Deep Space, and my Keys

August 16th, 2017

Astronomers with the Hubble telescope, instead of focusing on some known part of the heavens, zoomed in on “nothing.” It was one of the empty spaces between stars where all was just black. They stayed on it for 11 days. What they got was the image above. It includes 10,000 objects, mostly galaxies, at least one 13 billion light-years away.

It’s the deepest space man’s equipment has been able to fathom yet, but one gets the idea it goes on from there. And on. And on.

I’m reminded of the cosmological question by the student to the Indian sage. He asked, “What holds the world up?” The sage, “It’s sitting on the back of an elephant.” The student asked, “What does the elephant stand on?” to which the sage answered, “It stands on the back of another elephant.” The student asked again, “What does that elephant stand on?”  Finally the master replied, “Son, it’s elephants all the way down.”*

Solves everything, right? Now where did I put my keys?

I like better the psalmist’s approach, acknowledging God:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?**

That’s mystery enough for me. Whether or not I find my keys.

_____________________
*   The story is usually told with turtles, but the elephant version carries more weight, (ha), and they have better memory!
** Psalm 8:3,4 (KJV)

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Blessed are the Meek

August 9th, 2017

Mongolian Miss, oil over acrylic, 10×12. She’s no more meek than the rest of us can be, but as she was just completed, she can represent us. It’s one of a series of faces from around the world I’ve been working on of late, just because they’re so beautiful.
(Double-click to enlarge.)

“Blessed are the meek.” How incredibly counter-intuitive is that? But Jesus said it, and he could because he himself was meek. He doesn’t preach it without being it first . . . submitting completely, as he did, to the will of the Father . . . telling Peter to put away his meekless sword because he, Jesus, had to go through with what God had planned.

It’s not Trump, this meekness, nor anybody else, by our own nature.

But here’s the reward: “Inherit the earth.” How blessed is that???!!!

Not this earth, apparently, or not this earth at this time. This world is still being dominated by the non-meek. But those submissive to God, would they not have God’s eye? Would he not honor them, elevate them, reward them?

And what would that reward be? EVERYTHING! The whole earth! All that they have been deprived of till then.

Meekness, it’s not just a condition to be borne, but high goal with high reward.

And an easy one, really, if we just quit trying so hard.

______
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

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The Dash

July 31st, 2017

Space and Time 1, acrylic on canvas, 57×70, one in a series of three I painted, now presented by Westervelt Fine Art in Mission Viejo, California.
Whether it fits as illustration for the brief dash of our lives, you decide.

I heard a talk where speaker Beth Moore instructed each in her audience to write the beginnings of their tombstone. First is our name, then our birth date, then a dash. That much we know. Someone else will supply the last date. Meantime, it’s the dash in the middle that makes all the difference.

Pretty brief . . . a dash between two dates.

In typography there’s an “en” dash and there’s an “em” dash, the latter being longer. Who knows which applies to our lives? Either way, it’s only a dash.

Life is a vapor. It appears for a little while and then it vanishes.” That’s James 4:14, just one of the Bible’s 48 such reminders.

Or by The Rollings Stones:

Here comes just another day
That’s drifting away
Every time I draw a breath
It’s dying away
First the sun and then the moon
One of them will be around soon
Slipping away
Slipping away
Drifting away
Slipping away.*

It’s something to think about. It’s the dash between our dates where we’re doing what we’re doing.

Pretty brief.

Make it count today.

______________

* Slipping Away by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

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The Heart Test

July 27th, 2017

World View 1, oil on burlap, 27×43

“Never take a path that has no heart in it. You can’t lose if your heart is in your work, but you can’t win if your heart is not in it.” That’s a quote from The Confessions of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, by Carlos Castanada.

You probably never read that book (though maybe you have). It’s full of a wide range of quasi-reality of the hallucinogenic kind that I wouldn’t recommend to my grandchildren. But that statement was worth noting, regardless of source.

It’s something I think about, though probably not enough, the passive approach to life being too much with us.

Just yesterday I was advised by a friend as we parted, “Don’t work too hard.”

What kind of advice is that? If he really cared about me he’d say, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (That’s from chapter 9, verse 10 of Ecclesiastes . . . a great source.)

Here’s another we hear a lot: “Take it easy.”

Take what easy?

The better counsel would be, “Whatever you do, throw your heart into it . . . ” (from Colossians 3:23.)

Take the heart test. It’s part evaluation: What is it you’re doing? And part command: Whatever it is, put your full life into it.

Here’s one: We tend to let each other get by with less than who we really are.

The friend who reminds us to “Get with it” does us better service than the one that tells us to “Chill out.”

So, what are you doing today?  Is it with heart?

If it is, as Castanada said, “You can’t lose.”

If not . . . well . . . you know what to do.

_________

PS  Those two priest paintings last post were probably too nuanced to see the difference. But one commenter did, Kristan. Check it out here.

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Judging Art

July 24th, 2017

I was at a big art festival with a hundred or so artists displaying. When you get that many, it’s almost too hard to take in unless you have some sort of measure of what to look for. After a cursory look around, I came up with my own judging system. It was simple. Just four categories:

The Best of the Best

The Worst of the Best

The Best of the Worst

The Worst of the Worst.

I’m not saying it was that easy to apply everything within those categories, many were in a class by themselves, but it helped me (and made it all a lot more fun). Here’s how I made the distinctions:

Everything in the top of the two tiers displayed a high level of craftsmanship as well as something personal, something extra, unique. There was also a measure of confidence displayed. The Best of the Best had a high level of this.

Those judged The Worst of the Best may have had a little less craftsmanship, but still plenty of individual expression.

As for the lower tier, The Best of the Worst, the maker displayed a high degree of craft, but not as much art. Often these are very impressive pieces and they get a lot of acclaim. The detail can be prodigious. They’re made by a person who can copy anything . . . and often does. The time put into each can be long and intensive. But there’s nothing extra, nothing personal, no risks, nothing for the viewer to interpret, and nothing left of the mess in the laboratory.

(Left) Father Joe (c. 2002) and (right) Father Art (c. 2012), both oil over acrylic, 44×27. (Click for larger view.)

The Worst of the Worst, of course, lacks in both craftsmanship and creativity. I didn’t see any of this at the big juried show, but there’s plenty of it being made. It may be a starting point for new artists, but shouldn’t be settled for.

By the way, these judgments had nothing to do with sales. Art may be liked by somebody and purchased in all categories. This is just my own attempt to make some sense of why I like a piece and why I don’t.

(Maybe another time I’ll write on doing all things with heart . . . sort of going along with all this.)

For the sake of illustration, above are two of my own works, painted ten years apart. By my judgment they are in slightly different categories, Worst of Best and Best of Worst. What do you think?

Or about any of this?

_________

PS Enjoying your comments. Check back to last post for how they contributed to Creativity, A Funny Thing, under “Recent Posts,” right.

 

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Creativity: A Funny Thing

July 20th, 2017

Okay, I needed something quick to illustrate my point. The painting I’d been working on was getting too serious anyway, so here she is channeling Salvador Dali. (Not to worry, she can always shave!)

Sometimes, as he was growing up, I would say to my son, the now Dr. Hyatt E. Moore iv, “Hyatt, you need to learn creativity.”

It’s not like I had a ready answer as to how, I was just letting him know of its importance. I felt it wasn’t something he’d get much in school with all the emphasis on passing tests. He was good at that, but the rest he’d have to teach himself.

Changing subjects here (but not really), one time, in the car, he surprised me with, “Dad, how do you be funny?”

We’d been at a youth event and I’d been called on for some spontaneous ad lib and got lots of good laughs all around. That’s what prompted Hyatt’s question on the way home.

My first thought was, “Boy, this kid is too analytical!” My second was,“If you have to ask, you can’t do it.” But I said neither.

“Humor,” I quickly thought up, “is the collision of two things that don’t go together. What’s produced is a small explosion, or a large one, of laughter.”

“It’s the making-no-sense acting like it does that makes things funny.”

Brief example, last week my super creative niece April visiting from St. Louis, asked: “How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?”

Answer: “Change?”

She could make the joke on herself, being the daughter of a Lutheran pastor.

Back to my definition of humor, I’m aware that it is awfully rational for something that’s all about irrationality, but it seemed to work for the moment. It was later, when I saw him rollicking with his friends with brilliant quips back and forth that I saw he’d done it . . . he’d learned the creativity of humor.

So here’s the connection: Humor is the putting of two unlike things together, and creativity is putting two unlike things together. They both operate the same way.

And, more: One is exercise for the other.

Creativity, to me, is basically problem solving. If you’re not afraid to bring something completely different into the problem’s equation, then you’re solving it creatively.

Super-creative thinking is inventive thinking, where you think up the problem in the first place . . . and then go to work on solving it.

I’m a painter. Every blank canvas is another exercise in all this . . . thinking up some problem and then working to solve it. But I’m not only a painter. I like to think the exercise cuts across all matters of life. For all of us.

Young Hyatt’s strengths, it turned out, were mathematical. He went on with education after education finally earning his PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford. It’s all math, and the way he does it, very creative. Now he’s doing problem solving all day long.

So there it is. Whether it’s in the arts or the sciences . . . or just life . . . creativity is the extra ingredient.

It can be constantly developed. Just start with a little humor.

It’ll strengthen those biceps in the brain . . . and it’ll lighten your day.

________

PS A friend suggested things could be more interesting if I respond back on your comments. So I did last time, see “Color.

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Color

July 17th, 2017

Mission-Mid-Summer-1200

Mission Mid-Summer,
oil on canvas. It’s a rendition of one of the historic buildings at the mission in San Juan Capistrano. All those reds are not there in nature. But why not? We can make up our own colors. (Click on the picture for details.)

A friend of mine, Jeff Girard, is heading for Germany to be part of a training seminar for artists. His main topic: Color. Though long an art director and no novice to this, he rounded out his presentation with brief videoed interviews of other artists.

Ha! I suppose it’s to add color.

He told me he loved what his friend (and my daughter) Allison said, that in painting she doesn’t think about it much; rather it just grows out of the need at the moment. She added that it’s color that’s the difference between a drawing and a painting.

Figuring he had enough of that kind of thing, I suggested other aspects of color, like in personality, or in speech.

The one not afraid to exhibit a bit of color in these ways brightens everything around. A book full of color in the writing is worth the reading just for that.

Colorless is not a description most of us would like to own. Fog has its own intrigue but we like it better when it clears.

My friend Francis Viscount just returned from an academic conference on world cultures. One presenter, he said, projected visuals of art and color and how it expresses the soul of a people. He old me the overall effect lifted the emotions all around . . . and it was the only thing that did in that room full of intellects. Who doesn’t have emotions?

It can be palpable. I remember the first time I encountered an assembly of fauve paintings. Those were the “wild beasts” who didn’t bother with nature’s actual colors but made up their own. My emotions shot up. It just made me happy.

And what about those lilies of the field? They could have been dull gray and still produced our needed oxygen, but how would that brighten our spirits?

So add some zest to the outline of your day. Splash in some color. Be a painting.

It’s for you. And for others to see.

 

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Richard

July 13th, 2017

Richard-1300

It’s easy to say in our heart, “Why doesn’t that guy get a job?” Then again, would we hire him? It might not be so easy.

God has been awake all night waiting for me to wake up and show me things. What’ll it be today? The wonder never stops. Not to mention the chance encounters.

I needed a florescent light fixture of a certain size. It was three stores before I found it, then, pulling away, stopped for gas. I wasn’t that low but remembered that station carried beef jerky in abundant supply, something I really was out of, and had been for a long time.

The stalls were full, all but one; I had to turn around. Opening my door I banged a post. Slight dent. Bummer. I looked up and found a man looking at me. In his 40s, a bit of chest tattoo showing above his shirt, a squeegee in his hand and an appeal on his face, I could see what was coming.

“I’m just out of prison and trying to earn a little . . . it’s not for drugs or drink or anything . . . I’m just washing windshields and . . . ”

That was enough. I gave him a twenty. His eyes popped.

“What’s your name?

“Richard.”

“What were you in for?” I asked, all flustered, the pump not working right. First the dent, now this.

“Narcotics, up in Fresno.”

It’s like it wasn’t accepting my card.

“Better go inside,” he said.

“I will . . . and get those wheels too.” It’s something I always do when getting gas.

The crazy thing is all I really wanted was some beef jerky. I paid at the cash register, adding in a big $15 dollar bag of jerky, and then a second. Back at the car I threw one in the window and put the other in the squeegee man’s hand. “Wow,” he said, “I love beef jerky. In prison they say they feed you well but  . . . ”

“Where were you?” as if I know one correction facility from another. “San Quinton.” I know that one. I was still having trouble with that blanky-blank pump. “Here, let me try,” he said and took over, somehow making it work.

“How long have you been out?

“Two months.”

“Are you looking for work?”

“I used to do tile work, but I’ve got something in my shoulder and I can’t lift. My sister’s a nurse, says it might be a bone spur. Even for washing windshields I have to use my left arm.”

“I know what that’s like,” I said. “I’ve got a bad shoulder, though improving lately, I hope.”

“They say I can get get a cortisone shot for cheap in Tijuana, but they hurt like hell.”

“Not so bad,” I said. “I’ve had two. It’s just a regular shot, maybe it’s in a little long, and the needle itself is a little long.

“Did it help?”

“The first one didn’t but the second must have hit the right spot.”

“That’s good, I’ll tell my wife.”

By that time the tank was full, the pump stopped, then . . . and I really didn’t see this coming, I just said, “I’ll pray for you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, right now.”

It was a brief prayer, just a sentence or two, for Richard’s shoulder and about steady work. I could have added it was for his income, for his wife, and for restoration of his confidence. But God already knows all that. I just finished with my customary, “in Jesus name, amen.”

To that he also finished, “in Jesus name.”

That was it. We shook hands and I was gone.

Later I thought, is that what this day was for? The $20 was next to nothing; he’ll go through that fast enough and I’ll never miss it. But the beef jerky, if he relishes it as slow as I do, will be lasting quite a time.

Maybe it’ll bring a good memory.

And, who knows, maybe God will answer that prayer.

 

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Linger Longer

July 11th, 2017

Eucalyptus-2-1300

Eucalyptus 2, Oil on Paper, 15″x21,” inspired by a cluster of dead leaves lying on the deck.

One of the commenters on the last Blank Slate offered something worth pondering. My title was Hey, Look; Joan responded with Hey, Linger. She exampled with her insight that if she gave a person more time in conversation they came more out of themselves, expressed more and (though she didn’t say this) probably appreciated her more.

I’ve been thinking this is a good word for us in many ways.

Time, Einstein said, is relative. It goes fast or slow, depending. Sometimes fast is good; other times slow is better.

Like in romance. Never good if it’s rushed.

A friend once told me that what a woman wanted is time. “Time in what?” I asked her. “Everything,” she said. Being a woman I expect she knew.

I suppose it can be taken to the extreme. I just watched a documentary, 180 Days on Lake Bical. That’s in Russia, the largest body of fresh water in the world. When it freezes over the ice is two feet thick. He was there winter through summer, living out of a trappers cabin, by himself, his provisions, his books, his dogs, and a whole lot of time. He had much to say about that most of all. On an earlier adventure he’d traveled the length of Eurasia where he’d seen a lot in a hurry. On this one he saw less more. It changed him.

All good things are worth the pondering.

Any book worth reading is worth reading twice. Same with a movie. Or how about just a paragraph.

Here’s the word for it all: Absorb.

Another: Gaze.

Another: Don’t rush.

Jesus said, “Could you not wait with me one hour?”

Ah, but the spirit is weak. How many moments have passed we could have relished better? Maybe we can return. Happily there will be more. More and more and more.

Linger longer . . . you’ll see.

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Hey, Look!

June 29th, 2017

a-Yellow-Tulip-115
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
That’s William Blake. He noticed things.
We can too.

Recently, driving in a car with a child, we came up with the idea to notice everything red. It became a little game, not necessarily competitive, but a reason to look, to notice, to identify. We were both delighted with how many things we found, large and small. After awhile we did the same with things green, later yellow, then blue. Each category became special, our eyes were momentarily more opened, and perhaps the effect was lasting. Eyes, once opened, see more.

That’s basically what this blog is about. It’s noticing things, bringing out bits that may have been hidden, or not so hidden, just missed. Life’s material is so abundant it can overwhelm, we can overlook the nuance. How much blue is in the world with all that sky? But then it’s not always blue. And the ocean? What color is water really?

So, better to take longer looks. That’s what I’m doing here, noticing things, looking at them slightly longer, perhaps in different light, and sharing them with you.

Because sharing is part of it. Who can look at a sunset without wanting to experience it with another? Or encountering something unique, want to say, “Hey, look!”

I try to keep these short, knowing your days. A few upcoming topics include:

A Dash of Color (in the visual and in realms beyond)

A Funny Thing about Creativity (a way to strengthen such thinking)

The Lifetime Achievement Award (something for each of us)

About Consciousness (the mystery of our being)

Death and Life (with death coming first)

How to Evaluate Art (art being metaphor for everything else)

And on, and on, and on.

Then, there are other topics, like the now-and-then motivators on how to get going again. Back posts reveal many such; there will be more.

Sometimes there’s just something funny, because that’s important too.

As always, comments are welcome. They often round out the picture. And this is a community of friends.

Meantime, notice things, and tell me what you see. Your life will be bigger for it. And so will mine.

Hope to see you regularly on these posts.

Hyatt

 

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