Sonntag, 26. Juni 2016

This and That and Thoughts


After a couple of days "away" - meaning too much going on to think about blogs - I have returned to see some delightful posts. from others of you. I think I should be away more.

Italy will return here at some point, but for today - first summer color, some projects and goings on, then a thought for you to give your comments to.

OK, tutor is back - from Paris! - and re-sized these pictures. Very handy to have a fixer of problems. Thanks, Daria.


New life in the fields.

A pretty little dogwood, that I showed here all snowy in the winter, now covered in white blooms.

White profusion


Some of our goings on this past week include an early birthday party for a son going away, but he wasn't able to be home for this either. He worked until after midnight, so we partied for him, sang "Happy Birthday" over the phone to him, and then his siblings took him some food (he asked for Kebabs and only ate one - shocking!) to his workplace. He left for distant shores the next day. Other young people left for closer ports this weekend. Another set is heading out next weekend. 



Betwixt the flurries of family life, I am trying to slip in some moments on my summer on-line craft classes. That is not entirely successful, the summer having become much more eventful than I had  anticipated. But I have done a little and am squeezing in bits of more, including this jointed bear project in progress.


The thought in this regard has to do with "usefulness." 
The question is, how useful does something have to be to be worthwhile. 
This point has come up in a couple of quarters recently and needs addressing, I believe. Maybe I am looking for self-justification for myself, because not a one of any of the projects I am currently working on, or most of what I have made in the last year, has been immediately useful, in the sense it could be eaten, worn, used for protection from elements or predators, or could be helpful for the tasks of daily life. Have I been then wasting my time? I think not.

Thesis:  Something can be eminently worthwhile without being obviously useful. 
 Note bene: What I am not saying: that a useful item cannot be both art and utilitarian, for it can be. And it should be. Why have a plastic contsiner from Walmart made with nearly-slave labor in a far off land, when any number of artisans in ones own land are happy to make and supply you with beautifully crafted woven baskets? As Katie's posts showed, handcrafted daily items of use are wonderful enhancements to life, worth preserving and admiring in their own right.

That being established, we go back to the original question. does something have to be useful, in the common sense of participating in the basic needs of life, to be worth spending ones time or resources on it, especially when both time and resources are in limited supply? 

Recently a nephew told me that he would get his daughters a steer, but not a pony, precisely because one would be eaten and not the other.
Others in our circle here have mentioned feeling guilty or selfish for "wasting" valuable time on artistic pursuits at the expense of practical labors. Or making something that just takes up space afterward is not justifiable. I would heartily disagree with all those reasons. Not that they cannot sometimes be justified and perhaps be the occasional best use of resources, but in general te concept of pragmatic utilitarianism is wrong.

Why? Because we are humans created in God's image. Because we have direct divine orders to follow His example- not to create from nothing as He did, for we cannot, but to create from the Lego sets (so to speak) that He gave us. 

God could have made a single model human and replicated it six billion times. He did not. He could have made all hair black, or blue, and all eyes brown, or pink, but He did not. He could have made one kind of flower to fill all the functions of flower-ness, but He did not. He could have ordered the Tenple to be Bauhaus style, totally blocky and plain. He did not; He commanded that it be ornamented and beautiful, for totally non-utilitarian reasons and at great expense of time and resources. He even made certain people to be born and raised to be able to do the job well. So then.....Who are we to argue that art for art's sake, or beauty just because, or making to be making is not then wholly defensible? (Obviously, everything has to be in proportion and balanced with other good things like duties and resources, but we are referring to the principle.)

As I wrote to one of you recently, animals only are utilitarian. You won't see gorillas making flower wreathed for their heads. Animals live to eat, find protection, and reproduce. When those things are accomplished, they rest, done, fertig, no more to do, until more of the same. Humans on the other hand endeavor to be as efficient as possible on the basic necessities precisely for the reason of having leisure time then to be able to do higher order activities like creating beautiful things, learning new truths, or engaging in good works. That is what sets apart from animal life. That is how we live in God' image. That is the essence of civilization as opposed to barbarism. And that is why each of us, as ndividusls, needs to take time and make time to do more than the essential useful tasks life, like mere animals. 

That is one point, but there is another. Every argument needs to define terms. Here also. What exactly does one mean by useful? Being involved in Keeping body and soul together is the normal understanding, rightly so, most of the time. But here we need to look beyond that because of the reasons just give above relating to our humanity and the image of God. Something can be very useful in an abstract or an invisible or a spiritual or a psychological sense, without contributing in a direct way to ones food, clothes, shelter or reproduction. The nourishment of mind and spirit and soul is as vital as that of the body, and here endeth  all defenses. So art and crafting is useful, just not in an animal way, but in a human way. So too, taking time for oneself to accomplish that nourishment can, and likely will make all the bodily activities more productive in the long run. So too, ponies can be as useful as steers for little people. 

Now, it is your turn. Agree or disagree?
Now I go back to making a little bear, just because I want to, and because for umpteen years I gave my all to so many other (wholly worthwhile) tasks, but at the expense, usually , of my own tank-filling, that now I have no problem trying to do some catch up and fill up. At least I am trying.
I think you should too.



  1. Mom is right, of course. If somebody wants to make something pretty just for the sake of it being pretty, then they should totally do that. (If they're going to make something ugly for the sake of having made something, they should totally not.) But for me, if I make something, I want it to fill a spot or have a use, and I don't have many spots in my Chalet left to be filled, so I'm not going to make a bear or a bauble or a top hat even if top hats are really neat. At some point I will probably get to work knitting a blanket - most likely next winter. One can always use more blankets.

  2. Sometimes the resulting item, pretty or not, is not even the point, but rather the process and the doing, which is the case for my present projects. I do not need the products, but I do need the feeding of the spirit, so to speak.
    But thanks for your perspective.

  3. I have often noticed that with children doing art works it is definitely about "the process and the doing" and not so much about the end results. Many times once the child was done they lost interest in the object's display. At least in my household,