Posts Tagged ‘Karl Barth’

Morning Coffee with thoughts concerning The Word

November 15, 2018

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Excellent Morning Poring over Pages from Karl Barth

. . . as the gaps between my digital tasks disappeared, so did the opportunities for depth.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Sometimes, when ideas are not clicking at home, I load the Jeep and drive away, looking for a friendly environment for reading and writing. Yesterday, I had an engagement to meet my dear friends in Keller, Texas at noon, so I decided to get there two hours early so I could have some time and space to reflect and write.  The activities and chores and responsibilities at home cluttered my morning, and I could not stop to reflect.

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.

Seneca, On Noise

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

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

When I force myself to write, even when I feel that I am writing junk, I often find that good ideas will eventually emerge. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that the water pump initially brings up the dirty water before the clean. I find that true in writing; I often have to flush the junk from my mind to cleanse it and hope for epiphany.

As I wrote, I returned to an idea I broached recently on the blog that often consumes my thinking–the power of the genuine Word. My mind reached back to the writings of Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian whom I studied during seminary years, in fact I took a one-year seminar on his work during my Ph.D. studies. Returning home, I pulled the first two volumes of his Church Dogmatics from my shelf, and opened them to texts I had annotated back in 1983.

The distinction between word and act is that mere word is the mere self-expression of a person, while act is the resultant relative alteration in the world around. Mere word is passive, act is an active participation in history. But this kind of distinction does not apply to the Word of God. As mere Word it is act.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume 1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1

Studying the biblical writings, I recall that the creation of the world is described as a series of God’s spoken words: he spoke the world into existence. He spoke, and it was so. I recall also the Isaiah passage where God says his word will not return void. In the prophetic works, when the words are translated “the word of the LORD came”, a better rendering of the Hebrew is “the word of the LORD happened.” In the Semitic mind, it seems that the word was an event, not just a noise articulated or a mark on the parchment.

Why am I thinking of this? Because our culture is polluted with words that either mean little to nothing, or even worse, are used as weapons to wreak havoc on life. I shudder when I think of a child hearing words directed at him or her that say: “You will never amount to anything,” or “you are weak,” or “you lack intelligence.” Words contain the power to effect change. Words are actions, a most powerful resource.

I am writing a blog. Some people actually read these words. And often I second-guess whether I have made a contribution, or if my writing has any effect on a reader at all.

–What are you reading Hamlet?

–Words, words, words.

Our culture is media-driven and digitally-driven. That translates into billions of words pouring into our consciousness. We cannot stop the verbal deluge, but we can find a way to sift the mud from the pure, the hate from the love, the excess from the essential. And I will endeavor to write blogs that have value; I don’t want to waste readers’ time. Time is precious.

Barth

Karl Barth: Acrylic Collage on Canvas, 30 x 24″

During my years teaching high school, this collage hung in the back of my classroom, in my line of vision when I addressed my students. I recently sold a paper collage of Barth at an art festival, happy that a patron knew what she was purchasing. This morning, I found this larger canvas and hung it in my living room so I could spend more time in its presence. I hope that over the holidays I can create some space to make new art. I am feeling the urge to create.

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.

 

Art Festival Fever

April 15, 2015
Working on Inventory in Preparation for the Next Art Festival

Working on Inventory in Preparation for the Next Art Festival

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life.

Karl Barth, letter to friend Eduard Thurneysen March 17, 1920

Throughout this afternoon of work, this remark from Karl Barth kept clattering around in my brain, and I decided to post it. I’m not smoking a pipe, but the aroma from my coffee cup has been rising throughout this afternoon and evening, and I am feeling, like Barth, that it reflects the best times of my life. He was referring to the composition of a lecture he was to deliver at an historic event, whereas I am simply trying to enlarge my inventory for an approaching festival.

I will participate in the Brickworks Art in the Park festival in the neighboring city of Kennedale, Friday through Sunday. Throughout this week, I’ve come home from school each day and hurled myself into the enterprise of printing, matting and sleeving my enlarging inventory of prints and greeting cards to accompany my watercolors in the booth. The photo above is a sample of what I’ve tackled for the duration of this afternoon. The slowest part of the process was the creation of new greeting cards. For each painting I reproduce on the front of the 5 x 7″ card, I compose a text for the back, leaving the inside blank. Always, I worry about doing “hack work” when I write for the cards, especially when I am creating a dozen of them in the same afternoon. And then, there is that added detail of diving into the trunk filled with well over a hundred different cards, looking for the ones that are becoming scarce, as well as missing the ones that have sold out. It takes a while, and I find the effort taxing, especially after I’ve already taught all day.

Sorry I have to cut this short, but I have a long list of tasks that still need tending, and the fesitval is drawing near.

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.

Time to Reflect, to Compost, to Nurture and Grow

February 22, 2015

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. Until now the progress has been “at the face” but not yet of any magnitude, and it has yet to be seen whether or not the direction of the tunnel is right.

Karl Barth, letter to Eduard Thurneysen March 17, 1920

I am buried in my study with stacks of grading to do, and now face a possible shut-in situation as winter weather threatens my part of the country. There exists the possibility of my city icing over tonight and school being canceled tomorrow (darn). Taking advantage of the quiet, the dark and the cold, I have found ways to enjoy this Sunday, despite the grading. I opened a volume of my Karl Barth correspondences to his comrade in the early part of the past century, because I always remembered his satisfaction of working all day in his study with a continuous plume of smoke rising from his pipe. I don’t smoke, but I am pleased with the nonstop aroma of coffee that has charmed my study during this frigid, dark day. An added bonus is the conviction that this coffee is managing to keep me alert as I pore over pages and pages of scrawled words from my students.

The Philosophy journals are filling me with satisfaction today, as I note a number of students seizing on something I mentioned in a recent roundtable seminar. I told them that high school schedules are set up with seven-minute passing periods between the classes, with the expectation for students to push aside what they have just learned in one subject in order to focus on a new one. Knowledge and grades are compartmentalized by subject, with no connective tissue between them, despite educational buzz-words like “writing across the curriculum” or “integrated learning.” The schools do not provide for any of this, as far as I can determine. The bell rings and it is time to put away the stuff from one class and pass on to the next. Just exactly when are they expected to integrate all this material, while they’re working their evening jobs or doing their homework?

Last year, I atteded a national AVID conference in Orlando, Florida. It featured two days of packed schedules of sessions, with only a few minutes separating each, much like a typical high school bell schedule. In one of the ballroom sessions, I had the immense privilege of listening to Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the  University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His words reached to my core, often bringing me to the point of tears. The moment he finished, the facilitator took the microphone and informed us we had five minutes to get to our next session. I knew I would not go. I found the hotel coffee bar, sat at a table, opened my journal, and wrote for ninety minutes, pondering and savoring every thought, every impulse I had experienced during this President’s address, a sacred moment in my life. It was then that I came across this idea I am now publishing–schools do not allow time to compost, to process, to water the seeds of inspiration planted from some subject, some encounter. We are expected to close our notebooks and file into the next session. Rollo May published in his tribute to Paul Tillich his own personal habit of walking in the park after a meaningful lecture:

I had had brilliant professors or colorful ones or ones who cared about communicating knowledge or were profound in their reflection on the human predicament.  But I had never had one who brought all these things together. Three words summarize [Paul Tillich’s] lectures for me: universality, depth, and caring. . . . In my solitary walks in Riverside Park after his class to let the ideas sink in, I was filled with a profound seriousness and joy, not only about the truths I had heard but also about my own life and the decisions I had to make.

Rollo May, Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship

I am now reading Philosophy journal responses with great delight, as high school students share with me their thanks for my providing them that occasional space to “soak” what they are learning, and to integrate it with other subjects, and most importantly their personal life goals and aspirations. I guess sometimes they do hear and feel what we have to say to them.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Painting a Moving Target in Still Life

January 18, 2013
Completed 8 x 10" Still Life of Pepsi Carrier

Completed 8 x 10″ Still Life of Pepsi Carrier

“‘The truth, to be sure,’ [Nietzsche] once wittily put it, ‘can stand on one leg; but with two it will walk and get around.’  He was persuaded that there is no such thing as an absolute Truth, and that even in dealing with limited ‘truths’ the philosopher’s first task is to lift each one up and turn it around, like a stone, to see what might be lurking underneath.  And it was what lay below, in the inner depths of each spoken or written ‘truth’, that interested Nietzsche far more than the patent, superficial, often deceptive surface.”

Curtis Cate

Last night I wrote about my recent dual interest in focusing on one subject in a composition and in exploring the quality of the zone that lies between the highlights and the shadows.  I read with amusement the quote posted above, about Nietzsche’s conviction that Truth was something on the move, rather than static.  It reminded me of graduate school days, when I read with considerable interest the theological contributions of Karl Barth, who said that speaking of God was like painting a bird in flight.  You can only follow the movement with your eye, but you cannot arrest it.  And so, this afternoon as I finished up another small (8 x 10″) still life in watercolor, I immediately turned my attention to my next subject, and how I could work on these two new areas involving accents and half-lights.

I enjoyed the past two evenings, working on the watercolor posted above, and am anxious to learn new things with the next endeavor. I’m thankful that school is out now for a three-day weekend.  I need some time to explore

Thanks for reading.

Final Art Studio Posting of 2012–Watercolor Still Life Still Growing

December 31, 2012
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. 

Karl Barth, letter to friend Edouard Thurneysen dated March 17, 1920

What an amazing age in which we thrive today!  The above fragment is from a letter sent by one Swiss pastor to another.  They lived on opposite sides of the mountain and traveled once or twice a week to see one another for hours of conversation.  Between visits, they sent letters almost daily back and forth.  In this letter, Barth paints in words the picture of a day in his study where he worked furiously on a lecture and the smoke from his pipe never ceased.

Well, today, the water and pigment in my watercolor brush never ceased or dried up.  And as I painted alone in my Cave, I was inundated with phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and Blog comments from dear, dear friends and associates, all of them kindred spirits.  Thank you, I love you all.  You made this day very, very meaningful.  I can close out 2012 and move with confidence into 2013.  You’ll never know what a Gift you gave this day.

I have posted my last picture for this year.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening tinkering with the Maxwell House coffee tin, the stove top percolator, the Texaco oil can and the kerosene lantern.  Of course, I continued to play all over the rest of the composition–the darkened background, chips in the paint on the doors, the locking plate, the Mobilgas sign, the frying pan.  I work all over the composition, even while focusing on one key object.  And all of it was just as grand as the conversations I enjoyed with friends.  I can retire to bed happily tonight, thank you again.

Thanks for reading.  All of you have made me even more enthusiastic about blogging my painting experiences.

 

Saturday Morning in the Painter’s Studio, with Coffee

March 17, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy Saturday Morning, in Progress

My graduate work (long ago) was in theology, and now that I’m up to my elbows in this study of an ecclesiastical structure, parallels keep running through my head between the life I once lived clustered in a scholar’s den and the one I live now in my painting studio.  The hours I’ve kept this week during Spring Break have been just as erratic as the ones I lived while working on a Ph.D.  I retired to bed at 3 a.m., and then rose a little after 8:00 this morning to return to the garage.

I pulled a volume from my shelf that has been a comfort since the early 1980’s: Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence 1914-1925.  When the theologian Karl Barth was a young pastor in the Swiss mining town of Safenwil, his sole sustenance in spiritual companionship came from another young pastor, Edouard Thurneysen, who lived on the other side of the mountain.  They kept up a brisk correspondence, updating one another on their scholarly and pastoral pursuits as they laid the foundations for Neo-Orthodoxy, a revolutionary theology that arrived with the First World War.

This excerpt from Barth made me laugh: ” . . . this hot summer will ever be unforgettable for me.  I amble like a drunk man back and forth between writing desk, dining table, and bed, traveling each kilometer with my eye already on the next one.”  I knew that sentiment while writing papers and sermons during the course of my graduate program, and have known it recently during this holiday when the obsession to work on larger watercolors seized me.

Today is a delicious Saturday morning, and yes, I am going to pick up the brush the moment I finish this blog.  The suburban sounds are pleasing, the light is clear, and the scent from last night’s rain is a sweet one rising from the lawn just outside my open garage door.  The neighbor is mowing (I’m so glad the guy we hired did our lawn yesterday, before the rain), and I’ve always liked the sounds of lawnmowers on the weekends across suburbia–never an annoying sound to me.

I’m going to enclose another passage from one of Barth’s letters: “[The writing of the lecture] is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life.”  I don’t smoke a pipe, but I do have a full pot of Starbuck’s coffee brewed, and my cup will remain full as Barth’s pipe bowl did on his best days in the study.

O.K., the Saint Ignatius painting posted.  A watercolorist colleague whom I greatly admire has just sent me encouragement to jump right in to the intimidating details of this structure.  And I shall.  While writing this blog, it dawned on me that I should try a complementary juxtaposition of violets and ochres as I work on the texturing of this rusticated stone exterior, and get serious about the shadows.  It’s time to make this composition “pop” and that is only going to happen when the contrast gets loaded in.  So, that’s my next step.

What a delicious Saturday morning!  Thanks for sharing this moment with me (all of you readers, and the lingering muse/spirit of Barth).