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Odd Words December 23, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.

I’m so far behind in my blog reading I look at the post count and wonder if I can file for moral bankruptcy. These people are a combination of friends, acquaintances whose thoughts and writing I admire, and completely brilliant strangers. I want to keep up but sometimes life conspires against and you make choices. While trying to catch up with one my my faorites, Matri’s VatulBlog, I can across a quote that launched a train of thought I thought I’d post here so you can ignore it during your busy holidays.

“A sculptor once said to me, ‘ Science is a discipline followed with passion. Art is a passion followed with discipline.”

A great quote but a false dichotomy. I understand its appeal to a scientist, to one who’s mind is inherently dialectical and inclined to understand by dissection. Still, to become a scientist there must be a passion to take the world apart and put it back together, to understand how it works, that drives one to survive calculus and organic chemistry and all the other tripping points where they, as they used to say, separate the men from the boys.

Writing also can begin, if not quite as a discipline, then let’s say a habit that grows obsessive: the reading of every line on a childhood cereal box at breakfast because there is no book handy one of the earliest symptoms, followed by the scribbling of long descriptive titles or lengthy expositions when grownups ask what you are coloring.

Habit is a form of discipline that enforces itself from within, the sense that the picture is not complete without the story, that a moment can’t be understood without the powerful Southern compulsion to fill in the back-story without a overly large regard for the facts, which grows until you start to put pen to paper not to draw green skies and blue trees and explain later why they are that way but to make a world in words where the skies are green and the trees are blue because of who the characters are and what must happen next.

That is passion, but it comes from the discipline required to sit up to listen to the adults tell their stories when you can barely keep your eyes open, to slog through a book your teacher thinks is above your level with a dictionary at hand, rereading until it becomes clear, to manage to pass high school chemistry even though you spent weeks sitting in the back with Gravity’s Rainbow nestled in the textbook propped in front of you, until the world becomes a matrix not of colors or sounds but of words.

In the end, passion and discipline are two names for the same thing, aspects of the same cruel and delightful god that drove men to go to extraordinary lengths to plant a flag on the moon and to write Moby Dick.

§ OK, so it’s Xmas weekend so the bookstores are busy enough without signings, there is no Maple Leaf reading and I had to leave 17 Poets last week before Dave’s closing announcements but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no reading this week.

§ If you’re still missing a present for someone you could still make it over to Octavia books today (Thursday) where Times Picayune sportswriter Jeff Duncan will sign FROM BAGS TO RICHES: How the New Orleans Saints and the People of Their Hometown Rose From the Depths Together. Go on, you know you want a copy for yourself anway.

§ If you’re not already too deep into that book you got for Xmas and/or the eggnog, you could listen to “Writer’s Forum” on WRBH FM-88.3 featuring Bob Carr (“Raising Our Children on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Story”), with his wife Jan Carr, Dec. 25. All interviews air at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and are repeated at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. the following Sunday.

OK, to close out: I am buying no more books until I’m down to the last one in the current pile. You here? Not one more.. Then I’ll order this one, billed by the reviewer as the strangest novel he’s ever read. That’s just too irresistible. I’ll see your Rayuela and raise you a Obabakoak.



1. Maitri - December 23, 2010

Still, to become a scientist there must be a passion to take the world apart and put it back together, to understand how it works, that drives one to survive calculus and organic chemistry and all the other tripping points.

But, by saying this, you make my point. If calculus and o-chem are merely disciplines to be survived while being passionate in the pursuit of science, then science is a discipline to be followed with passion.

Of course, higher math, physics and chemistry are not mere hurdles, they too are part and parcel of the passionate, disciplined process. Just like Life Drawing and Screenwriting 202 are not tripping points to be survived on the way to becoming an artist/writer.

The quote originally sprung from a discussion the sculptor and I had about the divide between the objectivity of science and subjectivity of art, and the processes he and I involved to grow in our respective fields. Science and art both take hard work, specialized knowledge and a certain drive present in anyone who wants to create/make/build. But what goes off in our heads, what is the nature of that flame that heralds a scientific discovery vs. artistic inspiration? What generates the click into place of a differential equation vs. the stroke of a brush?

That’s as far as I’ve gotten.


2. connetta - December 23, 2010

When my daughter died in 1971, a wise doctor told me to write my poetry daily, to grow flowers and keep a journal..it all saved me from deep depression and kept me going..enjoyed reading this post.


3. sussah - December 23, 2010

I didn’t know that anybody else read those cereal boxes as a child. My mother thought this was a great waste of my mental energy. happy Christmas! sp


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