Here are many chronological iterations of the same drawing in the few weeks I have been working on it with a few altered by the computer. I work on drawings as if I am removing layers of white with my drawing implement. I set up parameters like color and textures and materials and jump in.
I never have a clear idea of the end product when I begin that way I am constantly surprised, mostly pleasantly.
Here are some random slightly askew ideas to shift your point of view and maybe your approach to life. There are so many perspectives to consider if you just pay attention.
“But what I really want is to have it sit there solid as a rock and have everybody think it is flying.”
William H. Gass, From Conversations with John Gardner.
“Try this. Pay attention to your breath in silence. Look at your mind. Immediately we see that thoughts are popping up. Don’t react to them. Just keep watching your mind. Notice that there is a gap between each thought. Notice that there is a space between the place where the last thought came to an end and the next one hasn’t yet arrived. In this space there is no ‘I’ or ‘me.’ That’s it.”
Anam Thubten (No Self, No Problem, 2009).
“I am a peripheral visionary; I can see the future only way off to the side.”
You are the passenger, yes. Of course. You are also the driver.
I have been on the 405 many times at rush hour, and there where some days when the isolation and total lack of agency, except to inch the car forward at odd intervals, somehow relieved me of the need to care what happened next. I was freed of all obligations and my mind could wander off in search of random ideas. But most days I could only think of wanting to home or at work, being late, not being just about anywhere else. To think there is a person that finds that heavenly, and this film gives you the experience to understand, at least a little, the life of this woman.
There is so much in this film. It makes me believe that all human beings need to unfold their lives into the world and we could all receive them. The drawings, paintings and sculptures are so full of all of her life and experience. What if all people had advocates for their freedom and a place to be nurtured? What a wonderful world we could make!
Giant Flying Cats! This woman really had some brilliant ideas. Although, it might be a bit frightening as well. But really this is a great book filled with some very interesting writing and fantastic storytelling, and big freakin’ cats that fly around with people on their backs.
The thing about Ursula K. Le Guin was that she didn’t actually look like a rabble-rousing, bomb-throwing, dangerous woman. She had a gentle smile, as if she was either enjoying herself or enjoying what the people around her were doing. She was kind but firm. She was petite and gray haired, and she appeared, at least on first inspection, harmless.
The illusion of harmlessness ended the moment you began to read her words, or, if you were so lucky, the moment you listened to her speak.
She was opinionated, but the opinions were informed and educated. She did not suffer fools or knaves gladly, or, actually, at all. She knew what she liked and what she wanted, and she didn’t let that change. She was sharp until the end. She once reviewed a book of mine and was not altogether kind about all of it, and I discovered as I read her review that I would rather have been chided by Ursula K. Le Guin than effusively praised by any other living author.
She inspired me as a boy, and as a young man, and as a grown-up writer. I learn more from her books at every stage of life than from any other writer: she bears rereading well.
Her books were wise. When she wrote science fiction, she understood that the political and social sciences were part of the science in the fiction, that anthropology was the scientific place where the what ifs happened. When she wrote fantasy, she grounded it in reality, and in the deep reality of who human beings are, of what matters, of the magic of language. When she wrote allegory, she created stories that changed the people who read it for the better. I have taught The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas to students each year for the last five years, and I discover something deeper and more disquieting every time I read it with them, watch as it works its way inside them.
I was fortunate to have been allowed to introduce her at the National Book Awards in 2014 and to present her with the Lifetime Achievement Medal. I wrote to Ursula before the awards ceremony, and I told her in an email how important she had been to me:
You have no idea how nervous I am at the idea of writing to you. You’ve been one of my heroes since I bought A Wizard of Earthsea with my pocket money at the age of 11. Your SF shaped my head as a teenager, and told me that anything was possible and that events occur in context. Your essays on writing shaped me as a writer (something that occurs to me every time the train home passes through Poughkeepsie), and your later essays made me begin to think of myself as a feminist, and to change the way that I thought about men, about women, about language, about stories, about abortion.
I asked her if there was anything she wanted me to say in her introduction.
Her reply was characteristic:
Having sat through five-minute thank-you speeches that seemed to last three hours, I thought I’d enliven the gratitude with some very brief remarks about (for one thing) the big publishers’ practice of grossly overcharging public libraries for ebooks, limiting access, etc. I know you’re a true library lion. So I wanted to check if you’d welcome this, and if so we could maybe kind of strike the same note—or at least tell you, so that if I do say some things that our publishers will perceive as ungrateful, subversive, unladylike, etc., it won’t take you by surprise.
Her speech accepting her medal at the National Book Awards that night was the speech of a dangerous woman—it was an attack on publishing ways, on Amazon, a defence of libraries and the intellect and, most importantly, a call to arms about the future of writing and of writers. She said the things that nobody was saying, things that seem more and more relevant as time passes:
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality … Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable, but then so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
I’m glad I was there. More than that, I count myself lucky to have been alive and reading when Ursula K. Le Guin was writing and talking and walking the world, and giving us her words.
Neil Gaiman is an author of short fiction, children’s books, novels, graphic novels, audio theater, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and the novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals.
From The Paris Review
My mother read the Earthsea triligy, as well as the Lord of the Rings, to me and my siblings when we were in elementary school, before I could read well enough to read it myself. The imagery and complexity of the heroes and situations assisted me in developing my ability to deal with more difficult literature as well as the ambiguity of heroism and point of view. Tolkien wrote about heroism and overpowering evil, but his characters and situations had little application in developing my point of view and philosophy. All of Le Guin’s stories have a quality of anthropology to them, never providing black and white situations or uncomplicated good versus evil. She always trusted her readers to figure it out, and helped me on my way to becoming a more thoughtful inhabitant of my world. Not to say that she didn’t have an opinion, she most certainly had an intent to portray a situation to provide examples of moral conundrums, but she wasn’t going to give you the answers. I have always been drawn to writers who have some faith in their readers to figure out what the story means to them, and not tie it all up in pretty bows at the end. She wanted her readers to think, and her writing did that for her.
It is a durable, ubiquitous, specious metaphor, that one about veneer (or paint, or pliofilm, or whatever)hiding the nobler reality beneath. It can conceal a dozen fallacies at once. One of the most dangerous is the implication that civilization, being artificial, is unnatural: that it is the opposite of primitiveness… Of course there is no veneer, the process is one of growth, and primitiveness and civilization are degrees of the same thing. If civilization has an opposite, it is war.
from the Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin
(One of the most fascinating and thoughtful novels ever written by one of the most civilized people who put important ideas into words, I already miss her.)