Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ecclesiastes & Bierce had it right

Thinking in terms of timeless and traditional today, here is another painting by one of my all-time favorite young ladies, Frances Anne Hopkins. This one is quite unlike the paintings of voyageurs and canoes and Lake Superior that I previously posted. This painting is titled, "Plains Indian Left to Die." I would love to know the story behind this piece. This one also is different in the sense that unless Frances thinks of herself as being among the riders galloping away, she is not to be seen.

The more things change, the more ....

If there is a god, surely he (or she) knows that I have tried to be everything in life that time has allowed me to be, short of being totally irresponsible. If there is not a god, well, then, anyone else who passes this way will know it.

Some people do not believe the varied types of work I have tried or how often I have jumped from one field or location to another just for the pleasure of new experiences, new places and new faces. When I was age thirty, I bragged that I had already done everything in life there was to do in one form or variation. This was not quite true, of course, but close. Permission is granted to use your imagination to fill in some of the blanks.

Just a taste: Before I reached age thirty, I had a master's degree, been married and divorced, become a father, been in the Marine Corps, been a high school teacher, and had newspaper reporting and editing experience under my belt. I had been on wilderness canoe trips that stretched into weeks, "visited" a few foreign lands, dived to below 100 feet with scuba gear and jumped from airplanes. I was about to give up hunting because it had become too easy.

What follows now is part of a comment I wrote a few days ago. I am not certain how many people come around and read comments, but I decided I wanted to print this as a post, as well, to explain my more-or-less provincial view of art. I think my view has been formed mostly as a result of my lifestyle.

My view of many things in the community of art is particularly narrow. This is especially true in visual arts. To a lesser degree in music and in written words, but in those things, too.

This, then, makes me very opinionated, not so much in labeling things as good or bad, but in terms of like or dislike. I generally leave the decision as to whether art is good or bad to the marketplace, but I am not shy about saying what I like or dislike and the reason for that judgment.

In most instances, my preferences in writing tend toward subtlety, finesse and probably the least dramatic language available. My admiration goes toward writers who have the ability to paint pictures with words, and who use words which imply, suggest or insinuate rather than burst, explode or excite. Let the writer propose; allow the reader to interpret.

Whether one likes or dislikes a painting or a song or a book, it is only beneficial to know when reasons are given. In my case, almost anything "traditional" is going to win out over anything exploratory or experimental.

As for possibly liking something someday that is disliked now, I have found that to be happening to me in the sense of the work of some painters. Again, who knows?

In still another comment I made a few days ago, I said this:

I tend to put more credence in the visible (historical fact/archaeological rubble) than in the invisible (psychological theory/mythological memories). I tend to see civilization as William Golding saw it in his "Lord of the Flies" or George Stewart in his "Earth Abides."

Those two sentences reflect the same attitude, the same belief system.

Experience and environment, I think, are the primary elements in molding and forming the individual. My experiences here, upon this sea of blogs, are part of my overall portrait. So far, whether a student, a Marine, a reporter or a participant in blog conversations, life continues to fall under the category of, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Ecclesiastes had it right: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

But, unfortunately, my old friend Ambrose Bierce also had it right: "There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know."

Revised last sentences: For me, solutions and answers are to be found in searching the ruins of the known and the wisdom of the past, from reading writers who teach rather than writers who shock, from viewing paintings of beauty instead of splashes of paint, from seeking lyrics of logic while ignoring clever allusions. Many of us hit the ground running, and already had "been there, done that," while others idled away their time and, by that means, some of us have come to the conclusion that the past is the future.

Music Note: Listening to Ratt ....
Specifically, "Point Break"
Some lines from, "Nobody Rides for Free"

In my dreams see I'm on tv
Get back exactly who I wanna be
I'm sick and tired of it getting in my way
I'm sick and tired of everything I seem I know
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

Don't stop to think cause I know where I stand
I'm on my way no you’re not gonna change my plan
If you can break away and see what I say
You'll understand what I'm trying to be
I'm sick and tired of everyone in my way
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

You've gotta pay to play
So don't you stand in my way
Cause nobody, nobody rides for free
Now the world’s at stake
The card was drawn
You thought he could swim but I guess you were wrong
You sink to the depths of your misery
Baby the past will set you free
Nobody rides for free
Nobody rides for free

17 comments:

TheChicGeek said...

Hmmmmmm...a man with many hats. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
I'm not sure what to think or say. "Despite these things or, perhaps, because of them, my search was never meant to end."
I am confused. I will contemplate and return.
xx :)

Fram said...

Me, too. The concluding sentences did not make sense in context to the line of thought here, so I killed them. I am not certain any of this post makes sense. I am in rambling mode today, I guess.

Sorry about that, Kelly.

Katy said...

I think perhaps, Fram, you are a romantic at heart, in the fullest sense of that word. You like the anticipation, the slow subtle seduction of the senses rather than the wham, bam, thank you m'am; the time-full evolution of the complete picture rather than the glitz of the scratch 'n' sniff instant razzle dazzle. And yet also a sensory collector of things and experiences as they pique your interest. Seemingly contradictory, yes, but actually complementary. Yin and Yang. Two sides, one coin.

I'm a lot like that too, and the downside is it can lead to restlessness and faddishness. But the upside is that the world is a never-ending place full of marvels, a treasure chest of new things to learn, to see, to do, to feel, to taste...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes again, but maybe you're also one who like to turn over the stones to see what's underneath.

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Fram. Your revision completes the picture for me.
You know, I think Katy understands you perfectly. You are all that she has described and more. You are the Yin and the Yang...two sides, one coin. Impressive, perplexing, and yet comfortably predictable in many ways, a romantic and a realist, sweet and frightening all rolled into one. You are really something, Sir Framalot :) Hmmmmmm, now I must think some more...lol

Rachael Cassidy said...

Ratt. The juxtaposition between that "type" of music and the "depth" of your blog entry makes me smile. :)

Fram said...

In my case, Katy, more like Martin and Lewis or Rowan and Martin, than like Yin and Yang, I think.

I still am eighteen in some ways, and wish to believe there is nothing worth dying for other than a beautiful woman or a revolution of liberation, but I understand now that those might be the two most inexcusable reasons in the world to die for at any age. Better never to have known the difference, I think.

There reaches a point when it is time to settle in and to accept what is and to understand that this is all there will ever be, now or tomorrow. Like you, I thought I had reached that point a few years ago, but now know it was not meant to be, never now or never tomorrow, for me.

In any event, nothing or no one is to be taken lightly. Everyone and everything is important. The difference between yesterday and today for me is that my focus has entirely shifted toward understanding the beginning rather than worrying about the ending.

This response, Katy, might be more confusing than my original post. Such have been my past few days.

Fram said...

To have young ladies, such as yourself, flatter me is music to my ears, Kelly.

Often, the point regarding interpretation of a person comes back to perception -- my perception of me, in this instance, your perception of me and the next person's perception of me. Why are they different? They should be the same, should they not?

Our differences make us interesting to each other. Some choose to emphasize differences when choosing friends and partners, and some select those who resemble them the closest, even to the point of similar physical characteristics.

My answer to the question of what I am for several years now has been: "I am a mirror. If you are kind and respectful to me, you will receive those things in return. You will receive in return exactly what you offer."

In a sentence, I am what you make me. Sort of makes sense, does it not?

Fram said...

I wondered who might comment on the painting, who might comment on what I wrote and who might comment on my choice of music, Rachael.

You are an excellent observer. The song lyrics were selected specifically to run with the piece I wrote. Nobody rides for free.

Life consists of choices literally every day, with every step, in every sentence written, with every smile offered. The song is meant to emphasize that to ride with me is not free, and is not a magic carpet flight to a kingdom of chocolate and silk by the sea. It is a passage through waves and wind to a realm of harmony and devotion and safety.

Each of us has to pay our way to reach our solutions and our answers. Not one of us merits a free ride. Good eyes, Rachael.

Magdalena said...

Well, I think Frances knew what is the most important thing in life. Dying of course. In zen we talk every exhalation (I'm not sure of the word) is our death, and every inhalation is a new birth. Isolation means death, in purpose to new birth. Everything consist from death and birth, and it is happening all the time, it waves. Ecclesiastes and Ambrose Bierce both was right. And as to the song I cannot to understand it to well :-) Did I pass the exam? :-) Bye, bye.

A Cuban In London said...

Haven't heard Ratt for ages. Another throwback to my younger years.

So, you like your writing to be less showy and more pragmatic. I knew that. Tell me something new pal :-)!

Seriously now, whether it was intentional or not (and my gut feeling tells me it was) you painting shows an Indian either looking at a fire and reflecting on the disaster visited upon him by the white man or an Indian just reflecting on the havoc wreaked in the name of civilisation. Either way he probably thought at some point that he'd seen it all by the age of (insert number here), only to be caught unawares by people in need of a bit more land.

'My view of many things in the community of art is particularly narrow. This is especially true in visual arts. To a lesser degree in music and in written words, but in those things, too.

This, then, makes me very opinionated, not so much in labeling things as good or bad, but in terms of like or dislike. I generally leave the decision as to whether art is good or bad to the marketplace, but I am not shy about saying what I like or dislike and the reason for that judgment.'

You're not the only one. That's why I decided as far back as my early twenties that my favourite visual expressions were both impressionism and surrealism. Remember what I wrote on my blog about subverting reality? They both do in their own way. And they never fail to blow me away. Everytime I go to the National Gallery here in London I never cease to be amazed by a Cezanne or a Monet.

But I do understand your point about visual arts and more specifically, modern art. But as I mentioned a few days ago, art is not there to prove you wrong or right. The question 'Is it art?' should never be used (in my opinion), but rather, how do I relate to what someone has called it a piece of art?

Many thanks for such a wonderful post.

We share the same preferences in writing, although I do tend to branc out a little bit more. The funny thing about my little experimental outing a couple of nights ago was that two people have already compared it to Gabriel Garcia Marquez' style. And yet, to me, he is one of the most overrated writers alive. But it goes to show. I do respect those two posters' opinions, obviously, and feel glad that I have been compared with one of Latin American literary giants, but I prefer Carpentier to Garcia Marquez or Cortazar to Gabo.

Greetings from London.

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Mr. Mirror :) Hmmmm, I guess I will just have to smile and offer you some really sweet things then. That will be a nice reflection :D
I think we rarely see ourselves as others see us. Either we are in denial about what we are really like or maybe strangers just don't know us well...probably a little of each at times.
Have a Happy Day, Fram!

Fram said...

Frances was a woman who could move in the highest levels of society in London and in the darkest, deepest regions of the American wilderness with equal panache and finesse, Magdalena, and feel comfortable and at home in both, I believe. If my assessment of her is correct, in my mind she would be a woman of the first magnitude. Add to that her great talent as a painter.

Yes, Ecclesiastes and Ambrose both knew the score.

Yes, you passed the test, a long, long time ago.

Fram said...

My mission in life is to make you relive the days of your youth through music, CiL.

To the best of my knowledge, Frances left no record to explain the circumstances of her paintings and, if she did, they probably are buried in an unknown museum archive. This painting would seem to be more like the work of George Catlin, or another who traveled extensively among the Indians. In any case, your speculation might be on the mark.

I do recall your commentary about impressionism and surrealism, more than one, I think. Monet was the specific artist I had in mind when I spoke about "possibly liking something someday that is disliked now." I think visiting Giverny in 2004 was the initiation of that transformation, which continues today. I smile at the sight of his work now.

As for your remark here, "The question 'Is it art?' should never be used (in my opinion), but rather, how do I relate to what someone has called it a piece of art?" I think, CiL, that I will adopt your position on this matter as my own policy from this point forward.

One other thought. Subject matter often influences my acceptance or rejection of a painting or a song or a novel. That might be a subject worth writing a post about some day.

Fram said...

I think I am a mirror, Kelly. Don't you think I am? Most of the time, anyway?

My own thought about the perception of others is that too often it is based on first impressions rather than actual knowledge.

If the first time you met me, for example, I was wearing a camouflage jacket and leaving a sporting goods store with a new rifle, how would that affect your judgment of me compared to a first meeting in which I was wearing a sport coat and leaving a book store with a half-dozen new books in a bag? Would your opinion of me be different if someone asked for it based upon a single meeting such as either of those? Rhetorical question; something to think about.

Time reveals everything ....

Peggy said...

“But, unfortunately, my old friend Ambrose Bierce also had it right: "There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know.
“For me, solutions and answers are to be found in searching the ruins of the known and the wisdom of the past, from reading writers who teach rather than writers who shock, from viewing paintings of beauty instead of splashes of paint, from seeking lyrics of logic while ignoring clever allusions. Many of us hit the ground running, and already had "been there, done that," while others idled away their time and, by that means, some of us have come to the conclusion that the past is the future.”

These comments resonated with my own thoughts. I am pretty much a newbie in the blogsphere, however even in the few months I have been exploring and adventuring this world I have experienced so much joy of discovery. My world has expanded tremendously as a consequence of the bloggists, such as yourself and CiL who through their blogs focus on some precious “find” of art, music or written expression, add a gem of thoughtful reflection to promote discussion and then participate in the ensuing discussion itself with a group of articulate folks of varied backgrounds.

All this takes place in our virtual living rooms – our blogs. I imagine that in centuries earlier this is exactly the sort of discourse which would have taken place in the “Salon’s” across Europe in response to intellectual curiosity and a mutual desire to understand points of view and interact on that basis. It is indeed a great pleasure to participate in these discussions and to converse with folks of like mind in this regard.

The other aspect of your blog, which I found thought provoking, was “Whether one likes or dislikes a painting or a song or a book, it is only beneficial to know when reasons are given.” Along side this, I fully agree with CiL’s comment regarding appreciation of art. In my experience, the specific thoughts that come to mind as I “experience” the creative piece provides the reaction of like or dislike. We all have our own personal preferences as to the style of execution (whether that be a “Group of Seven” Canadian Art Piece – my favourite - or a creative work distinctive of a particular writer**), and of course that allows us to generalize and pronounce an initial impression. This isn’t necessarily cast in stone as it can change after further thought and reflection and perhaps after trading notes with someone else.

Using the gun shop analogy – if the first time I saw you was outside that gun shop, Fram but the next day my best friend told me you were a great guy, who had reluctantly decided to get a gun to save the chickens in his hen house from a nasty cougar who was getting in there and killing chickens, well I would completely revise my opinion. And so it is with creative pieces, generally, the more energy we spend in reflection upon them, the more appreciation will be forthcoming. (As long as the style of execution is something which in itself is something we do not really dislike.) Then the measure, in my mind, as to how “good” I decide a piece is, would be how long it engages my thoughts.

One further item to consider is that often in discussing what appeals and what one finds unsatisfying regarding a piece – and this applies equally to written creative works as well as art – is that other folk’s observations can allow us to appreciate an aspect of that work that we had failed to notice and in so doing change our initial impressions.

So it comes full circle. These blog discussions are wonderful forums for learning, growth and discovery. Thank you Fram, for today’s most interesting blog and thanks also to the other visitors who have provided commentary. You engage my mind in the nicest way!

Peggy said...

Apparently, I provide more commentary than blog spot allows in one comment. Please allow me to continue the previous comment with just a couple of last thoughts.

** An unrelated segue: CiL, at risk of implied criticism of your creative piece, for none is meant, I agree with your assessment of Marquez. My comment relative to your work was only in reference to the style you used to present explicit sexual content so as it ends up being not “so much in your face” as to be offensive. I found those passages charming and admired the cleverness used in their construction.

Lastly, Fram, I appreciate your visit and comment left on my blog. With reference to a hodge podge - certainly a different first impression would be formed of me depending on the day a new visitor choose to pop in to visit me. You found a very reflective blog, but there are many weeks which are more reminiscent of the entertainment section of a local Toronto newspaper. Having two blogs to separate the two themes will be an interesting experiment. If after time it doesn't work I am fully prepared to collapse one and carry on as before. We shall see. :)

Fram said...

I have little doubt that you now hold the record for the longest comment posted on my page, Peggy. Thank you. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and did not see any points I would "argue" against.

Your notion of the "Salon" atmosphere formed through the emergence of blogs is something I had not thought of, and I believe you are exactly right. This is one of the potential benefits created by an inexpensive way in which people from anywhere and everywhere can exchange notes, thoughts and opinions in forums ranging from chatty to intellectual. It is an opportunity to learn, more than anything, for those who wish to do so.

As I say in my "About Me" segment, I am here to "read what others write in their blogs, observe, learn, question and, hopefully, understand, while offering a few comments of my own along the way."

Thank you, Peggy, for assisting me in my search.

Something special ....