Friday, December 4, 2009

Consider the Lilies

Always think of what is useful and not what is beautiful. Beauty will come of its own accord.

Nikolai Gogol
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FORM AND FUNCTION

I'm sitting here in a puddle of thoughts, listening to some jazz and surrounded by all the little tasks and loose ends of my current life wondering what to do about them. I think there has never been an artist who didn't leave behind fragments. An idea comes out of a mind that is oiled up to a vigorous imagination and it's easy to think it's going on to become a great work, or maybe a moderately good work. And yet somehow it ends up in a drawer or a box only to be found later and wondered about.

I once read an article by a writer who said that he enjoyed dreaming up titles. He had a collection of titles for books and stories he would never write. I've seen young actors come into a class or an audition and try to tear up the stage with drama, to show how emotional and colorful they are, without having any grasp of what the speech is about.

It's not only in the arts where this is done. People will have and hold a theory and then bend the facts in order to prove it. A scientist will make the mistake of having a conclusion before doing the calculations to get there. Folks will work hard to make something resemble something else instead of itself. It's called starting from the wrong end, starting with the effect without looking for the cause.

The flower doesn't grow out of the ground just to look beautiful for our benefit much as we would like to think so. The design of its petals are to catch special rays of sunlight and reflect others back and so we see shape and color. Its leaves fulfill other purposes and the vibrations it sends out to bring pollination and to renew itself we enjoy as aroma. The brazen sunflower in the front yard and the humble violet in the corner of the garden are both fulfilling their functions.

If you design a building, whether it's a skyscraper or a shed, all of its purposes must be accounted for. A poet knows there is only one right word for a place in the line. He will reject everything that isn't that word. A composer must consider all the intervals and harmonics of a piece in order to make the melody sing. For the scientist, when all the calculations have been properly done the correct formula blossoms into place. The actors job is to tell the story, to know all of the relevant facts, to pursue a well established purpose within that story and to bring all the pieces together into the logic of events. I'm listening to jazz pianist Dick Hyman play a piece and noting that he could not get to the beautiful finale of it if he had not connected all the dots and filled all the spaces on the way.

Raymond Shurtz in his journal, "Cowboys and Bohemians" calls it the "click." That moment when the work has been done right and you know it and the result is inevitable. I have proved this too many times in my life not to know it's true. When you start at the beginning, when the work is done unselfishly and done rightly there comes a moment when the result appears like magic. And it's beautiful.

DB - The Vagabond

9 comments:

Linda S. Socha said...

The sweet spot...Well said DB
Linda

Linda's World said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda's World said...

I love your first line...."sitting here in a puddle of thoughts." 31* here at 11:45pm Thursday evening. Brrrrr Linda in WA

Char said...

Nice post. I love flowers, and in SW Florida, you can have them all year. A while back, I planted some lovely flowers around my pool. Everyone commented on their beauty. I saw what I thought was those ugly orange cattapillars and went for my spray to kill them. Well, I did, I had picked up the wrong sprayer and sprayed weed killer on them--gave them a good dose of it. They. are. all. dead.

Big Mark 243 said...

Of course, the Golgol quote caught my eye ... but the Raymond Shurtz line really touched me.

Great entry, DB.

Woolysheep said...

Well said.

Rose said...

You write so well and I enjoy reading every word.

Great post. I agree with Linda...I love that same sentence too..."sitting here in a puddle of thoughts". Good job!

Hugs, Rose

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

The tail wagging the dog comes to mind. Also love the useful vs. beautiful quote.

salemslot9 said...

"I have never forgotten what he said - that this land was fair land, the fairest of them all. This is where the lilies bloom."