Nature, Art and Politics

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Photo credit: Geoff Livingston)

Nature, it seems, must always clash with Art,

And yet, before we know it, both are one;

I too have learnt: their enmity is none,

Since each compels me, and in equal part.

Hard honest work counts most! And once we start

To measure our the hours and never shun

Art’s daily labor till our task is done,

Nature once more freely may move the heart.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

I used to be completely unaware of politics in America.  That changed several years ago when I found myself working for a non-profit devoted to keeping manufacturing jobs alive in America as part of a national network, our focus area was the Chicago metropolitan area.

That work required that I be able to think and act as a non-partisan, and understand Illinois, Chicago and national politics particularly when I wrote grants for government-funded projects.  The non-partisan perspective has stayed with me.

That’s why I watched the Republican National Convention tonight, which to my surprise, was emotionally riveting at times.  I found myself crying at the stories of some of the common people who knew Mitt Romney as a decent and generous person.  Various speakers brought up some thought provoking points, and the odd appearance by Clint Eastwood made me laugh.

I was able to appreciate Mitt Romney’s talking points until he said that Obama’s goal was to lower the level of the seas and heal the earth as President, while his goal would be to help families.

To me, this is the same as saying that there must be a conflict between nature and art as we see in this poem of Goethe from the 19th century.

In the 21st century, too many people seem to believe we can’t care for nature, create jobs and build a strong economy.  The truth is that what we believe becomes true.

The creation of green jobs could have been a focal point of the last four years for Obama, but it wasn’t.   There are only so many changes any administration can push through, and healthcare ended up becoming Obama’s signature program.

Going into 2008, there was a momentum in the business world to create partnerships with government.  I had been involved in one of them and had such high hopes for what Obama could accomplish.

When the Republicans embellished Climategate (taking a position many large businesses did not share), Obama allowed the creation of green jobs to be put on the back burner for the most part.  I was telling a friend the other day, that it is a sad truth that it was easier to get funding for environmental projects when George W. Bush was in office than it has been under Obama.

In his speech tonight, Romney pointed to the fact that most Americans are not better off than they were 4 years ago.  This is not good for Obama’s re-election chances. Memory reminds me that Bush Sr lost to Bill Clinton because of jobs, and Jimmy Carter to Reagan too.  Romney is neither a Clinton or Reagan, but he might not have to be.

We live in a time when humans have the potential to find a way to create art with our lives working with nature, not in opposition to it.  This opportunity does not need to impede us from caring for our families or creating meaningful work.  Ideally greener work could build stronger families.

Tonight my sustainable heart saddened noting how little progress the federal government has made in supporting green and clean technology in America.  You would think if America could send a man to the moon in the 1960’s, we could develop renewable energy rapidly too!

I hope whomever the next American president turns out to be in November, will realize that we can and must care for the earth and take climate change seriously while working to create new jobs for our citizens.

Daily Contemplation:

What do you think of the idea that nature must clash with art?

Could you envision your art and work as a way of supporting nature?

Can you imagine a world where working with nature is an economic advantage for not only America but all countries?  (Hint: If you look at China and other emerging countries, they are investing more in green technology and eco-friendly businesses than we are.)

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When Frustration Keeps Coming


scaffolding (Photo credit: Webgol)

We must remind ourselves as often as possible that our true life is not this external, material life that passes before our eyes her on Earth, but that it is the inner life of our spirit for which the visible life serves only as a scaffolding — a necessary aid to our spiritual growth . . .  We must remind ourselves and one another that the scaffolding has no meaning or importance, expect to make possible the erection of the building itself.

Leo Tolstoy

We were supposed to go to a “closing” for the mortgage today to what we hope will be our new home.  The sellers cancelled the meeting about an hour before the meeting this morning and pushed the closing out to Friday.

Waiting to purchase and move into a new home is not a life or death issue, at least in our case. It’s just frustrating.

Our progress through the purchase of a new home has been a series of hoops to jump through or a type of scaffolding as Tolstoy would say.

My mother and I have felt that it has been a test of our character that feels like its own kind of spiritual journey.

Daily Contemplation:

Are there any events in your life that would be best treated as the scaffolding of your life, not to be taken too seriously except in support of your inner life or spiritual growth?

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Reading Your Destiny

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune, by Frank Herbert (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Though I don’t discuss this often, “reading your destiny” may be just as important as writing your destiny for some of us.  In one of her recent posts, Jenni Corrigan of News of the Times, asked the question what are your five favorite books.  That’s one of those questions most writers have been asked at one time or another in their life.

Another question that I remember being asked on college and graduate school applications has been what books influenced you the most and why. These have always been tough questions for me because I love to read so many different kinds of books.

You can tell I’m a little uptight about our upcoming move to a new home, because I was up from midnight to 2pm trying to answer this question of my favorite books.

Cover of "The Prophet"

Cover of The Prophet

It seems so arbitrary to choose only 5 books, though there were three books that I kept coming back to — The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and the Tao Te Ching and the Bible.  Spiritual wisdom has always been compelling to me.

Yet, there are so many other kinds of books that I have loved at different periods of my life everything from Dune by Frank Herbert in high school to Introduction to Quantum Physics in college to Candide by Voltaire in my thirties and more recently Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

So, having insomnia last night, I started writing lists of all the books that I’ve ever loved, and creating all kinds of ways to narrow the books down to only the top five.  I still ended up failing to find only five favorites.  Still, it ended up being a great exercise that I would recommend to you, especially if you’re having trouble going to sleep.

Daily Contemplation:

What are your favorite books?

Why do they mean so much to you?


If you have some time, enjoy this exercise as a path to self-appreciation for the literary road you have travelled.

Look at the most important/influential books in the different decades or periods of your life.

Alternatively, or in addition, choose books by categories of interest.  In my case, my favorite categories of books are Spiritual wisdom, Magical novels (not necessarily pure fantasy), Classics (a broad category for me that ranges from Les Miserables to Middlesex), Questing Books, Philosophy and Earth-Loving.