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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Hanging in There, Happily

June 26th, 2017

a2005-c-Anne-Hyatt-Happy-115
Okay, this was some years ago, when our hair was dark and the tie was daily. Times have changed, but not the spirits.

I hope you enjoyed that last post, the one about fatherhood. I was glad, as always, for the comments. Shows I have some readers. As I thought about it, there’s one more entry I could add to the list: Stay married.

Or, better, stay happily married.

It’s something worth working on.

Not long ago Anne and I came across a useful tool, a marriage growth plan. Among other things, it involved a simple exercise of each of us making a list of (1) three things I want for myself, (2) three things I want for my mate, and (3) three things we want for us combined. All these were in the context of the marriage.

It’s pretty easy, if you don’t overthink it. Writing the first thing that comes to mind brings out the best honesty. Communicating it might take a little more finesse. Sharing it with each other is part of it.

I’ll not reveal everything we came up with here . . . that’s for us. Besides, you should have your own list.

But I will share two statements that one or the other of us came up with and that we agreed on.

The first: Our marriage should be typified by happiness and fun.

At first blush that seemed a little superficial. Isn’t life serious business? It is, and it isn’t all fun. But when there’s fun in it, it’s probably a healthy marriage.

So work at that.  (Or is that a contradiction in terms?)

The other: Each person is an expressive fan of the other.

Why not? Everybody needs a fan, and it’s so much easier if you don’t have to look far to find one. All it takes to be a fan is a little noticing, and a little vocal appreciation. We’re already good at fine-tuning the other. Don’t just lend a hand, lend two . . . for a full-on applause.

And that’s fun, too.

So there you go. Marriage is long. Or should be. Might as well make it fun. Might as well be a fan.

And that’s the first thing to having one.

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Fathers Day

June 21st, 2017

 

I confess that to me, Fathers Day is not a big deal, never has been. I don’t think my children need the holiday to remind them to be nice to me. And I hope I’m worthy of their honor every day. Sorry to be such a grinch.

For all that, last Sunday at church I was one of three speakers asked to share on the topic. As time was limited I resorted to a list: The things I purposed and applied as a father. You could call them my beatitudes, being brief, and all accompanied with blessing. I’ll share the list below.

1-Christmas-Dana-Point-650

Here we were, left to right, Allison, Hyatt iv, Anne, Cambria, Acacia, Dad.

Prayed a gift for each child, from the womb. This was on the order of “love,” health,” wisdom,” etc. I wanted to see if there would be a unique manifestation of that in each child. And so I did.

Meals together. I might not have even mentioned this but I understand it’s becoming more rare. It’s then that we have our conversations, hear each’s “good news,” impart values, keep friendship alive.

A day of fasting and prayer for each, by Dad. This is something they never knew about and I’d forgotten until putting together this list.  But children need help, it’s rough world.  Prayed for their future spouses too, and their parents, also needing help.

Media governed. Allison, our eldest, has bragged she was raised without TV. 
 It’s usually in the context of someone remarking on her incredible creativity and talent. The lack of TV didn’t hurt, more like the other way around.

Traded TV time for reading time. As the family grew there was an appeal to be current so I compromised: reading for watching. They rose to it, even making it a game, keeping track on a chart.

Paid a wage for reading books of my choice. These were books on their level, but perhaps wouldn’t have been thought of. They were always helpful. And for a brief book report they could earn dollars.

Served their first communion. The kids see adults doing this in church, but do they know what it’s all about?  At an age I thought each was ready we took a walk. I brought the elements. We talked. It was a meaningful time.

Father and child road trips. This was in additional to family travels, of which there were many. The one-on-one experience, when it would happen, was always special for both of us.

Purposeful conversations in the car . . . any topic. This was more than the random passing time stuff, rather an invitation for them to bring up whatever topic they might not otherwise, in an unjudgemental atmosphere. Though they were young, it was talk at adult level.

The “My son” passages in Proverbs. There are a lot of these all though that book, and Proverbs is still the best resource for training a child . . . of any age. Once Hyatt Jr. and I rode motorcycles up through California and discussed these, one at a time, at stops and overnights.

International trips, just with Dad. This came to be something of a “rite of passage” for each. As I was traveling a lot in those days, at their 12th year each accompanied me on some weeks long grand adventure. Allison: Cameroon. Cambria: Guatemala. Hyatt: England and Germany. Acacia: Kenya, Congo, Sudan. Tamara: Colombia. Great memories, just between us.

Saturday Night Bible Study. While he was in high school I encouraged young Hyatt to read the Bible straight through. I said not to get bogged down at the parts he didn’t understand but to make a note of them. Then on Saturday nights, if he wasn’t going anywhere, we’d have our own time, discussing the harder questions. I didn’t always have the answers, but it was good for both of us.

Dates. These were usually lunches, anticipated a week or so in advance to build anticipation. One time, with little Acacia, I asked her what was the best thing going on in her life right then. She just beamed and said, “This!”

Attendance at all events. This would be all sporting events, all music events, whatever, because parents should be prime fans. We never enrolled in sports, however, that would rob us of Sunday mornings.

Church. This is something we did, you might say “religiously” (except I don’t like that word). It’s the right habit for a multitude of reasons. I’ll confess there were times when I myself did not want to go; but I did anyway for the children’s sake. (As parents, we’re always watched.)

Dedicated each one to the Lord, as infants. This is Christian tradition, a promise of the parents, and a spiritual covering of the child from the beginning. We did it for each of our children, and now, as grandparents, we’ve done so, in our own family ceremonies, for each of the grandchildren . . . all sixteen.

Honor their mother. Anne and I, early in our marriage, made a pact to never disparage the other in public. We also agreed to not discuss our child raising differences in front of them. There were times we disagreed, of course, but we did it in private, upholding each other’s authority. Worked well; we had no favorites and neither did they.

5-Tamara-with-siblings-1300

The children as adults on the occasion of the first wedding, Tamara’s. On her right: Acacia and Hyatt iv, on her left, Cambria and Allison.

That’s it, or at least all I thought of for Fathers day. This is no judgement on others who see things a different way. My main point is the intentionality of it all. The fun was spontaneous, the travel mind-broadening, the one-on-one experiences special, but the training and the influence was intentional.

Happily, all of them seemed to have caught it . . . and are raising their own children in the same spirit.

And that is the greatest Fathers Day gift I could receive.

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As with all these pictures, click to enlarge.

Here we were six years ago at one of our every-two-year reunions. Four more grandchildren have joined us since. I like this picture because it includes Allison’s Vernon (top right) who died last year.
God bless us everyone.

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Anne’s Titles, Hidden Message?

May 20th, 2017

Ascension-th
Change-of-Direction-th
Concealed-Consequences-th
DelIcate-Demands-th
Divided-Attention-th
Elevated-Appointment-th
Field-of-Vision-th
Fragrance-of-Hope-th
Liberating-Yesterday-th
Above, details from new works.

I thought you’d enjoy the following. It’s a “poem” I constructed out of the titles of Anne’s recent work.

In preparation for the Festival of Arts in Laguna where she has summer-long involvement, she’s been producing new art . . . marvelous art, I might add. Besides her great pieces she also adds (after the fact) the most evocative and interesting titles. As I help her, for the sake of her website, with the photography and photoshop work to follow, I interact with the titles. In doing so, this time I sensed a theme coming through. Though there was nothing conscious about it, and the titles were put on in random order at different times, I put them together in a paragraph.

I’m calling all this Anne’s hidden (and unconscious) message, ultimately deciphered by me.

Here’s the list of titles (with sizes), followed by my sentences.

Ascension, 15×8
Bargaining Power, 17.5×12
By Mutual Agreement, 18×12
Change of Direction, 11×9
Concealed Consequences, 16×20
Considering Options, 11×9
Delicate Demands, 20×16
Divided Attention, 14×20
Elevated Appointment, 15×9
Engaged in Play, 16.5×20
Entitled to Play, 13×16
Field of Vision, 19.5×13
Fragrance of Hope, 11×10
Liberating Yesterday, 20×45
Muted Memory, 12.5×10
Opening Doors, 10×24
Open Invitation, 15×10
Orbiting Obscurity, 11.5×10
Overlooking the Past, 22×16
Profound Promise, 20×12
Promised Perspective, 10×14
Quiet Devotion, 11.5×10
Restoring Faith, 11×9
Set Free, 21×10
Voices of Yesterday, 11.5×10
Willing to Ascend, 20.5×11.5

Here’s my take on her “hidden message”:

By mutual agreement, using all bargaining power and considering options, putting aside concealed consequences of delicate demands, orbiting obscurity and divided attention, I propose an open invitation for overlooking the past and the muted memory of voices of yesterday. Yes, a change of direction, an elevated appointment, an ascension, an opening doors . . . all for a fragrance of hope that will include the promised perspective of a quiet devotion and a restoring faith . . . a field of vision with a profound promise that you (and we) will be set free. How? By liberating yesterday, by being engaged in play . . . even entitled to play. Are you willing to ascend?

When I read this to Anne she found it delightful. Maybe you too?

BTW, all these works can be viewed on her website, by name, under “New Work,” here.

Lots of her work, and mine, and daughter Allison’s will be on display at our show this weekend. Here’s the announcement. Come if you can.

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