Saturday, December 31, 2011

A fork in the road is in sight

Thanks to a young lady who wrote to me about the concept of the knights errant, I have stumbled upon a painter whose work I had not encountered in the past. Viktor Vasnetsov was among the founders of the folklorist / romantic, modernistic movement in Russian art. His paintings often focused on the mythological and the historical elements of Russian life. This particular oil on canvas is called "A Knight at the Crossroads" or "A Warrior at a Fork in the Road." Vasnetsov painted it twice, first in 1878 and then in 1882. This is the 1882 version. The inscription on the menhir, by the way, is this: "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head." Such is the life of a knight errant, it would seem, no matter into which century he is born and lives.

The dice just keep rolling

On December 31, 2010, I wrote the following words:

Three ideas are floating through my mind as a new year looms on the horizon:

Buy a house in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and hang out for a year or two writing and writing. This = safety & security.

Move to Florida, buy a boat and hang out for a year or two diving and diving. This = adventure & long-shot gambling.

Travel by ship (a freighter that accepts a few passengers) from America to Europe and decide what to do next upon arrival. There is a run from Duluth, Minnesota, through the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence River, across the Atlantic Ocean, through the North Sea and into the Baltic Sea to Gdansk, Poland. This = learning potential & self-discovery.

So, then. How do those three thoughts rate in terms of rolling the dice? And, while I am thinking of it, how do you spell hiatus?

Well, it is evident that I selected safety and security. In the spring, I bought a house in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and moved in on the evening of June 28. I have been here six months. I have been perfectly miserable in most regards ever since.

So, just this week, after some discussion with children and a friend or two, I made the decision to stay here for another six months. Then, I will roll the dice once again. One of these times, I expect to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow or to abruptly discover there is no water at the bottom of the cliff from which I leap.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Religion becomes art & art becomes religion, while Christmas music is what you imagine it

Jacopo Palma, better known to the world as Palma Vecchio or Jacopo Negretti, was an Italian painter who did a number of interpretations regarding the life of Jesus Christ. Many of them were variations depicting the birth of Christ, one of them, fascinatingly enough, including Mary Magdalene among the onlookers. (Mary of Magdala .... present at birth and at death and at resurrection and, some would say, at the Last Supper. What could be more alluring in the sense of religious mysticism?) Beyond these religious elements, the influence of Titian and Bellini are present in his paintings. This piece, entitled "Adoration of the Shepherds with a Doonor," was painted between 1523-25. Today, it is on display at the Louvre in Paris and, once upon a time, my eyes possessed it there. Religion can be art and art can be religion.

The advantages of being a free thinker

The best thing about believing in nothing or no one is that there is absolutely no reason to be annoyed, upset or angry about what someone else might happen to believe or to profess. Unless, of course, that someone is the zealot, fanatic or do-gooder type who insists that everyone else believe what he believes.

Another way of putting this is to begin by saying I have been pretty much of a life-long agnostic who runs along the border of atheism. There are two types of people who make me want to throttle them whenever I encounter them.

One type is the atheist who cannot or will tolerate a manger scene in front of city hall; or the member of a non-Christian religion who insists there cannot be a Christmas program in the neighborhood elementary school; or the spineless department store manager, who forbids his staff from greeting customers with a "Merry Christmas" as they carry out their shopping and tells them that they must use the generic "Happy Holidays" salutation instead.

The other type is the man who attends church weekly, if not daily, and who frowns and walks away from me when I reply, "No, I only attend church for weddings and funerals;" or the evangelical who notes with a contemptuous smirk that I am destined for hell because I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ; or the simple-Simon, indoctrinated fool who is incapable of understanding that mercy, compassion and kindness are not exclusive to religion.

If you are one of the aforementioned types, to you I say, "Bah, humbug. Take a hike to the Ninth Circle."

To the rest of the world, I say, "Merry Christmas, and may whatever you believe give you strength and confidence."

Now, back into my cave for me. I need to sharpen my spear and to repair my club ....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Once more: She said, There is no reason ....

Anyone who reads here knows that I have a rather narrow view of what constitutes art in terms of painting. The work of Picasso, for instance, is a masterpiece of marketing and a sham in terms of art, in my opinion. He represents money and "me, too" fad, not art. On the other side of the coin is a painter such as Charles Leickert. He was born in Belgium nearly two hundred years ago, and did much of his work in Holland. As one might guess from this particular painting in oil, titled "A Winter Scene," he preferred the season of winter for his work and was fascinated by the changing sky. The structure on the right apparently was a favorite of the artist, as it appears in several of his paintings. Once upon a time, I would have liked to have lived in a building like that. Art is beauty; it is reality and a reflection of reality. It is not convoluted designs and abstract scribbling.

Clarity = escape for a while

A few days ago, I wrote these words to a friend: "The world and the people in it are so damn fascinating, and there is not the time to learn about them all and to marvel at it all. Being sentenced to life on earth for a few decades is a criminal act in itself, I think. It is like holding out a candy bar to a child, then throwing it away before his eyes."

Well, at this moment I feel a bit overwhelmed by the world and all the people in it and all the candy bars life has to offer. In a sentence, I need some time to think and to search for clarity and direction in my personal life. So, I am going to escape from anything I feel distracts me for a couple of weeks -- which includes the sea of blogs. See you back here in time for Christmas.

By the way, I think the stars are approaching an apex for others in addition to me. It is a time for some of us to be making life-altering decisions ....

I've Been This Way Before
by Neil Diamond

I’ve seen the light
And I've seen the flame
And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again
For I've been refused
And I've been regained
And I've seen your eyes before
And I'm sure to see your eyes again

For I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've sung my song before
And I'm sure to sing my song again

Some people got to laugh
Some people got to cry
Some people got to make it through
By never wondering why

Some people got to sing
Some people got to sigh
Some people never see the light
Until the day they die

But I've been released
And I've been regained
And I've been this way before
And I'm sure to be this way again

One more time again
Just one more time

Something special ....