Posts Tagged ‘Paul Tillich’

Labor Day Fishing

September 2, 2019

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Canada Geese Keeping Me Company

Time is but the stream I go a–fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

On this second September morning, I still find the west Texas world comparatively cooler than what I knew during August. I found a shady spot again at a playa around 8:00 this morning, and again found the carp cooperating. I managed to land three of them, and lost two more. After two hours, I decided to call it quits when I caught a channel catfish the size of my hand.

Sitting in the shade in a comfortable lawn chair, I felt gratitude for a world that seemed to slow down where I sat. I chose to leave the national news alone, knowing it would most likely be more of the same–an avalanche of frenetic reporting on the same catastrophes and national embarrassments that I’ve know far too many years now. In the nineteenth century, Thoreau expressed dismay for a country that was living too fast when he was writing his Walden manuscript:

It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.

Today I found comfort in reading an article the theologian Paul Tillich published in The Saturday Evening Post back in 1958. His assessment of the American culture was that we had become a people, driven by an industrial society and recent technological advancements, in a frenzied horizontal direction. We were driven to work harder, faster, and produce more and more. He opined that we had lost our vertical sense of depth and no longer thought about the deeper issues of life that matter.

Robert Pirsig, in his celebrated work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that our national conversation, thanks to mass media, had gotten out of control, like a mighty river flooding its banks and running shallow, silting up with debris of no lasting value.

The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.

William Powers, in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry, warns that we will never achieve depth in our thinking if we are all the time distracted by our smartphones and tablets. Jumping from link to link, like a bird flitting from branch to branch, we find ourselves in a state of perpetual distraction, and never pause to reflect over the better elements of our lives. Two mornings of fishing have helped ease my mind as I’ve felt the stress growing due to a major presentation I am scheduled to make in exactly two weeks. Every day I work on this presentation, but thanks to the last two mornings of quiet fishing, I’ve found myself in a better state of mind and creativity to focus on the task that is coming on very quickly.

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The Carp were Active again this Morning

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Using my Size 13 Boot for Scale

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And then . . . there were the Little Ones

Thanks for reading.

 

Mind Drifting Back . . .

August 14, 2019

All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . but must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads”

I arrived at Dave’s Diner about thirty minutes before Dad and I agreed to break our fast here. The Missouri morning is beautiful beyond literary description–amber sunlight standing strong against the cold shadows, and our 75-degree day is not expected to climb above 88. I read this morning that my Texas home will reach 102 today. I’m fortunate to be here.

Opening my reading of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, I meditated over several pages of his discussion of Existentialist thought, finding his words very personal and enlightening. This book has been my vacation companion for nearly two weeks now, and I hope to be blogging about its message in subsequent posts.

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Waiting for Dad at Dave’s Diner, High Ridge, Missouri

But as I read and recorded notes in the journal, my mind kept drifting back to Monday and what I experienced while fishing all day with my friend. I never thought a Missouri river could equal the beauty of a Colorado mountain stream, but I say in all earnestness that Big River on that day rose to the competition.

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Sorry Wayne! I’m not 1/10 the Photographer that You Are!

I attempted several photos with my smart phone but naturally could not approach the quality of Wayne White, my fishing friend who is also a photographer of professional standards. I tried to capture a panorama of what I saw that morning as he crossed the stream to meet up with me.

Currently, I am sitting in a Fenton, Missouri coin laundry, grateful for the technology we enjoy these days–Wi-fii, smart phone, laptop–and I feel moved to record some more of what I knew on Monday. It proved to be one of those rare days when, as a fly fisherman, it seemed I could do no wrong. I still feel that cool, breezy morning wind caressing my face as I gazed downstream at the river’s bend, admiring the golden sunlight sending shafts through the branches of the trees overhead. The whirring of the locusts provided a more suitable white noise than what I know in city life. I spent the day staring at a light green fly line that continually cut the surface of the gliding waters in front of me. Looking down at my wading boots, three feet under water, I could see them as clearly as though gazing into an aquarium. Three or four perch were surrounding me, darting between my feet, perhaps looking for edibles set adrift by the gravel I stirred. The pebbly basement beneath the gliding, reflecting surface of the waters managed to hold fast my imagination to the point that I now puzzle over how to capture that dynamic play of colors and tones in watercolor. Maybe later . . .

As the morning passed and the sun rose higher, I took delight in watching the shadowy forms of largemouth bass prowling the depths of the channels I worked.  Studying the water’s flow and watching the minnows flash in the sunlight as they surged upstream, I searched through my fly box for something to match what I observed. My joy was complete when I managed to fool five of the largemouths with my Clouser minnow fly pattern. But some of the bass were in the 18″ range, and Wayne and I have now decided to return to this location tomorrow at first light to see if we can coax some of those lunkers to take our offerings.

Today is given largely to running necessary errands as I prepare for my imminent return to Texas. Hopefully this afternoon I can take out my watercolors again on Mom and Dad’s carport and continue working on the Sedona series I began weeks ago. I have fifteen plein air watercolors that I began on location, and now am puzzzling over how to complete and sign them. I am intrigued by Wordsworth’s theory of spontaneity followed by judgment, and hope I can make that work in my watercolor as he did in his poetry.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I  journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself I am  not alone.

 

Excavating for an Original Idea

December 19, 2018

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Layers of Ideas Covering my Desktop

I admit that I often set up compositions to photograph for the blog, hoping they will catch attention. But I testify that the photo above is very real, and I wasn’t aware of what my desktop had become till I re-entered the room with a fresh cup of coffee. I love these moments when my reading drives me down frequent diverging paths, and I keep opening books from my library to chase down parallel references. That was what filled this particular morning.

In our digital age, we hurtle through life at unheard-of speeds, chasing every stimulus that presents itself. If order is to be restored, then time for soaking ideas is required. I have some of that now, having undergone a surgical procedure over a week ago to remove a squamous cell from the crown of my head. Now that the sticthes have finally been removed and I am no longer taking meds for pain, I feel more clear-headed to read and think over these recent ideas.

The history of literature . . . is a sum of very few ideas, and of very few original tales,–all the rest being variation of these.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

This statement from Emerson has remained with me since my earliest years of teaching. I entered the classroom in 1985, fervent in my belief that if I was diligent in my scholarship I would one day arrive at an original, publishable idea. My fervor often reached a fever pitch, similar to that seen In the film “A Beautiful Mind,” where the youthful John Nash, as a student at Princeton, searched in earnest for his original idea. Eventually he came up with governing dynamics. As for me, I have followed more the Emerson track, over the years combining ideas from various sources much like a child putting together Tinker Toys.

As the years grew into decades, I came to the realization that I was not creating original ideas, but rather weaving disparate threads from philosophy, theology, art and litetature into tapestries. I took pride that I was synthesizing, while at the same time chafing that I was not coming up with anything original. And as the years continued, I began to worry that I was only scratching the surface of thought.

Paul Tillich remained one of my patron saints as I explored the world of ideas, and I was taken by words he uttered on May 6, 1963 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, delivering the keynote address for Time magazine’s fortieth anniversary observance. His distinguished audience included Adlai Stevenson and Douglas MacArthur. As I read this address, I felt the impact as I acknowledged, with his words, that I remain the product of a “one-dimensional culture.” Tillich regarded America as a free society, but one “without depth.” The culture he described that day in 1963 has not changed from the current one in that it moves fast, with an obsession “to produce in order to produce still more.”

I now quote from Tillich’s biography authored by Wilhelm Pauck:

Tillich exhorted the producers of cultural goods to stop moving in this one-dimensional direction—to come to a halt in order to “enter creation and unite with its power,” in short, to add the vertical line of depth to the horizontal line of extension. In a direct reference to his own role as a Socratic gadfly, he pointed out that the creative critics of contemporary society no longer needed to fear martyrdom, but were instead forced to “fight against being absorbed by the culture as another cultural good.”

As I read these words, I envisioned today’s thinker as one who water-skis over a vast ocean, skating rapidly over the surface while paying no regard to the immeasurable depths beneath. As a student of history, I see myself that way, as one who has focused on timelines and extensions, putting in little time for excavating the layers of strata beneath the surface of thought.

I am re-posting this remarkablly incisive quote from Emerson, who also saw the American thinker as one who stayed on the surface of ideas without bothering to tunnel beneath:

The crystal sphere of thought is as concentrical as the geological structure of the globe. As our soils and rocks lie in strata, concentric strata, so do all men’s thinkings run laterally, never vertically. Here comes by a great inquisitor with auger and plumb-line, and will bore an Artesian well through our conventions and theories, and pierce to the core of things. But as soon as he probes the crust, behold gimlet, plumb-line, and philosopher take a lateral direction in spite of all resistance, as if some strong wind took everything off its feet, and if you come month after month to see what progress our reformer has made,–not an inch has he pierced,–you still find him with new words in the old place, floating about in new parts of the same old vein or crust. The new book says, ‘I will give you the key to nature,’ and we expect to go like a thunderbolt to the centre. But the thunder is a surface phenomenon, makes a skin-deep cut, and so does the sage. The wedge turns out to be a rocket. Thus a man lasts but a very little while, for his monomania becomes insupportably tedious in a few months. It is so with every book and person: and yet–and yet–we do not take up a new book, or meet a new man without a pulse-beat of expectation. And this invincible hope of a more adequate interpreter is the sure prediction of his advent.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Method of Nature”

Thoreau made use of this same metaphor in his masterwork, Walden:

Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d’appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. 

Tillich, Emerson and Thoreau have inspired me to devote more time to drilling to the core of things. After so many decades of gathering fragments, I’m wondering now what kind of skill set is required to think with depth rather than breadth. I’m happy that the holiday season has finally arrived, the fall semester has ended, grades have been posted, and I can now relax into a season of meditation.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Morning Coffee in the Wet Wasteland

October 19, 2018

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Waking to yet another cold, wet, dark Texas rainy morning, my first thoughts were recollections of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man being read to me via audiobooks as I drove on yet another long business road trip yesterday. I’ve posted these words before, but they are always worth repeating:

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him! His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly. It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

The serenity I felt as I drove for hours yesterday, listening to this book of abundance cannot be overstated. The theme that resounded the most with me yesterday was that notion of living a life alone. This morning, I opened the volume to a couple of texts that jarred me yesterday while driving:

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amidst of a waste of wild air . . . 

–You’re a terrible man, Stevie, said Davin, taking the short pipe from his mouth. Always alone.

Long ago, in the sermon by Paul Tillich, “Loneliness and Solitude”, I found an ace I could play repeatedly throughout my life: loneliness is the injury suffered from being alone, whereas solitude is the healing balm. And since the day I read that sermon, I have unfailingly acknowledged that I, though living and traveling alone, am very seldom lonely, instead feeling solitude. I relish the space, the internal quiet, and even the frequent feeling of disconnectedness.

It does not alarm me, the feeling of being tossed headlong into the midst of an enormous, chaotic, swirling planet that seems to follow no logical plan. Reading existential writers perhaps helped me with this sentiment. But the way I see it, I am surrounded by currents of activity that sometimes include me in the “plan”, but most of the time seem oblivious that I am here. And I don’t find this threatening. Rather, I feel a dizzying freedom to follow my bliss, live the dream.

In chapter one of Melville’s Moby Dick, Ishmael muses that Providence has cast his life as a minor role between two major plays:

“Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States”  “WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.”  “BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.”

As the world population, fixated on the news, chattered away about a presidential election or a bloody conflict, an obscure young fellow named Ishmael boarded a whaling ship and sailed out to sea. His odyssey, important to him, would go unnoticed by the world at large. And alone in that odyssey, he spun his story.

I have always had a fascination with a biblical passage that I’m sure most readers would pass over without a second thought. It is from The Prophet Jeremiah 1:1-5:

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.  It came also in the days of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.  Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

In my studies, I have read commentators writing page after page of text concerning those final words of the LORD knowing Jeremiah before he was conceived. But what has always held my attention is the larger context: Jeremiah arrived on this planet in the matrix of enormous national and political events that would hold the attention of the population of his day. As the nation of Judah swirled in the maelstrom of the news of its day, a Word came to a solitary man in a small town obscured in the shadows of the metropolis of Jerusalem. The Word of the LORD came (“happened” is a better rendering of the Hebrew text). Something HAPPENED while the world at large chased the swirling winds of the national news.

Whether it is Ishmael tossed on the unruly waves of a boundless ocean odyssey or Jeremiah receiving enlightenment in a small town, my heart quickens when I think of solitary people engaged in large ideas even as their surrounding climate is oblivious to what is going on inside them. Yesterday as I drove, I savored the text of Joyce’s Portrait, thinking of this young self-exiled writer recalling his youth in Ireland and laying out those powerful lines of text.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson suffered the loss of his wife at a tender age, and then resigned the ministry, no one accompanied him to the docks when he sailed out of Boston harbor for a two-year European odyssey, seeking some kind of purpose to his existence. A solitary man, he finally found his voice and launched New England Transcendentalism. In later years, as he penned “Self-Reliance”, he gave us this challenge:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.  Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.  Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age . . .

In those words, all of us can find hope. We have been placed on this planet and given a number of years to find our way, to seek something that matters, to pursue our bliss and offer no apology for it. And the great majority of us are destined to obscurity. The world at large is not going to read about us, talk about us, and the footprint we leave behind may not affect a large multitude, But still, we have been given this gift, this opportunity, to explore life and decide what we wish to do. As for myself, I am still enjoying this gift of adventure, and if anything I write and send up as a smoke signal offers good to others, then I am all the more happy.

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 (though being alone is O.K.)

 

Morning Coffee following a Quixotic Odyssey

October 5, 2018

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In a Small Town Diner this Morning

Driving out through the windmills

And some of them were still.

Sometimes it’s hard to catch the wind

And bend it to your will.

James Raymond

The road unrolled like an unending manuscript yesterday, which was a gift to me, seeing I needed plenty of time to think over some important matters. Tuning in to music, I was smitten by these opening words of a song composed by James Raymond, son of David Crosby, my musical hero since high school days. The lines remind me of Don Quixote, and all the silliness surrounding his adventures stemming from his unusual perception of his role in life. “Quixotic” is a label tossed around to describe those with exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical ideas about life (artists?). I know why well-meaning friends occasionally pin this word on me, it’s deserved.

So, while driving, I gave this plenty of thought, and probably resolved little. I am old enough to know the world doesn’t bend to my will or always conform to my hopeful anticipations. But I am also old enough to know that ideas are my most precious resource. And, when times turn gray, my ideas give my world the color needed to remain attractive. I write all this in good will, I am not complaining or in a resentful mode as I write this.

While drinking coffee and pondering breakfast options in a small town diner this morning, I turn again to Paul Tillich’s The Interpretation of History and enjoy his autobiographical observations in this text. As he portrays his life lived “on the boundary”, I am prompted to recall all the boundaries I have threaded in my own Quixotic Odyssey.

Among the many boundaries Tillich explored in his personal journey, one that particularly resonated with me was that difficult path between theory and practice. Like Tillich, I know I have always felt more connected to theory and therefore not always practical. But I took solace in these words:

In these years of practical activity theoretical work was not interrupted, although of course, much restricted. This period of immersion in practical work, however, in no way shook my basic devotion to the life of theory.

Like Tillich, I held down a number of practical professions throughout my life, and a number of them were soaked in practical details. And I gladly testify that, despite the numbing effect of carrying out mindless details in these jobs, they never took me completely out of the world of ideas. Tillich wrote that “the highest form of play and the truly productive abode of imagination is Art.” Those words I wholeheartedly endorse.

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.

 

Morning Coffee with David & Paul Tillich

October 4, 2018

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The border line is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.

Paul Tillich, Religiöse Verwirklichung

A rare occasion this morning, having two hours of leisure before heading off to class. As I looked over my Logic notes for this morning’s presentation, I thought of how unusual it is to be teaching a discipline so unlike my right-brain natural instincts. Friends who have known me for years are aware of my creative, non-linear ways of approaching things. And yet, the university tagged me years ago to teach Logic more than any other course.

Throughout my public school upbringing, I struggled in math and science, while flourishing in the fine arts. During college years, I continued to feed the art beast, but woke up to the values of the left-brain disciplines. Graduate school took me further down that road, and then throughout my teaching career, I tried to strike a balance between the two.

In my reading of Paul Tillich, I’m intrigued by his volume titled The Interpretation of History, a 1936 publication during his tenure at Union Theological Seminary in New York. I was fortunate to obtain a first edition of this volume at a rare books store in the year 2000 (anyone who hasn’t visited Larry McMurtry’s “Booked Up Inc.” in Archer City, Texas should consider a life-changing visit to that location). In Part One of this book, titled “On the Boundary”, Tillich writes in confessional fashion of his life as one lived between two conflicting worlds. He explores this theme geographically, philosophically, theologically, psychologically and so on. Page after page, in excellent prose, he explores the conflicts he faced throughout his years, always seeking a way to live out his existence “on the boundary” between the two.

Very early in my study of philosophy, I discovered in Plato this notion of dualism which I used as a tool to study virtually everything. Now I’m looking at Tillich’s “boundary” motif and plan to re-explore some important matters from my personal past and present.

Tillich ink portrait

Well, it’s time to go to class . . .

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.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Friends

September 11, 2018

friends

Early Morning Solitude

. . . I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday afternoon, I found a break amidst all my grading and college prep work, and returned to the studio, finishing a commission that I’ve already posted several times, and then began re-working this plein air sketch I began in west Texas a couple of weeks ago. Sitting on the back bumper of my Jeep, I looked across the barren landscape and painted this amazing horizon, then quickly sketched in the railroad embankment below, but never painted the line itself or the gravel banks. Today, I tried to enrich some of the colors and shadows of the trees and horizon, began work on the railroad embankment, and then determined where the 8 x 10″ boundary should lie. Tomorrow I plan to return to the studio after my morning class, and will take a fresh look at this to see if it requires any more attention. It felt lovely to pick up the brush again.

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Return to the Studio

My early morning reading today began in The Gospel of Mark where I had in a previous blog remarked on the Parable of the Sower. In the same chapter is a brief discourse on growth that I was thinking about yesterday while painting that small watercolor. As I painted, I thought about my past, and the number of silent years required to grow in artistic ability, sensitivity, and intellectual matters. When I was college-age, I envied professors of fifty years and older, because they seemed so well “seasoned” in their thinking and in their art work. When talking with them in earnest, they would usually smile and say something like, “Be patient, stay with it, results will come in time.” It took decades for that to sink in. In fact, it wasn’t until my last few years of teaching that I heard myself mouthing those same words of advice to impatient high school and college students. Yes! Deeper, more mature matters require extensive time to compost, to develop, to flower, to bring to harvest. There is no royal road, no short cut to Quality.

The amusing part of this morning’s reading is that it began with one book, the Bible. Within thirty minutes, all these other volumes were sought, opened, read, notated, and now I am attempting to describe this refreshing morning on the blog. The cumulative moments that go from one book to half a dozen books remind me of earlier days, either composing sermons for the pulpit or writing papers during my Ph.D. seminar years. And I love it! I love the pursuit, the process, following the thread, seeing where the idea is going to lead. The reading and thinking themselves are an Odyssey. Recently I was reading about sowing seed, and now the idea comes up again, from The Gospel of Mark, 4:26-29:

. . . as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

The above I have posted from the King James Version. This morning I read the same passage from my Geneva Bible which preceded King James by about fifty years. I enjoy struggling with the English of this era:

Alfo he faid, So is the kingdome of God, as if a man fhulde caft fede in the grounde,

And fhulde flepe, and rife vp night and day, and the fede fhulde fpring and grow vp, he not knowing how,

For the eaerth bringeth forthe frute of her felf, firft the blade, then the eares, after that ful corne in the eares.

And affone as the frute fheweth it felf, anone he putteth in the fickel, becaufe the harueft is come.

After years and years of effort in education and the making of art, I am delighted to bring some of this to harvest. The classes at the college make me feel warm inside, because finally I am pouring out matters of the heart that have taken me most of my life to grow and water and now disperse. And as for the arts, I am so blessed that three galleries have welcomed my work and finally I have enough art festivals and shows annually where I can send out my creations.

Years ago, a gentleman was in my home, and seeing the size of my personal library, he made the observation: “It doesn’t seem fair that you have hoarded all these books and put them inside a private residence. They should be ‘out there’ for others to enjoy.” I thought that was an odd assessment, and still do. I thought my response made sense, that those books were what grew me intellectually, and being a teacher, I was daily going into the classroom and attempting to pour their wealth into the minds of students. I still think of his words, and my response, which seemed to be met with indifference. But, there it is. Throughout the decades I have loved studying, thinking, writing and attempting to put the best of my ideas out there for others to read. And so also with my art–I have created a large inventory of work, but it is in the galleries and festivals, not hoarded inside my home like a private collection. And then, this blog–I write daily because I have to; it is in me. And my hope remains that whatever ideas I share will play a part in making this world better than it was the way I found it. I hope that the footprint I leave is one that can point the way for others.

And so, I close with these words from my beloved muse, Paul Tillich:

The most intimate motions within the depths of our souls are not completely our own. for they belong also to our friends, to mankind, to the universe, and to the Ground of all being, the aim of our life. Nothing can be hidden ultimately. It is always reflected in the mirror in which nothing can be concealed.

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

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.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul

September 8, 2018

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Courage is the affirmation of one’s essential nature, one’s inner aim or entelechy, but it is an affirmation which has in itself the character of “in spite of.”

Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be

Rainy and cool, this Saturday morning spent in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas has offered a perfect enclave for coffee and books, surrounded by art. In this quiet and lovely space, I have felt my soul restored.

The theologian Paul Tillich has been one of my intellectual and spiritual heroes since 1992. He embodied courage to me, standing up to the intimidation tactics of the Hitler regime on university campuses. In 1933, he was numbered among the first dozen faculty to be dismissed from teaching posts in Germany (him being the only non-Jew). American scholars meeting at Columbia University saved his professional career, bringing him to New York’s Union University for a fresh new beginning. He served at Union twenty-two years before moving on to Harvard for the next seven, then on to the University of Chicago, where he taught until his death.

Reading Rollo May’s Paulus: Remiscences of a Friendship back in 1992, I finally learned about the lifestyle of this scholar whom I had known only by reputation. Tillich’s passion for scholarship, teaching and the arts renewed my own faith in what I was doing and continue to do this day. When I find myself torn between desires to read a book, scribble in my journal, listen to a lecture on YouTube, play my guitar, or work on a watercolor, I think of Paul Tillich who wished he could engage in several pursuits at the same time. Today has been one of those days. The gallery environment always stirs my creative blood. Hence I packed in all my art supplies, a dozen books, my journal, my laptop and my guitar. Now I need to decide which to do first.

Though never facing crises remotely connected to what Paul Tillich endured, I still have endured a string of personal, gut-wrenching failures in life, going all the way back to the early 1980’s (I am confidant that I am not unique in that). What inspires me about this book, The Courage to Be, is the author’s stress on that fortitude in our souls that fights back when circumstances try to convince us that we are of little worth. That was the echoing refrain when I suffered a major setback in  life, or failed to accomplish a significant goal. Circumstances seemed to cry out that I was inadequate. But at the same time, I would rebelliously take inventory of what I had accomplished (especially those victories won without encouragement from others), and I would feel myself crying out: “I am worthy! And I am playing the best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt.” Paul Tillich was an existentialist theologian/philosopher. And one of his hallmarks was the belief that what mattered in life was how you play the hand you are dealt.

Many have their own ways of thinking about death and what comes after. I think of Paul Tillich’s ship arriving in New York harbor in 1933, and no one here in America to greet him (though most likely someone from the Columbia gathering was waiting for him). Nevertheless, it had to be dreadful, Tillich leaving his homeland to start over in New York, with a feeble grasp of English. Most certainly, he felt anguish, wondering what he would encounter on this shore. When I think of death, I think of myself arriving at a port, and Paul Tillich waiting at the landing to greet me. I have so cherished and taken to heart his writings throughout my adult life, wishing I had known him while he was living, that I now fantasize of him knowing that someone on this earth, in the next generation, sought out his courageous writings for strength while teaching and figuring out life. I see him making his way through the throng to reach me, and taking my hand, I hear him say: “Welcome home at last. I have been watching over you for decades. And my presence was real during your times of anguish, and I’ve been waiting for this moment finally to meet you. We have so much to discuss, and an eternity to catch up.”

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone. 

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul

August 19, 2018

Sunday Tillich

Reading from Tillich after Attending Mass

I am not a Catholic, but attending mass is something I do on occasion. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is directly across the street from The Gallery at Redlands. I have painted it twice, and for over a year have felt serene every time I hear the church bells tolling the hours. John Donne’s “Meditation XVII” keeps coming back to me.

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Palestine, Texas

Among the books I packed for the weekend in Palestine was volume one of Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology. I read this in its entirety over ten years ago (T. S. Eliot read it twice while crossing the Atlantic, and sent Tillich a “thank you” letter for the contribution). I still return to it frequently to re-read portions I have underlined and notes jotted in the margins. Among my favorite passages is the following:

Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly. Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or are not able to speak to the situation.

I will have to agree with Tillich on this point. The theologian Karl Barth struggled to bring together the current newspaper on one side of his pulpit and the New Testament on the other. That was 1914. Today I feel is no different. I love to read the New Testament, and am grateful that I was provided an education enabling me to read its Greek text. During mass this morning I attempted to read from my Latin Vulgate. I regret that Latin was never available to me, and though I work in the grammars, I have not paid the price in learning to translate it effectively. But still, I enjoy reading the text and learning what I can from it.

But the current news, well, I won’t waste time addressing that. In this country, I feel that religious leaders with the biggest megaphone are the least effective, or relevant, in bridging the message of the New Testament to bear on these times. And our nation certainly lacks courageous prophets of the ancient Hebrew heritage who withstood rulers clearly on the wrong side of the truth. Still, I search for meaning and coherence in this life we live these days.

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Sunday Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The weekend spent in the gallery was refreshing to me, to say the least. I left here fifty days ago to travel, and I so loved my odyssey. But it was a thrill, feeling that I had a home where I could return. And the people of Palestine certainly made me feel welcome. On Saturday, a high school friend came down from Paris, Texas to visit, and I had not seen her since she graduated college and packed her car for Houston to accept her first teaching position. That must have been around 1976. So, we had much catching up to do.

And then Sunday, a dear friend that I met through this hotel a year ago came by for an afternoon visit. We hadn’t seen each other in about three months, so we also had catching up to do. What a homecoming this has been.

Sunday cloudcroft

(Sorry about the Reflection!) My Plein Air Watercolor from Cloudcroft

Sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, I began this 8 x 10″ watercolor on the edge of the town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico several months ago. I decided to frame it for the gallery and brought it down to add to the collection this weekend. We are offering it for $200 in its 11 x 14″ frame.

Sunday box

(Ugh! Reflections!) Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

One of my most thrilling mornings at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico was hiking back into Box Canyon, and pausing beside a stream to set up an easel in the shade and attempt this 8 x 10″ plein air watercolor of this magnificent bluff towering above me and the trees. I am still fascinated at the colors and textures and striations of massive cliffs, and am struggling to find the right color combinations for rendering them. I’ll continue to study this matter. This watercolor as well, in its 11 x 14″ frame, is offered at $200.

Today is the first day of the semester at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. I have two online classes ready for viewing. Tomorrow will be my first time in the classroom. Time to hit the books!

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Oracle Comes in the Morning

May 28, 2018

coffee 2

Coffee, Books and Democritus

coffee

My New Passion–the French Press

. . . there is generally some kind of message, some guidance that appears. It comes more readily if I do not stridently demand it; if I listen to my “deeper” self, sooner or later it will speak to me. The message which forms itself out of the darkness and the vapor–when one does come–often takes me by surprise. This is generally a sign of its authenticity. This third phase owes a good deal to my Protestant-Christian background. It would be surprising if I could cut off my cultural body, nor do I want to.

Rollo May, Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship

How sublime, these moments when I can stop after weeks of art-related engagements and festivities. Before and after my morning walk, I was afforded the pleasure of reading Rollo May from his books Paulus and My Quest for Beauty. With French press coffee to sip and soothing YouTube music filling my room, I read this portion posted above about Rollo May’s morning meditation practices in the office before his appointments began.

Reading about this morning watch resonated with me profoundly, and I haven’t been able to discuss this easily with friends and acquaintances. In my early college years, as I participated in the Baptist Student Union, I was introduced to his notion of Daily Quiet Time, and the practice soothed me in the midst of college studies and then later as I did the work of the pastoral ministry.  Those days are far behind me now, but my second life as a teacher for three decades found me practicing a daily morning watch of some sort. This practice continued to serve as a compass for my classroom navigations.

Long ago, I came to expect some kind of oracle, some kind of message, a Word, as I lingered over books and my own hand-scribbled journals first thing every morning. The Greek notion of word (logos) can be construed as a “gathering together.” An idea would emerge from the gloom most mornings, and I would take that idea seriously, using it as a pole star to lead me through the days ahead. And every time I read from another creative spirit of how s/he listened for this inner voice, I feel that I have gained yet another soul mate in life and feel less lonely, less isolated in this odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.