Songs for Chasms, Saints and Sinners

Sleeping Venus
Sleeping Venus, by Giorgione and/or Titian. 1510

There is always a gap, a canyon, an endless space between what we want and what we attain, and that’s by evolutionary design. It also can make for great poetry, literature, music, and art. Deathless prose. Immortal landscapes. Notes that reach stars and permeate them. It’s at the heart of metaphor, perhaps its very cause. Ruptures, craters, schisms and riffs are what keep us at it, relentlessly charging ahead, with the biological imperative to pass on our genes to the next and the next. We’ve been doing this for at least 3.5 billion years.…

Necessary Fictions, Their Sources and Utility

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which can be Used as a Table, Salvador Dali. 1934.

Stumbled upon a fascinating TED talk this morning, by Yuval Noah Harari, entitled What explains the rise of humans? In a nutshell, his thesis is that we alone, among all the species on earth, are capable of flexible cooperation in large numbers, and that the chief galvanizing force behind this is our ability to create and believe in fictions. 

His recent book is now on my must-read list: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. From the author’s website:

Homo sapiens rules the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in its own imagination, such as gods, states, money and human rights.

Charles the Liberator

Charles Darwin. 1880

Much has been made recently of the fact that Lincoln and Darwin share a birthday. Two hundred years ago, this past Thursday. A new book talks about another thing they share. Their hatred of slavery. It sounds like a great read. Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction:



Darwin’s Sacred Cause
How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution
By Adrian Desmond & James Moore
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 448 pp. $30
Feb. 15, 2008

How did a modest member of Victorian England’s minor gentry become a twenty-first-century icon? Celebrities today are famous for being famous, but Darwin’s defenders have a different explanation.

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

Charles Darwin. 1868. Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Just a tad late on this one. Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago, on February 12th. His revolutionary work lives on, despite opposition by the sadly misinformed, to put it gently.

A great link to the study of evolution is here. I think it is incumbent upon anyone who criticizes the theory to actually understand it first, and not to create endless strawmen to knock down. We only hurt ourselves and our own future when we refuse to confront its implications. Building from the foundation of this theory, we have the potential to advance many divergent tributaries of science, and perhaps unlock essential keys in the battle to fight a multitude of diseases.…

The Children’s Idyll In All Of Us

A Children’s Idyll, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. 1900

Spurred on by a thought-provoking blog post by my good friend Tim Brownson, I thought again about what we lose when we grow up. The way we once looked at life. With fresh hope. With a ton of hope and delight. With great expectations and daily excitement. What is it, exactly, about the process of maturation that seems to take so much of that out of us? Is this chemical, biological, spiritual, or all of the above? Do we actually lose special brain cells that are informed with a sense of hope and awe and wonder?…

Magic Mountain

On the way there.

Took a drive then a walk then a climb then more walking. The walk became a discussion with a park ranger about an accident and a bike. She blocked all cars. No one could pass except the ambulance. Bike hits car or car hits bike. Too fast. All too fast. The Blue Ridge Parkway should be to dwell, not die. To dwell inside the blue, to derive the flesh of the blue air from the sky as it is, as it was hundreds of thousands of years ago. This ridge is that old. This sky is older.…

Timeless Beauty, Changing Times

Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness. 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art.

There are things that should be protected and preserved. Nature. Lakes, rivers, oceans, mountain tops, valleys, blue skies. Protect and defend, preserve. Things that evolve in ways that preserve their timeless beauty, even in the midst of natural, organic change. Things to build foundations upon. Colors, shapes, organic, natural drama. We rest our minds there, within the natural change, seeking the core we can never find, joyfully.

These are things to conserve. But ideologies? Systems? Political schools, artistic schools? If these things do not grow, expand their base, remain open to natural and organic change–and they almost never, ever do–they die inside and they kill the souls of others.…

Contemporary Reception, and the Last Laugh

Gustave Courbet’s The Sleepers, 1866. Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, France.

There is always a battle between the new and the old, between the old and the young, between conservatives and progressives. There is always a faction frantic to hold onto power, established, stodgy, stubborn power, and those who rise to fight that power and make their own way in the world. Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris reminds me of that battle and the reception by the old guard of new techniques, subject matter, and new artists without establishment ties. His book reminds me of the almost laughable reception of such greats as Corot, Courbet, Manet, Pissarro, and the young Cezanne by that old guard.…

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