For the past 30 years I have been pitching up to work at the same place, week in, week out, interrupted only by a succession of maternity leaves – all of which are now in the distant past…There is something mildly shameful about being almost the longest-serving journalist on the newspaper…
But last Thursday I cycled into work in the early morning sun, making a journey I’ve made many thousands of times before, and as I passed St Paul’s Cathedral I found myself feeling not only unstale, but borderline joyful… When I got to the office on impulse I fired off an email to the entire newspaper inviting them to eat cake with me that very afternoon – and soliciting reflections on what 30 years’ service means.
Loyalty – mixed with stupidity, one colleague replied. Wrong, I thought…
Narrow, suggested another…
A third colleague, also a long-timer, complained that staying in the same place meant getting dragged down by politics and that old grievances fester. Possibly; though I see it the other way round. Long service has cut me adrift from politics and has meant I don’t have to waste time working out who is trustworthy and who isn’t, as I know that already. [Read more…]
On August 5th 1946, two years after Paris was liberated from the Germans, a young American soldier named Jerome Seckler visited Henri Matisse. Seckler had a passion for modern art. He made it his mission to meet with, and interview, some of the leading French artists of the time: Matisse was on his list…The interview reveals Jerome to be keenly interested and articulate in the art of time, and Matisse to be a spirited foil to Seckler’s germane questioning. The transcript has been sitting neatly filed in a cardboard box for almost seventy years. Until now this interview has never been published.
Here’s one of my favorite Matisse quotes from the interview:
I think that art must not be a disagreeable thing. There is enough unhappiness in life to turn one towards the joy. One should keep the disagreeable, the unhappiness to himself. One can always find a pleasant thing. An unhappiness doesn’t remain. It makes experience. One doesn’t need to infect people with his annoyances. One should make a serene thing. One should make a stimulating art which leads the spirit of the spectator into a domain which puts him outside of his annoyances.
If you want a short cut to my favorites, and there are a lot of them, here are the links and a teaser to Matisse’s responses:
- Commitment: I am not at ease. (My favorite. Must read.)
- Peer Appreciation: Picasso was stunned into silence. “We sat there like stones,” Gilot later recalled. (Picasso and Gilot watching him make cut-outs)
- Soul: Those who will work with their soul, and the desire to express themselves will come out the best painters.
- Critics: It is the result that counts. When I am very much criticized by a painter, I’ll say to him, put your work beside mine and we will see.
- Talent: You can have all the strength, if you do not have the gifts you will not arrive…
- Passion: Why make me make different things. I get into communication with nature. Why look elsewhere?
- Art Appreciation: A man with money will appreciate a painting for the price but the man in the street will just like the painting because he will feel it is good even if he doesn’t know why.
- Art, like Music: All music is made with seven notes. With that, one makes all the relations. Painting is the same.
- Revolution: Myself also I live a continual revolution.
- Approval: A chef doesn’t have to always ask for approval and to ask people to taste the plates that he prepares.
- Desire: All the artists who began by being hungry and cold have made good painting.
- Passion / Love: One must suffer for what one loves.
It’s worth your time to read the entire 3000 word transcript here: Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview.
- See the full interview at the Design Observer Group. Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview
- Photograph: BBC News – Henri Mattisse cut-out art at Tate Museum
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
- Marge Piercy Poem from Circles on the Water (Knopf, 1982) via Paul Loeb, The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books. 2014)
- Photograph by Leonardo Caforio titled “Sthe hands of a farmer of 95 years marked by hard work in the fields
30 years ago today.
On a steamy afternoon in Northern Michigan.
They were married.
Her Yin to His Yang.
The Beauty. Gentle, kind and forgiving.
The Beast, less so.
She, the passionate Extrovert,
seeking comfort in conversation and friendship.
He, in constant retreat to solitude.
She, the Mother, a nurturer. Their Friend.
He, the Father, the rules enforcer, the Driver.
She, steady, firmly anchored in high winds and heavy seas.
He, bringing it in bits and pieces,
but giving the best he had.
And despite the pull and tug of opposing forces,
the sweet music plays on.
Happy Anniversary Pal.
Here’s to 30 more.
Stack ’em up and rumble. Dawn till dusk. Conference calls. One on one calls. Meetings. Emails + Texts: 175 and counting (the day isn’t over). Swinging a gas powered weed wacker. The day: A half-high-five. Many routine ground balls. No major drops. Grade? Falling forward.
I’m on the 7:15 pm MetroNorth railroad heading home. The overhead air conditioning vent is heaven; a cool shower drying sweat from the sweltering cross-town walk. I close my eyes. And drift back to the day’s highlight. A working lunch. I’m 7 minutes late. I apologize and sit. The team waited for me before digging into lunch.
We’re 10 minutes in. The racing, charging, driving of the prior four hours burns off. My heart rate slows. I’m not tapping my foot. I’m not pushing the pace. Not glancing at my watch. Not thinking ahead to the next meeting. I’m watching. And listening. I’m actually present. [Read more…]
“…Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.”
– Kahlil Gibran, (1883-1931) from The Prophet – “On Work”
- Of work done with love (nonworld.wordpress.com)
“I’ve seen people waiting, watching and hoping someone else would step up, take ownership and make things happen. I’ve seen people stuck in blame-gear while others are doing the work and solving the problems. And I’ve seen people hesitating while others are committing. No surprise these were the same people complaining in my office when others received bigger increases, better assignments, or more interesting projects. But, people who are winning at working become the someone else that others are waiting for. They step up and do something. They know when to act, and they feel better about themselves when they do. That’s because action feels better than inaction and commitment feels better than non-commitment. Both build your self-esteem. Here’s the bottom-line: you can’t be winning at working if you’re waiting for someone else to be the someone you could be. In my way of thinking, winning at working means you commit to offering the best you there is. Sometimes that means you have to dig a little deeper for your courage or push yourself outside your comfort zone. But it’s like Shakespeare said, “Nothing comes from doing nothing.”
~ Nan Russell
“Just because the road ahead is long, is no reason to slow down. Just because there is much work to be done, is no reason to get discouraged. It is a reason to get started, to grow, to find new ways, to reach within yourself and discover strength, commitment, determination, discipline. The road ahead is long and difficult, and filled with opportunity at every turn. Start what needs starting. Finish what needs finishing. Get on the road. Stay on the road. Get on with the work. Right now you’re at the beginning of the journey. What a great place to be! Just imagine all the things you’ll learn, all the people you’ll meet, all the experiences you’ll have. Be thankful that the road is long and challenging, because that is where you’ll find the best that life has to offer.”
~ Ralph Marston