Why we need art

sunsetArt has the power, I believe, to save the world if we take the time to learn its ways and to create some of it ourselves.

People are growing more adamant in their anger and blame. They are becoming more dictatorial, and more sarcastic. Creating art brings our attention to values that are completely antithetical to these behaviors. Let’s consider how we must approach art if we are to create it.

The first thing that strikes me is that creating art begins with pondering. As a photographer I ponder what I see in an effort to be truly open to things, people, and situations. I cannot make a good photograph by imposing myself or my views.

The sunset photo is the result of paying attention. I simply noticed the scene and clicked the shutter. There is no room for conceit. Art is a humbling experience.

The sunset photo reminds me that I am a witness to a grand plan and a magnificent creation. I have photographed young people over a span of decades. That, too, is a humbling experience. It reminds me of the pace and rhythm of life. Many people are moving in a different direction.

Art reminds us of beauty, and it reminds us that we have much to learn about appreciating it. Noticing and admiring beauty increases our receptivity to it in ourselves, other people, and the environment.

Consider Mr. Reich’s observations on how attitudes are being manipulated.

Surveys show that most of Trump’s followers are non-college-educated whites whose incomes have plummeted and whose jobs are less secure than ever. They’re mad as hell, and see Trump as heroic because he is acting as if he has their interests at heart. Trump is directing their anger and anxiety against Latinos, blacks, Muslims, the major media, and the political establishment. It’s the formula demagogues have used through history.—Robert Reich

It is my experience that people in general are reluctant to explore beauty through photographs. People who develop their artistic sensitivity are relatively rare. That is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about encouraging people to explore their own artistic calling.

The silence from readers of this blog suggests to me that people are wary of speaking up about their own interests. We would do well to change that attitude and behavior.

Ryan DeFusco

Ryan DeFusco

A sort of enlightenment

Prayer dogI’ve always thought—now please recognize that I’m old—that enlightenment came to people of virtue. I no longer think that virtue means worthiness. I think virtue means honesty. People who want to be enlightened, I think, must face their fears with respect and wonder.

Having fears, I’ve always believed, was proof of unworthiness. There has been a shift in my perceptions recently. It has taken way too long. I now consider courage as the willingness to dance with fear. That willingness is different from despising it.

The performance by Neil Young, father and son by the same name, provides guidance to me on bowing down to reality. I have always, always wanted to dictate reality, and my entitlement to do so was some kind of performance virtue. That does not, I now realize, even exist.

If you have four minutes to watch their performance it might open you in the way it has opened me. Your thoughts, my silent readers?

 

A new level of weird

Jade and Wayne, two dear people from Tucson, are currently on the Greek island of Lesbos that accommodates, so to speak, a camp for Syrian refugees. They are taking photographs of the people there. I say so to speak because conditions in both Greek camps are primitive, crude, and hostile. They are better than dying, which is the price of not being there. I invite you to read what the BBC says about the camps.

These are the shocking conditions in which terrified refugees are forced to live on a Greek holiday island having fled some of the world’s most dangerous regions.

Thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees have left the crumbled remains of their homes in their fractured countries behind them after fearing they could be killed.

Facebook provides a window of sorts into crises and the suffering they cause. This is especially the case when friends are attending the crisis and photographing it.

Add to this the self-righteous behavior of public figures who show their disdain for the Syrians.

More than a dozen US states have declared a ban on any Syrian refugees entering after one of the Paris terrorists appeared to be carrying a Syrian passport.

Thirteen states have put a halt on letting in people from the war-torn country following the attacks on Friday in the French capital.—Mirror

And we are the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On chatting with God

Prayer dogParamahansa Yogananda said we can have an out-loud conversation with God. He recommended having a clear image of what God looks like. My preference is in the direction of Divine Mother, because I am partial to the feminine spirit.

In his TED Talk Ken Robinson tells the story of a grade school girl who is drawing in art class. Her teacher asks what she is working on, and she says a portrait of God. The teacher says nobody knows what God looks like. The little girl replies, “They will in a minute.”

I hesitate to embarrass my friends, but I will do it anyway. She might look like Yuri, or Stormy Leigh. She might look like Cassandra. I consider all of them divine.

We must invent God, as the good swami told us. We must add to that earnestness, and a willingness to discard that which is not pleasing to God. We must be worthy of the conversation.

Yesterday I photographed the 50th anniversary celebration of Hermitage Cat Shelter. I did the work as a contribution to the hermitage and its residents. Our Emma Louise once lived in a shelter, and I am deeply touched by that, and by her love for us and her home. I hope God noticed my service, and that she was pleased.

Tell me, if you like, how you approach God. And I hope my dear friends will be pleased by my reverence for them.

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I aspire to learn kindness

Emma

Emma has been with us four of her ten years. Thanks to Tina, we brought Emma home from her no-kill shelter.

Kindness is not easy. If it were, we would all being doing it. But it’s not easy. I’ve been a fan of Jesus of Nazareth since grade school, and I’m still stuck in my fear. It is time to take this blog to a new level. It’s not like I have a choice in the matter.

We adopted Emma Louise four years ago because Tina was so kind to Emma and to me.

There are homeless people, and homeless quadrupeds, everywhere. I looked for median strip folks today and yesterday, and found none. I only give them a token offering. I wonder if I should bring them home for a shower and some food, and some conversation, but that thought frightens me at a very deep level. I have my own insecurities.

I was recently called to meet with a friend who, she told me, was contemplating suicide. I met with her 30 minutes later in her own neighborhood for a long and very satisfying conversation. I left her in better spirits than I found her. God bless. We agreed to meet again, and we will.

This video is about the rescue of a homeless dog. It is very, very sweet. It’s about an abandoned dog, frightened, and with very matted fur.

I have been aspiring to kindness for more than 60 years, and the work still frightens me. It will take me too deep, I say. I cannot fill the voids I discover in other people. I cannot fill my own.

My friends are all people of goodwill, but we do not often discuss our fears, nor our obligations to those who are wounded. Well, maybe we never will. What does that mean?

Do you readers have something to say about your adventures with kindness? It would be a great help to me.

Lessons in kindness

elfGreat movies tell us a lot about how life works. Great critics, like Roger Ebert, tell us a lot about how movies work. Doc Hollywood, with Michael J. Fox and other wonderful people, tells us primarily about kindness, and how it works.

Watching it, as I did again today, is a lesson in life. It was released in 1991. I rate it 10 on a 10 point scale.

I write many posts about kindness because it is the most important subject in the world. This is especially true as anger and contempt grow in popularity.

Love stories are among the trickiest kinds of movies to make. Stories of sex and passion are easier. What love needs is an ability to idealize the loved one, and to feel narcissistic bliss because one is loved by such a paragon. Dialogue and plot and all the rest take second place to the conviction that two people only have eyes for one another. Fox and Warner create that feeling, which is why “Doc Hollywood” is a sweetheart of a movie.Roger Ebert

Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 while shooting the movie Doc Hollywood, although he was not properly diagnosed until the next year.—Wikipedia

Roger Ebert said:

“Singin’ in the Rain” is a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it.

Gene Kelly demonstrated kindness in the most wonderful way: “Singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.”

You might consider Animal House an odd choice for films about kindness, but the characters in this movie meet lots and lots of meanness, and I think their responses are inspiring. They inspire me.

I studied leadership in graduate school. There is almost zero interest in leadership these days apart from what Pope Francis, Jon Stewart, Robert Reich, and a few others are doing. I have shifted my attention to the role and purposes of kindness, also following in the pope’s footsteps. Maybe I can be a kindness leader.

A parable for our times

Statue

Photographed at the J. Paul Getty Museum

I like to take the monster as a symbol of the state of our nation. It is especially descriptive of our men. The beast is conflicted, desperate, prone to violence, and painfully aware of its own lust.

The woman is the goddess of understanding. She understands herself, her place in the universe, and the pathetic state of the monster. She remains calm, and merciful. She does not inflict harm on him, although she could. She displays her physical charms with complete confidence, and without shame or guilt.

The monster is tormented by her level of comfort with herself because shame and guilt are what he knows best. He is accustomed to struggling with his lust and allowing it to torment and disorient him.

A parable often involves a character who faces a moral dilemma or one who makes a bad decision and then suffers the unintended consequences. Although the meaning of a parable is often not explicitly stated, it is not intended to be hidden or secret but to be quite straightforward and obvious.—Wikipedia

There is a little angel over her shoulder. He carries a flaming torch. He deals in light, something she already knows well. He is there not so much to protect her, but more to demonstrate attention and respect. The angel knows the beast is beyond any help he can provide. The angel serves the goddess.

The monster was not always in this condition. He made a series of moves over time. He confused himself, and attracted unworthy companions who led him further astray. He has only the faintest recollection of his own worthiness. The goddess can see into him, but she cannot reveal his own true nature to him. His thoughts are too clouded for that.

The useful message I get from this is that the universe is competent, caring, and orderly no matter how clouded our view of it is at present. The problems are contained in our own delusions.