Monday, April 10, 2017

Lost Treasures

Here is the post I had just finished when I got some horrific news.  Please read on:

What are your tiny treasures?

I love tiny treasures.  You know, tiny toys found in the bottom of cereal boxes, Matchbox Cars, tiny souvenirs from trips, etc.  Most totally worthless, but I hold on to these tiny relics because of the memories they represent.  Each tiny piece brings me right back to person, place, experience.  I know that some people say that "It's just stuff",  but to me they are precious.

Why do we amass all this tiny stuff we don’t need?

Philipp Blom, a cultural historian, writes:

Objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.  For example, carefully arranged around the sarcophagus of pharaoh’s tomb representatives of the king’s possessions, of the wealth and the resources he needs to live on in the afterworld. Their presence is symbolic, but it assures survival. It is remarkable how many collectors chose to be immortalized through their collections, either by naming and donating them.

While I doubt anyone will be fighting over my “Nixon Now” button, Harry Chapin autographed concert ticket,  G.I. Joe dog tag, an arrowhead, vintage 1968 Frito-Lay Frito Bandito rubber pencil top eraser in mint condition, one of my wisdom teeth (yes, you read that correctly),  I still feel the need to save and collect my relics from the past.

But, how to display them?

The answer:  I spent some valuable time and resources this weekend converting a one-hundred-year-old dresser and some old printers’ trays into a Tiny Treasure Display Case.

By my calculation, I now have 490 individual tiny compartments to store my tiny treasures (more if I double them up) plus an entire section for larger objects.   I will now start the process of sectioning them into categories including relics from grandparents, parents, early childhood, family, and “I’ve forgotten where I got this, but I still think that it’s damn cool!”

My relics and relics from past Kuhn and Riley generations.  I can't explain it, but my urge to collect is impossible to ignore: it touches the very depths of who I am.

Or, maybe I just love my ny stuff and the memories they represent.  

What are some of your favorite tiny relics?


I was writing this post today when I got word that a fire at my sister-in-law's apartment building took everything she owned away from her.  All of her possessions -- including photographs, family heirlooms, tiny treasures of great personal connection -- painfully gone!

Thankfully, no one was hurt or killed. Still . . .

I can't imagine.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Monday, April 3, 2017

Are You an Artist? Hell YES!

A friend of mine (good morning, Curt) and have have been having an on-going discussion about “What is art?”  More specifically, “Who is an artist?”

It seems that most people hesitate — no, make that refuse — to call what they do art or themselves artists.

“I take photographs, but I’m NOT a photographer.”
“I create images in PhotoShop, but I’m NOT a digital artist.”
“I play music, but I’m NOT a musician.”
“I write poems and stuff, but I’m NOT a poet or writer.”
“I _______________ , but I’m NOT an artist.”

We used to be artists, musicians, and writers when we were children -- our refrigerators were even the "art gallery!"  When did we stop being artists? Why do we do this to ourselves?  And what’s the cost? 

That question has led me to two things. One, The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin.

 For thousands of years, people were told the story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus. They were isolated on an island by the gods and Daedalus came up with a way to escape by making wings. We know the myth as “don’t fly too close to the sun or your wings of wax will melt and you’ll perish.”

But it turns out that Daedalus gave his son two instructions.  The second, “Don’t fly too low. Don’t fly too close to the sea because if you do, the mist in the waves will weigh down your wings and you will surely die.”

It turns out that, according to Godin, industrialists and the systems that we live with want us to fly low. They push us to settle for less, and Godin thinks the time has come to stop buying that propaganda. “My book is a manifesto,” Godin writes, “almost a creed, about how we must overthrow the mindset of being a cog in the industrial system and instead, stand up and make what I call art.”

“Art is the work of a human being – something a person does with generosity to touch someone else to make a change for the better. We can see art in the way the nurse in a doctor’s office treats us when she knows how much pain we’re in. She’s not just doing her job; she’s being a person. She is enlarging the bubble around herself to include us.”

I was thinking of all this as I was doing some yard work at my younger daughter’s house when the sound of a chainsaw down the block caught my attention.

Meet Eric.

“That’s awesome art!” I said as I introduced myself.

“It’s my first attempt at making a duck!”  he replied without missing a beat.

Eric, like a lot of us, stopped short of calling his work art or himself an artist (even though it turns out he studied at an art school).

Eric, if you’re reading this, I call bullshit.  Eric is an artist. And what he’s crafting will be enjoyed by thousands of people as they walk Franklin Street on Evansville’s West Side (scheduled to be there in a couple of weeks).

What is your art?

Seth Godin defines art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen. Art contains three elements:

    1.    Art is made by a human being.
    2.    Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
    3.    Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording... but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By his definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint, marble, words, wood, digital images, etc. Art is what we're doing when we do our best work.

Go out and make some art this week.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Monday, March 27, 2017

Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps

I read a quote yesterday that got me thinking, Damn, I wish I had written that!

“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” -- Emo Philips 

Who is this Emo Philips?

Here's the all-knowing Wikipedia:

Emo Philips (born Phil Soltanek; February 7, 1956) is an American comedian. Much of his stand-up comedy makes the use of paraprosdokians spoken in a wandering falsetto tone of voice. The confused, childlike delivery of his material produces the intended comic timing in a manner invoking the 'wisdom of children' or the idiot savant.

Paraprosdokians?  Falsetto and confused, childlike delivery?  Wisdom of children or the idiot servant?  No wonder I’m drawn to this guy. 

Here are a few more Emo-ism (at least some of the benign ones):

"A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing."

"I love to go to the playground and watch the children jumping up and down. They don't know I'm firing blanks."

"I ran five miles today. Then, finally, I said, 'Here, lady... take your purse."

"At my lemonade stand, I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote."

"You know what I hate? Indian givers... no, I take that back."

"I got in a fight one time with a really big guy, and he said, 'I'm going to mop the floor with your face.' I said, 'You'll be sorry.' He said, 'Oh, yeah? Why?' I said, 'Well, you won't be able to get into the corners very well.'"

"People always ask me, 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?' Well, I don't have an alibi".

"The way I understand it, the Russians are sort of a combination of evil and incompetence... sort of like the Post Office with tanks."

"I was walking down fifth avenue today and I found a wallet, and I was gonna keep it, rather than return it, but I thought: well, if I lost a hundred and fifty dollars, how would I feel? And I realized I would want to be taught a lesson."

"How many people here have telekinetic powers? Raise my hand."

"I go from stool to stool in singles bars hoping to get lucky, but there's never any gum under any of them. "

And finally, if you’re feeling like “Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps"

Try this, "When I wake up in the morning, I just can't get started until I've had that first, piping hot pot of coffee. Oh, I've tried other enemas."

Thank you Emo Philips.

Carpe Diem Life,

David Kuhn

Monday, March 20, 2017

All Those Who Wander . . .

Last week I showed you a couple of images from a hike that I took and quoted the motto of the Baltimore Grotto (a caving society):

    "Take nothing but pictures.
    Leave nothing but footprints.
    Kill nothing but time."

Well, I actually did take something. 

For some time now, I've recognized that my body just isn't what it used to be.  Years of broken ankles, a broken leg, knee surgery, back surgery, etc. has left my body as broken as tree that had been in the path of a F3 tornado (severe, but not yet completely devastated).

Mindful of my lack of balance while I was out wandering, I came across this limb from a downed tree. It look as if it had also gone through a contorted life, and it needed a second chance.  So, I brought it home, stripped off its bark, sanded it smooth, and applied five coats of tung oil.  The result:

Looks like something out of The Lord of the Rings.  Which leads me down the path to this poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I don't know about you, but I can use a walking cane from time to time as we wander this life.  This is mine.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hectic as a . . .

A co-worker of mine keeps asking me when I’m going to start writing this blog again. 

I can probably come up with a few dozen-thousand reasons why I’ve CHOSEN to take a respite, but I’ll just use one: 

While ponderer life on a hike through a southern Indiana marshy land Saturday, I came across this.

That’s it! I’ve been as busy as a beaver!

I really wish that I had a chain saw with me so that I could have cut a section of this and dragged it home with the aspiration of someday repurposing it.

However, I know in my heart that the “something” would probably just be a nuisance to my children who will have to dispose of my belongings after I’m dead and gone. 

So, I did the responsible thing and followed the motto of the Baltimore Grotto (some sort of caving society according to the inter web):

    "Take nothing but pictures.
    Leave nothing but footprints.
    Kill nothing but time." [except mosquitoes and ticks!]

Spring--nearly here-- is a time of plans and projects.  Spring is also a time to pay attention to the woods.

“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” — Anne Lamott

Just someone to chew on this week.

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Riders On The Storm

Riders on the storm 
Awaken to the present
It is as it is

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn

Monday, February 20, 2017

“No Paintings For Sale!”

While on my hiatus from writing, I ran across the story of an American artist and author that touched a nerve and prompted me to get out of my journal. 

Meet Harlan Hubbard.  Born in Bellevue, Kentucky, in 1900.  His father died when Harlan was only seven.  Soon thereafter, his mother moved him to New York City.  There, he received his art education.  In 1919, he returned to northern Kentucky.

According to Wikipedia: As a young man, Hubbard saw the industrial development in America as a threat to the natural world and he came to reject consumer culture. In 1929 he started keeping a journal into which he poured his thoughts on society. In 1943, he married Anna Eikenhout. The following year they built a shanty boat at Brent, Kentucky and traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. 

Harlan is known for his simple lifestyle, simple storytelling, and pastoral art. 

As the story I was reading goes, Hubbard sent a portrait of his mother to a juryless exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  When he traveled to see the show, he found the portrait hanging in an obscure corner of an obscure room.  He wrote,

“I do not understand why anyone who has painted as long and seriously as I have, and who has asked little, should have absolutely no success or recognition.  But I have gone this far and now I must go on.”

His defiance had, as Wendell Berry wrote, “achieved a kind of style: “I will paint for myself and turn the canvases to the wall.’”

In negativity of his rejecters, Hubbard found that his “failures” actually helped him connect with the source of his work. 

“No Paintings for Sale."  That's the sign he tacked a sign to his door when he came to the realization that the mere hope of a sale and acceptance of fellow artists and critics had created a “psychic trap.”
 As Gail Sher wrote, “Not until he could paint without even the possibility of selling, would he be able entirely to surrender to himself.”

To paraphrase Harlan Hubbard, “I will write for myself and close the cover of the journal.” 

But, please stay tuned.  Unlike Hubbard, I’m not ready to, “sever completely all possible connections to the world and live on the outside fringe, a rebel”

What is your “No Paintings for Sale” craft, hobby, or passion?

Carpe Diem Life,
David Kuhn