Contradictory Abstractions: The Dynamic of Action / Reaction

Dynamic Simplicity by Maria L. Berg 2023

This morning I read, in Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee, “Every consequential moment in life pivots around a dynamic of action/reaction. In the physical realm, reactions are equal, opposite, and predictable in obedience to Newton’s third law of motion; in the human sphere, the unforeseen rules. Whenever we take an important step, our world reacts—but almost never in the way we expect. From within us or around us come reactions we cannot and do not see coming. For no matter how much we rehearse life’s big moments, when they finally arrive, they never seem to work out quite the way we thought, hoped, or planned. The drama of life is an endless improvisation.”

If I relate this to dialectic thought, an action (thesis) gives rise to reaction (antithesis) which does not live up to expectation (conflict) which leads to a different action (thesis) which gives rise to reaction (antithesis) which does not meet expectation (conflict), and so it goes never to find synthesis (until the end of the novel that is, but not in real life). So is McKee unknowingly proposing and antithesis to Hegelian dialectics? And how can I fit the idea that every consequential moment, the moment I’m trying to capture, pivots around action/reaction?

Let’s move on from beauty and ugliness to the third call for action, “To find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness; dismay the happy, or delight the miserable.” The action would be finding happiness in misery and a reaction could be finding the misery in happiness, thus finding both. Or, the action could be dismaying the happy and the reaction being delighting the miserable. There is a lot of action and reaction going on in my call to action for my art. Let’s look at the many possible combinations:

  1. action: find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness – reaction: dismay the happy, or delight the miserable
  2. action: dismay the happy, or delight the miserable – reaction: find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness
  3. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: find the misery in happiness
  4. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  5. action: dismay the happy – reaction: delight the miserable
  6. action: delight the miserable – reaction: dismay the happy
  7. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: dismay the happy
  8. action: dismay the happy – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  9. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: delight the miserable
  10. action: delight the miserable – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  11. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: dismay the happy
  12. action: dismay the happy – reaction: find the misery in happiness
  13. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: delight the miserable
  14. action: delight the miserable – reaction: find the misery in happiness

I think that covers it. So what am I looking at? Are each of those an image I want to create? Are they all aspects of one image? Are they all different consequential moments in the life of the continuum of happiness and misery?  I like the idea that they are fourteen different ways to approach finding my photograph that captures the essence of happiness and misery at the same time.

Action / Reaction as an aspect of contradictory abstractions made me think of Dynamic simplicity, an aspect of visual design that is emphasized in Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson.

Mr. Patterson says, “Simplicity brings order and stability to compositions . . . However, if everything were as simple as possible, life would be very boring. We need to balance order with tension, which brings movement, activity, and a sense of the dynamic both to our pictures and to our lives. . . . So pictorial composition, like living, always involves balancing tension against order.”

So is this dynamic of tension (action) and order (reaction? or synthesis?) the physical dialectic of my art?

Fan Dance by Maria L. Berg 2023

Today’s images were inspired by the work of Arthur Dove and Francis Picabia. Specifically Arthur Dove’s “Nature Symbolized No. 2″  (1911) reminded me of something I did back in April with Foolish, Ambition, and Cleave. I sliced up the printed photograph and spread it out like a fan. Today, I cut the center circle from my filter and cut it in curves then spread them out and taped the shape back in the open circle. Then, inspired by Francis Picabia’s orange and white ‘Dance” paintings (1912), I added my orange string lights, expecting them to not really take the shape but add a soft blurred edge in an attempt to replicate the interesting softness Picabia brought to his cubist surfaces. However, the orange lights replicated this shape clearly to nice effect.

Today’s Surprising Connection

This morning I started reading Complete Poems by Marianne Moore and came across a poem called “The Animals Sick of the Plague.” I recognized the title instantly as the play the kids put on for the New Year’s party in The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny. I had never heard of that fable before I read Penny’s novel. Now here it is in the section of Marianne Moore’s poems called “Selections from The Fables of La Fontaine (1954).”

Contradictory Abstractions: The Synthesis of Beauty and Ugliness

Beaugliness by Maria L. Berg 2023

It’s the last day of the first month of the new year, and I woke up early, tore apart my mirrorworld, and started fresh. Though conceptually I feel like my ideas are coming together, the images aren’t yet what I’ve been hoping for. How about you? How did your month go?

This week I’m exploring my second call to action: “To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.” Last week I was excited by Hegel’s dialectic thinking. This morning I found another correlation in neuroscience in Eric R. Kandel’s The Age of Insight.

Coming to Synthesis

Nobel prize winning neuroscientist, Kandel, writes, “Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry. Thus, the amygdala, commonly associated with fear, is also a regulator of happiness.”

I love how my goal of creating images that show how contradictory abstract nouns converge works with the physiology of the brain.

While thinking about today’s photo-shoot and my call to action, I contemplated if capturing synthesis would actually make great art. Isn’t it the extremes that people find exciting? Not the negation, the accomplished stasis?

Kandel says, “Our response to art stems from an irrepressible urge to re-create in our own brains the creative process—cognitive, emotional, and empathic—through which the artist produced the work. This creative urge of the artist and the beholder presumably explains why essentially every group of human beings in every age and in every place throughout the world has created images, despite the fact that art is not a physical necessity for survival. Art is an inherently pleasurable and instructive attempt by the artist and the beholder to communicate and share with each other the creative process that characterizes every human brain—a process that leads to an Aha! moment, the sudden recognition that we have seen into another person’s mind, and that allows us to see the truth underlying both the beauty and the ugliness depicted by the artist.”

Thus, each of these images I share with you whether beautiful, or ugly, or somewhere along the continuum, is a peek into my mind. Welcome. It’s busy, and often cluttered, but there’s a lot of fun creating going on.

To make today’s images, using only white string-lights, I used printed transparencies of sections of my images that showed the shape both right-side-up and upside-down. I then created new images showing the filter both right-side-up and upside-down. Is it the synthesis? The negation? I’m not sure, but I had fun with my new terminology in my titles.

Beaugliful by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

I’m going to continue to explore beauty and ugliness for a while. Kant keeps coming up as I study abstract art, so I want to read through his works that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Using my new kindle skills I searched for beauty and ugly in Kant’s Critique of Judgement and beauty had 500 matches, ugly had 4. I find that fascinating. Why the crazy imbalance? Is it because people seek out beauty and not ugliness?

In the section called “Dialectic of the Aesthetical Judgement,” Kant says, “. . . the conflict between judgements of Taste, so far as each man depends merely on his own taste, forms no Dialectic of taste; because no one proposes to make his own judgement a universal rule. There remains therefore no other concept of a Dialectic which has to do with taste than that of a Dialectic of the Critique of taste (not of taste itself) in respect of its principles; for here concepts that contradict one another (as to the ground of the possibility of judgements of taste in general) naturally and unavoidably present themselves.”

As I read it, there is no conflict between beauty and ugliness when it has to do with one’s own ideas and feelings, the conflict arises when people’s aesthetics are different. Something to think about.

The Week in Review: Reading, Writing, and Abstraction

Mountain by Maria L. Berg 2023

How was your week? Did you try reading like a writer? Though I didn’t find a lot to apply to my novel from The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill, I did have fun brainstorming unique formats for my novel, and it inspired me to get a copy of S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst from my local library system. I was curious to see how all the inserts worked. They are neatly tucked within the pages of the book and the book comes in a box sleeve that is velcroed shut. Imagine my happy surprise when the first insert is two copies of a letter. The first in Swedish and the second its translation. It was fun to be able to read the letter in Swedish and also see their translation.

The Ship of Theseus, which is the fictitious book in which the characters write in the margins, is also the name of an interesting philosophical puzzle which asks, if every piece of a ship is replaced over time, is it still the same ship when it doesn’t have a single original piece left?

As for the reading experience I haven’t figured it out yet. There are so many different things to read: The translator’s preface and footnotes is one story, the novel, the layers and layers of notes between the students, and the inserted materials. I thought I would read through the novel first, but the notes were too distracting, so I think I’ll have to spend the time on each page to read the novel, the translator’s notes and the students written notes all at once.

I finished reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert for my coursera.org course “The Modern and the Postmodern” through Wesleyan University. In class, it was an example of the Disillusionment. I know I read Madame Bovary as an undergrad, but I really didn’t remember anything about it as I read. It was long and boring and the characters were abhorrent people, but that’s why it’s going to be interesting to discuss for reading as a writer. I found a lot to learn from it and apply to my work.

I liked the note-taking capabilities in Kindle and will talk about that tomorrow. I also found some interesting surprise connections  in my other reading that I’ll talk about tomorrow.

This week I found a new-used mirror large enough to create a mirrorworld that has eternal depth, as in mirrors reflecting mirrors all the way to infinity. I’m excited to explore all my new techniques within this space while thinking dialectically. My idea for this week is: if I take an image that includes my shape both right side up, and upside down and backwards, and I use that shape as a filter to take a photo of the shapes right side up, and upside down and backwards, will that get me closer to synthesis? I’ll try it out and talk more about these new ideas of capturing synthesis on Tuesday.

Moon by Maria L. Berg 2023

Using drum beats to create poetic lines

This week’s rhythm I’ve been playing with is: one, two, three, four and. This is the cha-cha rhythm. I looked through my old records and the only cha-cha I found was by Henri Mancini called “Something for Sellers.”(Fun fact: Henri Mancini also wrote the theme song for Remington Steele which I enjoyed as a kid, and is a fun distraction available on Amazon Prime Video.)

The last word of each phrase should be a trochee, having the stress on the first syllable. Until this week I was only looking at the rhythm as syllables not the stress of the words, but with this four & beat, it feels like the trochee vs. iamb(ic) foot is important.

Where is this going? Who’s out there knowing?
Can I make something, from all this nothing?
two rights come center, once new thoughts enter
is the mean better, once her match met her?

After four week of looking at this idea of drum beats becoming lines of poetry, I thought it would be fun to see how the lines work and sound together. Let’s see what happens. First I’ll take four lines from each of the patterns I’ve played with so far in order:

I say I’m good when we meet, but you’re not buying
I talk of truth, honestly, I know I’m lying
If truth is fine, why do I find yours is ugly?
If flaws make rich, why do I wish to be smudge free?

but I was waffling, so I just followed
to enjoy the talk and be in the walk
but I could not stop my mind from worry
we needed to go and be in a hurry

the third unknown point joins in unseen lines
to a future hurt that your secrets hide
where the haunting blues find life’s conflict caught
ache in yearning flesh moves the wand’ring eye

Where is this going? Who’s out there knowing?
Can I make something, from all this nothing?
two rights come center, once new thoughts enter
is the mean better, once her match met her?


Now let’s try one line from each in a row to make the quatrains:

I say I’m good when we meet, but you’re not buying
but I was waffling, so I just followed
the third unknown point joins in unseen lines
Where is this going? Who’s out there knowing?

I talk of truth, honestly, I know I’m lying
to enjoy the talk and be in the walk
to a future hurt that your secrets hide
Can I make something, from all this nothing?

If truth is fine, why do I find yours is ugly?
but I could not stop my mind from worry
where the haunting blues find life’s conflict caught
two rights come center, once new thoughts enter

If flaws make rich, why do I wish to be smudge free?
we needed to go and be in a hurry
ache in yearning flesh moves the wand’ring eye
is the mean better, once her match met her?

*I think I like that. This second one has some interesting connections happening.

I guess I’ll be moving on to a slightly more complicated drum beat this week. I’ll have to figure out how that works with this idea of drum beats and poetry. Maybe I’ll see how a simple drum fill works with this idea.

I chose “(I’m Afraid The) Masquerade is Over” by Herb Magidson and Allie Wrubel as the song to work on this week as I continue working on my second call to action, “To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.”

Dialectic Thinking and the Study of Contradictory Abstractions

Hegelian Synthesis by Maria L. Berg 2023

Last week, while thinking about the first of my new calls to action “To find the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth; either deceive the truth, or unveil the deceit” (I now think reveal works better than unveil), the idea of deceiving truth, along with the blues songs I’ve been studying, got me thinking about cheaters and love triangles. I started thinking of imagery that represents a union of two wholes which made me think of the yin yang (itself a joining of opposites), and then an invisible triangle, the secret third party: the opposite of truth and the bringer of conflict.

Modernist Dialectic Thought

As I’ve mentioned I’m taking a course I found on coursera.org through Wesleyan University taught by Michael Roth called “The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 1)”. Last week, in the section called “From Enlightenment to Revolution,” we were assigned a bunch of Karl Marx to read, but for me the most interesting part of the week was the lectures on Karl Marx’s teacher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Though Wikipedia disagrees with itself whether Hegel actually used the terminology of Hegelian dialectic thought, I’m going to go ahead and talk about what excited me and how it inspired me this week.

Here’s how I understand Hegelian dialectics: every thought or idea (thesis) gives rise to its opposite (antithesis) and through conflict comes to synthesis. The whole process he called negation.

[Wikipedia says “For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation.” Seems similar enough to me.]

For Hegel this concept of an idea and its opposite coming to synthesis isn’t a fun thought experiment or art project (like me), it is his explanation of how the world works, and how the present reality interacts with history.

How does Hegelian philosophy change anything I’m doing? It brought up the idea that the image I’m searching for is the Synthesis, the end result of Negation. And when I find that, do I get to make up a new term: a word that means both truth and deceit for instance, and what would my process be for finding that term, making up that word, making a new term that means both and neither? That should be fun, and make for good image titles.

Does it really change how I think about my study of contradictory abstract nouns? A little. As I take my photographs, I may be seeing how the world works, actually documenting a more real reality than if I were taking photos of the mountain, lake, birds, and kitty. I’m getting close to photographing truth and reason, or at least seeing a path to documenting images of truth and reason.

How might this affect my process? If I am finding the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth, I come up with a shape or symbol that I think can embody both somehow. I can create it and it’s opposite (not exactly opposite, but the form upside down and backwards) at the same time. I can even make those two shapes or symbols interact, but is that an image of synthesis? Has my image gone through negation? How would I study that?

There is no simple symbol of truth and deceit, however, I was playing with the idea of two joined shapes=the yin yang and the secret triangle for the deceit. So if I take that symbol and its opposite (upside-down and backwards) will it make a synthesis of truth and deceit?

In the pictures I put in this post, I think the one with the shape upside down and backwards (the antithesis) creates the conflict Hegel talks about, and I think the one without the antithesis (top of post) creates a new form through synthesis. What do you think?

Talk About Synthesis:

The craziest thing happened last night. After free-writing about what I wanted to say about dialectic thinking. I went to bed and opened up Abstract Art: A Global History by Pepe Karmel, and right there in the introduction, right after saying “Critics argued that the abstract art made between 1915 and 1970 mattered deeply because its development unfolded according to laws of historical necessity. In contrast, even if individual painters and sculptors chose to go on making abstract art after 1970, their work did not—could not—belong to a meaningful historical narrative.” he says:

“The modernist theory of abstraction, with its reductive narrative explaining both the birth of abstraction and its ineluctable death, derived from Hegel, who tried to uncover an inner logic to history, replacing a chronicle of random events with a coherent narrative of significant actions. . . . modernists thought that, since abstraction had arrived at its essence, there was nothing meaningful left for modern artists to do. Painters might not have hung up their brushes, but ‘post-historical abstract painting’ was condemned to insignificance.”

So is Pepe saying that the process of Negation: thesis-antithesis-synthesis leads to the end of abstract painting? Or that “modernists” thought that? I don’t think that’s a reasonable conclusion. As I see it, the synthesis, that residual after the conflict lives on, or as the circles within circles of history, the process repeats and repeats.

What I’m finding inspirational for creating abstract art, Pepe Karmel sees as the end of abstract art. Though we obviously are in thesis and antithesis with no synthesis in sight, it’s still fun to see the connection.

Negation by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

I’m going to continue to dive into the philosophy of dialectic thought while I move to my second call to action “To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.”

Another statement that came up in The Modern and the Postmodern class, “beauty hides the truth” is in stark contrast to Keat’s statement in Ode on a Grecian Urn “Beauty is truth, truth beauty . . .” so there’s a lot to explore there.

Expanding the Study of Contradictory Abstractions

In Repose by Maria L. Berg 2023

Not Just Nouns Anymore

While reading The Linchpin Writer by John Matthew Fox, I came across this interesting sentence:

“You should use your descriptions to do one of two things: to either defamiliarize the familiar, or to familiarize the unfamiliar. “

The form of that sentence, with its contradictions, reminded me of “find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” and got me wondering if perhaps I had found the next path in my abstractions study. 

Just plugging in my abstract nouns, however, did not inspire: Description should do one of two things: to either despair the hope, or to hope the despair. Nope. That doesn’t say much to me. Upon closer look, the new formula isn’t directly using abstract nouns. Yes, it’s talking about contradictory abstractions, but with verbs and adjectives. I thought, for today, it would be fun to play around with the idea of turning my Big Five contradictory abstract nouns into verbs and adjectives and fit them into my new formula to see how that might affect how I think of them visually, and poetically.

Truth / Deceit

What are my adjectives for truth and deceit? Honest, and deceitful are my adjectives, or truthful, and deceitful, or true and untrue.  To deceive is a verb but to truth? Maybe reveal as the verb, or profess, it’s hard to think of a verb for truth. I played around with the thesaurus and found verbs that have to do with truth tend to uncover lies like: confess, reveal, unveil, etc. For this exercise, I like unveil. Let’s see what we’ve got now.

Description should do one of two things: to either deceive the truth, or to unveil the deceit.  I think I like that. 

Beauty / Ugliness

The adjectives are pretty easy: beautiful and ugly, The verbs? Beautify, and what? Uglify? I don’t think so. Oh, but I’m wrong: uglify is a word. That was easy. What do we get?

Description should do one of two things: either uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly. 

I like that too. I think that works for more than description, but for story as well. It also describes art, don’t you think? Or maybe for art it’s the and, not or. Art should do both: uglify the beautiful, and beautify the ugly.

Happiness / Misery

The adjectives: happy and miserable. The verbs? A bit more challenging. After playing in the thesaurus I landed on “delight” and “dismay.”

Description should do one of two things:  either dismay the happy, or delight the miserable. 

I think that really gets at an interesting concept, I wonder about sometimes. Why do people go to sad movies. When I’m happy, I don’t want to be dismayed, especially by my entertainment. Why do people like Shakespeare, or the opera, dramas of any sort. I think it’s to evoke emotion, strong emotion is a catharsis for people when they feeling flat, in a rut, unemotional. They need to feel these emotions to feel alive.

Love / Apathy

The adjectives: lovely, apathetic? Lovely is more like beauty, no. I think love calls for a different adjective, but what? Passionate, compassionate? Love is definitely the verb, but what about for apathy? That’s a little tricky. I think to bore is the closest I found.

Description should do one of two things: to either bore the passionate, or to love the apathetic. 

I like the first part a lot. Why would something have the purpose of boring the passionate?  The second part isn’t as intriguing. Maybe to love the uncaring . . .

But to love the apathetic sounds like defeat without any reason, but maybe that’s facing a truth.

Wisdom / Naivete

The adjectives are wise and naive. What the verbs? To know, to learn, to contemplate, to weigh, to judge. And naive? To fool, to forget, to blank, to clear, 

Description should do one of two things: either clear the wise, or know the naive. 

Description should do one of two things: either fool the wise, or judge the foolish. 

Description should do one of two things: either fool the wise, or wisen the foolish. 

I think that last one works.

Good / Bad

This week, inspired by the song “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” I’m looking at the bad in the good, and the good in the bad. How would this new idea expand on that? The adjectives? To get from good to better, one must improve. And from bad to worse, one worsens. So we’ve got: Description should do one of two things: either worsen the good, or improve the bad.That’s a strange statement. Is that what my photographs should do? Is that what today’s poem should do? Lots to think about.

That was a fun exercise. However, I try to avoid “should” so I think I’ll change the phrase to only the ending and make it declarative: Worsen the good, or improve the bad. If I combine that with my original contradictory noun phrase I get: Find the good in the bad, and the bad in the good, then worsen the good, or improve the bad. Or it could be: To find the good in the bad, and the bad in the good, worsen the good, or improve the bad.

Though it sounds like nonsensical gobbledygook, but after some thought, it makes sense. It’s got me thinking, so I like it.

Slowly Rolling by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

Lets see what the combined sentences would look like for my Big Five:

  1. To find the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth; either deceive the truth, or unveil the deceit.
  2. To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.
  3. To find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness; dismay the happy, or delight the miserable.
  4. To find the love in apathy and the apathy in love; bore the passionate, or love the uncaring.
  5. To find the naivete in wisdom and the wisdom in naivete; fool the wise, or wisen the foolish.

Looks like I’ve created my call to action for the next five weeks.

#Writober Day 3: Naive Skeletal Wisdom

Skeletal Remains by Maria L. Berg 2022

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

This week I am exploring the naivete in wisdom and the wisdom in naivete. Yesterday, while reading The Senses: Design Beyond Vision edited by Ellen Lipton and Andrea Lipps, I read, “Sensory design activates touch, sound, smell, taste, and the wisdom of the body.” That really opened up this week’s study for me. I already found my naivete in wisdom: I was only thinking of wisdom as a mental property. “Wisdom of the body, has a lot to do with homeostasis, but I’m just starting to think about it. I’ll be talking more about it throughout the week. Happily, the idea of wisdom of the body, goes great with Tourmaline .’s prompt “skeleton.” The visual prompt for #Writober titled “Owl Queen,” also fits perfectly with naive wisdom and wise naivete. I love it when all the prompts come together. 😍

OctPoWriMo

I was mistakenly under the impression that October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo) wasn’t happening this year. But this morning, I received a nice note from Morgan letting me know where to find this year’s prompts. This year’s theme “Growing Your Creative Soul,” and the first prompt, “Shine your light,” fit so well with the amazing summer I’ve been having. It’s October and I spent most of yesterday swimming in the lake with my nieces. I’ve had incredible months of light and growth.

So I have some free-writing to do on how I shine my light, and an ode or sonnet to write about a Thunderstorm. But now it’s Day 3 and the prompt is Spirals of Creation. The loop form is recommended. I wasn’t going to use it, thinking the loop form was one long stanza using the last word of a line to start the next line, but there are two other variations. I like the third one for this poem.

New Poem

It’s also Quadrille Monday at dVerse Poets Pub. The prompt for Quadrille #161 is “track.”

Track the Spiral Back

It’s naive
to believe

wisdom lies
in ideas: it resides

among connections
connections like threads
threads of web
webbing truths

once weighed and lived,
applied, sifted

through, with devotion,
all one’s previous notions

wisdom is looping
a looping track
track the spiral
spiral back

Skeletal Radiation by Maria L. Berg 2022

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is skeleton. Thinking about how weird and horrifying it would be if we could see the skeleton’s within the people and creatures around us, talking and walking around, I made a wire “skeleton” and added it to the Monster Me filters from Day 1.

Beneath the Skin by Maria L. Berg 2022

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s image is called “Owl Queen” on Pinterest and Imgur, but I ran into trouble trying to find who the artist is or any more about the work. It’s fun that this image coincided with this first day of looking at wisdom and naivete. I definitely didn’t plan it. It begs the question, does the naive young woman sit among wise old owls, or are the owls being naive?

Here’s the beginning of Aiolyn Among the Owls:

By the end of summer Aiolyn had no choice but to run away. Mom wouldn’t even notice, she was so wrapped up in her newest summer fling. But he had noticed Aiolyn, and she didn’t like the way his eyes poured over her, wet and sweaty. He always managed to get too close, so he would have to brush up against her with his bulging biceps, and bulging thighs, and other bulges.

Her new life in the forest was fun at first. Grandpa thought it was important for her to learn all about the local flora and fauna, so he took her along on his nature walks as soon as she could keep up which was a couple years before he passed. So she was great at foraging, and there were plenty of berries and greens. But soon the nights made her shiver and she woke up damp. Greens were now brown, and the berries were gone. Aiolyn dug for roots and made a fire. She kept telling herself she would be okay, but then the rain came.

When the rain fell so hard it broke through her shelter, she began to think maybe Mom was done with sweaty-bicep-man. She could go home at least until spring. But what if there was someone worse? Or what if Mom was in one of her post-man moods? No, she was better off on her own.

Then the owls came. At first their shiny eyes in the branches, watching, scared her. She thought maybe they were hungry, too. But then something fell and hit her shoulder. A strange, papery, gray egg fell at her feet. Then more and more fell. She covered her head with her arms until the sound of them falling stopped. She gently picked them up and placed them in her sad, wet shelter.

Maria L. Berg Writober7 Day 3

Grief in Happiness and Happiness in Grief

Grief in Happiness by Maria L. Berg 2022

Exploring the Big 5 abstractions is proving an interesting challenge. Turning my attention to happiness, I found some interesting websites:

Happiness Academy

World Happiness Foundation

happiness.com

https://www.dayofhappiness.net/

https://happinessday.org/ outlines 10 steps to Global Happiness:

  1. Tell everyone
  2. Do what makes you happy
  3. Give and spread happiness to others
  4. Attend a world happiness event
  5. Celebrate
  6. Share what makes you happy on social media
  7. Promote UN Resolutions 65/309 & 66/281
  8. Advance the United Nations global goals for sustainable development
  9. Enjoy nature
  10. Adopt Happytalism

They define global happiness this way:

  1. Happiness as a fundamental human right and goal for all
  2. Happiness as a universal aspiration in the lives of all
  3. Happiness as a way of living, being, and serving communities and society
  4. Happiness as a north star for individuals, communities, governments, and society.
  5. Happiness path toward achieving the sustainable development goals
  6. Happiness as a “new paradigm’ for human development
  7. Worldwide celebration of the international day of happiness that is democratic, diverse, organic, and inclusive

Of course, none of those definitions actually define happiness which I contemplated a bit in my previous post Oh, What Two Little Letters Can Do.

Happiness in Grief by Maria L. Berg 2022

Turns out last week was “International Happiness at Work Week.” Does that mean people are expected to be in a steady-state of unhappiness at work except for one week a year? Here is the International Week of Happiness at Work “manifesto”:

And here’s the “manifesto” from Happiness Academy:

And here’s an article about happiness as work Happiness As a key Performance Indicator from Forbes.com.

Agony as Outburst by Maria L. Berg

Good Grief

So now that we know nothing new about Happiness, I tried to explore the grief in happiness and the happiness in grief which made me think of the phrase “good grief.” I looked it up expecting some fantastic story of how grief can be good, but instead only learned that the word grief was used in replacement of the word God—because it started with the letter g—to create a mild oath. So that also didn’t get me much of anywhere.

I didn’t think I was going to find inspiration this week until I sat down with a line from the poem “On Good and Evil” by Kahlil Gibran. The line that really stuck with me is “For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?” I started thinking of how grief is torture. Then I thought of the line as a form and wrote, “What is grief but happiness tortured by loss and regret? What is happiness but grief minus torture?”

I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and did a dictionary deep-dive. In the definition of grief it said to see Sorrow. Anguish also said to see Sorrow, so a deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone of something loved links grief and anguish. The definition of torture links anguish and agony. At agony, I found what I was looking for.

Agony is defined as intense pain of mind or body: anguish, torture. b. the struggle that precedes death. Since every moment from birth is the struggle that precedes death, that puts us all in a constant state of agony and thus grief. However, agony has another meaning: a strong sudden display (as of joy or delight): Outburst. Thus, through some circular definitions, I have found the happiness in grief.

But what is the grief in happiness? Thinking specifically of the happiness I find in this work. Visually, is it the obsessive desire for ever increasing beauty and perfection? In a way, each new discovery and technique though it is exciting and makes me happy, also brings grief because I can’t lose what I don’t have, and I don’t grieve what I am ignorant of. In this way a discovery is grief in happiness AND happiness in grief.

New Poem

Today is Open Link Night (OLN #324) at dVerse Poets Pub.

A couple weeks ago in my post How to Capture the Love in Apathy and the Apathy in Love, I mentioned I found a treasure of Home Ec Magazines from the early 1960’s. I’ve been going through them, and this week I collected phrases from three Vogue Pattern Books and a McCall’s Pattern Fashions. Whoever was writing for VPB was a poet (I couldn’t find a writer listed in the Staff). The language used to describe one outfit at a time was very creative, and I found so many interesting phrases that when taken out of context are rich with meaning. For today’s poem, I used some of this found language to help me express my ideas of grief in happiness and happiness in grief.

what’s RIGHT right NOW!

Here—along
my struggle that precedes death
I hunger for kaleidoscope coloring
and thirst for firm but fluid texture
aching for the shape that expresses
most perfectly

And now, further along
my struggle that precedes death
I agonize with possible discovery
the ecstasy of expected but unknown result
exhausting abundance for a glimpse of beauty

And now, continuing
my struggle that precedes death
I hunger for stronger solid colors harmonizing
and thirst for an incendiary force
aching for the evolutionary change
for anything that is not changing
isn’t alive.


Do Our Ideas About Beauty and Ugliness Change When We Close Our Eyes?

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Maria L. Berg 2022

This morning I did a search for “the ugliness in beauty” and found a couple of really interesting articles:

The Biological Response to Beauty and Ugliness in Art [Excerpt] by Eric Kandel 2012 from Scientific American

Experiences of Ugliness in Nature and Urban environments by Fatima M. Felisberti from International Association of Empirical Aesthetics

The first, by Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel is an excerpt from his book called The Age of Insight. The study of art through neuroscience excites me so much, I ordered the book and it arrives on Sunday. Hopefully, it will inspire for a long time to come, so you will be hearing a lot about it. Guess we’ll find out on Sunday. For today, I want to share what I found most exciting from the Scientific American article.

“Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry.”

This physiological connection between contradictory abstract nouns is really exciting. I wonder if this has only been studied through visual stimuli.

Yesterday I started thinking about how visual definitions of beauty and ugliness are, so today I wanted to focus on the other senses. Though beauty and ugliness are particular to the person perceiving the stimulus, are there consistencies within an individual across the senses? If someone perceives a beautiful smell, do they also find the stimulus visually beautiful? If she finds a texture uncomfortable or painful, does she find the stimulus ugly, and vice versa?

New Poem

For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Laura Bloomsbury invites us to write in couplets. She introduces the prompt speaking of marriage which I think goes well with the physiological marriage of contradictory abstractions as laid out in Eric Kandel’s article above. I haven’t tried the Côte form before, so I thought I would give it a try.

A Movement that Married Right and Left

Become,
a fevered dreambook brimming

Survive,
a wooded area secreting

Discuss,
absolute wilderness loving

include,
visions of annihilation

predict,
variations of our ruination

until,
a poisoned well is flowing

Produce,
divided people by labeling

Attract,
all within orbits spinning

Cover,
the shadowy trails leading away

This poem was a culmination of many ideas I was playing with this week. First, a friend mentioned working on bringing meter into my free verse. Then I watched a ModPo discussion of Lorine Niedecker’s work that talked about how the she didn’t use strict meter, but created meter like bars of music. And I started reading The ABC’s of Reading by Ezra pound in which he writes:

“music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music: but this must not be taken as implying that all good music is dance music or all poetry lyric.”

So I looked at some piano music I enjoyed playing and listened to some records. Rêverie by Debussy worked with the Côte form in my mind.

At the beginning of the week, while contemplating how to look at the beauty in ugliness and the ugliness in beauty, I thought about how society and culture define physical beauty and ugliness which made be think of a stack of Playboys that were left in this house before I moved in.

I thought about the joke that men always say, “I only read it for the articles” and thought it would be interesting to use Playboy articles for blackout poetry about ugliness in beauty and beauty in ugliness.

The magazines are from 2002, so they are strange little time machines to twenty years ago. I chose the imperative verbs from words in an article called “The Death of Network News” by Bill O’Reilly and the couplets were inspired by phrases from “Virtual Reich” by Michael Reynolds.

The Ugliness in Beauty and the Beauty in Ugliness

I thought about continuing last week’s study of love and apathy, there is so much to think about and explore, but I decided I’ll let that simmer as I continue through my planned overview of the big five. This week I’m looking at the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness.

Remember back in January when I was going to put a word on the world every day? Like this: A fish-eye lens view of the lake and sky with the word "WONDER" in orange floating in the clouds.

Probably not, like many of my exciting ideas, it didn’t last long before I moved on to the next exciting idea. However, yesterday, while pondering this week’s contradictory abstractions and how to capture the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness, I remembered these words, and found Beauty in the box of plastic filters. When I was originally putting words on the world, I used my fisheye lens which won’t work with bokeh. This time, I tried my zoom lens and got the result I wanted.

Five textured light circles with the word Beauty written in cursive in their centers.
Full of Beauty by Maria L. Berg 2022

I can’t believe it took me this long to try this. I looked back at January’s posts and found a comment in my post Unlocking New Doors that seems to say that I tried it, but it didn’t work, but I think I was focused on the fisheye lens and trying to make the fisheye work with the zoom lens, so I could increase its distance. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of the words themselves as shape filters.

I think it took reading The Last Vispo, becoming interested in text and type as visual poetry, and my more recent discovery of the negatives of my filters also making great filters (which I talk about in my post Thinking About August) to finally realize that I can combine my word filters with my shape filters.

So, of course, I had to make one that said “Ugly,” and took some pictures.

Pretty Ugly by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

For today’s Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub, Merril invites us to spice things up by choosing a few spices from her list. I recently picked and dried (baked) my own herbs to refill my Italian Seasoning container. The process was aromatic and the result, delicious.

In Search of a Spicy Muralist

A Mural Of Flavor—
blankness redefined
What palette do you offer?
What shapes to delight
this mind?

Ginger, first to answer
with fire atip her tongue
wisps Arizona Dreaming
in acrid cactus tones
but when pressed for any detail
she feels pricked and leaves for home

Basil was a little green
but did not shy from leafing out
He proposed a Tuscany Sunset
and all that it’s about
but when asked for some specifics
of what that would entail,
he curled up inside himself just like
a little snail

I thought about the mustard seed
and how it grew and grew
how it was tiny but then spread out
and how I could do that too
So I made a mark
then many more
and filled the blank
with every flavor
and some that had never been before
here for everyone to savor

Calvino’s 3rd Memo: Exactitude – Crystal & Flame

Party of Crystal by Maria L. Berg 2022

I’m continuing to find inspiration in Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino. This week I’m looking at Exactitude and Vagueness as contradictory abstractions.

Let’s start with some definitions:

exactitude: precision, accuracy, meticulousness

vagueness: unspecific, imprecise; obscure, hazy, shadowy

Calvino uses the symbols of crystal and flame, so I decided to start there.

“The crystal, with its precise faceting and its ability to refract light, is the model of perfection that I have always cherished as an emblem, and this predilection has become even more meaningful since we have learned that certain properties of the birth and growth of crystals resembles those of the most rudimentary biological creatures, forming a kind of bridge between the mineral world and living matter. . . . The contrasting images of flame and crystal are used to make visible the alternatives offered to biology, and from this pass on to theories of language and the ability to learn. . . . Crystal and flame: two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes away from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings.” ~Italo Calvino

For today’s images, I sewed a new pool noodle sleeve to change my color palette, since I wasn’t enjoying the predominantly white one. The new sleeve is shades of red. I cut two new “transformer” filters (my designs that have folded sections so can make more than one shape): One to represent flame and one to represent crystal.

Curious Fish by Maria L. Berg 2022

While I was making my images a curious visitor swam into my studio.

Party of Flame by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

As is often the case, the prompt at dVerse Poets Pub fits with this week’s study. Sarah’s Poetics prompt is to pick one of the four elements (earth, fire, water, or air) as the subject of a poem.

Playing With Fire

Blue and orange tongues
licking the night
crackle, pop, and hiss
desire for oxygen,
an all-consuming passion,
a chaotic flickering
of internal agitation
released as light and heat.

A relentless, voracious consumer
leaping indiscriminately
from fuel source to fuel source,
dancing destruction’s arabesque.

Our eyes, seared
from the beauty,
travel among
crystalline structures
of glowing coals
like cities at sunset
that fool us into thinking
a creature so wild
could be tamed.