Sunday, April 26, 2009
This last week, I flew to Chicago, the place of my birth. My daughter Sarah is finishing her studies in dance at Columbia College, and as part of her senior project, choreographed and performed in a modern dance. Chicago is notorious for its bone chilling winters, and the trees are just beginning to show buds that will become the green leaves of summer, but the weather was surprisingly warm. Chicago is called “the windy city” because it rises from the shores of Lake Michigan where heady breezes blow.
Sarah called her dance Desert Skies, and used one of my paintings of a southwestern sunset as a backdrop. Six dancers performed to elegant music with flute, in flowing burnt-orange pastel dresses that harmonized with the sunset. The dancers entered the stage from both sides, seeming to arrive into the landscape of the setting sun. From there, the bodies often came together only to fly apart in patterned movement, coming together again . . . falling, rising, running, grasping the sky with arms like wings, twirling, spinning and finally becoming one pulsing circle that fell to the ground in ecstatic exhaustion. The evening included six performances, and afterwards, the students, their parents and admirers all gathered together for a social time. I found Sarah in the hall outside the auditorium and she was flushed from exercise and excitement. She said she felt happy to have accomplished her task but a bit sad too that it all was ended.
Big cities have wonderful resources to keep people informed and entertained, and whenever I arrive in Chicago I always visit the Art Institute of Chicago. It holds many masterpieces, and some I never tire of seeing, such as an exquisite small self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh.
The institution is constantly providing the public with new features, and I was able to see a wonderful special exhibit about the famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch who is best known for his iconic painting called The Scream.
My stay in Chicago lasted three days and when I boarded the airplane to travel 1125.18 miles (1810 kilometers) back to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I felt like Sarah did after her dance performance—satisfied but a bit sad that this wonderful sojourn had drawn to a close.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I have made a movie. The name “movie” implies movement, and nowadays action movies are packed with so much movement and sound that they can make you dizzy. My film is more meditative, a sort of glorified slideshow that took me all week to make as I learned along the way. It is called, A Journey Around the World, and is comprised of the photographs I took while circling the globe, also including music reflective of each country I visited.
Eventually, I will edit down the size and upload a version to YouTube, but for now, you can see a more complete and entertaining original and share it with friends. Make sure you have your sound turned up, and then, enjoy! Click here: Steven Boone, Journey Around the World
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Human beings are by design, philosophers . . . and I dare say, the more intelligent a person is, the more philosophical. Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, and can be a guiding principle for behavior. Everyone at some time asks, “who am I, and what is the meaning of life?” Baha’u’llah has said, ”True loss is for him who has spent his life in utter ignorance of his true self.” And Socrates spoke these famous words: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
For years, I have sought to invent myself beyond the historical forces that have molded me with values and prejudices. At one point, I had a desire to be broken apart so that I could be made anew. Not long after, my daughter Naomi, seventeen at the time, was diagnosed with cancer, and two years later died. In the interval, I completely broke apart and fell so low that life itself seemed an illusion of despair. With Naomi dying, I felt myself dying as well; all my parts were as if broken.
There is a passage from the Bible that Dostoevsky used in the preface to his great book The Brothers Karamazov. It is: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 Examining this statement from a personal and also philosophical viewpoint, it is extremely telling, and a metaphor for life itself. Seeds are the kernels of life that hold the promise of fulfillment when they become plants and bear fruit. They are made up of three parts: the outer seed coat, which protects the seed; the endosperm, which provides food for the embryo; and the embryo itself, which is a young plant. In order for the seed to grow, certain actions must occur between the seed and its environment. The hard, protective shell must disintegrate, and proper conditions help the young plant to emerge into daylight. It is this “dying” of the protective shell which allows the emergence of the essence of the plant. Likewise, in human life, the protective shell might be regarded as an individual’s ego that serves to form an identity that offers protection against the assaults and rigors of the world. But the ego also binds people so tightly, that they remain apart from everything. The inner essence of human beings, in order to grow to fulfillment, needs the ego to die after it has served its usefulness early in the development of the individual. Then the person can truly give himself to the world, and receive in return. Easier said than done; David Starr Jordan, author of The Philosophy of Despair, said, "Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”
In my case, after Naomi died, I found myself far more humble in this world. My ego was shattered and a new perspective on life had developed. Everything was precious because I knew that even the blades of grass, once they die, cannot be replaced identically. Every part of nature is special; and most special of all is humanity. In a sense too, Naomi’s passing left a big void inside of me, so that I sought for her in everyone, and even if slightly, found my hearts desire in everyone.
If all of humanity became educated to be philosophers and search for truth, we will see each other as special, and as we grow and overcome the shell of our egos, the earth will be remade too . . . into a paradise. It is waiting for this.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
We are all travelers. All is in motion, even when appearing to be at rest. Time is always moving and everything is related to time, so everything moves, becoming “older” with each moment. Furthermore, our world and all its parts are in constant rotation: the earth is rotating on its axis, and orbiting the sun, which is in a galaxy revolving in the universe, which is in revolution of another universe; and so on.
These thoughts arrived last night when I was at a party and people asked me about how it feels now that I have stopped traveling. Really, we are always traveling, and my trip around the world is but a small step in the grander scheme of motion. Moreover, I am comfortable knowing that the flux of my travel never ends, and that my perception of the moment is most important. Quality moments depend on awareness, and the love found when one's being is commingled with the surroundings; not resisting, but surrendering and engaged.
Another question I am often asked is, “What was the best place?” That is another matter for analysis, because it depends on what I have just discussed, which is quality moments. If I am always engaged and having good quality moments, why should I deconstruct the whole experience and break it apart so that I then label segments in a sliding scale of bad to good? No, I prefer to keep my experience intact as a living whole that is entirely inter-related and inter-dependant. Of course, some memories are stronger, like when I first saw an elephant roam into my view at the Serengeti in Africa. That is a bigger impression than waiting to board an airplane in Bangkok, because boarding airplanes is something I have done many times and includes long waits in a static environment. But somehow, the two experiences do not exclude each other. If I were a Masai tribesman who had grown up among elephants, then the airport experience might be more memorable.