Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Faceless Charity vs The Good Samaritan

We all know the story, I think, from St. Luke, the 10th Chapter:
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.   A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.   So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.   But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.   He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.   The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
What strikes me today about this passage is how sharply it contrasts with the most common modern ways of practicing Charity.  It seems to me that, ideally, Charity should be:

1.  Without coercion.
2.  Cheerfully practiced.
3.  Personal (intimate).
4.  Sacrificial (it should cost the giver something).
5.  Particular as opposed to general.

All of these elements are present in the story of the Good Samaritan.  Few are present (perhaps only the Sacrificial element) in the most common forms of Charity practiced these days.

The government coerces me to help other people through taxes.  This makes me an involuntary participant in Charity and, therefore, not all that cheerful.

One rarely sees the face of the recipients of his charitable acts these days.  And it is generic as can be.  To give to the United Way is to cast a limp, pallid economic vote for an inchoate and indistinct "good" as over against a nondescript "evil".  It carries none of the power, none of the emotional intimacy of the Good Samaritan story: 

"He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him."
"I paid my United Way pledge" is weak sauce by comparison.

I had rather give money to a stranger in obvious need than to write a generic check to a meta-charity.  Of course, I can't claim that as a tax deduction.  It is okay; it is supposed to cost me (Point 4, above).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How to Buy Reproductions of my Paintings

Alright, dear readers.  I know that this question has been burning in your minds for years now:  "How can I get hold of reproductions of Paul Erlandson's art?"

This video helps  explain what sorts of items are available:

Here are links to my galleries at the two sites mentioned:



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Muse Poems & Photos

Obviously, I am thinking a lot these days about the concept of the Muse.  Today, in addition to the Betjeman post (see below), I have two more Muse-related poems.

This first poet is fairly well-known, I think:

Sonnet 78:   by William Shakespeare
So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learnèd's wing
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee.
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be.
But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as learning my rude ignorance.
(Notes with paraphrase of the above, for modern readers, is to be found here.)

And this poet is not quite so well-known  (from here):
FOOLISH MUSE - by Anne Johnson
I fear she must have wandered far away;
I've looked most everywhere, she can't be found.
I find myself adrift; I can't convey
those thoughts and feelings locked within my mind.
Fey little sprite, she spoke to me alone;
Her magic something only I could know.
She'd made the tree outside my door her home
and played beneath where fragrant flowers grow.
I cannot comprehend why she would leave
for lacking me she'll have no way to spread
to human folk the poetry she weaves;
euphonic verses sadly left unsaid.
For none but I can realize her words
that tell of things that only she can see.
She needs my hands and voice so she'll be heard;
for mankind sees and hears her via me
That foolish little maid has strayed too long;
Her image fading more each day I wait.
I pray for her return each day she's gone.
Without each other we cannot create.

John Betjeman's Muse

Although I am 2.5 years late in finding it, fans of John Betjeman's poetry should love this story!

Most people thought that Joan Hunter Dunn, who died earlier this month, was a product of John Betjeman’s vivid poetic imagination. Then, in 1965, The Sunday Times Magazine revealed that she was real and had lived exactly the kind of home counties life Betjeman fantasised about in his famous poem A Subaltern’s Love Song.


Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summerhouse, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

She went, unnoticed, to the memorial service for the poet laureate at Westminster Abbey in 1984 and shed a few tears for the man she had described to me as a good character and a religious man: “They say that God has his agents on this planet and I am sure that John Betjeman is one of them.”

I recommend this volume of Betjeman's poems, from Amazon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On Finding One's Muse

Nobody depends on the Muse like a poet.  And, therefore, there exist quite a few good poems dedicated to the poets' Muses.  Here are two:

Muse (by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

In my youth's years, she loved me, I am sure.
The flute of seven pipes she gave in my tenure
And harked to me with smile -- without speed,
Along the ringing holes of the reed,
I got to play with my non-artful fingers
The peaceful songs of Phrygian village singers,
And the important hymns, that gods to mortals bade.
From morn till night in oaks' silent shade
I diligently harked to the mysterious virgin;
Rewarding me, by chance, for any good decision,
And taking locks aside of the enchanting face,
She sometimes took from me the flute, such commonplace.
The reed became alive in consecrated breathing
And filled the heart with holiness unceasing.

When I Met My Muse (by William Stafford)

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.