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Category: philosophy

art in a time of crisis

prelude-to-alice-1955.jpg!Large

     “Prelude to Alice (1955) 

 

         Charles Blackman


               __________

 


in all the fallout from the very early 

reactions still to the present global 

crisis, self-isolation, a retreat from 

the, not only usual but consolidating, 

aspects of our communal interactions, 

there remain effective manners of 

dealing with this sea, this profoundly 

existential, change we are viscerally

experiencing

 

a social animal is being asked to 

eschew – Gesundheit – social contact, 

this is not an inconsequential ask

 

religions might’ve earlier been common

recourses for many believers, but the 

restrictions on assembly are already

impeding such solutions, we are left,

therefore, to find personal answers to 

our prescribed isolation – what do I do 

with my time, how do I subsist when 

my supports are disintegrating 

 

let me suggest immersion in the lessons

art has bequeathed us through the ages

 

it isn’t a bad time to review, for instance,,

the majesty of Homer’s Iliad, Ovid’s 

Metamorphoses, his interpretation of 

the origin of the world, its genesis, 

Shakespeare’s tragedies, Beethoven’s

transcendental music, since many of us 

are confined to our homes

 

rather than rue, bristle, use our time, I

suggest, to contemplate, learn, discover 

 


in looking for flowers recently, for a 

friend who’s undergone her own 

private agony, unrelated to the 

recent international medical crisis,

I fell upon, again, the magical 

inventions of this utterly inspired 

painter

 

like many other, even celebrated, even 

revered, artists, this, however insulated,

however apparently isolated, visionary,

with the strength of his inspiration, 

gives weight to the power of mere 

poetic passion, a thrust towards what

is thought of as beautiful, however

individual, suggesting that each our 

own aesthetic is of value, when

fervently followed, pursued,

check him out


meanwhile, I’m learning to sing, creating 

a repertoire, what have I got to lose

 


R ! chard

 


 


 

“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 101

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

 

       Sandro Botticelli

 

             _________

 

 

a friend expressed some interest in Ovid’s

Metamorphoses recently after I’d sung for 

a few moments its praises, had told her I 

was revisiting it after some time with the 

intention of duly, this time, completing it, 

given that, hey, we’ve got lots of time, at 

present, all of us, on our hands, by very 

mandate  

 

it sounds wonderful, she briefed me after 

I’d sent her the appropriate link, but there 

are some parts I don’t understand

 

I’ll help, I said, only too eager to share 

the delights of this inprobable treasure,

a gift nearly two thousand years old, 

with the magic still of very revelation

 

Metamorphoses is a creation story, the 

equivalent of the Bible for those who 

revered the Roman deities, the same 

deities that the Greeks revered, but 

transplanted, renamed, to Roman 

stock, like the Puritans did their  

Christian seed at Plymouth Rock  

 

Ovid, 43 BC to 17/18 AD, was a Roman

poet, paying fealty to Augustus, Emperor

of Rome, 63 BC to 14 AD, therefore his 

Roman goddesses, gods, and his, 

contemporary, Latin

 

which was translated into English early 

in the Renaissance, but found its best

expression, to my mind still, in the 

eminent hands of Sir Samuel Garth,

John DrydenAlexander PopeJoseph

AddisonWilliam Congreve, among 

others in, already, 1717

 

listen 

 

The Creation of the World

 

       Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
 

Ovid is saying my topic is transformation, very

metamorphoses, plural of metamorphosis


       Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring,
       Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat;
       ‘Till I my long laborious work compleat:
       And add perpetual tenour to my rhimes,
       Deduc’d from Nature’s birth, to Caesar’s times. 

 

poets have traditionally called upon their related

muses to inspire them to accomplish their task,

Ovid invokes his Gods, compare Shakespeare’s 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The

brightest heaven of invention, his prologue to 

Henry V   

 

“Ye Gods”, Ovid says, from whom these 

miracles did spring”, those everyday wonders 

that surround us, inspire me, he asks, that I 

might “compleat”, which is to say complete, 

his poem, this long laborious work”

 

his “numbers” are his years, “coelestial”, or

celestial, “heat”, is inspiration

 

“tenour to my rimes” means rhythm, weight, 

to his poetry

 

“Nature’s birth”, or the beginning of time, to

“Caesar’s time”, Ovid‘s own period under

Augustus

 

Ovid asks the Gods to fuel him with the

fire to tell the story of the world from its 

very beginning to his own epoch,

Caesar’s 

 

how’s that for a project

 

 

enough for now

 

but stay tuned for, to follow, the Creation,

capital C, I tell you 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

on love – “Nature Boy”

99_9

    unidentified

 

       _______

 

                               for Danielle and Joe

 

a few nights ago, friends came over, a 

young couple, in the bloom of youth,

relatively speaking, half, approximately, 

my age, I’m seventy, for a glass of wine

 

during a conversation about the many

knickknacks scattered about my 

apartment, pictures, paintings, 

assorted paraphernalia, memorabilia,

they asked, was there one piece of 

information I could give them, 

something not just physical, but 

metaphysical, that could lead to a  

good and meaningful life

 

after cautioning that any answer would

be way too complex, the question way 

too broad, I nevertheless trotted out, 

convivially, a few words of ready 

wisdom, a couple of trusted and true 

maxims I hold in store for such 

occasions, personal precepts, 

however seemingly flippant, I 

faithfully and diligently live by

 

pray for grace, for instance, make sure 

your tie’s on right, the only two 

practicable positions in any 

predicament, I’ve found

 

 

later, after privately thinking more 

about it, I realized there is indeed a 

specific answer, I’d been singing it 

already for a while, to help me deal 

with recent, and even accumulated, 

loss, it is the punchline to this 

wonderfully enchanted 

composition, called Nature Boy

 

      the greatest thing you’ll ever learn,

 

it knowingly advises 

 

      is just to love, and be loved in return 

 

words eminently worth retaining

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

on Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6, the “Pastorale”

the-sound-of-the-flute.jpg!Large

      The Sound of the Flute 

 

               Xu Beihong

 

                 ________

 

 

                                    for Susan, who urges

                                               me ever to write

 

 

a friend wrote recently, extolling a

performance of Beethoven’s Sixth

Symphony he’d just seen, a 

noteworthy conductor conducting 

 

then again, how can you go wrong, 

I wrote back, with that already 

enchanting music, sent him, in

return, a version I’d ferreted out,

tried out for him, had been duly

enchanted, had laughed, had cried, 

taken shelter from the storm, come 

out the other side transported, again  

 

I wondered about the power of music, 

during my intermittent musings

throughout the variegated movements, 

as the peregrinations ambled on along 

their own magical explorations, long 

irrepressible arpeggios running up or 

down the scales, performing 

arabesques at their peaks, rumbling 

tremolos at their grumbling bottoms, 

before returning to the more stable 

middle ground of the melody

 

where, wondered, does it all find its 

source

 

sounds, individual sounds, would 

have been signals of danger, 

originally, a single note from a horn

warning of strangers on the way to

a community of otherwise peaceful

cohabitants if not only family, twig 

cracking in the forest when you 

believe you’re all alone

 

individual sounds would’ve picked

up meaning beyond their own pitch

and volume, resonance, reverberation,

rotundity, through Darwinian, even, 

time

 

a mother’s voice, for instance, 

identified immediately, upon a single

note, perenially, by any of her brood

 

 

it’s a long way from there to a symphony

but those are its roots, why we laugh, why

we cry, take shelter from the storm, and 

come out the other side transported

 

notes are written, emblazoned, on 

our consciousness, our lives depended,

depend still, on it 

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: interestingly, our Darwinian evolution

          has produced pitch as an identifying

          factor for our species, a female voice 

          is higher than a male’s, this has 

          allowed us, as a species, to sing

“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

lipstick-1908.jpg!Large.jpg

    Lipstick (1908) 

 

          Frantisek Kupka

 

               __________

 

 whenever my heart is broken, I’ve recently 

noted, I’ve learned to sing a corresponding

song, it didn’t happen by design, but  

organically, it seems, as a response to my 

periods of anguish, a song would come up, 

each time, to contain the dimensions of my 

rue 

 

I need to learn the notes, which are usually 

tonal and melodic, with the characteristic

that they pretty consistently span a vocal

range that requires some intimate attention, 

work that tears me away, studiously and 

diligently, from my own private concerns

in order to consider, through his, her, very 

articulated lyrics, those of another, not to

mention the response of my proposed 

audience

 

I have developed quite a repertoire 

 

recently, this has been my aria

 

 

I was especially impressed by the 

irony in the composition, the 

songsmith laughing at himself, 

melodramatizing his sentiments, 

taking the sting out of his despair, 

if you’ll pardon the allusion
with over-the-top, it must be 
admitted, metaphors, allegories 

I mean, I walk along a street of

sorrows, a boulevard of broken 

dreams, you need a big floppy 

hat, and very red lipstick to pull

that one off

 

you ought to see me

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard  

 

 

   

from my dictionary

chardenal-dictionary.jpg!Large

       “Chardenal Dictionary (1908) 

 

               Max Weber

 

                   ______

 

a few indiscriminate selections, not 

even in alphabetical order

 

      pity: love, but without the admiration 

      art: the product of deftness applied to an intricacy  

      to conceive:

           a) to think of

           b) to make happen

 

      poetry: the conjunction of Beauty and Truth,

              a bridge between language and music

       courtesy: a prelude to poetry

       prelude: what comes before 

 

      nucleus accumbens: the brain’s pleasure centre

      religion: the institutionalization of faith



R ! chard

 

 

 

 

“Death is nothing at all…” – Henry Scott Holland

St_Paul's_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_(early_19th_century)

     “St Paul’s Cathedral 

 

           Thomas Hosmer Shepherd


                          _____________

 

upon learning of the recent demise 

of my younger sister, my only sibling,

a friend sent me the following passage

 


    “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away 

     into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains 

     exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we 

     lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we 

     were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar 

     name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put 

     no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or 

     sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we 

     enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my 

     name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be 

     spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

     Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. 

     There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death 

     but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because 

     I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 

     somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing 

     is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was 

     before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we 

     meet again!”


 

it is usually presented as a poem, but 

was part of a sermon, rather, given by 

Henry Scott Holland, the very pastor 

who composed it, at St Paul’s 

Cathedral, in London, after the death 

of Edward Vll

 

listen

 


it expresses well the experience I’ve

had with others of my beloved 

departed

 

intimations of my sister are already 

popping up in my reality, soon, I told 

another friend, I’ll be talking to her 

more often than when she was not 

gone

 

much as is the case with my father, 

for instance, away some 30 years 

now, but an abiding presence, 

however mystical, still, and, 

it appears, forever

 

I consider myself profoundly 

blessed

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

on our magnificence

allegory-of-magnificence-1654.jpg!Large.jpg

   Allegory of Magnificence (1654) 

 

      Eustache Le Sueur

 

           ____________

 

we have only our magnificence to 

counteract the indignity of our 

incarnation

 

a flower is itself its only existential 

defence, its effervescence of 

attributes – colour, grace, 

intoxicating aroma – its 

validating glory

 

we are such things as dreams 

are made of, its a question of 

choosing one’s dreams

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

grammmar in action, verb moods

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

 

     Philosophy and Grammar 

   

            Gentile da Fabriano

 

                    __________

 

reach, imperative, I always say, indicative, 

for a star, you might, conditional, get the 

moon, but you might also, conditional, 

get a star

 

such is the power of mood in verb 

structure, and an expression of how 

words through grammatical stipulations

become inspiration, poetry

 

think about it 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard