HUMAN HISTORY in a NUTSHELL

Soldier dies. Woman cries. Philosophy wonders why.

 

QUESTIONS of CONSCIENCE for the ARTIST

Are you one who nails your work to the temple door and cries, "Here I stand and will not move!" Or for sake of social harmony and getting on in the world, do you bend to the winds of propriety and public sentiment?

Are you genuine or merely the ape of fashion? Is your muse the goddess of inner necessity or the whore of the marketplace?

What is the intention of your work? Was that intention fulfilled? And if so, WAS IT WORTH IT?

 

LUNATIC FRINGE

One man sees God in a tree. They lock him away for insanity.  A hundred men see God in a tree. They call it "religion."

 

The ARTIST and the LUNATIC

The artist and the lunatic descend, step by step, on a similar journey into the savage, unmapped wilderness of the unconscious. The difference is the artist comes back (most of the time).

 

The LIMITS of ART

A youth raced through the crowded streets, flinging his paintings in furious rage of great indignation. I accosted him thus:

"Young man, why throw away your work in such wanton abandon?"                                                                                                     Catching his breath, he proclaimed, "The world is a place of sorrow and abominable injustice."                                                         "So it is," I agreed.                                                                                                                                                                                 "My works," he continued, "are utopian visions that will transform this world's baseness into beauty and love."                                 "You must know," I countered, "that art cannot possibly ..."                                                                                                                   "You lie!" he cried. And ran on, leaving a trail of discarded canvas.

 

EMPIRES of TIME

History throws up empires like a dog vomiting on the beach.  And just as quickly time's waters wash the stench out to sea.  Only ideas remain. The visions of the poet, artist and scientist ... only they have permanence. Yet, inevitably, we exalt the empire builders more than the visionaries. One should never forget: Napoleon and Alexander were merely great ...

But Michelangelo was divine. 

 

The FOOL and the SAGE

 A fool and a sage discoursed eloquently about the nature of time and space.                                                                                      "History," said one, "Is a three-legged tortoise crawling crookedly in circles across the sands of time under a vacant sky."                "Wrong!" thundered the other. "History is a half-blind blacksnake slithering from a dark hole toward the glorious sunlight above."    A crowd had gathered and applauded loudly at such elegant erudition. But I left uncertain. Who was wise and who was the fool?

 

TWO THEORIES of ART

Art is a search for truth ... Art is an escape from truth.

 

HISTORY is a BROKEN RECORD ...

History is a broken record, repeating the same mournful song over and over ... (click)                                                                 History is a broken record, repeating the same mournful song over and over ... (click)                                                                 History is a broken record ...

 

A DEAL with the DEVIL

Long ago ... as an aimless youth adrift the streets of Babylon, I heard the Devil call my name ...

"Son," he said, grinning as only a devil can grin, "Got a job for you ...                                                                                               "What kind of job?" I said.                                                                                                                                                               "One that will fill your heart with such joy, every waking moment will be inexpressible delight and wonder."                                   "No shit?" I said.                                                                                                                                                                           "You'll be the happiest man in the realm," he said. "With this job you'll never need another. But ... there's a catch."                     "Let me guess," I said. "I have to hand over my soul."                                                                                                             "Nothing so Faustian," said the Devil. "The catch is you'll be poor."                                                                                               "How poor?" I asked.                                                                                                                                                                     "Let's just say ...  a Florida retirement is not in the offing."                                                                                                       "Poverty in exchange for happiness," I said. "An intriguing proposition ... So what's the job?"                                                           "Making art,” said the Devil, and then vanished, like mist on wind.                                                                                                       I thought long. Gauged my options carefully like a miner weighing gold dust and then shouted, "I'll take the job, Devil!"                     Thus I became an artist, a shaper of dreams. My days are filled with joy and my nights with the clamor of my creditors.

 

PEARLS

Some irritant, insult or longstanding outrage at social injustice creeps into the shell of the artist, like sand into an oyster, inducing the pearls we call artworks.

 

THREE MEN in a BOAT

Three men sat in a boat, drifting steadily toward the falls. The first shouted imprecations at the sky. The second scratched his balls and gazed vacantly at the horizon. The third, unnoticed, traced beautiful patterns in the water with his fingers ...

 

THERAPY

Art, like philosophy (and religion), is of value only to the extent it offers resolutions for the troubles of existence, either as escape or utopian vision. Otherwise, it is merely decorative, self-indulgent or worse ... propaganda for the rich and powerful.

 

GREAT AMERICAN HERO

John Henry ... the first man in American history to challenge the Machine and actually win. Like John Henry we must all hammer the Machine ... before it hammers us!

 

PHILOSOPHY is a BUXOM BARMAID

Philosophy is a buxome barmaid serving cocktails in equal measure to artist and scientist. In her company both parties are relaxed, conversation flows freely and meaningful communication transpires.

The scientist orders a dry martini, the artist ... a pina colada with lots of fruit on top.

 

The GATES of EDEN

As Adam began chipping the first stone tool, the Gates opened ever so slightly. The more he chipped, the more the Gates parted, until at long last, they swung wide open, revealing the measureless expanse of a bright new world beyond. Walking through the Gates, hand and hand with Eve, eyes open in profound wonder, he never noticed the Gates behind had silently sealed shut.

 

BRAVE NEW ART WORLD

We live in an age when anyone can be an artist, regardless of training or talent. The result is a free, egalitarian art world, but one with spotty quality and little originality. The artworks have grown to resemble one another. Thus speaks the disappointed man: I sought for great artists ... but all I found were the apes of other men's dreams.

 

The WISDOM of the AGES

A dark Babylonian tavern. A convocation of luminaries seated, engaged in lively discourse. A lull in the conversation...

“Wise sirs,” I spoke up. “Our world is dying. We are killing off species right and left. How must we stave off the 6th Extinction?”     “If you have two shirts,” said Jesus. "Give one to he who has none."                                                                                             "Don’t stress," said Buddha. "It’s all illusion anyway."                                                                                                                           "Goddam capitalism!" said Marx.                                                                                                                                                           "More wine?" asked Dionysus.                                                                                                                                                             "It's the Superman!" cried Nietzsche, pointing to his cell phone. "He's on his way. He'll know what to do."                                     "There is no life but the life of the next world," decreed Mohammed.                                                                                                 "Where one cannot speak, one must remain silent," said Wittgenstein, belching loudly.                                                                   "It's all in your head," said Bishop Berkeley.                                                                                                                                        "Bibo ergo sum," said a drunken Descartes.                                                                                                                                       "Don't believe it," said Diogenes, peeing into a barrel.                                                                                                                         "Think I'll self-deconstruct," said Derrida.

The lofty conversation continued well into the night. At long last, draining my glass, I departed. Wisdom, I mused, has its limits. 

 

The CONSOLATIONS of GEOLOGIC TIME

There is consolation in the knowledge that no matter how badly we savage the biosphere, in 10 million years nature will regenerate itself. We will not be here, having passed into extinction or into self-evolved, post-Niezschean supermen. But the Earth (barring an asteroid strike) abides forever and one day will be as biodiverse as ever ...

 

In the GALLERY OF BABYLON

One day in the Postmodern section of the Gallery of Babylon, I chanced upon a room filled with a strange species of bird-men. Standing on human legs, but with heads like parrots, first one, then another of these bizarre creatures strutted across the floor with great pomp and self-importance, shouting mysterious phrases like deconstruction! and signifier!  Thereupon the rest would puff their chests, nod their beaks vigorously and repeat the same arcane utterances. So great was their cacophony that I covered my ears and ran for the exit.

Doubtless, I thought, there are other rooms worth visiting.

 

REMBRANDT ONE DAY WANDERING

Adrift the confused Halls of Modernity,                                                                                                                                                   I met Rembrandt one day wandering.                                                                                                                                               We talked awhile of beauty,                                                                                                                                                             And the bitter vision of honest expression.                                                                                                                             Suddenly, we encountered a naked artist,                                                                                                                                   Squatting, legs apart, defecating loudly on canvas.                                                                                                                         "What ...?                                                                                                                                                                                               "He seeks the new," I explained.                                                                                                                                                         "But the smell ..."                                                                                                                                                                                 "That," said I, "would be the sweet fragrance of novelty."

 

HALF the SKY

Women make children. Men make history ... bloody, internecine, savage, interminably brutal history ... Enough!                       Time for men to relinquish the reins of power. Half the sky, you say? ... Better make it four-fifths. 

 

EVOLUTION'S GIFT

Sometimes the only thing between a man and the Abyss is a good laugh....                                                                                     Humor... never leave home without it.

 

COSMIC HAIKU

Cold moonless mountain,                                                                                                                                                                     Stars lie sparkling like jewels.                                                                                                                                                                 No atheists here.