It’s been a long day

Or was Mill concerned that, in a perfect world, with nothing more to strive for, we might simply grow bored? As the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once upliftingly put it, “life swings back and forth like a pendulum between pain and boredom.” When we are not consumed by the desire to achieve something (food, shelter, companionship, wealth, career, status, social reform, etc.), we are tortured by boredom…

The answer, he discovered through reading Wordsworth, is to take refuge in a capacity to be moved by beauty — a capacity to take joy in the quiet contemplation of delicate thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings, not just titanic struggles…

I hope, and suspect, that Mill is right about this: that we all have the ability to find some durable joy in quietude, normalcy and contemplation. In our personal lives, and in our political lives too, it would be nice if we could escape Schopenhauer’s pendulum:

to simply enjoy where we are, at times; to find some peace in the cessation of motion…

~ Adam Etinson, from Is a Life Without Struggle Worth Living? (NY Times, October 2, 2017)


Notes: Photo: via bea’titudeRelated Posts: It’s been a long day

 

Is that all it is, just beauty?

“This is how the world is, this is how humans are,” he says. “Everything that exists must disappear. Now, our art is something that basically cannot be owned, cannot be purchased, cannot be kept. It is ephemeral, and therefore it is free — and it is beautiful.”

Is that all it is, just beauty? Christo furrows his brow, as if not understanding the question. No, nothing more. What should it be? Then he smiles indulgently and says with a shrug: “Now it is there. Soon it will be gone.” And that’s all.

~ Arno Frank, Christo’s Colossal Project in Germany in Spiegel Online. (March 14, 2013)

American artist Christo’s work, titled “Big Air Package,” was meant to be the largest inflatable object of all time. Its volume would rival the ill-fated Hindenburg blimp, still the largest airship ever created. The inflatable package, 94 meters high and 54 meters wide, of “Big Air Package” is made up of 20,350 square meters of specially made milky-white, translucent material the artist calls “ETex Christo.” A specialty firm in the northern city of Lübeck spent 2,800 hours completing 12.5 kilometers (7.8 miles) of stitching. The 600 panels of fabric are to be held together by ropes and Velcro, which are meant to allow the 5.3-metric-ton formation to hold as much air as possible.

But all that is just numbers. And numbers can’t describe the experience of stepping through the airtight revolving doors and climbing the stairs — or better put, floating up them as if you were in the interior of a surreal rain cloud. Those who want to step into this transcendental space must make their way to Oberhausen. It’s the kind of pull toward the heavens that people in the Middle Ages must have felt when they first entered a gothic cathedral and looked up.

Notes:

Lightly child, lightly.

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“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

~ Henry Miller, Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion I

 


Notes:

  • Photo: Paul Apal’kin via Newthom. Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart.

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In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people’s hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at least get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you’re playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people.

To write a song that is remembered and taken to heart is a connection, a touching of bases. A thread that runs through all of us. A stab to the heart. Sometimes I think songwriting is about tightening the heartstrings as much as possible without bringing on a heart attack.

And you listen to some of that meticulous Mozart stuff and Vivaldi and you realize that they knew that too. They knew when to leave one note just hanging up there where it illegally belongs and let it dangle in the wind and turn a dead body into a living beauty.

~ Keith Richards, Life


Notes:

 

No bodies. No blood. No war.

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There are certain pictures I can never take. We turn on the TV and are smothered with cruelty and suffering and I don’t need to add to it. So I just photograph peaceful things. A vase of flowers, a beautiful girl. Sometimes, through a peaceful face, I can bring something important into the world.

~ Edouard Boubat, (1923–1999), a French photo journalist and art photography said in an interview in Paris in 1991


Edouard Boubat, one of France’s most celebrated postwar photographers who was best known for his poetic images of children… Mr. Boubat traveled widely during a career that lasted almost 50 years, but unlike many photographers of his generation he showed no interest in political events. His rule, ”no bodies, no blood, no war,” even earned him the nickname of peace correspondent…Rather, what attracted him was the beauty of life, wherever he found it. He liked photographing women, animals, trees and nature as well as children, and his use of light gave his work a special quality. Invariably the emotion evoked by his images is tenderness, as in one of his most popular photographs, ”La Petite Fille aux Feuilles Mortes.” ‘There is something instinctive about the moment you choose to ‘take’ a photograph,” he once explained. ”It’s not the result of thought or reflection. The strength of the composition is always born of the instant of the decision. It reminds me of archery. There is the tension of the bow and the free flight of the arrow.”¹

Boubat is known to capture people in their own private worlds, whether that was lovers embracing, or children daydreaming.  He shows the empty moments of life and exalt the happiness in those moments.
Boubat is often described as a ‘humanist’ photographer because of his ability to capture the beauty and dignity of his subjects. This is one of his most famous pictures, “Remi Listening to the Sea”,  a portrait of a little boy holding a sea shell up to his ear and, with eyes closed, quietly listening to the sound of the ‘sea’.²


Notes:

Good. Now here’s what poetry can do.

photograph-butterfly-butterflies-hand,

Good. Now here’s what poetry can do.

Imagine yourself a caterpillar.
There’s an awful shrug and, suddenly,
You’re beautiful for as long as you live.

~ Stephen Dunn, from Poem For People That Are Understandably Too Busy To Read Poetry (1966)

 


Notes:

  • Post inspired by: “Butterflies are not insects,’ Captain John Sterling said soberly. ‘They are self-propelled flowers.” from Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels.
  • And inspired by ZME Science: “The caterpillar’s  metamorphosis from a tree clinging, 12-legged pest into the majestic flying butterfly is one of the most used metaphors to describe a 180 transformation. It’s truly a fantastic mechanism developed by nature, yet while all my seem fantastic on the outside, this transformation looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis. In short, for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly it digests itself using enzymes triggered by hormones, before sleeping cells similar to stem cells grow into the body parts of the future butterfly.”
  • Stephen Dunn Poem excerpt from The Vale of Soul-Making
  • Photo from We Heart It

 

 

Oryoki

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“Stay here forever,” said the little girl in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. We were in the Japanese Pavilion, leaning over the rail to watch the fish.

Cherry blossoms swirled like confetti in the dark water. “No,” said her father. “Gonna see more fish—” and he dragged her away from the ones she was already looking at: their shadowy bodies, their smiling mouths, their multicolored scales. Black and gold and pure albino white; cadmium yellow/charcoal; silver-blue-green-gray. The little girl protested, but her father didn’t listen. “More fish,” he said, as if more and different were always, unquestionably better. More fish. Again more fish.

Oryoki, the Japanese word for a begging bowl, means “just enough.” The Irish word go leor (anglicized as “galore”) also meant “sufficiency,” at least at first, sufficiency being a synonym for plenty. But over time, “plenty” has metastasized into “more than enough,” and finally into “too much.” There is nothing wrong with having “too much of a good thing” on a feast day, or for a celebration. But when one comes to take that “more” for granted, requiring excess on every ordinary day, then its celebratory aspect is destroyed.

“Stay here forever,” said the little girl. All she wanted was to watch the fish: to dissolve into that moment of enchantment.

~ Christian McEwen, “Slow is Beautiful.” From World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down


Photo: faungg’s photos with fish in Japanese Garden, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Miracle? All of it.

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NY Times Letter to the Editor:

The Chirp Heard Across the Universe” (editorial, Feb. 16), about the recent discovery of the gravitational waves that were predicted by Einstein a century ago, asks, “Does science, or knowledge, really need a justification?”

The answer, of course, is no. But in a culture that has become saturated with the idea that only commercial value matters, we’ve become afraid of expressing an impulse as natural and basic as this.

Much like literature, music, philosophy and art, enjoyment of the natural sciences — and of nature itself — has intrinsic value. No further justification is required. Curiosity, wonder and beauty are enough.

~ Mark Bessoudo, Toronto


Notes:

  • Related Posts: Miracle? All of it.
  • Photo: Aberrant Beauty
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Morning Walk

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[…]

Stillness. I would say to them
About living in the country, peace
Can deafen one, beauty surprise
No longer.
There is only the thud
Of the slow foot up the long lane
At morning and back at night.

~ R.S. Thomas, The Country


Credits: Photo of Lake District in England: James Reebanks.  Poem Source: James Reebanks: The Shepherd’s Life 

 

Courage. No. Excuse me. Real Courage.

girl-bus-alone

The most beautiful flowers of courage
are not seen in the showy,
loose petalled bouquets of our leaders,
enormous gardenias perfuming whole banquet rooms.
No, they are blossoms like this:
a child-sized young woman with a homely face,
alone on a seat on the city bus,
eyelashes thick with mascara,
lipstick smudged onto her small, determined mouth.

~ Ted Kooser, July. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Image Source: Ziemowit Maj

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