Making an Illuminated Manuscript 

For the past year and a half I have found myself increasingly invested into the research of early modern printing in Europe. To add to this, I have frequently enrolled in an advanced printmaking class, making linoleum prints in the style of 15th to 17th century woodblock prints.  Somewhere down the line I decided to make a book. My printshop does not have a letter press, so I am handwriting the whole thing in Gothic script. Since working on this book for the last few months, I have discovered a few things:

1) Supplies are damn expensive. Good paper alone could cost you as much as $75 for 20 sheets. But if it’s archival quality and acid free, like any of Arches paper, it’s worth it. Other stuff like binding materials are also going to set you back some. 

2) I hate the letters E, A, X, and most of all S. What’s worse is if I have to write a word with two E’s or S’s in a row. Gothic lowercase letters are pretty much made the same way, but these guys are awkward. I don’t even know where to start with S. Every time I write one it’s either super tall or floating in midair. Ugh. 

3) Spring break is a life saver. When life is also throwing you research papers for a politics class or you have to read documents from the Cuban Revolution, it’s hard to find time for artistic writing. All of spring break is nothing but writing and making plates for this book. It makes a sizable dent in your workload. People have time to ski and party on the beach with MTV? LOL who gets that luxury??

4) I am slowly becoming a Benedictine monk. I know that sounds silly but carefully crafting each word into gothic script makes you feel like a monk in the scriptorium. I found a Gregorian chant station on Pandora radio and put it on. My God……it all made sense! I wasn’t even born Catholic and I felt the need to grab a rosary!

5) A team effort can be helpful. I don’t like the look of calligraphy pens (yeah, I’m kinda picky), so I write each letter as my mom/bestie colors it in. It saves me a bit of time, while we can gossip about people and mutually complain about the letter S. 

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Why Kant Would Love Blogs

This semester I read Immanuel Kant for the first time, and boy was that fun.  It wasn’t Critique of Pure Reason or anything, I’ve heard many people groan and complain trying to untangle the information from that happy little book.  No, I read a small essay called “Was ist Auflaklarung?” (What is Enlightenment?) and it has pervaded every thought in my mind since early January.  One of the most famous quotes said from this essay is “sapere aude!” which is “dare to know!”  If you’re able to weed through his convoluted sentences, you actually discover he’s quite the optimist saying that every man has the ability to reason and to make this world great if only he could learn the proper use of his abilities.  To him, the individual is capable of great things through the proper use of his own reasoning.  Notice I said his OWN reasoning and not somebody else’s.  To able to form one’s own opinion over a certain subject was Kant’s hope for people.  It can still be said that a large majority of the people in this day and age are lazy and do not like to think for themselves.  I always wonder what would make a person behave in such a way, but then I realized: people are afraid of responsibility.  Kant remarks that these people are reduced to “domestic cattle” by the “guardians” of society, who could include politicians, church leaders, corporations, authoritative members in general.  Think about it, how many times have you seen a commercial telling you to buy a certain kind of phone over another?  How many people have heard say “believe in this and not that faith!”  Chances are, unless you’re a hermit that lives in Antarctica, that number is a lot.

That’s why people are stunned to see such independent thinking.  Let’s do an example:

  • I actually do not think the Mona Lisa is that great of a painting.  It’s pretty and all, but quite honestly it just can’t compare to Caravaggio’s “The Cardsharps (I Bari)”.  I mean, the dramatic lighting, the beautiful expressions of the players, and the arrangement is stunning!
  • Now you might be outraged by that, thinking,” Good Lord, who does this writer think she is anyway?  How can anyone NOT like the Mona Lisa? It’s preposterous and absurd!  EVERYONE likes the Mona Lisa.  You must be an absolute madwoman!

You see?  By the outburst itself, I am taunted, made to feel embarrassed, and am subtly influenced to rejoin the herd of the masses that are told that the Mona Lisa is the best piece of art on the face of the earth.  To a large majority of people, I’m wrong in my opinion which to them is a failure of my intellect.  Kant says though,” Actually, however, this danger is not so great, for by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone.”  Christopher Nolan’s Batman Series comes to mind an equivalent quote: “Why do we fall down, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”  And let’s face it, being wrong is nobody’s favorite pastime.  It kinda sucks to be honest.  But if we can learn to rise above it, and still think for ourselves, we can achieve greatness.

In this little essay of his is what can be identified as the Kantian being, which is a person that is able to function as both a citizen and a scholar within his society.  To clarify: a scholar in this instance is someone who exercises his opinion about life, politics, religion, etc. in a formal way typically through writing that does not conflict with his duty as a citizen of a place, which is to obey the law.

At the core of this Kantian being is a duality between the citizen and the scholar.  As a scholar, you may question the laws and customs of those in charge, but as a citizen, you must keep up the established order so that chaos does not ensue.  So basically a citizen cannot go against the laws the city has set up because it would disrupt the natural order of things, so what’s a guy to do?  Write about it!  If a citizen wrote up in a formal proposal something he did not agree with in society, then he could share it with others, who, weighing their opinion on the proposal, could help potentially change public policies to make the city a better place to live in.  It’s really not all that different than some of the things Socrates said actually about the citizen having the power to improve the polis.  Through civility can the individual have the freedom to think for oneself while serving his duty to keep his surroundings relatively in order.

So what does this have to do with blogging? Well, plenty I think.  Kant would probably be thrilled with the concept of blogging because blogs are practically opinion pieces on just about anything.  Kant would see the world of WordPress, as a world of scholars that put aside their citizenship to write in his idea of scholars.  The multitude of opinions in this ideascape of the blogosphere might make his head spin, but he’d be proud nevertheless because the exchanging of viewpoints are not just between countrymen, but between all people around the world.  People on opposite ends of the world could argue about ethics, if poetry is a valid art form, whether or not the Mona Lisa should be considered the greatest painting in the world, or even if Ben Affleck will make a decent Batman.  We as a people have come of an age where communication is infinite and we’ve decided to no longer keep our opinions to ourselves.

But remember, as Kant would warn, we must think for ourselves.  We must be careful about becoming too carried away from the pretty words of others as the Harlequin did in Heart of Darkness.  If we read the words of others, we cannot simply let them become our voice if we agree with them.  That, I believe, is a quintessential problem with most people, namely, that they are so hasty to agree with the words of another person because they are too scared to come fore ward themselves.  This needs to stop.  So my fellow bloggers and readers alike, let us express our opinions.  Let us become scholars.  Let us unleash our opinions upon the world and “finally learn to walk alone”.

 

 

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