Posts Tagged ‘Kant’

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.

hegel3-lecture

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.

 

Philosophy is Next

August 22, 2016

 me

Exhausted but Content, after Day One

No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and thus draw out of the past, genuine life for the present hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Literary Ethics”

Emerson delivered these bold words at Dartmouth College, two weeks after infuriating the Harvard Divinity School faculty with his infamous (and still unnamed) “Address” of 1838. Choosing not to grouse over the public rejection he endured, Emerson continued to play ball, pitching these encouraging words to young minds who dared to think independently. Emerson, immortalized by his “Self-Reliance” essay, pointed out how dismissive we are of our own independent ideas.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Tomorrow is the second day of school for me, and the first meeting of my Philosophy class. Every time I open a new semester with this class, I try to challenge the students to find their own voice and dare to speak their own mind. In 1784, when the European Enlightenment was at its peak, Immanuel Kant published his essay, What is Enlightenment (Was ist Aufklärung?). He described the experience as the individual emerging from his/her own tutelage, daring to think independently (Sapere aude). That’s what I wish to challenge my students to do: dare to know. We stand on the stratified centuries of intellectual tradition, yet too often pride ourselves only in mastering and reciting the material rather than believing that we can do it better, that we can push the envelope further than earlier visionaries saw or dared to push.

This day has been very satisfying. I’m hoping that tomorrow is as well.

Thanks for reading.

 

My Answer to Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”–an Abandoned Service Station in a Ghost Town

February 21, 2012

Abandoned Service Station in Robertsville, Missouri

During my three-day weekend, I chose to return to a composition I painted several years ago, titled “Cold Desolation”(https://davidtripp.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/a-frozen-moment-along-route-66-at-christmas/).  I had taken more than a dozen photos and processed them on 35mm Kodachrome slides a couple of decades ago.  The “Cold Desolation” painting was of this abandoned gas station from a frontal perspective.  Now I have chosen to paint it from this 45-degree angle, including the fuel tanks and the neighboring brick building, as well as trees backing the composition.  I also have chosen a full sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 30″), rather than the mid-sized “Cold Desolation” composition.  The original title was selected due to the weather being about 10 degrees when I photographed this site.

Robertsville, Missouri is the setting for this defunct service station.  Robertsville is defunct as well.  The town is south of historic route 66, west of St. Louis, in eastern Franklin County, just six miles southwest of the town of Pacific.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robertsville,_Missouri) I have photographed several abandoned structures from this town, but this service station is the only one I have managed to paint.  The winter light was better on these buildings than the ones facing across the street.

The three-day weekend was packed with plenty of obligations, but I found some space and temperate weather to retire to my garage studio and begin this painting after hours.  My “companions” for the most part were VHS documentaries on Willem deKooning and Paul Gauguin.  I enjoyed the communion as I thought of those great artists and their contributions, saddened that they are no longer among the living, though their immortal works will remain.  And the sighs of melancholy that I experienced as I thought back over past memories that grow faint over time had an effect on this painting’s process that probably I alone know intimately.

I was also tinged with the sad note of William Wordsworth and his “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey; On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798.”  I recalled some of the words from this lyric poem on that winter morning when I encountered this “wild secluded scene” that impressed on me “thoughts of more deep seclusion” that connected “the landscape with the quiet of the sky.”  This particular holiday weekend offered a few spaces of quiet seclusion, and I accepted those gifts in sincere gratitude, particularly late Sunday and Monday evenings in the studio.  A part of me thinks that I could have been happier spending this day working in the garage studio, but on second thought, I doubt that.  I’ll accept those late night gifts, and look forward to the next time I find space to paint.

I’m going to close this post with the portion of the Wordsworth poem that touched me the most profoundly, and I felt were my own sentiments as I worked over this painting, and remembered that scene from the dead of winter:

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:–feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:–that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,–
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

On a separate note (one which probably has no connection to this post), I did manage some quality reading over the weekend, mostly from Immanuel Kant, of all people.  I have, throughout the years of my education, found this man’s thought a tough nut to crack.  But this weekend, a few fissures opened, and I finally caught a glimpse into some of his work that yielded some fine food for reflection.  I am most intrigued with his intellectual “Copernican Revolution” and its implications for thinking in the centuries since the 18th.  I may be posting some of those a little later, when they’ve had more time to mature.

Thanks for reading.  I have had no computer access for four days, and am most happy to be back at the blog, especially since I have a new painting emerging.