Persistent, but not lonely

To create anything of beauty, daring, and substance that makes the world see itself afresh — be it a revolutionary law of planetary motion or the Starry Night — is the work of lonely persistence against the tides of convention and conformity, often at the cost of the visionary’s aching ostracism from the status quo they are challenging with their vision.

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2021/07/06/john-coltrane-creative-urge/

To be clear, I don’t feel I’m out to make the world see itself afresh. I am out to create better conversations to spread understanding and compassion. And while I understand, now having read a bit more about John Coltrane, how a certain type of genius might need a certain type of loneliness to do their work. That’s not me and my work.

I’m finding that I’m thriving on podcasting. It is a stupid amount of work; Yes, I’ve chosen to set things up, and to set challenges and goals, to create that amount of work. It’s even physically challenging, for example, I’m on a road-trip this week with multiple +4-hour driving days. But I know what I’m in for, and I know what’s going to happen once I press record. Magic. Obviously, a big part of that comes from me, but a critical part of it comes from the other people. I’ve always heard talk of how “creative types” can get lonely. I’ve come around to accepting the label of “creative type.” I recharge in alone time. But I think I thrive when creating in concert with others.

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Tops

Those of us who visit wild places the way others visit churches and concert halls visit because we return transfigured, recomposed, exalted and humbled at the same time, enlarged and dissolved in something larger at the same time. We visit because there we undergo some essential self-composition in the poetry of existence, though its essence rarely lends itself to words.

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2021/05/25/thoreau-walden-nature/

I’d never thought of it that way. But, maybe it is just that. There’s a definite feeling of dissolution I occasionally experience out climbing. I have been far off the trail, and perhaps the feeling is more common farther off the trail. But I’ve also experienced it standing in a parking lot, say, next to Niagara Falls. It’s a feeling of deep stillness. A feeling that all is right as rain. All of our recorded history is less than a blink in geological time scale… so there’s certainly plenty of time, at my scale, to pause right here—wherever that is, be it a mountain or desk top.

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Community creation as art

We make art with everything we are, the doom and the glory of it. We make art to know ourselves, to locate ourselves in the web of being, to make ourselves more alive. We make art that, at its best, helps other people locate themselves and live.

~ Maria Papova from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2021/05/04/keith-haring-on-art/

I think that art is, among other things, a physical something which exists separately from the artist. Art can be ephemeral—chalk work that disappears, a dance performance—but it exists in reality. (As a counterpoint: Art cannot exist solely in one’s imagination.) We even acknowledge that property of art being something-which-exists within the word artifact. (As in art-i-fact, and facts are concrete things which can be known about reality.)

Artists. Art. Artifacts.

Until just reading Popova’s comment, I hadn’t thought of creating a community as art; But now I am wondering.

I’m certainly a creative person, and creativity is required to create—hey, look at that—a community. Clearly a community isn’t summarily disqualified from being art simply because it is ephemeral, both in the sense of its appearance changing over time, and that it will one day cease to exist. But is it art?

Because a community sure looks like something that fits within what Popova is saying up there.

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Trees

But among all of nature’s beauties, nothing inspired him more than trees — those eternal muses of scientists, artists, philosophers, and poets alike — and what Margaret Fuller so unforgettably called “that best fact, the Moon.”

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2021/03/22/hasui-kawase-prints/

I hesitated to share this. …because the book she’s writing about is out of print and only rather-expensive copies seem obtainable. But obviously I came down on the side of, “it’s trees, I have to share this.”

I was once in random conversation with a professional arborist. I cannot recall for certain even who or where or what we were discussing. (But I’m certain is wasn’t something as obvious as they were at my house trimming a tree. It had to be some social encounter.) He dropped a phrase which has stuck with me ever since. He mentioned, “caring for The Big Plants.” I feel that, somehow, he said it in capitals, just like that.

I’ve seen a couple of trees in my day; in Muir Woods, off the beaten paths in Japan, the Rockies. There are some singularly towering specimens in my neighborhood. I like to snap random photos of trees too. I don’t have a point coming, either.

Way back in “the day,” Carl Sagan made a comment in one of the original Cosmos episodes about DNA. As I recall, he was standing near a Big Plant, as that arborist would say, and he pointed out that we, and the tree, contain identical machinery for processing identically functioning DNA. There’s just a relatively small amount of encoded information making a “me” instead of a tree.

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Thousands of summers

Growing up, the notion of becoming a writer never entered Muir’s imagination. Instead, he dreamt of becoming an inventor; then a physician; then a botanist. He took to “the making of books” only late in life, recounting: “When I first left home to go to school, I thought of fortune as an inventor, but the glimpse I got of the Cosmos at the University, put all the cams and wheels and levers out of my head.”

~ Maria Popova, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/10/06/john-of-the-mountains-autumn/

Seems like Winter—meteorological winter starts on December 1st in the northern hemisphere, but the winter solstice is also fast approaching—is a perennial favorite for talking blogging about seasons. I’m leading with that quote because it’s always great to hear about someone’s journey. When you see what they accomplished, it’s not at all obvious where they started, and very rare that you get to hear them talk about how non-obvious it was along the way. But in some cases, eventually we get this:

Although the dying time, it is also the color time, the time when faith in the steadfastness of Nature is surest… The seeds all have next summer in them, some of them thousands of summers.

~ John Muir

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Yes please

Test ideas by experiment and observation. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads. And question everything, including authority. Do these things and the cosmos is yours.

~ Ann Druyan from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/05/20/ann-druyan-cosmos-possible-worlds/

Triple bank shot! Brain Pickings/Maria Papova, Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. Brain Pickings is one of the web sites where I have read every single post. Time well spent in my opinion.

Presented for your consideration without further comment. :)

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What’s a dog for?

https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/12/06/whats-a-dog-for-john-homans/

In a chapter on reconciling the inevitable pain we invite into our lives when we commit to love a being biologically destined to die before we do and the boundless joy of choosing to love anyway, Homans cites John Updike’s heartbreaking poem “Another Dog’s Death”

~ Maria Papova

I’m definitely a dog-person.

Updike’s poem is totes-amazeballs.

(Weren’t expecting that where you?)

My little town used to have a Barkery. That’s not a typo. Someone came up with a bunch of super-healthy and super-tasty recipes. She couldn’t sell them for human consumption, but I’ll just say that the dogs didn’t get every treat I bought there. Suuper tasty and no sugar. Her peanut butter ones—made with peanuts from scratch I think—were da’ bomb.

Anytime I was going somewhere where the dog had an owner I wanted to visit, I’d put those peanut butter dog treats from the Barkery . . . randomly in a few pockets. Dogs ‘d be like, “oh *sniff* hello there *sniff* *sniff* new huma—*sniff* *sniff* *sniff* excuse me sir, but are you aware THAT YOU SMELL LIKE PEANUTBUTTERHOLYSHITBESTDAYEVAAAAAR!”

I am actually going to make a point here.

You know what’s more awesome than dogs? Getting to be immersed in the sheer joy that dog’s experience. No complications. No todo lists. No stress nor worry. Just, best. day. EVAR!

Now, go read Maria’s post.

Too close to the machines

https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/07/26/close-to-the-machine-ellen-ullman/

The programmer, who needs clarity, who must talk all day to a machine that demands declarations, hunkers down into a low-grade annoyance. It is here that the stereotype of the programmer, sitting in a dim room, growling from behind Coke cans, has its origins. The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow Post-it notes everywhere; the whiteboards covered with scrawl: all this is the outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought. The messiness cannot go into the program; it piles up around the programmer.

~ Ellen Ullman

“The messiness cannot go into the program.”

I’ve never thought of it quite that way before. Every once in a great while, you feel the ground move beneath your feet. That sentence moved the ground for me.

I spent an enormous amount of time being a thorn in people’s sides as I clamored to get them to resolve the messiness so I could then manipulate the machines. I tried explaining the machines. I tried explaining the messiness and what I thought might be ways to resolve it. None of that turned out well for the machines, the people or me. Along the way, I realized that dealing with that every day has fundamentally changed how I think. Up until that sentence at the top, I didn’t have a good way to explain my predicament. I only had this fuzzy idea that reality is one thing, computers work this other way, and here I am stuck in the middle.

The messiness cannot go into the computer.

Maaaaybe, I can use that to remind myself that some particular bits of messiness are ok to ignore?

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On reading

In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest. All that is set forth in books, all that seems so terribly vital and significant, is but an iota of that from which it stems and which it is within everyone’s power to tap. Our whole theory of education is based on the absurd notion that we must learn to swim on land before tackling the water. It applies to the pursuit of the arts as well as to the pursuit of knowledge. Men are still being taught to create by studying other men’s works or by making plans and sketches never intended to materialize. The art of writing is taught in the classroom instead of in the thick of life. Students are still being handed models which are supposed to fit all temperaments, all kinds of intelligence. No wonder we produce better engineers than writers, better industrial experts than painters.

~ Henry Miller from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/07/30/henry-miller-the-books-in-my-life/

This reminds me of how moving seems to be the only way to sort myself out. Studying movement won’t do.

I often remind myself to always “deploy forward.” Assess. Make a choice. Move. (That would be a move “forward” by definition, since “assess” and “choose” are how I figure out which way “forward” is.) Except in the most extreme cases—so rare as to be almost not worth mentioning—never try to undo (what programs would call “roll-back”) a step. Simply assess, choose and move from the new position.

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