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The Notre Dame Fire: Trying to Keep a Stoic Perspective

Hey all.

I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to post about the Notre Dame fire. I didn’t think I had anything of value to add, and I’m personally disgusted by people who want to turn catastrophic events into ways to essentially boost their own internet careers, but after mulling it over and following my rule to stay away from social media for at least 24 hours when a catastrophe, I learned a couple of things I think are worth sharing.

The general consensus is that the fire is not caused by arson, that it was an accident. Newsweek reported last month that churches all over France have been vandalized, so naturally, there are quite a few articles saying that we can’t just rule out arson for Notre Dame as well.

For now, I’m willing to believe it was just an accident, if new evidence comes up later that this was an attack, then of course I’ll believe that- but either way, it doesn’t really matter how it happened and spinning conspiracy theories won’t solve anything.

The Notre Dame Fire

I Wanted it to be Someone’s Fault

When I first heard of the fire, I was shocked, sad, and angry. The craziest thing was that I wanted the fire to have been caused by someone- that way it felt like there was someone I could direct all this anger at- especially if they meant to do it maliciously- I just wanted someone to blame.

Before you start calling me a psychopath, think about this for a second. How many times in the past couple of years did something bad happen and you wanted the person to be caught- and receive a just- or even more than just punishment? Most people seem to have that mindset in some form or another- from the death threats that went to the kid who accidentally started all those forest fires in Northern Oregon to Kathy Griffin calling for the names of the Covington Catholic kids a few months back- and the hundreds of people who responded in kind.

I’m not excusing this behavior, in fact I think it’s abhorrent how riled up people can get and target individual people making themselves more malicious and psychotic than the accused themselves.

It just scared me knowing how much in that moment- if that horrible tragedy happened- it better damn well have been caused by someone.

For this reason, I’m relieved that it’s just an accident- the last thing we need is to become animals and start descending on someone- and also frustratingly watching people try to defend their actions if they happened to belong to an ideology they agree with- causing even more division and chaos.

Despair… or Acceptance?

So, after that whirlwind of rage- other interesting thoughts occured.

Some background: I’ve always been a very emotional person, which attracted me to the philosophy of Stoicism- especially Marcus Aurelius, and I’m currently working an office job that causes a lot of anxiety for me- to alleviate this, I started keeping a daily journal where I write about my feelings, then I take a segment from Marcus Auerelius’ Meditations, analyze it, and write about how it pertains to my life.

So, after I had my initial shock and allowed my brain to go to that dark place, I realized: “There’s nothing I can do about it. Notre Dame is all the way across the world. I have to focus on what I’m doing right now, which is working and being the best office worker I can be.” Normally I have to work really hard to calm myself down, but these thoughts just surfaced without much effort- so I think the journal is helping.

Heck, when my husband and I pulled into the driveway at home after work, he looked at me and said, “I’m sorry dear.” He said it with the same sympathy you would give someone who’s family member was dying or in intensive care and you’re not sure if they’ll ever be the same again.

I thought right then and there that would be the point where I lost it- where I would start crying. I felt tears coming up, but instead all I said was, “There’s nothing we can do about it now. Let’s go inside and make dinner.”

Again, I did bury or bottle my feelings deep down, I just thought about what I can do at the present moment and what I can’t. The stuff I can’t do would not be fixed by getting upset or emotional.

The Positives

So, this tragedy happened. Getting angry or sad won’t make it un-happen. So what are some positive things?

  1. I believe it brought more attention to the other church vandalizations, it might actually wake people up and realize, “Oh crap! Our history and culture is being destroyed right under our noses!” I’m optimistic that people will care more about that now that we practically felt like we lost Notre Dame. I personally felt like I didn’t know the extent of it until the fire happened. It sucks that it took a major fire like that to bring awareness, but hopefully this can be
  2. No body was hurt or killed.
  3. A lot of the art and relics that were inside the cathedral are fine. In fact, since Notre Dame was under restoration, those things were already removed. The Crown of Thorns and the many statues that would have been inside are okay. Now- the fire was caused from the scaffolding because of said restoration, but again, trying to stay positive.
  4. It unified people. From what I have been seeing on social media- the loss and grief brought people together. Christians and Atheists alike came together in this time of grief over their mutual culture.
  5. At least it is repairable. Thankfully Notre Dame is mostly made of stone- sadly, the spire may probably be lost forever (but you never know, maybe they can save that too!), but at least it’s not bulldozed like the many Assyrian monuments in 2015.

Finally, where do I sign up?

After I gave myself 24 hours to grieve and sleep, my anger turned into… determination. I couldn’t do anything while the fire was happening- but now I’ve been thinking what can I do? Is there someplace legitimate I can donate to? (In times like this you have to be careful, so many awful awful people will start fundraising campaigns only to turn around and steal the money). Maybe they’ll take volunteer conservators who don’t have a masters degree, but quite a bit of experience? I don’t know if I honestly can up and leave and go to Europe again, but I’m willing to have my mind changed.

When a piece of culture endures destruction, it’s a tragedy that robs future generations of their past. We can’t be complacent and let our culture be destroyed, but when it happens, it’s more important than ever to come together and do our small part to prevent our beauty, history, and legacy to slip away.

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Sick Days

Hey all, sorry for not having posted the last couple of days, but I got sick, so I couldn’t bring myself to wake up at 5 am like the original plan, let alone spend an alloted time on art. So I guess I really did fail the challenge, huh? Oh well. I passed the first one, so I’m not discouraged.

I did manage to make some progress. I am feeling a lot better today compared to yesterday, but I’m still trying to take it easy.

Here are a couple things worked on the last couple days. A study of Caravaggio’s David and Goliath and I started a new portrait.

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7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Day 4: Sketchbook Drawing

I don’t have a lot of time to post this morning, but in a few words: Too tired, hard time getting up, wasn’t able to continue the painting from yesterday like I planned, opted to draw from my binder of old master references instead.

Let’s just say, thank God I had everything set up the way it did, otherwise I wouldn’t have done any art practice this morning at all- which is worse than spending 30 minutes on a sketch.

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7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Day 5: Merchantman

So… technically, I failed this challenge. I did wake up at 5, but then I went back to bed and slept for two more hours. The fact that I didn’t have to work today was sort of a de-motivator. Even so, I did get up at just a little before 8, which is still a decent morning time.

I also planned to work on this painting for an hour, but I found that I was satisfied with it after 15 minutes.

The above painting is technically fanart. This is the Banu Merchantman from Star Citizen. My husband wanted this painting for a couple of years now. Shortly before getting married, he paid for the canvas, and now, after several months, it’s finally done. It’s finally at a point where I’m happy with it- or at least- if I do anything more to do, I’ll over do it and ruin it.

Above are the reference photos from the Star Citizen website. I combined these two images to make the final product. https://starcitizen.tools/Merchantman

Pictured above is the process, from the preliminary sketches to almost the completed work.

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7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Day 3: Under drawing of my sister

This morning as a little rough, unfortunately, I started this morning watching some YouTube videos on my phone, but that’s okay. Still Managed to get 45 minutes total worth of work done.

I started a painting of my younger sister who I also happen to teach art.

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7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Day 2: Portrait of my husband

Welcome to the 7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge where we set up our week up ahead of time to wake up 2 hours earlier than we need to before work to spend 30 minutes minimum working on a particular project! My project being painting!

Welp! This morning was a huge success! Not only, did I get up on time, work on my daily project for 45 minutes, and feel good, but I worked on a painting that last week I was not happy with how it was turning out.

The last couple of times that I worked on it, I didn’t feel like I was painting it, just going back and re-doing areas I was unhappy with over and over.

I considered giving up and starting over- but then suddenly I got a lot of encouraging comments on Instagram from the process photos of this painting- so I decided to keep at it.

As if by magic, everything about this painting came together for me. Everything I was having trouble with I just suddenly knew how to do!

The bird actually looks like a mechanical bird instead of an abstract mess of brushstrokes painted by someone who’s never seen a bird in their life.
I’m super happy with how the hand turned out! I was having so much trouble with it!

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7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Day 1: Ascension

Welcome to Day 1 of the 7 Day Lazy Morning Challenge: Where the goal is to wake up at 5 am to work on a project for 30 minutes after having set the week up ahead of time to allow yourself to be as lazy as possible.

I spent 30 minutes on my oil painting, Ascension (still not done yet, still a work in progress). I made this painting based on a dream I had which also served as encouragement in a time where I was so stressed out, I managed to get sick.

How did this first morning go?

This first morning went very well! I had one handicap: I forgot to set my alarm for 5am, so I woke up at 6 am instead. That kind of stressed me awake. Like that feeling you get where you’re super motivated to get up because you’re late for a final exam.

Not the best feeling, but at least it woke you up faster than the blackest cup of coffee.

Even so, thanks to the fact that I had breakfast (yogurt parfait) set up ahead of time, my clothes set out, coffee already made with clean mugs already set up, AND I already knew what project I would work on with all the materials laid out, I was able to spend 30 minutes on my project and have some time leftover to blog about it.

All in all, not a bad deal. In fact, given how well this morning went even though it started late, I’m seriously considering spending an hour on the next projects in the work mornings with 30 minutes being the minimum.