Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What are the questions that most people don't ask themselves enough?

Quora is yet another form of social media in which people share questions on various thought provoking topics and generate insights or conversations from all around the world. Not every question asked is a jaw dropper (eg. How much were the Cleveland Browns sold for?) but many will generate countless ripples into the cyberpond of liquid interactivity.

This one was so good, I wanted to repost it here:
What are the questions that most people don't ask themselves enough?

Do I really need this?

If I weren't already in the middle of doing what I am doing would I still do it?

Is it time to walk away and try something new?

Does this actually make me happy?

What assumptions led me to that conclusion?

Is this thing worth the time and effort it took to earn the money to buy it?

Aside from "he's evil," or "she's insane," What are some reasons he or she may be acting that way and what would have to happen to me to make me act the same?

When considering the things I am absolutely sure I'm right about, in what ways might I be wrong?

What is my basis for claiming X?

When considering a phenomenon, view, or system over which people usually take sides -- or one for which I'm on a side -- what are some ways that both sides are right/wrong?

Why am I doing what I am doing?

When will I start taking my own advice?

If money were not an issue, what would I do with my life?

Why the hell do I do this everyday?

Before I ask this question, if I take 5 seconds to contemplate it, can I answer it myself?

Do I want to be right, or do I want a relationship?

What do I need to start doing?

What do I need to stay doing?

Is there another way to think about this?

Could I be wrong even if I am right?

Even if everything I believe about a situation is right, and everything I am doing is technically correct, could my actions have unintended consequences?

What if I went about solving the problem in a way that caused turbulence?

Why do I believe in what I believe?

Is this what I really want?

What are my weaknesses?

What have I done to make a difference?

Why do I want what I want?

I skipped a batch but if you want the who list, you can find it here at the Quora Answer Wiki.

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Featured eBook of the Day: Newmanesque

Is the Art Dealer Scene Out of Control? What Next?

On this day in 1890 Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh died from a gunshot wound.

When avant garde art dealer and collector Ambroise Vollard died, he purportedly owned 10,000 works of art by many of the leading painters of the previous half century, including Van Gogh, Cézanne, Renoir, Roualt, and the prolific Picasso. With Van Gogh's Vase with Sunflowers selling for more than $80 million, one wonders what Vollard's collection would be worth today.

Vollard purchased 27 canvases from Picasso in 1906 and continued a relationship with the effervescent artist till the dealer caught an early death in a freak accident on the road to his chateau in 1939.

The Second World War was just around the corner and I'm curious to know to what degree these works were successfully whisked out of the country before the Nazi occupation. I recall reading somewhere that after his death efforts were made to send the collection to North America and the first boat, with 500 pieces aboard, had to be routed to Canada.

No doubt Vollard knew the treasures he had. But I am totally convinced that he'd been apoplectic to learn the kinds of prices such pieces have been obtaining in the new art market.

In May, Forbes magazine had a story about this sea change in art valuations that has occurred since Warhol arrived on the scene. The article is something of a sketch in that without filling in all the details it shows us with a few deft lines how things changed. Leo Castelli, himself a collector of avant garde artists' works, was in the center of it -- the center now being New York. After the Nazis set their jackboots on Parisian soil, many of the most talented and intelligent artists and thinkers made a break from the Continent, and a new power center formed in the heart of Manhattan.

Counterfeit Warhol portrait of Ennyman
Caleb Melby's piece, titled Larry Gagosian, Andy Warhol And The Rise Of The Superdealer, shows how the Vollard eye combined with a new collector culture  has made an immense difference in valuations. What changed isn't the interest by some in collecting, but rather, "the explosion of the global nouveau riche, the proliferation of international fairs like Art Basel and, most critically, the fetishlike cult of contemporary art, a phenomenon that has metastasized over the last 50 years."

Interesting word: metastasized. Is Melby calling today's art collecting the new internet bubble? All three definitions of metastasize carry ominous overtones, the first being its association with cancer. The second  is simply, "to spread injuriously." And finally "to transform, especially into a dangerous form."

When Pablo Picasso died in 1973 Andy Warhol read, or heard (I don't have my fact-checker up yet this morning), that Picasso had produced 4,000 masterpieces. Warhol quipped, "I can produce 4,000 masterpieces in one day." Indeed, his screen print presses did crank out volumes. His "work alone accounts for roughly 20% of the value of the contemporary art market."

* * * *

My take is this. You like a piece of art? Don't buy it in the hopes it will increase in value. It's real value is in your relationship with it, your ability to appreciate and cherish it, not just for a few moments in a gallery, but on a wall in your home or office... for the rest of your life.

* * * *

For what it's worth, next week on August 5 I will be giving a talk on Picasso, Storytelling and The Unknown Masterpiece at the Tweed Museum of Art here in Duluth. Never been to the Tweed? They have a great collection. Check it out sometime.... You will be impressed.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Local Art Seen and More: Friday Night Past

A tryptich of winter scenes by Carolyn Olson.
Friday evening I left the office and over to another excellent exhibition at Trepanier Hall, the former Y now home to the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO). The show is titled Northern Women: Below Zero Windchill Creations. It featured work by Wendy Savage, Karen Savage-Blue, Joyce LaPorte, Roberta Marie, Laurel Sanders, Carolyn Sue Olson and Ellen Sandbeck.

A portion of the room displayed a continuation of Karen Savage's Minnesota Landscapes series. The them being winter, these included frozen lakes among other things. Karen is now well past the midway point on her 365 days of painting landscapes.

Carolyn Olson's distinctive people serve as a signature for her paintings. She had a triptych of winter activity along with other winter scenes, including people shoveling snow off the roof of a house, which we had plenty of this past season.

Tree Frog Snowflake
Ellen Sandbeck's paper cutouts of snowflakes were especially dazzling. Nearly all of us have produced snowflakes when we were young, folding paper and cutting out designs with scissors. But no one does snowflakes like Ellen. And just like real snowflakes there are no two alike.

Ellen's snowflakes feature that same reproduction of design that you see in a kaleidoscope, except in one case it's a morning glory and in another it is a shrew or tree frog or elk skull. Her skills in this form of reproduction are highly polished now, and I am sure that she will give us no end of surprises in the future.

From here I was off to the ball game. Duluth Huskies had a home game and readers of the Reader were offered free tickets as a way for our local weekly rag to say thank you for being Reader readers.

Across the bridge Phantom Galleries, Superior had a double opening in the New York Building. Susan Loonsk's "Mostly Birds" filled the walls, and Jennifer Murphy's "Of Tidal Pools" spread out on pedestals of various heights, showcasing many unusual 3-D ceramic works that had an 'other worldly" feel for me.

I was sorry to miss Carlton Daze this year. And equally sorry to miss the film festival in Wrenshall again. But the weekend was full nonetheless. Here are a few more images from the weekend.

Meantime... have a great week.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Talent to Watch: Artist Saydee Lanes

Trepanier Hall, home of the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) in Downtown Duluth, has become host to a number superb arts, poetry and music events this past few years. In early May they curated an exhibition of emerging artists which provided a glimpse into the work of a number of new faces in the local arts scene. One of these was Saydee Lanes, whom I recently interviewed for The Reader.

EN: How did you take up an interest in drawing?

Saydee Lanes: Well, I've been drawing since I was just a little kid. It began with just coloring in color books, then I became curious as to how the images I was coloring were created. So I started to draw what I had seen, mainly Disney characters. I would try to make my drawing look exactly like the characters. When I was 7 years old, you couldn't tell the difference between what I drew and the original image.

Around this time my father left, and was no longer in my life. As a kid the first I thought of why he did leave was because maybe I wasn't good enough at something. So I drew more and more. My mother had to get two jobs. She was hard working and had to support three kids on her own so she wasn't able to be around much. So I thought if I became an even better artist, she wouldn't have to work so hard. Naturally, I drew more and more. My father was an artist, and the closest thing I had to a dad was my uncle and grandfather. They both loved my drawings and art, so I figured the better I became at drawing the more love I had, and the more deserving I would be of it, and just maybe it would bring my dad back and fix everything.

EN: What kind of training have you had?

SL: I am self taught. When I was younger, just a little kid, my great grandmother would teach me how to draw and color. She would often point out details I would miss. Which helped me greatly, she loved my drawings no matter what I did but I always wanted to impress. She is also an artist, she paints but whatever she would create it was the most lovely. My uncle (the one who was a father to me) is a fine artist, he would critic every drawing I did. He would tell me techniques and how to improve or get to the look I wanted. He often would give me challenges, he would fined complicated photos to draw. Actually my Wrinkle Meat drawing was my biggest challenge he gave me. I was 16 years old and was mastering his techniques and creating my own. So he said if I could draw Wrinkle Meat exactly like the photo, then my skills would be truly impressive. And so I did. I never had any schooling other then the required for art. Everything I know and apply as a technique is either something I created on my own or was picked up from my uncle or watching another artist draw. All of my drawings are done by using a mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser, and blending tools (blending stump, Q-tips, and kleenex).

EN: Who have been your most significant influences?

SL: My uncle is also a cartoonist, so when I was learning realism he would teach me how to draw cartoons and make them graphic on the computer. So when I was 17-years-old a local author was seeking an illustrator in local high schools. My uncle encouraged me to apply for the job. Once I got the job my medium swapped from mechanical pencil to pen and computer. My uncle taught me how to draw a cartoon and color it and make it an illustration in the computer. I illustrated two published children's books by the time I graduated from high school. When I was completed with high school, my dream was to pursue illustrating and begin animation. I applied for a private art college in Minneapolis called MCAD. I was accepted and received a $40,000 scholarship for my portfolio, and $20,000 for my academic achievements. I was never able to attend.

With the way the economy has been I couldn't receive any student loans without having good credit or a co-signer with good credit. I had neither. I enlisted in the army so I could get more help to go to MCAD, but in the end I still did not have enough money. I pretty much gave up the dream of college. I worked very hard so I could go to my dream college and it was hard for me to get back up after being told by the bank it would be at least two or more years before I could go to the college I wanted. Today, I am still mostly self-taught, no college education. If I want to know something I go to the library, ask someone who knows the answer, or research it on the internet. I am illustrating the covers of three novels, and another children's book; the demand for my drawings has increased drastically and I am also a tattoo artist. I also work full time at another job. Everything is going better then I had hoped. One day I will attend college, it is still a dream of mine. But until then I am living, learning and doing the best I can to be the best. I do this because I was once told the outcome of things is based on 10% of what happened and 90% of how you react. I get out of bed every morning and strive for the best because I never allowed the thoughts of failure to occur, and I protect my passions. I always believed the living flames of our passion inside of us, is the birth place of our dreams.

EN: You mentioned your Vietnam vet grandfather as being an inspiration for some of the pieces. Which ones and why?

SL: The drawing of my grandfather in the Vietnam War I drew because I often felt his and the other veterans, and todays soldiers sacrifice is often forgotten. We show our forgetfulness when we quit on ourselves, when we show ungratefulness by littering on the beautiful ground people have worked hard to keep beneath us. When we feel as though we deserve more then what we have truly worked for. I drew my grandfather and the image from the war not only because I love my grandfather and appreciate his sacrifice but because it was the only way I could say how sometimes I feel.

EN: What does "Wrinkle Meat" mean? What's the story behind Three Century Man?

SL: The Wrinkle Meat drawing I did as a challenge to draw exactly what I had seen from my uncle. The story behind the man I drew was a bonus to the challenge. His name is John Smith. Wrinkle Meat was a nick name given to him because of the way he looked. It is said this man lived to be 138 years old. Others say he didn't live to be that old and he only looked to be so old because of a skin condition. I call the drawing the Three Century Man because he was born in the late 1700's and died in the early 1900's. If he did live to be 138 years old he lived through three centuries. Now whether this is true or not, I don't know. But I choose to believe he did live through three centuries. And I don't know every little thing about this man, but in my book, he is impressive and has earned a spot in my portfolio no matter what anybody else says or believes.

EN: One of the pieces featured peacock feathers. Can you explain the backstory on this one?

SL: The drawing with the being wearing the mask with the peacock feathers I call "Being Human." And what it represents is this. All of us belong to one tree of life. And this being wants to be part of it. In my head if a being did want feel as though it is apart of our tree of life it would wear that intricate and colorful mask. Now why this is, well I'll leave that up to my audience to decide....

EN: There was a small piece called Element. What prompted you to do this and what did you mean by saying something about "wearing what's inside"?

SL: The drawing I call Element... What it is, is a being wearing what she feels and is inside. She has a dress made of fire and water, because this is what I imagine to be the most common feeling we have and one of the most powerful of elements. She has a long wooden nose to represent what we, and she herself, often lie about. Most companies and people will claim to care about our environment but prove otherwise. She has a rose on her eye because she often likes to have rose-colored glasses on. Now why she wears a fish tail attached to a cracked porcelain cap is something I desire to leave up to the audience to find that missing puzzle piece. And for people to ask themselves, what would I look like if I wore what I feel and am inside?

The drawing of the being that looks like a crane and human I call "Beautiful Being". She was the first drawing of mine where I drew from my imagination. In high school I had an awesome art teacher who would always push me past what I thought I was capable of. I always drew what I saw exactly, and one day she looked at me and said "instead of drawing exactly what you see, I want you to draw something you never have seen before." So I did just that. And once I was done, I couldn't believe what I had drawn, this being I created was beautiful and breathtaking. Something I never thought I could draw actually. Her anatomy was perfect and if she was real it would work, she could actually be a real being. At this very moment I was hooked on drawing from my imagination, I wanted nothing but to draw my own beings from then on. I used my own physical characteristics for the creation of this being, and it made it even more fun because I can now see what I would look like if I weren't a human being and a different one instead. This drawing expanded my love for art because I realized I could create a world and beings nobody has ever seen before.

* * * *
EdNote: Look for more from Saydee Lanes in the years ahead. She's honed her skills and has plenty to say.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Open your eyes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Interview with Influential French Author Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy), which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are morally ambiguous. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Eça de Queirós, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx as well as the artists Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso.

What follows is an interview that took place between myself and Mr. Balzac at a salon in the Bohemian sector of Paris in late 1847. It is a work of fiction.

Ennyman: Tell us a little bit about your childhood.
Honoré de Balzac: I was an enthusiastic reader and a rather willful, independent thinker as a child. I had trouble adapting to the rote style of teaching in my school. As a result I was frequently punished by being sent to a place called “the alcove” which was essentially a form of solitary confinement. The good part is that I could read there and I read everything I could get my hands on.

Drawing of Balzac in his twenties.
Ennyman: Is it true that when you got out of school you failed in business?
HB: I failed in a lot of things. First I failed as an apprentice in a law office. Then I failed in a few businesses. I tried my hand as a publisher, but failed at that. Failed in the printing trade and also as a politician. Perhaps all my failures in these various endeavors helped give me a deeper understanding of human life through such a diverse set of experiences.

Ennyman: I hear that you have a rather unusual daily regimen as writer. Can you explain that a little bit?
HB: I’ve found that writing at night is the most fertile time for me. There are fewer distractions. So, usually I go to bed at 6:00 each evening and wake at one in the morning, with my pot of black coffee accompanying me through the night. At eight in the morning I take a little nap for an hour or two, then rise again to continue writing till maybe three or three-thirty.

Ennyman: When do you eat?
HB: I take a couple hours for dining after that, then off to bed.

Ennyman: Sounds like you don’t have much of a social life.
HB: I’ve broken off friendships over a remark like that. No, I had plenty of social experience growing up. I have too many stories to tell and am very conscious that we’re all mortals and only have a short time to accomplish whatever it is we’re setting out to do. Till I’ve said all I intend to say, writing is my life. Maybe because of all that time in the alcove being alone so much just feels normal to me. And I'm really not alone. We have 300 domestic servants. I married into wealth.

Ennyman: Is it true you once tried suicide?
HB: I had pretty frigid relationships with my parents. My father was from a very poor family in the south of France and struggled for respectability, but it was a hard time. When I was 15 our family moved to Paris where I was sent to private tutors and schools. It was a very unhappy period in my life. I used to regularly cross this bridge over the Loire River and one day felt so low I  decided to jump. It was a very foolish thing but I came through.

Unknown Masterpiece, illustrated by Picasso 100 years later.
Ennyman: How did you get on track with your life after that?
HB: The following year I went off to the Sorbonne where I --

Ennyman: The Sorbonne?
HB: You must not be from around here. The University of Paris. It’s in the Latin Quarter. It was there that I encountered three supremely influential and somewhat important professors. The first, my Professor of Modern History François Guizot, later went on to become Prime Minister. The second was a recent arrival from the College Charlemagne, Abel-François Villemain, who lectured on French and classical literature. Philosophy prof Victor Cousins, however, proved most influential of all. He encouraged us to think independently and to not simply be parrots. I understood why the rote teaching of my childhood was so maddening. In this regard his ideas completely resonated with me.

Ennyman: How did you come to take up writing?
HB: I had always been influenced by the books I’d read, and knew the power of the written word. Having failed at everything else, it seemed natural to take up the pen.

And actually my father did some writing, at one point writing a treatise on the means of preventing thefts and murders and of restoring the men who commit them to a useful role in society. My father had a deep disdain for prisons as a form of crime prevention. By my early twenties I had inwardly determined to write.

Ennyman: Who have been your biggest influences as a fiction writer?
HB: Who were yours?

Ennyman: You probably wouldn’t know them as they haven’t been born yet.
HB: (tapping my forearm) Don’t be so serious. I was kidding. My chief influences would include Walter Scott, Moliere, Jean Racine, Shakespeare – he’s influenced everyone – and Lord Byron, among others.

Ennyman: Your first book was about Cromwell, yes?
HB: Yes, and it was a failure. For the next several years I wrote gothic, humorous and historical novels under various pseudonyms. Some day they’ll probably call it pulp fiction. You know, fiction for the masses. Not great writing but a great experience. Over time I began to formulate a style, found my voice so to speak.

Ennyman: When did you begin writing under your own name?
HB: When I turned thirty I published Les Chouans under my own name. I felt fairly confident about it. It’s a historical novel about the Breton peasants who took part in a royalist insurrection in 1799. I followed this with a humorous and satirical story the subject of marital infidelity, which encompassed both its causes and cure. My third book was a set of six short stories about girls, psychological studies of girls in conflict with parental authority.

Ennyman: At this point you must have written near a hundred novellas, stories, novels.
HB: My publisher says more than eighty. When I reach 100 I may put down the pen and take up tennis. (He laughs.) I've also produced some plays. The secret, if you don't mind me noting it, is to understand and paint the subtle interior life of the women characters correctly. If this doesn't ring true, you've lost that verisimilitude that is essential in fiction.

Ennyman: The story I wanted to ask about is The Unknown Masterpiece. I'm especially interested in learning more about the three painters, Pussain, Porbus and Frenhofer, especially Frenhofer.
HB: I'm sorry, but I've given you all the time I am able for now. Maybe you can come back?

* * * *
I promised I would call on him again, but as I became busy with my own writing projects I never got around to it until I learned he passed in August 1850. The funeral fell on my day off so I was able to attend. Victor Hugo, a pallbearer for the occasion, delivered the eulogy.

* * * *
On August 5 I will be giving a talk at the Tweed Museum of Art on Picasso, Storytelling and Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece. I've learned much as I prepared these past few months, and hope you will find it as interesting a subject as I have found it to be.

Details for this interview were extracted from Wikipedia and online Britannica.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Simplify: A Few Modest Suggestions for a Better Future

At the beginning of the week I wrote a blog entry about miminalizing. Yesterday I came across this blog post that I'd written in 2009 and felt it dovetailed nicely with my thoughts from the other day on downsizing. I would have posted it on "Throwback Thursday" but yesterday seemed a good day to remind people of some of this weekend's arts events so they could plan better.


This month's Reason magazine features a cover story titled, in bold yellow letters, THE NEXT CATASTROPHE. Subhead reads: "Think Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a politicized financial disaster? Just wait until pension funds implode."

Truth be told, every Boomer has heard for decades that by the time we're finally eligible for retirement, the cupboards will be bare. The question is, what are we doing about it?

Yesterday I heard a speaker state that the net assets of Americans declined over five trillion dollars last year. Now, unless my math is off, that is a very large number.

For years I have heard other people say that due to the global economy there will be a leveling out in our future. The earth would not be sustainable by raising all peoples to the living standard of (wasteful, debt driven, consumer) Americans. Yet many of us laughed this off. We prefer to listen to protectionist legislators who would help us keep our heads our heads held high, even if they were simultaneously buried in the sand, in denial regarding realities ahead.

I guess at the end of the day, what does this all really mean regarding how you face tomorrow? I would suggest the following.

1. Simplify your lifestyle. 
Duane Elgin said, "Live in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich." I don’t think this means we have to become like Gandhi and sit at a spinning wheel making cloth all day. I do think it means we slow down a bit, decide what is important and separate the wheat (things that nourish us) from the chaff (things that do not.)

2. Make a commitment to avoid, reduce or eliminate debt.
The average American family is drowning in debt, which incidentally (as if we need to be reminded) creates stress. Debt is a chain that restricts one’s freedom to come and go as one pleases. Learning to live more frugally now will help you later. Acquisition, the habit of collecting more and more material goods, can be as much of an addiction as meth or gambling, and not so easy to break as we imagine.

3. Increase your value as a person.
I would suggest this on two levels. In your career, commit to be a lifelong learner. Be someone willing to develop new skills and your value will increase steadily. Keep adding new tools to your toolkit and you will be an asset wherever you go. On a second level, become the kind of person others enjoy having around. If worst comes to worst, it’s better to have a network of family and friends who are there to take you in rather than to be the kind of person no one likes having around because you’re a cantankerous, self-centered beast.

4. Decide what is important to you and shuck the rest.
Probably a lifelong commitment as well.

5. Learn to notice and appreciate the good things happening in your life.
For some of us it's a little too easy to have our buttons pushed. For others, we're just moody puddleglums. In either case, we can often become oblivious to the wonder that ever surrounds us. The way the light reflects off a leaf. Or the shimmer of a butterfly wing. The turn of a phrase and multi-layered images in a sprig of keen writing. Or the wonder of music, its rhythms, melodies and harmonies massaging our souls and lifting our spirits to the seventh heaven.

One of the good things happening in my life are the various friends, acquaintances and special persons who have crossed my path over the years. Too numerous to list here, I hope that you know you're one of them. Thanks for checking in from time to time... and for your occasional word of encouragement.

At the end of the day, remember this: hold on to your dreams. Life is for living.

What Will It Take To Turn Aside?

The current situation in Gaza and the Middle East reminded me of a number of blog entries I wrote in 2009 on the situation that had erupted at that time including one titled Following Gaza On Twitter, and this one here which at the time I titled Turning Aside. 

Turning Aside

I find it interesting that the world’s three major monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – share a common holy book, the Old Testament. At the heart of this book is a history. Abraham, for all three, is a father of the faith. He left his country, then-dominant Babylon, to live in tents in another land. God made a covenant with him, and promises.

Years later, the descendants of Abraham were ill-treated slaves in the then-great empire of Egypt. Most of us know the story in Exodus of how a man named Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt to “the promised land.” The Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the wandering in the wilderness are all part of our cultural heritage.

The story begins, however, with a failure. Moses saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, and after looking about to make sure the coast was clear, Moses killed the guy. A bad decision. The next day the word on the street was that Moses had done this thing. And Moses knew someone saw, so he fled to the backside of the desert.

Decades later, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Moses had an encounter that changed the direction of his life.

Exodus 3
1 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3 And Moses said, I will now
turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

It’s the story of the burning bush. Moses was going about his business, taking care of his father-in-law’s flock, a stranger in a strange land, when he saw something that caught his attention. Instead of continuing on his way, he turned aside and went over to this bush which burned with fire yet was never consumed by the fire.

I bring all this up because our pastor last Sunday preached on this passage, drawing particular attention to Moses’ turning aside. It was a defining moment for this man Moses. And it became a defining moment in world history as the great Egyptian empire was brought to its knees.

My question is, what will it take to bring about world peace today? Here are three religions with common roots, yet at each others’ throats it seems. The past hundred years or more has seen a development of increasingly cruel weaponry. Horrors have been committed and still more will be committed, and so many innocents suffer as a consequence. In other words, history is heading down a path toward an end that seems inevitable... more of the same. What will it take for the nations of this world to turn aside?

What will it take for the world to stop this mad pursuit of self-destruction and violence?

Our pastor Sunday proposed that the bush was still burning. To see it we must turn aside from our various busy paths and check it out.

As for conflicts in the Middle East, isn’t it obvious that as long as we keep arming everyone to the teeth, we will continue to reap a harvest of blood and tears? What will it take for the nations of this world to “turn aside” from this path of violence we are on?

I really don’t know.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. It's something to think about.