Posts Tagged ‘Siddhartha’

Sunday Morning Coffee in the Gallery at Redlands

January 13, 2019

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View from my Desk as the Morning Finally Breaks

Just as the potter’s wheel, once set in motion, still turns for a long time and then turns only very slowly and stops, so did the wheel of the ascetic, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of discrimination still revolve for a long time in Siddhartha’s soul; it still revolved, but slowly and hesitatingly, and it had nearly come to a standstill.  . . . But on the other hand his senses became more awakend, they learned a geat deal, experienced a great deal.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Sunday morning, daybreak in The Gallery at Redlands is providing rich sanctuary. The words from Siddhartha come back to me:

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

A long shadow looms across my desk, crosses the floor and climbs the gallery wall before me: the towering edifice of Sacred Heart Catholic Church rises behind me. In a few hours, the sounds of traffic will increase, joined by myriads of voices of worshipers moving along the sidewalk and crossing the street to attend mass. The silence I know now will soon yield to that white noise. At this point in my life, I feel I live more in the silence than in the white noise, and the change is welcome.

As I move to the closing chapters of Siddhartha, the passage at the top of this blog came along, and I felt something stirring from deep within. My mind drifted back eighteen years to an intersection in my life calling for a life-altering decision. At that time I was teaching high school full time, university part time, and serving as education director of a large urban Methodist Church. I was commuting a considerable distance to all three of those locations. Life was spinning out of control, as all my time was chewed up by tasks–lectures, lesson plans, administrative meetings, and constant driving to appointments. I had just taken up the brush again, after a couple of decades of artistic hiatus, and wished for some quality studio time to create. I was just getting accepted into art galleries. I wanted to experience the soulful calming effect of the arts, but felt my life was burning out with too many occupational demands.

Things suddenly came to a head, and I immediately severed all my connections accept the full-time high school teaching post, deciding it was time to slow things down. But as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. All the empty spaces created by the terminations were immediately filled as my high school saddled me with more courses and more responsibilities. So I continued to spin my wheels, cranking out lectures, lesson plans, tests and activities for new courses that just kept coming. In my final eighteen years of high school instruction, I taught ten different subjects, six of them brand new subjects for me. I switched to a different university for adjunct duties, and ended up teaching five new subjects, all of them for the first time in my life. In addition to this, I began to find more galleries to carry my art work, and began participaing in art festivals. So again I found my life incinerating in an inferno of responsibilities.

In May 2017, after twenty-eight years, I retired from full-time high school teaching, and I feel that life has finally slowed and calmed. My university courses are now online, and the subjects I know comfortably. My time in the studio, painting and drawing, is quiet, and my calendar has very few appointments. Of course, this has required quite an adjustment in my thinking: after decades of living in the hurricane, I frequently second-guess my status, sensing that there is some assignment I am forgetting to do. I am continually shocked to awaken to a day absent of demands.

Those who know me well are probably chuckling by now, knowing that I always seem to be “somewhere else”, always driving to another place. But I choose that; it is not demanded of me. What is most precious in my life now is that I generally awaken before daylight, but don’t have to dash into the shower, dress and eat quickly to make my 7:35 a.m. class (after twenty-eight years!). And I no longer have to come home tired at the end of the day, having watched 125 students storm through my classroom. I can enjoy bliss in my home, because I no longer have a myriad of tasks to accomplish in order to show up prepared for classes the following day. The league of morons in American society who believe public school teachers are overpaid for very little work have no clue at all. They don’t know that teachers face a stampede of students five days a week and then bring their work home at the end of the day–grading, preparing for the next day, returning phone calls to parents, going to bed late at night–and as for myself, I was never, never, NEVER caught up. There was always a task delayed, a report not filed, papers not yet graded, and then at the worst time, someone would manage to let me know that the students deserved better. (I just needed to get that off my chest. Two years after leaving it behind, I still taste the gall).

O.K. Finally to get to the real point of this post, the quote at the top of this page: The potter’s wheel of my life turns more slowly now. With the erasure of all those calendar deadlines, I now find quality time–hours–for daily reading and pondering and recording of ideas. Quality time for scribbling in the journal. Quality time to compose lectures now delivered to an audience of one–me. And I love and embrace this. I feel as if finally a reward is offered for all those decades of chasing deadlines and performing tasks on command. The wheel turns slowly now, but there is genuine quality in those revolutions. I can now savor what I read, take more time to write and revise, and create art at my leisure. And when I decide to travel the open road, I can.

These are truly turning out to be Golden Years. I am so happy I decided not to push my service to thirty years. Twenty-eight was more than enough. My life is worth more than the few extra dollars earned by staying another year or two at a profession that was chewing me up. I am extremely happy to be in this new life.

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.

 

 

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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.

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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.