Monday, October 12, 2009

Art Not Hate: Creative Responses to Conflict

Our times and our selves are defined by conflict.

We are highly evolved mammals with big brains that can do the most ethereal abstract mathematical reasoning, produce masterpieces of music and art, envision astounding future possibilities — including our own mortality.

Still, we are sensate and aggressive creatures who crave the tactile intimacy of our clan and fear outsiders — and will not hesitate to violently attack perceived strangers.

This issue of Views From CreativeLedge explores the tension between our conflicting human tendencies to create and collaborate or to kill each other and destroy the hard won achievements of human culture.

In a world that has witnessed between 119,000,000 and 265,000,000 state-sponsored homicides (depending on who is doing the counting) between World War I and the present, this is not an academic question.

Perhaps the most compelling quote on the subject of overcoming our conflicted nature is from Charles Darwin:

“In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have always prevailed.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leopold Engleitner's Story of Optimism

Leopold Engleitner is the world's oldest known male Nazi concentration camp survivor whose experiences have been documented in the award winning book and film Unbroken Will.

For refusing to join Hitler's Army, Leopold Engleitner, an Austrian born in 1905, was interned in three of the most infamous Nazi Concentration Camps in Germany. His refusal to sign a simple declaration denouncing his religion and swearing his allegiance to the Reich put him in a collision course with Nazi Germany that nearly cost him his life. His iron will and his determination to stand up for just principles have become a role model for all. An old tattered suitcase became a symbol of hope for a long and impossible journey back home. At his release, he weighed less than 62 pounds, but today at the age of 103, he still lives to share his story of optimism.

Fresh from his lectures at Harvard University and in Florida, Leopold Engleitner will be visiting Los Angeles and appearing at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (May 14 and 24) the Moorpark College (May 22 and 23), UCLA (May 20) and the Lammle's Sunset 5 Theatre in West Hollywood, where his prize-winning documentary Unbroken Will and his 2006 USA Lecture Tour film will be screened from May 15 to 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM, 4:30 PM, 7:30 PM, 10:00 PM.

These excellent articles covered his first event on May 4, 2009 at Harvard University:

Holocaust survivor, 103, tells students of resisting Nazis
The Boston Globe

Oldest living Holocaust survivor speaks at Harvard
The Harvard Gazette

For further information please visit

Thursday, October 8, 2009

6 Views of an Apple

I photographed this apple about six years ago just outside of rural Bethel, Maine. It was a real visual cliché but I still like the image.

But even a simple piece of fruit can provoke some creative musings on the nature of human perception.

Consider these six views of an apple:

  1. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse saw an apple hanging from a branch and was reported to have said — “Let it ripen and let it fall.” He would perceive the essence of all human existence with an unflinching eye.
  2. A hungry hiker gazing upon the apple would see a free snack. Maybe it was planted by Johnny Appleseed for famished wayfarers.
  3. A local journalist might scribble some snappy free associations for an autumn “local color” piece for the Sunday paper or a blog entry: Apple of my eye, An apple a day keeps the doctor away, etc.
  4. An 18th century Eastern European rabbi might see the fruit and coin a catchy proverb for his congregation: “To a worm in an apple, the whole world is an apple.” The same insight also apparently applies to horseradishes.
  5. A natural scientist wandering by would probably want to know the Latin name of this particular tree, how old it is, and if the roots are shallow or go deep.
  6. An economist or business person might survey the unblemished apple and start posing these hard-headed questions:

    Can the tree pay for itself? Is it worth investing in fertilizer, pruning, insecticide? Is it worth the effort and money to grow certified “organic” fruit? Does it make more sense to cut it down and mill it into boards for high-priced apple wood tables, chairs, and cupboards?

    With oil at well over a $130.00 per barrel, is firewood a better bet than fruit? Can the digital photo of the apple be sold to a stock photo company and then marketed to art directors worldwide?

    Can it be pressed into cider or made into apple sauce and put into glass bottles or cute plastic cups with eye-catching graphic labels that proclaims to the world that this is “Bob’s Best Old Tymie Natural Apple Sauce: Good for the Stomach & Spirit & Planet.”

Who we are and what we do in life determines so much of how we see an apple…or the world.

It is inherently difficult to believe that what we see is not what others see. And, of course, we are entitled to the first and biggest bite!