Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Arts. . . both gift and a call to service

What's not to love about the cello? A "voice" to die for. Sexy design. Polished finish that brings each wooden fiber to brilliant life. 

This instrument first thrust itself upon my consciousness in the PBS documentary, "Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound," that chronicles Baez's life. The segment that stood out for me was her 1993 visit to the destroyed and terrorized city of Sarajevo, Bosnia. She described her heart-rending encounter with Sarajevo Opera cellist Vedran Smajlovic. 

"Unable to stop the madness that had ripped apart the former Yugoslavia, Smajlovic honored the memory of his friends and defied their killers by doing the only thing he was good at. Placing his chair in the middle of the street, he took out cello and bow—musician and instrument melding into a single defiant force. Eyes closed to the surrounding destruction, he rendered the mournful Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni." 
 
Be it a musician, actor, painter, or writer, anyone else endowed with creative gifts, Smajlovic's offering to his fellow Sarajevans represents an artist's supreme achievement: to become one with the work and with the audience. I imagine him getting up every morning, donning his tuxedo, as if he were going to play with his disbanded orchestra, and carrying chair and cello out onto the dangerous street to play Albinoni's soulful Adagio in G minor. 
I imagine Michelangelo on the scaffolds of the Sistine Chapel, Antoni Gaudi living the last years of his life in the dusty construction site of Barcelona's (still-unfinished) Sagrada Familia Basilica.
I think of Victor Hugo in 1861-1862, melding himself with his idealized man, Jean Valjean.

The great gift of artists is that they do not hoard their transcendent experience, but allow us differently skilled humans an opportunity to transport ourselves in spirit to a higher realm of contemplative unity, be it ever so brief. Wise beyond human comprehension are those artists who are fully conscious of their lofty and sacred calling, to inspire our world and make the world a better place for everyone.

- - - - - - - - -

I invite you to read my book, The Soul of Art, available at all online booksellers in both paperback and ebook formats.

My Art and Soul retreats/workshops explore the sacred source of artistic gifts and the mission of those so blessed to share the fruit of their talents with others for the betterment of our Sarajevo-like world.

Next retreat/workshop:

Saturday, June 24, 2017
9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

San Damiano Retreat House
Danville, California
Cost: $55

For information about this event or to book future events, contact alfredjgarrotto@gmail.com

(c) 2017 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Carnal Wisdom

In late November (2016), I fell down a set of concrete stairs at the Powell Street BART (rapid transit) station in downtown San Francisco, CA. After tumbling head over heels to the bottom, I did a quick check of my sundry pieces and body parts and realized that all I had broken was my ego. Based on spills I'd taken before, I decided to wait it out until the scraped skin and soreness healed on their own. By the time I returned home that evening, however, I knew something was wrong. I'd injured my bloody and painful left shin pretty badly. 

Several days later, the wound became infected and I ended up in the hospital--for four days! Following that unwanted disruption in my active life, I began a rehab process that is just now coming to an end, three months later. It turned out that what I considered a superficial wound had created a blood clot that went nearly to the bone.

I like to believe there's always something good that comes out of the not-so-good stuff that happens to me. My life experience has proven that to be true over and over again. This time was no different. Week by week, as the nurses dressed, treated, and redressed my open wound, I experienced an amazing, close-up revelation and realization that my carnal flesh has a profound, even spiritual, wisdom of its own. I'm sure this isn't news to people in the physical and medical sciences. As long as we kept the wound clean, my leg knew exactly how to reconstruct its damaged tissues, layer by layer, in perfect order.

The result? I have a new awe-filled appreciation for the intelligence of my flesh and bones. You might read this and say, "Duh, what's so new about that?" Well, for this guy who lives in his head and the clouds most of the time, it's big news! 



(c) 2017 by Alfred J. Garrotto

All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Signs of Wisdom: A Reflection on Sirach 4:11-19

"Wisdom brings up her children and takes care of those who look for her. Whoever loves her loves life. Those who rise early in the morning in search of her will be filled with joy. Whoever possesses her will have glory and wherever he goes blessings will follow. Those who serve her are ministers of the Holy One; those who love her are loved of the Lord. He who listens to her will have good judgment. He who obeys her will rest in safety. Whoever trusts in her will possess her and his children after him will inherit her. For in the beginning she will lead him by rough paths, causing him to fear and be terrified; she will plague him with her discipline until she can count on him; and she will put him to the test by her demands. Then she will lead him on a level path, give him joy and reveal her secrets to him. But if he wanders from the path, she will abandon him and allow him to be lost."

                                               Book of Sirach

The ancient teacher Sirach speaks of two signs that tell me when I am in the presence of wisdom:
1) Love of life
2) A sense of internal joy

And like that wise man, I can attest from my experience of life that wisdom's fruit--joy and love of life--is born of trial and failure. 

•  I have walked rough paths on the way to becoming the person I am today (still in process, but gaining ground). Everything I was taught in my early life told me I would find all the happiness I wanted, or at least could hope for in this "veil of tears," within my chosen vocation. I didn't.
•  I have passed though the fire of fear and terror. It hasn't ended but fear no longer has me by the throat.
•  "She will put him to the test." Over thirty years ago, I sloughed off the safety net that kept me in a comfortable prison. What amazes me even now is that, all the while, I was loving and serving the Lord and making a positive difference in some peoples' lives. Dare I say, many? This is a testament to God's ability to change crumbs into a feast.
•  "Then . . ." comes the "level path" of joy, insights, secrets revealed. In this last portion of my life, I am putting things together, making spiritual and psychological connections as never before.


These may be signs that I am at last growing in wisdom.

Copyright (c) Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nostalgia



My Favorite Sweatshirt

I own a treasured relic, never worn,
it's soft gray surface inscribed with indelible ink

unreadable scratchings
autographed in some secret code.This long-sleeved archive

evaded periodic closet purges.

Who signed my shirt that day?
Are they still in or out of the game?
Where went that younger me,
who knelt before gold'n green idols?
Where in my older self is the youth
who gushed in speechless awe?



 What will become of my Oakland A's shirt
when I've taken my place in the skybox beyond?


Alfred J. Garrotto
Author of the baseball story, There's More--A Novella of Life and Afterlife
#AlfredJGarrotto @alfredjgarrotto


(c) 2017 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved


Monday, January 9, 2017

My favorite reads for 2016

Every year, I publish my list of top reads in three categories . . .
Fiction = Officer and Spy by Robert Harris (the trial and false conviction of Alfred Dreyfus) General Nonfiction = Driving the Getaway Car, by Ann Patchett (her life as a writer and best-selling author) Religious nonfiction (3-way tie)
  • My Bright Abyss, by Christian Wiman (beautiful reflections on life in the midst of suffering)
  • Run With the Horses by Eugene Peterson (about the Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah)
  • God First Loved Us, by Antony Campbell, S.J. (Which God do you believe in?)
Alfred J. Garrotto Author, The Soul of Art

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Soul of Art--Launched!!

The Soul of Art is now available for purchase in both paperback and Kindle E-book formats on Amazon US and will soon be available through Amazon in Europe, Australia, and Asia. 
“The wisdom and guidance offered in The Soul of Art motivates artists to ‘never give up,’ but rather to seek ever higher goals in their art form, knowing always that what we have is a God-given gift and privilege.” — Andrei (Bill) Tremaine,  artistic director, choreographer and premier dancer – soloist, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo — and founder of The Pacific Ballet Theatre.  
Born into a theatrical family, Alfred J. Garrotto began working in films (crowd scenes) at the age of seven. Much later, he settled into a writing career (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). The arts in all forms are his lifelong passion. The Soul of Art is his 12th book.
Kindle E-book Link




Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sagrada Familia Revisited

The tomb of architect
Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)
My first drive-by visit to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, was in may 1964. At the time, what is now an amazing basilica fully open to the public was a shell, an abandoned project of visionary architect Antoni Gaudi.

In 2008, my wife Esther and I toured the inside of the emerging sanctuary wearing hard hats and skirting the inner walls. We marveled at the potential magnificence and awaited the day when Gaudi's vision would become a worshiping space reality.

On June 24 of this year, we arrived once more in Barcelona and checked into the Hotel Sagrada Familia. We had two days to spend in one of our favorite cities. My bucket list of things to do in my life included attending Mass in the crypt beneath the basilica's main sanctuary and to finally visit the completed interior. 

Our hotel gave us a 10:30 a.m. Mass time that Friday. Next, I went to tiqets.com.sp to order tour tickets for later that day and received confirmation that we were good for the 2:45 p.m. tour. At the crypt, we discovered that the hotel's Mass time list was outdated. We accepted that outcome. Just a mistake. There would be another opportunity at 9 a.m. Saturday. Our cruise ship wouldn't sail until 4 p.m. that day.

Altar/sanctuary of the crypt
beneath the main basilica.

Getting set for our afternoon tour proved to be a greater challenge. I was unable to print the tickets at the hotel. Frantic, we moved to Plan B. On my phone we had visual proof of booking and paying for  tour. We went to the gate and showed the proof on our phone. The tour managers refused to accept that evidence. They insisted on having paper tickets. The time of our tour came . . . and passed with us still standing outside on the sidewalk. Neither "must do" items had disappeared from my bucket list.

Feeling as bummed out as we've ever been, we dragged ourselves back to Sagrada Familia the next morning. It was a glorious Saturday, but we hardly noticed. Before going to Mass, we inquired about a tour for that day. Sadly, the next tour opening would have made it too late for us to catch our ship.

Then, the miracle. I call it that; others can call it whatever they want.

An elderly priest celebrated the Mass that morning for a small congregation. Near the end of the service, I heard a voice saying, "Go talk to him after Mass." Normally, I would be too shy (ashamed) to beg for a personal favor. Immediately after Mass, I told the unsuspecting Esther, "Wait for me here," and followed the priest into the sacristy (vesting room). I took out a business card that identified me as a lay minister at a Catholic parish. After introducing myself, I told him our sad story of the day before. Without missing a beat, this kindly priest smiled and said, "Come with me."

I waved to Esther, who ran to meet me in the sacristy. We followed our new best friend--who turned out to be the pastor of the basilica--outside and down the block to the ornate Nativity entrance. Along the way, we passed the very same gatekeepers who had told us there was nothing they could do to get us inside. One after the other, they greeted the priest with a "buenos días" as they opened the gates.
The altar area is surrounded 
by a forest of trees (columns)
that 
rise from floor to ceiling. 

Inside, the magnificent interior warmed us with its welcome. We spoke with the priest for a minute. He shook our hands and disappeared (as Jesus did after walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as found in Luke 24:13-32).

Yes, both bucket list items were checked off that morning. I'll leave it to you to decide the moral to this story.


[My original Sagrada Familia post has been the most visited/read on this entire blog. Find it at the top left of this blog's home page or at  http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/2010/11/sagrada-familia-favorite-church-comes.html ]

[There's also a great documentary film on Netflix about the artists and builders who are at work today to bring this immense and sacred project to fulfillment.   For a look at my post about this documentary, go to  http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/2015/10/sagrada-documentary-film.html ]

(c) 2016 by Alfred J. Garrotto

  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Love Emeritus





‘I love you’
and its evil twin
‘Luv ya’

how they flow across the tongue
glib but tired half-true habits
drones in need of overhaul

soundless noise
unmeant unheard
invalid password
instinct-blocked from other’s heart

what eager understudy
waits in wings of romance —
love’s more genuine self?

what if?
what if instead I said,
“I cherish you.”

ahh, ‘cherish’ . . .
to hold another dear
take care of
protect
foster

‘cherish’
all-in
naught in safe reserve
Cupid’s sharpest arrow
costing the lover
delighting the beloved

'cherish'
now there’s love’s worthy sub

*  *  *

Selected for publication in the Literary Review,
a journal of the California Writers Club, founded in 1909


"Love Emeritus" and image "Couple on the Beach," Santa Cruz, CA
(c) 2013 by Alfred J. Garrotto


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Art & Soul

Coming soon: The Soul of Art
(the book)


On Sunday, June 5, 2016, Art and Soul set off on its maiden voyage at San Damiano Retreat in Danville, CA.  Topics included: 
•  Imagination--Mother of Art
•  Telling the Truth Through Art
•  The I AM of Being an Artist
•  Sharing Our Artistic Gifts


The artists, writers, and musicians who attended gave the day a rating of 9 (out of 10).

My next project this summer will be to convert the workshop material into a book  under the same title.

I Am


I am the fine and graphic ARTIST; I paint, sculpt, draw to touch the hearts of those who view my work.

I am the COMPOSER; I transmit the beauty and compassion of Creator-Spirit through the gift of music.

I am the MUSICIAN; I channel the composer‘s vision to bring joy, uplifting peoples’ spirits.

I am the SINGER; I add voice to music, moving and entertaining my audience.

I am the DANCER; people’s spirits soar along with my body.

I am the WRITER; I use language to transport my readers.

I am the POET; my verse gives light and new life to soul-dead spirits.

I am the PLAYWRIGHT; I speak truth to challenge those who might be life-blind and indifferent. 

I am the ACTOR; I hold a mirror to the world. 



(c) 2016 Alfred J. Garrotto

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spirituality of the Arts--A One-Day Retreat


Art & Soul
play video 
A Spirituality of Creative People
Sunday June 5, 2016
Presented by 
Alfred J. Garrotto

A guided reflection on the intimate relationship between artists and the Divine Spirit. Designed for professional and aspiring actors, composers, dancers, fine artists, musicians, playwrights, writers, et al., whose gifts uplift humankind and lead audiences to discovery of life’s higher meaning. Participants will explore the source of their gifts and inspirations and the joy of sharing them. Attendees of all faith are welcome.

Alfred J. Garrotto grew up in a theatrical family. He began working in films (crowd scenes) at the age of seven. As an adult, life detoured him into Roman Catholic ministry. He is the author of 11 books, seven of which are novels.


REGISTRATION
Registration begins at 9:00 a.m.
Program is from 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Lunch included.
Sunday Mass will be celebrated for those who wish to participate.
Cost: $55

make a reservation By mail
Please send a check for the full amount to:
San Damiano Retreat
P. O. Box 767
710 Highland Drive
Danville, CA 94526-0767
or by Phone: (925) 837-9141

ONLINE REGISTRATION
www.sandamiano.org
(on the Event Calendar, go to June 2016,
click on June 5)