Archive for July, 2007

Julia Hasselberg

I found myself captivated by this portrait of Julia Hasselberg painted by Eva Bonnier. Eva Bonnier was a Swedish artist and this painting is of her lover’s illegitimate daughter who Eva adopted after Julia’s father’s death.

This girl has a look which is very familiar to me. It’s a combination of pain and resilience. There’s reserve, distance, independence and spirit here. The kind of spirit that emerges from suffering to strengthen and protect. I find it both moving and powerful.

You can find this portrait and others by Eva Bonnier along with a really interesting short biography of her on the Giornale Nuovo blog. Thank you for posting this Mr h.

All Eva Bonnier’s portraits which you’ll see in that post share these characteristics for me. These are powerful people, fiercely independent, with that special kind of strength which emerges from suffering. One thing that fascinates me is this description of Eva Bonnier

She is reputed to have been an intelligent, strong-willed and sharp-tongued woman who ‘could neither in private nor as an artist charm or flatter her contemporaries.’

How much does the character of the artist influence their portraits of others? How much do they see a bit of themselves in their subjects and, unconsciously, highlight those qualities in them? What do you think Ester?

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french family, originally uploaded by bobsee.

Here’s a variation on my Five Days, Five Colours idea.
I was in France on the weekend of Bastille Day so I thought I’d go out and photograph red, white and blue.
Here’s the set of photos I took

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It is that loving you as much as I have been able to manage has defined the person that I am. That is who I have become.

Sebastian Faulks. Human Traces.

How do we gain a sense of self? How do we answer the question “Who am I?” It seems to me that we gain a sense of self through the stories we tell ourselves and others. It’s a narrative process and it’s an always unfinished, creative process. We are all unique. Every time I conduct a clinic I meet new patients. Never once have I heard a patient tell me the exact story I’ve heard before. Everyone has a new, unique narrative. But this implies that the creation of a sense of self is all internal. It isn’t. We create a sense of self through our boundaries, our connections, our interfaces and interactions. We create a sense of self through our experience of love – its presence, its absence, its possibility, its loss.

Loving you, I become me.

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Evolution is a passage from the most automatic to the most voluntary.

Sebastian Faulks. Human Traces.

The zombie life is the automatic life. Becoming the hero of your own personal story involves developing awareness and making more and more conscious choices.

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ripples in the sand, originally uploaded by bobsee.

Then the long trail of her footprints, stretching back towards the sea, became slowly indistinct as each one filled with water and edged in upon itself; and in a matter of minutes, as darkness began to fall, the shape of the foot was lost at every place until the last vestiges of her presence were washed away, the earth closing over as though no one had passed by.

Sebastian Faulks. Human Traces

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Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks (ISBN 978-0-099-45826-5) is a novel of ideas. Set in the late 19th, early 20th century it tells the story of two young men who become idealistic doctors, determined to work together to understand mental illnesses so that they can cure them. In addition, they hope that in understanding the interface between the body and the mind they will understand what it is to be human.

I found it really absorbing. Much of the discussion was around subjects which are very familiar to me – consciousness, the relationship between the body and the mind, the debate about whether mental illnesses have neurological bases or not, and the still young area of evolutionary biology. However, as a doctor, the book has additional relevance. After all, my experience is also one of idealism and hope; the belief that doctoring will be about curing, and the gradual erosion of that to aim at managing diseases instead of curing them (that last is a painful loss – for sure, doctors have cures for many acute diseases now, but the burden of illness is chronic disease and, sadly, we seem a long way off from finding genuine cures for those)

Sebastian Faulks floats an incredibly interesting hypothesis about the hearing of voices, having one of the characters, Thomas, propose that this was a facility that all human beings possessed but which has since been lost by most of us. He cites the literary evidence of Man’s relationship to God/gods where the earlier stories show people hearing voices which they obeyed – they experienced the daily reality of their gods; and later stories showing that people no longer reliably heard those voices and had to throw lots, examine entrails, find unusual characters (prophets) who could still hear the voices, in order to know what the gods wanted. He links this idea to the emerging concept of evolution and natural selection by proposing that the hearing of voices was linked to the development of consciousness and the loss of the voices was related to the development of self-awareness through the acquistion of language. If you are not familiar with any of these ideas this novel is a great place to introduce yourself to this area of thought.

However, this 609 page novel did not engage me emotionally……..until page 595. From page 595 to the very last word of the novel, it hit me like a sledgehammer. I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I was totally unprepared for it. This is quite honestly one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve read. Maybe it hit me so hard because it touched so many issues which lie in the core of my being – what is it to be a doctor? what use am I to others? how do we get a sense of self and how does it feel to lose that to an illness like dementia? what does it mean to become invisible? and, ultimately, what trace do I leave on this Earth?

There are a number of phrases and passages which have stimulated a whole lot of things for me, and I’ll return to post about some of them separately.

Thought provoking, educational, well-written, and, ultimately, powerfully emotional.

Highly recommended.

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web water 1, originally uploaded by bobsee.

As i walked to my front door this evening something sparkly caught my eye.
Look at this!
It’s raindrops lying on a spider’s web! I’ve never seen a range of water droplets of such varying shapes and sizes before. This is SO different from how dew or frost looks on a web.
Isn’t it beautiful?

There were a number of other webs with raindrops caught in them today. You can see them on my flickr page

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