AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

18 January 2017

Scrutopia.

Roger Scruton, at home in Scrutopia ...

Making.

Witkiewicz, Jesieniowiska, 1894


The best teachers have showed me that things have to be done bit by bit. Nothing that means anything happens quickly--we only think it does. The motion of drawing back a bow and sending an arrow straight into a target takes only a split second, but it is a skill many years in the making. So it is with a life, anyone's life. I may list things that might be described as my accomplishments in these few pages, but they are only shadows of the larger truth, fragments separated from the whole cycle of becoming. And if I can tell an old-time story now about a man who is walking about, a forest lodge man, it is because I spent many years walking about myself, listening to voices that came not just from the people but from animals and trees and stones.

Joseph Brochak

17 January 2017

Dvořák, Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, "New World"

The Largo performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, directed by Herbert von Karajan ...


Happy birthday, Guarini.

Guarini, Palacio Carignano, 1679


Guarino Guarini was born on this day in 1624.

This.


You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say,“Here at last is the thing I was made for." We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

C.S. Lewis

Revealed.


The sense of beauty puts a brake upon destruction, by representing its object as irreplaceable. When the world looks back at me with my eyes, as it does in aesthetic experience, it is also addressing me in another way. Something is being revealed to me, and I am being made to stand still and absorb it. It is of course nonsense to suggest that there are naiads in the trees and dryads in the groves. What is revealed to me in the experience of beauty is a fundamental truth about being - the truth that being is a gift, and receiving it is a task. This is a truth of theology that demands exposition as such.

Roger Scruton

A section of Scruton's talk, "The View from Nowhere," which was part of the Gifford Lectures' The Face of God ...

Lezhneva.

Julia Lezhneva performs in a program of arias by Mozart and Handel ...

16 January 2017

Poetry.

Cuvelier, Fountainebleau Forest, 1869

How I used to love the dark, sad evenings of late autumn and winter, how eagerly I imbibed their moods of loneliness and melancholy when wrapped in my cloak I strode for half the night through rain and storm, through the leafless winter landscape, lonely enough then too, but full of deep joy, and full of poetry.

Herman Hesse

Himself.


Children should be able to do their own experimenting and their own research. Teachers, of course, can guide them by providing appropriate materials, but the essential thing is that in order for a child to understand something, he must construct it himself, he must re-invent it. Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly.

Jean Piaget

Fibich, Poem

Lars Roos performs ...

Lessons.


One of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, Paul Klee was also a prolific teacher, serving as a faculty member of the Bauhaus school between 1921 and 1931. Promoting a theoretical approach to artmaking, the painter taught a variety of courses across disciplines, from bookbinding to basic design, and left behind over 3,900 pages in lecture notes. These documents, partly compiled in Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925), reveal the artist’s innovative and unusual lesson plans, which often provided students with a step-by-step approach to artistic expression. We’ve pulled some of his key lessons about art and design. Let’s start with the basics.

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Continue.


Learning is not a product of teaching. Kids are born learning. They learn how to walk, how to talk. They’re basically little scientists. If we don’t stop that process, it will continue.

Grace LLewellyn

Telemann, Concerto in D major for Violin, Cello, Trumpet, and Strings, TWV 53:D5

Remains.


Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. 

Albert Einstein

RUSH, Freewill

Own.

Human freedom is finite freedom. Man is not free from conditions. But he is free to take a stand in regard to them. The conditions do not completely condition him. Although our existence is influenced by instincts, inherited disposition and environment, an area of freedom is always available to us. Everything can be taken from a man, but the last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Dr. Viktor Frankel

Today.

1970.


"Brown Sugar"

Happy birthday, Service.


Robert W. Service was born on this day in 1874.

CARRY ON!

It's easy to fight when everything's right,
And you're mad with the thrill and the glory;
It's easy to cheer when victory's near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It's a different song when everything's wrong,
When you're feeling infernally mortal;
When it's ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

Carry on! Carry on!
There isn't much punch in your blow.
You're glaring and staring and hitting out blind;
You're muddy and bloody, but never you mind.
Carry on! Carry on!
You haven't the ghost of a show.
It's looking like death, but while you've a breath,
Carry on, my son! Carry on!

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It's easy to fight when you're winning;
It's easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there's the man of God's choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven's own height
Is the man who can fight when he's losing.

Carry on! Carry on!
Things never were looming so black.
But show that you haven't a cowardly streak,
And though you're unlucky you never are weak.
Carry on! Carry on!
Brace up for another attack.
It's looking like hell, but -- you never can tell:
Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the deserts of doubt,
And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go
Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labour with zest, and to give of your best,
For the sweetness and joy of the giving;
To help folks along with a hand and a song;
Why, there's the real sunshine of living.

Carry on! Carry on!
Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here.
Carry on! Carry on!
Let the world be the better for you;
And at last when you die, let this be your cry:
Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

Robert W. Service

Blueprint.


I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life's blueprint. Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you fell that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life's blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You're going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life's work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you--doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, "If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

This hasn't always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stay.


I’ve decided to stay. Words to live by. Words that kept you here, where you wrote volumes of words for so many readers, each sentence a firefly in the dark of their lonely.

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Thanks, Harvey.

15 January 2017

Lifts.


A WINTER EDEN

A winter garden in an alder swamp,
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.

It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead,
And last year's berries shining scarlet red.

It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feat
On some wild apple tree's young tender bark,
What well may prove the year's high girdle mark.

So near to paradise all pairing ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud-inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o'clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life's while to wake and sport.


Robert Frost

All.

Hals, Descartes, 1699


Finally, we ought to employ all the aids of understanding, imagination, sense and memory, first for the purpose of having a distinct intuition of simple propositions; partly also in order to compare the propositions.

Rene Descartes


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L'Arpeggiata, Icones du Seicento

L'Arpeggiata performs a program of 17th century Italian arias ...

Typography.

Cimarosa, Il Maestro di Cappella

Giovanni Antonini leads Il Giardino Armonico ...



What a blast!

Realization.


In a time when most construction was still quite primitive and utilitarian, the world’s great Gothic buildings were being assembled one stone at a time, through immense trial and error. Consider being chosen by the Church to design one of these structures: imagine your excitement at the undertaking being tempered by the realization that your grandchildren would be long dead by the time it was complete.

Vivaldi, Mandolin Concerto in C Major, RV 425

Avi Avital performs with the Venice Baroque Orchestra ...

Humility.


As the night wore on we talked about various things until, at one point, I asked, “Why grizzlies?”

He explained that after returning from the war he began doing a lot of camping in wild places. One of those places was the backcountry of Yellowstone and it was there that he started finding himself in the company of bears. During one of his very first encounters he had been soaking in a thermal pool when he was startled by a sow and her cub. The bear had treed him and Peacock had ended up naked and shivering up in the tree for over an hour.

Gradually, grizzlies became not the natural byproduct of his trips into the backcountry but the goal. Though he didn’t like the word, it was hard to say there wasn’t a spiritual aspect to his trips into grizzly country. He came to believe that many of our basic religious archetypes grew out of observing bears. After all, what better animal to embody resurrection, the death of a winter’s hibernation followed by the rebirth of spring’s emergence from the den?

Peacock loved guns and owned many but he refused to bring them along when he knew he would encounter the bears.

“That would defeat the purpose,” he said.

And what was the purpose? The purpose was to feel real humility, to be taken off the usual human pedestal. Which was easy enough when you were in the presence of an animal that might suddenly decide to eat you. Humility, Peacock came to believe, was the proper emotional backdrop for reason, and in the wilderness Peacock became at once more reasonable and more wild. He was always amazed at the way his senses grew sharper after only a few days out in it, the way he could see better and smell other animals. It was as if he clicked into being an older, more primal self. But manners were also important. At one point in the “American Sportsman” clip, he tells Arnold that he doesn’t bring guns into bear country because “it would be in poor taste.” Poor taste! I was reminded of something that Jack Turner said about Peacock in his essay. He wrote: “…his manners, as a guest in the wild, are impeccable.” (FN:102 AW) That too would be a result of the necessary humility of living near bears. This seemed fascinating to me: the man who was the model for Hayduke, one of the most famously rude of fictional characters, had actually learned to be polite in the wild.

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Jerry Douglas, "Route Irish"

Hear.


There is another physical law that teases me, too: the Doppler Effect. The sound of anything coming at you- a train, say, or the future- has a higher pitch than the sound of the same thing going away. If you have perfect pitch and a head for mathematics you can compute the speed of the object by the interval between its arriving and departing sounds. I have neither perfect pitch nor a head for mathematics, and anyway who wants to compute the speed of history? Like all falling bodies, it constantly accelerates. But I would like to hear your life as you heard it, coming at you, instead of hearing it as I do, a somber sound of expectations reduced, desires blunted, hopes deferred or abandoned, chances lost, defeats accepted, griefs borne.

Wallace Stegner

Much.


WALT WHITMAN'S CAUTION

To The States, or any one of them, or any city of The
States, Resist much, obey little;
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved;
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth,
ever afterward resumes its liberty.

Walt Whitman

Thank You, Jessica.

14 January 2017

Happy birthday, Fantin-Latour.

Fantin-Latour, Self-portrait, 1861


Ignace Henri Jean Théodore Fantin-Latour was born on this day in 1836.

To make a painting representing things as they are found in nature, I put a great deal of thought into the arrangement, but with the idea of making it look like a natural arrangement of random objects. This is an idea that I have been mulling over a great deal: giving the appearance of a total lack of artistry.

Henri Fantin-Latour

Fantin-Latour, A Basket of Roses, 1890


New Order, Power, Corruption, and Lies, 1983

12 January 2017

Neil Young, "Wolf Moon"

Translucent.

Wyeth, Hoffman's Barn, 1959


Birches, snow, firewood, sky, road, fire, smoke, frost— I repeated the words that I remembered for only a slightly shorter time than I remembered myself. Birches, snow, firewood, sky, road, fire, smoke, frost— the words grew, as if they were material, had material energy; the words sounded symphonically, one through another, without blending, the frost was frosty, the fire fiery, the smoke smoky; the words became translucent, melting slightly, like pure flame, their phonetic casings lost their hardened precision, and the eye perceived the pure essence of meaning— like a bubble of air in a precious stone, refracting the light differently.

Sergei Lebedev

Same.


The same stream of life that runs
through my veins night and day runs
through the world and dances in rhythmic measure.

It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and
breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the oceans-cradle
of birth and of death, In ebb and in flow

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world
of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
dancing in my blood this moment.


Rabindranath Tagore

Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks

Bavarian Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Lorin Maazel, performs ...

Experience.


Your teacher cannot bridge the gap between what you know and what you want to know. For his words to ‘educate’ you, you must welcome them, think about them, find somewhere for your mind to organize them, and remember them. Your learning is your job, not your teacher’s job. And all you need to start with is desire. You don’t need a schoolteacher to get knowledge – you can get it from looking at the world, from watching films, from conversations, from reading, from asking questions, from experience.

People who have never gone to school have never developed negative attitudes toward exploring their world. Unfortunately, you probably have. It’s not your fault if you don’t immediately want to run out and watch ladybugs with a magnifying glass. It might take time before your desire to learn surfaces from beneath the layers of guilt – the voices insisting, I should learn this, I have to learn that. Give yourself time. Don’t push. You’ll recover.

In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: forget about it. Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream it. One day, you will glance up at your collection of Japanese literature, or trip over the solar oven you built, and it will hit you: learning was there all the time, happening by itself.

Grace LLewellyn

Happy birthday, London.


Jack London was born on this day in 1876.

One day
A stranger came up to me 
Speaking in riddles

He said:
"Inspiration incites the incense within that incarnates indigo indians."

I did not know what he meant until he added:

"You can't wait for inspiration.  You must go after it with a club."

Jack London

Braunschweiger.


Stachowski's brauschweiger.

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Today.

1969.


"White Summer/Black Mountain Side"




The unexamined life is surely worth living, but is the unlived life worth examining? It seems a strange question until one realizes how much of our so-called mental life is about the lives we are not living, the lives we are missing out on, the lives we could be leading but for some reason are not. What we fantasize about, what we long for, are the experiences, the things and the people that are absent. It is the absence of what we need that makes us think, that makes us cross and sad. We have to be aware of what is missing in our lives — even if this often obscures both what we already have and what is actually available — because we can survive only if our appetites more or less work for us. Indeed, we have to survive our appetites by making people cooperate with our wanting. We pressurize the world to be there for our benefit. And yet we quickly notice as children — it is, perhaps, the first thing we do notice — that our needs, like our wishes, are always potentially unmet. Because we are always shadowed by the possibility of not getting what we want, we learn, at best, to ironize our wishes — that is, to call our wants wishes: a wish is only a wish until, as we say, it comes true — and, at worst, to hate our needs. But we also learn to live somewhere between the lives we have and the lives we would like.

We refer to them as our unlived lives because somewhere we believe that they were open to us; but for some reason — and we might spend a great deal of our lived lives trying to find and give the reason — they were not possible. And what was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives. Indeed, our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.

We are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do. We share our lives with the people we have failed to be.

Our lives become an elegy to needs unmet and desires sacrificed, to possibilities refused, to roads not taken. The myth of our potential can make of our lives a perpetual falling-short, a continual and continuing loss, a sustained and sometimes sustaining rage.

We have an abiding sense, however obscure and obscured, that the lives we do lead are informed by the lives that escape us.

Because we are nothing special — on a par with ants and daffodils — it is the work of culture to make us feel special; just as parents need to make their children feel special to help them bear and bear with — and hopefully enjoy — their insignificance in the larger scheme of things. In this sense growing up is always an undoing of what needed to be done: first, ideally, we are made to feel special; then we are expected to enjoy a world in which we are not… When people realize how accidental they are, they are tempted to think of themselves as chosen. We certainly tend to be more special, if only to ourselves, in our imaginary unlived lives.

So it is worth wondering what the need to be special prevents us seeing about ourselves — other, that is, than the unfailing transience of our lives; what the need to be special stops us from being. This, essentially, is the question psychoanalysis was invented to address: what kind of pleasures can sustain a creature that is nothing special? Once the promise of immortality, of being chosen, was displaced by the promise of more life — the promise, as we say, of getting more out of life — the unlived life became a haunting presence in a life legitimated by nothing more than the desire to live it. For modern people, stalked by their choices, the good life is a life lived to the full. We become obsessed, in a new way, by what is missing in our lives; and by what sabotages the pleasures that we seek.

We make our lives pleasurable, and therefore bearable, by picturing them as they might be; it is less obvious, though, what these compelling fantasy lives — lives of, as it were, a more complete satisfaction — are a self-cure for. Our solutions tell us what our problems are; our fantasy lives are not — or not necessarily — alternatives to, or refuges from, those real lives but an essential part of them. There is nothing more obscure than the relationship between the lived and the unlived life. (Each member of a couple, for example, is always having a relationship, wittingly or unwittingly, with their partner’s unlived lives; their initial and initiating relationship is between what they assume are their potential selves.) So we may need to think of ourselves as always living a double life, the one that we wish for and the one that we practice; the one that never happens and the one that keeps happening.

There is a gap between what we want and what we can have, and that gap is our link, our connection, to the world. This discord, this supposed mismatch, is the origin of our experience of missing out.

Our utopias tell us more about our lived lives, and their privations, than about our wished-for lives.

In our unlived lives we are always more satisfied, far less frustrated versions of ourselves… Our possibilities for satisfaction depend upon our capacity for frustration; if we can’t let ourselves feel our frustration — and, surprisingly, this is a surprisingly difficult thing to do — we can’t get a sense of what it is we might be wanting, and missing, of what might really give us pleasure. That frustration is where we start from; the child’s dawning awareness of himself is an awareness of something necessary not being there. The child becomes present to himself in the absence of something he needs.

The more we frustrate ourselves in wanting something, the more we value our desire for it. Waiting too long poisons desire, but waiting too little pre-empts it; the imagining is in the waiting. Wanting takes time; partly because it takes some time to get over the resistances to wanting, and partly because we are often unconscious of what it is that we do want. But the worst thing we can be frustrated of is frustration itself; to be deprived of frustration is to be deprived of the possibilities of satisfaction.

Adam Phillips 

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Phillips' "The Art of Nonfiction" interview in The Paris Review ... HERE.