"The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation."

(Henry David Thoreau)
"The faculty of creating is never given to us all by itself. It always goes hand in hand with the gift of observation."

Igor Stravinsky)
"Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day, while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day."

(Jim Rohn)
"The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or devine life."

Henry David Thoreau)
In Deepak Chopra's "Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," law number four is of particular interest to artists. It's called "The Law of Least Effort." Chopra's idea is that Nature's intelligence functions with "effortless ease, carefreeness, harmony and love." He gets us into this blissful state when we fully accept our world at any moment, by taking personal responsibility for our current situation, and by forgetting about trying to defend a particular point of view.

That effortless business kicks in when you put your pain safely into your pocket. Like Chopra's "Laws" the job requires repetition, practice, private effort. Whether you're building your character or cutting out some clouds--you have to do the groundwork. You have to be alone with it. To float like a cloud you have to go to the trouble of becoming one.

(Robert Glenn)

"Live so you don't look back and regret that you've wasted your life. Live life honestly and full."

(Elisabeth Kübler-Ross)
"Nature says only a few words:
High wind does not last long,
Nor does heavy rain.
If nature's words do not last
Why should those of man?

Who accepts harmony becomes harmonious.
Who accepts loss, becomes lost.
For who accepts harmony, the Way harmonizes with him.
And who accepts loss, the Way cannot find"

(Tao 23. Words)

"Creativity is not something you pick off a shelf.
It only becomes evident after years
of practice, experimentation,
and effort."

(Don Getz)
"Who recognizes his limitations is healthy;
Who ignores his limitations is sick.
The sage recognizes this sickness as a limitation.
And so becomes immune."

(Tao 71. Limitation)

"Imagine our world as Art"
"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

Frank Herbert
"The answers to our questions are all laid out for us but we don't recognize them as such because we have in mind other answers. We see only what we expect to see."


"Don Quixote is an epic hero because he in uninterested in whether his mission of justice will succeed or fail. 'This is the essential point that must be retained,' says Saer: 'That the clear, or muddled, awareness of the ineluctability of failure in every human enterprise is something fundimentally opposed to the moral epic.'"

Alberto Manguel- A Reading Diary
"In the long run men hit only what they aim at."

(Henry David Thoreau)
"Creativity is not something you pick off a shelf.
It only becomes evident after years
of practice, experimentation,
and effort."

(Don Getz)
"We find our freedom along the guiding lines of discipline."

(Yehudi Menuhin)
"I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life."

(Henry David Thoreau)
"A day
In which I don't wish for anything:
I shall gather it up
And keep it safe."

Petra Von Morstein)
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

(Henry David Thoreau)
  "A piece of art is never finished, just abandoned."

"My intent is to move from a product oriented workflow toward one based on clarity and honesty of vision. My hope is that expression falling short of this standard will eventually be eliminated.

I read an excellent book which touches on this issue directly: A GIACOMETTI PORTRAIT - by James Lord. In it he documents a multi session portrait that Alberto Giacometti did of him. He shows us through the process, ideas, and intent, relating to the creation of the portrait, that Giacometti's real concerns were not with the creation of "Art" but with clarity of vision- trying to really SEE to the heart of the creative process. He just happened to use paint or sculpture as his lenses.

Giacometti and Cezanne are examples of inspired artists, whose primary concern was with the fundamental definition of "vision". It is this inspiration that is at the root of true creativity.

Without real values being at the heart of our creative endeavors we are left with a creative philosophy based on consumerist values, whose bi-product is decoration."

Robert Ellison)


"Who recognizes his limitations is healthy;
Who ignores his limitations is sick.
The sage recognizes this sickness as a limitation.
And so becomes immune."


"A bright light casts a big shadow."

Joan of Arcadia
"True greatness lies in creating great things and not in pretending them.

The only road to success is by sure, patient, hard, intellegent work"

William Faulkner-One Matchless Time
"Inovators are never great men
and great men are never good at anything
but just being great men."

R.A. Lafferty: Eurema's Dream
Hugo Winners V. 3, P. 390
"While in the process of executing an idea, creativity
happens not with one brilliant flash but in a chain reaction of
many tiny sparks." (R. Keith Sawyer)

"On Dec. 8, 1903, with government funding, countless advisors
and great ballyhoo, Samuel Pierpont Langley's flying machine
plopped unpleasantly into the Potomac. Nine days later, Orville
and Wilbur Wright got their "Flyer" off the ground. Why did
these bicycle mechanics succeed when a famous scientist failed?
Langley's plans were mostly theoretical and his machine was
produced from blueprint and built by others. But by studying
the Wright brothers' working notes, you see that their insight
and their execution are woven together. By trial and error and
over a period of time they solved problems like wing shape and
wing warping. Each adjustment was a small spark of insight that
led to others. Along the way they found it necessary to build a
wind tunnel and other devices to test the lift and
controllability of their ever-changing designs.

Applying the Wright metaphor to the artistic creative process,
we can see that success might come with a succession of
adjustments in a series production. In Keith Sawyer's
controversial new book "Explaining Creativity: The Science of
Human Innovation," he explains that these adjustments need not
be world-shaking. One does not necessarily have a sense of
revelation. Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University,
uses the Wright brothers' "tinkering" as an example. Indeed,
it's the minor nature of changes that leads to progress. To
bring this line of thought closer to our easel experience--a
progressive process of working from one quasi-experimental work
to the next might lead to artistic character. On this path,
errors are inevitable, even vital. Failures become the stepping
stones to success. By carefully watching and managing a
personal progression, a creator stealthily finds his muse."

(Robert Glenn)
"Love is a deep appreciation...for who we are."

Louise L. Hay
"Begin with what you know and what you don't know will be revealed to you."

"Cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist and misogynist have offended Muslims in the United States as they have Muslims worldwide. But the debate raging among Muslim-Americans on college campuses, the Internet and in Islamic media has its own unique flavor because of this country's constitutional commitment to free speech.

American Muslims are adamant in their support of exercising their First Amendment right to protest the drawings through boycotts and other peaceful means, but many are embarrassed by the torching of European embassies in the Middle East and other forms of violence that have accompanied some demonstrations.

Because the cartoons constitute what he considers hate speech, the issue is not "black and white," said Junaid Ahmad, a student at the College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe Law School in Williamsburg, Va., who is active in national Muslim organizations.
"This is not just a matter of being for freedom of speech and against freedom of speech," Ahmad said. "The first thing we should realize is that Muslims don't accept the basic framework. The principal issue here is not freedom of speech but the Islamophobic context in which such a caricaturing of the prophet is taking place. I think that's the issue here."

Nevertheless, Ahmad said he was against laws restricting such speech.

"You can't give the state too much power. It's better to fight hate not through laws but education and community organizing and activism."

The Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and other American Muslim groups have condemned the violent reactions to the cartoons and have urged Muslims to protest peacefully, write letters or take part in boycotts.

"As a Muslim, I can understand the emotional intensity of the issue, however, responding through violence does not uphold the dignity of our faith," said Mahdi Bray, head of the civil rights bureau of the Washington-based Muslim American Society, in a statement following a meeting with Denmark's ambassador to Washington. "Burning buildings and throwing bricks is definitely not the answer. Muslims united and using their economic leverage, now that's something the world can respect."

While Muslim-Americans disagree over reactions to the cartoons, a consensus seems to have emerged that the cartoons crossed a line that demand some type of response.

"On the legal level and from an Islamic perspective, people have a choice," said Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary-general of the Indianapolis-based Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in the United States. "I don't expect my neighbor to have the same reverence about the Prophet Muhammad.

"All that we are expecting is that they don't insult a personality that's made such a historical contribution. This is more a responsibility of living in a pluralistic society than a question of legal restrictions."

Imam Mohamed Magid, executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia, said while he understood Islamic offense at the cartoons, Muslims would be better off protesting defamations against the faith perpetrated by their co-religionists.

"Prophet Muhammad is offended every day when somebody blows themselves up in a marketplace in Iraq. He's offended whenever somebody is beheaded. Prophet Muhammad would have opposed the burning of these embassies, or calls to kill Danes or other people," Magid said. "You can't be untouchable and then call other people infidel."

Watching the Muslim indignation at caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad spill over into outbursts of anger and violence, I find myself, an American Muslim woman, wondering:

Which would make the prophet sadder - the libel of his character by Danish non-Muslim cartoonists or the actions of his followers that are so out of keeping with his own example, actions that would seem to prove that the cartoonists' depictions are not so far from truth?

During his life, Prophet Muhammad was revered by many, but there were some who resisted his teachings. He was insulted and cursed, at times physically assaulted, and yet, he did not return insult for insult, attack for attack.

Rather, he asked God to forgive the people who harassed him, much as Jesus asked God to forgive his tormentors.

His example of forbearance is in keeping with the Quran, which advises Muslims, "Keep to forgiveness and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant" (7:199). Clearly, those Muslims who threatened the cartoonists with murder, and those who set fire to embassies, have betrayed these injunctions and abandoned the prophet's example.

To me, that is a greater insult to the prophet they claim to follow than a few offensive drawings, especially as people who know little of the prophet's true character and history attribute their violence to him.

Furthermore, Islam brooks no compulsion in religion, nor does it demand followers of other religions adhere to its religious sensibilities.

"There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith" (2:256) and "To you your way, to me mine" (109:6) lay out Islam's cardinal tenet of tolerance and make it clear that non-Muslims are not expected to follow Islam's religious rules.

Even though many Muslims believe Islam prohibits portrayals of the prophet, protests of blasphemy are misplaced as the Danish, non-Muslim cartoonists aren't bound by Islam's rules.

Having said that, I must also say that the drawings are indeed deeply offensive, not so much for the mere fact that they portrayed Prophet Muhammad, but because some of them are hateful, slanderous and inflammatory to the point of verging on racism, particularly the ones showing the prophet with a bomb-turban, as the devil in disguise, or blindfolded and bristling with knives.

The cartoonists had to know those images were going to be as provocative and insulting as Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" images.

Freedom of expression is a cardinal value in both the West and in Islam (another value that many in the Muslim world have neglected to uphold), and we must defend the right of cartoonists to draw satirical, biting commentary, and papers to publish items which may be offensive or perceived as blasphemous by some.

A society without such freedom rapidly becomes poisonously repressed and out of balance. Or worse, it begins to resemble a Barney cartoon with all its saccharine sweetness.

Even though we may hate what another person might say, we must, like Voltaire, defend to the death his or her right to say it.

Similarly, if people are going to publish offensive items, they must accept our right to express our distaste, our disagreement, and our outrage. No people can be expected to sit by quietly while the central figure of their religion is defamed.

While we defend the right to freedom of expression, we must use that right responsibly. Protests must be peaceable. And there are items that, rightfully, no editor should publish, particularly ones that foster hatred and bigotry.

Could a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb turban or with devil horns reinforce hatred for him and his followers? Could it provoke a dialogue exploring the root causes of the violence that has ripped through the edges of Muslim society, threatening to plunge us all into chaos? Publishing confrontational and defamatory cartoons in the tinderbox that is modern Europe was akin to crying "Fire!" in a crowded theater. If it's not illegal, it certainly wasn't very responsible.

Pamela K. Taylor is co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union and director of the Islamic Writers Alliance.

Originally published February 11, 2006
Religion News Service



"There's an even seamier undercurrent to the tale of young Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard University sophomore who at 17 snagged a $500,000, two-book deal but was singled out this week for lifting chunks of copy from someone else's novels for her debut.

Apparently, Viswanathan's How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, contains more than 40 passages similar to those in two books by New Jersey author Megan McCafferty. On Thursday, her publisher Little, Brown pulled the book from shelves.

Viswanathan did read McCafferty's books, she acknowledged in a statement.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words," she said.

As snarky media website Gawker pointed out, it wasn't much of an apology. Sure, internalizing can happen to anyone. But it usually doesn't happen "word-for-word."

The media, including Katie Couric, who interviewed Viswanathan for The Today Show, jumped all over the story of the fallen young author.

The Harvard Independent reported on a web posting from a former teaching assistant who had been surprised to learn of the young author's book deal; Viswanathan apparently wasn't a very good writer.

And the paper traced Viswanathan's internalizing issues back to New York-based 17th Street Productions, a "packaging" firm which was charged with moulding the book, to what extent is not known, before it was sold to her publisher. The coverage has raised questions about how involved Viswanathan was in writing her own book.

You can practically feel the venom: She didn't deserve to rise, and now she will fall. What business did she even have getting a book deal in the first place?

It's a valid question. Surely there are people out there, those who could build a recliner out of all their rejection letters, who have written an entirely readable, and original, debut novel. Publishing is an admittedly cutthroat business, but has it really come to this: Find the attractive, promising young would-be writer first, and worry about the book part later? Why is a good book no longer enough?


Hot on the heels of famous fabulist James Frey and his A Million Little Pieces Oprah smackdown, the young Viswanathan embodies much that is wrong with our society. Privileged and entitled, everything about her story seems unfair to those who could never dream of travelling in her circles.

Better yet, she provides a disturbing example of North American culture's obsession with appearances, with "the package."

In our image-obsessed society, content is often an afterthought.

How to sell it? That's the first question, the bottom line, before anything else.

No one, no thing, alone is ever good enough. There have to be easy-to-digest labels attached, to serve it up to an attention-deficit media who will then tell the public what is worth reading or watching based on who wrote it.

I bet there's at least one normal, chubby teenager with braces on the continent -- not a wunderkind, no odds to overcome -- who has written something mind-blowing. Too bad we'll never get to read it.

The system runs deep: Every new television show, album, and movie must have an angle. Look at how Debbie Travis tried to portray Ottawa's Lynsey Bennett as "a former beauty queen with no self-esteem and no job" in an interview with the Sun to promote her new Global reality show From The Ground Up. Convenient, for sure, but nonsensical. I don't think anyone can accuse Bennett of having no self-esteem. Or call her lazy.

Take another hometown girl, Alanis Morissette. Her last album was all about love, and even though it was over the phone, the singer/songwriter seemed to be glowing in 2004 when she spoke to the Sun about her "So-Called Chaos" tour and fiance Ryan Reynolds

"I'm unrecognizable these days," she explained, "almost to myself."

What talking points will Morissette, who's all about the content but must have "a story" anyway, use next time around?

She's already done angst, thanked India, gone public with an eating disorder, and did the initial-selling-to-Starbucks thing. After all, no one really wants to read a story about the music in her next album, do they?"

Pamela K. Taylor is co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union and director of the Islamic Writers Alliance.

Originally published February 11, 2006

"Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains."

Jane Hopkins
"Evolved artists overcome disappointments by replacing them with  nobler challenges of their own making."

 Robert Glenn