Overwrought

I've decided to mentally just resign myself to the fact that this isn't going to work out.

I called UMD and Princeton yesterday and both people I spoke to asked me for my name, did some typing, and then said that the admissions committee was still making decisions. [crazy-person response: does that mean that there's deliberation out on me still and that I may be accepted but just not as one of the star people they really really want? or does it mean that I've been rejected, but the person saw that and didn't want to tell me and so just did the whole "decisions aren't made yet" thing?] Stanford is apparently not answering phone calls at all, and the nice woman at USC whom I spoke to today broke the rejection to me gently [I didn't want to live in LA anyway ... ]

On my drive home from the pool this evening I realized that the longer I hoping, the more painful each day is. So I'm going to go by what I've read on those perfidious "who is luckier than me" sites and assume that my rejection letters from UMD, Princeton, and Stanford are all in the mail.

Another one of my crazy-person responses has been to remember back to this post, when I described how my vaguely superstitious nature cannot accept a fortunate occurence without expecting an unfortunate occurence to follow. And if we follow this illogical assumption out, the irony is just astounding -- in the process of gathering materials for my graduate school apps I am offered the chance to teach one semester as a visiting tutor [ie adjunct professor]. This offer is completely unexpected and fantastically uplifting. I'm rejuvenated, confident, etc etc. As the months of waiting slip by, I find myself beginning to have a "life of the mind" again, doing personal research and inquiry alongside my class preparation. And then I discover* that I have been shut out of graduate school and will, in fact, have another year to wait and worry and fall back into mental lethargy. [* = the anticipated outcome]

And in a slightly related vein, I've been gathering some reading material on theory of action -- in the effort of coming to even a cursory understanding of a topic that I think will have much to do with both Whitehead's process philosophy, as well as the Gilson/Valéry philosophy of art. Perhaps I just need to regard this entire episode with some wry sense of humor -- and return to my readings, begin to write a bit more [and with more focus], and continue to do what I love without the gleaming columns of academia sheltering me.

My family and friends have been very supportive during all of my panic, anxiety, and general craziness, so for that, I thank you, you lovely people. I hope to return to my regularly scheduled self by mid-March.

[see below link]

And on two completely unrelated notes, I found this delightful link today -- building a bookcase fort [umm can I have one please?], and this wonderful quote from Walden about my most favorite bird:

I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and underdeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all [men] have.

Overwrought

I've decided to mentally just resign myself to the fact that this isn't going to work out.

I called UMD and Princeton yesterday and both people I spoke to asked me for my name, did some typing, and then said that the admissions committee was still making decisions. [crazy-person response: does that mean that there's deliberation out on me still and that I may be accepted but just not as one of the star people they really really want? or does it mean that I've been rejected, but the person saw that and didn't want to tell me and so just did the whole "decisions aren't made yet" thing?] Stanford is apparently not answering phone calls at all, and the nice woman at USC whom I spoke to today broke the rejection to me gently [I didn't want to live in LA anyway ... ]

On my drive home from the pool this evening I realized that the longer I hoping, the more painful each day is. So I'm going to go by what I've read on those perfidious "who is luckier than me" sites and assume that my rejection letters from UMD, Princeton, and Stanford are all in the mail.

Another one of my crazy-person responses has been to remember back to this post, when I described how my vaguely superstitious nature cannot accept a fortunate occurence without expecting an unfortunate occurence to follow. And if we follow this illogical assumption out, the irony is just astounding -- in the process of gathering materials for my graduate school apps I am offered the chance to teach one semester as a visiting tutor [ie adjunct professor]. This offer is completely unexpected and fantastically uplifting. I'm rejuvenated, confident, etc etc. As the months of waiting slip by, I find myself beginning to have a "life of the mind" again, doing personal research and inquiry alongside my class preparation. And then I discover* that I have been shut out of graduate school and will, in fact, have another year to wait and worry and fall back into mental lethargy. [* = the anticipated outcome]

And in a slightly related vein, I've been gathering some reading material on theory of action -- in the effort of coming to even a cursory understanding of a topic that I think will have much to do with both Whitehead's process philosophy, as well as the Gilson/Valéry philosophy of art. Perhaps I just need to regard this entire episode with some wry sense of humor -- and return to my readings, begin to write a bit more [and with more focus], and continue to do what I love without the gleaming columns of academia sheltering me.

My family and friends have been very supportive during all of my panic, anxiety, and general craziness, so for that, I thank you, you lovely people. I hope to return to my regularly scheduled self by mid-March.

[see below link]

And on two completely unrelated notes, I found this delightful link today -- building a bookcase fort [umm can I have one please?], and this wonderful quote from Walden about my most favorite bird:

I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and underdeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all [men] have.

Patience


[Thank you for your comments yesterday -- as was apparent, I wrote that in a state of anxiety and burgeoning disillusionment.]

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but I'm already starting to think about reapplying for 2009. No, I haven't heard from any other schools, but during my copious amount of online time today at work, I explored the internet, searching for any piece of comisserating or validating discussion on graduate school applications.

I learned, of course, that I could have benefited from some better advice regarding all of this -- for instance, apply to more than 5 schools -- that I shouldn't feel badly about rejections at all -- that the acceptance/rejection decisions seem to be pretty random -- and that this is hardly the end of the world. I do feel a bit like some marooned and clueless outsider though -- with a dash of delusion thrown in.

I also found a whole slew of fellow PhD hopefuls who have blogged or been blogging about their application process [ I had known about Brian Leiter's blog and the Philosophical Gourmet, but I wish I would have known some of these other sites 5 months ago -- or bothered to look for them ]. [Blogical Necessity; de crapulas endormiendo; the boundaries of language; Think Tonk; doing philosophy; Penumbral Connections; The Splintered Mind; and I'm sure there are more]

And in addition to spending the entire day in a state of anxious worry, I also started to think seriously about the "what ifs" I entertained yesterday. I have some options for sure -- I could move, as I always seem to do when things don't work out according to my fantastic plans [Portland, OR ; Charleston, SC; and Chicago, IL are foremost on that front] -- I could stay put and hope for another semester of teaching at St. John's -- I could continue reading and writing, but in a tighter, more structured way. I could continue my creative projects, exploring firsthand the processes that I'd like to make my philosophical focus --

I've realized over the past few weeks that what I really want to study -- to do as my philosophy -- is the process of making. It's sort of the natural fusion of process philosophy and philosophy of art. Gilson has only underlined what Whitehead initiated. I'm interested in studying man and his mind as they are making things. And I'm interested in the complexity imparted to objects which are made -- objects as varied as Valéry's seashell, a poem by Mallarmé, or a Rembrandt portrait. How do these processes fit in to a metaphysical framework? How do they inform our conception of existence? What accepted ideas must change when we focus on man as a being who makes?

It's almost amusing how inverted this whole process has been -- before even submitting applications to PhD programs I was asked to teach at the school which is my intended teaching destination -- the place that I would like to devote my scholarly career to. But I still need to jump through the hoops -- the degree is something I need but it's also something I want. There's a part of me that misses classes, rigid research and structured curriculums. I want to be part of a department and have colleagues again. Even though I know I'm not suited for a life at a research university, I want to be part of that sort of community again.


So I'm trying to be positive about all of this waiting [which I'm not naturally very good at] -- I have to travel to campus tomorrow for some meetings and I'm planning on spending some time thinking and reading and hopefully getting some advice about all of this. I'm still waiting to hear from University of Maryland, College Park; Princeton; Stanford; and University of Southern California -- and from what I've read each of those schools has started sending out both acceptances and rejections.

I'd love to end with some beautiful passages out of Pessoa, but I feel I should save his melancholy words for a day when they don't actually echo my feelings.

Patience


[Thank you for your comments yesterday -- as was apparent, I wrote that in a state of anxiety and burgeoning disillusionment.]

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but I'm already starting to think about reapplying for 2009. No, I haven't heard from any other schools, but during my copious amount of online time today at work, I explored the internet, searching for any piece of comisserating or validating discussion on graduate school applications.

I learned, of course, that I could have benefited from some better advice regarding all of this -- for instance, apply to more than 5 schools -- that I shouldn't feel badly about rejections at all -- that the acceptance/rejection decisions seem to be pretty random -- and that this is hardly the end of the world. I do feel a bit like some marooned and clueless outsider though -- with a dash of delusion thrown in.

I also found a whole slew of fellow PhD hopefuls who have blogged or been blogging about their application process [ I had known about Brian Leiter's blog and the Philosophical Gourmet, but I wish I would have known some of these other sites 5 months ago -- or bothered to look for them ]. [Blogical Necessity; de crapulas endormiendo; the boundaries of language; Think Tonk; doing philosophy; Penumbral Connections; The Splintered Mind; and I'm sure there are more]

And in addition to spending the entire day in a state of anxious worry, I also started to think seriously about the "what ifs" I entertained yesterday. I have some options for sure -- I could move, as I always seem to do when things don't work out according to my fantastic plans [Portland, OR ; Charleston, SC; and Chicago, IL are foremost on that front] -- I could stay put and hope for another semester of teaching at St. John's -- I could continue reading and writing, but in a tighter, more structured way. I could continue my creative projects, exploring firsthand the processes that I'd like to make my philosophical focus --

I've realized over the past few weeks that what I really want to study -- to do as my philosophy -- is the process of making. It's sort of the natural fusion of process philosophy and philosophy of art. Gilson has only underlined what Whitehead initiated. I'm interested in studying man and his mind as they are making things. And I'm interested in the complexity imparted to objects which are made -- objects as varied as Valéry's seashell, a poem by Mallarmé, or a Rembrandt portrait. How do these processes fit in to a metaphysical framework? How do they inform our conception of existence? What accepted ideas must change when we focus on man as a being who makes?

It's almost amusing how inverted this whole process has been -- before even submitting applications to PhD programs I was asked to teach at the school which is my intended teaching destination -- the place that I would like to devote my scholarly career to. But I still need to jump through the hoops -- the degree is something I need but it's also something I want. There's a part of me that misses classes, rigid research and structured curriculums. I want to be part of a department and have colleagues again. Even though I know I'm not suited for a life at a research university, I want to be part of that sort of community again.


So I'm trying to be positive about all of this waiting [which I'm not naturally very good at] -- I have to travel to campus tomorrow for some meetings and I'm planning on spending some time thinking and reading and hopefully getting some advice about all of this. I'm still waiting to hear from University of Maryland, College Park; Princeton; Stanford; and University of Southern California -- and from what I've read each of those schools has started sending out both acceptances and rejections.

I'd love to end with some beautiful passages out of Pessoa, but I feel I should save his melancholy words for a day when they don't actually echo my feelings.

Essai

[Sara Tremblay]

Well I'm trying not to get too pitiful about this, but the first (and hopefully the last) rejection letter came in today, informing me that the University of Pennsylvania could unfortunately not accept me.

It is, of course, a sodden grey day, full of wet toes, dripping noses, and shivering limbs [arboreal and corporeal].

Pessoa says "I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling," so here goes:

I spent this afternoon reading through an essay by Paul Valéry on "Man and the Seashell" (which I quoted briefly in the beginning of the month). As I was reading I realized that I was feeling a familiar confidence amidst phrases and thoughts -- I felt like I had returned to the mental activity I was revelling in when graduate school came to an unfortunate end. I was finding those interconnections which please me so much -- like the threads uniting Augustine, Eliot, Keats and Woolf -- or the provocative thoughts found in Gilson and Valéry which I was applying to my own newly-budding artistic directions. I was further encouraged by the wonderful seminar on Books I - V in Augustine's Confessions last night -- full of interesting thought and discussion.

So I've been feeling confident about the whole student thing. I've been trying to ignore my natural pessimism which wants to keep dwelling on how I don't fit the mold of an admirable candidate -- I'm interested in marginal philosophical studies, I have my MA from a strongly non-research program, and I'm 2 years out of school -- I was trying to think of those things as if they were assets I could bring to a PhD program.

And now, with this first lovely electronic rejection [not that I'm sure having a piece of paper would be better], now I get to start thinking "what if?" My "what ifs" are twofold: 1) what if I get in nowhere at all? and 2) what if I get in somewhere but they give me no funding?

And my immediate backup plans are things like: cry, or "do some drastic undefined thing." But really, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. It sounds a bit silly when written out but I really do feel like I have a vocation -- to continue pursuing those questions that help us to figure out what it means to be human and to have existence. And I want to teach -- in the purest sense of that word.

And I'm torn now when I think of what my options are should everything fall apart ... do I wait another year? -- biding my time and trying to fight off the growing apathy which had me pretty close to submerged at one point ... do I give it all up as some unreachable dream and try and find a practical "career?" Thinking of either of those options makes my stomach turn and something in me recoil.

And I don't know if writing this has helped me in some way "lower the fever of feeling" or if it's something I'll come back and delete in a month, but either way I have to continue waiting.

Essai

[Sara Tremblay]

Well I'm trying not to get too pitiful about this, but the first (and hopefully the last) rejection letter came in today, informing me that the University of Pennsylvania could unfortunately not accept me.

It is, of course, a sodden grey day, full of wet toes, dripping noses, and shivering limbs [arboreal and corporeal].

Pessoa says "I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling," so here goes:

I spent this afternoon reading through an essay by Paul Valéry on "Man and the Seashell" (which I quoted briefly in the beginning of the month). As I was reading I realized that I was feeling a familiar confidence amidst phrases and thoughts -- I felt like I had returned to the mental activity I was revelling in when graduate school came to an unfortunate end. I was finding those interconnections which please me so much -- like the threads uniting Augustine, Eliot, Keats and Woolf -- or the provocative thoughts found in Gilson and Valéry which I was applying to my own newly-budding artistic directions. I was further encouraged by the wonderful seminar on Books I - V in Augustine's Confessions last night -- full of interesting thought and discussion.

So I've been feeling confident about the whole student thing. I've been trying to ignore my natural pessimism which wants to keep dwelling on how I don't fit the mold of an admirable candidate -- I'm interested in marginal philosophical studies, I have my MA from a strongly non-research program, and I'm 2 years out of school -- I was trying to think of those things as if they were assets I could bring to a PhD program.

And now, with this first lovely electronic rejection [not that I'm sure having a piece of paper would be better], now I get to start thinking "what if?" My "what ifs" are twofold: 1) what if I get in nowhere at all? and 2) what if I get in somewhere but they give me no funding?

And my immediate backup plans are things like: cry, or "do some drastic undefined thing." But really, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. It sounds a bit silly when written out but I really do feel like I have a vocation -- to continue pursuing those questions that help us to figure out what it means to be human and to have existence. And I want to teach -- in the purest sense of that word.

And I'm torn now when I think of what my options are should everything fall apart ... do I wait another year? -- biding my time and trying to fight off the growing apathy which had me pretty close to submerged at one point ... do I give it all up as some unreachable dream and try and find a practical "career?" Thinking of either of those options makes my stomach turn and something in me recoil.

And I don't know if writing this has helped me in some way "lower the fever of feeling" or if it's something I'll come back and delete in a month, but either way I have to continue waiting.

Boobs etc...

Hello Folks,

Well if you thought I was referring to the female variety you have been had! I'm actually talking about the 'mistakes' type of boob ! As can be seen by the previous blog, I made a boob big style, this comes of rushing at things like a bull in a china shop - typical Taurus !

Pi (Past Imperfect) started me listening to these videos you see on peoples blogs occasionally - I have tried listening to them a few times and thought (as in this case) Wow... Blue Eyes! well, you see I'm a sucker for 'Frankie boy's voice' - Oh, I know he was no angel but he had a fantastic voice ! I could listen to his singing forever.... Anyway, I thought I would load the video on to me blog . That was mistake number one, next mistake was I pressed something I shouldn't have and ended up putting on the blog the details of the song etc. The thing is it means that anyone who wants to hear it has to click and then has to return to me site - the foregoing explanation is a bit long-winded, but I think you will know what I mean.

I have decided that due to the confusion I caused in the foregoing exercise I will refrain from doing anything on me blog without the express say so of someone who can operate this piece of technology, as already stated I am not even penpals with that techno..... whatsit !

Will therefore halt this epistle and have another go again in a few days........

Byeeee all, Kate X.

Past-time

Miranda Lehman [film still]



I found these pages which were written this past summer, after reading Virginia Woolf's The Years:

And she has done it again -- again taken this most ephemeral of subjects -- the interior of the mind, the shrouded labyrinthine mind, and she has lit it up -- not with spangles or brilliance, but with a liquid, amber light. It's Rembrandt light, de la Tour light -- it illumines one corner, one aspect, yet leaves all else in shadow. And what do we find? Not tragedy, not comedy, not even what one would consider the stuff of greatness -- but that's the effort -- to show the impetus of life -- the unceasing forward motion of a life -- a streaming, flowing current of moments -- it is propelled just as much, if not more, by those surprising, fleeting snowglobe moments. It's not necessarily the death of a patent, nor a war, it's the memory of nameless bare shoulders, of a discarded flower of paint, of an old walrus. It's the memory of a youth with wood shavings in his hair, or a foreigner on a cold night.

I find it amazing how exact these vague people are -- I can hardly keep track of them, yet I know them as I know my own self -- my own sometimes-blurred outline -- hard to collect and reassemble. Like the moment upon waking, which Proust describes so well, when everything must be brought back into focus and cohesion -- all those parts of a person's life restored to some whole. Her characters are people who have formed sentences in their heads which they will never be able to speak -- there will always be a divide between the inner and the outer -- but only where those two 'worlds' are even an issue.

It's the moments of solitude, those drops of purity, where the fusion can occur, the settling, the restoration of a core. This sort of fusion can occur in company, but it will not be remembered beyond the bookends of thought -- the moment of solitude will be like a smooth stone, polished with the wear of memory till shining and a treasure.

Past-time

Miranda Lehman [film still]



I found these pages which were written this past summer, after reading Virginia Woolf's The Years:

And she has done it again -- again taken this most ephemeral of subjects -- the interior of the mind, the shrouded labyrinthine mind, and she has lit it up -- not with spangles or brilliance, but with a liquid, amber light. It's Rembrandt light, de la Tour light -- it illumines one corner, one aspect, yet leaves all else in shadow. And what do we find? Not tragedy, not comedy, not even what one would consider the stuff of greatness -- but that's the effort -- to show the impetus of life -- the unceasing forward motion of a life -- a streaming, flowing current of moments -- it is propelled just as much, if not more, by those surprising, fleeting snowglobe moments. It's not necessarily the death of a patent, nor a war, it's the memory of nameless bare shoulders, of a discarded flower of paint, of an old walrus. It's the memory of a youth with wood shavings in his hair, or a foreigner on a cold night.

I find it amazing how exact these vague people are -- I can hardly keep track of them, yet I know them as I know my own self -- my own sometimes-blurred outline -- hard to collect and reassemble. Like the moment upon waking, which Proust describes so well, when everything must be brought back into focus and cohesion -- all those parts of a person's life restored to some whole. Her characters are people who have formed sentences in their heads which they will never be able to speak -- there will always be a divide between the inner and the outer -- but only where those two 'worlds' are even an issue.

It's the moments of solitude, those drops of purity, where the fusion can occur, the settling, the restoration of a core. This sort of fusion can occur in company, but it will not be remembered beyond the bookends of thought -- the moment of solitude will be like a smooth stone, polished with the wear of memory till shining and a treasure.

Disconsolate chimeras

[all images are from Max Ernst's Une Semaine de bonte and were found here and here]


Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

-Burnt Norton, Four Quartets ~ Eliot

I was reading Eliot this weekend, along with St. Augustine's Confessions (for class on Monday), and a few snippets of Pessoa. I wrote about this passage once before [here] but I know I didn't say nearly enough at the time.

I love how active the above passage is. What is the intention of the words here? What do they mean? The necessary finitude of time? The interaction of actual and potential, now and then? Time is a motive thing, or perhaps a receptacle for motion and action [like the chora in Plato's Timaeus]. Only in time can something move. But there is also a distinction set up between moving and living -- and moving things seem to have it a little better.

It's tricky though -- what does it mean for words and music to reach into the silence? Is this some comment on their ability to last through time? Does the ability to reach into silence mean something about endurance? The Chinese jar seems to be rooted or anchored somehow -- it moves 'perpetually' in stillness, and in silence. It is immune somehow to frenetic and destructive time.

Eliot's jar reminds me of two other vessels, the urn of Keats, and the vase in Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts:

A vase stood at the heart of the house. Alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still distilled essence of emptiness, silence.

A beautiful couplet, and so evocative of Eliot's Chinese jar. The stillness seems to be obtained by things which are in some sense independent -- they don't need the 'life' of a spoken word, a played note -- instead it's that ineffable 'this is this' and 'that was this,' -- quiddity -- which reaches into the silence. If music/words can reach through 'the form, the pattern,' it has to be that which is created by the act of speech or musical play which lasts -- the moment of an occurrence, the crystallization of a particular -- of an idea or concept or cognition.

Gilson talks about this -- the artistic process -- how the artist keeps a cache of ideas and projects in her head, waiting for the correct expression, and how we cannot speak of art except to speak of the artist and her efforts. To speak about an artwork without thinking of the artist is to look at Eliot's Chinese jar -- to say with Keats: "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter ... " This is an accurate way of engaging with an artwork but it sheds little light on the complexities of art, the artist, and the creative process. To understand art, to speak of it as a philosophy, we must stretch our minds beyond the pure esthetic experience. The Chinese jar, the Grecian urn, the alabaster vase -- these beautiful objects are described as timeless, enduring, immune -- they are objects which delight the human mind.

Eliot isn't content to rest with the Chinese jar, he recognizes that there is something quite different about speech and music, about art which requires an agency to convey it:

... Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them...

[This is one of my favorite passages to read aloud]. Words are somehow more intimately tied with their living, human speakers. There is a much more intense admixture of timeless and living with words, and words are imprecise, inconstant, and untrustworthy because of this. The Word in the desert is tempted -- such a fertile image -- we discussed the Gospel of John two Mondays ago and I keep thinking of it, of the trials of word made flesh, of incarnation -- something that strives to be still, eternal, immune become fallible, susceptible.

I think this may be what Gilson is pointing to when he speaks of the difficulties of the philosophy of art. How do we speak of the beautiful? How do we study it, how is it understood in and of itself, and also in comparison to the good and the true? Augustine calls the beautiful "the least" of the three and despises it for its ability to enslave human beings and lead them away from truth. Keats says: " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Finally [I think] the last line of the first passage I copied out here is: "The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera." I love this line most of all, probably because it is the most enigmatic to me. It is so rich, to think of a chimera -- a being that is and is not, a creature that exists in potentiality but in reality is fantastic, imprecise, a figment composed of fragments.

~~~

It's this sort of reading and discussion that excites me most ... when art, literature and metaphysics coincide -- it seems to me that it's here, at the intersection of art/creation with existence that we can learn so much more about what it means to be human and to be a creature.

Disconsolate chimeras

[all images are from Max Ernst's Une Semaine de bonte and were found here and here]


Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

-Burnt Norton, Four Quartets ~ Eliot

I was reading Eliot this weekend, along with St. Augustine's Confessions (for class on Monday), and a few snippets of Pessoa. I wrote about this passage once before [here] but I know I didn't say nearly enough at the time.

I love how active the above passage is. What is the intention of the words here? What do they mean? The necessary finitude of time? The interaction of actual and potential, now and then? Time is a motive thing, or perhaps a receptacle for motion and action [like the chora in Plato's Timaeus]. Only in time can something move. But there is also a distinction set up between moving and living -- and moving things seem to have it a little better.

It's tricky though -- what does it mean for words and music to reach into the silence? Is this some comment on their ability to last through time? Does the ability to reach into silence mean something about endurance? The Chinese jar seems to be rooted or anchored somehow -- it moves 'perpetually' in stillness, and in silence. It is immune somehow to frenetic and destructive time.

Eliot's jar reminds me of two other vessels, the urn of Keats, and the vase in Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts:

A vase stood at the heart of the house. Alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still distilled essence of emptiness, silence.

A beautiful couplet, and so evocative of Eliot's Chinese jar. The stillness seems to be obtained by things which are in some sense independent -- they don't need the 'life' of a spoken word, a played note -- instead it's that ineffable 'this is this' and 'that was this,' -- quiddity -- which reaches into the silence. If music/words can reach through 'the form, the pattern,' it has to be that which is created by the act of speech or musical play which lasts -- the moment of an occurrence, the crystallization of a particular -- of an idea or concept or cognition.

Gilson talks about this -- the artistic process -- how the artist keeps a cache of ideas and projects in her head, waiting for the correct expression, and how we cannot speak of art except to speak of the artist and her efforts. To speak about an artwork without thinking of the artist is to look at Eliot's Chinese jar -- to say with Keats: "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter ... " This is an accurate way of engaging with an artwork but it sheds little light on the complexities of art, the artist, and the creative process. To understand art, to speak of it as a philosophy, we must stretch our minds beyond the pure esthetic experience. The Chinese jar, the Grecian urn, the alabaster vase -- these beautiful objects are described as timeless, enduring, immune -- they are objects which delight the human mind.

Eliot isn't content to rest with the Chinese jar, he recognizes that there is something quite different about speech and music, about art which requires an agency to convey it:

... Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them...

[This is one of my favorite passages to read aloud]. Words are somehow more intimately tied with their living, human speakers. There is a much more intense admixture of timeless and living with words, and words are imprecise, inconstant, and untrustworthy because of this. The Word in the desert is tempted -- such a fertile image -- we discussed the Gospel of John two Mondays ago and I keep thinking of it, of the trials of word made flesh, of incarnation -- something that strives to be still, eternal, immune become fallible, susceptible.

I think this may be what Gilson is pointing to when he speaks of the difficulties of the philosophy of art. How do we speak of the beautiful? How do we study it, how is it understood in and of itself, and also in comparison to the good and the true? Augustine calls the beautiful "the least" of the three and despises it for its ability to enslave human beings and lead them away from truth. Keats says: " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Finally [I think] the last line of the first passage I copied out here is: "The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera." I love this line most of all, probably because it is the most enigmatic to me. It is so rich, to think of a chimera -- a being that is and is not, a creature that exists in potentiality but in reality is fantastic, imprecise, a figment composed of fragments.

~~~

It's this sort of reading and discussion that excites me most ... when art, literature and metaphysics coincide -- it seems to me that it's here, at the intersection of art/creation with existence that we can learn so much more about what it means to be human and to be a creature.

Hibernate

[Caitlin Duennebier - Blanket Fort #6]

I took a snow day today... mostly because I can't resist them or playing hooky in general, and also because I am sort of the definition of non-essential at my job. So I just watched like 5 episodes of the Office while sewing a new embroidery project [a chrysanthemum!]. I'm about to work on Gilson and then some drawing, but what I really want to do is construct a blanket fort like the one here in Caitlin Duennebier's photos.

My siblings and I were the masters of tree forts, blanket forts, booby-trapped hideaways, and all other sorts of private abodes which were hostile to intruders. I guess I've carried that tendency into adult life, preferring my solitude and privacy, and my ability to take my little-dormouse self into a small snowy hole for the winter. Like Lucy Snowe, I wonder sometimes if I'll make it back out of my retreat, or whether my bones will be discovered come spring, picked clean by a stray magpie or jay.

Pessoa:

We are who we are not and life is swift and sad. The sound of waves at night is a nocturnal sound, and how many have heard it in their own soul like the constant hope breaking in the dark in a dull thud of dense foam! What tears were shed by those who failed, what tears were spent by those who reached their goal! In my stroll by the sea, all this came to me like the secrets of the night, the whispered confidences of the abyss. How many we are, how many of those selves we deceive! What seas break in us, in the night of our being, all along beaches that we only sense in the full flood of our emotion!

What we lost, what we should have loved, what we got and were, by mistake, contented with, what we loved and lost and, once lost, saw that we had not loved but loved it still just because we had lost it; what we believed we thought when we felt something; what we believed to be an emotion and was in fact only a memory; and, as I walked, the whole sea came rolling in, cool and clamorous, from the deepest reaches of the dark to etch itself delicately along the sands...

Hibernate

[Caitlin Duennebier - Blanket Fort #6]

I took a snow day today... mostly because I can't resist them or playing hooky in general, and also because I am sort of the definition of non-essential at my job. So I just watched like 5 episodes of the Office while sewing a new embroidery project [a chrysanthemum!]. I'm about to work on Gilson and then some drawing, but what I really want to do is construct a blanket fort like the one here in Caitlin Duennebier's photos.

My siblings and I were the masters of tree forts, blanket forts, booby-trapped hideaways, and all other sorts of private abodes which were hostile to intruders. I guess I've carried that tendency into adult life, preferring my solitude and privacy, and my ability to take my little-dormouse self into a small snowy hole for the winter. Like Lucy Snowe, I wonder sometimes if I'll make it back out of my retreat, or whether my bones will be discovered come spring, picked clean by a stray magpie or jay.

Pessoa:

We are who we are not and life is swift and sad. The sound of waves at night is a nocturnal sound, and how many have heard it in their own soul like the constant hope breaking in the dark in a dull thud of dense foam! What tears were shed by those who failed, what tears were spent by those who reached their goal! In my stroll by the sea, all this came to me like the secrets of the night, the whispered confidences of the abyss. How many we are, how many of those selves we deceive! What seas break in us, in the night of our being, all along beaches that we only sense in the full flood of our emotion!

What we lost, what we should have loved, what we got and were, by mistake, contented with, what we loved and lost and, once lost, saw that we had not loved but loved it still just because we had lost it; what we believed we thought when we felt something; what we believed to be an emotion and was in fact only a memory; and, as I walked, the whole sea came rolling in, cool and clamorous, from the deepest reaches of the dark to etch itself delicately along the sands...

Feather


I took this with my cell phone today ... ever since I heard Polaroid was closing up shop I've been trying to turn my silly little phone into something it's not ... but apparently there's some potential!

The pictures are of the same little spiral shedding.

Feather


I took this with my cell phone today ... ever since I heard Polaroid was closing up shop I've been trying to turn my silly little phone into something it's not ... but apparently there's some potential!

The pictures are of the same little spiral shedding.

List: Green


moss-covered trunks

fiddleheads unfurling

new felt

fennel bulbs, sliced thin


[Noele Lusano]



the jugolinija map

morrocan mint tea

terrariums





oxidized copper


4 stems


spring wishes

List: Green


moss-covered trunks

fiddleheads unfurling

new felt

fennel bulbs, sliced thin


[Noele Lusano]



the jugolinija map

morrocan mint tea

terrariums





oxidized copper


4 stems


spring wishes

On White


CELIA PERRIN SIDAROUS

I've been collecting paper lately.


There are the notebooks: A sketchbook which I use for collaging; there's the colored square-ruled notebook I'm using for class preparation and some academic-ish reading; I have a small reclaimed
moleskine papered with a lovely woodblock image of a swallow (I found this on Etsy), my cream-coloured reading journal, and the two journals currently waiting in the wings for an opening... one is a squared, large-format moleskine and the other is this lovely thing from Rosa Sharn Designs also on Etsy.

Then there's the paper scraps I found at Art Things two weeks ago, the 5 advice posters from Advice to Sink in Slowly, the cards from
this wonderful artist, a calendar from this talented woman, and the always-pretty catalogues I've been snipping into collage remnants.

And there's the non-paper writing I do ... dozens of e-mails to myself, remining me of links, names, and thoughts. I also transcribe passages I want to post here later (often-times much later).

And all of this amounts to a lot of the written word and I have trouble remembering what goes where ... and more importantly, what goes here.

[see above credit]


The morning sky in winter is so predictable and yet so stunning in its stark, bleak beauty. The light is blonde and cold, the sun shines through thick mats of cloud, or through wisps of cold ice crystals, or shines clear through the cerulean sky ... always in the same pallette of white/grey/pale gold. I want to wrap myself in these cold colours, to wear them, breathe them, to walk in cold blonde light. It shatters sometimes, and sometimes it curls around the corners and into the sorts of places that don't welcome light of any season. Oysters, lemons and the color of hair that's turning from golden blonde into grey. There's a sterile sort of magic in this light, and its glory is in its simplicity. One morning the light danced amidst a school of silvery mackerel-like clouds that raced across the sky, trailing snow and ice behind them.

Winter light loves the skeleton-trees. It throws them into relief, my favorite sunrise/sunset image. Dark and bare they twist and angle against the sky, recalling Shakespeare "... bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang ..." ), Dickinson ( "... like the weight of Cathedral tunes ..." ), and this little fragment from Amelie: "Si vous laissez passer cette chance, alors avec le temps, c'est votre coeur qui va devenir aussi sec et cassant que mon squelette." [read those last words aloud, their mellifluousness is incredible]. The winter sky is like an ossuary, like an x-ray plate carried around in one's breast pocket.

The latest issue of Cabinet has as its theme the topic of Bones (as well as a variety of other wonderful articles, images, and thoughts). So there are ossuaries in my leisure reading and this quote (from Matthew 23) in my academic reading:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens' bones, and of all uncleanliness.

I've had these morbid, rigid, stark-white images scattered in my mind and throughout my day for weeks now. I find myself looking for diagrams for paper airplanes, purchasing a necklace made out of the innards of a discarded watch, reading about labyrinths and golden spirals on wikipedia, and noticing the random geometry in nature.

It's snowing right now, and four hours ago I was driving home, watching how the accumulation of white powder transformed my familiar world into something strange and stunning. The white highlights on tree-bones; the zig-zagging lattice of lines and angles that was previously a pile of drab winter detritus.

A mown cornfield becomes a pincushion, or perhaps a hedgehog, or maybe just an entirely new thing consisting of staccato spikes and undulating waves of white. Sign posts, address numbers, and automobiles look natural now, a part of this new white world. There is snow on the bleached animal skulls that hang inexplicably from various trees on our property [all gleaned from walks through the surrounding country], white on white. Things which were once overlooked by my eyes become something new, something worth re-cognizing.

On White


CELIA PERRIN SIDAROUS

I've been collecting paper lately.


There are the notebooks: A sketchbook which I use for collaging; there's the colored square-ruled notebook I'm using for class preparation and some academic-ish reading; I have a small reclaimed
moleskine papered with a lovely woodblock image of a swallow (I found this on Etsy), my cream-coloured reading journal, and the two journals currently waiting in the wings for an opening... one is a squared, large-format moleskine and the other is this lovely thing from Rosa Sharn Designs also on Etsy.

Then there's the paper scraps I found at Art Things two weeks ago, the 5 advice posters from Advice to Sink in Slowly, the cards from
this wonderful artist, a calendar from this talented woman, and the always-pretty catalogues I've been snipping into collage remnants.

And there's the non-paper writing I do ... dozens of e-mails to myself, remining me of links, names, and thoughts. I also transcribe passages I want to post here later (often-times much later).

And all of this amounts to a lot of the written word and I have trouble remembering what goes where ... and more importantly, what goes here.

[see above credit]


The morning sky in winter is so predictable and yet so stunning in its stark, bleak beauty. The light is blonde and cold, the sun shines through thick mats of cloud, or through wisps of cold ice crystals, or shines clear through the cerulean sky ... always in the same pallette of white/grey/pale gold. I want to wrap myself in these cold colours, to wear them, breathe them, to walk in cold blonde light. It shatters sometimes, and sometimes it curls around the corners and into the sorts of places that don't welcome light of any season. Oysters, lemons and the color of hair that's turning from golden blonde into grey. There's a sterile sort of magic in this light, and its glory is in its simplicity. One morning the light danced amidst a school of silvery mackerel-like clouds that raced across the sky, trailing snow and ice behind them.

Winter light loves the skeleton-trees. It throws them into relief, my favorite sunrise/sunset image. Dark and bare they twist and angle against the sky, recalling Shakespeare "... bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang ..." ), Dickinson ( "... like the weight of Cathedral tunes ..." ), and this little fragment from Amelie: "Si vous laissez passer cette chance, alors avec le temps, c'est votre coeur qui va devenir aussi sec et cassant que mon squelette." [read those last words aloud, their mellifluousness is incredible]. The winter sky is like an ossuary, like an x-ray plate carried around in one's breast pocket.

The latest issue of Cabinet has as its theme the topic of Bones (as well as a variety of other wonderful articles, images, and thoughts). So there are ossuaries in my leisure reading and this quote (from Matthew 23) in my academic reading:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead mens' bones, and of all uncleanliness.

I've had these morbid, rigid, stark-white images scattered in my mind and throughout my day for weeks now. I find myself looking for diagrams for paper airplanes, purchasing a necklace made out of the innards of a discarded watch, reading about labyrinths and golden spirals on wikipedia, and noticing the random geometry in nature.

It's snowing right now, and four hours ago I was driving home, watching how the accumulation of white powder transformed my familiar world into something strange and stunning. The white highlights on tree-bones; the zig-zagging lattice of lines and angles that was previously a pile of drab winter detritus.

A mown cornfield becomes a pincushion, or perhaps a hedgehog, or maybe just an entirely new thing consisting of staccato spikes and undulating waves of white. Sign posts, address numbers, and automobiles look natural now, a part of this new white world. There is snow on the bleached animal skulls that hang inexplicably from various trees on our property [all gleaned from walks through the surrounding country], white on white. Things which were once overlooked by my eyes become something new, something worth re-cognizing.

The labour of art

Miranda Lehman

Found on Gabriele Beveridge's site:

Inside everyone there are secret rooms. They're cluttered and the lights are out. There's a bed in which someone is lying with his face to the wall. In his head there are more rooms. In one, the venetian blinds shake in the approaching summer storm. Every once in a while an object on the table becomes visible: a broken compass, a pebble the colour of midnight, an enlargement of a school photograph with a face in the back circled, a watch spring - each one of these items is a totem of the self. Every art is about the longing of One for the Other. Orphans that we are, we make our sibling kin out of anything we can find. The labour of art is the slow and painful metamorphis of the One into the Other.


I love this and how well it resonates with the artistic process as it is described by Etienne Gilson. Her image of the man on the bed also reminds me of Leibniz and his world of infinite variety and perfection.

There is a world of created beings - living things, animals, entelechies and souls - in the least part of matter. Each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fish. But every branch of each plant, every member of each animal, and every drop of their liquid parts is itself likewise a similar garden or pond.

The labour of art

Miranda Lehman

Found on Gabriele Beveridge's site:

Inside everyone there are secret rooms. They're cluttered and the lights are out. There's a bed in which someone is lying with his face to the wall. In his head there are more rooms. In one, the venetian blinds shake in the approaching summer storm. Every once in a while an object on the table becomes visible: a broken compass, a pebble the colour of midnight, an enlargement of a school photograph with a face in the back circled, a watch spring - each one of these items is a totem of the self. Every art is about the longing of One for the Other. Orphans that we are, we make our sibling kin out of anything we can find. The labour of art is the slow and painful metamorphis of the One into the Other.


I love this and how well it resonates with the artistic process as it is described by Etienne Gilson. Her image of the man on the bed also reminds me of Leibniz and his world of infinite variety and perfection.

There is a world of created beings - living things, animals, entelechies and souls - in the least part of matter. Each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fish. But every branch of each plant, every member of each animal, and every drop of their liquid parts is itself likewise a similar garden or pond.

Cloth

I plan on writing a lengthier and slightly more erudite post tomorrow, but I also wanted to showcase a few of my favorite looks from fashion week last week.

I've mostly been loving patterns and bright splashes of color, especially in the form of tights.

[all photos from style.com]

Behnaz Sarafpour





Proenza Schouler and Matthew Williamson





Rodarte





DKNY





United Bamboo and 3.1 Philip Lim


Monique Luhillier


Erin Fetherston