Posts Tagged ‘Susan Cain’

Sunday Morning Coffee with Steve Wozniak

September 23, 2018

20180923_1730004448396790004141956.jpg

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me–they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design  without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other  committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone.

Steve Wozniak, quoted in Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of  Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Temperatures this morning in west Texas hovered in the fifties, and I felt deep gratitude for the autumn snap in the air. This summer in Texas has been so bloody hot, that I feared I might not know cool temperatures till November. Part of today’s relaxation involved fishing in a local park, all the while marveling at how chilly and invigorating the air felt around me. I have also been laughing my way through my second reading of Garrison Keillor’s WLT: A Radio Romance, enjoying the chapter episodes and thinking with gladness over the episodes I’ve enjoyed the past year and a half in the Redlands Hotel and Gallery, and musing over what to expect when Smooth Rock 93.5 FM moves in and sets up its broadcasts. The team of Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell offer some amazing color to our future in downtown Palestine, Texas. I look forward to returning to The Redlands soon.

Most of what I have been up to the past two days I cannot weave into a meaningful blog just yet; I have been going through countless drafts of essays composed over the past five or so years and stored on files. A renewed passion for writing has come over me, extending far beyond daily journal jottings. Quiet moments in coffee shops have provided an enriching atmosphere for musing and writing. Hopefully, some meaningful topics will emerge and I’ll gladly send them out.

Throughout today, the two posts above have flooded my imagination. Creativity has always been a solitary activity for me, and I do not wish to disparage others’ theories involving creative collaboration. But I will say this–throughout my career of teaching in public schools, there was always this push for teachers to be more “creative” in the classroom by stimulating “collaborative learning.” In all honesty, I never found success in that experiment. Rather, I only noticed “teams” allowing the “alpha member” to do all the work creating, with the team sharing in the spoils of the grade. But that’s just my perspective. Throughout my life, I have been on the side expressed by Wozniak and Steinbeck, that creativity comes from the individual, not the committee. And I am convinced that my push to create emanated naturally from the way I have lived out my life as one who spends a great deal of his time alone and quiet.

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.

 

 

Zu die Hütten (to the Hut!)

January 30, 2017

grid-2

My Favorite “Store-Off-the-Grid”, (where I sit in the mornings and enjoy my coffee)

Being back in my home is good tonight. Mozart plays softly in the background. The hot tea is soothing. I love my writing desk and library area. But in my mind’s eye, I’m still at the “store”, my favorite hideaway when I can get out of the city. I probably posted in earlier blogs (I don’t go back and read them much) that I’ve been reading a great deal about Martin Heidegger. I have zero interest in the details of his political leanings, but am intrigued with his philosophy that includes amazing insight into art, poetry and pre-Socratic thought. And I have always been intrigued with stories surrounding the cabin he had built adjacent to the town of Todtnauberg where he frequently withdrew to study and write. He did not enjoy life in the city of Freiburg where he lived and taught in the university. He later turned down the Chair of Philosophy offered to him in Berlin, because it would prevent his frequent withdrawals to his cabin. As for myself, I’m glad to have a home in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas, four minutes from where I teach. But I love so much more these three-and-a-half hour drives out of the city to a remote spot in the country, to a dirt road where no one drives by, to a spot of absolute quiet and solitude. It is in that place that my soul has been restored repeatedly. All my life I have dreamed of such a location.

heidegger-house

Martin Heidegger’s Cabin in the Black Forest

thoreau-window

Reading Thoreau’s Journals inside the “Store”

I want to respond to a passage from Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut, having finished reading the book this weekend:

. . . it is possible to consider the hut and house as talismanic for two positions decisive in Heidegger’s biography, which Albert Borgmann terms “provincialism” and “cosmopolitanism.” These positions are often considered in opposition. Tropes recur by which advocates of each position attempt to dismiss the alternative. Cosmopolitans dismiss the provincial as invidious: introvert, inbred, prone to exclusion, and reliant upon romantic myth. Provincials dismiss the cosmopolitan as deluded: bound up in abstract systems and priorities, entranced by the fickleness of fashion, setting itself and its self-appointed heroes on false pedestals. Although such polarities are inevitably caricatures, and provincial and cosmopolitan positions always remain more nuanced, their identification can be helpful.

I love it when someone writes what I’ve thought about for years, and writes it so well! For twenty-eight years, I have been a citizen of both worlds–teaching in the suburban neighborhoods of a large city and withdrawing as much as possible to remote sanctuaries. Being single, I love the privacy and quiet of my home after a day in the classroom, and when I can leave the city, I look for the quietest places in the country. My life’s work has been in the public schools full time and the universities part time. When I retire at the end of May, I’ll gladly accept the offer of a neighboring university to continue teaching part time, some of it online. I am so thrilled at this new chapter, the idea of  no longer being under contract from 7:15 till 3:15 five days a week.

My public life in the classroom has been mostly scintillating throughout the decades–I have had an overwhelmingly positive and affirming crowd of students (probably 99.8% respectful and inspiring, only the occasional “turd”). Being an educator has allowed me to remain a student for life, which is what I truly craved–I hated the thought of leaving a life of scholarship behind after completing graduate school. How wonderful to be paid to study, to learn and share daily the things that matter to me. I cannot say enough about the richness of teaching in the areas of religion, art, philosophy and literature. Life as a public educator has been very rewarding to me.

At the same time, I must confess that I am drawn to reading books like Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, along with the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Long ago I came to terms with the reality that I like being alone, and crave space for such times. I have always believed that I could do my job better if I had time to withdraw and recharge my batteries. Fortunately for me, life has provided those opportunities and for the most part I have been able to avoid burnout.

At age 62, I am more sensitive to the noisy clatter of school hallways, the public school obsession to call meetings, and the growing paperwork, records and accountability demanded, often by a bureaucracy that continues to create “positions” designed for compiling data and checking boxes on reports. I have never had respect for elected politicians who pass laws governing an educational enterprise that they have never themselves understood or spent time studying. And I have noticed with disdain throughout the years that they continue to pass more laws designed to cripple the work of conscientious educators, and then use the data designed to prove that public education is faltering so they can convince tax payers that schools would be better if they were run by private businesses. I have had the pleasure to work for a district that is far better than any state or federal agency can evaluate with piles of data. And I have been fortunate to work inside of schools with administrators that let the teachers do their jobs. Real education occurs inside the classroom when the teacher is freed up to study his/her area of expertise and design creative ways to share this with students primed to learn. All thinkers know this. To sum up, I am getting out at a good time; most likely I stayed too long . . .

gridlock

Leaving the Store . . . Until Next Time

I have not been posting on the blog with much frequency of late. But after this weekend, I still have plenty on my mind, and I’m glad to have this avenue of expression. So thank you again for reading . . .

I make art to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday Night Ponderings

July 10, 2016

LMFS 1 (2)

Power Plant visible from where I stayed this summer on an island in the Laguna Madre

LMFS 3 (2)Assortment of Fire Wheels and other grasses on the island in the Laguna Madre

. . . it’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person.  Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Finally, I can relax, late this Sunday night.  Today was an indoor art festival in Fort Worth, held at Stage West Theater.  A Texas summer festival is delightful when held inside an air-conditioned venue. The theater space granted me was perfect for me to set up my work, and we were only open for three hours.  Still, the loading in and out on the same day (only 97 degrees today) has ways of sapping my energy, and of course, the days leading up to festivals still after all these years have ways of rolling anxiety throughout my being.

MADE (2)

But I’m happy with how things went.  I’ve posted two of the plein air watercolors I did recently while at the Laguna Madre Field Station.  They sold today, and I’m always happy when my art finds a home.  I had the time of my life, visiting with patrons and fellow artists, and am much better for the time spent in such good company.  It’s truly been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful to have been included in this event.

I’m happier still to find my calendar for the summer at an end–no more engagements booked before school begins in the fall.  I am juiced to begin my next series of watercolor experiments without interruption, and overjoyed to have some quality reading time before me.  The Susan Cain book I quoted above is overflowing my heart with joy as I read her affirmations concerning the introverted life I’ve known from my beginnings.  How wonderful to read a book that extols the virtues of solitude when I feel that I am bombarded with media messages around the clock arguing for the merits of group think, collaborative learning (I’ve always struggled with this as a public school teacher), staying connected on social media, etc.

From my shelves I am pulling Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, and I have borrowed a copy of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  These three literary works are speaking to me in the most profound way, and this gift of time and space has arrived at a perfect time, I feel.  More than ever, I am eager to explore new horizons and learn new things as I pursue my art and ideas.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.