Much of what I recall from 1966 is pleasant. I was married that year and it was in my second year at Idaho State University. I had spent my entire life in Idaho. I had little actual experience that would have helped me understand all that was happening in the world. The Vietnam war and civil rights protests were on TV every night. Guys I had gone to school with were going to war. Some were coming back, reenlisting and going back again: some didn't come back. The “I have a Dream speech” took place in August, 1963 and then things seemed to get worse.
The nature of the war was something that we did get first hand reports on when they guys we had gone to school with came back.
The issue of civil rights was one that, as far as first hand experiences, for us in that part of the country, were not the same. The blacks lived in one part of town. To some of us it really wasn’t clear why and to some degree it seemed like it was just where they wanted to be. The only prejudice we really heard was mostly from our parents’ generation.
When I attended Pocatello High School the Student Body President was Marvin Brown. He was an African American. He was very popular and well liked, and that is what you heard about him. You didn’t hear much from the students about race. In September 1962 Marvin was killed in a car accident. He would have gone on to Harvard in another few weeks with his scholarship. We were all saddened by the event. Things were very different in Southeastern Idaho than what you saw on the news the next few years.
Why is it that our lives then were sheltered and we were not in the direct line of fire for all these problems? Why didn’t we understand it more then? Does the fact that we didn’t understand it then mean we didn’t come to the same conclusions that many who were in the middle of it did, at least eventually? We thought we understood it at the time. We had knowledge of what was happening but we didn't have experience. I seemed incredible that there even was such a difference in treatment of people in our country.
Some may feel that for us, in that part of the country, that it was "just the luck of the draw"? By that I mean that some people believe that we don't really make a lot of choices in our lives and just live with the set of circumstances were given. They feel that choices, and how we feel about things, are the result of how were "wired". We don't make the decision as to where were born, or who our parents are. Our genetics and circumstances are felt to have programmed us and dictate how we choose? Even today a popular point of view is that free will is an illusion. I disagree with this point of view. If I didn't have the experience back in 1966 to understand what was happening then, I have had more than enough time to ponder it since then, and I have. Looking back and seeing my own lack of experience has compelled me to look harder than others may have.
Experience, when added to knowledge, is better than either one alone in the search for wisdom. The search also requires deciding how to connect the events in our life. It can take some time for things to seem clear.
One experience I did have surprised me. I am still trying to understand what it was that it taught me but I think part of the answer is to help me understand a little more about kindness.
About the same time as all the things that were so troubling were happening in the country an unexpected thing happened to me. At the University, we would go to the student union between classes and meet with friends and talk. I had made a new friend in one of my classes. He was an exchange student from a country in Africa. He was black, very smart, and seemed to have a different take on things. Sitting and talking with him was something I looked forward to each day. I am not saying we were best friends but several months went by and our routine was solid. One day while we sat together talking he changed the subject and told me that he didn’t want to be my friend anymore and he was going to get up and leave? I was very surprised and asked why? He said that it was obvious to him that the only reason I wanted to be friends with him was because he was an exchange student from Africa and not just an American Black. (Even now I wouldn't use the word that then was used for Blacks). He said that with the way the American people felt about and treated the American Blacks, it was clear to him that I must be no different. He added that this was his conclusion and he felt it was obvious. He said that all I had to do was watch the news to see it was true. He left and the friendship ended?
There is no good ending to this story. I was shocked. I didn’t understand how I was to blame? I felt offended. How could I be so naive? Here is a case where I had experience, before I had knowledge.
We need to find ways to let others know we care about them. I would rather be misjudged or criticized about caring for others than to be guilty of not caring.
Knowledge tells me that we should care about people. Experience tells me that it can be one sided at times. Wisdom tells me that caring and kindness matter
As far as misjudging others, and perhaps not caring enough, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for this problem? I hope so!
By Brent M. Jones
As a young boy, in the 1950’s, I walked barefoot in the moss and mud on the banks of the Portneuf River, a tributary of the larger better-known Snake River, in Southeastern Idaho. The river was lined on both sides with trees and bushes overhanging the banks. Big Oaks, Maple trees, Goldenraintee, Hawthorne, Birch and Dogwood trees. The trees stood with willows and bushes thick at their sides. Occasional lilac bushes brought their deep blue to the natural cover.
Our families home sat right on the bank of the river and my upstairs bedroom, with the window open, brought the sound of the flowing water, birds and all the various river sounds. Large Oak trees rose from the bank below and the leaves from the upper branches would brush the house and window with the movement of the wind.
Winter by the River
With the leaves gone and water lowered everything changed. The ice layered up the banks and, in some places, only ice could be seen. Often the branches of the willows and trees were covered with white crystal-like coverings. Some would ice skate, but this was something I was fearful of doing.
Summers by the River
The water was higher than in the winter with all the runoff from the snow topped mountains that feed the river. My own Huckleberry Finn experience included rafts built from trees and fishing as we would float downstream. Our house was in the middle of a residential section near the town of Pocatello, but going downstream on a raft, with the tree and bush lined banks was like being in another world.
Fishing from the raft was done with a traditional fishing pole but fishing from the shore, mostly in my back yard, was different. No poles or hooks were used but instead a pint or quart glass bottle. The same Kerr brand bottles, referred to as Mason Jars, my mother used to bottle raspberries, peaches, cherries and other items in, by sealing them in a boiling kettle bath. Raspberries were my favorite.
An empty bottle, strong string, lid, knife and some bread was all that was needed. The string, usually six feet long, had one end tied and fasted around the lid. Using the knife, a hole could be pressed in the middle of the flat metal lid creating a punctured X and then pressing the X to open so that 4 sharp sections of the lid depressed into the bottle. At this point a few bread pieces would be put in the bottom of the bottle before the lid was added. The bread pieces needed to be big enough so when the bottle was filled with water that they wouldn’t float up through the opening in the lid.
With the bottle secured by the long string, doubled up strong enough to hold the bottle full of water with some pressure, the filled bottle was then just tossed off shore into the river under some overhanging branches or close to a large rock.
This type of fishing was not complicated, and we would wait at least ten minutes, maybe even an hour, but when the bottle was pulled back to shore it almost always had some small minnows in it.
The small fish could be used for bait on a hook with a fishing pole, especially if a trip to the Snake River was coming up, or they could be sold for bait just like worms could. The small fish were also an option for more riverbank activity. Mud and rocks could be used for making a little pond on the bank of the river to hold the small fish. Of course, just letting the fish go was the best option and that happened sometimes.
When a fish pool was created and loaded up with fish the next step was to move back away and hide or even leave and come back in an hour or so. Sooner or later a snake would find this little pool and go in and eat the fish. With good timing the snake could then be caught.
What to do with a live snake was a little more of a challenge. Several attempts to keep the snake in a cardboard box under the front porch failed when they just disappeared? I always hoped they wouldn’t find a way into the house if they got away.
Leaving the River behind
Our family eventually moved to a traditional neighborhood on the other side of town to live in a new house, but there was no river nearby. A couple of years after we moved something terrible happened to the River. Spring runoff was higher than it had been in years and all along the river, as it ran through the town, the neighborhoods were flooded. The town brought the Army Core of Engineers in to evaluate the situation and they decided to make a cement ditch of the river its entire length as it twisted and turned through the town.
A river in a cement ditch is not a river! The bank had no trees or bushes. It was just a sterile ugly ditch. Any path to revisiting my Huckleberry Finn days and my youth were just eliminated by bureaucrats and a town happy to take some federal money.
I went back to where I had spent much of my youth after this happened. I waited a long time before I ever went back again.
John Steinbeck said: “You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist in the mothballs of memory. Maybe he was right, but my memory is a lot better than the reality today of where home was. It just points to the fact that there is no sense looking back. We just get up and press forward.
By Brent M. Jones
“How you arrange the plot points of your life into narrative shapes who you are and is a fundamental part of being human.” This is the subtitle in an article titled “Life Stories” published in the Atlantic Magazine in 2015.
In that interesting article, Monisha Pasupathi, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah, offered a lot of insight on this subject. She stated, “In order to have relationships, we’ve all had to tell little pieces of our story.”
We share our life stores every day. In just our greetings with others, here are some examples of that: "Hi, where are you from?" "Where did you grow up?" "Which school did you attend?"
Recently I watched a sales woman standing at the entrance door of a store in a local mall. She made eye contact and smiled as people passed by. A lady customer passing, smiled and said hello back to this friendly sales woman and the two of them walked into the store together. I was nearby and overheard what happened next. The sales woman asked how the potential customer was doing and got a smile and a reply. As they went into the store the sales women asked where the lady was from. She mentioned a town in California. The sales women person replied with some enthusiasm as she knew the town well. They talked about the street where it turned out they had both spent time. The sales women person had plenty of personal experiences in this town to talk about and share. Both women relaxed and enjoyed getting to know and talking with each other. It was clear they both had made a connection by sharing part of their life story about this town they both knew.
We see our own lives as a series of events, we connect the events with narrative that then becomes a story, our story. The resulting story, that we to a large degree have constructed, has a great deal to do with our self-identity.
In the last 20 plus years I had an opportunity to tell my own life story in front of a church group at least twenty times. Each time I shared my story it was always a little different as I added or withheld certain details or events. It was different because I thought more about the story and it became different with the time that had passed. Yes, I was recalling it differently because I would reflect back on events and see them differently.
In that same time frame, I heard few hundred men present their life story and then often heard them tell their story again after a few years. As with my sharing, the emphasis and substance of their stories changed as they told them.
Life stories are like books. They have plots, themes, time lines and characters. We choose which of these are important and we connect the events to be able to present them in a narrative.
Thinking about thoughts which influence and shape our self-identity shows some answers in why we see it differently over time.
People come and go in our lives, but some become significant and important key characters in our story plot as events occur. Events shape us. How we choose to look at those events changes, and this happens as we look back filtering all we have been through with our memories.
Books and authors influence us. Art, music, poetry, literature, service, our heritage and even food can influence us even to the point of being part of the life story.
A poem by an unknown author suggests that, "Some people come into our lives for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime.” Some feel God sends the people that are needed. Others who may come bring challenges and darkness.
I believe we have a choice in putting together the narrative of who we are, and who we become- We can pick which of the events we connect with, what we conclude about them, and then weave and reweave them into our story.
We can see our past change, as we look back, finding that our perspective makes a great deal of difference, or we can take a more deterministic view believing that people are wired to be what they are. This view says that since we didn't choose our parents, or the time or place where we were born, or our genes that we are programmed by cause and effect resulting in our current circumstances.
Tell your story to your family and listen to how you see things this year, and then again in a year.
By Brent M. Jones
If the soul is eternal and lives on when the body dies, then it must be made of different materials. If that substance is spiritual, then where does it reside within our living bodies? Is it separate or part of our living flesh. Some have referred to the soul as the seat or location of our character and emotions, but is that just a metaphorical inference?
Some religions believe the soul comes back after death and reunites with a resurrected body at some future time, but then they are not clear as to whether the soul exists without being reunited with the body. Existence as a unique entity should carry within it the substance of the life and experiences it learned in the body so if the soul exists without the body then that substance must be part of the soul.
Plato, Aristotle and many others have written about the existence of the soul. A recent well-known historian, Will Durant, wrote about the history of man, looking deeply into the living lives of all things. He also wrote about the existence of a soul and said he had little doubt it existed as a part the human existence, a view shared by many intellectuals. Some, like Durant, are influenced by a belief that the universe brings about life taking matter and evolving it into living forms.
This view says that all matter has a spiritual essence. He was fond of his own unique soul but said he did not expect it to survive the complete death of his body. Durant summed up this conclusion in his last book, Fallen Leaves, saying that he felt the death of the body would likewise be the death of the soul. That conclusion seems to be at odds with his passion for life and view that it exists within all things.
Durant said he wanted to bring the “future into focus” and his method was to focus on the raw experience of history. This approach is clearly reflected in his extensive work in writing the 11 volumes of "The Story of Civilization”.
Durant believed that life flowed from what he felt was a mysterious source which moved like a river from an unknown beginning and then to an abrupt end with the death of the body. The sudden end of the soul is often the conclusion of intellectuals, that seem to be tied to the concept of determinism: the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Durant serves as a useful focus for discussions about the soul because he certainly was not a determinist and placed great value on individual experiences. He refused to accept the end was all predetermined by the beginning,
My own opinion is Durant was on the right track, but with incomplete conclusions on the nature of the soul in part because he just did not live long enough to see all the options. He defended free will, that the soul was unique, valued individual experience, and he saw a universe whose purpose was to create and advance life. and he valued individual experience. What he lacked were options into what could happen after death to the soul.
We live in a world clearly defined by three spatial dimensions including one dimension of time. Durant's and others in the past drew conclusion about the soul that were framed with this knowledge, but he did not have information about a 4th, 5th and other dimensions? In 1919, mathematician Theodor Kaluza presented new ideas about a 4th dimension. Today “string theorists” present more complicated thoughts saying it's quite easy to assume there are 10 or 11 dimensions and perhaps more. Maybe these other dimensions include or await our own participation, with our spiritual soul.
Seeing life metaphorically, like a river of influences and forces, is a poetic approach that ties things together but it ignores where the river starts and assumes that it ends.
By Brent M. Jones
How does experience, knowledge, and good judgement bring about wisdom? Are there classes in school that explain how to apply experience, judgement and knowledge and result in having wisdom? Is it just lifelong attempt to find the answers that result in wisdom: if that is true then how much time does it take?
The answer to these questions requires us to think about what wisdom is. It is not the product of only schooling, or just gaining knowledge, or even the lifelong "attempt to acquire" it. The sincere attempt to acquire it may be part of what wisdom is, but that effort is never completed.
Reading, classes, and study can bring about knowledge and we can gain experience and understanding as we try to use what we have learned. How we feel about knowledge is part of what understanding is. Those feelings are mostly the result of the consequences we learn through experience applying the knowledge.
A well-known quote, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”, implies that sincerity added to knowledge is of more value. Someone must truly believe that the knowledge desired is of value. Then they need to believe that it applies to the situation.
Wisdom is likely not a constant because our own conclusions about our experiences change over time. Wisdom is added to with changes in point of view.
The events of our own life, when examined years later, can lead us to making changes in our point of view and even to reinventing ourselves. What wisdom is now likely will be different when looked back on.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about wisdom and knowledge. It suggests that they both come from God. This quote seems to sum it up very well: Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is about a two hour drive south from Albuquerque, New Mexico. You drive to Socorro, and then another 11 miles to San Antonio, where there is a 8 mile loop road that follows the Rio Grande river and the refuge.
"Woods of the Apache" is what "The Bosque Del Apache" means. "Bosque" a word that is borrowed from Spanish, meaning the forest or woods, referring to the habitat found on both sides of the Rio Grande River.
Over 350 different bird species have been observed in the Bosque del Apache, where huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese are the refuge's most interesting feature.
The Sand Hill Cranes are large tall birds with long legs and necks. They pair up for life and usually have one or two chicks. These birds migrate from Canada, Montana and Utah in the winter and they will fly a chick South for the winter, to teach them the way, and encourage the offspring to be independent.
November to late February is the best time to see large numbers of birds in the Bosque del Apache when typically over 10,000 Sandhill Cranes and 20,000 Ross's and Snow Geese can be seen. Sunrise and sunset is the best time to see the bird while they roost in the refuge before leaving in the morning to feed or after returning from the fields in the evening.
We spent a couple of days at this refuge a few years ago in the late fall. We had been told by a friend to just watch the birds in the morning after sitting overnight roosting on the water and to wait for when the first ones takes off. When the rest then all at once follow the sky fills and that is the time for the best pictures.
We were excited and hoped to really see them all get up into the air at once but it turned out that the birds flew in several groups not just one. .
The road edge near the roosting birds was lined with people holding big cameras with huge, expensive, telescopic lenses. Plenty of tripods topped with Nikon and Cannon camera where the lens alone can cost between $2500 and $12,000 and even more line the nearby road with professional bird watchers. Som had camouflage pants and jackets.
Just like the birds, the people would move up and down the road in groups. One guy would break first from the group and then it seemed like all the others would follow.
We did see some people, amateurs and first timers, just watching, like we were doing, so we found our way into their little groups. Us folks with the smaller lens, and even just with I-Phones, just didn't fit in and some walked around by themselves, so as to not be embarrassed.
It was mostly the men that had the "big" lens with extensions, and tripods. It also seemed like the women showed up a lot later and were standing in their own groups.
We were one of the first on site at "The Bosque Del Apache" that special fall day, arriving early morning before the sun rose. When the light broke it was amazing to see how many birds were actually there.
The birds, the professional photographers, and all those watching were a treat to see.
By Brent M. Jones
I had 5 trips to the hospital for a heart attack between 2009 and 2016. Two trips were false alarms, but I still made it to the operating table 4 times.
The first trip was a complete surprise. I got up and started getting ready for work. The week before I had been in a group of volunteers that worked with older people and we were given instructions on what the symptoms of a heart attack were. I had a pressing pain in the middle of my chest, the inside of my arm hurt, I felt nausea, and just overall dizzy. I had made it downstairs and was sitting in the kitchen and just wasn’t sure what was happening, so I said a little pray and asked if what I had was a heart attack if perhaps I could recognize another symptom. Within a couple of minutes, I felt a cold sweat and so I went upstairs and told my wife and got into bed.
The surprise of all of this started to sink in when 8 EMT’s arrived in my bedroom lifting me onto a stretcher and carrying me to the ambulance. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how surprising it was that I was having a heart attack. Laying on the stretcher I looked up at the lady EMT leaning over and taking care of me and said, “I just don’t understand why this is happening, I have run 13 marathons in my lifetime?” She looked down at me and said, “Maybe it is just your time.” I didn’t laugh at the time.
Being wheeled into an operating room is frightening. They slide you over on to a cold stainless-steel table where you lay, almost naked, in the middle of the table. The room has a lot of people in it all seeming to be doing something important. The staff was young, professional and engaged in some good-natured banter was going on.
On my last trip to the cold steel table the first thing that caught my attention was that the music seemed to be a little loud. By this time I had my own personal heart doctor but he was not on site and when I met the doctor it seemed like he was so young he could have been my grandson. Every one was very busy of course and I just laid waiting for a drip anesthesia to be set up. From the comments and the volume it seemed clear that all those young folks walking around were enjoying the music in the background but and at least they weren’t staring at my naked and cold body. A young man came over and said he would get the anesthesia set up soon, a good thing I thought, but he wondered if I had some favorite music saying he would find it and play it. Well I still had my thoughts in place, so, figuring it was a long shot, I suggested Leonard Cohen. Not one person in the room had heard of him, nor could they find any of his music even though they actually made an effort to find him. I thought it was funny and might have chuckled, but I was out soon after that.
My last trip to the hospital was one where they again picked me up with the ambulance. For some reason the ambulance sat in our driveway in front of the house after I was in for a while. A fire engine crew and a support car team were there on site with us and several paramedics were regularly checking the back of the ambulance, and they each would greet me and ask how I was doing. One of these guys seemed to have paused for a few minutes so I looked up at him and told him I still remembered getting help like this the first time I had a heart attack telling him about the question and the reply I got from the EMT nurse about it “being my time”. Neither of the two paramedics said a word or even changed facial expressions. They just seemed like they had kicked into gear and was about some important business. I noticed that the one paramedic left the back door ajar as he left, I saw him go over to a group standing by the fire engine where they seemed to huddle and laugh, and then he went to a different group. I figure this was a good sign. The last heat attack event had a connection to the first. It still wasn’t my time.
By Brent M. Jones
Rust is a passionate color, rich with warm-orange, brick-red, mustard-yellow and the combinations seem to be endless as one’s emotions are stimulated when fond memories come front and center. Rust lets us know that an old and perhaps otherwise worthless car, has a history and a story to share if your willing to listen.
When a really great restored old car is found you may find yourself thinking, "Wow, that car is so cool, that era was so cool." As you caress the car with your eyes the remembering "back in the days" floods your memories and sends you back in time. When you see the same type of car all rusted out you still may think of the time and place, but your thoughts will be deeper and perhaps longing with nostalgia.
The car seems to be still be alive, if only in the remembering. Will a rusted 55 Chevy take you back in to that time any faster than a restored one? The restored one may take you back to a particular car and time but perhaps the rusted version leaves your mind open to looking deeper.
The rusted-out car doesn't smell new. The doors (if they work at all) sound different if they close. The surface of rust may break and crumble if you rub your hands over it. Is it really a car or is it a spirit of a car?
The spirit of the car brings back feelings, memories and emotions and allows for that moment in time to transfer to the "now."
Rust is beautiful. Rust is the color of timelessness.Rust is a passionate color, rich with warm-orange, brick-red, mustard-yellow and the combinations seem to be endless as ones emotions are stimulated when fond memories come front and center. Rust let's us know that an old and perhaps otherwise worthless car, has a history and a story to share if your willing to listen.
See Review of The Crucible: by Arthur Miller in Review Section
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1952. World War II, had just ended in 1945 and it was during a time in which the United States was becoming increasingly concerned about the rising power of the Soviet Union. Parania was growing inside the government worries that the Soviet Union's communist ways would infiltrate the United States led to a significant amount of paranoia within the American government and Hollywood was becoming a target for Joe McCarthy. This article in The New Yorker, appeared on October 21, 1996 P. 158.
"LIFE AND LETTERS about the inspiration for and influence of Miller's play, "The Crucible," a reflection of the Communist witch-hunts of its time. Miller recalled the source of his creation while watching the filming of the new movie of "The Crucible." When he wrote it, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities were prosecuting alleged Communists from the State Department to Hollywood; the Red hunt was becoming the dominant fixation of the American psyche. Miller did not know how to deal with the enormities of the situation in a play. "The Crucible" was an act of desperation; Miller was fearful of being identified as a covert Communist if he should protest too strongly. He could not find a point of moral reference in contemporary society. Miller found his subject while reading Charles W. Upham's 1867 two-volume study of the 1692 Salem witch trials, which shed light on the personal relationships behind the trials. Miller went to Salem in 1952 and read transcripts. He began to reconstruct the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams, who would become the central characters in "The Crucible." He related to John Proctor, who, in spite of an imperfect character, was able to fight the madness around him. The Salem court had moved to admit "spectral evidence" as proof of guilt; as in 1952, the question was not the acts of an accused but his thoughts and intentions."
Having more information on what Miller was thinking and what inspired him answers some questions as we look back over so many years at this play and try to answer the question, "why this play" at that time.
Which wolf do you feed? Is your heart and soul the real residence of your passion? Does loving what you do, or what your working on, attract creativity? Does it feed your soul? Something has to happen, that adds to what you have, for creativity begin and whatever it is that feeds your soul, opens the door to creativity becoming a "link in a chain' that the next artist will be able to build on .
What is it that we love is the key question? Another important question is why is it that we love it? What does that love feed within us?
The story of the good wolf and the bad wolf is a good beginning to find this out. There are two wolves in this story, one good and one bad. The good wolf is patient, kind, unselfish, loving, loyal, honest, and all those good things we know are good.
The bad wolf is just the opposite, not patient, hateful, jealous, dishonest, mean, and all those things we know are bad.
Each of us go through life influenced by one of these wolves. Whichever one we choose will live with us, and influence all we do. So the important question is, which one, and how is it that we are the one that makes the choice. The answer is that the wolf that stays with you is the one you feed.
The bad wolf wants hateful things, not good. This wolf isn't patient or kind. The bad wolf is not interested in new things and won't attract creativity and doesn't want you to succeed.
The good wolf wants to learn and is hungry for knowledge. He wants to see new things and to read and learn new things. He loves books and especially likes to read your daily journal and to do list. The good wolf attracts more good, and new ideas are attracted to what you already know.
In the book, "A Life You Love by Amy Tangerine", the book starts out discussing how to “craft a life and soul that you love”. Amy asks “what is it that we love?”
A writer may love the characters in a story. A painter may love the object being painted. When something new is added creativity happens. A non fiction story can be come fiction, when even just one of the characters becomes a product of the writers imagination. Then when that new character interacts with the others the writer will have to listen to find out what happens next in the plot, and creativity takes place.
Sometimes it is the writers emotions and feelings about the current characters that become the motivation to find a new character. The bad wolf doesn't want to let you look inside your subconscious for ideas, and instead teaches you to look instead for who to blame and hate.
The artist who only sees things as not good enough will never listen close enough to have the art inform of what may not be seen at first. The good wolf will teach you to look deeper than the surface and to listen
When we connect all that we have learned to our experiences, and then listen, the doors open.
"Nighthawks, a 1942 oil on canvas painting, was inspired by Hemingway's short story 'The Killers,' which Hopper read in Scribner's magazine. Edward Hopper is considered by some as the most important realist painter in the 20th century in America. Even so is vision was selective and reflected his temperament
The painting, Nighthawks, tells it's own story of lonliness.
The diner is a stand-alone building with long front windows with rounded corners on the glass itself that gives the glass a thicker and more confining look. It is late at night and the streets and other buildings look empty with their darkened windows, even more than just closed.
Silence seems to be part of the painting's message and is reflected inside and out of the diner. The diner has no visible doors and thick glass which suggest that those inside are trapped. Unsettling are the yellow, faded and peeling walls. The use of green outside on the reflected walk and around the window suggest unnatural light. Pale green fades to dark green near the buildings and confirms that the building is alone and that the people are isolated. The people inside the diner are not talking and they are not looking at each other.
Most of Hoppers paintings are about how loneliness feels. Loneliness connects to depression and anxiety, both things that Hopper suffered from. Just being alone is not loneliness but having no connection with others is.
Hopper, a tall lonely man, said that he declared himself in his paintings. In the diner tall men in suits bend over, but still look tall.
Being alone in a city is something we all can relate to. Those feelings are captured and used by the author of this book, "The Lonely City, Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Laing" (see review).
The book starts out saying: "Imagine standing by a window at night, on the sixth or seventeenth or forty-third floor of a building". The book also mentions this painting and author to explain the feeling.
I have experienced that feeling 30 floors up, at night in a hotel room. When I looked out the window I could see all the other tall buildings and the lights in their windows and could see people in the closer windows. You knew you were surrounded with people but you had no connection with any of them. You were alone.
I was asked recently if I had read all the books listed on the books reviewed and books read section on my blog? Yes, I have read them, some several times. I didn't include political books, many on religion, success books, and many that I had read prior to 1998. So yes, I have read a lot of books, but compared to a lot of people, maybe not so many.
What happened in 1998? Well a friend told me the best book he had read was Louis L amour's, "Education of a Wandering Man". Prior to that I had never read any of his books, and had sort of looked down on western novels. I read the book and was really surprised. It was his autobiography and told of his travels as a young man, and about all the books he had read during that time. Wow! He read the deepest books, and it just really surprised me. In fact it inspired me - I decided from that day forward I would keep closer tabs on what I was reading and I started a list. I should add here that I have read some of his western novels since then and really like them.
Einstein said that if you want your kids to be smart when they grow up read them fairy tales. Pondering that, opened another door in reading for me. I had not read a lot off fantasy or fiction.
I have to admit I now love reading Stephen King. He scares me at times but I keep going back. With all of the fiction he has written it is a little surprise that his book, "On Writing" is one of the best I have read on the subject. This book changed the way I saw his books. The writing skill of this author just jumps out at you in his books.
So can I remember what is in all of the books in that section? I find that they come back just looking at them, and thinking about one, brings several others back.
Some authors are so familiar that they become labels. Darwinian, Shakespearean, or Orwellian imply things that most understand. Harold Bloom is a literary critic that knows all the older authors that well and likely could imply labels of influence for them all. A goal I have is to be able to do the same and to in that way have them come alive and even talk to me.
C.S. Lewis said “The good of literature is that we want to become more than ourselves, we want to see with others eyes, to imagine with others imaginations, to feel with others hearts, as well as our own.” He sad we become a thousand men and yet remain ourselves. When it happens you will feel renewed and reinvented.
Street art has become common and the walls of buildings may be a new venue for modern art. The same photographers that capture street art often include in their pictures the street people. Art and photography can inform us and tell us what is being felt. If the homeless have blended into and become part of the art have they lost their humanness? Did the photographer take it from them?
Colette Brooks wrote the book, “In the City: Random Acts of Awareness”, She said, “that a city person is one who doesn't feel the need to finish a jigsaw puzzle, who relishes jagged edges and orphaned curves, stray bits of data, stories parsed from sentences half overheard on the streets”. She likely just meant those folks walking the sidewalks, going and coming all surrounded with people but no real connections to anyone.
Is the homeless man now part of the street art less important as a human because he has been captured as part of the painting above? Is he still real and an individual? Will the art outlive him? Will it have more connections? Was his existence just a way for the photographer to tell us what he saw? Did we take his "humanness" away from him by making him part of the picture?
The question were left with: do we see the homeless? The answer is not easy but the question is what is important.
If you were, or are, a liberal arts major does that mean your politics have to be liberal? No, of course not.
Liberal arts refer to academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, and social and physical sciences, as distinct from professional and technical subjects. As far back as Ancient Greece liberal arts subjects were felt necessary to enable a person to take an active part in civic life.
J.Paul Getty, the billionaire from the mid 1900’s, said it well when he said that he could teach a new hire accounting but he couldn’t teach them how to talk to people.
This blog is liberal arts focused intended to help get away from looking at daily routine in only technical terms but to consider thoughts and connections to enable further pondering.
The Dean of the Business School at Wake Forest recently said. “We have become so myopic in solving business problems that we don’t think about those problems from the perspective of other disciplines”.
Boston University’s assistant dean at their school of business said, "businesses want workers who have the ability to think, the ability to write, the ability to understand the cultural or historical context of whatever business decision they’re making”.
Liberal arts can help you get out of where you are to somewhere new. C.S. Lewis said “The good of literature is that we want to become more than ourselves, we want to see with others eyes, to imagine with others imaginations, to feel with others hearts, as well as our own.”
So whether your personally conservative or liberal, the good news is that more liberal arts will help you renew and reinvent yourself.
What happens when the music runs out? Do musicians retire when that happens? Louis Armstrong said that musicians don't retire, they only stop when there is no more music left in them.
Music is a connection between our physical self and our very souls. We feel the music. It reflects our heart. Music with scriptures are hymns. We worship through hymns. The feelings of our heart are conveyed in verbal prayer. Our bodies and faces reflect the images of happiness and sadness, with music opening those feelings. Singing makes us better. Sometimes we sing for what we long for. We use music to help us get by without things wanted.
Louis Armstrong also said that “What we play is life”. What is that music that is our life? How did that music get to be inside us, the musician? Is it a song yearning for something, or is it a song celebrating something?
Did the music ever leave Louis Armstrong? Did it ever run out? He never retired, so that answers that, doesn’t it? What about us? What do we long for? What do we have a passion for? Love and kindness are passions that can focuses and drive us. We lose ourselves in those feelings. They fill our minds, and we have little place for worrying about ourselves.
In the play, Cats, the cats all audition for the opportunity to go back and have another life and tell us why in the song "Memory" telling us “They had the experience but missed the meaning”. They had lived once, their music had run out, and wanted another chance.
Is there any chance that Louis Armstrong would want to come back and have another life, feeling he had missed the meaning? Of course not. That one is so easy to answer. He knew his passion and told us that “what we play is our life”.
His playing moved us. We felt it. For him the music was Jazz. For us, what we play can be just whatever it is that we love. It can be anything we chose, but then we need to feel passionate about it. If your lucky enough to love knowledge and learning, then your indeed blessed. That, like the music for Louis, just never stops being an option.
If your passion is your family then be an example to them. Show your love and concern.
If your passion is for art, poetry, music, knowledge, reading, or nature then seek more.
Find the good in your life.
What about Louis? Do you think he had a perfect personal life? Do you think he spent his time worrying about missing the meaning in his life? He dropped out of school at 11 and had rough years ahead of him. His mother didn’t have an inspiring occupation. Later he said of himself, that he hardly looked back at his youth as the worst of times, but drew inspiration from those times instead. He said that "Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans... It has given me something to live for.”
What we have a passion for matters. Yes. musicians don’t retire, as long as they have music in them. Find the music.
Stephen King on Writing. George Orwell, Why I Write. Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir. Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See.
“Writing in the moment” is a term that seems to have multiple implications. I can be just a focus of attention on things happening right now. It can be just capturing the details, like a slow-motion camera’s input gives focus to the way you approach the moment. It is a reflection of the “here and now” and it often can be a starting point on a map showing where to focus.
The idea that some moments might stand out and that you can sort of sense them, almost breathing them in, and then using the senses to direct your thoughts at the details is just more of what the moment can be about.
A life story can be a reference to moments in our life, but those moments change. Seldom do you hear a person tell their own life story the same way over and over. As they look back and recall events, they see those events differently. The conclusions as to why things happened in the past change when the events are seen over again looking back.
Stephen King on Writing. George Orwell, Why I Write. Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir. Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See.
Four Good Books on Writing
Click the books to link to the Reviews
Social media can be harmful. I don't think as many people get addicted to blogs as social media. Real "face to face personal relationships" with people are hands down better than either blogs or social media. I don't think that would be disputed.
A University did a study last year on social media's effect on self esteem and anxiety and reported that 50% of the 298 participants said "that their use of social networks, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, made their lives worse". Research shows that they had a false sense of belonging and connecting that wasn't real world based. One big reason for this is that all those "assumed connections" that people are checking in on out of habit, several times a day, look like they are having the perfect life. It just often isn't real and if your life isn't perfect it can be depressing. People can be whoever they want to be on those sites. Whatever they are doing, it can be a staged situation, not a shared life. Our lives can look boring in comparison. As said it can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. Not good things. Other peoples passions can be polarizing.
Depression, in part, is a state of not caring. The world turns "black and cold" all around us when were depressed. Things just don't matter. Anxiety may be the other end of this same spectrum. On that side you care "far to much about everything" and there is no way to accomplish all that you care about.
Connecting with people can help for either problem. Getting "out of ourselves" helps. People, books, art, poetry, service, our ancestors, and music can all help us get out of ourselves. If it is people that are going to pull us out they need to be pulling us into the real world not a made up fantasy on line reality show.
Having said this I have to acknowledge the real world. I may wind up using these same social media sites as places to offer some very short encouragement and to try to pull people to this site. I don't think I originated any of this so I hope you don't want to hang the messenger
With the new year facing us, a question is what to read next? "Fiction is the gateway drug to reading” according to Neil Gaiman, a successful fiction and fantasy writer. He added that fiction drives us to want to know what happens next. It becomes exciting, and it satisfies the excitement, as we turn the pages.
When we read fiction, it increases our imagination and results in our finding something new of interest. The new things we find may lead us in a direction such as science, history or art? Maybe we look for a biography of a person with an area of similar interest to our own.
Often the path to the next book, or even choosing one to re read, is built on past choices. Years ago I watched the movie “Apocalypse Now”. That lead me to reread Joseph Conrad’s book, “Heart of Darkness” set in Africa with very much the same basic plot. The book was considered one of Conrad’s best.
Conrad's book was critised by some for have a white mans perspective of life in Africa. I wanted to find another perspective. I wondered if there were good African writers that I could read? At that point in my life I had never looked for African writers. I looked and found many good ones who were respected for their work. I found several authors of interest. Chinua Achebe, was at the time emerging as a well known African author for his book, “Things Fall Apart”.
It seemed to be the perfect “other point of view” I was looking for. This book is indeed something that should be read by anyone who reads “Heart of Darkness”, and wonder if they have seen Africa correctly.