Posts Tagged ‘Steppenwolf’

A New Chapter in the Continuing Odyssey

January 3, 2019

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Every child is born an artist. The trick is remaining one as an adult.

Pablo Picasso

Still warmed by the rich feelings of Christmas and New Year’s Day, I just picked up from the bookstore a copy of Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.  Over the yearsI have returned several times to her seminal work The Artist’s Way, and have appreciated the insights and exercises suggested in the reading, though I don’t really believe I’ve ever been “blocked” as an artist. If I am not producing works of art, I am either on the road, in the company of others, or obsessed with reading and writing. I never feel far away from the enterprise of art, even if visual images are not flowing out of my pencil or brush.

I purchased this book because it targets retirees. I have been semi-retired since June 2017, but went straight into the university classroom, so I still had a place to go either two or three times weekly, and so never really felt fully “retired”. That is over for now. All my spring classes are online, so I find myself in a different environment, and thought that this book would provide some structure to my artistic inclinations during the “wide open” days and weeks to come.

I also chose this book because its creative exercises include writing a memoir, something I haven’t yet done, but have been interested in pursuing for a number of years. With this being the commencement of a new year, I believe the timing is ripe for exploring a memoir. And since the beginning of my memoir will expore the importance of drawing in my life (my earliest memories include pencil and paper and my attempt to respond to my environment in pictures), I made a resolution for this new year to concentrate more on drawing, and attempt to hone my skills in that area.

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This book I purchased during the Christmas season of 2014, and I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so, but somehow it got pushed aside from new books (I’ve been such an addict when it comes to purchasing and stockpiling books) and I pulled it from my shelf just before Christmas arrived this time.

As stated before, I am ready to return to some serious winter tree drawing. Problem is, the temperatures here have remained in the 20’s and I don’t have the initiative to bundle up like an Eskimo and go out into the freezing wind to draw (actually, I don’t want to get sick again). So . . . in good time.

My second reading of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf has been deeply rewarding. I love the way this man wrote. A passage that captured my attention last night as I read follows:

“You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and no sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him–the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets or for the saints–is a fool and a Don Quixote.”

I feel the blush rising when I read texts such as this, for most of my life I certainly carried that inflated sense of self-importance. One of many reasons that existential thought has appealed to me throughout my years of teaching is because of the central tenet that we as individuals are certainly adrift in this boundaryless cosmos, and whether or not we wish to admit it, we are not the hub of society, but only a grain of sand in human history. No doubt many never outgrow this sentiment of being at center stage. As I write these words this morning, there is probably a 72-year-old child punching out a Twitter text, believing he is Master of the Universe, and that all souls are obsessed with what he thinks.

My blog is still what it was when I began it–little more than an online journal. Writing is therapeutic for me, and there are some who still tell me that I have a good word for them when they read me. That is my reward, knowing I can do something good for someone else as I figure out this life’s odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Drifting Boundary-less toward the New Year

December 31, 2018

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The generals and the captains of industry were quite right. There was nothing to be made of us intellectuals. We were a superfluous, irresponsible lot of talented chatterboxes for whom reality had no meaning.

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

Christmas and the New Year holiday have presented me with a boundary-less existence. in space as well as time. The college semester ended long ago, and spring offers for the first time in my life a complete online set of courses. So I find myself drifting in unfamiliar waters with no horizon. My courses will have to be ready by January 15, but there is no location for me to report for duty. Hence, I am living a life with few markers, and I appreciate the feel of that.

This morning, as I woke to New Year’s Eve, I realized that I have business and personal affairs needing my attention in the coming months, but nothing on the immediate horizon that needs to be addressed. For twenty-eight years, there were school semester dates that gave definition to my daily routine, but finally they are completely erased.

As I resumed my daily reading of Steppenwolf, I came across the passage opening this blog and mused on it awhile, appreciating the radicalness of the perspective. I have for the most part fit in that description, living out a life that captitalism generally regards as contributing little-to-nothing. While toiling through graduate school, I served terms in the pastoral ministry as well as welding, landscaping, sales, law enforcement and delivery services. I even worked as a carpenter’s helper. All the while, as I performed these duties, my imagination surged beneath the surface, exploring philosophical, theological, artistic and literary ideas. I realized that my real center was this Life of the Mind. And for years, I grieved at the thought that no one would ever pay me to support that kind of a life. In 1988, I signed a contract to teach school, hoping to find a culture that would pay me a living wage to read, think and attempt to pass on what I learned to younger minds. For twenty-eight years in high school, and at the same time, thirty-two years in university classrooms (mostly at night) I received pay to do what I loved most.

Retirement allowed me to leave the high school regimentation of Monday-Friday tasks, but the university has continued to offer me contracts to continue with them. But now, for the first time, I will work exclusively online. And thoughts of the possibilities this morning fill me with an air of optimism. I haven’t yet cluttered my blog with what I have scribbled in my journal in past days, because a plan has yet to coalesce; making art, reading, thinking and writing still compete for center stage in my life, and I still am thinking out ways to do them all, not allowing any single element to atrophy. Hence, as I look to this New Year, my heart surges with optimism and good will, and I hope to discover good things to share with those around me.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remin myelf I am not alone.

Leaning Forward

December 30, 2018

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What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (The Jerusalem Bible)

Still overflowing with the peace and good will of the Christmas spirit, I am glad to be resting after many, many road miles spent visiting with family and friends. Christmas came upon me quickly this season, and now the new year is drawing near and I have yet to adjust to that new set of feelings and aspirations.

Years ago, as 1973 was about to emerge, I found myself in a Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Bible study, listening to a pastor expounding the Book of Eccleasiastes. I had not been familiar with the contents of that text until that evening as I sat and listened. It proved to be a pivotal point. From that year till now, I have always included a fresh reading of Ecclesiasates with each new year approaching.

The aged author of that Book had found life unsatisfying, concluding that all was “vanity” (empty, meaningless), and that there was nothing new to be found as one grew older. Throughout my years, I have often found myself dissatisfied with how my life was going, but I can never recall reaching the depths of despair felt in this Book. One thing that has remained constant with me is this romantic notion that new experiences can be discovered; life for me remains an odyssey, filled with surprises.

New Year resolutions have always been a special part of my pilgrimage, and as I have spent recent days working and re-working a list of goals, I considered what I wish to accomplish in this blog. I confess that I spend too much time reading current news and listening to news reports and commentary. My summation of this content is that it is almost exclusively negative as well as badly written and spoken. As a retired educator, having devoted decades to persuading students to read quality texts, why do I constantly fall into the ditch of reading yellow journalism and listening to angry commentary? One of my main goals for 2019 is to trim back drastically that daily diet of literary and verbal trash and replenish my soul with quality thoughts and expressions. I came across the following while reading Steppenwolf this morning:

There is no sense in thinking or saying or writing anything of human import, to bother one’s head with thoughts of goodness–for two or three men who do that, there are thousands of papers, periodicals, speeches, meetings in public and in private, that make the opposite their daily endeavor and succeed in it too.

I agree that for every two or three blogging commentators there are myriads of professional journalists who successfully drown out a few quality words with an avalanche of venomous proclamations. But I refuse to conclude with the Steppenwolf that “there is no sense in thinking or saying or writing anything of human import” and I also refuse the Preacher’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes that life is vanity and there is no new thing under the sun.

In many, many ways, 2018 sucked in the political sphere, but my personal odyssey turned up many exciting sites and adventures. The time is near when I will be able to say Good-bye to 2018 and lean forward into 2019, echoing the sentiments of Jack Kerouac in his masterwork On the Road:

It’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you an adventure-filled 2019. I also pledge to write positive thoughts with hopes of enriching the lives of readers.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.