Friday, 19 February 2010

Stolen Moments

The students in the monastic community were studying under a very wise sage. One of the students loved to slip out at night and have a wander round the town, something that would be frowned upon by the wise old sage. The student used to climb over the wall at the back of the garden so that he would not be seen leaving. One night the old master was checking on the dormitories and noticed the young student’s absence. He walked round the wall until he came upon the stool that been used by the student to get out of the garden over the wall. He removed the stool and stood quietly meditating under the wall.

When the student returned he placed his foot on the masters head and jumped back down into the grounds. On landing he discovered what he had done and stood in shocked silence.

The wise old sage said, “It gets very chilly of an evening. Please be careful you do not catch a cold.” He then left very quietly. The young student thought for a moment. He never ever crept out at night again.

I lived on the beautiful Island of Iona for a year when I was trying to teach myself enough to be able to pass the examinations that would allow me to enter university. I had been living a fairly wild and hectic life up until then and living on a dry island (an Island with no bars or places that sold beer) was to say the least a learning experience. I had to work on the restoration of the Abbey during the week and for this I was given my keep and a little pocket money. On a Saturday a tourist ship anchored in the sound and allowed its passengers time to come ashore and to visit the abbey. Now and again I and another young man used to slip out to the ship and have one or two ales. On one particular Saturday when we arrived back on the jetty at the village of Iona, standing on the jetty was Lord George McLeod the founder of the Iona Community, and the person responsible for the rebuilding of the abbey. I thought I was in for big trouble but all he said was, “The beer on that ship is a bit expensive I must be giving you too much pocket money.” That was my last trip to that ship all summer.

It is possible to encourage people to greater things without giving a long lecture or being censorious. We artists are often the worlds worst for saying too much and in the process discouraging others to progress. Positive and to the point. I remember a teacher who I am sure knew his subject as well as any. His trouble was he never used three sentences when twenty three could be found to say the same thing.


  1. On stolen moments; aren't they the best! What fun, what joy a stolen moment; savoured down the road of ages, never forgotten. Of course, unlike you, I never did get caught in my stolen moments!

    On Brevity; to quote Salvadore Dali....
    "I shall be so brief, I have already finished".

    You're not about to get away that lucky Ralph; with age I've become an expounder with much to say and in a rush to get it here goes

    There is a time for both brevity and endless words. Certainly a direct approach delivers an instant message leaving no room for confusion. Raising children is where this was the best approach. A simple "no"; raising one's eyebrow and a frown; an "I beg your pardon" was sufficent. Then when 'whys began'....simple, send them to ponder and come back and tell me why; was always my response. So that was easy.....too easy because they all now have too much to say and never stop.
    Expounding to death is fun too....leaves the audience pondering your words, taking a week to disgest, and a sudden light "Ah".

    You are right we don't want to do that with artists...the light is hard enough to see without confusion and distortion. But how concise should we be in our criticism or compliment. "Nice" ..... nice what?
    "Love It" me too? "Great"....great what? I have had my share of lovely, great, etc....the comments I most appreciate from other artists let me know what I did or did not do right because I can't always see the right or wrong at the proximity of my studio room. They addressed, line, colour, motion or lack of, materials used, new directions.

    So perhaps a bit of expounding in our comments isn't too bad a long as we don't do like Ralph's instructor .... lose the audience repeating and repeating meaningless statements.

  2. I think Ruby should have a blog. I will leave it as brief as that.