O216-7: Where Words Fail

For the past week, for some reason unknown to me, I abruptly changed back to mainly using the brush instead of the palette knife. I also started to paint much more thinly. Just a sudden attraction to the ghost-like colors shining through each other. Not sure how long this will last.

I have started, for the umpteenth time, reading Eliot’s Four Quartets. Careful reading, first thing in the morning with my coffee. I have found Kenneth Kramer’s book “Redeeming Time” a useful companion to getting the most out of these dense poems.

#O216: Invented Landscape (Oil on Panel)

The first quartet, Burnt Norton, as you probably know, starts as follows:

Time present and time past 
Are both perhaps present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past. 
If all time is eternally present 
All time is unredeemable. 
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility 
Only in a world of speculation. 
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present.

On these starting lines, Kramer writes:

A central subject of the poem, as well as the ground of its discourse, is the ever-changing relationship between the timeless logos and the field of time. In these opening ten lines, the poet interweaves four distinct senses of time: chronological, eternal, speculative, and “always present.” First, time is presented as a chronological series of events, stretching between past and future. The first three lines present the possibility that present, past, and future “perhaps” coexist, each present in time past and time future. Second, time is imaged as eternally present. In such an eternal present, however, the future is already determined and thus unredeemable. Third, time is pondered as a series of unfulfilled potentialities that might have been realized differently. Abstracting one’s self from the present moment to consider “what might have been,” however desirable it may seem, remains an unrealizable speculation. Finally, all these possible manifestations of time point to the “one end” (the logos common to all), which is “always present.” The fuller significance of the interplay between these distinct senses of time, only hinted at here, unfolds throughout the poem’s spirit-charged landscapes.

Kramer, Kenneth Paul. Redeeming Time

#O217:  Invented Landscape (Oil on Panel)

Eliot had an obvious affinity for Eastern Mysticism and references to these themes appear throughout the quartets. It is interesting to contrast the opening lines, and also Kramer’s interpretation thereof, with the last verse of the classic Buddhist poem “On Trust in Heart” (also known as “On Faith in Mind”. The poem, written somewhere around 600-900 AD, ends as follows:

When Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail;
For it is not of the past, present and future.

(translation from F.C. Happold's Mysticism: A Study and Anthology)


Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.



7 thoughts on “O216-7: Where Words Fail

  1. The brushwork paintings seem to shine light quite a bit brighter than the palette knife ones. Could just be the photography–but I suspect not. Perhaps your outlook on life is getting a bit brighter too?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not that my outlook on life was dark, in fact, I would say it is the opposite. It is, I guess, just my style of painting and expressing myself.


  2. (You’ll have gathered by now that all my comments are hasty, and respond only to the top painting in each case. Apologies).

    Here I love the thickness and impenetrable quality of the tree line to the left. I love it in the way one can only love things that make one shudder, if you see what I mean. Such is what you put in; such is what I get out.

    Liked by 1 person

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