Diogenes, yeah, I’m certain I have a few DNA molecules from him. His gig, so they say, was his search for uninhibited behavior regardless of social conventions. He emphasized self-sufficiency and said virtue was better revealed in actions than in theory. He also had distain for pretense, vanity, self-deception and phony human conduct.
While I don’t agree with his practice of poverty, begging and grossing out people who offended him, his stunt of walking around in daylight and looking for an honest person does has a certain style.
What part of his DNA do I think I have? From my earliest actions and the jig-saw of memory pieces, I’ve always been on a quest. As a kid, I didn’t understand what was going on in my brain but I somehow knew when people were dishing out hyperbole, pretension and hypocrisy.
I spent four years in Catholic grade school and two in a Catholic high school, not by choice, my parents were of the opinion parochial schools provided a better education compared to public schools. As if they really checked.
Everything taught in these parochial classrooms was laced, dipped and hard baked with Catholicism. For example, I remember in history class we studied the Protestant Reformation, when heretics made moves to bust out and bust up the Catholic Way. Illustrations of Martin Luther in the history text books showed him to be a twisted, gnarly, devilish and loony looking man. And, in geography class, when we studied the Amazon jungle, brutalized and murdered Catholics were part of the lesson. Corruption and genocide of native cultures was never mentioned.
My Diogenes DNA must have kicked in during those grade school years because I simply couldn’t accept their teaching methods or their message. Basically, I rejected the teachers and their religion. The rote memorization of religious rules and regulations was not spiritual or intellectual, it was dictatorial, fascist and required blind obedience.
More importantly, the entire premise of religion is based on speculation and acceptance of fables and myths. Real evidence and proof of divine existence does not exist. Nor could I accept the Church’s self-defined importance, especially since they've had a questionable authority responsible for countless crimes against humanity.
At some point during my high school years I sensed there were purer forms of learning and discovery, that is, science and art offered an array of thought processes and techniques which were the anthesis of my religion conditioning.
Science classes were windows being opened with fresh air flowing into a stuffy room. The scientific method provided a tangible pathway to understand what our world is and how it works. Science is not one large brush stroke, it is a process by which we can study galaxies and sub-atomic particles, plankton and eagles, mountains and moss, all the while doing so without hearsay, rote memorization and threats (that immortal soul business).
As I was considering science, I did something else, something that only time and distance has provided me with reasons why I did what I did. During my freshman and sophomore years, I must have taken a half dozen or more philosophy classes. I think I was attempting to find logic and reason, in a parallel and opposing sort of way with the religious brainwashings from grade school.
I say this because so much of philosophy is about “Man and God”, often specifically and sometimes indirectly, but there have been scores of thinkers wrestling with the notion of how humans fit into the scheme of things and how they should process the world and the unknown.
My first college science classes included Ecology, Geology and Marine Biology. I immersed myself in these, deciding to major in Marine Geology (Oceanography). The quest was on ... to understand the how’s and why’s of earth and oceans. I specialized in the study of offshore sediments, that is, the sands, silts and clays found in coastal bays and on the Continental Shelf.
But there was something else tugging at the back of my brain, something I had experienced in high school, something which hinted at another avenue of personal growth. It was art.
As I moved away from a career in science, art became my focus, my new quest. Basically I’ve occupied myself with looking at art, studying art, attempting to understand art and doing art. In so many ways art is the physical manifestation of wordy philosophies.
Good art transcends both the artist and viewer and becomes something more ... a conduit of transcendence and often giving feint clues to understanding ... both of ourselves and and the time and place in which we exist.
I spend my days thinking. It’s said, architects build more cardboard houses than real buildings ... my thoughts are akin to that. I lay in bed and think about creating new paintings and sculptures. I sit at my desk and think about building new tables and chairs. For inspiration I look forward to our visits to art galleries or walking downtown streets observing life. I always anticipate discussions about art trends or about someone who did something special, from context new ideas arise.
I consider all of these things and then make art for simple reasons ... to make things of beauty, to enrich our life, to give my art to my wife and to be myself.
When I stand at my easel I stress, in a good way, about shades of color and my technique, all the while hoping to not be derivative. I think about subtle things within my art, hidden things which delight and humor my questing self.
Controlling parents and deranged Christian Brothers are in the past, today is about a thought, a bush filled with ultramarine and a painting of things that I alone see... until the canvas is finished, that is.