Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Eric Hoffer: re-seeing the ordinary

No. 90

Familiarity blurs and flattens.  Both the artist and the thinker are preoccupied with the birth of the ordinary and the discovery of the known.  They both conserve life by recapturing the childhood of things. 

-- Eric Hoffer --
Reflections on the Human Condition 


In the introduction to one of his stories, Conrad is quoted as saying that the work of the artist is to make the reader see, above all, to make the reader see.  I find it interesting that this could refer to something new or something old, just as Hoffer suggests in his comment.  I think I remember that Wallace Stevens said something similar--the job of the poet was to rub off the patina that obscures words over time.

Something I have noticed, also, is that after being away from home for a week or more, everything at home seems slightly different when I return--newer, if that makes any sense.  Of course, that feeling doesn't last long.   

17 comments:

  1. Interesting, Fred. As I see it, artists create nothing, but they revise what exists, and the re-vision allows us to see what we missed. Does that match up to Hoffer and you?

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    1. R.T., I wouldn't go so far as to say that they create nothing, but still I keep remembering this from one of my favorite parts of the Bible:

      KJV
      "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;
      and that which is done is that which shall be done:
      and there is no new thing under the sun."

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    2. It goes to the notion that all that exists or will exist has always been in existence, so no one can now create anything new but only re-create using all that has been created. Further, nothing can be completely destroyed. I guess physics tends to support that notion. But I could be quite wrong.

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    3. i've been trying to get my head around this, but i can't come to a place where i understand it... i mean i get the words, but i'm just not sure what he's saying... maybe, in my own terms, it's that we see what is there, as in nature, but don't know what it is... i've read a bit of Hoffer, but a lot more Conrad: his quote makes more sense, because it seems to be about something... Hoffer's is over my head...

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    4. R.T., Good Point! I never saw that. Yes, nothing can be destroyed--it's one of the basic principles of physics--the conservation of matter--matter can be turned into energy but nothing is lost. And, this sounds difficult to believe, but there's a country-western song that states the same principle. Can't remember title right now but I'm working on it.

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    5. Mudpuddle, read Brian Joseph's comments. They are very perceptive.

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  2. Just a guess here - but perhaps he is saying that artists often portray everyday situations, everyday relationships, typical people, etc. We are dulled and very used to these situations. But in these portrayals, artists are opening our eyes to all sorts of new things. Or perhaps things that we already knew, but that we had forgotten about.

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    1. Brian Joseph, that's how I see it too. A great work of art, for me anyway, does one of three things:

      --it shows me something new (it may have been around for a long time) but this is my first encounter with it.

      --it shows me something I had known and forgotten long ago.

      --it presents in a coherent and understandable way something that I had only sensed in a vague and disordered way.

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  3. i'm having trouble with my computer; i meant to thank Fred and Brian for the illumination, but the comment won't publish...

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    1. Mudpuddle, sorry to hear about your computer problems.

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  4. oh.. this is mudpuddle, by the way...

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    1. Mudpuddle, no problem. Test away. . .

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  6. Ms. M helped me wrestle with the computer and we ended up with our own blog: http://muddlet.wordpress.com

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    1. Mudpuddle, left you a message there.

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  7. I've always thought that the job of an artist is to make us see everyday things in a new way. Some artists do this by adding patina to the everyday, other artists do it by removing it. Some artists do it simply by foisting their own vision on top of yours. I like the Hoffer quote because I think the 'discovery of the childhood of things' is poetry in itself - at least to me. But also because of what I think it means which may be the freedom to view the ordinary day to day with a keener eye boosted by memory and association.

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    1. Yvette, also perhaps viewing things with a childlike eye is to see things free from memory and association. I guess art does many things and means many things to people. For some, art may be what makes life live-able while others consider it totally unnecessary.

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