AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

27 August 2014

Beethoven, Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, "Eroica"

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the London Symphony Orchestra …

Excited.

Seize the moment of excited curiosity!

Capturing.


Constable painted oil sketches … usually outdoors. This meant that he could quickly and freely capture the ever-changing light and movement in the landscape. Later in the studio, he could refer back to these sketches as he planned out larger compositions. Constable also sketched small objects and vignettes, using the oil medium to consider subjects simultaneously through form, colour and texture. In these small paintings, which were intended to be impressions and not final works, we can really see Constable’s virtuoso ability to paint wet in wet, or alla prima, creating fresh and spontaneous illustrations of the world around him.
Alla prima (from the Italian, meaning ‘at first attempt’), is a technique where layers of wet paint are applied on top of other layers of wet paint. It is used in both oil and watercolour painting, and it demands a high level of skill since the completed work must be finished in one sitting. The technique allows a much more spontaneous approach to capturing the mood and feel of a subject in oil paint - particularly of in landscape painting - and Constable used it to great effect.

CONNECT

26 August 2014

Benny Galloway & the Scrugglers, "Waiting On The Wind"

Eternal.


Time is very slow for those who wait,
Very fast for those who are scared,
Very long for those who lament,
Very short for those who celebrate,
But for those who love, time is eternal.

William Shakespeare

Darol Anger & The Republic of Strings, "Duck River Song"

Wonders.

Gérôme, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1893 



To George Felton Mathew

Sweet are the pleasures that to verse belong,
And doubly sweet a brotherhood in song;
Nor can remembrance, Mathew! bring to view
A fate more pleasing, a delight more true
Than that in which the brother Poets joy'd,
Who with combined powers, their wit employ'd
To raise a trophy to the drama's muses.
The thought of this great partnership diffuses
Over the genius loving heart, a feeling
Of all that's high, and great, and good, and healing.

Too partial friend! fain would I follow thee
Past each horizon of fine poesy;
Fain would I echo back each pleasant note
As o'er Sicilian seas, clear anthems float
'Mong the light skimming gondolas far parted,
Just when the sun his farewell beam has darted:
But 'tis impossible; far different cares
Beckon me sternly from soft "Lydian airs,"
And hold my faculties so long in thrall,
That I am oft in doubt whether at all
I shall again see Phoebus in the morning:
Or flush'd Aurora in the roseate dawning!
Or a white Naiad in a rippling stream;
Or a rapt seraph in a moonlight beam;
Or again witness what with thee I've seen,
The dew by fairy feet swept from the green,
After a night of some quaint jubilee
Which every elf and fay had come to see:
When bright processions took their airy march
Beneath the curved moon's triumphal arch.

But might I now each passing moment give
To the coy muse, with me she would not live
In this dark city, nor would condescend
'Mid contradictions her delights to lend.
Should e'er the fine-eyed maid to me be kind,
Ah! surely it must be whene'er I find
Some flowery spot, sequester'd, wild, romantic,
That often must have seen a poet frantic;
Where oaks, that erst the Druid knew, are growing,
And flowers, the glory of one day, are blowing;
Where the dark-leav'd laburnum's drooping clusters
Reflect athwart the stream their yellow lustres,
And intertwined the cassia's arms unite,
With its own drooping buds, but very white.
Where on one side are covert branches hung,
'Mong which the nightingales have always sung
In leafy quiet; where to pry, aloof,
Atween the pillars of the sylvan roof,
Would be to find where violet beds were nestling,
And where the bee with cowslip bells was wrestling.
There must be too a ruin dark, and gloomy,
To say "joy not too much in all that's bloomy."

Yet this is vain—O Mathew lend thy aid
To find a place where I may greet the maid—
Where we may soft humanity put on,
And sit, and rhyme and think on Chatterton;
And that warm-hearted Shakspeare sent to meet him
Four laurell'd spirits, heaven-ward to intreat him.
With reverence would we speak of all the sages
Who have left streaks of light athwart their ages:
And thou shouldst moralize on Milton's blindness,
And mourn the fearful dearth of human kindness
To those who strove with the bright golden wing
Of genius, to flap away each sting
Thrown by the pitiless world. We next could tell
Of those who in the cause of freedom fell:
Of our own Alfred, of Helvetian Tell;
Of him whose name to ev'ry heart's a solace,
High-minded and unbending William Wallace.
While to the rugged north our musing turns
We well might drop a tear for him, and Burns.

Felton! without incitements such as these,
How vain for me the niggard Muse to tease:
For thee, she will thy every dwelling grace,
And make "a sun-shine in a shady place:"
For thou wast once a flowret blooming wild,
Close to the source, bright, pure, and undefil'd,
Whence gush the streams of song: in happy hour
Came chaste Diana from her shady bower,
Just as the sun was from the east uprising;
And, as for him some gift she was devising,
Beheld thee, pluck'd thee, cast thee in the stream
To meet her glorious brother's greeting beam.
I marvel much that thou hast never told
How, from a flower, into a fish of gold
Apollo chang'd thee; how thou next didst seem
A black-eyed swan upon the widening stream;
And when thou first didst in that mirror trace
The placid features of a human face:
That thou hast never told thy travels strange.
And all the wonders of the mazy range
O'er pebbly crystal, and o'er golden sands;
Kissing thy daily food from Naiad's pearly hands.

John Keats

Dave Rawlings Machine, "Going to California"

John Paul Jones, mandolin. Dave Rawlings, enthusiasm ...

24 August 2014

Liberation.



We were at the Ritz Bar. I was on my third martini and Hemingway was on his fourth when the bartender made a speech.  Though the accolades were directed at him, Hemingway leaned into my ear and said, “Bartenders should stick to what they do best – bartending.” I had to agree. The acoustics weren’t conducive to formal speeches, especially long ones.  Besides, our cocktails were getting warm.  We chinked glasses, exchanged nods and sneaked sips during the toast.

1929? 1949? Nope: Aug. 24, 1999.  The Hemingway in question? Jack Hemingway, son of Ernest and Hadley, father to Margaux and Mariel. The occasion?  An exclusive party to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s “liberation” of the Ritz.

For those of you who don’t know this particular footnote in Hemingway lore, just after the Allied troops declared victory on Aug. 24, 1944, Hemingway, with a band of irregulars just outside the Paris periphery, sped straight to the Place Vendome.

Their self-appointed mission was to relieve the Nazi officers of their occupation headquarters: the Hotel Ritz.  That night, as word spread that the war was over, Papa and crew played host to one of the most jubilant parties the Ritz has ever seen. Fifty-five years later, people were still celebrating, and still remembering.

20 August 2014

Sacred.

Sargent, An Outdoor Study, 1889


Work is not always required ... there is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.

John MacDonald

Look.

ParkeHarrison, Pollination, 1998


True education flowers at the point when delight falls in love with responsibility. If you love something, you want to look after it.

Philip Pullman

Read.


To read for pleasure, but not for idleness; for pastime but not to kill time; to seek and find, delight and enlarge life through books.

Robertson Davies

Searching.


Searching is half the fun ... life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.

Jimmy Buffett

Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.

Plug it in, open the windows, an' turn it up ...

Happy birthday, Plant.

Robert Plant was born on this date in 1948.

"Rainbow"



CONNECT

19 August 2014

Experiences.


Jo Reed: You said music is most important when you're not hearing it.
Michael Tilson Thomas: Yes, I believe that for that exact reason. What do you take away from the performance?  Do you take away a melody, or a harmony, or a rhythm, or a kind of mood, or certain kind of energy, but something that is either confirming something that you already believe, or deepening that understanding, or perhaps giving you a completely new understanding of the way someone thinks about life, someone feels about life.
So classical music is unique in the world in that it is a continuous tradition about now 1200 years old. So from the first time music began to be written down, Gregorian Chant, you know, in the 800s, right through to now, it's one progression of ideas of the way people have thought about their lives, about their feelings and the process they've gone through which, believe me, it was a really difficult process to take all of those thoughts and write them down in what's essentially code books, that's what music scores really are, in ways that by hearing those exact melodies we can more directly experience the kind of inner life that these people had, much more so than we can through reading their words, which require complex shadings of translation or historical perspective. Through this music we can really have a sense of, "How do these experiences of love of mournfulness, of humor, of the drive for conquest or whatever the different themes that run through civilization, how did these give themselves voice in these people of long ago?" and from this, I think, we learn a lot about ourselves.

18 August 2014

Peter Rowan, "So Good"

Fine.

Dürer, Linden Tree on a Bastion, 1494



Novel

I

We aren't serious when we're seventeen.
—One fine evening, to hell with beer and lemonade,
Noisy cafés with their shining lamps!
We walk under the green linden trees of the park
The lindens smell good in the good June evenings!
At times the air is so scented that we close our eyes.
The wind laden with sounds—the town isn't far—
Has the smell of grapevines and beer . . .


II


—There you can see a very small patch
Of dark blue, framed by a little branch,
Pinned up by a naughty star, that melts
In gentle quivers, small and very white . . .
Night in June! Seventeen years old! —We are overcome by it all
The sap is champagne and goes to our head . . .
We talked a lot and feel a kiss on our lips
Trembling there like a small insect . . .


III


Our wild heart moves through novels like Robinson Crusoe,
—When, in the light of a pale street lamp,
A girl goes by attractive and charming
Under the shadow of her father's terrible collar . . .
And as she finds you incredibly naïve,
While clicking her little boots,
She turns abruptly and in a lively way . . .
—Then cavatinas die on your lips . . .


IV


You are in love. Occupied until the month of August.
You are in love. —Your sonnets make Her laugh.
All your friends go off, you are ridiculous.
—Then one evening the girl you worship deigned to write to you . . . !
—That evening, . . . —you return to the bright cafés,
You ask for beer or lemonade . . .
—We're not serious when we are seventeen
And when we have green linden trees in the park.


Arthur Rimbaud

Jon Anderson, "Under Heaven's Door/To The Runner"

Wondrous.

Dilmen, Mor Yuhanun Church, 2011


In ordinary perception, the senses send an overwhelming flood of information to the brain, which the brain then filters down to a trickle it can manage for the purpose of survival in a highly competitive world. Man has become so rational, so utilitarian, that the trickle becomes most pale and thin. It is efficient, for mere survival, but it screens out the most wondrous part of man's potential experience without his even knowing it. We're shut off from our own world. 

Tom Wolfe

Marxism.

Chico Marx, piano …

Illusion.


Time seems particularly nebulous and ungraspable when it’s all you’re focussing on. The idea that time is an illusion made perfect sense, suddenly.

Happy birthday, Lewis.

Charles Wilson Peale, Meriwether Lewis, 1807


Meriwether Lewis was born on this date in 1774. 

This day I completed my thirty first year, and conceived that I had in all human probability now existed about half the period which I am to remain in this Sublunary world. I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the hapiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now soarly feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended. but since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought and resolved in future, to redouble my exertions and at least indeavour to promote those two primary objects of human existance, by giving them the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestoed on me; or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.

Meriwether Lewis

CONNECT

15 August 2014

Peter Rowan, "Across the Rolling Hills (Padmasambhava)"

Mystery.

Zwerger, from The Little Mermaid, 2004


All my life I've been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence.  Somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.

Luis Buñuel

Bruce Cockburn, "Mystery"

Mysterious.


[M]ysteries have a longer half-life than puzzles, giving the example of Shakespeare, who commonly adapted story lines to his own ends up until the mid-1590’s. Around this time, his son passed away, and Shakespeare began to remove “crucial planks” from these older narrative structures, which created a greater sense of mystery because not everything in the narrative could be logically explained, in the way a puzzle can. This is also true in science. As Einstein remarked: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious…It is the source of all true art and science.”

CONNECT

Remedy.


[C]lassic literature can have the salutary effect of tempering our high sensitivity to every breaking piece of news and distracting piece of trivia, giving us the ballast of historical perspective. In our current culture, in which we live perpetually plugged into information machines that amplify every signal and every bit of noise, such a remedy seems indispensable.

CONNECT

The Paris Review's "The Art of Fiction" with Italo Calvino, here.

14 August 2014

Aside.


In theory there is nothing to hinder our following what we are taught; but in life there are many things to draw us aside.

Epictetus

Transarquitetônica.

Given a cavernous gallery space at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade in São Paulo, artist Henrique Oliveira has created Transarquitetônica, a breathtaking installation from plywood, which fills the room with twisted tree roots large enough for gallery visitors to walk inside.



CONNECT

13 August 2014

Humility.

Brown, Jesus Washing Peter's Feet (detail), 1856


Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.

Mother Teresa

Her "How To" on humility ...

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid being inquisitive.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.

12 August 2014

Bruce Cockburn, "The Last Night of the World"

Râmeau, Suite in A, Gavotte & Six Doubles

Natacha Kudritskaya performs …

Robin Williams, RIP

Dare to strike out and find new ground!

Pointed.


In the back parking lot of Radio Radio, a dank Indianapolis music venue, sits a white panel van. Its wheels are rusting, most of its passengers are standing and smoking cigarettes, kicking up gravel. Affixed to its bumper is a pointed sticker: "If you don't believe in Jesus — go to hell." This is Billy Joe Shaver's ride.

CONNECT

11 August 2014

Precious.


[P]racticed at its highest level, mise-en-place says that time is precious. Resources are precious. Space is precious. Your self-respect and the respect of others are precious. Use them wisely.



Thank You, Poetessa.

Peace.


We would like to be quiet, but our restlessness will not allow it. Hence we believe that for us there can be no peace except in a life filled up with movement and activity, with speech, news, communication, recreation, and distraction. We seek the meaning of our life in activity for its own sake.

There is a perverse form of contemporary violence [that is] activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form of violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our inner capacity for peace. 

Thomas Merton

CONNECT

Jerry Garcia Band, "Reuben and Cerise"

10 August 2014

Clair de Lune.

Millet, The Sheepfold, Moonlight, 1872



Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
    Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
That play on lutes and dance and have an air
    Of being sad in their fantastic trim.

The while they celebrate in minor strain
    Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
    And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,

The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
    That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white stone
    The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy.


Paul Verlaine

Claude Debussy, Suite bergamasque, No. 3, "Clair de Lune," performed on guitar by John Williams and Julian Bream …

Plant.

Robert Plant and The Sensational Shape Shifters at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival …

Happy birthday, Louvre.

Allom, The Grand Gallery of The Louvre, 1872


On this date in 1793, the Musée du Louvre opened its doors for the first time.

Spirit.



What Adele Diamond is learning about the brain challenges basic assumptions in modern education. Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization, and reflection. What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds.


Supermoon.

Roden and Lueth, The Moon, 2012


Like all full moons, this month’s full moon on August 10 has many names. It’s the Sturgeon Moon in North America, harking back to bygone centuries when this large fish roamed plentifully in the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay. The August full moon is also known as the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon. In 2014, the August 10 full moon also gives us this year’s closest supermoon. According to NASA, this full moon will be 14% closer and 30% brighter than other full moons of the year.

CONNECT

Nature.


We have to know from ourselves, there are certain states of mind that are conducive to this flourishing, to this well-being, what the Greeks called eudaimonia, flourishing. There are some which are adverse to this well-being. And so, if we look from our own experience, anger, hatred, jealousy, arrogance, obsessive desire, strong grasping, they don't leave us in such a good state after we have experienced it. And also, they are detrimental to others' happiness. So we may consider that the more those are invading our mind, and, like a chain reaction, the more we feel miserable, we feel tormented. At the opposite, everyone knows deep within that an act of selfless generosity, if from the distance, without anyone knowing anything about it, we could save a child's life, make someone happy. We don't need the recognition. We don't need any gratitude. Just the mere fact of doing that fills such a sense of adequation with our deep nature. And we would like to be like that all the time.
10:55So is that possible, to change our way of being, to transform one's mind? Aren't those negative emotions, or destructive emotions, inherent to the nature of mind? Is change possible in our emotions, in our traits, in our moods? For that we have to ask, what is nature of mind? And if we look from the experiential point of view, there is a primary quality of consciousness that's just the mere fact to be cognitive, to be aware. Consciousness is like a mirror that allows all images to rise on it. You can have ugly faces, beautiful faces in the mirror. The mirror allows that, but the mirror is not tainted, is not modified, is not altered by those images. Likewise, behind every single thought there is the bare consciousness, pure awareness. This is the nature. It cannot be tainted intrinsically with hatred or jealousy because, then, if it was always there -- like a dye that would permeate the whole cloth -- then it would be found all the time, somewhere. We know we're not always angry, always jealous, always generous.

Tingles.


Music is a universal language - its appeal runs across the world in many cultures. In its various forms, music unites human beings in a uniquely pleasurable experience - like eating, sleeping, or sex - yet, of itself, it has no practical value. 

Moreover, music is able to trigger physiological changes in the human body - most people report occasionally experiencing the 'tingles' when listening to music. So what is going on in our bodies and brains when we experience this (usually) pleasurable phenomenon?


Practice.


How many times have you heard that,“practice makes perfect?” Well, a new meta-analysis of dozens of previous studies shows that it is not always true.