January/February 2018

Adepts, Accidents, and Anecdotes
by Tom Roark

In 2008, I saw twenty Robert Shetterly portraits The paintings portrayed Americans from Sojourner Truth to Martin Luther King. All spoke loudly for justice, peace, and truth.

I felt that peace happens for reasons beyond good intentions and wanted to look closely at thinkers and doers who either cultivated the conditions for peace, or, sometimes, stood as exemplars of what not to do.

I write “Faces of Wisdom” for Duluth’s Zenith City Weekly Zenith City News. Each column is accompanied by a portrait drawing. Some of those — and a few other pictures — are included in this display. Drawings fifty bucks each, paintings seventy-five. Original Fuller and Sapolsky lost, so NFS.

1. Bluff old guy in a plaid shirt, Gregory Bateson was author of Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, and Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred. His daughter, Mary Catherine, said Gregory, a consummate systems thinker, “was convinced that if this new understanding were widely shared, people would act differently on matters of ecological balance and war and peace.”

2.  Smiling woman with a warm coat, Donella Meadows, helped model the world economy for the Club of Rome in 1972. She was the author of The Limits to Growth, and Thinking in Systems.

3. Domehead, Buckminster Fuller said he could have invented flying carpet slippers, but wanted to turn humanity into “four billion billionaires” by “doing more with less.” For him the choice was between “utopia and oblivion,” and that we must develop technology to feed, shelter, and give grace to humans directly, not as spinoffs from military or commercial projects.

4.  Calligraphic thing on black: a splash of color.

5.  Hippie retreat with sting ray. The New Yorker wasn’t interested.

6.  Little kid in his best suit, Heinrich Himmler, architect of the Holocaust, was the product of a theory of child development repressive enough to be hilarious…if it hadn’t turned little Heinrich into the archetypal monster-Nazi who slaughtered millions and killed himse to avoid hanging. The column was really about a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist article that correlated violence with corporal punishment and sexual repression.

7.  Woman peeking from behind a door, Mary Catherine Bateson, was amanuensis for her father’s Mind and Nature, and finished Angels Fear after his death. In her own Composing a Life, she advocated for taking five dynamic women as models in a world in which our lives are increasingly constrained.

8.  Guy in hat, shades and braids, Stephen Gaskin, preached a Christian-Buddhist spirituality discerned on LSD. Gaskin founded The Farm, a large commune in rural Tennessee (Choice #2: Anoka), was active in permaculture, and green politics.

9.  Bushy-bearded guy, Robert Sapolsky is a neuroscientist and ethologist who has studied hierarchy and stress in one troop of baboons since the 1970s. Tuberculosis wiped out the troop’s high-ranking males. The survivors formed a troop that was less violent, more affiliative, and fun. It persists.

10. Yellow, green, purple, with ink drawing on grocery bag: More color.

11. Elfin aviator, with shrub and Doors audience.


Tom Roark