Musings in Spring: Sei Shonagon
“In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them.”
This Date in Art History: Died 18 May 1867 – William Clarkson Stanfield, an English painter.
Below – “Mount St. Michael, Cornwall”; “Mountainous landscape with a hunter and travellers”; “View on the Scheldt”; “Rione Terra”; “At the Foot of the Acropolis, Athens.”
Remembering a Nobel Laureate on the Date of His Birth: Born 18 May 1872 – Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and recipient of the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Some quotes from the work of Bertrand Russell:
“The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other.”
“Science tells us what we can know but what we can know is little and if we forget how much we cannot know we become insensitive of many things of very great importance. Theology, on the other hand, induces a dogmatic belief that we have knowledge where in fact we have ignorance and by doing so generates a kind of impertinent insolence towards the universe. Uncertainty in the presence of vivid hopes and fears is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.”
“Religion is based … mainly upon fear … fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.”
“If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.”
“The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.”
“Love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”
“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”
This Date in Art History: Born 18 April 1936 – Michael Sandle, an English sculptor.
Below – “Maquette for Animals in War Memorial” (wood and epoxy); “Gondola” (bronze); “A Mighty Blow for Freedom”; “Der Trommier”; “As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap: An Allegory.”
Worth a Thousand Words: A section of Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania.
This Date in Art History: Born 18 May 1822 – Mathew Brady, an American photographer and journalist.
Below – “Portrait of Abraham Lincoln”; “Portrait of Walt Whitman”; “Battlefield Casualties, Battle of Gettysburg”; “President Abraham Lincoln and General George McClellan”; “Ulysses S. Grant”; “General William Tecumseh Sherman.”
Remembering a Teacher on the Date of His Birth – Born 18 May 1904 – Shunryu Suzuki, a Japanese-American Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and author of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”
Some quotes from the work of Shunryu Suzuki:
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
“Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars you see. You are one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true than you can hear.”
“What we call ‘I’ is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”
“The most important point is to accept yourself and stand on your two feet.”
“If you can just appreciate each thing, one by one, then you will have pure gratitude. Even though you observe just one flower, that one flower includes everything.”
“Faith is a state of openness or trust…In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to the truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”
“Wherever you go you will find your teacher, as long as you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.”
This Date in Art History: Born 18 May 1852 – Gertrude Kasebier, an American photographer.
Below – “Chief Iron Tail”; “Chief Flying Hawk”; “Miss N”; “Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz”; “Auguste Rodin”; “The Red Man.”
Remembering a Writer on the Date of His Death: Died 18 May 1809 – George Meredith, an English novelist, poet, and seven-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Youth in Age”
By George Meredith
Once I was part of the music I heard
On the boughs or sweet between earth and sky,
For joy of the beating of wings on high
My heart shot into the breast of the bird.
I hear it now and I see it fly,
And a life in wrinkles again is stirred,
My heart shoots into the breast of the bird,
As it will for sheer love till the last long sigh.
This Date in Art History: Born 18 May 1938 – Janet Fish, an American painter.
Below – “Black Bowl, Red Scarf”; “Strawberries, Geese”; “Daisies”; “Pumpkin”; “Apple Blossom/Spring Trees”; “Pinwheels and Poppies.”
Musings in Spring: Rebecca Solnit
“The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.”
Remembering an Artist and Writer on the Date of His Death – Died 18 May 1980 – Reid Blackburn, an American photographer and journalist. Reid Blackburn was killed in the 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens.
Below – Reid Blackburn adjusting one of his cameras on Mount St. Helens.