Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Campbell’

Thoughts Before the Fire

January 29, 2019


. . . my methods of approaching the past have scarcely changed since childhood and adolescence. I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence till I can begin to see and hear and love what living men and women once saw and heard and loved, till from these scraps and fragments living men and women begin to emerge and move and live again . . . 

Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter

A twenty-eight degree winter morning extended the delightful invitation for me to build a large fire and spend the day in my living room. I have no appointments till this evening, and have resolved to remain planted in the presence of this cheerful hearth while enjoying quiet hours in the pages of books and listening to soft music.

After a week-long detour down the path of Lonesome Dove, I am returning now to The Odyssey of Homer. The hero path has intrigued me throughout my life, and now I find myself sketching out rough parallels between the zig zag voyages of Odysseus and the overland quests of McRae and Call. This also provides me the opportunity to explore my own past and present as I respond to the challenge of Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again and attempt to draft my own memoir.

I hope soon to be able to expound this idea more fully as it continues to mature–studying New Testament Greek long ago, I noticed that in our religious language we use the words “believe” (verb) and “faith” (noun). They are translations of the same Greek word that is used both ways in the New Testament. As a verb, faith is an act, and as a noun, it is a creed, a position. The former is dynamic while the latter is steadfast. Throughout my years of teaching, I have tried to stress both sides of this equation, of one’s religious sentiment as an odyssey on the one hand, and a fortress on the other. One is risk, the other security.  One tends to Dionysus, the other Apollo. In religious history, one is prophetic, the other priestly.

As I muse over these stories I am currently reading, I am absorbed with this notion of the restless spirit (or hero) as embarking on a journey, seeking his/her foundation on which to build a home.  The Odyssey is always in motion, always changing, and the Destiny is believed to be fixed. I am intrigued by this. All of us are pursuing some kind of goal, some fixed point that seems to lie just ahead of us. But the hero always discovers that that goal has been in his/her life since the start. Aristotle wrote it long ago–the end is in the beginning. What we seek is already in us. As Joseph Campbell used to write, we are on an odyssey that takes us to the center of our selves.

Hopefully, more on this later. I’m still working on it . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.


Blue Rondo A La Turk – Dave Brubeck

February 10, 2014

This morning, driving through the icy darkness to school, I slid Dave Brubeck’s CD into my dashboard player and felt warm amusement as Blue Rondo A La Turk played.  I don’t know how to discuss music on an academic level, but I’ll simply say this–at the 1:53 mark, this piece finally settles into a pleasant 4/4 swing groove, only to be repeatedly interrupted by the spastic staccato that opened the first minute and a half.  And the more I replayed it, the more I laughed in the darkness and enjoyed it.

Forgive this unschooled application of Brubeck’s piece, but the longer I thought on it today, the more I saw how it fit life as I experience it daily.  I can safely say that my daily round of work routine involves a series of comfortable, flowing grooves, punctuated with intermittent surprises.  If I can ride the rough surf of the surprise, the groove will follow shortly.  I can usually count on that.  This is true of every class, every passing period, and every evening once I arrive home and begin my nightly routine–interstices consisting of grooves and spazzes.  That is how I view life.  And yes, I acknowledge that the perspective is colored by my own peculiar lenses.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

But enough about moods.  Let’s talk about art . . .

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Again, I find myself lost in an evolving sketch.  I am grateful for the warm memories of that Saturday afternoon in Dallas, especially now with the night around me dropping to 29 degrees with freezing rain.  I am still poking at this sketch, unsure of how to make the warm yellows and oranges pop against the atmospheric surroundings I found that afternoon.  The sun from the right was very intense, and I loved the effects of it.  I’m still wondering if I should try and get that on this page, or just focus on the people I’m trying to render and the decorations on the side of the food truck.  As I work, I’m listening to some very old VHS tapes of Joseph Campbell lecturing on James Joyce.  I love the work of Joyce, and love Robert Motherwell’s assessment of him as the Shakespeare of Modernism.  Motherwell said that the work of Joyce made him want to paint.  I can say that listening to Campbell’s fireside chats on this cold night have stirred my blood, helping me get back to the brush.

The sweetness of this day at school consisted of thoughts of returning to a moment like the one I was able to know this evening.  All day long when we’re on the job, our minds drift to those spaces where we want to retreat, and look to retreat as soon as the moment presents itself.  Emerson has been a genuine friend the past couple of days, particularly the insights he’s offered in his later essay “Experience.”  I close with this:

There are always sunsets, and there is always genius; but only a few hours so serene that we can relish nature or criticism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

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.