Grief.

history, Life, poetry, poets, writers

September 1, 1939

W. H. Auden, 1907 – 1973

 

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Auden was ashamed of this poem — why is debatable by intellects cleverer than I. But it is a response to the feelings of utter helplessness as a world apparently falls into chaos and disaster at the outbreak of World War II.

Mankind is good at disaster – both creating it and rising above it – we are sinner and sinned against. It is the gift of our humanity that allows us to live in paradox and it is the difference between having soul or spirit and the new creature that is being created as the transhuman. What would Auden have said about A.I?

I return to his own words as some sort of response to discombobulating world,

“There must always be two kinds of art: escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep, and parable-art, that art which shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love.”

No to ‘post-truth’, I’ll stick with the truth please.

daily living, history, Life, politics, society

true.jpg
I am not clever enough to articulate what I feel to be true, but I know there are still boundaries which should not be crossed when in power. And Donald Trump is riding roughshod all over them.
Europe has seen the rise of that tyranny, and spilt alot of blood and tears over removing it. It was called World War II and is not forgotten.

It starts with lies. It starts with the people listening to the lies, knowing their lies , and still wanting to believe that the lies will perform a miracle in transforming poverty and austerity.
The power of tyranny never lies with the tyrant, but in all the people who go along with the lies, who want to believe in magic.

If this is not ringing bells,then please inform yourself via the historians, and the political commentators who are trying to get the message out there.

Great articles here bit.ly/2k6kMA4 and here http://wapo.st/2k6xuPz

And a long but worthwhile post by Timothy Snyder on how to defend freedoms we take for granted . bit.ly/2k6AKtZ

Fight the cynicism of the ‘post- truth’ verbiage, and defend the values that help us retain our humanity and compassion toward one another , whoever  and wherever we happen to be.

An astounding bouquet

Art, books, history, illustration

KKSgb2950/30 KKSgb2951/101 KKSgb2951/125KKSgb2948/60KKSgb2948/64KKSgb2948/62

Hans Simon Holtzbecker was commissioned over a decade to produce paintings for Duke Frederic III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf in 1649 of the beautiful plants and flowers in the gardens at Gottorf’s castle.  What we have now is a wonderful restoration project that allows us the opportunity to see the four volumes of work.

There are 365 pages detailing 1180 illustrations and they have been restored by the conservators at SMK,the National Gallery of Denmark. What an absolute joy!  And a definite candidate for my next project, there will definitely be one of my hand made books showing off these beauties. I think I may decide to show the illustrations as they appear  – unadorned by any text.  Normally I am inclined to complement either text such as one of Eliot’s poems with illustration, or illustration with complementary poetry or quotation.  This volume may simply be a small tribute to the Gottofer Codex and simply be a number of selected pages from it. Sometimes less is more.

For more information on the restoration project and the Gottofer Codex, here is a link that should take you there.

http://www.smk.dk/en/visit-the-museum/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/2013/flowers-and-world-views/whats-on/an-old-treasure-is-restored/

What the Dickens, with Yuval Noah Harari.

blogging, books, culture, history

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

Advice from an old hand, father to son.

blogging, books, history, Life, Parenting, United Kingdom

introblog

Here’s a thing, I have stumbled across some paternal advice from the chief minister to Elizabeth 1 to his eldest son, which rings its good sense across five centuries right into my own life, since my sons are of that ‘coming-of-age’ time in their lives, and my three stepsons. Five boys between 18 and 23 between us, and I can say without turning a hair that I couldn’t be more proud of them.  Nevertheless, some of these lessons ring true, and how do you start those difficult conversations?  The answer is clear – let Lord Burleigh do the hard work, he’s wise and pithy and says most of the things I want to say.  Besides, this is what Queen Elizabeth said about the man

“This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state.”

This is my modern day version of his sagely advice – I am producing one of my handcrafted books with both the original versions and the transcription, but you can read them here!!! Pass it on!

Choose your wife carefully , because your future depends on it and it is an occasion in your life, as in the strategies of war, that you cannot make any mistake. If you come from a decent background then choose from near home and take your time. If you come from a dodgy background go further away to choose and do it quickly. Ask around about her character and what her parents were like when they were younger. Don’t choose a poor wife no matter how sweet, because a man needs money to live, but don’t choose a vulgar or ugly woman just for money, as no one will respect you and you won’t respect her. Don’t choose a dwarf of a fool, because you will raise pygmies with one and a fool will disgrace you; you won’t tolerate her prattling and you will find nothing more irritating than a foolish woman.

About your household, be moderate entertaining, be generous rather than mean but don’t get carried away beyond the means of the estate. I don’t know anyone who grew poor by being careful, but some people have bad habits. Banish swinish drunkards, I have never heard anyone praise a drunk except for holding his drink, which is not a recommendation for a gentleman. Don’t spend all your income – save between a quarter or a third. Only spend a third of your expenditure on the house as the other two thirds will be easily spent on other living costs. If you fail to do this you will be continually in debt, dreading every disaster which threatens to bankrupt.

2. Educate your children and maintain a discipline but without being authortarian. Praise them openly and reprehend them privately. Spend on them what you can, because if you leave all your wealth till they inherit , they will be grateful to your death, and not to you. I am convinced that many parents make poor decisions because of either being too proud, or too stern, rather than being vicious. Arrange your daughters partners before they make their own choice. And don’t let your sons go off gallivanting in foreign lands, because they won’t learn anything valuable. And don’t send them into the army because I don’t think war is a good trade for a gentleman, and anyway we are going to have a time of peace so they won’t be needed.

3 .Don’t live in the country without keeping your own crops and animals. It’s expensive to buy in , and its better to understand how to live on what is in season. Don’t employ relatives or friends as they want a lot for not doing much. Avoid those who are in love because they don’t think straight, and employ too few rather than too many. Give them good terms and conditions and you can expect their service.

4. Welcome you relatives and friends to your home. Be generous and kind with them, they will repay your kindness with loyalty and defend you; but get rid of insincere acquaintances who will stab you in the back if times are hard.

5 .Be careful who you help out financially. It can lead to your own demise. Don’t borrow from friends or neighbours, only from strangers, and be careful to keep our promises of repayment.

6 . Don’t take a poor man to court – it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t get involved in any law suit unless you are confident you are in the right, and then be sure to get the best advice. Win a couple and less suits will follow.

7. Make sure you make a friend of someone of importance, but don’t worry him about petty things. Keep him close by complimenting him with small gifts, and if you can bestow a decent present, give something they will see every day. These are ambitious times and you don’t want to live in obscurity.

8.  Be humble with your superiors and generous, and remain respectful and familiar with your equals. Be compassionate with those who are not in as fortunate a position as yourself. The first prepares you for advancement, the second shows you to be well bred, and the third gains respect. Don’t be scornful of popularity nor affected by celebrity.

9. Don’ t trust anyone with your life, your house or your money.

10 Don’t bad mouth and don’t be too satirical. One will make you unpopular and the other will provoke quarrels and bitterness amongst your friends. I have seen many keen to make a joke, and lose a friend rather than the jest.

Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and tAnecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of the present and t

Excerpts from  ‘Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of … v.1. Seward, William, 1747-1799.’

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc2.ark:/13960/t82j6cp3c;view=2up;seq=367

Before Picasso

Art, blogging, history

bison digital CHAUVET PAINTING DIG

 

These are my digital paintings inspired by the 30000 year old drawings at Chauvet, discovered only last century and now under wraps to maintain them.  Other paintings at Lascaux were disfigured by fungi once the caves were opened.

Noone can be sure about the  motivation behind the painter(s). We don”t know if they were capturing images of the animals they saw, or using them as representations of something important to their culture. They may have been honouring life force or strength, we just do not know.  What we can say is that they are remarkable examples of very early humans choosing to show parts of their experience, and this is interesting. We don’t get representations of humans, Although there are human parts shown, hands, genitals, but not people. Interesting. And no birds, no fishes, no trees, no clouds, no grass. Is there something ‘sacred’ in showing what could be described as ‘upper mammals’ – lions, bisons, rhinos. Worth consideration. These are amazing forerunners of how human beings turn towards the creation of art as expression. The top image is clearly a bison and the second image shows lions.. Remember how far back in time we are looking – 30000 years – we are still piecing together what humans were about at that time. these images could demonstrate a human impulse to create art as symbolic representations , or show a mind that was intent on creating  a record for future generations. Amazing , read all about it here http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/chauvet/chauvet_cave_paintings.php

Kepler and the cosmos

Art, books, earth, history, illustration, Science

Keplers Space mission focuses on a narrow spectrum of the universe, searching for exoplanets.
Cluster of Stars in Kepler's SightI have just finished producing another project, and it has been so stimulating finding out about how modern space missions have a history that goes back to the discoveries in the 1600’s by one very determined Johannes Kepler.

If you spin back into the times that he was alive in, imagine the determination he needed to pursue an intellectual curiosity in how the universe REALLY worked.  By observation and very clever calculation he came up with theorems that threatened the  dogma instructed by the Church, and ultimately the states of the time.  This was a time of upheaval and power clashes between European leaders, a time when the idea of liberal thought was centuries away. Not only was he under the intellectual pressure from determining how he could present his ideas to contemporaries, but under real threat of exclusion or worse.

Pursuing his aim to explain the movement of the stars, Kepler discovered what we now refer to as Kepler’s Laws, on which Newton was to build upon and explain how gravity works.  It is with Kepler’s explanation that man came to understand Earth’s position in the universe, leading to the growth of modern scientific thought.  Before his time, men looked to the heaven’s and believed in astrological explanations for life and death, catastrophe and fate.  Astrologers were keepers of portentous knowledge used by kings and leaders in decision making. The new scientific discoveries would blow apart the rationales behind that sort of thinking. Kepler himself could not have known the trajectory of exploration which his studies triggered.  Although he had dreamed of a man standing on the moon and looking at the earth, he would never know of todays space mission named after him , which is discovering exoplanets in habitable space.

His thinking nevertheless did not preclude the mystery and incomprehsibility of Life, he referred to God as being ‘in the numbers’, understanding geometry and God to be the same force.  The scientific thinkers such as Einstein, Carl Sagan and Neil de Grasse Tyson retain a humility and open minded approach to the marvel of the Universe. Their awe is directed to the manisfestation that is the  Universe, and it with the examination by such beacons that mankind can pursue hope toward the future.

Carl Sagan described Kepler as “the first astrophysicist and the last scientific astrologer.”, while Kepler himself said

” the ways by which men arrive at knowledge of the celestial things are hardly less wonderful than the nature of these things themselves”concordance cover Anne Corr

Concordance  Anne Corr Researching Johannes Kepler and listening to my son’s interest in space mission provoked me to explore my thoughts about scientific enquiry alongside the wisdom of other thinkers throughout history.  As I learn more, I see patterns in thought, how we expand our own horizons by entering the realms of thinkers from different cultures, different times.  I named my project ‘Concordance’  to reference the harmonies Kepler perceived in the geometric principles , and the understanding of artists, scientists and philosophers that human kind benefits from discovering harmonies between science and nature, between disparate cultures, and between the body and the mind.

Wise men and clever apes. Read all about it.

books, culture, earth, government, history, Life

History of the world Andrew Marr

“Writing a history of the world is a ridiculous thing to do.”

opening sentence of Andrew Marr's introduction.

This is worth sticking my neck out for –  read this book to improve your life.  Whoa!!!! That is a big statement, but seriously though, if you thought you had a grasp of how the world ended up here in the 21st century, you are probably missing something.   This is so readable that I think it should be proscribed reading for every youngster worldwide.  It provokes wonder and curiosity in every chapter.  If you are the person reading this who has always hated history, you won’t anymore.  History is not just about dead people.  It informs our present in ways we don’t understand until we learn why we do, think the things we do and think.  There is another reason to read this book – it is about human achievement, and it offers reason to hope that the challenges ahead of our species and planet can be met by using the lessons from history and the increase in know how.  What we cannot neglect are the lessons written therein, how power is used and abused, how communication is used and how ‘ civilization works’.  Drawing upon the stories of yesterdays , can we avoid a dystopian recurrence of another Dark Age?  Probably.

‘the better we understand how rulers lose touch with reality, or why revolutions produce dictators more often than they produce happiness, or why some parts of the world are richer than others, the easier it is to understand our own times.’

I watched the t.v series, which admittedly had it’s flaws, but overall was also fascinating, and led me to the book.  Now you can have it all, and for the price of a cup of coffee!!  We are living in amazing times and if you do one thing this month to improve your life, order this book. I’m not on commission.  Honest.  If you don’t like reading or don’t like being told what to do by a middle-aged , curious , British female you could as an alternative go the the links.  Or as well. Just saying.

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/tv/andrew-marrs-history-the-world-all-the-episodes

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/0eHcrXb8RuqIEVYKkExljg   

 

 

 

 

 

A tale of a tailor’s son and Louis XIV’s precious globes.

Art, culture, history, Science

 

 

 

 

boatsThis is a story of how a son of a tailor made the King of France a very proud man indeed.  Louis XIV was already enjoying the glory attached to ruling France in a time of massive growth and enrichment.  What better present to further please your monarch than a stunning pair of globes reflecting the mastery over the earthly and heavenly spheres.  At least, that is what Cardinal d’Estrees had thought on witnessing the globes that the Duke of Parma had.

 

The Duke had commissioned  a set of terrestrial and celestial globes and so impressed with the  results, he made the man in charge of the commission his theologian.  That’s where the son of a tailor enters, as he was the man in question, one Vincenzo Coronelli, born in 1650 , the fifth child of a tailor.  He was accepted as a young man into the Conventual Franciscans, studying theology and excelling in  astronomy and Euclid.  While he was working as a geographer, the commission came in from the Duke, and the rest as they say, is history.  So the Duke of Parma’s marvellous globes now had to be surpassed in their wow factor, since the Cardinal was currying favour with the King, and no-one wants to let a king look anything less than, well, the best.

 

And they were; technically astounding, the terrestrial globe and the celestial globe weighed in at about 2.3 tons each, measuring 3.87 diameter, so quite a handful.  Coronelli put a hatch in the back which allowed thirty men to be in the globe at any one time.

 

Coronelli went on to have success in his academic career as well as building a successful company supplying globes throughout Europe, and died at the age of 68.  Quite a stretch for the son of a common tailor. The application of hard work married to a strong intellect will always astound , and I am continually in awe of how far men can go.  He did however fall out with the pope over some overspending issues. Oh well, can’t be all plain sailing.

 

We are left with the lovely globes, which are on display at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. The globes are not only a remarkable achievement from a scientific viewpoint, at the time, but also as an artistic interpretion of the world, and of the stars.  In fact, even then the scientists would have been biting their tongue at the level of scientific understanding, but as a work of art they are gorgeous objects. I have chosen some images taken from them and available from the online exhibition at the National Library of France.

 

 

terrestial globe terrestial globe 2 terrestial globe 3 celestial globe celestial globe3 celestial globe 2 celestial globe 4

‘Ignorance and presumption rebuked’

books, history, literature, philosophy

Could it be that Petrarch had the same concerns seven hundred years ago without the advent of social media? Some things change, some things stay the same.  Considered to be the father of humanism, and to instigate the Renaissance, Petrarch embodied a new and vigorous way of thinking, disdaining the centuries preceding as a time he dubbed ‘ the Dark Ages’.  I would have wanted to have sat down and shared a meal with him.  His father chose for him the study of law, which he deplored and left.  He favoured contemplative study, and looking back to the classicism of Ancient Rome and Greece, creating a body of writing as fresh and as cogent today as when he wrote them.

Let me say, then, that I detect in your writings a constant effort to make a display…… As Seneca has said, it is unseemly for a grown man to go gathering nosegays; he should care for fruit rather than flowers. ….
You seem to take delight in exploring new regions, where the paths are unknown to you and you are sure to go astray once in a while or fall into a pit. You like to follow the example of those who parade their know ledge before their doors, like so much merchandise, while their houses within are empty. Ah ! it is safer to be something than to be always trying to seem to be. Ostentation is difficult and dangerous. Moreover, just when you are most desirous of being deemed great, innumerable little things are sure to happen which not only reduce you to your true dimensions but bring you below them. No one intellect should ever strive for distinction in more than one pursuit. Those who boast of preeminence in many arts are either divinely endowed or utterly shameless or simply mad. Who ever heard of such presumption in olden times, on the part of either Greeks or men of our own race ? It is a new practice, a new kind of effrontery. To-day men write up over their doors inscriptions full of vainglory, containing claims which, if true, would make them, as Pliny puts it, superior even to the law of the land. But when one looks within-ye gods! what emptiness is there! So, in conclusion, I beg you, if my words have any weight, to be content within your own bounds. Do not imitate these men who are all promise and no performance; who, as the comic poet has said, know everything and yet know nothing. There is a certain wise old Greek proverb that bids everyone stick to the trade that he understands. Farewell.

Francis Petrarch (1304 – 1374)
Familiar Letters
From James Harvey Robinson, ed. and trans.
Petrarch: The First Modern Scholar and Man of Letters
(New York: G.P. Putnam, 1898)

PhisickAgainstFortune Petrarch254 dialogues attempt to explore the effects of good and bad fortune on the soul. This is Petrarch’s book of practical philosophy, completed in 1360, A German illustrated version was published in August 1532 and remained in circulation for two centuries having a significant cultural impact .

Griselda by Petrarch

Petrarch was very taken by a story told to him in the Italian vernacular by his friend Boccaccio and was so struck by it that he felt the need to retell it in Latin. this became the Story of Griselda, in turn admired by Chaucer who Petrarch may or may not have met. Chaucer related the story as part of his Canterbury Tales, known as the Clerk’s Tale.

One of the features of Petrarch that strikes me is his introspection.  This is not a popular character trait in modern times, where speed of response and immediate gratification is seemingly moulding a different sensibility to the human condition.  But I like him all the more for demonstrating that and for producing work of lasting importance.  During his life he chose to explore a mountain, and contemplated who to take with him, settling finally on his younger brother. This would not be an easy ascent, and at the summit he reputedly drew upon a book of St Augustine for inspiration or solace , and according to his record the book fell open at this point, 

And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.

Back to Petrarch;

“I closed the book, angry with myself that I should still be admiring earthly things who might long ago have learned from even the pagan philosophers that nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself. Then, in truth, I was satisfied that I had seen enough of the mountain; I turned my inward eye upon myself, and from that time not a syllable fell from my lips until we reached the bottom again. […] [W]e look about us for what is to be found only within. […] How many times, think you, did I turn back that day, to glance at the summit of the mountain which seemed scarcely a cubit high compared with the range of human contemplation […]”

Thanks go to http://petrarch.petersadlon.com/books.html for his insight into a fascinating member of the human race.