Monday, February 24, 2014

Chesterton Quotes

I'm reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton and there were some good quotes:

"Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact.  The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity.  They began with the fact of sin - a fact as practical as potatoes.  Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.  But certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt."

"If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions.  He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do: or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.  The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

"Oddities do not strike odd people.  This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life."

"You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons.  The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world."

"To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain ...  The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens.  It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.  And it is his head that splits."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Defining What Art is Not

I had a teacher in acting class who said this about art, and I've adopted it as my own: Art must be more than just a clever idea.

You probably see where I'm going here.  I think there's a lot of so-called modern art that is either very poor art, or not even art at all.

Let me put it this way.  I am not a novelist.  I have a million different ideas for stories - I'm a very brainstormy kind of guy.  But if you picked up my book that's 300 pages long and only 5 pages were filled out, I think you'd feel cheated.  I might describe an amazing plot and interesting characters and fill in the themes and arcs and everything.  But if I haven't actually done the work of writing the novel out, then it's not a novel (although it might be a novel idea - see what I did there?) 

One of the reasons I've never turned one of my stories into a novel is because I know I wouldn't be very good at all of the descriptions and pacing and onomatopoeia and all of that other stuff that goes into it.  I can write screenplays, because that's mostly telling what happens and who says what.  And I can write this blog, because part of the idea here is to get an idea across in a fairly concise manner.  But I don't want to waste anybody's time with my poor execution in a novel just because I have a great idea.

But that's exactly what some 'artists' seem to do.  And I just don't think that 212 layers of the same red paint on a canvas qualifies as art.  Where is the talent?

What else is not art? 

Something that merely serves a function is not art.  A car, no matter  how cool looking, is not art.  A technical manual would not be art, no matter how well it is written.  A well-brewed latte, even with a cute design in the foam, is not a work of art.

Something that is simply discovered is not art.  If someone finds some trash laid out in a manner that is pleasing to his eye and takes a picture of it, that is not art.  Let us not confuse something that is pleasant to behold with art.

Nature is not art.  Yes, it's God's art, but if everything is art, then nothing is art.

Some other questions arise ...

What about art by kids?  Well, I think you have to take into account the age and aptitude of the artist.  And let's be honest, most artwork by kids, while it is art, is very bad art.  You may like it for sentimental reasons, and that's completely valid.  But just because Billy's drawing of his mommy in some ways resembles a Picasso, don't be confused into thinking it's great art.  Only one of them was done that way on purpose.

What about architecture?  I think there are many things done with artistry.  But while I may consider the Golden Gate Bridge to be 'a work of art', I don't mean that literally - I'm using metaphor to make the point that it's architecture that is so beautiful that I feel justified in comparing it.  Now, something like the Disney Concert Hall is another matter, as it's made to be both functional and artistic, so it perhaps exists in both worlds.

What about video games?  This, again, is a hybrid.  Some of the images in video games are quite beautiful or haunting or what have you.  And these companies have hired artists to create whole little worlds.  There is definitely art in there, but I would not say the game itself is art, as the game itself could function with stick figures.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.  Feel free to disagree, as I'm sure some of you will.  But if you disagree, then how do you define art?  And don't say it's indefinable, as that's just a cop-out.  There may be gray areas, but surely you can come up with some boundaries?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Grown Ups

I don't know how the rest of you walk around acting like grown ups all the time.

I think with a lot of people there's an understanding that, on some level, it's an act.  That many of us, at some point, look at ourselves and think, 'When did I get old?  And wasn't I supposed to grow up at some point?'  Because I'm not grown up.  I mean, I'm not the person I was when I was 10 or in high school or even in my 20's.  But I don't feel like an adult.

I think that's one of the reasons I don't like to wear suits.  It feels like I'm pretending.  When I put one on, I feel like everyone will see me as the little kid who's trying to look grown up in the ill-fitting suit.

You know who I really don't understand?  Presidents and CEO's and high-powered lawyers and all of those people who have real, adult jobs.  Do they feel the same way?  And do they simply have a great talent for faking it?  Or do some people actually 'become' adults?  I look at anyone who becomes president, and I'm struck by the thought that if they feel even the slightest sense, like I do, that they're not really grown up, but just doing a great job of pretending, then they've got huge cajones.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where do you exist, part 3

Wherein I discard my previous generalizations and try to make new ones.

I went on my yearly Dead Poet's Retreat this past weekend, and I was able to get answers to the question from about 20 more people.  And again some of the answers have thrown me for a loop.

My previous generalization about men being mostly in their heads and women being mostly in their hearts - I now throw it out the window.  Several of the men on my retreat indicated their gut as their center.  And two or three of the women indicated their heads.  Some new, random observations:
  • The gut thing is interesting, as in many ancient cultures, the gut was thought to be place where the soul resided.  And for at least one of the men who so indicated, I would consider him to be a bit more scholarly.  But that's probably a red herring.
  • I do think many women instinctively choose their chest as where they exist, perhaps even a majority, although a slim one. 
  • Two women now have indicated an area around their throats.  And these women have extremely different personalities.  For example, they are on the opposite sides of the introvert/extrovert spectrum.  I'm going to be giving a lot of thought to what they might have in common.  
  • One woman indicated the location by waving her hand over her head, to indicate 'way up there'.  Hers is an interesting story that includes an accident that erased all of her long-term memories, so that she essentially had to grow up all over again, and she has a completely different personality than she did originally.
  • One woman was very clear that her soul resided in her dreams.  She has very lucid dreams and remembers them all.  And she feels strongly that she 'belongs' there.
  • The first man to answer indicated his gut.  But he also predicted that his wife would be in her head.  And sure enough, she was.
  • I think my baseline for trying to unravel this mystery goes back to where it started.  All of the men in my men's group indicated in or near their heads.  And my first impulse was to generalize: men=head, women=chest.  Which turns out to not be true across the board.  But that doesn't change the fact that my first sampling did have the head thing in common.  So the next question is what else might they have in common that the head location could be an indicator of?  My next guess is that it's an inclination towards the theoretical.  In our group, we often get sidetracked by theological or philosophical tangents.  And we all enjoy it.  Now, I've had those types of discussions with non-head people, so it's not that non-head people can't enjoy a deep conversation.  But there is a certain giddy joy for the guys in my group in that regard.
As for me, I'm still joyfully mystified and trying to figure out what this all might mean, if anything.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where do you exist, part 2.

Since I last posted, I've been asking around.  The answers are fascinating.  What I've determined is that for most men, their consciousness is in or around their heads, while most women live in their chests.  There are exceptions - I know one guy who exists primarily in his chest, and a woman who indicated her throat.  But for the most part, men feel like they are head-oriented and woman feel heart-oriented.

Mind you (no pun intended), I've always generalized that men are more logical and women are more feeling (it's a generalization, not a rule).  The question is how are those related, or which came first?  Does someone live more by their feeling because that's where they exist?  Or do they live in that space because their feelings are so strong?

Another thought I've had about this related to an earlier blog of mine regarding hugging.  It makes more sense now, that if women live in their chests, then hugging might be a bit more sensitive.  I've likened it to if a guy, upon meeting another guy, grabbed his head and pulled it to his own, pressing their foreheads together.  It would feel weird and inappropriately intimate.  So, I do wonder if some women have hugging issues for the very reason that it requires them to press their very selves into that other person.

And, clearly, this also explains why men love to lay their heads on women's chests.  Ahem.