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Art? Glorifcation of our precious aims? Joseph Conrad: NOT

Hello. The fruits of procrastination can be glorious. Yes, being on deadline, instead of sharpening pencils or organizing socks, I found myself dusting off the 1987 volumes of the living room collection of The Encyclopedia Britanica, feverishly researching the history of fossil fuels and the many risks (such as oil spills and explosions). But after a few hours, I realized that surfing the 28 volumes might lead to weeks of non-answers. So, being under the influence of ambien, logically, my mind instead, turned to the meaning of ART.

My friend and Gonzo Foundation Board member, Jim Caruso, posted a great blog entry about his early discovery of ART (and his continuing quest to understand it). Like me, not crystal clear on what ART is, but does love to look and wonder…

   I remember asking Ralph Steadman a similar question about ART, he told me what his beloved art teacher told him: "Don’t worry so much about the canvas – pay attention to what you SEE." Is that right, Ralph? IS Seeing the trick? David Halberstam, Edward Abbey and so many others have focused on the same thing. It seems easy, only on the days you can trust your own eyes. Jim writes in his blog on:

There had to be something to read that would teach us about life.  Hell’s Angels appeared just as our young minds were about to turn to jelly.  I’m pretty sure the book was banned at our school, or something like that.  Further confirmation that we were on to some truth we weren’t supposed to know.  For us, Hunter S. Thompson owned the written word just as Sinatra owned the space he performed in.  I was still in complete awe of Hunter S. Thompson 30 years later when I became part of the Flying Dog Brewery world.  I have all of Hunter’s books.  I can open any one of them to any page and be gripped HST’s writing.

The truth we weren’t supposed to know back then? …

…Sinatra and HST were our heroes not just because they were artistic geniuses, but also because they were anti-authoritarians to their core and possessed tremendous personal courage.  They were giants.

After Sinatra passed away, it was about 5 years before I could listen to his music again.

I was in Chicago when I got a call from Bill Husted from the Denver Post to let me know about HST’s death.  That was just over 5 years ago.  I started reading Hunter S. Thompson again a few months ago.  Since then I’ve read more than 1,500 pages of Hunter S. Thompson’s works and my summer reading will include a re-reading of all of HST’s books.

There’s a painful gaping void for a while.

But their art is here for eternity.

And the hell of it is, as extraordinarily powerful an influence as their art was originally, it’s even more transformative when it’s explored again and again and new layers of meaning are discovered.

That’s art.

Sharing something with the world that will make a difference.  Art changes people.  And great art changes people for generations.

Since I’m still not totally sure what Art really is, but appreciate it when it moves me, I had to go back to something that Hunter turned me on to about a decade ago.

— Jim Caruso. 

So, now that Jim has opened the door,  let me indulge now that I’m unlgued from the news about The Gulf Coast, Israel, N and S Korea… Here is one of Hunter’s favorite passages written by Joseph Conrad about the same subject Jim brought up. The funny thing is, after having read it so many times over the years, or because I’m sleepy, maybe i see why Hunter said that Joseph Conrad was one of the greatest humorists. The Preface (1897) to The Nigger of the Narcissus:

(Here are a few paragraphs, but PLEASE read the whole thing if you can, because I can’t do it justice…)

A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be definded as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colours, in its light, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life, what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essential — their one illuminating and convincing quality — the very truth of their existence. The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal. Impressed by the aspect of the world the thinker plunges into ideas, the scientist into facts — whence, presently, emerging they make their appeal to those qualities of our being that fit us best for the hazardous enterprise of living. They speak authoritatively to our common-sense, to our intelligence, to our desire of peace or to our desire of unrest; not seldom to our prejudices, sometimes to our fears, often to our egoism — but always to our credulity. And their words are heard with reverence, for their concern is with weighty matters: with the cultivation of our minds and the proper care of our bodies; with the attainment of our ambitions; with the perfection of the means and the glorification of our precious aims.

(if You’re still reading, I salute you. click to see why…)  

It is otherwise with the artist.


   Confronted by the same enigmatical spectacle the artist descends within himself, and in that lonely region of stress and strife, if he be deserving and fortunate, he finds the terms of his appeal. His appeal is made to our less obvious capacities: to that part of our nature which, because of the warlike conditions of existence, is necessarily kept out of sight within the more resisting and hard qualities — like the vulnerable body within the steel armour. His appeal is less loud, more profound, less distinct, more stirring — and sooner forgotten. Yet its effect endures for ever. The changing wisdom of successive generations discards ideas, questions facts, demolishes theories. But the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom: to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition — and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation — and to the subtle but invincible, conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts: to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity — the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.

   It is only some such train of thought, or rather of feeling, that can in a measure explain the aim of the attempt, made in the tale which follows, to present an unrestful episode in the obscure lives of a few individuals out of all the disregarded multitude of the bewildered, the simple and the voiceless. For, if there is any part of truth in the belief confessed above, it becomes evident that there is not a place of splendour or a dark corner of the earth that does not deserve, if only a passing glance of wonder and pity. The motive, then, may be held to justify the matter of the work; but this preface, which is simply an avowal of endeavour, cannot end here — for the avowal is not yet complete.


Anita Thompson

p.s.  actually, I’ll include this part, where Conrad does mention the Rub and that music is the art of arts…

Fiction — if it at all aspires to be art — appeals to temperament. And in truth it must be, like painting, like music, like all art, the appeal of one temperament to all the other innumerable temperaments whose subtle and resistless power endows passing events with their true meaning, and creates the moral, the emotional atmosphere of the place and time. Such an appeal, to be effective, must be an impression conveyed through the senses; and, in fact, it cannot be made in any other way, because temperament, whether individual or collective, is not amenable to persuasion. All art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses, and the artistic aim when expressing itself in written words must also make its appeal through the senses, if its high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions. It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the colour of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music — which is the art of arts. And it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and…

OKAy, To be continued… goodnight!

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