There Was a Time
There was a time when art was but a decoration,
when music in the background was the rule.
There were times when culture was a way to sweeten days
like fine cuisine.
We knew times when poetry murmured
in a classroom, once the real work had been done,
when a book at home was something we might use
to put ourselves to sleep.
A storm of terror cleared all that -- again.
And now we live by killing far away.
Art is not a weapon but a hand.
Is it naive to teach for justice with a poem, a story,
or a song?
Not so foolish, as I say, as promise lasting safety, prosperity,
or any shred of true abundance in a child's long life
by striking back.
Art must be like breath, catching at the brim of fear
to inspire the next epoch of our life together.
Can money do that? An army? The greatest power in the world?
Be honest: Rivers find each other by seeking the meeting place.
Live there. Take up the pen.
-- Kim Stafford, (USA Contemporary), from The Muses Among Us, 2003
As an artist, you are a representative human being—you have to believe that in order to give your life over to that effort to create something of value. You’re not doing it only to satisfy your own impulses or needs. There is a social imperative. If you solve your problems and speak of them truly, you are of help to others, that’s all. And it becomes a moral obligation. --
Stanley Kunitz (USA 1905-2006), 2003
Every human being is an artist, a freedom being called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that condition our lives.
-- Joseph Beuys (German artist 1921-1986)
Genuine art…is an affair of the people; genuine art is essentially social in character.
Rudolf Steiner, (Austrian philosopher, artist, educator 1861-1925) A Social Basis for Education
What we must learn to do is to bring art into our thinking….all real philosophers have been artists in the realm of concepts.
-- Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy of Freedom (1894)
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me; for this I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces....
--Gerard Manley Hopkins (English 1844-1889), c.1881
BEING A PERSON
Be a person here. Stand
by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here to make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.
A slow bubble rises
through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.
Suddenly this dream you
are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
How you stand here is
important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.
-- William Stafford (USA 1914-1993), “Being a Person” published 1995
…It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not.
I am with you, you men and women of a generation,
or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and the sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refreshed by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refreshed.
…These and all else were to me the same as they are to you,
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river,
The men and the women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same—others who look back on me because I looked forward to them
(the time will come, though I stop here today and tonight).
…Closer yet I approach you,
What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance,
I considered long and seriously of you before you were born.
Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?
…What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face?
What fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you?
We understand each other, do we not?
What I promised without mentioning it, have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not accomplish is accomplished, is it not?
Flow on river! Flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edged waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sunset! Drench with your splendor me,
or the men and women generations after me!
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
--Walt Whitman (USA 1819-1892)
You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names—and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.
-- William Stafford