Monthly Archives: April 2018

Lonely Truth versus the Chill of Ages

“Hamlet” by Lawrence Russ

There’s a loneliness in being an artist, a feeling that almost no one else understands or values what you’ve intended or made. There’s loneliness in having had any kind of mystical experience, an ache in believing that you’ve gained something of great importance, but that you cannot open it to anyone else. And there’s a loneliness in simply being a human being, having experience different from anyone else’s, without Mr. Spock’s ability to meld two minds.

It’s one of the deforming lessons of society that we should avoid such pain and loneliness at almost any cost. By trying to do that, we let ourselves in for worse and less curable suffering.  I remember the Pulitzer-winning poet W.D. Snodgrass telling our class: “The experiences that gave me the most were the ones I would’ve done the most to avoid.”

“Fields of Grief” by Lawrence Russ

Hung Ying-ming, writing in the late 1500s, in late-Ming China, combined insights of Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism in a work with the deliberately-unglamorous title, Chewing Vegetable Roots. The following, the first section in his book, offers something that we all need to chew and digest thoroughly (it can’t be made body and blood by intellect or erudition).  And it isn’t just corporate executives and presidents who need it, but poets and photographers, too:

He who strives to make Truth his home
May at times be lonely.
He who fawns on the powerful and influential
Will know the chill of solitude for ages.

The superior man peers deeply into transcendent reality
And thinks about the body he will have after this one has gone.
Rather should one suffer a temporary loneliness
Than the solitary chill of ages.

                                              — Hung Ying-ming

(translated by William Scott Wilson)

“Drawn toward Zero” by Lawrence Russ

Prominence

I’ve titled this image “Prominence.”

Every word has an infinite number of meanings that depend, in part, on the context of its usage and the capacities of the one who receives it. “Prominence,” for instance, has a physical, spatial meaning. It has a societal meaning. And it can, more uncommonly, relate to comparative importance or value in a more absolute sense.