Sunday, December 27, 2009

Consciousness Is A Gift

Consciousness is a gift given to each human. We could never plan something so complex, nor, given our limitations, would we want to try. Look how awkward are the attempts we make inventing robots. Even in a thousand years, I do not think a robot will ever exist that could cry watching a sunrise, or at the sight of a whale breaking the ocean surface as it leaps into the air. Furthermore, a robot will never have curiosity, a main feature of human consciousness. Humans are driven to know, and ask themselves, “What is crying?” and then they proceed to study this phenomenon. Research tells us that crying is a production of tears that result from emotional states that trigger the brain to send signals to the tear ducts. A build up of stress hormones is released through the tears and emotional tears are different in composition than say, the tears from being in a cold wind, or from smelling chopped onions. It is thought that other animals do not cry emotional tears. On average, men cry once a month and women cry five times a month, except during menstruation when they cry much more easily. After my daughter Naomi died at the age of nineteen, I cried every day for six years. (See my book about Naomi, death and dying.)
The gift of consciousness is greatest when we use it to discover truth, for then we become strong and approach the freedom of the divine. The lower realms are slavish and blind, but the higher spheres are where true happiness is found. Aristotle said, “Happiness is an activity, and the highest activity is in accordance with virtue, the result of contemplation.” This is why he remained a philosopher all his life.
I only have two weeks to move from my home, put my things in storage and begin my wandering. I love the bittersweet feeling of letting go.

See all my blogs at My Fairy-Tale Life

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Chain Of Events

My mother has begun entreating me not to travel in South America because of “murders”. But then, my mother has barely ventured past her backyard for twenty years and experiences the outside world vicariously through reading volumes of books. Some of my friends too, when they hear of my plans to wander around in South America, express concern for my safety. One person cited a recent article about murders in Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 11,000 in six years, and these were by the police. Rio is my first stop in South America, when I arrive to experience carnival.
THE DREAM is what matters to me, and I only want to experience all that comes to me. I trust the future will arrive bearing gifts, and so what if some gifts are unpleasant? If I desire to be safe and secure all my days, then I would not take risks that might lead me away from my comfort zone. But I need to be united with the matrix of existence and this leads me to live without barriers and go into mystery, or the opposite of safe, because it is where life abounds, but also death.
One of my best experiences in Africa was in Nairobi. One night I went to a dance hall in a poor neighborhood. I must have been the only white person for miles, and this was immediately after some civil unrest had seen rioting in the city that left scores homeless. Entering the darkened passageway to the club, I felt a tinge of fear, remembering that my mother had pleaded with me not to go to Africa because “They will kill you there, just to steal your shoes!” When my friends and I were inside and I got used to the dark, I realized that the way people looked at me, that maybe I was the first and last white person they ever expected to see in this place. Here, THE DREAM was unfolding and I found it perfect. I was in deepest, darkest Africa and that evening, I loved the night. A live band played steady African rhythms and I joined in the dancing, bonding among strangers. I liked what they liked, and had fun despite some stares.

Last night, I returned from a three-day visit to Chicago, where my lovely daughter Sarah performed in her last dance works at Columbia College. Now she is a graduate, and I am proud of her accomplishments. While I drove home from the airport late in the evening, I had to smile thinking of how remarkable travel is, and that it is a chain of events. Then I said a prayer of blessing to all those that assisted me along the way. Often we take for granted the little touches we receive. I thought back to the porter that opened the door for me at the hotel as I stepped into the cold air to walk to the subway. At the subway turnstile, I had to ask to get a ticket and was given directions by a young woman who then smiled and said, “Have a happy holiday!” Then the ride to the airport, and as I stepped off the train, the woman train driver leaned out her window as I passed by. I said “Thank you,” and she smiled, and said, “Your welcome!” In the corridor, a man played Christmas tunes on his saxophone. At the terminal, everyone was helpful going to the gates. We had to take off so many things at the metal detectors that I joked with the young woman behind me that soon we would be nude. She laughed as she took off her shoes and I finished taking off my belt, and said yes, the guards like their jobs. But we were being protected to insure our arrival. In the air, the stewards were polite and jovial. At one point, a steward announced “whoever had opened her nail polish on the plane, please put it away immediately because it could make other passengers sick.” I sat next to a young woman arriving home from a college exchange program in France. We traded travel stories. The pilot announced it was a stewards 35th birthday. Everyone applauded and cheered. On the shuttle bus from the terminal to the parking area, a young man was wearing shorts, although it was almost freezing outdoors. We joked and he said he was coming from Phoenix. Several of the passengers joked and laughed. I said I was arriving from Chicago, where several days earlier, people were wearing two coats when they went outdoors. As I retrieved my car from the airport parking lot at 10 PM, the attendant took my cash and said, “Drive safely, and have happy holidays!” I pulled on to the highway, turned on my radio and listened to a wonderful program about the Beatles and their music. Someone had put great care into the production for the free enjoyment of others like myself. At that point, I gave thanks and prayed for the blessing of all those who had touched my life and who I touched.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bound In The Inscrutable

What is it like, to live in a DREAM? It is to realize ephemerality— the fleeting moments in eternity. Whatever it is that we think we know is bound in the inscrutable; the grand mystery beyond human intellect and reason. Poets and philosophers struggle to come near truth, but like Icarus, when they fly too near the sun, their wings fail and they fall into the sea. Perhaps we are not given to knowing perfection because we ourselves are not perfect. We can only guess, and this guessing is like a dream. Even prophets, the most advanced among us, admit that they fall far short of knowing ultimate reality.
When I live in mystery, the place where I am humbled by “not knowing,” and am only aware of experiences that come to teach me, I call this living in THE DREAM. I do not hold on to moments, or avoid them, but simply trust that behind everything, and within every atom, divine love exists and informs the open heart and mind. Further, divine love cannot be contained, but only experienced. We can be vehicles for love, just as breath animates a lifeless flute and causes wonderful notes and melodies to emerge. But the big love, that which sustains universes, cannot be contained, but only experienced.

All things pass, all things return; eternally turns the wheel of Being. All things die, all things blossom again, eternal is the year of Being. All things break, all things are joined anew; eternally the house of Being builds itself the same. All things part, all things welcome each other again, eternally the ring of Being abides by itself. In each Now, Being begins; round each Here turns the sphere of There. The center is everywhere. Bent is the path of eternity. -Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Good Happens

Soon I will be homeless again. Don’t worry; it is by choice that I am putting my things away in my studio and giving up my home and car to be a wanderer. This is my calling, to experience the earth without barriers. I plan to leave Santa Fe around January 7, and first go to Santa Barbara, California. My parents are finding life more difficult because of their age, and I want to live near them for a month. My brother also lives there and has been doing most of the managing for their concerns. I will offer my devoted time to help and support them in whatever transitions they are in.
Mid February I will go to South America. When I traveled around the world in 2008, I lived in nineteen countries but missed South America. To accomplish my goal of taking pictures of people from across our planet, I need to visit this important continent.
Before I left the USA in 2008, I thought about starting in Rio de Janeiro, during carnival. Rio has intrigued me, but also intimidated and frightened me. It is known as a brash, seething, violent, and sensual city. I am aware of those same qualities in myself and I have been reluctant finding out how strong they might be. So in 2008, I started my traveling in Belize.
This time, I am starting in Rio de Janeiro, during carnival when the city hosts the “biggest party on earth.” (See a video) I must experience this revelry and take a thousand pictures. Yes, there will be carnal self-expression that goes beyond modest tastes, but certainly a passionate fervor will also be present. Samba parades will proceed day and night, and for some participants it is the culmination of an entire year of preparation. I am not going to be merely an outsider, but throw myself in the pulse and feel the beat. It is the only way, for then I have stories to tell and pictures to show. If I were to moralize and hold myself to a higher calling, perhaps I would not go. But in the streets is fantastic beauty and surprise. It is life laid bare, my brotherhood, and I crave this. I do not try and tell people to live differently, but I love all and connect, and in this, good happens. (Here is another fun carnival video from 1955)
Certainly, my character is challenged while living free. For instance when I was in Istanbul, I became acquainted with a Muslim who befriended me and gave me a small Koran. He worked in a rug shop and spoke English. I prayed with him in a mosque and met his wife and little boy. We went to dinner together, and in the evening drove around in his car. I became incredulous when he began pimping. “Surely you don’t want to spend the night alone!” I said no, but he persisted many times. This stuff happens when I travel and keep open. But then, I simply stayed strong in my love, and in the end, my friend had to respect me and learned something of value besides. And I learned something too. We made each other think.
After Rio, I probably will go to Buenos Aires, then west to Santiago, Chile, north to Bolivia, and maybe Peru.
THE DREAM will take me, shelter and protect me, strip me of what is unnecessary and be my teacher.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Madness Of Muses

"Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence--whether much that is glorious--whether all that is profound--does not spring from disease of thought--from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night"- Edgar Allen Poe (1809 - 1849)

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" 
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

For many years, I struggled with my eccentricity and regarded myself with suspicion, fearing that perhaps I was not “normal”, and would not fit in society. This suspicion against myself killed my creativity, diminished life and even forced me into a mental institution for brief time when I was twenty-three.
Now, I do not even try to “fit in.” I thrive on surprise and élan. The more I have been able to embrace the fullness of my being—including the fact that I am off-center, whacky, exuberant, and mysterious—the more I have been able to embrace life and bring my artistic gifts to the stage.

Now that I am an adult with years of experience and wisdom gained, I often think of the words of Jesus, “Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not know the kingdom of heaven.” This saying brings back my earliest memories of life. My family was poor and lived on the south side of Chicago, in a brownstone tenement building on a crowded street. In the winter, coal was shoveled into a furnace in the basement and heated the apartments. Outwardly, our life was one of poverty; my mother stayed home to rear the growing brood of children and my father worked three jobs to support the family. But for me, in the earliest stages of my life, I could not compare my existence to any other, and only loved being alive without prejudice. I remember my first school experience was a neighborhood day school that equally served all the local children and their families. In the concrete playground was a stagecoach, and every day, during recess the children ran about, playing with gleeful shouts and full hearts. My very first friend that I loved was a boy named Darnell. We laughed and played together with all our might, running everywhere within the boundaries of the schoolyard. I noticed that Darnell was black, and it made no difference to me because I had no judgment about color. I only knew that I loved to play with him and he loved me too—we were attracted in Spirit. I think that this was what Jesus meant when he spoke of knowing heaven. Because in heaven, only Spirit and the truth of Spirit matters.

"If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the inspired madman". Socrates 469 BC - 399 BC

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I have never been comfortable with spies; people who secretly obtain information about other people in order to build intrigue against them. It can be childish, as in the case of teenage girls who take sides against one another and tell stories, or serious, as in the case of national espionage where whole societies are at stake. Spies give me the creeps, and this is why, for most of my life I have preferred dogs to cats. Cats seem to me to be spying. They are always watchful and seem to be sizing up what is in front of them, whereas dogs simply respond transparently. The cats I enjoy the most are like dogs.
When I was a child, one day a neighbor came to our house asking my father if he had seen his missing wrench. It was soon discovered that I had taken it from the neighbors shed. I don’t recall taking it. What became seared in my memory was my father, marching me next door to the neighbor, and in a very loud and angry voice, scolding me, much to the neighbors chagrin, for I was only a little boy who had meant no harm. This scolding had an opposite effect on me than my father had hoped. I took all this heated and direct attention into my being, and noticed how my father, who I treasured and wanted more than anything, was completely gripped by me and giving me absolute devotion. My parents had five children in eight years, so absolute one-to-one devotion was scarce to come by. Over the years, I was in trouble many times, and always I could count on complete and total attention from my object of worship—my father.
As I became a young adult, I realized that I had a double nature, both good and bad, and as I stepped out into society, I came to be at war with myself. There was a brief period, when I was nineteen, that during the course of my extensive reading, I read two important books of psychology, by the esteemed psychotherapist, Karen Horney (1885 - 1952): Our Inner Conflicts, and The Neurotic Personality Of Our Time. I understood from her theories, and this is simplification, that neurotic people are essentially at war with themselves, have self-hatred and build defenses against self discovery that causes neurosis. I was aware that possibly I was becoming divided against myself. I then experimented and took the bold step of allowing all of my feelings and thoughts to flow freely without condemnation. I felt frightened, but very alive and whole. This did not last. Eventually, the weight of my “madness” became too much to bear. I became desperate to fit safely in society.
Even after I became religious, I grappled mightily with the dark urges inside of me that seemed to come from nowhere and torment me. I attempted with all my being to shut them away and hope that they would simply disappear. If a dark thought came unexpectedly, I panicked and threw myself to scriptures and light,; to be "saved". The early problem of duality came back with a vengeance. I hated myself. It felt like a war with real espionage, because open communication between my various parts did not exist . . . only dislike. My “saintly” side spied on the darkness, and vice-versa. This went on for years.
So now, decades later, thankfully, I welcome all of myself as vital and necessary. I love mystery and surprise and call my life THE DREAM. Here, material things are not as important as experience and symbol. I live moment to moment without judgment. I do not spy on myself or anyone, but receive one and all as part of THE DREAM that informs my life and is my life. If I find myself with a drunk or robber one minute, and a holy man the next, well, I accept and honor both occasions equally in the moment. What is important is THE DREAM and where it is taking me.
I do not spy on myself but stay in wide-eyed wonder at the universe. If I think people are taking notice of me as “spies”, that is, they are gathering information about me to be opinionated, I simply think positive, close the door to intrigue and condemnation from within myself, and concentrate on the honest gifts each moment of THE DREAM is bringing.
THE DREAM, to me, is a function of consciousness and interpretation of perceptions. I prefer not to interpret and judge my experiences but rather live them entirely as to “know” them. THE DREAM goes before me and I trust it because it is myself, in dialogue with God.
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Whenever We Ponder God

Whenever we ponder God, we are limited by the boundaries of our understanding, and soon find we must abandon hope of comprehension. For instance, our own bodies are largely mysterious to us . . . let alone the origin of matter. What I know is that the universe is intelligent beyond my imagination, that it is not by “accident”, nor is it simply the manifestation of un-intelligent chaos.

I think people have trouble accepting God because they want Him to conform to their expectations. They do not want to accept that an all-powerful, all-knowing Being who is loving will watch as horrible things occur in the world and people suffer. A “good” father would not create children with deformities who then suffer from birth and die prematurely; would He? Just looking around, we see that this world our perfect God created is far from perfect.
In my view, I still believe in God because the evidences of His might are everywhere. There is intelligence and magnificent power that exists throughout time and space and encompasses us. Certainly, when we see suffering that an almighty God could prevent, it is perplexing and painful. My daughter died of cancer when she was nineteen, and died horrifically. I watched as her lungs shut down and life turned against her, suffocating her slowly day by day, until she was gasping for air, the veins in her face and neck bulging in exertion and at last, she died. All the while, everyone was praying for healing and relief.

I believe that suffering and pain is a mysterious part of God’s plan, as much as joy, peace and happiness.

Naomi became wise beyond her years during her illness. In a way, her suffering became her teacher, and she grew enormously in this school. She said, “Hardship will make us stronger. I think that in every situation there is good in it.” See my book about Naomi, death and dying.

Many years ago, I had a dream about God: I was outdoors, at night in an open space, alone. I gazed up into the heavens and studied the small constellation called Pleiades. They were so far away in time and space and I knew God made them shine, but then how could He also be in little me too, here on earth at the same time? At that moment, a person, invisible to me and very near, spoke words that rang in my ears: “He is as close to you as your own self.” I continued looking into the night sky, gazing at the Pleiades, but instantly, a tremendous change in perception occurred within. I was no longer an outside observer of the universe, but felt the universe unfold inside of me, extending far beyond myself. The powerful shift in consciousness was startling.

Lately, as I go to sleep, I think of God and give thanks that He is Himself, (if you know what I mean.)

All Steven Boone blogs at My Fairy Tale Life

Saturday, November 07, 2009

When Our Hands Touched

The two best handshakes that I ever received were from strangers. The first time was when I was a 20 year old student at New Mexico State University and William Sears, a prominent and important Baha’i, was visiting. He entered a room before he was to deliver a lecture and came to greet me. I knew who he was and felt amazed and slightly bashful to be suddenly in his presence. He outstretched his hand, and bowing slightly, greeted me warmly. When our hands touched, I was surprised at his humbleness. With humility and love that was palpable, I felt him put his whole being into our very brief encounter—so much that I felt lifted up. It has been thirty years since that handshake and I still remember the warmth and goodwill.
A couple years later I was traveling around the western USA in a car, visiting Indian reservations with four other young people, all Baha’ís. We arrived at the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation where a couple of my friends sought out an old medicine man they were acquainted with. We found him outside his small wood house out on the prairie. He stood tall, and deep lines furrowed his almond brown, weather-beaten face. His black hair flowed over his shoulders and as I approached him, he smiled kindly, and looking with great favor upon me, stretched out both of his hands to take mine. We stood silently for moments, our hands touching, without saying a word, and I felt as if I had come home. He gave me great love, even though I was a stranger. I can never forget that moment.
His name was Padagah, which in Sioux language means, “Hands in fire.” He told how he got his name: he was just beginning to do work as a healer and was called to the home of a sick man. When he saw the patient, who was in bed, their eyes met and he discerned that the man did not believe Padagah could heal him. Padagah went to the hearth, where a fire burned, and reaching into it, he pulled out a handful of red-hot embers and held them before his patient. After that, the sick man gained faith, and Padagah got his name.
One day, we were gathered in a room and I began praying for Padagah. I had my eyes shut, and immediately I felt his presence rebuff me, as if he put his hand out to stop my prayer with an emphatic, “No!” I halted my praying and felt embarrassed and surprised. I think that Padagah had such great inner integrity and native honor, that he resisted any aspect of my trying to impart a “message” to him. At the time, I felt humbled by his affirmation of his own native sacredness.
Another day, my group returned by car to his house along a dirt road. Padagah was outside in his yard, squatted, with his pants around his ankles, looking straight down at the ground, shitting. He did not flinch as we drove by, but remained perfectly calm in his contemplative place of pleasure.
Some years ago, I called the Pine Ridge Reservation, asking after Padagah and was told he had died.
William Sears died in 1992.
After so many greetings and introductions in my life, it is amazing that two of the most powerful and lasting impressions were from these two strangers who made me feel embraced in their presence.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Most Glorious And Sensual Object

After my blog, titled Eros, appeared last weekend, a member of my religion, Baha’i, wrote me an Email and questioned whether I was adhering to the moral tenants put forth in the religion. The ensuing half-dozen correspondences that went between us proved interesting, so I asked if I could publish them and the response was “sure”. To read them, click here: erotic.

My model had posed nude for an artist drawing group I attend, and that is where we met. She knew ahead of time what I wanted to do artistically but changed her mind about posing nude for photography.

I have pondered if the world of art can exist without an erotic impulse, and I do not think it can. So much of poetry and art arouses the senses. This is what Eros does, and if Eros did not exist, the world would die off because men and women would have no interest in each other physically. Eros is like the worker bee that is attracted to beautiful flowers and while it goes from one flower to next it has sex with them, and ensures their survival.

Art expands our experience of life—what we do with the experience and how we respond is subjective, unless we have been indoctrinated by society and are looking at symbols such as flags of nations. I resist indoctrination, although it is extremely difficult to be free of persuasions born of repeated patterning.
The great American poet, Walt Whitman, caused uproar when his very sensual poems came to the public view and he questioned the puritanical norms of the day.

The bodies of men and women engirth me, and I engirth them, They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with them, respond to them, love them. Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul? The expression of the body of man or woman balks account, The male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
From I Sing The Body Electric, by Walt Whitman

When Whitman says that those “who corrupt their own live bodies conceal themselves”, he means those who associate shame with their bodies are also concealing part of their souls.

I came across something Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) said: "The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."

When I was in Florence, Italy and entered the Accademia Museum and first set eyes on Michelangelo’s David, it was cathartic. Everything I loved about the human form was before my eyes in all its glory. I kept wondering to myself, how could he have done this? After entirely encircling the sculpture several times and looking at the features from all sides, I began to study the faces of other people while they were looking. The expressions were of awe, wonder, and unabashed delight. And part of the delight was that David stood entirely naked. Heaven forbid that self-righteous bigots ever make this treasure on earth into something shameful, or “against God.” Then we know humanity has fallen into wickedness. In fact, during the middle ages, many nude sculptures and paintings had fig leaves added, and then when years later they were removed, the artworks were damaged.

Really, I cannot imagine taking sensuality away from art and literature. The most glorious and sensual object on earth is the human body. Let’s not burden it with guilt and shame more than it has been already.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


“OK, now take your clothes off.” My model and I had been working together for about twenty-five minutes. I shot about 125 photos of her in my living room as she posed on a couch wearing a slip and holding dolls. I found an ambiguity and psychology that was both innocent and also confrontational.
“Oh Steven, I am not ready . . . I need to think more about whether I want to pose nude.”
“I understand,” I said, “You know that I work with nude models, right?”
“Yes, I looked on your website.”
“If you do not pose, then I will find someone else, because I need to finish with my concept. I want a certain vulnerability that will come with an image of a nude alongside clothed dolls.”
“I know, and I am sorry if I upset your plans.”
"No problem."

I have been told that my nudes are erotic, but never that they are vulgar.
Eroticism is a peculiar human trait that has to do with sexual arousal. It is a dance in nature that we see also in other animals that preen and show off in spectacular ways—all to better attract a mate. The word comes from the Greek word for the god of lust and fertility, Eros. Eroticism is nasty in some prurient thinking, but I prefer to stay with the Greeks who thought Eros to also be the creative urge of ever-flowing nature, the firstborn Light for the coming into being and ordering of all things in the cosmos, an attendant to Aphrodite, harnessing the primordial force of love and directing it into mortals. As an artist, I must have a relationship with eroticism because it gives passion and sensuality that fuels my creativity. See Michelangelo’s slave sculptures or the colossal David.

A nude human, male or female, is one of the most treasured subjects in art. Just look in the art history books, or check out the work of some of the most famous photographers. An artist makes looking at nudes an acceptable, sensuous, and awe inspiring experience. We all wonder what is beneath other peoples clothing because we all know we are naked and pure. Art reveals the truth of our nakedness.

After my model demurred from disrobing, we continued and in the end, the session was fantastic anyway. Eventually, some of the images will find there way into my new work that is a combination of photography and painting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Picture Is An Adventure Every Time

It seems I am breaking new ground in bringing photography and painting together in my larger-than-life portraits and mixed media artwork. The opening last Friday of my new exhibit, called, The Earth Is One Country attracted a steady crowd for two hours, and I am pleased at the excitement it generated. Especially gratifying is to be congratulated by other artists. One artist friend of mine told me the exhibit felt “rich”. Of course, he meant the dazzling experience of traveling around the world, living in nineteen countries and meeting so many different people in diverse cultures, then bringing it together in an exhibition.
The great French painter, Georges Braque (1882 - 1963) said, “I could not do otherwise than I do. The picture makes itself under the brush. I insist on this point. There must not be a preconceived idea. A picture is an adventure every time. When I tackle a white canvas I never know how it will come out. This is a risk you must take. I never visualize a picture in my mind before starting to paint. On the contrary, I believe that a picture is finished only after one has completely effaced the idea that was there at the start.”
And this is the way that I traveled and worked for one year. My adventure evolved from moment to moment, and I called it THE DREAM. It was a risk that I took, and I believe I grew tremendously, personally and artistically.

"The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens." Baha'u'llah

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ownership Is An Illusion

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen, from Anthem

I went to a party last night. It was in honor of Zara Kriegstein, a beautiful and very talented artist, originally from Germany, who died from too much drinking of alcohol—and a failed liver. The party was at the home of a wealthy physician and local patron of the arts. As I arrived with a friend and pulled up to the palatial home, I had brief nostalgia for prestige and pleasure that comes with ownership of a home. Inside, a mariachi band played in front of a sweeping view to the west, and a gorgeous sunset. Artists and art lovers mingled, talked, ate delicious food, and admired Zara’s artwork that was displayed prominently for the occasion. A curator, her son, and her sister gave eloquent testimonies to her extraordinary life.

In the end, I think ownership is an illusion. All of life is contingent and we cannot change physical laws. Animals that we think we “own” get sick and die despite our ownership. The land we think is ours existed before us and endures after us. Our cars and bank accounts vanish and so do homes. Even our bodies are given to us, but only for a short time. Moreover, I do not want to get tangled up in forming relationships with physical objects that then make a demand on me. It seems material things need attention, and the more objects, the more demand for attention. I like being connected to the earth and nature, but in a way that I can enjoy it freely, like the wind that roams across the planet. Death teaches us that everything physical comes to dust. My philosophy is that it is better to be alive in Spirit that permeates and animates every atom in the universe and is independent, than be attached to the outward appearances that are doomed by mortality.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Poets Write About

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~Stanley Horowitz

I feel fortunate to live in a place with spectacular natural beauty, light that is sharp and clear, and seasons that change dramatically. Now, in the days of autumn, I have been working in my studio, getting ready for my upcoming mixed-media photo show October 16, called The World Is One Country. Yet the outdoors is so fantastic, I often leave to go hiking and painting.
A few days ago I hiked with a friend in the mountains. We parked by a stream and followed it down the mountain. The sun shone in a blue sky while the air felt brisk and chilly until we heated up from exercise and the extraordinary beauty all around us took our minds from any discomfort. The trail wound along beside the stream, sometimes forcing us to cross over by hopping on rocks or walking over fallen trees. There were obstacles in our path but as my friend said, “This is so much better than Disneyland!” The colors took my breath away more than the exertion of the hike. The evergreens had their usual deep hues, but the plants on the forest floor were all turning into blazing flames of yellows and reds. Perhaps most awesome are the aspen trees, sometimes called “quaking aspens” for the way their small, heart-shaped leaves quiver in the breeze. Now, the leaves are the color of gold, and when they quiver in the sunlight, they sparkle like gems—whole mountainsides of incandescent celebration.
Experience of nature in its pure state is what poets write about and artists try to capture. But the Creator of the universe is far ahead of our imaginings, and His work is testimony to His greatness which is well beyond human approach.
Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money -American Indian Proverb

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Soul In Two Bodies

“Oh God, break me into nothing so that I might be born again.” I silently spoke these words to the Creator, realizing that the hard places in me were like dead regions that could not be cultivated and needed something very powerful to break them so as to begin anew. Within two years I was in a doctor’s office with my daughter Naomi. When the physician entered the room where we waited and with a grim face announced she had cancer, and a huge tumor in her hip, my world collapsed and I was shaken to the core. All the hard places in me broke.
Naomi died ten years ago. She was an empath. We had always been so close as to be almost one soul in two bodies. Sometimes I have questioned, did she "hear" my prayer to be broken into nothing, and then offer her self as sacrifice to God to accomplish this impossible task? Also, an empath physically feels what others experience, and Naomi acutely felt her mother's mental illness. Or maybe, because I am also an empath, I anticipated future events, because I intuitively knew something was going wrong with my daughter. In fact, just before Naomi was diagnosed with her illness, I was not sleeping well. Vague feelings of calamity were plaguing me as I went to bed, and I felt them very close, but could not understand why.
When Naomi passed away, I had already died a thousand times over and was completely broken apart. The same day she died, as her body lay at rest in her bedroom, I felt her spirit arrive while I was resting in my room, and with an overarching and powerful grace, give me a message to love life unconditionally—and this was my new beginning.
Since then, I have barely ever been sick, and wonder if she took so much pain at the end of her short life that it was for the both of us, and that she swept illness from me for years to come.
For more about Naomi, death and dying, spirituality, go to:

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I love psychology, especially studying the mental and emotional factors governing a situation or activity. Over the years, I have done significant introspection and also been in psychoanalysis. I like myself and want to know who I am. As an artist, I must be open to new ideas and have the strength to express myself from the deepest places. Psychology can help. For instance, many people are in conflict with themselves and the outer world, so they cannot express creatively without fear and anger. Society itself contributes to neurosis, turning people against themselves and others.
When I was in my late teens, I became flooded with emotions and thoughts that at times left me fearful of being overwhelmed and insane. I made a choice to simply experience the powerful emotions openly and without judgment. But quickly I discovered anger, distrust, and disdain were mixed in the equation, along with other negativities, and guessed that I might be anti-social. I decided it was too much to continue without a buffer. So I adopted an ideal to strive toward, and did not accept the emotions and feelings that I had which were not “saintly.” Unfortunately, without wisdom, eventually, I came to despise myself and be very unhappy because I could never reach the goal of happy sainthood. My “wild” side stayed—however much I tried to marginalize it and shut it away from sight. All this led to a breakdown that took years to recover from.
Now, I embrace myself fully and relish knowing all that is inside—however it appears. No longer do I climb up a tall ladder of idealism from which to look down on myself. Rather I dwell in the matrix of life, where creation and death always are together. I do not judge, but experience life compassionately and lovingly. From here, I have deep well to draw my creativity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Visual Vocabulary

“Why would anyone want that?” "Don’t you want to sell your art?” My friend was trying to be helpful, because she knew my art sales have been meager during the economic downturn. She was looking at a big picture I had just printed . . . of the ruined inside of an abandoned house in Spain. A broken chair and empty suitcase sat forlornly amid the rubble that littered the room. A basket and empty liquor bottle rested on a windowsill where bright light poured through onto the glum interior. I was a bit startled by my friends query, because I had been in my creative process and working by my inspiration, and not thinking of the business angle. “Well,” I said, pointing to portraits on my studio wall, “there are these that people can buy.”
When my friend left, I continued working, and felt slightly crestfallen. What was I doing anyway? The finished work includes the disheveled interior on the right, and on the left in a separate scene, a beautiful, young Spanish woman standing inside a ruined home, holding flowers in her hand and looking up through a hole in the ceiling. The work evokes feelings of loneliness, abandonment, ruin, time, neglect, beauty and hope.

If artists only thought of making “pleasing” art that will quickly sell to a public eager for soothing objects that reinforce their feeling of well-being, then some of the most famous art would never have been made. Look in the art history books, or if you are near a big city, go to an art museum—you will see that some of the most famed art often is unsettling. As an example, take Edvard Munch’s (December 12, 1863 – January 23, 1944) iconic work, The Scream. Do we imagine that he was thinking to make a pleasing picture for someone’s wall and that he could quickly earn cash to buy groceries and more paintbrushes? No, this work came from his inner anxiety and wonderment about the human condition. And his expression touches a nerve in all of us. Similarly, Chaim Soutine (January 13, 1893 – August 9, 1943) was a Russian emigrant, laboring at his art in France and living in poverty, before being discovered by Dr. Albert Barnes (1872 – 1951) , an important American art collector. Soutine worked entirely from his emotions and his visual vocabulary is volcanic. He applied his paint as if in a tumult of recklessness, and with hardly any regard to constructing pleasing shapes or flattering portrayals. Instead, what we get are portraits that convey anxiety and the struggle to stand upright while all of life tries to pull us apart, or melt us in its heat. The paintings Soutine left behind after he died prematurely at the age of 40, hang now in major museums around the world, and continue to shock our sensibilities, but also make us question our perceptions of what is real and true.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Thank You

I am in the habit of giving thanks, and at bedtime, always speak out loud before sleeping so that I hear the words, “thank you.” I think of the day I have just experienced, and then say, “I have no complaints.” Of course, I am speaking to God. I have a dearly beloved friend who is atheist who told me “you are thanking yourself, because of what you give to yourself.” There is truth in what she says, because I choose how to think and therefore experience accordingly. But in giving thanks, I am acknowledging the great gift of life, and I know that I have not given life to myself. No, everything has been given to me—the world of nature which is safe within regulated laws, my body that exists in nature and time, and the doors of perception through which I understand . . . these have been given to me and I could not have invented this. I am an infinitesimal part of an infinite universe which is beyond the grasp of humankind. Maybe that is why some throw up their hands and say God does not exist. What they are saying is it is impossible to know, so why even try? But I surmise that this is lazy thinking and that a simple solution is to acknowledge that the cosmos we live in is a creation and a creation must have a creator; a priori.
In my studio I have been spending my hours working on printing some of my 30,000 photographs. I am choosing portraits of people from around the world and then printing them on canvas; larger than life size. They are then mounted on board and I have been using an old painting method to cover them with encaustic; a hot wax and resin combination that fuses colors as it hardens. It is experimental, and I have no income from this now, but this year, I hardly have income anyway. I do not complain, but give thanks for the excitement and adventure of having opportunities to explore each day, and especially consciousness.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Monsters. There are so many in this world that they influence every human life. This week I heard on the news the case of a monster that had been captured and is now awaiting trial. He had snatched away an eleven year old girl as she walked to school and taken her home where he then locked her away for 18 years, sexually abused her and made her pregnant twice, the first time when she was 14. She had children, and they became his captives too. This monster did immense harm and the news made me sick, for I cannot help but imagine the darkness and unanswered cries for help. And this leads me to look to God. I remember my own daughter Naomi during the last two years of her life was fighting a wicked, relentless monster, called cancer. This beast gave her no rest while it tortured her. It deformed her body, isolated her, took away her youth, inflicted severe and continual pain, taunted her and made her feel powerless and eventually locked her in small room with death as her partner. Many times, while I watched helplessly as my valiant daughter struggled, I prayed and when the situation got worse not better, then asked, “How can a loving God allow this?” (See my book, A Heart Traced in Sand) I knew there was an answer but also knew that many people do not believe in God because He created a world where monsters are so powerful and do so much harm . . . even appearing to transcend the powers of good. And sometimes it appears that God creates humans that are afflicted by monsters from birth! Humans are born with two heads and one body, or so retarded that they are never able to hold a conversation their entire lives.
Monsters exist everywhere in many forms. Think of the millions, maybe billions of people whose lives have been marginalized and made hellish by corruption and greed on the part of monster men and women who wage war and command through intimidation and violence. Monsters can appear as hunger, or as the clouds that infiltrate human life and bring Alzheimer’s and a host of other infirmities that drain our happiness.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about an experience I had on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. A young man approached me and immediately I knew he was in the grip of a monster. His face was horribly deformed so that it was painful and frightening to look at him. He was begging. I gave him money and asked to take his picture. I wanted him to leave the harsh sunlight and to stand in the shade of a nearby building. Just then a woman rushed from a shop and scolded him for standing close to her place of business. Her chastising froze the youth so that he could not move. So here we have it; a story of human interest that is very telling psychologically. I learned from a friend that this young man had acid thrown on his face during a gang fight. From that moment forward his life turned into a living hell. He cannot close his mouth or hide his teeth. He cannot have a satisfying public life because he is shunned and made to be an outcast. He has longings for intimacy but will never marry or be sought by the opposite sex. He is forced into a life of homelessness and wanders the streets begging for mercy and hoping people will feel sorry for a poor fellow that was beset by a monster and forever made ugly. Meanwhile, the woman that scolded him was afraid. She did not stop to think of him as a fellow human, but only saw a monster. She thought, “this monster will drive people away from my store and my business will suffer.” In other words, she had no connection to the young man except repulsion and in this, she herself became monstrous. The true monster was not the young man’s disfigurement, but the woman’s reaction. Really, what is monstrous is psychological and arises from fear, loathing, greed, anger, pride and a host of other empty emotional disconnects.
Moreover, the monster in the case of the kidnapped girl who is now a young woman retarded by years of imprisonment and torture along with her two children forced upon her by her rapist tormentor, is a bleak and ugly creature that takes its place among the many other monsters that roam our earth.
This leads me to believe that monsters exist only to test the quality of human spirit, like heat is necessary to test for the pureness of gold. The light cannot be known without darkness, and neither can humans be known without monsters, however gruesome and perplexing that can be.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Indian Market

This is typically the biggest weekend of the year in my hometown of Santa Fe. From across the United States, Native Americans come to the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, where they sell their handicraft and participate in indigenous competitions. All the vendors are juried beforehand, so the quality of goods is very high. The challenge to be accepted is fierce because so many people come to see and buy. For many of the Indian artists, this is an opportunity to earn the bulk of their incomes for the year. During the event, they dress in their finest clothing to mingle, feel at one with other natives, and sell. Booths are set up around the city plaza, at the heart of Santa Fe, and each vendor has his own space with a placard indicating their name and tribe. Throngs of people converge during opening hours, some lining up from the break of dawn on the first day to be the first to buy from their favorite artist.

Some of the fun events are traditional singing and dancing, and native fashion shows. I like walking among the crowds and noticing the Indians from different tribes across the land. Usually they are brown people with jet black hair, brown eyes, broad faces and high cheekbones, who come from their home reservations; mostly rural locations.

“The world is one country, and mankind its citizens.” Baha’u’llah

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whirling Streets

I traveled almost half way around the world to return home to Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, from Vietnam. The trip took about 24 hours—Saigon to Tokyo to Salt Lake City and then to Santa Fe. I am appreciating the clean air, majestic spaces, relative quiet, and urbane modernity of home. Yet, I miss my friends in the Far East and being in the flux of Asian life.
All humanity is coexisting simultaneously on this planet. Every human activity is occurring at the same moment somewhere: sleeping, eating, working, charity, thievery, sex, birth, death, laughter, argument, et al. Humans are a family, but have great variation in customs, language and ethnicity. Wherever I go, the warmth of a smile and loving look is universally recognized and welcome.
At times I have felt lost and bewildered, almost insane in unfamiliar surroundings. But then, I choose to enjoy the mind-bending experience of seeing life as child; vulnerable, and with innocent, fresh eyes. For example, last Sunday afternoon in Saigon, I took a long walk through the whirling streets and arrived at the city zoo. It is humble by many standards, and does not have the assortment of animals or facilities of many other zoos. I paid my entrance fee, began walking along shady pathways and came to elephants. A small crowd was gathered, and occasionally an animal extended its trunk to grab a sugar cane someone had offered. I took pictures, trying to capture both human and elephant together. Slowly, I wandered around, viewing exhibits. Seeing the hippopotamus reminded me of when I saw them in the wild on Safari in Tanzania last year. I came to a bandstand area where a crowd was gathered watching circus performers. A man onstage climbed on top of an assortment of cylinders and teetered precariously, then an assistant handed him a small sword which he held in his mouth, then took a longer sword and balanced that on the tip of the small one. Next, a beautiful young woman in a tight red costume walked a tightrope, standing on her head, doing splits, and eventually placing a ladder on the rope, climbed up two rungs, then did the sword trick with two swords balanced tip to tip from her mouth. Music played, children ran around in glee, and every time someone spoke, I could not understand a word. As I left the zoo, I had the distinct feeling of being lost in another world, but not caring. The elements played on my mind like a dream and moments flowed in a stream of consciousness that left me dizzy and euphoric.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Dust and Dirt, Silk and Marble

I have returned from Hoi An to Saigon, (Ho Chi Minh City), and been here five days now. It is not as hot; there are breezes and occasional rain pours. My hotel is near a city landmark called Ben Thanh market, a huge, bustling indoor market crammed full of merchandise stalls. Each day, I wander out in the streets observing and photographing. I cannot walk one block without repeatedly being accosted by people pleading for my business or charity. A young man came up to me whose face had been mutilated. He was missing his chin, most of his nose, he could not close his mouth and his teeth were bared, both eyes were twisted by scarring, and burns mottled most of his flesh. I gave him some money, and had him stand for a picture. Immediately, an elderly matron of the nearby jewelry shop stormed over and scolded him for standing near her shop. She figured he frightened away clients. Then there is the young beggar woman who sits in the same spot each day selling packets of chewing gum. She cannot walk because of birth defects in her twisted legs, and hobbles around on her hands, lifting and dragging her legs. Yesterday, a little girl in ragged clothes touched my arm, looked up to me and motioned to her mouth that she was hungry. She walked an entire block tugging at me and motioning she was hungry and please give her some money. When I help, I realize that my offering is so infinitesimally small that it amounts to only a symbol of caring, because suffering is everywhere in the world and will always exist. When I am in the streets, I do not put up barriers, but mingle freely in the elements—the dust and dirt no less than with the silk and marble. What matters is the message that THE DREAM brings with it, and staying positive with the flow.

As for my idea of living in Vietnam, I now realize I would not be content. Utility is valued far above aesthetics, poverty is grinding, infrastructure is lacking and the language would be nearly impossible to master. I can deal with living simply, but need access to an abundance of art and philosophy.

I have posted two albums for viewing: Vietnam images, and Thailand images

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Woven Together Into Eternity

Occasionally, the languid and hot moments in Vietnam seem woven together into an eternity. After two weeks here, a sense of interminable time, and even malaise, surprises me. It is something I have experienced as a traveler, but only in rare, fleeting instances.
Many of the local people in Hoi An stop and simply lay down on the floor where they are at mid-day, and then rest until about 2PM. The heat and jungle climate simply drags me down, and I too rest during the afternoons. My routine is that after the siesta I go to a café and drink a coffee ice shake. A few days of seeing the same people gives opportunities to make friends. The three questions Vietnamese people ask foreigners most often are: Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married?
Today I invited a young woman who works at the café to model for me. She is pretty, and in her broken English complained about her work not giving her enough, so I offered her 20.00 to pose for two hours in traditional dress, which is what she makes in four days normally. Her friend hearing this, exclaimed, “How about me?

The last two days I have been up at 5 AM and rode my bicycle to the local fish market to watch as local fishermen bring in their hauls to give over to the women gathered in throngs at the pier. It is quite a spectacle of sights, sounds, and smells. Tons of fish trade hands. I’ve seen tuna, mackerel, red snapper, shark, many varieties I do not know, crabs, squid, eel, and more. There is jostling and bickering as everyone is animated and trying to get the best deal. Other vendors are there setting up, including women selling live chickens, vegetable and fruit sellers and even ladies with baskets full of live frogs. I get in the midst of it all and take my pictures. Sometimes someone will stop and pose for me a moment, and I give them money. That can be dangerous though, because eager ladies wanting to pose can mob me. Nobody is dressed fashionably, just working women in work clothes, but what I am looking for is authenticity, not façade . . . and so this genuine place without pretense is perfect for finding what I seek.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mister, what are you looking for?

Living in THE DREAM, where flux is ever present is wonderful, and also full of surprise. I should have known better than to show up at the Bangkok, Thailand, airport without a proper visa for entry into Vietnam. I was turned away. Fortunately, I went to the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, paid extra, and received an approved visa the same day—so I only stayed an extra night in Thailand. I forgot that Vietnam is one of the countries where a visa cannot be obtained at the airport upon arrival.

When I arrived in Saigon, I needed money, so went to an ATM, but forgot the exchange rate. I thought 20,000 would be a good amount, but the machine said I had to choose 50,000. I got the 50,000 and quickly discovered it was worth $2.85. Meanwhile, my bank charges $5.00 for foreign ATM transactions. I went back and got 1,000,000 dong; about $57.00.

Fortunately, I am okay with chaos in my life . . . otherwise by now I would be frazzled, especially after losing my iPhone in the motorcycle choked streets during a rickshaw ride. 

I am getting good photographs and find people generally open and warm, although as a foreigner, I am often seen as a wealthy person and invited to spend money; Vietnam is a country with one foot in poverty and the other climbing toward affluence. Sometimes in the crowded markets, women grab me forcibly and literally pull me into their stalls, saying, “Mister, what are you looking for?”

After Saigon, I arrived in Hoi An a few days ago, and it is lovely. If not for the heat and sweating so much, I would be out all day long exploring. Amazingly, this town has over 400 tailor shops. It is known internationally as a place to get clothes custom made for prices less than ordinary clothes cost elsewhere.

I am surprised how many people remember me from my visit here last year. I have already been motorcycling with a new friend who showed me around while I looked at houses and shops for rent. It is funny, but when I tell people I am an artist, they act surprised because I do not have long hair. Another thing is how often I am told, “You are a handsome man.” I like it, although maybe it is perhaps an often used compliment.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sawatdi Ka

Chiang Mai
is Thailand’s second city, the northern country cousin to Bangkok. In this city of 150,000 (1 million in the cosmopolitan area), skyscrapers do not exist, but there are more than three hundred temples, among them some of the most beautiful and revered in the entire Buddhist world, giving the city an atmosphere of calmness and timeless elegance. It is international, since so many visitors arrive for the authentic Thai experience, often going trekking into the mountains, riding elephants and river rafting.

My friend Noy and I enjoy each other, and it helps to have a local buddy to make me feel at home and show me around. From the back of the motorcycle, I am given instructions in Thai- Sye (left), Qua (right) and Darong (straight). After seven days, I feel expert in the congested roadways.
Thai people have a nice way of greeting—they bring their palms together in front of their heart in a prayer-like fashion and bow slightly, smiling, and saying sawatdi ka the traditional welcome. Their language is impossible for westerners to read, since the characters are unique.
The markets are always good places to visit for local flavor. Vendors often just spread a blanket out on the pavement and sell their fresh fruits and vegetables. Flowers are plentiful and the variety is wonderful—I saw varieties I had never before seen.
Although I am entranced by the people, way of life, and low cost of living, the art scene in Thailand is not sophisticated enough to convince me to live here. Traditional crafts are plentiful, but I need a contemporary, vibrant and developed art culture to participate in. Nonetheless, certainly I will return.

Tomorrow I travel to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Happened to July 8th?

Certainly, traveling long distances is mind altering. I boarded a plane in New Mexico that took me to Los Angeles, where late in the evening July 7, we took off on a sixteen-hour flight to Bangkok. I had already booked a hotel for my arrival on July 8, and made arrangements with my Thai friend to meet me at the airport at 9 AM. Then, during the flight I heard an announcement that startled me. We were landing July 9. Quickly, a nightmare unfolded in my mind of my friend waiting for me. I checked with a flight attendant who suggested I use the airplane telephone and call. My friend does not speak English so the attendant had to do the translating. Fortunately, we spoke, but I learned that my friend had been waiting five hours. Ughhh! I felt as though I was in an episode from the Twilight Zone, completely vaporizing a calendar day—July 8, 2009.

I have been in Thailand four days now, and although it is the rainy season, it has not rained and the days have been beautiful. After Bangkok, I am now in Chiang Mai, the second largest Thai city, in the north of the country, and getting a feel for life. Thai people are very polite and warm. I am getting used to seeing occasional elephants, hearing strange instruments played in the streets and riding a motorcycle everywhere. Last night I went with my Chiang Mai friend to dinner in a restaurant that has a huge buffet with raw foods of every kind. Servants bring drinks and then, after selecting your courses, you return to the table and cook your own meals over a big round broiler that looks like a big hat, with a raised middle for cooking meats and seafood, and a circular pan (brim) that boils water and makes a flavorful broth to cook vegetables, shrimp and more. It takes only minutes and is fun. You can cook and season to your own taste, and eat when you like, going back for more ingredients whenever you desire. The food stays hot and fresh right in front of you. All for less than five dollars a person. This one meal a day could be sufficient to live on.
Could I live here as an artist? I will begin to find out in the next days.
Some facts about Thailand.