Friday, October 9, 2009

Solvitur ambulando . . It is solved by walking. . St. Augustine

Augustine may not have been the first to say this, but the words are often attributed to him.

I first heard this at Loyola from a Jesuit priest who explained that there were a number of paradoxes from the time of Aristotle that puzzled philosophers and mathematicians for centuries. One such paradox states that "that which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal." (from Aristotle.) Y
ou can always divide a number in half, and so no matter what distance you have traveled, you will always have half that distance to go before you reach your destination. The paradox is refuted by contradiction: solve it by walking. Above is Sargent's Campo San Agnese, Venice with a lot of walkers, almost ghostly ones.

It certainly seems that I will never cover the distance, never finish the press releases, never re-size the images, never get the hanging wire on the last painting
, and so on. Who doesn't feel this way? What else can you do but just push on, working as much as you can to halve the distance?

Apparently John Singer Sargent was capable of working for incredibly long stretches, "literally all day till the light failed." His sister's friend Eliza Wedgwood says "I was the drone of the party, but allowed to sit and watch John for hours at a time: I don't think he was conscious of my presence. . .he was so absorbed in his work that he was oblivious of all else. . . it was such an experience to see him paint, every stroke telling." (from Sargent in Italy, edited by Bruce Robertson.)

Yesterday as I rushed down from my studio to make lunches before school, I fell down the stairs, quite a lot of them. . . so maybe it's solve it by walking slowly.

A painting by John Singer Sargent that looks spontaneous and rushed but probably took some planning:

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