‘Water is itself the obstacle to water’

Loop Water GIF by Living Stills-source
gif by Living Stills

Leonardo da Vinci obsessed with water more than any of his multidisciplinary interests: architecture, science, painting, and sculpture.

For Leonardo da Vinci, the current represented that perfect chaos that separated air from water. In his Book on Waters, he wrote:

Nothing shares a surface with something and something shares a surface with nothingness. And the surface of something is not part of that thing, whence it follows that the surface of nothingness is part of nothingness, whence it follows that a single surface is the limit between two things that are in contact. Since the surface of water is not part of the water, and hence is not part of the air or of other bodies placed between them, what is it then that divides the air from the water?

Below is one of Leonardo’s sketches on the movement of water from 1508. It demonstrates the paradox of water in, around, and again itself.

Leonardo da Vinci water #drawing #sketch #art
Leonardo, da Vinci, 1508-09 (Paris MS. F)

Writes art historian Irving Lavin, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institue of Advanced Study:

…water in percussion: that is, water is itself the obstacle to water, and in this case the contrast is between the resulting currents on the surface, under the surface, and surging upward carrying bubbles of entrapped air. The relationship between air and water, both in combination and as analogous media, was also a subject that greatly preoccupied Leonardo and played a critical role in the development of his thought that concerns me here.

The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure. There’s the unpredictable and disruptive movement of its flow. Yet freshwater slithers over rocks, persisting unperturbed all the way into the mouth of the river.

The chaos of running water seems to be why it works.

Read Leonardo’s Watery Chaos

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The froth is coming off

via giphy

With the right instructions, the unfamiliar becomes manageable.

We follow the recipe with the hope that the convoluted reality seeps away into the froth.

Yet, had we followed our instincts we may not have gotten stuck in the first place.

If we don’t take Google Maps with a grain of salt, we will find ourselves submerged under water.

Knowledge is visceral. The rest is streaming.

Picasso: Art as a form of diary

picasso #art #artist #painting
Photo by Cecil Beaton 1933 © The Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s

Art is where our mind’s eye merges with reality to create a theater inside our head, resulting in the form of a diary. This was especially true for Pablo Picasso.

Picasso was perhaps best known for his practice of public journaling via painting. “My work is my diary. I have painted my autobiography,” he said.

Picasso grasped his inner thoughts and projected them on canvass. His art gave us a peek inside his head, such as his relationship with partner Marie-Thérèse Walter in his formative years.

picasso tate modern #museum #art
‘The Dream’ (1932) Private collection © Succession Picasso/DACS London

Art is therapy

Art is an instrument for coping, part mental therapy part expression. Bottling his thoughts without letting them go would’ve driven Picasso insane. Whether it is painting, writing, or playing sports, we exercise our bodies to verify that we’re still alive.

As Picasso and so many other artists illustrate, self-expression has a real and irresistible pulse.


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‘To be or not to be. That’s not really a question’

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Photo by Stefano Pollio

“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question,” quipped film director Jean-Luc Godard back to Shakespeare’s most famous line.

To be is rather a false start. We think that success breeds confidence, but it’s actually the little lessons along the way that build up our future.

Struggle makes us human

Similarly, it is our impairments that deem to weaken us that actually but end up making us stronger. As we overcompensate for our flaws, we excel in creating our own unique survival methods that are almost impossible to replicate.

Humans should march slowly, unattached to the cult of action, tolerant to their defects.

Said Malcolm Gladwell: “A lot of what is beautiful and powerful in the world arises out of adversity. We benefit from those kind of things,” but “we wouldn’t wish them on each other.”

We are all underdogs in something, a compromise that gets us out of bed in the morning and back to work.

The gateway to light is the eye

A short-term realist, a long-term optimist.

Can one hedge against fear and doubt while simultaneously pushing for a better and brighter future?

Most of us struggle in bear markets, when confidence ebbs into despair. We can only permit pertinacity.

What keeps one going is the light at the end of the tunnel, connecting the slightest ideas to extend the road through all perceived hurdles.

The obstacle is the way, they say.

Necessity is the mother of invention. If we can’t tolerate ambiguity along the way, we’ll most certainly give up.

If the gateway to light is the eye, persistence lies in the guts.

Faith can move mountains

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Photo by Kristopher Roller

“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote.

Futuring is a tough business. We toggle between our present number of choices along with desires and goals that reinforce the prioritization of time.

Knowing that we can’t do it all, most people reach for what’s most immediately accessible and end up regretting about what could be. They stifle themselves in exchange for feeling ‘safe.’

For others, death compels action. Their gut instinct refuses to accept standing still and succumb to mediocrity. Yet, their expedition may incorrectly rest in jealousy, a fear of missing out, rather than chasing a purpose.


Faith in the unseen

Our vocation chooses us. We grade our impact by how much we cling to that sense of priority rather than chasing other people’s dreams.

In reality, there is nothing out there that will make us fulfilled forever. But the attempt to cultivate happiness by pursuing what’s meaningful remains a noble attempt to maximize our time on Earth.

Take a break and debug yourself

The work isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it just keeps coming. Your productivity will ebb and flow to the whims of the daily grind.

But there is one thing you can do to bring back your focus: take a break.

“Taking regular short breaks, of even just one minute, gets you out of habitual thinking and behavior. It provides you space for awareness to arise and to see things clearer.”

A simple break may also release you from the prison of traditional thinking. Our dominant thoughts aren’t always the best ones.

As Umberto Eco reminds us: “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” But in order to stay alive, we also need to destress and unthink.

There will always be another chance to ride the wave of opportunity. A clear mind may increase your chances of surfing the right one.

Goal setting 2018 where all believing is betting

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Photo by Wells Baum

Offbeat, except in normal life.

Shaken, not in rage to be stirred.

A contrarian, narrowed into a consensus view.

Constant surprises, a search for settlement.

Ludicrous ambition, tolerable mediocrity.

Finally a new year, with more conviction this time.

Writes Gary Lachlan in The Caretakers of the Cosmos: “Without goals, without some purposeful anticipation, we live, Frankl said, only a ‘provisional existence’, a kind of marking time which is really a death in life.”

In the game of goal setting, all beliefs are gambles.

‘It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found.’

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Photo by Wells Baum

Success bears responsibility. All of a sudden, your work and words mean something because the first time in your life people who you’ve never met are listening to you.

“It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found.”– D.W. Winnicott

The alternative to fame is anonymity. Van Gogh gained recognition after he died. Before that, he had only sold one painting to his brother.

For some, success turns people into leaders. For others, it causes them to curl back into their shell and their echoes to faint. The spotlight curbs their creative freedom.

For the rare few, they keep on trucking and stick to the person they’ve always been. When it comes to any notoriety, self-expression should always trump impression. The latter is never the point of doing good work.

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Seeking an objective point of view

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Photo by Wells Baum

We are obsessed with the first-person because we live in a culture that emphasizes the individual. The selfie generation makes “I” the predominant jargon for almost everything we post on social media and talk about in real life.

Me-ness has shrouded our ability to step outside the self and see the world objectively. It’s not all about us. We view ourselves in the reflection of other people. The looking glass self is external. Writes Adam Price in defense of third person.


It worries me that we may be slowly losing the cultural ability or inclination to tell stories in third person. Why does this matter? Because, I believe, third-person narration is the greatest artistic tool humans have devised to tell the story of what it means to be human.

“I think therefore I am.”

Our inner-narrative predicts how we’ll act in real life. It controls the outer stage of actions. As narrators, we can be more thoughtful of how to talk to about ourselves despite the egotism reinforced by the dizzying pace of status updates. We find deeper meaning when we can see and express a world bigger than ourselves.

We constantly divide our attention between the first- and third-person points of view, between desiring the shiny object in front of us and figuring out what it means for us to take it: who else wants it, what we have to do to get it, and whether it’s worth taking it from them.

In Defense of Third Person

Pedestrians at the corner

All photos by Wells Baum

At the corner,
Patiently waiting,
At least trying to,
Fidgeting instead,
Generation thumbs pecking at the phone,
A passing bus emits CO2 into the air,
We breathe in street dust,
Overtaken by wafting the delivery man’s pizza,


Staring at the other side,
Eavesdropping on each other’s chatter,
The newcomers give the placebo button another pinch,
A living signal turns white,
Twenty seconds to cross,
The clock ticks,
We all go together,
Dog trotting to safety,

One minute united at the corners,
Signalling styles,
Anonymous the next,
Walkers dignified as pedestrians,
Jealous of those who stayed behind.

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Writing by walking

41NKNoExnqL“With writing as with walking you often find that you’re not heading exactly where you thought you wanted to go. There’ll be missteps and stumbles, journeys into dead ends, the reluctant retracing of your steps. And you have to tell yourself that’s just fine, that it’s a necessary, and not wholly unenjoyable, part of the process. It’s an exploration,” writes Geoff Nicholson in his book The Lost Art of Walking.

Writing, like walking, is getting lost but at the same time, trusting that wherever the pen and feet go as you ramble and amble around will be met with strange discoveries.

As Rebecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, “Language is like a road; it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read.”

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via giphy

Tick tock you don’t stop ⏲

“This is a unique object”

“It glows. It seems to be getting brighter. It’s also running backwards, it’s not so much keeping time but, counting down to something. And look at the back it’s..it fits into something. It’s like a key” — Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Everybody’s fixated on the clock. It’s what we use to countdown to the weekend. It’s what professional sports uses to determine a winner. Clocks constrict time when them as points of reference.

Jeff Bezos built a clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years. It demonstrates Bezos’ vision for long-term thinking.

Coldplay created a hit song called “Clocks” in 2002. More importantly, it’s also the name of a track from Elementz of Sound that appeared on John Peel’s FabricLive 07.

Did you know that 2016 will be one-second longer? Says science author Dan Falk:

“If you don’t insert a leap second, eventually time based on those atomic clocks will be out of whack with solar time.”

Clock in, clock out. Everybody’s got the same amount of time on Earth. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Written for the Daily Prompt: Clock ⏲