Thursday, March 01, 2012



Comparison is a rational exercise of analysts and politicians.
It is necessary for science, important for business,
and desirable for historians. However, comparison
is not necessary or desirable in matters
of soul and spirit, art and music, nature and beauty.

Does this feel true to you?

Art notes
Top: "Sharecropper" by Elizabeth Catlett, 1952
Bottom: Crop of "Birth of Venus" by Sandro Boticelli, 1486



Unknown said...

And I am still meditating on your last poem/post.
I do not know how you do what you do, but my soul thanks you.

Grandmother Mary said...

This very thought struck me as I listened to my grandson compare himself to a friend. I winced at how young those comparisons start and wished for him simple self acceptance and love. I wish it for me, too.

Rubye Jack said...

I don't think I know how to think without comparison and contrast, and now that I've read your post you have me thinking what would it be like to not compare and contrast, to just let things be as they are. I don't know because then I think I might just have to just be. Not an easy task. Or, should I say, not an easy way to be. Simply being.

erin said...

but then i laugh, for you present us with two images and dare us to not compare. it is with this we must exercise our will. it is with this exercise that we must deepen ourselves, our awareness.


Jeanie said...

What a splendid and spot-on quote. And perfectly illustrated!

Unknown said...

Ah so true, so true!

Barb said...

Beauty is always so subjective. A personal judgement of what pleases our senses.

PeterParis said...

I think that comparisons and judgments MAY be made on soul, spirit, art and music, nature and beauty... only keepeing in mind that they are subjective and with a spirit that there is no absolute true answer... or that maybe everybody is right.

Louise Gallagher said...

I love how both these paintings have value, and the value of their colours is in the inherent artistry of the artist, not in comparison to one another.

I like this thought.

George said...

Yes, I agree with the suggestion that comparison can be problematic in matters of soul and spirit, art and music, nature and beauty. By its definition, the process of comparison invites us to judge people, things, and experiences on the basic of preconceived standards that usually have their origins in cultural conditioning. Soul-work, however, requires that we suspend judgment, at least initially, in order to allow everything and everyone to speak to us directly. To fully experience something, we must get beyond the mind's obsession with ranks, labels, categories, etc. As Louis Armstrong once said, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know."

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

But of course, this feels true. Matters of soul and spirit, art and music, nature and beauty, are to be viewed subjectively. My art, music, etc. may well not be yours.

And why should it be? We are individuals, viewing all, through our own *eyes.* :-)

"I couldn't have electricity in the house, I wouldn't sleep a wink. All those vapors floating about."
~Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham

The Solitary Walker said...

I've become less and less interested in comparison, evaluation, analysis, competition, performance, the linear graph, ambition, so-called success and all the rest (had enough of all these in a high pressure, high stress job as a sales and marketing person for 25 years) — and am more and more interested in acceptance, circularity, spontaneity, intuition, 'failure', the hidden, the subliminal, the non-judgemental, and God. If that makes any sense at all.

The coldly rational status quo and rationale of the contemporary market place (in ideas and culture as well as commerce) no doubt has its place, But, for me, it occupies a smaller and smaller space in my heart.

I know I've gone beyond your original question here, Ruth — but, hey, it is Friday, and what the hell.

Marcie said...

Yes...exactly true. There are some 'sports' that are competitive..and others that are not. Creativity - is not one that needs comparing!

Ruth said...

Deb, I am quite happy that my soul met your soul. I ask myself the same thing you have asked, of you, and my soul thanks you too.

Mary, how hard it is to find our way upstream when everything rushing by wants to pull us into comparison. Your grandson is quite fortunate to have you, who can reflect a different perspective, for yourself first of all (and most of all). I'm sure he will learn this from you, and then he will teach his peers. I still struggle with this myself, which is what prompted this mantra.

Rubye Jack, I hear you so well. No it is not easy, but with a lot of practice, it gets easier. Thank you for stating the case so beautifully.

Ruth said...

erin, it is important to understand difference, individuality, essence. I share this desire with you. I think this desire flows naturally out of the perspective that one is not better than the other, or more beautiful. It feels like two sides of the same coin.

Jeanie, thank you. I love these two women, don't you? We could of course compare and contrast them, and their experience (or myth), and that would be a rich exercise. We might even have a preference, of course! But as erin indicated, these very discussions lead us into questions to our own hearts and minds about what is beautiful, what is "good," and what preference means in our behavior.

Thanks, Reena. This is just me after a week of silliness on the campaign trail.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Barb. And there's nothing wrong with personal judgments and preferences. But I recognize in myself a response of feeling inferior, or superior, based on some standard I've been taught, and this disturbs me.

Peter, beautifully put. Yes, maybe everybody is right. Preferences—mais, bien sûr! And we can accept, tolerate, and even embrace the preferences of others, and their right to them.

Thanks, Louise, yes. And the stories behind them too. We can look deeply into the eyes of every person, listen, and find their story. This is something you do incredibly well and have taught me. Thank you for that too.

Ruth said...

George, thank you for your very succinct and knowing response. Of course we can compare, but in doing so we must remain open to the realities of our own hearts, and how much we have been conditioned. It is an ongoing daily lesson to stop judging, especially myself and my feelings, and to observe (and feel) the essence of things. I love that you end your comment with jazz, because I came to it after years of practice to unlearn my absolute and judgmental ways.

Thanks, Auntie, you make it seem so easy. That says to me that you have practiced it a good long while. We need more people like you!

Ruth said...

Robert, thank you for your wonderful response, and for "going beyond" (but it isn't beyond my question, which was an open door)! I have appreciated the story of your sales career, and how you have evolved, both here and at your own blog. I think you state the case quite well, that there may be a place for such comparative analysis, but our hearts do not need to be driven by them.

Marcie, ah sports. The other day I heard our Athletic Director talk about athletes at an academic adviser conference, and how for students in class, one can get a 99 on a test and it's an A; another student can get a 98, and it's still an A. But in sports, the one who gets a 99 wins, and the one who gets a 98 loses!

Unknown said...

Comparison is inevitable in every field, Ruth. Its expression should be tempered with tact and moderation, however. Not all people can do that. Most people can't, in fact.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Claudia. Yes, comparison is inevitable. I'm afraid it has prohibited many from expressing themselves at all.

Pauline said...

Very succinctly put and it does make sense - how can one compare one beautiful thing to another, and why is it necessary?

Soul Dipper said...

Ahh....freedom in the halls of "soul and spirit, art and music, nature and beauty."

I will do all I can to maintain it.

Patricia said...

Ruth, the very first thought that I had when I saw your post was comparison. First off, I love the work of E.C. and have always admired this portrait specifically. It goes to say that B.'s Venus is as glamorous as a Vogue photo.
My mind sees two women at two different disregards factors such as age or earthly status. Instead we have age and wisdom of vision, and its finely etched beauty compared with the dewy freshness of the newly arrived.
What a wonderful post!

Vagabonde said...


Ginnie said...

Oh YES, Ruth. A resounding YES. Astrid and I were just talking about this on Saturday....

Montag said...

I mean, to what does one compare God? What mystic in their right out-of-mind experience would stop and strive to find words to compare their bliss to something else?