Armageddon and the Art of French Cooking

This article is featured in the December issue of The BeZine

“Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish of the truth.” – Nietzsche

Civilization kills. We are living in apocalyptic times. The Anthropocene is here; humans are dominating and destroying the Earth. Like all civilizations in history, though, ours will fall back into the dust, and Earth will absorb it in some fashion. I get angry with humans because of this. Our arrogance and hubris and stupidity is truly abhorrent. I would wash my hands from all association with my species if I could, but for two things: music and food. I am willing to forgive everything for Puccini and Marcona almonds sauteed in butter and thyme.

Thanksgiving sideboard

Perhaps it is nothing but hedonism to feel that my pleasure in a fine meal at La Reve on Tuesday might bring me back from the brink of utter despair. The “Holiday Train” event in the village late that afternoon had created horrific traffic congestion with black-clad pedestrians pushing strollers into the dark streets while some pop Christmas frenzy blared over a loudspeaker. I felt truly Scroogeish; humans are complete humbug. But then the ambiance of a Parisian bistro — chattering guests and tremulous accordion melodies — and the buttery oak in the Chardonnay spread its warmth over that cold, post-Truth fear surrounding my heart. I asked Irene, our Asian-American server, about how the chef prepared the pumpkin soup. We talked about how roasting brings out the deeper flavors of vegetables and stock bones and what items on the menu were gluten-free. By the time I had savored my way through triple-cream brie, salmon, lamb and chocolate caramel, I was ready to admit atonement of the human race was possible.

The next day, however, my thoughts turned dark again. How could I justify the expense of that meal, even though almost half of the cost to me was covered by a gift certificate? How had the animals invested in that meal been treated? How far had the ingredients traveled on fossil fuels to get to my plate? My awareness of suffering may have been dulled for a time, but it was not erased. I may have been treated quite well, but was I healed?

Healing. In Western culture, it’s about fixing pathology. In Eastern culture, it’s about making whole. Awareness is about opening up to understand the whole, the complete Oneness of the Universe. “Life is suffering” is the first noble Truth in Buddhism. Suffering is in the Oneness. Arising from the awareness of suffering are two responses (at least): Fear and Compassion.

victory

I experience my fear for the human race and my compassion for it as well, blended contrapuntally. To recognize that only as thoughts criss-crossing my brain might drive me mad. To see that reflected in a complex pairing of wine and cheese or in the first act duet of Mimi and Rudolfo in La Boheme saves me from perishing from the ugly truth. I will never comprehend the Truth, although I live it every day. Making, enjoying, or experiencing Art is as close as I may ever come to holding the Whole in my heart. I believe that those who practice Meditation seek to do the same, while sparing the harm caused in producing Art.

May we all find a way to happiness, a way not to perish from the Truth, a way to be at peace with the Whole.

arte

Text and photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life and Art Are One

Life imitates Art; Art imitates Life.  What’s the difference?  Maybe Life and Art are one and the same or so intermingled that it’s impossible to separate them…like mayonnaise: egg, oil and vinegar bound together in one, smooth shmear. 

Here are two pictures I took on the same day in New Mexico:

Statues in the city; real people in the wilderness.  The fact that I put those photos side by side might say something about life…or art.  They’re blended, see? 

How about this one?

artsy still lifeIt’s a photograph of flowers on my dining room table.  A still life.  Is it still life?  Those peonies were alive, right there in front of me.  I took a picture, which I think looks a bit like a painting.  That’s Art, but it looks a lot like Life.  Our brains tend to blur symbol and substance. Try talking philosophy for a while: the words we use for concepts often supplant the concepts themselves. For example, the sign shows the words The Grand Canyon. Is the Grand Canyon the sign or the landscape behind it? 

I love Art and Life; I love their blurred edges; I love their intermingled perspective. How fortunate to be able to play with both!


Life Imitates Art

Photography 101: Moment

What’s the difference between capturing a moment and just taking a blurry photo?  I struggle with this…and in that struggle, I suppose, is where Art is born.  There is one photographer whose blog I follow who has elevated the art of photographing motion to an exquisite level.  Her name is Karen McRae, and her blog is draw and shoot.  You should check out her stuff.  It’s no wonder she has 12,000 followers.  

So what have I got?  Well, there’s low light and people who can’t stay still.  Like my daughter at an outdoor evening concert, talking with her hands. 

momentA moment of scintillating storytelling, or just another blurry photo?  You decide.  There’s the moment of movement in falling water…but it’s way overdone, probably.

moving water

And the actual “OMG! I have to get my camera out because THIS is happening!”

spider blurAnd it’s barely recognizable, and you hope you can adjust your settings and try again before your surprisingly swift subject disappears into some shelter off the trail.  Here goes:

tarantulaYes!  That’s what it is, clearly, right there on the path in New Mexico.  A tarantula.  Now, do I feel better that I’ve “nailed it down”, so to speak?  Or do I more enjoy the breathless, life-is-a-dynamic-thing, fuzzy ’round the edges illustration?  I have this debate with myself.  I believe in the dynamic; I habitually strive toward the “perfection”.   Maybe this is the struggle that will someday birth some Art from me. 

Photography 101: The Natural World

I don’t believe there are any straight lines in the natural world.  All is “wiggly” (as Alan Watts would say), and we’re told that the Universe is funnel-shaped, a huge graceful curve.  I figure that pine needles are almost straight, but even they exhibit a gentle arc.  Nature is the ultimate Art, in my estimation.  Shape, texture, line, composition, color…every artistic facet writ large on the world around us.  How do I pick one photograph?  Or even a few?  This is the challenge for me.  I have a whole gallery of Wisconsin outdoor shots on one of my pages up there.  Feel free to browse that.  Meanwhile, I’ll put up a few new ones, taken outside of Wisconsin.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Art

“Art is the proper task of life.” — Neitzsche.

What is Art?  Who gets to define it?  Who gets to make it?  Do we delegate this activity to those trained and proven in convention or do we allow that any human has the privilege to create, to explore, to juxtapose materials and images and sounds and actions and ‘stuff’ of any description into something unique?  And do we recognize that the miraculous gift of this activity is not merely the product to be admired, but the process that transforms?  Have you been changed by Art, as a creator and as a consumer?  Do you disqualify yourself from the role of artist?  Is it fear that keeps you from it?

I admire people who engage in “the proper task of life”.

Art

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure

Treasure: pirate’s booty, artifacts from an ancient tomb, shiny objects stashed in your nest, things you collect and wrap carefully. 

I do not think of myself as a materialistic person because I don’t like shopping and buying, but I do have a collection of stuff that I have found or been given.  These semi-precious items are housed in special places like shelves, curio cabinets, and glass-fronted cupboards in my home.  It’s rather like a museum, which is perfectly appropriate to my interests and personality.  (I work at 2 museums.) When I think of my collecting behavior, it probably started with rocks and “glassies” (beach glass) as a kid.  As an adult, I collected eggs…a symbol of the Trinity, of life, and nature to me.  Now, most of my egg collection is in storage, and I have begun accumulating elephants (mostly from Steve’s Aunt Rosie, who, having a habit as a flea market addict and having identified my taste, seems to present me with additions every time I see her!).  Elephants are a symbol of matriarchal wisdom and compassion to me.  My first beloved stuffed animal was Babar.  I treasure the idea of elephants in the wild and feel great pain at their destruction.  I would like to see some in their natural habitat some day. 

But there is something that I collect and value even more, I think.  I keep them close to me in places where I see them every day: on my computer screen, on my phone screen, on my living room shelves and in great boxes under my bed.  They are photographs of my family.  I’m guessing this is something that most people on the planet treasure…maybe hidden in a chest, tucked into a scrap of cloth, hanging on a chipping plaster wall or stashed in a suitcase in less technologically developed cultures.  In fact, in our “museum inventory”, we have quite a few photographs of complete strangers, gleaned from estates sales – black and white faces in various poses, symbols of human connection.  One day I’d like to give them new life in some art form so they might be treasured once again.