Archive for ‘Observations’
I recently did an interview with Nomos Journal - an online journal “that publishes a revolving array of material engaging the intersection between contemporary expressions of religion and popular culture.”. We talked about art, history, painting, mysticism, amongst other things… it was great. Give it a read! (*thanks, seth!)
“Would you say this in-between characterization – this dance – sort of parallels the studio-live dynamic as well?”
“Sure. The live setting helps to stretch me as well, and I certainly love to leave my hermit cave, so to speak, and go out into the world and play. So it’s good to get out, to paint live and let my brushes and paint flow in a much looser manner because then I’m so happy to be able to give myself the time and space that the much more careful paintings require. There’s a story (and I think it is in many cultures, but for this I’ll paraphrase Buddhism) where a new monk wanted to meditate, and he worked really hard at it and held himself very, very still. He fasted and prayed all the time, non-stop. The monk had been a musician, and he went to his teacher and asked why it was so hard. His teacher asked him about his stringed instrument: if the strings were too tight or too loose, you couldn’t get the right note and it could not be played. So it is the same with the practice: too loose or too tight is no good. We must find the right path between the two. As an artist, too much studio time and you lose the looseness, but too many parties and live painting, and you lose the focus. It’s the dance between the two where there is joy.”
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had two shows going on this past weekend, including the Caravaggio show would be ending in a few days. My friend Radhika had called me several days before – did we want to go? Since we’d be in LA for this GATE event where I had artwork (along with Amanda Sage and Mikal Aubry) we figured we’d spend the night on Saturday and go to the museum the next day. Besides, with Amanda Sage and Chris in town we could get Bloody Marys downtown at Cole’s in the morning – the best Bloody Marys in LA save for the ones we make ourselves.
Sunday started out with us waking at the downtown HIlton, sharing a room with Amanda and Chris and probably not getting enough sleep. I went out and brought back Americanos for all and when we were all showered and dressed, we headed out the door to Cole’s. Downtown has been enlivened in the past few years – nicer eateries, boutiques, etc moving in; old theaters being cleaned up. It’s looking right respectable! I remember coming here years and years ago on my first visit to LA. There as no heart that I could find, so to speak. Anyways, downtown LA has been slowly revealing itself to be a marvel of Romantic Art Deco architecture mixed with Mexicano style, hipster cafes, and great bars…. And a slew of other flavors and sirens and car horns and homeless and business people and everything. It’s a city, you know and a delicious one at that. While the best part of downtown may be a small hub, it’s a rich and beautiful little hub.
Cole’s, as always, was fabulous. I know that this is entitled ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ but I really must wax eloquently about Cole’s for a moment. Cole’s is known as the oldest bar in LA – operating since 1908. It’s not terribly old by some standards but still. The bar, below street level, dark wood, stained glass, etc. feels old, authentic, lovely and the sometimes rather complicated drinks are made from scratch by bartenders in little black 1920′s style vests. The Bloody Marys are only served on Sundays and I’d tried countless times to bring Violet there only to be stymied by the wrong time of the day.
So there we were eating French Dips (Cole’s claims to be the originator – tho the jury is still out on that) and drinking these fabulous spicy Bloody Marys in the corner table by the bar – a great way to start a Sunday and a great way to soften… well… something about the woo-woo fest the night before. Anyways… Later we moved outside to finish off our Irish coffees (because what to follow Bloody Marys, french dips, spicy pickles, sweet potato fries than Irish whiskey and coffee and cream?). Chris and I went back inside to pay the bill, had a Knob Creek on the rocks (big ass ice cubes as they should be), sat for a moment appreciating the scene.
His friend Castro drove us all to LACMA in his little Cube car. It was a beautiful day and, with the breeze up, the sun playing off the white lines and walls of the museum, the green leaves and grass we felt splendid. We sat in the Stark Bar in curving red cushioned chairs from 1975 waiting for other friends to show up while we drank espressos from tiny cups. Eventually, Radhika Heresy, Christopher Ulrich, and a couple others arrived. (for the record, I really think Christopher is one of the finest classica styled artists alive today) We talked laughed exclaimed – Art and life and creation and everything! It’s so beautiful! It’s so open and wide and available! O muse!
But the day was passing and it was art we were after (or I was in any case). We went to the Kubrick exhibit first. If you don’t know or have lived in a cave, Stanley Kubrick is known as one of the greatest film makers of the modern era. His films are masterpieces of cinema – Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and 2001 – and the exhibit spanned his entire career from a photographer to director to producer. In some respects it felt more like a film buff movie retrospective. There were props and posters and story boards and pages of screenplays. Clips of movies played on loops. There were the funky chairs from 2001, a space helmet with the final scene, a spaceship model used in the filming. The strange and erotic white milk women from Clockwork Orange on white pedestals looked bold and sexy. There were outfits worn in period pieces.
I think that if I were more of a film type person (not just someone who likes to watch them) I would have been more impressed. I love the movies I have seen of his. 2001 is a psychedelic masterpiece. However, I felt like we were seeing all the bits and pieces that went into creating the work of art without being able to see the work of art itself. It’d be like if there was a Dali show and it was made up of pieces from his studio, a few sketches, photos, his paintbrushes, etc. It shows a life but not the art piece itself.
After a little while of that, we went to the Caravaggio exhibit – Caravaggio and His Legacy. That was something else entirely. Caravaggio, an Italian master, is known for his darkly Baroque paintings from the late 1500s into the early 1600s as he arrived on the coattails of the Renaissance. I will readily admit that I know little of him and I didn’t take notes so you are going to get the general impression – distinct pieces, histories, etc – these I could not tell you. But what I can tell you is that his work is remarkable. His compositions are never crowded but nor are they overly spacious – they are balanced just right. The great black spaces coupled with the extreme paleness of the lead white that he used creates a glowingly stark beauty. The looks on the faces, the curve of a brow or the shape of a torso all balanced just so – just enough to give the feeling that needed to be evoked.
Incidentally, Caravaggio died of lead poisoning and lead white is no longer on the market…
I love looking at the works of old masters. Their colors and moods, their lines and shadows and their people. You know, at that time there were only a small handful of subjects from which people chose the themes of their paintings. There were biblical studies, still lifes, and depictions of the present day – a fisherman’s wife, a street scene, a girl with a basket. He chose his subjects well and conveyed emotions with soft buttery brushstrokes and deep richness.
After the first two (I think) rooms of Caravaggio there followed several rooms of his ‘followers’ – his legacy as it were. You could tell where some of them strayed. Where Caravaggio had pitch perfect layout, the works of others were sometimes crowded and, tho still painted skillfully, poorly composed or lacking the greater subtlety of Caravaggio. Where Caravaggio never failed at the emotions he meant to embody, others sometimes languished. That’s not to say that the work of some of the others in the exhibit was bad. In fact, some of it was quite remarkable – the subtlety in the colors on the hand of a soldier, the hairs of a beard, the use of light, or the glowing flame of a candle, etc. I think what is notable of most derivative works is that, while there is skill for sure, the ideas and theory behind the creation can get muddled. The artist who follows, who paints in the wake of the master, who merely seeks to use the ideas and motifs, sometimes ends up floundering, looking for his/her own voice. The master, the originator, had a personal experience of the thing and created his layout, chose his palette, understood his subject – and, in this, it was an authentic experience of the thing as it was an expression of the artist himself. So the artwork that he created stands the test of time because of it’s authentic and unique voice.
We all – Amanda, Violet, and I – left the exhibit inspired and enlivened. To us, Kubrick exhibit seemed like a cluttered disarray of film detritus (incomparable to the visions that made it to the screen) but the Caravaggio exhibit was alive, glowing, and engaging.
I felt like I always do after an inspiring jaunt through art: back to painting!
I’m rounding the corner, walking home from the organic market that we shop at, and it’s a chilly evening. The sun is well past gone. I have a small bag of groceries in my arm – chocolate, coffee, some vegetables, some coconut milk creamer – and a man pushing a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles and aluminum cans passes me. He looks to be smiling but then again maybe he’s grimacing and I wonder: what stroke of life gave this man a cold evening to push a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles, maybe just trying to find enough to make a few dollars and buy something to eat – and me, walking to my warm home. Sometimes, driving through downtown LA, I end up on one of the blocks of homeless people living in tents, pushing shopping carts that contain everything they own, living in the gutter. I wonder at how it is that I am in my car, listening to music, on my way to a meeting, or a dinner with friends, or just getting on the highway and heading home and they are there, stuck in some all together different way of life. I wonder at how the uber-wealthy end up so high up on that pedestal they place themselves upon, sometimes unable to truly value the little things.
I wonder at this… this world with all of it’s countless threads of lives going on: where some are bombed, others are swaddled, some are cared for, and some are left to be trodden upon, some walk tall, some walk small, some don’t walk at all… I wonder how it is that man is legless and I walk along or that child was born without sight, and I can see. How that person appears to be ahead of me, and that person is behind. The vast multitudes and all the myriad walks of life. I wonder at it and I wonder at how I ended up here: making art, doing what I love, living unafraid, neither angry nor resentful, but loving it. I’m in a wonderful marriage to a wonderful woman, with a home that is warm and, right now, smells like fresh baked bread, with a cat on my lap and soft music playing and soft lighting. I wonder at it all and the only thing I am left with – the only answer that comes back to me, echoing from my heart and what feels like the heart of all things – is gratitude: at this gift, this life.
Gratitude is like the late afternoon sunshine, touching everything, turning it gold.
Observations, Experiences, and The Great Convergence in Egypt
Dec. 13 – 25, 2012
“We must be some kind of important,” I chuckled quietly to Violet as the six tour buses of revelers traveled quietly down the twisting desert road away from the Giza plateau and the Great Pyramids and a party so unbelievably perfect that the bus is actually quiet and now here we were led by Egyptian police on motorcycles with lights flashing whisked down down down through the sand and back into the city and decrepit neighborhoods and little fires on the sides of the road, old man looking up and taking note and not a traffic light to be stopped at, straight on through back to the safe bubble of the hotel, six busloads of tired mind blown ecstatic alive and wild people.
Wow, was all that many of us could say.
As I sit now in Alexandria in this spacious high-ceilinged café along the Mediterranean, drinking a creamy cappuccino (possibly the best coffee I’ve had in Egypt, save for those from the night before with Jimmy and Violet) and watching the minibuses and old German cars and newer Japanese cars pass by on the busy Corniche road that runs along the sea, it seems far far away. It seemed so very far away too with each moment that led up to it. Just before Thanksgiving we were invited, along with our good friend Jimmy (founder/curator of the Temple of Visions gallery in LA) to attend – to live paint and display artwork. Once tickets were in hand, the gears were set in motion. We were going to Egypt! It was surreal and real. New passports were ordered and expedited (the old ones were expired). I got really sick and hoped I’d get better. It all worked out. I healed thanks to Chinese Medicine and the passports arrived several days early. Packed and sorted and there we were, meeting Jimmy at LAX and getting on a plane bound for Cairo after a layover in Frankfurt where we ceremoniously ate sausages and sauerkraut and drank a beer.
Landing in Cairo in the night time, we exited the terminal into the thrall of taxi drivers all vying for our attention but my eyes locked with the suit jacketed attendant of a transportation desk in the main lobby. Young and clean shaven he spoke fairly and sported a shiny belt buckle that looked like a berretta. He arranged for a van to take us to the Giza train station where we’d booked an overnight train to Luxor. The cab driver, like most cab drivers, was happy for some listening ears and, in broken English, wanted nothing more than to tell us about Egypt, how expensive the apartments near the airport were (in the Heliopolis neighborhood – a million dollars a piece, in USD), how we shouldn’t trust anyone in Luxor (Not entirely true. You can trust most people most of the time just not all people all of the time so proceed with caution.), and how Egypt is very good, very safe.
Once we circled around Cairo and into the rush hour thrall of Giza not much different than downtown LA. Street vendors and everyone walking driving riding honking. It was just a bit dirtier and a few more halogen bulbs and no bacon wrapped hot dog vendors. Cars passed within inches of each other and at first you think it’s amazing that no one hits anyone else but then you see how every car is scratched and dented and a bit worse for the wear.
“Ah,” said our driver, “Egypt is great but traffic. Traffic is a problem!” A comment heard uttered by many a taxi driver after him.
In the coldly lit office of the young station master in the Giza train station I tried to explain how I’d purchased tickets for the night before because didn’t realize that the time change from the US to Egypt would make us lose a day and would it be possible to use those for today. We went back and forth with the cab driver translating. I was never sure who was pulling my leg. Violet and Jimmy waited in the cab. Finally I bought new tickets. There was no way around it. I’d have to eat the $127. It’s things like that which make people in some countries think that people from other countries are made of money. We’re not. We’re just on different value scales.
The train showed up and our cabbie through much fast talking got us onto a car, into two sleeper cabins, and the cab driver is telling me that he needs me to give him all this money so that he can go pay for our tickets but I wasn’t born yesterday and it’s best to take care of transactions yourself, in any part of the world, so we gave a a handful of US dollars to the car attendant or whatever he was, the cab driver was off the train. The doors closed. The train started moving. Our two cabins had a door between allowing them to open to each other and there we three were, bound now on the night train for Luxor.
We’ve been in Egypt for four days and its been incredible. We arrived into Cairo airport several days ago. An opinionated cab driver navigated us around the outskirts of Cairo and into the noisy evening traffic of giza to the train station where we boarded an overnight train to luxor. The trains aren’t fancy but the bed was nice after the many hours of sitting on the plane.
For whatever reason the train arrived three hours late even though it left on time. From the train station we were picked up by our hotel and brought to the lovely nefertiti hotel. Its a smaller place located across from the temple of luxor and the avenue of the sphinx. It’s run by younger well educated men with a penchant for laughter. I appreciate the shared opinions and ideas as we sit in the al-sahaby restaurant whose tables line the tiles alleyway and smoke shisha (flavored tobacco) from hookahs and drink strong Egyptian coffee and talk and laugh. O the revolution! It could do so much! And they – the more educated populace – certainly don’t want to be ruled by fundamentalists…. Its obvious that is the road towards becoming like Iran.
With the call to prayer waking us at five in the morning – the garbled often off-key praise to Allah ringing from minarets across the skyline at dawn we’ve had daily breakfast on the rooftop of coffee and eggs and dates and breads and tea at low tables looking onto the morning street scenes below. Donkeys and carts and children and men in robes and old leathery faces and men in suits and nice cars and women robed and covered in various ways.
We went to see all the beauty we could find. We wandered through the ancient ruins of the temple of luxor and the towering pillars, carved with petals and cartouches. The four of us went with a guide to he Valley of the Kings, the tombs of the nobles, the colossi of memnon, the temple of hapshepsut, and the breathtaking majesty of medinet habu. Throughout the trip we saw enormous structures, crafted by the hands of thousands and dedicated to gods, pharoahs, and great events. The delicate patterns, the fine reliefs, writing can carving in the form of hieroglyphics over every surface – columns and walls and statues. And all of hem three thousand or four thousand years old. There is paint in the tombs that is 3500 years old. Yet, the lines are clean, the colors still bright and bold. Now the great columns and statues of limestone and alabaster just stand out there in the desert, riding out the rise and fall of civilizations…
I have found all of the people I have met to be peaceful, kind, holding a great sense od humor. You see – it feels incredibly safe here. Sure you know how easy It is to leave something and have it disappear or get swindled out of your Egyptian pounds by an unscrupulous sales person or horse and buggy driver – some going kid feeling at you hat he Will take you to the camel market for two pounds (the camel market is 100km away!) but that is the case everywhere – that there is someone wanting to swindled you. As a whole – people are genuinely friendly, helpful, kind. Children laugh and call ‘hello’ and old men nod quietly.
After the revolution started 1.4 million tourists fled the country. Now you see and feel the desperation in the sales men trying to entice you into their shops to buy a scarf, a bust of nefertiti, any number of baubles and trinkets. The good deal is for you, today, just come now and see this thing…. And its excessive sometimes – the sales pitch.- because business is tough these days. Streets that we are told are usually bustling lay empty and the beaded curtains sway gently with no one to push them aside.
The people we see and meet are proud of their country and their heritage. Temple guards in their long robes have taken us into inner rooms of temples – unseen by the public – to see chambers that display some of the most beautiful reliefs and painting and hieroglyphics that we’ve seen and there is pride in their eyes. Cab drivers speak of their country men with a sense of pride. You see, while there are differences for sure in ways of dress, traditions, food and drink – these are all surface things. At their core – in their hearts – people are all the same. Where it’s the little old man in the donkey pulled cart bringing his vegetables to town to weigh or the little boys and girls playing in the field or the guards at the gates to the temple… All and everyone wants to be happy. They just want basic happiness and basic freedoms.
Go visit Egypt of you can. It’s safe. It’s friendly. Its inspiring. It’s beautiful.
This is something I was thinking about while painting tonight. Often I leave things in my paintings rather ambiguous or suggestive. There are shapes are suggestive of things – animals or plants or clouds or structures… And they are all inspired by countless things I see through the course of my days. O, nature and it’s multitudes of fractal qualities – the curve of the leaf of the succulent in my garden or the window of a cathedral I might happen upon (for the cathedral, like the anthill, is an echo of nature). All of these things become part of the visual language and an artist can draw upon these shapes – even just the step of an edge or the clip of a curve – and use them to inform the work.
Now, the more you know – the more shapes and curves and lines and movements that you store in that visual memory – the more you can take your sense of ‘I don’t know what this is going to be’ and simply shape it and allow it to take form and be informed by your visual memory and the feelings evoked by the different shapes you run across. Granted, it takes some practice to allow for the space to allow that through but with effort and practice (a sketchbook helps) you might find that this comes more easily than you realized.
I think we get so caught up in things ‘being things’ that we forget to allow them to simply be what they are. Early on we get taught that if we’re going to draw a cow, it should look like a cow and so on for everything else. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All of life – it’s a huge sea of energy, moving and coalescing and taking form and we perceive it and name things and assign them a thousand responsibilities – to make us happy or sad or turned on or repulsed. Likewise, we look at our paintings and say ‘It must be SOMETHING!’ But there is a grace in following a train of thought to it’s natural finish without forcing upon it a responsibility to be a certain thing. In that, there is generosity, acceptance, and, ultimately, I think, joy.
Granted, if the thing is supposed to be a horse and the horse is simply not coming out right but it really should (because of the vision) be a horse, then perhaps you should spend some time sketching and drawing horses. However, the ambiguity which I speak of is really more along the lines of the places where there isn’t a horse and there isn’t a landscape and there’s simply paint we’re simply working with it…
At that point – it’s even more effort sometimes to cut out what isn’t working and to work what is. We get so attached to our lines sometimes! That’s fine. But still… ALLOW…. Breathe space into your work… don’t force anything… be patient…
BUT more importantly – if you’re not sure what it is, don’t just let the mud take over – don’t just be content with a muddy composition – MAKE THE CHOICE. In choosing it, sculpting it, shaping it, in all of it’s ambiguous beauty, you will quite possibly find sublime beauty and echoes of your life in ways you hadn’t imagined possible.
The thing is, at 3am you’re up and you’re getting something to eat and maybe a drop to drink and you notice: the plane of the wall meets the plane of the ceiling and the busy-ness of the spice rack to the planar composition of the stove top sort of off sets the shifting perspectives and it’s so sublimely perfect that you really just want to go wake everyone up but you know that you and you alone might be the only one to ever have appreciated this corner of reality. Blue to burgundy to beige to gold and you can’t help but want to run to the type writer – the keyboard – the pen and the pencil – and get it down – that inspiration. Maybe you just study the lines and do your best to remember it.
To the casual observer that sounded like a lot of hokey artspeak. But you and I: we are not casual observers.
That’s the thing though. As you go about your life growing into the mindset, the framework, the vision, of being an artist and really living it, you find that you live in this constant aesthetic appreciation of everything around you and you see it everywhere. You live gradations. You feel lines. You breathe curves. When you see a fine version of some archetypal shape, you can’t help but mention it. When you see a fine composition of not so obvious forms you can’t help but admire it. The lines of the situation are juxtapositioning with the lines of the symmetrical metric and it’s all masterfully done…. it’s lovely and you love it.
That’s what it is to be an artist. You can’t help but every so often want to shout from the roof tops about just how beautiful the hue is right now or the color of the sky or the arch of a tree or the crack in the pavement. It’s a hundred million colors and angles all conjoining at once to create this composition so breath-takingly sublime that you wonder just how no one else stops to notice it.
After a while, you realize that everything is aesthetics. When we are talking about the good of the environment, or the health of another, or whatever the vision of the future is: it is that which looks most beautiful to us and satisfies our aesthetic sense in the way that a mathematician might speak of an equation as ‘elegant’. The best solutions often have a clean and elegant quality to them, no matter how complex. The things we find beautiful in nature have a similar quality, regardless of their complexity. Likewise, in our own lives, we seek out things which are beautiful or satisfy our vision thereof.
Cultures have different value systems around beauty and the styles of one group can completely contradict that of another. It’s as true to nations and societies as it is to cliques in high school. Yet. Yet, I feel that there are certain qualities that become truly and transcendentally beautiful. Things which lead to health. Watching someone move with a graceful awareness. Sweet smiles. Happiness. Peace.
As we tune ourselves to this appreciation we might find that, while the big things seem so obvious, the small things become more and more obvious too.
There: in the way that the angle of the wall meets the corner of the room where the buddha sits as a statue of bronze and is all the more pronounced due to the fact of the crown molding and nobody notices – no one pays it much mind – but you.
There: in the way that, while sitting at a stop light, you notice the dogwood tree blooming and it’s branches frame the hillside behind it like some kind of Japanese Zen painting. The blue of the sky to the pink of the flowers to the crisp lines of the branches make you sigh and your heart feels a sweetness.
There: in the rows of houses. There: in the lines of mountains. There: in the cavalcade of color which is the crashing ocean reflecting the sunset.
Love it. Love it. Love it.
I’ve sat in thousands of locations. I’ve been in cars and clubs and cafes and restaurants and dreams and bedrooms and offices and lobbies and alongside street side vendors. I’ve stood in front of urinals and wandered alleyways and knelt beside mossy mountain brooks and circumambulated stupas all white and gold and marveled at archways built to the glory of the heavens and through them all there have been these moments of appreciation of aesthetic quality, this beauty. In the things which have come about without the hand of man it can feel so natural, so sweet, so grand. In the things that we have created: it is one more marker on the road of humans reaching towards the highest expression of their most highest aim. Ground touching sky. Heaven meeting earth. Self and other recognizing the same and in that – in that space – where beauty is as natural as the breeze – It’s such a lovely thing. A most sacred thing.
We have such a strong desire to greet that which is unknowable and to touch that which is untouchable. In our art we can experience a bit of that. In the art of others, we hope to taste a little of what they have tasted. In the styles and forms that are given to us as popular and cool: we might even see it there as well.
Pay attention to the corners as much as the spotlights. Appreciate the alleyways, marvel at the pattern in the tree bark, marvel at the highway overpass.
Marvel at the beauty of your own dark demons.
Love it all.
“Art is deception that creates real emotion. And when you give yourself over to that deception – it becomes magic.” – Marco Tempest.
This is a nifty little video with a lovely message in the end. It’s true. Art is deception. Paintings are after all just paint and canvas. The canvas is flat but we say ‘Such depth! Such height!’ With the right conflagration of forms and shapes, we can create something that is referred to as magical. Art can conjure up an emotive response – joy, sadness, awe, pain, wonder. To be a skilled artist is to be a skilled magician is to be able to create something out of nothing and have the viewer experience it as ‘real’.
I ran across this quote from Chögyam Trungpa the other day:
“Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.”
-Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
I read the ‘Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism’ years ago and it has forever echoed in my mind. The title pretty much carries it’s message: it’s not about how many mantras or sun salutations you can do or how many retreats you’ve been to or how spiritual you dress or look or what temple you visit or how many holy books are on your bookshelves or how many pictures of holy beings are on your altar – it’s about you and your process, everything else is just icing – a mask, something we identify with. I consider this often when I am in my day to day life – when I am interacting in my day to day world – buying groceries, crossing the street, cleaning out the cat litter box. It’s al just stuff and my buddha statue on my altar is no more or less holy, it’s just a different reminder, a placeholder – an icon to jog me back to – it doesn’t matter what the fuck you are doing – if you do it with compassion and wisdom, it’s awesome.
In any case, the quote that I started this out with is something I’ve been contemplating as it’s arisen in my mind and I’ve been working on integrating it into the habits of my day to day living. I tend to be somewhat aloof by nature. “Nature” of course is all the causes and conditions that made this identity I consider to be me. I don’t need to be aloof but it’s sort of an identity pattern that I fall back on when faced with the challenge, say, of meeting new people. Regardless of that, I also tend towards being somewhat more introverted than extroverted (although I do my best to overcome it). So I sometimes feel drained by large social gatherings. By comparison, my wife, Violet, feels incredibly energized by being out amongst lots of people. For me, it can at times be an effort to stay present and open in that sort of present, interactive manner with people. If it’s with a large group of people I know well then I have a much easier time of it. In the times where I’m meeting new people in large groups, I think that, acting from a place of compassion, returning to one’s heart, can be an excellent way to overcome the tendency towards withdrawing. (Granted, acting from a place of compassion is always the answer – it’s just important to look at specific instances soemtiems)(
More importantly however, regardless of the time and place, is the instance of the person coming up to us whom we don’t want to engage with. We might know this person already even and say to others ‘that person is an energy vampire, I don’t want to talk to them’. Yet, their own set of causes and conditions shaped their identity and they act based on those causes and conditions. Most importantly, they just want to love and be loved.
I think that when one can simply be compassion then there is no drain because there is no end. A drain sucks the last drop out from the container but there is no container. There are only concepts. Ego has a beginning and an end… Life, energy, love – there is no end. Sometimes it is best to simply find a few concepts that work best. Compassion is one such concept. If we are to choose words for things and choose one way of being over another – we always have the choice to either kick the puppy or love it – doesn’t it feel best to choose the compassionate route?
To be fair, in the end, ALL things engaged with a sense of compassion will have healthier and more enjoyable consequences than otherwise. We either engage life from a place of compassion or we don’t. If we notice the places where we aren’t engaging from a place of compassion and push against those walls that hold us back then who knows what we might find there….
To be fair, I, too, have plenty of moments where, in retrospect, I think: well that was pretty uncompassionate of me. But with the right effort, we can move mountains. The results of our work might not be seen in a day, or two days, or a week. But over time, our walls break down. We become more loving creatures. That, in the end, is what it is all about. It doesn’t matter how many grand pianos you have or how many grand sonatas you can play – it doesn’t matter how many spiritual tomes you have read or how many crystals are on your altar – just whether or not you can allow any and all of the myriad things of the world to open your heart, whatever that might be.
One might think that one might surmise from the general nature of my work and my posts that I’m not a particularly political minded person. I almost wish that were true. What is true is that I pay attention to the politics. By that, I don’t mean just the ‘political figures’ but ALL of it. In my opinion, it’s all politics. Since man first understood the connection between ego and a sense of power there have been politics. Unfortunately, today there is a deeply rooted connection between money, politics, and power. This quality is a sad thing to watch and yet it is what shapes the most important affronts to our health and well being from an entity outside of our own minds that exists today.
And it comes at us from all fronts – from the health care to the war mongers to the internet freedoms to the agricultural debacles to the religious pandering… it doesn’t seem to end.
I’ll be honest: I can live in my own bubble. It’s not that difficult. I live in California where it’s easy to forget the rest of the wold exists. The weather is beautiful, food is aplenty. I have a rood over my head, a happy marriage. Why should I be concerned? Why should I not just spend my time whiling away the hours painting pictures of my surreally visionary flowers? Because I care.
That said and the reason I started this whole piece of writing, there’s a place a find some of the most focused political writing – writing that mirrors not just my ‘opinion’ but also my sort of cynical raised-eyebrow approach. It’s Rolling Stone.
Ha! Didn’t expect that now did you? Well, Alternet is good and Mother Jones is interesting but they often don’t cut to the chase as quickly as Rolling Stone. While Rolling Stone might get lost in the fluff when it comes to music these days (who wouldn’t – mainstream pop is all autotuned fluff! Imagine if Nirvana has been autotuned!) they have rarely ever failed to have quality political commentary, exposes of political goings-ons, and all sorts of political insights. They are to politics what Playboy was supposedly to interviews.
So, here’s a few recent links to some stuff you should read if you care about the current political climate. You should though: if you’re a woman, the ‘establishment’ is always looking to take away your rights. If you’re not for war, the ‘media’ is always war mongering. If you’re for… well, you get the picture…
Here are a few articles to get you started.
How this country is framing it’s march towards war with Iran (which would be idiocy)
The war on pot that wasn’t supposed to happen (and although I’ll probably lose style points with some, I don’t even smoke pot. I just believe in personal freedoms… and hate seeing people fined and thrown in jail for stupid reasons)
A wonderful story about the truth of the war in Afghanistan (ok, it’s not all that wonderful. A friend told me that her husband who is stationed in Iraq stated that no one is leaving Iraq or Afghanistan – they are just repositioning things for another war)
How the GOP transformed itself to serve the rich (The republican party is a pyramid scheme, as any poor republican that I know would attest to is they would get their heads out of their asses…)
OK. That’s enough for now.
I’ll tell you though: in the end, love is the only thing.The monk in jail will tell you this. Love is the only thing. If you, by the end of your day, find the very direct path of love, of compassionate and wise love, then I would suggest that you get to work.
You see, we exist in this so-called “secular” world. Here we are. Speak up for freedom but, most of all, speak up that each individual on this planet may experience happiness. When I see my fellow man caging another’s potential for happiness, that causes me to ask – WHY? If someone else has created a simple method to, say, send a letter to my congress woman to ask her to keep that person in mind, to pass a bill to defend her or his rights, free him or her from the legislative chains, then I should do so.
In a sense, it’s an agreement that I entered into when I said: “I wish all beings to be happy.” If I can’t click a few buttons on my computer that might just make a difference, what good is that wish?