Shadows

In the Shadows

This is a digital painting I was working on yesterday, and it uses detail from a painting of the 19th century, by Martinus Rorbye on view at the National Gallery of Denmark, and online here

http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/martinus-roerbye-view-from-the-artists-window/

If you view the original painting, you will see the artist has painted a view of Copenhagen harbour from the window, which I have eliminated, as well as other internal detail of the room from his parent’s house.

The original painting displays the artists position of viewing a horizon full of opportunity and new experience.  He is looking out from a very comfortable position and seeing only possibility, ships to take him away and a safe harbour of the delightful room to return to.  There are no shadows.

My feelings are much more trepidatory at the moment. I have the comfort of a secure position, but the view I look out on is more blank – it has no ships sailing in it, the expanse is unwritten.  Inside the room there are the tended plants that are blooming, having been nurtured, and the book is open on the table, still being examined.  But the shadows are there too, they are close and dark, as real as the view, as experienced as the comfort.

This then is a more accurate picture of my view, and I am grateful to the National Gallery of Denmark for sharing their treasure and allowing the use of the material to be reshaped and made into something new and different to share.

Here is a statement from the website that explains the use of Public Domain images

Here you can find information on how you can use images of Public Domain artworks in the SMK collection.

Statens Museum for Kunst is Denmark’s National Gallery and main museum of art.  The collections span 700 years of art history, presenting works from Denmark, Europe, and the rest of the world. A large share of these collections are in the public domain. They are part of our shared cultural heritage and have been around for so long that they are completely free of any copyright restrictions. This means that you have the right to:

Share the images – i.e. to copy, distribute, and transmit them.

  • Remix the images – i.e. modify and reuse them in new contexts.
  • Use the images in any context – e.g. teaching, research, lectures, publications, film productions, etc. This includes commercial purposes

I feel so lucky to be in an age of enlightenment!

Dogwalking With Van Morrison

Dogwalking With Van Morrison

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Dogwalking With Van Morrison

October sun; blinding,high,
reveals night-shift silk
spun and caught in carpet
of crisp Autumn fall.
Van’s vision,and
I’m feeling his sense
of wonder.
Dog shares ecstatic
suspended moments,
appreciating too, the master’s
fiery vision bright;
and misses a squirrel
fancying it’s chances,
one too nonchalent
to care , sensing engagement
elsewhere.
Pete’s seen squirrels before;
he’ll see them again.
What matters is the now,
nose down in
unmentionable odours
too potent to ignore.
I did walk the dog this morning, though this time it was Digger, not Pete  as sadly he fell and never recovered the fall, breaking his back after sliding off a rock.  It was a loss, but we couldn’t help but feel it was the best way for a dog to go – living  a life full of joy and freedom, chasing after something that had caught his nose.
The photo too tells of  a different Autumn, a holiday in October taken in the Scottish highlands. Where better to be amongst the colours of Autumn. Off up there soon , cannot wait!

Mopping and mowing in the social space with William Golding.

nightingaleRecently I have had a phrase dizzily scootering around my brain – the ‘aboutness of being’- which has recklessly abandoned itself for examination and there is neither rhyme nor reason why. Except this – the fact that I understand there is no earthly impetus for me to consider the abstraction of consciousness points to the question itself. I am not alone and I know I am not because I read words that reflect a similar preoccupation with not merely how we think, which in itself is fascinating, but why we think about the abstractions that occur to us. Why do we look for meaning and purpose? Is it merely a by product of a brain that is at its evolutionary point, wherever that is on a timeline which has some way yet to go? Or is the impulse to understand consciousness an act of creativity in and of itself? Is it necessary for a satisfying life? Or necessary only to some to fulfil their lives. We are not all the same, although we share common tendencies, so what I may demand from my consciousness is clearly different from what my spouse or my children demand from theirs. Not to mention the 7 other billion I share the planet with. Oh and that is only mentioning the human lives,because how do I know what conciousness looks, feels like to my dog?

So now you know what I think about after a cup of coffee has been introduced into the system, and to help me think about the ‘aboutness of being’ I am going to introduce one of my favourite novelists , ‘William Golding’, who investigates and describes in a far more articulate manner than I can. As a school girl I read ‘Lord of the Flies’ and found the story full of momentum and interest ; but it was much later that I discovered the relief of reading a master novelist at work. I say relief because it is the closest expression I can find; I was a young adult who was continually seeking the companionship of shared insight, shared experience and it was in his works that I could feel understanding, resonance and even validity. As members of a singular species we want to affirm our existence, and one of the ways we do that is recognising that the way we think and feel is not specific to ourselves. While we desire individuality and uniqueness we also desire companionship,
shared values, shared feelings. I had been married to a man for twelve years before I faced the truth that one critical facet of our relationship was missing- recognition. When I met my second husband it was a powerful sense of coming home,inexplicable and astonishing at the time, devastating and demanding levels of courage and understanding not just from the main players in the drama , but affecting everyone in our little world.

Recently I read an article by a scientist that questioned whether we needed to consider our ‘aboutness of being’, or another way to put it would be whether the practice of examining theory of mind was pertinent in modern era.
‘ ” As we learn more about the detailed mechanisms in the brain, the question of ‘What is consciousness?’ will fade away into irrelevancy and abstraction,” he said. ‘(Desimone , Article in The New Yorker.Oct 1 2014 Attention by Alan Lightman.

That isn’t how I see it, or how Golding saw it either ( nor Bryan Appleyard via whose feed I found said article).

I am in the process of re-reading a selection of essays Golding wrote decades ago called ‘A Moving Target’, which is divided into the two sections of “Places” and “Ideas”. It is the second section that I refer to here. In his essay Belief and Creativity he discusses the difficulty in discovering,retaining and using an authentic voice. In being identified as a successful novelist Golding fights the entrapment of the role of novelist.

“To some extent we are all victims of a similar fate, The teacher may create his own image for the purposes of discipline and find himself unable to creep out of it. In the end, he may consent and become the image entire, at last the parody of a schoolmaster, don, lecturer. The actor, the politician – since our global television suburb is not so much bookist as imagist – must think first of an action, ‘How will it affect my image?’ Watch the box and see it happen. Constrained by the necessities of his trade he will adjust either his action or his image so that another figure of fantasy mops and mows in the social space. That space, our divided but communal awareness, is so full of the image, the real unreality or unreal reality, it is a wonder men can breathe. Perhaps we cannot. Perhaps it is our fate as human beings that none of us knows what it is to draw a lungful of psychically unpolluted air, to look and to examine innocently the crowded impressions on every sense with which our individual selves cope, suffer and enjoy as the essence of being. “

How pertinent is that paragraph today, in the world of cyber space – a world that did not exist as Golding wrote these words.

“From Aristotle onwards – even from Hecataeus and Herodotus – the glum intellect of man has succeeded in constructing bolts and bars, fetters, locks and chains. …We have had great benefits from that same intellect but are having to pay for them. I say we have erected cages of iron bars; and ape-like I seize those bars and shake them with a helpless fury. . ..The simplistic popularization of their ideas ( Marx, Darwin, Freud) has thrust our world into a mental straitjacket from which we can only escape by the most anarchic violence. These men were reductionist, and I believe – peering from the middle between the bandages (of mummification) saying not what I ought to think but what I find my centre thinking honestly in spite of itself- I do indeed believe that at the bottom the violence of the last thirty years has been less a revolt against the exploitation of man by man, less a sexual frustration, certainly less a process of natural selection operating in human society, than
a revolt against reductionism, even when the revolutionary, or it may be the terrorist, does not know it. “

Golding explains his own development in attempting to shrug off the prism of explanation via a third party ( i.e. through the accepted ideologies of the day) and think for himself and writes the best put down of Marx I have encountered, succinct and humorous.

“I have no doubt that Marx said this somewhere. He seems to have said most things according to those who have examined his work closely; but the crude system extracted from the corpus of his work omitted this unpredictability. I could, by including it, account for the fact that Marxism always got the future wrong and excelled in predicting the past. The whole of its illustrations of human conduct was what the French have called l’esprit d’escalier, – an expression drawn from a common experience – the brilliant retort that occurs to us after an argument when we are going down the stairs. “

He describes the approach of the novelist as one that is trying to communicate via a world he can create himself restricted by the innate constraints of that form.

” I fumble. I practice a craft I do not understand and cannot describe….. The little, lighted awareness that we call a conscious person is indescribable and incommunicable yet needs neither description nor communication since we all know it and how it is. If we cannot agree on that it is impossible to agree on anything. We are it. It is our burden and pleasure. The awareness is not a point, a position without magnitude, but an area. Awareness, like belief is a matter of position in that area. …another dimension must be added to the area and I do not see how I can present you with a three dimensional surface. Yet the area is moving through the third dimension of time. .. You read as the novelist must write,one word at a time….we ought to be up to our eyes in mystery and astonishment, and we have only just begun. …it is possible to live astonished for a long time’ and it looks increasingly possible that you can die that way too. My epitaph must be ‘He wondered’….Let
us return. What man is, whatever man is under the eye of heaven, that I burn to know and that – I do not say this lightly – I would endure knowing. “

William Golding sheds some light for me on how to consider my own position , reminds me of the necessity to think, and to evaluate where my thoughts stem from to identify their validity. He is a glorious companion to share the perturbations and complexities of being human in a ‘naughty world’. I want to stay in wonder, to die curious.

What the Dickens, with Yuval Noah Harari.

tale of two cities

Just finished reading a best selling history book, ‘Sapiens’, which you can read about here ,h tp://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/sapiens-a-brief-history-of-humankind/9781846558238″

“The best thing about it was that it actually made me think.” – The only review you really need comes from a reader on Goodreads.

You don’t have to have enjoyed history in the past to find this a satisfying, entertaining method of whiling away a few of your hours on this earth.  You may be surprised, you may even be shocked by some of the perspectives the author brings to what you thought you knew.  It may even provoke you to change your mind about important issues.  So yes I can claim with some minor authority, ‘This book may just change your life.’

Like Dickens, this is an author who wants the reader to engage thoroughly in his description of what it means to be human, he wants us to consider the experience.

So in an attempt to encourage you to pick this volume up, I am thoroughly advising to do so.  Buy it for your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, and any reader you would spend the price of a hardcover on.

Additionally, there is an amazing resource available which is free!!! You can join an online course here  https://www.coursera.org/course/humankind?utm_source=blog or read about the course http://blog.coursera.org/page/2

Autumn beauty

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As I climbed the Cliffs, when I jarred the foliage, I perceived an exquisite perfume which I could not trace to its source. Ah, those fugacious universal fragrances of the meadows and woods! odors rightly mingled!

source: Henry David Thoreau

I love September – the temperature is more mellow, the smells of Autumn and the final fling of growth as the berries pour over the hedgerows. This year they are bounteous.

I live in two counties – half the week in Essex and half in the Midlands, as a result of life mixing it up with a second marriage and a husband who works away from home.  I like to spend time with him there,  the place where we stay is a little rural getaway from the city.  Bliss in a rented shack shared with a companionable South African and his dog. I like being 53 and much happier in my own skin.  Change is omnipresent – for me it involves the departure of the youngest son to university. I like change, even when its hard. It means ree-valuation, contemplation about how I want the next stage to unravel.  So living in two counties has its downsides, the peripatetic nature of it demands the continual packing and repacking, and the juggling of knowing what food needs to be where! But on the upside – more variety, more opportunity and lots of blackberries in Autumn.

Enjoy your Autumn, whatever you are doing, whatever change it brings.

How to bear solitude – how and when to love.

 

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How often has Rilke been quoted?  Letters to a young poet was written over a century ago when the poet was responding to a young soldier who had read his poetry and was having doubts about his chosen military career. The first letter was written in 1903 as a response to the young soldiers request to critique his own poems. Rilke refused that request but continued a correspondence which fortunately the young would-be poet had the presence of mind to keep.  The letters will continue to challenge, inspire and bring solace to anyone who chooses to dive in. Dive deep, float and re emerge refreshed and reinvigorated.  

I want to recommend these lines to my two young men sons, as they begin their individual journeys into adult life.  Somehow a recommendation from their mother doesn’t always get the reaction I most want, so sometimes I wait, I hold, there may be occasion when I need to draw upon this well of sagacity.

 

 

….And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything, in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.”

 

One more thing I would say to my lovely boys, which appears in the story Rilke proposed the young soldier read, ‘Mogens’ by Jens Peter Jacobsen, 

“you know in the darkness things often seem larger than they are.”