wind to draw (actually, I don’t want to get sick again). So . . . in good time.

My second reading of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf has been deeply rewarding. I love the way this man wrote. A passage that captured my attention last night as I read follows:

“You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and no sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him–the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets or for the saints–is a fool and a Don Quixote.”

I feel the blush rising when I read texts such as this, for most of my life I certainly carried that inflated sense of self-importance. One of many reasons that existential thought has appealed to me throughout my years of teaching is because of the central tenet that we as individuals are certainly adrift in this boundaryless cosmos, and whether or not we wish to admit it, we are not the hub of society, but only a grain of sand in human history. No doubt many never outgrow this sentiment of being at center stage. As I write these words this morning, there is probably a 72-year-old child punching out a Twitter text, believing he is Master of the Universe, and that all souls are obsessed with what he thinks.

My blog is still what it was when I began it–little more than an online journal. Writing is therapeutic for me, and there are some who still tell me that I have a good word for them when they read me. That is my reward, knowing I can do something good for someone else as I figure out this life’s odyssey.

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.