Saturday, June 27, 2009
It came as a shock to hear that Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) died. Certainly, he was a giant among entertainers, and had millions of fans. Nonetheless, it is incredible the amount of attention that has been garnered by his death. It is as big a news event as any, and I dare say if a nuclear bomb went off somewhere in the world, it would not provoke any more news coverage.
Here is another story. Years ago, I was outdoors with my easel and paints, making a picture along a quiet road in Santa Fe when a man my age approached and struck up a conversation. He was an artist, and before he departed we arranged to see each other again and go painting together. Over time, we became good friends. Eventually he moved from Santa Fe with his young family and lived in Michigan before later moving to San Luis Obispo, California. Occasionally we met each other and always shared an easy ambience of artistic brotherhood.
Ken perhaps was the more bohemian, not caring much about money or fortune except for his family, enjoying good times when they came and indulging in marijuana and drink if it was available. The family seemed to live on the margins, but he remained a conscientious father and faithful husband. His daughters grew, while I lost my oldest, Naomi to cancer and eventually my second wife and I divorced when our daughter turned twenty.
Ken often confided his own discontent in marriage and ruminated about the life he wanted to live as a free spirit. Before he had married, he had led the life of a vagabond artist, bicycling around France, living in Paris and becoming fluent in French. In marriage, he barely managed to support the family from his meager earnings as a painter. In San Luis Obispo, his wife became the primary breadwinner as a school teacher.
About 1 week ago, Ken called and informed me that he and his wife was separating. I felt bad, but understood. He asked me for my new address and told me he wanted to send me a letter. A few days ago, I received a packet from Ken. I opened it and there were some newspaper clippings and his letter. I always enjoy Ken’s letters because he writes poignantly about his life and immediate experiences, and also adds a bit of philosophy.
He wrote about the difficulties of his separation, the family, his plan to go to France for a break, and then he wrote a sentence that did not make sense: “Naturally winning a million dollars is a good thing, but it has created a lot of headaches too.” I read on and he told me he hoped to relax and paint more in France, and that he had been playing golf. He closed by saying he hoped I was well and that maybe we could get together “one of these days.” I put the letter down and reached into the large envelope, pulling out the paper that was folded neatly in half. Imagine my shock when I saw that it was the front page of the San Luis Obispo newspaper with a picture of him beside the headline: LOCAL ARTIST WINS 1 MILLION DOLLARS. The article was titled, A Painterly Stroke of Luck, COLOR OSOS ARTIST RICH. The newspaper quoted Ken: "I think twice about going out to lunch. It's very rare that I spend money like that. I did not tell my wife because I didn't want her to know I had spent money on something so frivolous."
I am still incredulous. Of course I called Ken, and he explained that he had been reading a book called Ask And It Is Given, about how we manifest our world by the way we think, and around the same time, he saw an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times for a raffle to benefit a charitable arts organization. The price of a ticket was steep—one hundred and fifty dollars, but the prize was a house in Santa Barbara or 1 million dollars. Ken never gambled or entered lotteries, but for this time, he dug under his mattress and without telling his wife bought a ticket, thinking that he would win. And then a month later, he was announced the winner. “I was not surprised”, Ken told me.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I find it fascinating that people are so wrapped up in the material world. It is as if life and its meaning depends on being comfortable. Then, the more wealth a person has, the happier they will be. For me, this is illusion. THE DREAM is where my treasure exists, and it will never be exhausted.
This is not to say that the material world does not matter. Recently a friend in Nairobi, Kenya sent me a text message asking if I could send her some money to see a doctor, and mentioning that she and her daughter had no food in their house. In those situations, it is more difficult to be philosophical. I often wonder how I would face the world in similar circumstances.
I think that the death of my daughter Naomi brought me to the state I am in now. During her final days, I felt that all the wealth in the world was only dust scattering in the wind. Deep down, I knew how remarkable was THE DREAM that continually unfolded and that I am privileged to witness. I saw in Naomi a being that had surpassed the physical, and in my book, A Heart Traced in Sand, I quoted these words from the Bhagavad-Gita:
The bonds of his flesh are broken.
He is lucky, and does not rejoice:
He is unlucky, and does not weep.
I call him illumined.
Not wounded by weapons,
Not burned by fire,
Not dried by the wind,
Not wetted by water;
Such is the Atman,
Not dried, not wetted,
Not burned, not wounded,
Being of beings,
Forever and ever.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Last week I finished a painting and gave it the title, Hung up With Money. It seems that every human being on the planet is in relationship with money. Outwardly, money is simply paper or coins—not as attractive as nature, or useful as food or shelter, but money has perceived value that is trusted so that it can be bartered universally. In work, people provide services in exchange for money, and money can also be exchanged for gold. It has the perception of importance.
In THE DREAM, money has no importance. Experience is the only value and truth. I live in the THE DREAM, so money plays a secondary role. But I also live in society, and money is a primary component of almost all aspects of society. I feel compelled to be in relationship with money, and if not, then almost immediately, society exerts pressure to bring money to mind.
My painting represents the absurdity of money, society, human life and perceptions. The clothesline represents time and space, where everything hangs and is trapped. Flesh disintegrates and returns to dust after a century on "the timeline", but money does not. The newspaper is the Wall Street Journal, which is devoted to economics. The pen might be used for writing ideas related to money, and the half eaten apple represents feast or famine, opposite sides of one coin.
To see more of my HangUps, go to: http://www.stevenboone.com/main_pages/hangups.html
Sunday, June 07, 2009
When I was a teenager, I engrossed myself in reading many of the world’s finest novels, and this formed a greater part of my education. During the summer of my eighteenth year, I read Leo Tolstoy’s epic story, War and Peace. One episode has lasted with me through the years. It is when one of the main characters, called Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, a dashing young lieutenant in the Tsar's army, is severely wounded in a battle with the French. Amid the carnage of the battlefield, Andrei has fallen with an almost fatal wound to his stomach and as he is bleeding in the grass, he gazes upward into the blue sky and sees lazy clouds drifting serenely above him. Suddenly he is struck how incongruous it all is. Amidst the mayhem and violence all around, and facing his own death, he nonetheless sees that the day is beautiful, and also notices the irony. And this is life on earth—beautiful and terrible both. The task is to always be mindful of the existence of each aspect, and remain positive always.