Posts Tagged ‘The Odyssey’

Nearing the Finish of a Commission

February 2, 2019

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. . . some of the words you’ll find within yourself,

the rest some daemon will inspire you to say.

Homer, The Odyssey

While taking breaks from my painting to read from Homer’s Odyssey, I was arrested by these words Athena spoke to Telemachus when he feared that, as a youth, he did not know the proper words with which to address King Nestor. The reference to the daemon reminded me of a book I still haven’t completed reading: Allan Bloom’s The Daemon Knows. In this work, Bloom quotes an obscure reference from one of Emerson’s journals, claiming that the daemon knows where the idea is going to go. Throughout the work, Bloom extols the virtues of intuition and daring to go outside the box. He argues that we don’t know if our efforts will produce a work of genius. Nevertheless, we continue to push, continue to love the work.

I find all of this refreshing when I find myself struggling with a watercolor. With the one in progress above, I have encountered countless problems that I have not been schooled to address, and I have had to remain focused on the task. So far, nothing has happened to upset me, and the patron came in to look at it today and was pleased with the direction it is taking. Her sentiments freed me considerably, so now I am working on it with much more confidence. All the same, however, I still don’t really know what it is that makes a composition “work”, and I continue to feel this concern that I will make the wrong moves and the piece will “miss.” Even at this age, I must learn to trust my instinct and push onward.

This day has been a soothing balm, reading and painting in the gallery and greeting patrons. Soon, I’ll get to listen to my radio friend, Kevin Harris, perform a solo gig here in Palestine. Afterward, I plan to return and work late in the gallery, as the Red Fire Grille stays open late on Saturday night, and sometimes a good number of patrons come into the gallery. And who knows, maybe I’ll finish this painting tonight!

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am never alone.

 

 

Thoughts Before the Fire

January 29, 2019

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. . . my methods of approaching the past have scarcely changed since childhood and adolescence. I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence till I can begin to see and hear and love what living men and women once saw and heard and loved, till from these scraps and fragments living men and women begin to emerge and move and live again . . . 

Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter

A twenty-eight degree winter morning extended the delightful invitation for me to build a large fire and spend the day in my living room. I have no appointments till this evening, and have resolved to remain planted in the presence of this cheerful hearth while enjoying quiet hours in the pages of books and listening to soft music.

After a week-long detour down the path of Lonesome Dove, I am returning now to The Odyssey of Homer. The hero path has intrigued me throughout my life, and now I find myself sketching out rough parallels between the zig zag voyages of Odysseus and the overland quests of McRae and Call. This also provides me the opportunity to explore my own past and present as I respond to the challenge of Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again and attempt to draft my own memoir.

I hope soon to be able to expound this idea more fully as it continues to mature–studying New Testament Greek long ago, I noticed that in our religious language we use the words “believe” (verb) and “faith” (noun). They are translations of the same Greek word that is used both ways in the New Testament. As a verb, faith is an act, and as a noun, it is a creed, a position. The former is dynamic while the latter is steadfast. Throughout my years of teaching, I have tried to stress both sides of this equation, of one’s religious sentiment as an odyssey on the one hand, and a fortress on the other. One is risk, the other security.  One tends to Dionysus, the other Apollo. In religious history, one is prophetic, the other priestly.

As I muse over these stories I am currently reading, I am absorbed with this notion of the restless spirit (or hero) as embarking on a journey, seeking his/her foundation on which to build a home.  The Odyssey is always in motion, always changing, and the Destiny is believed to be fixed. I am intrigued by this. All of us are pursuing some kind of goal, some fixed point that seems to lie just ahead of us. But the hero always discovers that that goal has been in his/her life since the start. Aristotle wrote it long ago–the end is in the beginning. What we seek is already in us. As Joseph Campbell used to write, we are on an odyssey that takes us to the center of our selves.

Hopefully, more on this later. I’m still working on it . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

New Year Wanderlust

January 23, 2019

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Pausing to Grade Online at a Coffee Bar

Even though he still came to the river every night, it was obvious to [Captain] Call that Lonesome Dove had long since ceased to need guarding. . . . He came to the river because he liked to be alone for an hour, and not always be crowded.

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

As the year 2019 turns over its first few pages, I have decided not to be snared in the doldrums that often occur after the Christmas and New Year holidays close. For the first time in my life, my teaching load is completely online, so I have decided not to allow myself to be restricted to a geographical area often determined by class schedules. My recent travels have taken me across the great Southwest, and San Angelo has proved to be a chain of ephiphanies for which I will always remain grateful.

I have recently taken up Homer’s Odyssey to read, because I have never read that great epic in its entirety. I purchased Robert Fagles’s translation, because of the raving critical reviews over the lengthy introduction submitted by Bernard Knox. I believe the introduction runs around sixty pages, and it took quite awhile to read it in its entirety, but it was worth every hour. In addition to this, I have enjoyed a pair of YouTube lectures on The Odyssey, and have also made use of the Greek text I purchased in the Loeb Classical Library series. The ideas leaping out of the text have yielded hours of scribbled notes and journal entries. The Concho River meandering through San Angelo provided a lyrical setting for such a reading.

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Reading the Greek text on the banks of the Concho River

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While exploring downtown San Angelo, I happened across this book store that gave me a number of pleasant surprises. When I found the collection of Larry McMurtry books, including first editions and signed editions (I avoided the temptation of dropping $400 for a first edition of The Last Picture Show), I then noticed the photographs, greeting cards and handwritten letters tacked on the wall by Robert Duvall, an avid reader and friend of the bookstore’s owner. He drops in frequently to buy books by the stack! He even signed one of McMurtryr’s first-edition Lonesome Dove copies with “Gus”, and it sold immediately.

After visiting with the pleasant proprietor for awhile, I purchased a copy of Lonesome Dove (not a first edition or signed copy!) and am now over a hundred pages into it. This is only the second McMurtry book I’ve purchased, having finished The Last Picture Show recently.

With Odysseus on one side, and Gus on the other, I am enjoying my own journey while reading of theirs. We live in a good age, I believe. Technology has enabled me to earn a wage while being on the move. At the same time, I can enjoy days on end, being unplugged from social media yet knowing I can return to it at anytime to post a blog and read texts or emails waiting in the hopper. And right now, sitting in a coffee bar in a town where no one walking by is going to know who I am, I can enjoy reading books and scribbling thoughts into my journal without interruption, and with no appointments on the horizon.

Thanks for reading.