Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TWO COYOTE POEMS


THE WORLD

The world is too much
with us, Coyote recalls
from years long past.
Soon and late, or late
and soon, he jumbles
up the words, anyway,
getting and spending,
we lay waste our powers…
and then the rest is gone.
Sometimes, though,
he remembers the whole
thing, Maître Corbeau,
for example, sur un arbre
perché, that one.  There
is no rhyme or reason
to exlain remembering.
Well, sometimes maybe
rhyme.  Mostly, though,
it’s only snippets, like
the world is too much
with us.  Wordsworth.






GOOD MOMENTS

In his good moments
Coyote brings to mind
the need to send out
thoughts of goodwill
and compassion to those
who, whether out of
ignorance or malice,
cause mischief in the world;
and not least to those
innocents who are made
to suffer in consequence. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

DISGUSTED

How cowardly are these men who strut around with guns!  The images out of the Ukraine, with rebel militiamen "guarding" the site of their misdeed while the bodies of their victims rot is indeed disgusting.  No less disgusting is the refusal of Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept responsibility for his part in what is essentially a massacre, nor to bring his influence to bear on the perpetrators.

It's a sad reflection on our times that strength is measured in weaponry.  These men with guns are prevalent not only in the Ukraine, but in too many parts of Africa, in the Middle East, in Central and South America... and, more sadly still, in our own country.  There are bullies everywhere, empowered not with human intelligence, a passion for justice or compassion, but with sheer firepower.  They are, in today's world, anachronisms, out of touch with the realities of an emerging global community of people who are desperately seeking basic human rights.

If I find it in my heart to send them goodwill and compassion in my morning meditation, it is because I pity them for the ignorance, insecurity and pain that cause them to act as they do.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I'M WONDERING, HAWKS...

... what you think of your "strong" man now?  The one to whom you were pleased to--unfavorably--compare our President Obama just a short while ago?  The one who demonstrated his "strength" by equipping a rag-tag bunch of Ukrainian dissidents with the firepower to bring down a civilian airliner from 33,000 feet, raining human bodies from the sky?  And now your primary spokesman, Senator John McCain, has the temerity to call the president a "coward"?

My personal view is that we are far better off with a man who values human life and acts with forethought and deliberation.  Beside the intemperate and ruthless Russian president--talk about "tyrants"!--Obama looks like a tower of strength and stability.  He's more valuable to this world than a thousand Putins.  His sanity, circumspection and restraint are beacons of moral strength amidst the turmoil that has so much of the planet in its grip.

Sooner or later, before we all kill each other, our species will need to learn that Obama's way is the only path to our common survival.  It is not shoot-from-the-hip displays of "strength" we need, but consciousness.  Which implies deliberation, the ability to understand other views, compromise, generosity, compassion...  Which is, not coincidentally in my view, the way of the dharma.  Therein lies strength.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RICHARD BRULAND and SOPHIA DIXON DILLO: Art Review

Those who favor a meditative kind of art could do no better than a visit to the current dual exhibition at Lora Schlesinger Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.  The front gallery offers a selection of recent paintings by Richard Bruland; and tucked away in the small back gallery is a collection of works by Sophia Dixon Dillo.  Though they share that meditative quality, these are two artists with very different visions.  Bruland's painted surfaces are richly textured, colorful, intense; Dillo's small paper works are spare, delicate, eschewing color in favor of zen-like simplicity.  Together, they challenge the mind and delight the observing eye.

Richard Bruland--by way of disclosure, I should note that he is a past, long-time member of an artists' support group of which I was also a member--builds the surfaces of his paintings with multiple layers of thickly and unevenly applied acrylic paint, sanding them down to reveal the resulting complex substructure.  Typically, in the past, he has worked with a sometimes hard-to-perceive grid, stressing the horizontal or the vertical, allowing the eye to find the reassurance of stability in the subtle, ever-shifting sea of color.  Typically, too, he has worked with a gradual shift from light to darkness, adumbrating the progress of life itself, or of the moments of our lives as our moods change imperceptibly with the constant flux of feelings.

Richard Bruland
Yodel
, 2014
acrylic on dibond panel
36 x 84"
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)
In his recent work, the grid is attenuated and sometimes disappears completely.  Instead, he works with what my eye perceived as lacunae--"holes" is too crude a description of these effects--that draw the attention from moment to moment away from the complexity of the surface and into the depths behind it.  Like supernovas in the universal panoply, dark holes, dangerous attractions, they act as tiny whirlpools, at once pulling in and repelling the fascinated eye as it roves the surrounding areas of paint.  Of particular interest to me were two paintings where Bruland seems to have allowed free rein to his flirtation with the dark side--one predominantly a deep, midnight blue...

Richard Bruland
Banderillas,
 2014
acrylic on wood panel 
24 x 24"
... the other almost entirely black...

Richard Bruland
Queen of Swords,
 2014
acrylic on wood panel 
30 x 30"
... dark, glowing presences that invite a meditation on that ultimate and tantalizingly unknowable human experience, death itself.

Sophia Dixon Dillo's small works on paper are, by contrast, as quiet as a whisper.  The artist uses a knife to create small, sometimes tiny slits in the surface of the paper, lifting it into a subtle relief.  With an infinite patience in which she invites us to participate, she repeats these slits in patterned variations, creating enchanting musical effects...

Sophia Dixon Dillo
Untitled (2474) detail,
 2014
incised paper
7 x 7 "
... that speak to us with the gentleness of a soft rain or the ephemeral passage of a flight of birds...

Sophia Dixon Dillo
Untitled (2506) detail,
 2014
incised paper
16-3/4 x 16-3/4" - framed
The modesty of her scale and of the marks she makes appeal to my appreciation for smaller, less overtly ambitious works of art.  Their obsessiveness speaks of an inwardly-directed vision, the search for an always elusive perfection that is characterized, paradoxically, by its opposite, the imperfection that is built into our human nature.

Sophia Dixon Dillo
Untitled (2490) detail,
 2014
incised paper
26-1/2 x 26-1/2" - framed


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

VITUPERATIVE

It's a wonderful word, despite the fact that its meaning is not so benign.  It's one of those words that stand out for their remarkable precision, whose sound seems perfectly to reflect their meaning.  Say it out loud, "vituperative," and you can't help but feel the small-mindedness, the bitter vengefulness, the blame, the pent-up anger that the word so potently condenses.  Its etymological origin is the Latin vituperatio, the act of blaming, and it comes also in the form of a verb, vituperate, and a noun, vituperation.

This is not a word that I use often.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I used it.  It came to me yesterday morning as I read this front page New York Times article about the recent bitter Republican primary in Mississippi that pitted a Tea Party challenger against the incumbent Senator Thad Cochran--a nasty, mean-spirited campaign in which the Senator eventually prevailed by a last-minute appeal to black Democratic voters!  What an irony!

But the word has a much wider application, in today's politics, than a single primary election.  Sadly, it characterizes virtually everything that is happening--or everything that fails to happen--in the nation's capital.  It describes the source of our national paralysis, our seemingly irresolvable mutual distrust, our animosity bordering on hatred.  In such a vituperative atmosphere, good words like tolerance, compromise and compassion wither into a state of poisonous denial, negativity and refusal.

I do not, myself, buy into that argument that both sides are equally to blame for this pitiful state of affairs.  I see the vituperation largely directed from one side against the other, from the right against the left.  I'll admit, I find the ideas and values of those on the right deplorable--as they, apparently, find mine.  As an aspiring follower of the Buddhist dharma, though, and as one brought up in the tradition of Christian values, I fail to see any evidence of the spirit of compassion or tolerance in the utterances and actions of the right.  On the other side of the equation, I see in President Obama a man who I believe would choose to promote and uphold those values, were he not hog-tied by the ignorance and animosity of his opponents.

America is barely recognizable these days, especially to those of us who came here looking for the opportunities it seemed to promise.  Its former generous, can-do, welcoming spirit has degenerated into mean-spiritedness, paralysis and, yes, vituperation.  It seems we even direct our self-righteous rage against poor, frightened children.  What a spectacle we provide to a once-admiring world, when we choose to neglect, on every front, the responsibilities our wealth brings with it.  I often hear the protest, "We are better than that."  I cling to the belief and hope that this is true.  It's just that we have strayed far from the path on which we all set out.  Let's hope that it proves no more than a temporary aberrance, and that we survive our current corporate empire America's efforts to create a cash crop of our collective minds.