“And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life.” ~ Hermann Hesse

F. Scott Fitzgerald Handwritten Passage of The Great Gatsby

“The dream is too often about myself. To correct this; and to forget one’s own sharp absurd little personality, reputation and the rest of it, one should read; see outsiders; think more; write more logically; above all be full of work; and practise anonymity. Silence in company . . .” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 22 December 1927

Original Manuscript of Einstein's General Relativity

Well, it’s been a hell of a week. Nothing really specific. No, wait. That’s not true. Alexis. There was Alexis.

In July, we have two family birthdays here: Alexis on the 7th, and Brett on the 10th. So Alexis’s birthday was Thursday. Coincidentally, I also needed a ride to a doctor’s appointment because Corey had to work second shift. I texted Alexis on Wednesday evening to see if she could give me a ride. She got back to me a few hours later and said that she could.

She showed up with only 12 minutes to spare before my appointment time. I was already antsy by the time she arrived because I really wasn’t certain that she would show, which would have meant a $50 no-show appointment fee that I really cannot afford. On the way to the doctor, I tried to broach the subject of our relationship, or lack thereof. She wasn’t having it. I backed off as it was the only option available to me, but I have to admit that it left me stinging. Consequently, my appointment with my therapist was a crying appointment.

Dr. K. said that obviously Alexis is in a deep hole and that there really isn’t anything that I can do about it. She suggested that I propose to Alexis that we try to meet regularly for coffee or something, and I would agree that we didn’t have to talk of anything of consequence.

After the appointment when I got back in the car, that’s exactly what I proposed. Alexis wasn’t too interested in doing that either. I let it go, just let it go. I have to admit that this letting go stuff is getting easier, and I wonder if it’s a factor of age, experience, self-preservation, or perhaps, a little of all three.

“We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seeded refusal of that which others have made of us.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

W. B. Yeats, "Wild Swans at Coole" Manuscript

Other annoyances this week include a new pain in both of my hands (no idea what’s going on there), ongoing computer problems (lots of freezing, which makes writing agonizingly slow), a house that really needs to be cleaned, and personal administrative stuff, like getting health claims refiled that were originally denied because of my continual problems with health insurance.

I love dealing with billing offices . . .

Also on the table for this week were extended errands of the bureaucratic kind: social security administration, banking, other stuff. I am doing these things with/for the young woman who has come under our care.

What absolutely stymies the imagination is that I have been told that this young woman used to be unable to make eye contact, never spoke above a mumble, and was completely incapable of taking care of herself.

To the contrary, the young woman who I see laughs easily and frequently, loves to engage in thoughtful conversation, and is eager to do things for herself. Would I be too clichéd in comparing her to a moth in a cocoon who is finally emerging? Left to her own devices and desires, she is in the process of becoming.

As to my role in this, it is minimal. I am merely standing back and watching her grow. That I am being allowed to participate even passively is an affirming experience.

“All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.” ~ George Bataille

T. S. Eliot's Book Signing to Virginia Woolf

So with all of the different things going on in my life right now, I have been thinking about Ariadne’s Thread (quick mythology summary): You may recall that Daedalus (wing-man) built a labyrinth to house the Minotaur (bull-man). According to a summary on the Georgetown University site, “Theseus, an Athenian, volunteered to accompany one of these groups of victims to deliver his country from the tribute to Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and gave him a thread which he let unwind through the Labyrinth so that he was able to kill the Minotaur and find his way back out again.”

On the web, The Labyrinth project allows users to make an Ariadne’s thread through the maze of information available on the Internet. Users can find their way back by choosing the “Return to Labyrinth Home Page” link at the end of each Labyrinth document.

In logic, Ariadne’s Thread is not, as many believe, trial and error because trial and error implies attempts to find the one true solution. Rather Ariadne’s Thread works more like a flow chart with decision points: if a choice needs to be made, make one arbitrarily from those not marked as failures, and follow it logically as far as possible. If a contradiction results, back up to the last decision made, mark it as a failure, and try another decision at the same point. Repeat until a solution can be found or no solution can be found, which means that no solution exists. Conversely, multiple solutions may be sought by returning to successful decision points and attempting other solutions.

The main things to remember in an Ariadne’s Thread are that records must be kept and more than one solution can be sought and found. So what does this mean in the real world?

“In the cold, damp shelter of our primitive ancestors, lit only by the flickering of a campfire, at day’s end there was a time for recollection and stillness that would help to fuel the next day’s events. Since the beginning of human history, the still point has served as the birthplace of all our activity. Virtually every creature on this great earth practices the backward step of quieting down and entering this still point. Birds, beasts, bugs, and fish all seem to find time in their daily existence to relax and recreate—to bring forth the flower from what Whitman called “the seed of perfection.” ~ John Daido Loori, Editor’s Preface: The Art of Just Sitting

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to His Brother Theo

I have often alluded to my life as a tapestry, one in which different events and different people have contributed various threads to a pattern that has yet to take a final shape. In the tapestry metaphor, it’s all about collecting and assimilating.

In an Ariadne’s Thread approach to life, it’s more about trying and succeeding and trying and failing to reach a goal, and sometimes, even with the perceived failures, a solution is found. By that I mean that sometimes people arrive at ends for which they were not originally aiming, almost as if fate guided them to that point; when in fact, the decisions made took them to that point.

Does fate play a hand?

That’s the big question. In pure logic, the answer is definitely no. But as we all know, life does not work in terms of pure logic, no matter how much we try to make it so.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that we all arrive at certain points in our lives and wonder how we got here. If we were to deliberately trace things back to a certain starting point, I’m sure that the path that we would draw would not resemble anything we expected.  We are constantly reaching decision points in our lives: if yes, go here; if no, go here. But it’s never spelled out, and there are no directional markers.

I could no more trace back my own Ariadne’s Thread than I could unweave and then reweave my life’s tapestry. So many of my decisions have come from my gut, have taken me places I never dreamed of traveling, and when faced with critical life decision points, I have sometimes veered right or left when straight seemed the most logical path to take. But then, emotions are rarely logical.

I do sometimes contemplate how exactly I got to this point, and in so doing, I sometimes discern definite markers that led me. At other times, it’s too convoluted to discern, like a labyrinth. But the things about labyrinths, as I’ve mentioned before, is that there are two ways in and two ways out, which means that there are always possibilities.

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Philosopher

John Keats, First Page of "Lamia" Manuscript

In a larger sense, Ariadne’s Thread could be a logical approach to life in general, as in we should learn from our mistakes (the we being civilizations, governments, countries). But of course, we don’t.

What’s that maxim about those forgetting the past being doomed to repeat it? Well, we keep repeating our mistakes. That Cicero said this over two thousand years ago is telling indeed. Did not our own country’s fall into a great recession occur primarily because of greed, an unflinching belief in getting mine regardless of the fate of others? Is not the current force of the right greatly due to its determination to compel others to believe and live by their ethic?

Even at the most basic levels we are proving Cicero’s assertions to be true: Consider the elimination of cursive writing from many school curricula in favor of keyboarding. Yes, keyboarding skills are essential in any workplace today; however, should we not take a little time to teach our children the basics in communication: putting pen to paper?

I know that when I see script from a bygone era, it makes me heartsick that we do not write in this manner. I remember the beautiful script that even my parents used, the great care they took when signing their names. My sons have no identifiable signature. The letters are merely joined together.

I know. I know. Don’t talk to me about how pressed for time teachers in America already are without adding an additional burden. I’ve been there, and the fact is that teachers today must teach for tests. The whole idea of a classical education is passé. But I remember those sheets of paper with the two solid lines and the dotted lines in between in which my classmates and I practiced assiduously our capital F’s and our lower case z’s. Every perfect curve, every correctly executed loop—milestones for each of us. And then as we got older, we tailored our penmanship to our personalities. But first, we learned how to do it correctly.

I bemoan the death of education and the dearth of desire for betterment, and in this, I know that I am not alone.

More later. Peace.

Music by Grizzly Bear, “Slow Life”

                   

Sylt II

The wind that makes your hair grow faster
opens a child’s mouth full of strawberry and sand.
Slow and sure
on the scales of the ocean
the child’s head outweighs the sun.

Inside of the wind—

a blister of a church,
its walls thicker than the space from wall to wall
where the wind shifts shade and light
like two rival chess pieces
or two unmatched pieces of furniture.
Inside of the church—such a stillness
that when a feather floats down in a fist of dust
it becomes a rock by the time it hits the ground.

Organ pipes glint like a cold radiator,
contained in a case of a carved tree, its branches
tied up with a snake.
Organ pedals, golden and plump, are the tree’s only fruit.

It is all about the release of weight:
the player crushes the pedals like grapes underneath his feet.
My body, like an inaccurate cashier, adds your weight to itself.
Your name, called into the wind,
slows the wind down.

When a body is ripe, it falls and rots from the softest spot.

Only when a child slips and drops off a tree,
the tree suddenly learns that it is barren

~ Valzhyna Mort

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Sunset2 at Palm Island Park Mt Dora Fl

Sunset at Palm Island Park, Mt. Dora, Florida by Janson Jones 

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Ghandi

Well, here we are. Thursday. Another day. Rain outside my window. Muddy paw prints on my floor. Exactly 12 cents in my wallet. Life is . . . well, it is what it is.

Standard Issue School Safety
Today's Standard Issue for School Safety

A quiet peace has settled over the house. Eldest son is spending more time at home. Not really sure what the reasons are behind that, but I’ll take what I can get. Today at Brett’s school there were seven, yes seven fights. Corey said that when he pulled up to the school to get Brett, the police were escorting people out in handcuffs, most of them females. The school was in lockdown for a couple of hours. Local news stations report that 14 students were arrested.

Lockdown. In a school. And people ask me why I don’t get a teaching job. No thank you, not in an urban public school, no matter what their academic standing is or how good the principal happens to be.

The one year that I taught in public schools, I was hit three times, all three accidents, but hits, even so. You know that old myth about having unusual strength during a time of crisis? Well, it’s true. I once broke up a fight between two boys in my classroom by lifting one of them off the other. The kid I lifted, who was actually a very nice boy with very good manners, was a head taller than I was.

Another time, a girl in my class was reaching around me to hit a boy she had a crush on, and I got punched in the arm. The worst fights were always the ones involving females. Not making a generalization here. This is what I saw firsthand.

Not sure what made me think of all of that. I suppose the situation at school today. Thankfully, Brett was not in the vicinity of any of the fights when they broke out.

“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being . . . creativity requires passion and commitment.” ~ Rollo May 

Maureen, my friend in Australia made a comment that she really liked the images that I used in the last post. I’m glad that people notice the images and the words.

Waves in Blue and Green
Sargasso Sea Abstraction by L. Liwag

I spend about half of the time writing my blog, and then the other half searching for and working on images. Sometimes I am very lucky, and I have a very specific image in mind, one that I have seen on another blog. But other times, such as with the last blog, it takes forever for me to find the precise image that I want. I usually look for images that I know have no copyright or for which I know that the copyright has expired. Or, in the case of my friend Janson Jones, I try to let him know that I plan to use an image in a post; he has graciously given his permission.

And then there are the times that the images I include are mine or a family collaboration. Someone in the family may have taken the photograph, but then I work in Photoshop (wonderful Adobe program, but eats up memory), and play with color, layers, filters. As with every computer program I know, I am self-taught on Photoshop, but the more that I work with it, the more interesting things I find to do with photographs.

And then after I have my words down, and I have inserted my images, I try to think of the perfect song to go along with my theme for the day. Of course, this is not always possible because sometimes, like today, I just kind of amble from one thing to another.

I’ve come a long way since I began blogging over a year ago. Whether or not my changes are an improvement only others can tell. I like to think that I have reached a point at which I have found a good balance between words, images, and music. These three things are the root of my creative process. I almost always write with music playing in the background, and my time at The Chrysler Museum of Art opened my eyes to so many beautiful paintings, sculptures, glass, photography, and other art forms from every time period.

I had always loved art before I worked there, but my appreciation for the visual expanded significantly during my tenure at the museum, especially because part of my job included writing about exhibits, giving interviews, etc. I had to take crash courses in artists and their works every couple of weeks. I’m not complaining at all. I loved the opportunity to learn more about an area in which my prior involvement had only been brief visits to museums. Coming at a work of art from the inside, having the opportunity to work with the curators was wonderfully informative, and therefore, rewarding.

“It has always seemed strange to me that . . . so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought—that is to be educated.” ~ Edith Hamilton

William Glackens The Shoppers Detail
"The Shoppers," by William Glackens (detail, 1907, oil on canvas) from the permanent collection of The Chrysler Museum of Art

I suppose I don’t really understand people who do not want to learn new things. It’s as if they are content with a certain body of knowledge, and anything else would just be extraneous. I understand a need to be focused, but to close your mind to new things, developments in science, language, politics—How can you not take an interest?

I fear that we are raising an entire generation that does not know how to delve, how to dabble. The art that they see is on a computer screen not in a museum. The research they do is from the Internet not in a library. Their knowledge of classical music comes from hearing it as background music to a commercial or when it is used in a movie soundtrack.

The term classical education is no longer a matter of pro forma, and that grieves me. A true classical education meant learning about as much as possible, even if it was just a bit about everything: languages, art, music, literature, politics, science, math, culture, economics, history.  Of course, not all of these subjects are absorbed at once.

A true classical education begins early, with a basic foundation in language so as to be able to absorb basic facts. From this, students progress to analyzing what they are taught until ultimately, these students have the ability to express themselves using their expanded knowledge base. Of course, this is a simplified explanation of what is known as the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry) of a classical education.

Unfortunately, Latin is no longer taught as a matter of course. And the dialectic of logic and reasoning is included in schools that are focused on college-bound students, but what about the rest? Do I dare touch on the uneasy fact of how many of our high school students graduate without knowing how to read or balance a checkbook?

We are so removed from the Greek and Roman ideas of education (barring their idiotic barring of females from receiving formal education) that I fear we will have a generation whose only acquaintance with Latin may be the two phrases carpe diem and semper fi. Of course, I am over-simplifying things as I have a tendency to do when I am frustrated.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Cicero

Actually, I don’t really know how I ended up on this particular topic; I only know that upon arrival, I began to become vexed—a sure sign of my omnipresent impatience with ignorance (not stupidity) and how we as a society are responsible for said pervasive ignorance.

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day
One of my children's favorite books

Time to stop and have a Pepsi and some chocolate, something to sweeten my disposition. I will leave you with this: If you have young children, read to them, all of the time, from board books when they are very young to fairy tales as they get older. A little story: My daughter Alexis was with her friend Jennifer. The two of them were sorting through children’s books bought at an estate auction. Alexis kept picking up books and saying how wonderful this one was and how much she enjoyed that one.

Jennifer replied that she hadn’t read most of them. Alexis was incredulous until Jennifer reminded her that her mother was not an English professor like Alexis’s mother. Jennifer, like so many young people, grew up in a house without books; whereas Alexis already had a pretty extensive library by the time she entered high school. Not bragging, just telling a story.

Teach your children to read early and you will allow them to become life-long readers. And remember, never ever make fun of a child’s ability to read. Nothing could be more cruel or do more harm to a child’s self-esteem. Just ask anyone who has struggled with dyslexia or a learning disability.

I’ll stop now. Relenting my time on the soapbox. More later. Peace.

Just a note: I actually wrote this post on Thursday afternoon, but after writing about picking images for my posts, I froze. I could not, for the life of me, decide on any images that would be suitable for this post, with the exception of William Glackens’ painting “The Shoppers.” Probably should not have written anything about my creative process . . .