Monday, June 20, 2011

Minds Wide Open

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

Henry Miller
Geology and drawing are two of the most important and most memorable courses of study of my experience, because they both taught me not only to observe but also to think.

Intuition is a valuable tool in those two disciplines as it is in any instruction of value. Intuition is one of the thruways to imagination. Observation is the starting place of all learning, doing and creating, the first step toward the silent world which is only symbolized by such things as rocks and drawings.
Immanuel Kant wrote "Sense is the faculty of intuition in the presence of an object. Imagination is intuition without the presence of the object."

Some rocks are very beautiful (lapidists deal in them) while others are very ordinary looking, just a rock. But all of them have stories to tell. It is interesting to examine a rock to determine it's age and chemical, cellular composition. But whenever I hold a rock in my hand I realize I am holding millions of years of history.

A mystic I used to know once gave me a rock she had pick up off the side of Mount Olympus in Greece, the mountain of the ancient gods. She put it in her purse and carried it all the way back specifically to give to me. I kept that rock for many years until someone found it and threw it out. It was just a rock, after all, it didn't belong in the house. So somewhere on the ground in Westchester County, New York is a bit of Mount Olympus.

One day I discovered an outcropping of stratified rock sticking up from the ground at an angle and pointing at the sky. I knew it was stratified, which meant it was made of layers of sediment, probably laid down by centuries of rain, baked in the hot sun, hardened into solid rock, then covered over by other layers, twisted into an arc by volcanic action of the earth and then eroded by rain and wind to it's current state. As I looked at it I tried to imagine what it must have looked like when it first covered the surrounding earth, and what it was like as a mammoth spectacle after the earth had buckled it. I also imagined the real possibility that somewhere, near or far, one could find the other end of that rainbow, a chunk of stratified rock jutting out of the ground and pointing in the opposite direction back to itself.

In upper Manhattan, around 200th Street, there's a boulder. It's surrounded very closely by houses and it's a prime piece of real estate. But ti's protected from developers because it's a natural wonder. It was set down there centuries ago during the ice age by a gigantic glacier that traveled through.

There is another boulder of comparable size along the Boulder Loop Trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That one is surrounded by trees and is also protected because of the National Forest it's in. I wonder if the two boulders are related. They were both probably set down by the same glacier.

Michael Chekhov (1891 - 1955) was the nephew of Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright. He was an actor who also taught and wrote on acting. One of his theories was called the PG, which stands for Psychological Gesture. It's not the kind of gesture such as pointing a finger or shrugging of shoulders but a full body gesture. With it an actor can convey the inner life of a character even though presenting a false face to the other characters on the stage. The way a person stands or sits can tell a lot about how that person feels or thinks.

I studied life drawing at various locations around New York City. When I first began I struggled with getting the proportions right of the human figure, then learning how to articulate the bones and muscles in different poses. After a few years I began to observe something else. The models weren't actors, most of them, but whenever they would drape themselves into a pose for a period of time they would strike a psychological gesture. Each figure, each pose had a story to tell. Though unconscious, perhaps, on the part of the model it was a clear statement of some inner life. My imagination began to provide histories of these people, current events in their lives, their fears and dreams. My drawings took on a more interesting quality and were more enjoyable to do and to see.

On the stage when a character enters the scene he is coming from somewhere. The actor is coming from the wings, but the character is coming from a specific place not seen on the stage. The actor has to know where his character is coming from, and he does know because he decides, through observation and imagination.

Imagination is creative intuition. By careful observation of all the things we come across in the world, from boulders to blades of grass, and by intelligent thinking about them, the mysteries of life unfold themselves on every level, in every place.

DB - The Vagabond
Never give up.
I recommend that you read "Voracious Details" at
Get in under the wire, before the door closes and you're left out in the heat.

(This is not a contest)

Come on. 12 diverse and interesting answers so far. Where's yours?

NASA has planned to send a two man mission on an 18 month trip to the planet Mars. It would take 6 months for the astronauts to get there and after 6 months of exploration another 6 months to return.

Should they do it and why, and if not, why not?

I eagerly await your answer.


1 comment:

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

Love looking at various rock formations, especially in the west.