22 June 2024

Proust, Aurelius, Seinfeld!

Increasingly I've come to understand that Marcel Proust was way ahead of his time in so many ways. He was one of the first successful Post-Modernist writers to have understood the importance of exploiting his own shortcomings and indulgences to a serious world through his solipsistic prose form. 

Although Marcus Aurelius had written about a practice of stoic virtues centuries before him, Proust appears to have applied it to a modern, worldly, life-style with his lengthy tome, In Search of Lost Time. He predicted before it was fashionable, a life predicated upon the virtues of curiosity and creativity, of just keeping our senses alive and useful only for the sake of owning our own lives for better or for worse.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps the genius of a sitcom like Seinfeld is that it follows in this tradition à la Proust, of solipsistic reverie and delight in the belief of redemption through pleasure and curiosity. Though their characters were not exactly epicurean nor cultured, they tried hard for success in Manhattan despite their obvious flaws mostly those fueled by their own divine ignorance. 

And despite the cynical and slightly adversarial overtures towards others, the Seinfeld crew were generally decent but crazed people who were just looking for gratification like the rest of us. The genius of this sitcom reveals how a quartet of hapless, selfish, and lazy New Yorkers who thrived despite their flaws and still have fun. The more they showed off their worst sides the more we loved them for it.

(What has this got to do with anything?)

Nothing, Ha Ha, but the winter skies have been really spectacular lately and they have afforded me loads of pleasurable fun these late afternoons. 

Yet it's true that lately, I've been aware of how much I use this word fun. I paint for fun, as I tell people, and I play piano for fun too, ditto for when I play tennis. In fact, at my age, I try to avoid anything that does not bring me a bit of fun. But when life brings me sour cherries I'm not the least bit sour towards the world at large. And that, my friends, is what I have learned from Marcus Aurelius. In fact his own tome, aptly entitled Meditations, had a great effect upon me when I read it day by day over a year. 

But, anyway, here at the beach indeed, there are lots of people looking for pleasure (and fun) and finding it everywhere. This is after all, Australia where there is no complex about being happy. These are beach walkers, surfers, and a hardy bathers who jump into the cold ocean at dusk in winter time. Dogs too, happy, of course, and there are plenty of kids laughing and playing on the sand. Small families can be seen far down the beach, and this reassures the rest of us, those slightly pessimistic amongst us who have difficulty in imagining any kind of future for humanity.

But, tonight is the Winter Solstice and the waxing Gibbous moon is at 99.2% which is essentially full, though not technically, because according to the calendar, the moon will be officially full tomorrow on the 22nd of June. Dr Google tells me that a full moon falls on the Winter solstice only once every 19 years. 

Alas, I'm also a bit of a moon watcher because it affects the colour of the twilight 'Bloom' as I like to call it. This means that it's more difficult to paint on the few days leading up to a full moon due to the excess light that can kill this marvelous 'Bloom'. So, I'm up on this 'moon thing', and my phone is quite used to me looking up the 'moon phases of Byron Bay Australia' to verify my plans for painting at the beach. I can secretly be quite organised sometimes actually.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 19 June 2024, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

This, from the other night reveals the craziness of the visual world, at least from the point of view of a painter. On a night like this  I barely seem to have the time to think, it feels like every time I raise my head up from the palette the colours have shifted slightly (towards intensity) as the earth approaches the evening hour. Like a caterpillar the colours appear to obey the slow and patient heartbeats of the earth's rotation. 

Me, I remain firmly fixed upon the sandy dune where I work for these sessions. There is nothing to do but follow the Arcadian ritual using a few paintbrushes as magic wand. 

Today, I wonder to myself as I write this; just how many painters have tried to follow this celestial rite? Am I the only fool?  

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