Posts Tagged ‘Immanuel Kant’

Morning Ruminations

August 1, 2015

My books I’d fain cast off, I cannot read,

‘Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large

Down in the meadow, where is richer feed,

And will not mind to hit their proper targe.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Rising at 5:33 on a summer Saturday morning was not in my plans. But in my waking moments, I reached for my phone and found this amazing greeting from an old friend of mine:

What a great night on the river. I was tight line fishing from the yak when I got a visitor. An otter swam right up to the yak close enough that I could reach out and touch it. He played around the yak for awhile and disappeared into the darkness. When I headed for the ramp he showed up along side of me and followed for a ways down the river and then disappeared. It was amazing.

The author, Wayne White, I have known since second grade. He is a farrier now situated on a great spread west of St. Louis, not far from historic Route 66.  Anyone who considers him/herself an outdoor enthusiast should check out his Bourbeuse River blog:

It has been my dream to join Wayne on the river for some serious fishing and exploring. He also has a penetrating artist’s eye with his camera. And it has been years since I’ve been in a boat cruising a river for fishing and sketching.

After catching up on Wayne’s exciting life style, I decided I needed to get some breakfast on the table: some coddled eggs (love those English coddlers my friend Dinah secured for me in an antique shop recently), Greek yogurt with pineapple, blueberries, buttered toast with peach jam (thank YOU, Jill, for the jam!), V-8 and coffee.

Early Saturday Morning Breakfast

Early Saturday Morning Breakfast

Breakfast was a satisfying experience this morning, but I would trade it quickly for what my friend Wayne does on his mornings:

Following breakfast, it was time to settle into my favorite chair and let a sage from yesterday prod my thoughts . . .

Go where we will on the surface of things, men have been there before us. . . . But the lives of men, though more extended laterally in their range, are still as shallow as ever. Undoubtedly, as a Western orator said, “Men generally live over about the same surface; some live long and narrow, and others lived broad and short”; but it is all superficial living. . . . The frontiers are not east or west, north or south, but wherever a man fronts a fact, though that fact be his neighbor, there is an unsettled wilderness between him and Canada, between him and the setting sun, or, farther still, between him and it. Let him build himself a log-house with the bark on where he is, fronting IT, and wage there an Old French war for seven or seventy years, with Indians and Rangers, or whatever else may come between him and the reality, and save his scalp if he can.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers 

As I read the sage’s words concerning the “frontier” and one’s act of “fronting” reality, I recalled his famous text recorded later in Walden:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Thoreau built his cabin on Walden Pond, remarking that Harvard had taught him all the branches of learning, but none of the roots. It was time for him to front nature directly, to see if he could learn from her. This sentiment has always stirred me deep within: all formal education is secondhand; if God grant we live long after graduation, we can devote the rest of our lives to exploring this enveloping world and sorting out all these wonders that approach us, offering themselves to us. When theologian Paul Tillich was nearing the end of his life, he expressed gratitude to our country for giving him a new start after the Third Reich expelled him from German universities. He said that American universities were free, yet superficial–we study the surfaces as we survey our histories, but never get to the depths of what matters. He challenged us to restore the vertical dimension to education. This has haunted me throughout my decades in the classroom. I cannot teach a student to think, but hopefully I can challenge him/her to nurture that natural human curiosity within that desires to explore. Aristotle opened his Metaphysics with “All persons by nature desire to know.” Immanuel Kant, in his “What is Enlightenment” challenged his readers: “Sapere aude! (dare to know)”.

I resumed something started late last night–experimenting with textures by pushing a sharpened 8H pencil into the surface of the paper, and then skating lightly over the top of it with a 6B pencil, showing the creases left by the hard pencil beneath. I experimented with the textures on the shell of this crab carcass I brought back from the island last month. Then I also played with both pencils, layering them in the background tones. I still have plenty to learn from this.

Expermenting with Pencil Drawing of Blue Crab

Expermenting with Pencil Drawing of Blue Crab

My workspace is starting to pile up, so I guess it’s time to tidy up a bit, then go after the chores that are waiting for me today.



Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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.