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Thursday, August 22, 2013


australian aboriginal art

Sometimes a picture I see in facebook or someplace else will be a problem for my visual interpretation. Just now I saw one of a white man in a black uniform pushing a corpse wrapped in white on a gurney into the back of an ambulance, at night, seen from the side, light source inside the ambulance, a red light. I had to look at it for a long time before I could see anything but an abstraction. I'm so used to seeing abstractions in art that when I can't make out the subjects in a photograph, it automatically looks like an abstraction of colors. Just before that I saw a thing on facebook of an animated woman turning on one foot like a dancer. If I'm right-brain dominant, I'll see her go clockwise. If I'm left brain dominant, she'll go counter-clockwise. First time I looked, she was going clockwise and I could not see her going the other way. I looked away at something and when I looked back, she was going counter-clockwise. Then I could get her to change direction by looking away and looking back at her. Evidently that means I've a fair balance of left brain / right brain. Under the twirling image was a list of what constitutes right brain and what constitutes left brain. I read them both. Right brain tends toward intuitive and left brain toward reason. I feel like it's true to say that I live by a fair balance of left and right brain. I imagine anyone who reads these writings more or less regularly can see it, and possibly it is your base reason for reading them.

alex katz

I'm recalling a conversation with a lawyer friend a few months ago when he said of somebody we were talking about, "That's not logical!" It stunned me to hear someone say that. In a nano-second I processed in my head, he's been a lawyer all his adult life, he knows humanity, and in his sixties believes logic has something to do with human behavior. I blurted out a little too much in my shock to hear it, "Logic? Logic only matters in math." We don't do no logic round here. It caused me to reflect that the only place I've seen logic apply in adult life is in court, or somebody deciding not to kill somebody for pissing him off, the logic of considering what's next. He spends his time in court where logic matters. I was looking at it from outside court where logic doesn't have much of a role, except maybe sometimes making a given decision when you have to weigh the odds. I found it interesting that logic was a given for him in his world, and barely anything at all in the world I live in. In my world, emotion still plays a large role in someone's life, people who live by the heart. It's when we live by the mind that logic becomes an issue. Urban living is more of the mind than country living. In the country we're not on the climb for more money and status, and we're more relaxed to live our lives completely illogically if we can get away with it. It's like the law takes care of logical thought for us and we do our best to stay out of trouble with the law. That takes care of our need for adherence to logic.

morris graves

I remember in my first years in the mountains being astonished by logic having little to no importance. They were still living by the heart when I went off to school and the urban work world where logic sometimes has value. What I'm getting at, it's been a long time since I've thought that way, the urban, college-educated way of using logic. I do, but I don't use the word. I've seen in the mountain people I live among the value of living by the heart. I felt I was heart-deficient when I came to the mountains, too much emphasis on mind, reason, logic. People who live by the heart are often guided by their emotions making a rollercoaster ride of everyday life. I was struck in the beginning years of observing mountain culture that emotion played such a leading role, even in tone of voice and rhythms of speech. I've talked with a very few old-timers who continued to talk in the emphatic every other syllable iamb like in Shakespeare, Elizabethan rhythms. Old-time fiddlers used to keep the rhythm while playing melody from the days when the fiddle was the only instrument for square dances, before banjo and guitar came along to take care of the rhythm. The iambic emphasis carried emotion very well, could be used for emphasis of emotion behind the content spoken. The oldest time old-timers I met years ago sounded like song when they talked.

plum tree japanese

I grew up in urban culture schooling where reason has come in to replace emotion as the next step in our collective development. In the mountains, I found that the people still valued emotion, didn't mind talking with hearty emotional emphasis. I loved hearing people talk with emotional emphasis. I had shut down emotion in myself in childhood, except of course, for anger. By mid thirties when I arrived in the mountains a year after engaging myself with the Divine Will, whatever that is, which I set to find out, my spiritual path was about opening my heart to love. My parachute landed me in a world of people who continue to live by heart, a subculture. Living among the mountain people I have found my heart among people not afraid to flare up in rage, get drunk and be stupid, fight, cuss, threaten, and on the other hand help, support, love, care for, look after with generosity of heart. Mountain men like to act like they're hard-hearted, but when their women leave them and take the kids, they break, they break all the way down, and many pop a cap in their heads to quiet their agony. From the outside, that looks kind of pathetic to be such a slave to emotion, but from the inside, from inside the culture, it's how a man feels. Jr Maxwell of Whitehead, banjo picker, welder, tractor mechanic, told me at the table over a dram of good mountain liquor with emphasis, "Feeling is everything."


Mountain music is not music when it is not played from the heart. Almost every Saturday morning after my radio show on the local AM station of mountain music I'd stop by Jr's to visit with him for a few hours on the way home. I almost only played musicians of the mountains born in the mountains playing mountain music as it is played in this region, the Central Blue Ridge. That would be northwestern North Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. It's a fountain of music all up and down the Appalachians, each region with it's own sound, or personality as I've come to see the differences. One Saturday morning I decided to play an old-time band from Durham that seemed to have a pretty good mountain sound. The fiddler played well, banjo too. Jr would usually tell me what he thought of the music I played that day. He leaned more to bluegrass than old-time and I leaned more toward old-time than bluegrass. It kept me reminded this was the case among my listeners too, people who liked both, so I didn't want to make one dominant over the other. After playing the Durham band he didn't say anything. I asked what he made of it. He said, "Weren't no music in it." I said, "I know," at that moment understanding for the first time after wondering for some years what he meant by the word music. Music comes from the heart. The urban old-time band from the flatland was playing from mind. I never played another band from outside the mountains on the radio show. It's not that their music is invalid, just that I called the show "music from home," from the heart. My listeners knew the difference too.

barnett newman

The evidence convincing me that mountain music is played from the heart, is that mountain music is the only music I've ever heard of any kind of music that can make me weep for the beauty of it. I have sat at the radio station, tears running down my face, unable to introduce songs or talk at all while playing the Carter Family or the Stanley Brothers. They bring up my tears I love their music so much. Sara Carter sings in as plain a voice as there ever was, yet her singing goes straight to the heart, because she is singing it from her own heart. It's the resonance of the heart that makes mountain music mountain specific. It is that something in mountain music the people from outside the mountains tend not to be able to put a finger on or even hear. By now, after half a century of television and more years than that of radio, of city people moving their culture to the mountains, that old thing about the music needing to be from the heart is not necessarily a rule anymore. Through school, television and work, reason, logical thinking has been coming to the mountains. Being cut off from the coastal cities until the age of technology, the mountains were slow to pick up the next step in our collective development, from emotion to reason. Our next step is intuition, which age we have already entered. Intuition somehow transcends reason and emotion, mixes them up in a special blend, shakes them good like a martini and serves a new way of tasting the ingredients. Feeling and reason work together, one balancing the other, letting go and allowing the flow.

robert ryman

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