Sunday, May 31, 2009


“There is only one success - to be able to spend your life in your own way.”
Christopher Morley US author & journalist (1890 - 1957)
If this were a true statement, then some of the most inspiring people in history would have their accomplishments diminished. No, there is another, more important success: to overcome external circumstances through inner resourcefulness and the exercise of virtue. Would people know who Nelson Mandela is if he had not been a prisoner for 27 years and then emerged intact before becoming president of South Africa? Or what about the little man from India, Mahatma Gandhi, (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) who was the pioneer of satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
So we see that sometimes success is not about "spending life in your own way." Some souls prefer to be tested by external hardships so that they continue to grow from the inside, and thus prove that spirit can overcome matter.
A test for me these days has been my dearth of income. Yet I see it is what THE DREAM is giving me now, so I do not struggle so much as observe and take interest. I know that THE DREAM holds more than I can comprehend, and if I am faithful, I will be assisted and thrive. In fact my circumstances have been improving.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Dazzling Celebration

Lately, when I wake in the morning, often I feel like I need help facing the day, so I say a prayer for assistance. Then, more often than not, little struggles ensue throughout the sunlight hours. It is not physical, since I almost never fall sick and I am in good health. But emotionally, when I face tasks, I am soon encumbered by disinterest. I wonder if I have been spoiled by my year of living dangerously, trekking with abandon across the globe on adventure after adventure. Also, the USA is not the same as when I left, and I feel life is collapsed inward. The economy is in shambles . . . and I have no income, so to speak. I am considering selling my possessions again, and moving to Asia, where I have friends and I can live for a fraction of the cost I am faced with now.
This morning I took a walk and flowers are in bloom everywhere. Flowers struggle too! First they must emerge from their dark, hard surroundings underground in their shell. Then they need sunlight, water and nutrients to feed their roots. They must not be stepped on or crushed. They are on a mission to grow to their full potential and create the flowers that make seeds that insure the survival of the species. They struggle against elemental opposition and when they succeed and bloom, a dazzling celebration ensues.
So too, must we as human beings, struggle against everything that would keep us from blooming, so that we may reach our potential and display to the world our own accomplishment of intelligence, talent, and virtue. The difference for us is that we can have a long life of blooming, and human blooming can occur under almost any circumstance. Sometimes, nobility is most pronounced under cruel circumstances. I think of my precious Naomi, when she was in pain and slowly dying. It drove me crazy with distress too watch, and although it was not my custom, sometimes I would leave her for a few moments and smoke a cigarette to relax and distract myself. I prayed all the time for her healing, but conditions worsened. Anyway, once, when I returned to Naomi’s side, she knew I had gone out to smoke, and she gently chided me, saying, “Dad, if you are anxious, just pray. We are stronger when we are happy.” In moments like those, I knew Naomi was so much more than her withering body . . . she was blooming like the fairest rose and nothing would fade its magnificent splendor.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strange Scenario

This past week I traveled a road that I have never been on before. I printed one of my photographs on top of an abstract monoprint. (A monoprint is a painting that is made on plexiglass and then sent through a printing press. The pressure transfers the ink from the hard glass to the absorbent paper.) I then experimented with coatings and sent the print through my wide format ink jet printer and came up with something interesting that I can continue to work with.
Meanwhile, the economy is in such a slump that I have no income these days. My paintings, which usually sell briskly, are not selling, and my items brought back to the United States from abroad are only selling on the very low end; not enough to cover my expenses. I am in THE DREAM, and now it is presenting me with a strange scenario where I produce work but it goes unsold.
Another strange scenario is the plight of seven Baha’ís in Iran. They were arrested a year ago just for being Baha’ís, and have been imprisoned ever since. In the past, similar arrests have led to execution. There is so much that is dreadfully unfair about this. The seven have not been allowed to see lawyers and not been charged with any crime. An international protest is gaining momentum that certainly will eventually lead to changes for the betterment of Iran and the safeguarding of human rights everywhere else as well.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pavlov's Dog

I have always needed openness to feel good. When I feel closed in or surrounded, I tend to get uncomfortable. Certainly there are many people who are my opposite and tend to need the comfort of familiar surroundings, and like being enveloped—and this is the wonder of humanity, that each being is unique and has special qualities all their own.
When I was a young man, I did not want to have a tie around my neck because it felt constricting. The ocean makes me nervous because it can swallow and eat me. There have been times when I have been in groups that demanded my involvement and unconsciously my body rebelled so that I felt nauseous or had to frequent the bathroom.
In work too, I can feel trapped, even by success; in my case, landscape painting. Repeated success combined with financial reward can lead to what I call “Pavlov Dog Syndrome.” Ivan Pavlov, (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist that made his famous discovery that dogs salivate before food reaches their mouths and that they learn by association to salivate even when a lab technician comes into view if they expect that the technician is going to feed them. In Pavlov’s experiment, the technicians always wore white lab coats and the dogs learned that people who wore white lab coats would feed them, so after awhile, they associated white lab coated people with being fed, and just the sight of them would make them salivate. So too, after repeated success selling certain types of artwork, an artist can become conditioned to “being fed” and even salivate at the thought of the food that is to come to his table when he produces more of what people like and will buy. For me, this is claustrophobic because soon it can be like living in an artistic box of limited dimension. Like a prison cell. But some artists say that this cell is actually a finely decorated palace and they are quite comfortable doing what people like and to be paid handsomely.
Lately, I feel unsettled creatively. After being so free, traveling around the world, what am I going to do next? I cannot seem to attach myself, or be attached. I do not want to own anything and do not particularly care if what I have comes or goes. Just the ideas for projects make me restless and I fear being trapped. So this is what THE DREAM is presenting me with now and I am treading lightly, just observing where the flowing water wants to go as it makes its way through the landscape to the sea. Soon enough, the energy will gain strength to carry me into a new unknown.
"Good taste is the enemy of creativity." Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

You Smell Good

Today, I got in trouble with someone and I had to apologize for overstepping boundaries. I often allow my personality and temperament to flow unconstrained and exuberantly, like a journey on a free-spirited river that is sometimes placid and other times dashing against rocks and swirling in turbulence. For the most part I am along for the ride and call it THE DREAM. In this state I feel boundless and excited, and need to touch the world to unite with it and know where I am. For example, one evening last October, while sharing dinner with my fellow safari travelers in Tanzania, a man from South Africa stared at me from across the table and abruptly asked, “Why did you kiss that Masai woman today?” His direct query took me by surprise. Earlier, our vehicle had broken down on the bumpy dirt route out of the Serengeti, and we were stranded while one of the crew worked to fix the problem. I had gone out of the bus to stretch and met a Masai couple by the side of the road. I immediately felt attracted and so walked over to them. The man sized me up as I stood smiling, and I asked to take their picture. He nodded okay, and I took photos of them together, then each one alone, and finally just of their hands touching together. Afterwards, spontaneously and without thinking, I leaned over and kissed the woman’s cheek. She was highly amused and giggled. “But didn’t you see that the man was holding a club when you kissed his wife?” the South African asked. To be honest, I did not think that any of the interchange could end badly. That is my way. But today THE DREAM took a different twist.
Outside of Santa Fe there is an Indian tribe that controls an outdoor marketplace that is famous and where I have just begun selling my items from world travel. This morning, as I stood talking with my assistant, a young, very chubby, Indian woman who worked at the market came to speak with me. She was wearing nice perfume and in a moment, I was riding in the stream and going with the flow. “You smell good!” I beamed at her as I put my arm around her shoulder and sniffed her hair. A half hour later, I was summoned to the tribal office and severely reprimanded. Feeling a bit humiliated, I apologized profusely, but nonetheless received a warning. I felt like a school kid that had been scolded in the principles office.
For a while afterward, I questioned myself and even incriminated a little. But really, the stream that carries me is big and beautiful and my heart is full, so I imagine that someday again, I will stop in my tracks when I come to a fragrant rose and simply from exuberance, reach out and touch it.