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Pearls from artists* # 540

“Wise One,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 58” x 38,” in progress

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

The Wise Old Man or Woman is a figure found throughout folklore and mythology. They possess superior understanding and also often a more developed spiritual or moral character. Frequently, such characters provide the information or learning that the Hero needs to move forward in their quest. In “Star Wars,” Ben Kenobi plays the teacher to Luke, introducing purpose and knowledge into the young Hero’s life. Where the Hero brings a drive, courage, and direct action, the Wise Old One introduces the importance of the opposing values of thought and questioning. Jung describes it thus: ‘Often the old man in fairytales asks questions like who? Why? Whence? Wither? For the purpose of inducing self-reflection and mobilizing the moral force.’

The Wise One may appear in disguise to test the character of others. In the second “Star Wars” film, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), Luke’s mentor Yoda does not reveal himself as such when they first meet. He waits, asking questions that test Luke’s motivation for being there. Jung associated the Trickster archetype with the Wise One, and the use of disguise emphasizes this correlation.

Gary Bobroff in Carl Jung: Knowledge in a Nutshell

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Pearls from artists* # 193

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Interviewer:  Your work includes a great range of experience, as well as of form.  What do you think is the greatest quality a poet can have?  Is it formal, or is it a quality of thinking?

Ezra Pound:  I don’t know that you can put the needed qualities in hierarchic order, but he must have a continuous curiosity, which of course does not make him a writer. but if he hasn’t got that he will wither.  And the question of doing anything about it depends on a persistent energy.  A man like Agassiz is never bored, never tired.  The transit from the reception of stimuli to the recording, to the correlation, that is what takes the whole energy of a lifetime.

Writers at Work:  The Paris Review Interviews Second Series, edited by George Plimpton and introduced by Van Wyck Brooks

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Pearls from artists* # 53

"Art and Beer," a roadside bar and sculpture garden in Baja del Sur, Mexico

“Art and Beer,” a roadside bar and sculpture garden in Baja del Sur, Mexico

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

We do treat books surprisingly lightly in contemporary culture.  We’d never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to believe we’ve read a book after reading it just once.  Books and music share more in terms of resonance than just a present-tense correlation of heard note to read word.  Books need time to draw us in, it takes time to understand what makes them, structurally, in thematic resonance, in afterthought, and always in correspondence with the books which came before them , because books are produced by books more than by writers; they’re a result of all the books that went before them.  Great books are adaptable; they alter with us as we alter in life, they renew themselves as we change and re-read them at different times in our lives.  You can’t step into the same story twice – or maybe it’s that stories. books, art can’t step into the same person twice, maybe it’s that they allow for our mutability, are ready for us at all times, and maybe it’s this adaptability, regardless of time, that makes them art, because real art (as opposed to more transient art, which is real too, just for less time) will hold us at all our different ages like it held all the people before us  and will hold all the people after us, in an elasticity and with a generosity that allow for all our comings and goings.  Because come then go we will, and in that order.

Ali Smith in Artful  

Comments are welcome!

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