Joy Riding Decades ago at 2:30 a.m. on a back street in La Jolla, I was arrested driving my mom’s ’68 Firebird 400 convertible. I had our tiny mutts Nikki and Dinky as passengers. I was 12 years old. The feeling of driving was incredibly delicious. Riding home in the back of the cop car, I asked the two burly policemen what I did wrong. I obviously didn’t want to make that mistake again. They looked at each other, not sure they should educate me on the rules of the road. It turned out I was driving with the high beams on. After some prodding, they kindly explained what and how they worked. My feeling for art is a lot like that adventure–it is hot, daring, and a beautiful experience. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything, including life and love. I didn’t have the words to answer people who tried to steer me towards business or a tennis career–it wasn’t going to happen. 1-minute concept sketch, interesting to compare it with the finished version. Overwhelming Peace In my late teens, I was very lucky to travel to New York and Europe, where I took the opportunity to visit art museums. Every time I walked into a room filled with life-sized ancient Greek sculptures, I had the same emotional experience: an overwhelming feeling of peace and that everything was right with the world. That experience was something I could never feel for the visual rantings of suicidal, CIA-sponsored abstract expressionists. I’ve never wanted to live back in time, and I...
One could describe great literature as being like great architecture: all the elements pull together and buttress a central theme. Characters, plot, setting, style and the other aspects of a story contribute to an idea or sensibility that lets us experience something important about the world in a concertized yet subtle way. A great work of literature is rich with telling details, compelling language, and pregnant motifs. This richness is in keeping with two related major functions of art: to heighten our discernment of the world and to stylize experience. The degree of complexity and/or subtlety of a work is what separates “literary” fiction from “popular” fiction (which of course has its place but is not as beneficial to an sensitive person as literary fiction is). Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is an outstanding example of this kind of integration. Its central theme, according to its author, is “individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in men’s souls.” This is a philosophical theme and the book could reasonably be classified as a “novel of ideas,” but The Fountainhead is not a tract and is not a vehicle for communicating Rand’s philosophical beliefs. Rather, is a means of creating an experience for the reader. Like any great work of art, The Fountainhead has its subordinate themes. Most of these sub-themes are never made explicit, but exist as systems of motifs, reinforcing the main theme and lending it texture and ornament. In this essay...
In 2011, the New York Times posed this question as a headline, “Can a novelist write philosophically?” drawing on the work of novelists Iris Murdoch, teacher of philosophy at Oxford, and Philosophy PhDs such as Rebecca Goldstein and Clancy Martin, as well as David Foster Wallace (a one-time philosophy PhD candidate at Harvard). Among famous philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote plays, and George Santayana wrote poems. But the New York Times misses the point entirely. All narratives express a philosophical...
The holidays will pile on many more “shoulds” on your already full plate. I should do this… I should do that… I should be doing this faster. It is easy to get so overwhelmed by the things we should be doing that we are much less effective on what we actually are doing. Here’s how to avoid the “I should be” ambush and keep your holidays and your life more relaxed and effective. Don’t Beat Yourself Up - It’s Bad For You “I should plan for Friday’s meeting”, “I should be working out”, “I should catch up on my emails", "I should get the house decorated”, “I should get my holiday shopping done”, “I should see my grandmother”, “I should find a financial planner…”  If we let these type of “should be” thoughts regularly run through our minds we can keep ourselves in a constant state of distraction and guilt. This “should do” guilt triggers a release of negative stress hormones that undermine the clarity of and eagerness for our immediate intentions and efforts. When you are on a constant guilt or stress trip - you get tense, uptight, dull, unfocused, burned out. Your productivity, creativity and joy in life go down. Obviously not good things! This type of gnawing stress can peak during the holidays. If that happens to you here are four proven ways to help shut down your should-do’s.  Use Your To Don't List I should do this, should do that…maybe; maybe not. Recognize all your should do’s are actually could do’s. You can choose to do them, or not. There are an infinite...
I stand outside the temple, waiting. Is it holier to be inside? I wonder. My friends are inside. Outside, I sit on a park bench. I ponder. Now a gust of wind forces my eyes to shut out the dust. I pull myself inward. I feel like a river is channeling my boat. Suddenly we are in the sea, and it rocks my boat. It is getting dark. Still alone, I search for my friends, my four life-long companions: Purpose, Reason, Goodwill, and Resilience—where are they? There’s turbulence in the water, but I must find the treasure.  In the darkness, I see a glimmering light—Purpose, he has found me. The storm whips us around. A whisper echoes in my ear: “Ahoy, hoist the sails”—Reason, he shows me how. I am shivering with cold and fright. Will the storm ever end? Someone holds my hand—Resilience, now I feel her. Finally, dawn breaks out. I see land. I see the future. I see myself showing others where the treasure is. Goodwill, I can’t even see her, she is inside of me. There’s violence in the air. A sail breaks. I am adrift again. Whiplashed into facing the past, I turn to resentment and despair. I have nothing. I am nothing. But wait, I have four friends I cannot see. Then exhaustion becomes sleep. The storm subsides. Where are we? Now on a lake so serene, my oar-less boat cannot move. The sun sparkles. A thin waterfall of steam rises upward as water bubbles play in the sun. Now I know that the treasure is real. My eyes close to capture a mental picture. Alas, it does not last. In the...

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