AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

24 April 2018

Temper.

Cole, Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire, 1827


It is generally admitted that the liberal arts tend to soften our manners; but they do more--they carry with them the power to mend our hearts.

Poetry and Painting sublime and purify thought, by grasping the past, the present, and the future--they give the mind a foretaste of its immortality, and thus prepare it for
performing an exalted part amid the realities of life. And rural nature is full of the same quickening spirit--it is, in fact, the exhaustless mine from which the poet and the painter have brought such wondrous treasures--an unfailing fountain of intellectual enjoyment, where all may drink, and be awakened to a deeper feeling of the works of genius, and a keener perception of the beauty of our existence. For those whose days are all consumed in the low pursuits of avarice, or the gaudy frivolities of fashion, unobservant of nature's loveliness, are unconscious of the harmony of creation--

Heaven's roof to them Is but a painted ceiling hung with lamps; No more--that lights them to their purposes-- They wander 'loose about;' they nothing see, Themselves except, and creatures like themselves, Short lived, short sighted.

What to them is the page of the poet where he describes or personifies the skies, the mountains, or the streams, if those objects themselves have never awakened observation or excited pleasure? What to them is the wild Salvator Rosa, or the aerial Claude Lorrain?

There is in the human mind an almost inseparable connection between the beautiful and the good, so that if we contemplate the one the other seems present; and an excellent author has said, "it is difficult to look at any objects with pleasure--unless where it arises from brutal and tumultuous emotions--without feeling that disposition of mind which tends towards kindness and benevolence; and surely, whatever creates such a disposition, by increasing our pleasures and enjoyments, cannot be too much cultivated."

It would seem unnecessary to those who can see and feel, for me to expatiate on the loveliness of verdant fields, the sublimity of lofty mountains, or the varied magnificence of the sky; but that the number of those who seek enjoyment in such sources is comparatively small. From the indifference with which the multitude regard the beauties of nature, it might be inferred that she had been unnecessarily lavish in adorning this world for beings who take no pleasure in its adornment. Who in grovelling pursuits forget their glorious heritage. Why was the earth made so beautiful, or the sun so clad in glory at his rising and setting, when all might be unrobed of beauty without affecting the insensate multitude, so they can be "lighted to their purposes?"

It has not been in vain--the good, the enlightened of all ages and nations, have found pleasure and consolation in the beauty of the rural earth. Prophets of old retired into the solitudes of nature to wait the inspiration of heaven. It was on Mount Horeb that Elijah witnessed the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire; and heard the "still small voice"--that voice is YET heard among the mountains! St. John preached in the desert;--the wilderness is YET a fitting place to speak of God. The solitary Anchorites of Syria and Egypt, though ignorant that the busy world is man's noblest sphere of usefulness, well knew how congenial to religious musings are the pathless solitudes.

He who looks on nature with a "loving eye," cannot move from his dwelling without the salutation of beauty; even in the city the deep blue sky and the drifting clouds appeal to him. And if to escape its turmoil--if only to obtain a free horizon, land and water in the play of light and shadow yields delight--let him be transported to those favored regions, where the features of the earth are more varied, or yet add the sunset, that wreath of glory daily bound around the world, and he, indeed, drinks from pleasure's purest cup. The delight such a man experiences is not merely sensual, or selfish, that passes with the occasion leaving no trace behind; but in gazing on the pure creations of the Almighty, he feels a calm religious tone steal through his mind, and when he has turned to mingle with his fellow men, the chords which have been struck in that sweet communion cease not to vibrate.

In what has been said I have alluded to wild and uncultivated scenery; but the cultivated must not be forgotten, for it is still more important to man in his social capacity--necessarily bringing him in contact with the cultured; it encompasses our homes, and, though devoid of the stern sublimity of the wild, its quieter spirit steals tenderly into our bosoms mingled with a thousand domestic affections and heart-touching associations--human hands have wrought, and human deeds hallowed all around.

And it is here that taste, which is the perception of the beautiful, and the knowledge of the principles on which nature works, can be applied, and our dwelling-places made fitting for refined and intellectual beings.

If, then, it is indeed true that the contemplation of scenery can be so abundant a source of delight and improvement, a taste for it is certainly worthy of particular cultivation; for the capacity for enjoyment increases with the knowledge of the true means of obtaining it.

In this age, when a meager utilitarianism seems ready to absorb every feeling and sentiment, and what is sometimes called improvement in its march makes us fear that the bright and tender flowers of the imagination shall all be crushed beneath its iron tramp, it would be well to cultivate the oasis that yet remains to us, and thus preserve the germs of a future and a purer system. And now, when the sway of fashion is extending widely over society--poisoning the healthful streams of true refinement, and turning men from the love of simplicity and beauty, to a senseless idolatry of their own follies--to lead them gently into the pleasant paths of Taste would be an object worthy of the highest efforts of genius and benevolence. The spirit of our society is to contrive but not to enjoy--toiling to produce more toil-accumulating in order to aggrandize. The pleasures of the imagination, among which the love of scenery holds a conspicuous place, will alone temper the harshness of such a state; and, like the atmosphere that softens the most rugged forms of the landscape, cast a veil of tender beauty over the asperities of life.

Thomas Cole

CONNECT

Relax.


I've learned one thing, and that's to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here, relax. Work is for people with jobs. You'll never remember class time, but you'll remember the time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out with your friends on a Tuesday when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don't have. Drink 'til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does.

Tom Petty

This is dangerous, but worthwhile advice. -Ed.

Happy birthday, Library of Congress.


Cultural Offering reminds us that Congress established the Library of Congress on this day in 1800.

More good news ...
The papers of American scientist, statesman and diplomat Benjamin Franklin have been digitized and are now available online for the first time from the Library of Congress. The Library announced the digitization today in remembrance of the anniversary of Franklin’s death on April 17, 1790.
CONNECT 

Perfect.


To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there's no such thing as perfect.

Energy.


There is only a single, urgent task: to attach oneself someplace to nature, to that which is strong, striving and bright with unreserved readiness, and then to move forward in one’s efforts without any calculation or guile, even when engaged in the most trivial and mundane activities. Each time we thus reach out with joy, each time we cast our view toward distances that have not yet been touched, we transform not only the present moment and the one following but also alter the past within us, weave it into the pattern of our existence, and dissolve the foreign body of pain whose exact composition we ultimately do not know. Just as we do not know how much vital energy this foreign body, once it has been thus dissolved, might impart to our bloodstream!

Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy birthday, Martini.

Crescimbeni, Giovanni Battista Martini, 1766


Giovanni Battista Martini was born on this day in 1706.

Accademia degli Astrusi, under the direction of Federico Ferri, performs the Concerto for Two Oboe Obbligati and Four Trumpets, HH.32 No. 2 ...

Excellent.

A excellent album ...

23 April 2018

Carries.

van Dalen, Bacchus, 1648


If with water you fill up your glasses,
You'll never write anything wise.
But wine is the horse of Parnassus,
That carries a bard to the skies.

Athenaeus

Nice try, Monday.  Thank you, Jessica.  

Forget.


To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.

Paul Valéry

Robert Plant, "Misty Mountain Hop"

Console.

van Gogh, Patch of Grass, 1887


Art is to console those who are broken by life.

Vincent Van Gogh

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Saw.

Constable, Cotswold Commons, n/d


A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, splashless as they swim.

Emily Dickinson

Happy birthday, Turner.

Turner, Off Margate 1843


Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on this day in 1775.

My business is to paint what I see, not what I know is there.

J.M.W. Turner

The Turner episode from Simon Schama's masterpiece, Power of Art ...

Untamed.


The wild is an integral part of who we are as children. Without pausing to consider what or where or how, we gather herbs and flowers, old apples and rose hips, shiny pebbles and dead spiders, poems, tears and raindrops, putting each treasured thing into the cauldron of our souls. We stir our bucket of mud as if it were, every single one, a bucket of chocolate cake to be mixed for the baking. Little witches, hag children, we dance our wildness, not afraid of not knowing.

But there comes a time when the kiss of acceptance is delayed until the mud is washed from our knees, the chocolate from our faces. Putting down our wooden spoon with a new uncertainty, setting aside our magical wand, we learn another system of values based on familiarity, on avoiding threat and rejection. We are told it is all in the nature of growing up. But it isn't so.

Walking forward and facing the shadows, stumbling on fears like litter in the alleyways of our minds, we can find the confidence again. We can let go of the clutter of our creative stagnation, abandoning the chaos of misplaced and outdated assumptions that have been our protection. Then beyond the half light and shadows, we can slip into the dark and find ourselves in a world where horizons stretch forever. Once more we can acknowledge a reality that is unlimited finding our true self, a wild spirit, free and eager to explore the extent of our potential, free to dance like fireflies, free to be the drum, free to love absolutely with every cell of our being, or lie in the grass watching stars and bats and dreams wander by.

We can live inspired, stirring the darkness of the cauldron within our souls, the source, the temple of our true creativity, brilliant, untamed.

Emma Restall Orr

Happy birthday, Shakespeare.

Taylor, William Shakespeare, 1603


William Shakespeare was born on this day in 1564.

SONNET 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

William Shakespeare

22 April 2018

Self-made.


Do what thy manhood bids thee do, 
From none but self expect applause; 
He noblest lives and noblest dies 
Who makes and keeps his self-made laws. 

All other Life is living Death, 
A world where none but Phantoms dwell, 
A breath, a wind, a sound, a voice, 
A tinkling of the camel-bell.

Richard Francis Burton

Victoria.

Simon Russell Beale continues his Sacred Music journey in this special celebration marking the 400th anniversary of the death of the great Spanish Renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria. In exploring the extraordinary world of this intensely spiritual man - musician, priest and mystic - Simon's travels take him to some of Spain's most stunning locations, from the ancient fortified city of Avila, with its medieval walls and glorious cathedral, to the magnificent El Escorial palace, where Philip II would listen to Victoria's music though a small door leading off his bedroom directly to the high altar of the Basilica.

In Madrid, Simon explores the dramatic religious paintings of Victoria's contemporary El Greco in the Prado Museum and visits the convent of Las Descalzas Reales, named after the barefoot nuns who worshipped there and where Victoria spent the final three decades of his life as choirmaster and organist.

The music is specially performed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen in the church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, a hidden baroque jewel built in Victoria's lifetime in the heart of Madrid.

20 April 2018

Allman Brothers Band, "No One to Run With"

Flying.

Daniel Barenboim on "flying with the music" ...

Silence.


To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over that land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor and rest in the afternoon, and to sit still again in meditation in the evening when night falls up on that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars.  To belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into the bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of life into a living and vigilant silence.

Thomas Merton

Hume, "Hark! Hark!"

Jordi Savall, viol ...

19 April 2018

Classics.


Italo Calvino on the adventures, incrustations, distortions, expansions, and reincarnations of The Classics.


Boston, "Feelin' Satisfied"

Everything.


A great leaf that God and you and I have covered with writing turns now, overhead, in strange hands.  We feel the sweep of it like a wind. We see the brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Crusoe.


There is a charm in Solitude that cheers
A feeling that the world knows nothing of
A green delight the wounded mind endears
After the hustling world is broken off
Whose whole delight was crime at good to scoff
Green solitude his prison pleasure yields
The bitch fox heeds him not -- birds seem to laugh
He lives the Crusoe of his lonely fields
Which dark green oaks his noontide leisure shields.

John Clare

Sorting.


Have you ever wondered where the Sorting Hat would put you if you and the hat were in Middle Earth? If, instead of the Hogwarts Houses, the options were the Shire, Gondor, Rohan, and Isengard?

CONNECT

Thank you, Violet.

Spirit.


The American War for Independence began on this day in 1775.

CONCORD HYMN

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
  Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
  And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
  Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
  Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
  We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
  When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
  To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
  The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Overthrow.


Thank you, Cultural Offering.

David Gilmour, "5 A.M."

18 April 2018

17 April 2018

Happy birthday, Blixen.


Karen Blixen was born on this day in 1885.

Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.

Isak Dinesen, from Out of Africa

Notice.

Peter Rowan, "Bluegrass Boy"

Delighted.


Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.     

Aristotle

Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111

Daniel Barenboim performs ...

Active.

Vasari, Self-portrait, 1567


No one ever became excellent in any exercise whatsoever without beginning from his childhood to endure heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and other discomforts; wherefore those men are entirely deceived who think to be able, at their ease and with all the comforts of the world, to attain an honorable rank. It is not by sleeping but by waking and studying continually that progress is made.  Inspiration demands the active cooperation of the intellect joined with enthusiasm, and it is under such conditions that marvelous conceptions, with all that is excellent and divine, come into being. I wish to be of service to the artists of our own day, by showing them how a small beginning leads to the highest elevation, and how from so noble a situation it is possible to fall to utmost ruin, and consequently, how these arts resemble nature as shown in our human bodies.

Giorgio Vasari

16 April 2018

Roxy Music, "Tara"

Dvořák, "Song to the Moon"

Anna Netrebko performs ...

Barenboim & Ashkenazy: Double Concerto.

Documenting Vladimir Ashkenazy & Daniel Barenboim’s performance of Mozart's Concerto For Two Pianos In E Flat Major, K 365, with the English Chamber Orchestra, on Saturday March 12th, 1966 ...

Excellent.

Excellent books ...

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Beethoven, Leonore Overture No. 3 in C Major, Op. 72b

Leonard Bernstein directs the Bavarian Broadcast Symphony Orchestra ...

Bryan Ferry, "Don't Stop the Dance"

Round.


WATER

Before I was born I was water.
I thought of this sitting on a blue
chair surrounded by pink, red, white
hollyhocks in the yard in front
of my green studio. There are conclusions
to be drawn but I can’t do it anymore.
Born man, child man, singing man,
dancing man, loving man, old man,
dying man. This is a round river
and we are her fish who become water.

Jim Harrison

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op.64

Leonard Slatkin conducts the Detroit Symphony ...

Mozart, Concerto No. 7 in F for Three Pianos, K. 242

Daniel Barenboim, András Schiff, and Georg Solti perform with the English Chamber Orchestra ...