Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What to Do

Of all the means which wisdom acquires to insure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.- Epicurus
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. -Albert Einstein 
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. -Martin Luther King, Jr. 

(Joseph Mydell as Casca,
eliminating Caesar)

As I sat in my bath today, recalling Marat in his, I asked myself once again what is one to do in a corrupt world awash in war, man-made climate change, starvation, ignorance, and bigotry? In particular, I asked what should I do. After all, I am no Voltaire, able to sway the minds of those who count (whoever they are). Certainly if one is brilliant and talented enough, one should, in the style of Voltaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Bertrand Russell, or a host of other truly great writers, offer up essays and articles and books of such sway as to enlighten people who actually have the power to alter the course of human affairs. 
If one is in a position to effect change through activism, as well as writing, all the better. Thank you, Larry Kramer. Thank You,  Your Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Thank you, John Lewis, activist and power broker true to the principles of MLK. Could I follow in their foot steps? 
What should a life-long academic, a lazy philosopher, a dabbler in writing and sometime protest marcher for this or that cause do? 

One of my closest friends has found his answer. He gets upon the stage and stabs dictators of old in an interpretation that has direct relevance to today's tyrants.. His plays and films offer a worldview sorely needed to counter the mush of ubiquitous mass media ( He has had major roles in Angels in America, A Season in the Congo, Julius Caesar...) 

Though I admire such diverse figures as Sartre, Allen Ginsberg, Edward Albee, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, Paul Krugman, and Bernie Sanders, who all have made a difference, I repeatedly fall back into the Philosophy of Epicurus. Why not live in a "garden" that stands for civilization, for art, for the exchange of ideas, for acceptance of difference and respect for life? I think of W.S. Merwin whom I met once and talked of the role of the poet in the time of Vietnam. Which of his poems resonate with us now? For me, such poems as Empty Water. I think of him in his garden on Maui. Doesn't living by example help the World? 

For now, in a world where discerning who is good, who is bad, and who is on what level in between, becomes lost in a digital maze of presentations, I have to go like a blind man, feeling my way in the darkness, going on intuition and what reason and intelligence I have, with the goals of having a humanitarian outcome, having a reverence for nature, and finding precious moments of joy and laughter with my friends and lovers. My only contributions, if they are such, are my writing, the teaching I have done, and the life my friends and I actually live, along with the principles we hold.

To the chief intensity: the crown of these
Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
Upon the forehead of humanity.

--Keats, Endymion

Our Garden (click)


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Collage #4

Life Collage 4

Kurt Schwitters
Das Undbild

Life's Images- wandering alone through gallery after gallery of Matisse paintings all done in Nice, staring through my refracting telescope at Saturn's rings, making love at Mardi Gras simultaneously to my Jewish girlfriend and a student from the University of Maryland, eating Oysters Rockefeller with my Aesthetics professor in New Orleans, teaching math to 13- year-olds as they shot each other with spit wads, downing a stein of Bavarian Beer high up in Mad Ludwig's castle on my 23d birthday, feeding a wild kangaroo on a deserted beach in New South Wales, publishing a critique of two art shows, one in Savannah, another in Atlanta, that raised enjoyable protest, celebrating a show of my photographs in the SCAD gallery in Savannah, drinking cerveza and sleeping with a Zapotec in Oaxaca, being knocked out of breath after falling off a swing in the playground of my elementary school, looking like a snowman naked on a beach in Westerland filled with tan Scandinavians near the border of Denmark and Germany,  seeing Forsyth Park deconstructing into the molecular structure of its azaleas,  boating with my Mom  on the canals of Amsterdam, sitting by the fire near Mt. Pisgah dazzled by the glimmer of the Milky-way overhead, being wheel-chaired into my hotel in Kyoto, ducking with my husband into the Inuit Clan House near Ketchikan, Serving roast beef po-boys at Billy's Home Cooking, mourning the murder of my best friend from a quiet little house in Canton Ohio, sitting in a tavern in Mykonos with my brother watching the men dance to Greek music, gasping for breath as my partner and I nearly drown in the pool below a waterfall in Hawaii, having a beer with Jamie Cullum at Jimmy’s Corner after his break-through performance at the Oak Room of the Algonquin, completing my Master’s Thesis on D.H. Lawrence, chatting with Lawrence Ferlinghetti at a wine reception at City Lights, and writing and writing…

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Life: Collage #1

"Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one."

Martin Heidegger

Note: this attempt at a collage was inspired by Alfred Corn's quilt...
(see below)

Juan Gris: Sunblind

Life's images: sitting at a long mahogany table in Tilton Hall Cockily (so said the Hegel scholar) defending my dissertation on Sir Herbert Read, playing chess with my father at the YMCA, dripping sand castles at Tybee that the tide washed away, falling through the dilapidated pier at Moon River where I lived for a while, plodding up Lombard Street to my three story house overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, repeatedly falling in love with briefly questioning heterosexuals and driving across country with them, getting married at last to my husband in a garden in Provincetown on Cape Cod, teaching my first philosophy class of 35 students and thinking "who am I to be teaching philosophy?" giving a lecture on Cubism at SCAD in Savannah, opening my office in the High Museum overlooking the Richard Meir building and Peachtree Street, a space I helped design including furniture from the decorative arts collection and a champagne reception, driving up the one-lane road to Walpi in my friend's '73 Mustang,  teaching for 17 years at the Atlanta College of Art, including such stars of the art world as Kara Walker, making love outdoors on the quad of the University of Virginia in the pre-dawn with the girl of my dreams, working loading trucks for Canada Dry one summer, recently watching Jupiter, then the crescent moon, then the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean, celebrating my 50th with 50 bottles of Veuve Clicquot and 50 long-stem roses, watching a student of mine play tennis against future #1 player in the world, Amelie Mauresmo in Paris at Roland Garros, exploring Delphi, standing inside the Parthenon, and the Pantheon, and before the glacier in Patagonia, where we "Look'd at each other with a wild surmise," climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, spending a week cruising the French Quarter of New Orleans with Allen Ginsberg and lunching with W.S. Merwin, swimming naked in the pool at Kalani in Hawaii, taking in the holiness of Nara, standing atop the world's largest mountain and watching the sun set, dancing at the Tabernacle to a live performance of Damien Dempsey and Sinead O'Connor, seeing Jupiter and Venus together in the evening sky above the Champs-Élysées, having the Picasso rooms all to myself at the Met in NYC so I can study Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein, Watching my life-long friend onstage in Stratford playing Casca in the RSC's production of Julius Caesar, and writing and writing.

Jack 8-15-13

Alfred Corn's Quilt:

Scenes from the crazy quilt life. Playing jacks with my older sisters and doing miserably. Picking blackberries in the open fields under the blistering Georgia sun near our house and selling them at $.25 a quart to my mother. Giving the valedictory speech at secondary school graduation. A summer job in Atlanta, after my second year at Emory, loading furniture onto trucks. Hiking along the Rhone near Avignon during a French-language summer program. A Columbia grad student in New York, fall of 1965, when the lights blacked out. Janis Joplin at the Fillmore East. A civil ceremony at the Municipal Building, Ann and I toasting each other with Veuve Clicquot afterward at our apartment. A year in Paris, through May 1968, when a million demonstrators rose up to protest government policies. Moving into raw loft space in SoHo with Walter, 1972, with one water tap and a mattress on the floor. A trip we made to Venice, seeing David K. and Edmund W. Hopping from foot to foot after a telephone call told me my first book would appear. A dinner party in New Haven where guests included Robert Penn Warren and Harold Bloom. My first poetry class, the students including Langdon Hammer and Susan Schultz. Sitting across the table from Robert Lowell at the Signet Club in Cambridge. Attending poetry readings at Yale by Elizabeth Bishop, Derek Walcott, and Seamus Heaney. Half a Guggenheim year spent in London in 1986. A stay at the Mishkenot Shaanim in Jerusalem just two weeks before the first intifada. Years as a migrant worker adjunct, teaching at Columbia, UCLA, the U. of Cincinnati, Ohio State, the U. of Tulsa, and Oklahoma State. Chris coming to live with me in my apartment between Chelsea and the meat-packing district. After the Centrum conference in WA, a cruise up to shore points in Alaska to see the glaciers calve. A painful goodbye to Richard up on Fort Washington Ave. Choosing London as a base of activities, 2005- 2011. Two years in Hudson, NY, with Philip. Clare Hall, Cambridge. Finding my Sabine Hills in Rhode Island. And so forth.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Route 66

At midnight tonight arrives my 66th birthday. Today has been one for finding articles on Candide for BFA and other online research. Meanwhile I have floated through the day listening to the "Faure channel" of Pandora. One piece that has come through in various performances is "The Lark Ascending" by Vaughn Williams which I offer up here to go with my 66th...

Life seems as shaky to me these days as if it were subject to earthquakes. Arthritis has made its debut, going from the supposed bursitis of last year to the knee pain during my travels in Japan to widespread joint pain the last few weeks, settling like a curse into my hands and feet. Mortality seems to lie along Route 66.

The days ahead promise some social relief and change of scenery at least-- Savannah for Labor Day. Parting with August will not be difficult.

Lazaretto Creek from one of many stays in Savannah —
from CoCo's Sunset Grille.