Live According To Your Necessity

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson's arrival on earth

a detail of a painting I did in honor of Dawson’s arrival on earth

“Depending upon the lens you look through, I have been a miserable failure at everything I’ve ever done,” I said. Arnie protested but we both knew it was, to a certain extent, true. And, since our conversation I have been gazing through that certain lens and feeling my failure acutely.

This lens is not new to me. I visit it each year as my birthday rolls around. It is a lens that most artists visit from time to time. To their peril. Recently, Chris, one of the most talented and hardworking actors I know, told me that now that he is far down the road of his career, no longer a beginner, he has surrendered the idea, imperative or illusion of economic success. “I work because I have to,” he said. It makes no sense and is impossible to explain to someone who does not have “that” impossible intrinsic driver. The incentives are internal. The rewards are internal. The achievements are mastery landmarks and not monetary rewards. It looks like insanity through the lens of a profit/loss, money=morality society.

When I look through the failure lens I’ve learned I need to visit Rainier Maria Rilke. I need to seek the advice of a master. “Nobody can counsel you or help you. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And, if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity;….”

...closer in

…closer in

My life is built upon this necessity. No amount of comparing it to others is useful. No other lens is healthy. Since moving to Kenosha from Seattle, I am fond of telling people that in my move I committed economic suicide. That is a statement made looking through the wrong lens. Here is the truth: Since my move I have published my book, The Seer. I produced and performed in what I thought was the greatest heart-project of my life, The Lost Boy. It played to sold out houses and fulfilled a decade long journey and commitment to Tom. Two months later I did what I now think was the the greatest heart-project of my life when I illustrated and Kerri and I published Beaky’s books, The Shayne Trilogy. Beaky had an author’s reading a mere two weeks before her passing. Last year I authored drew and submitted with Kerri over 25 cartoon proposals to syndicates. We are completing work on our next play, The Road Trip. And, in the middle of it all, I’ve done arguably the best paintings of my life. I am meeting my question with a simple and strong “I must.”

What is failure? What is success? They are lenses and they matter not.

I am living and building my life “according to this necessity.”

The whole painting.

The whole painting.

 

2 Responses

  1. And you have touched in a positive and deep way, the lives of hundreds of students and professional educators. You paved the road to success for students who would otherwise have gone another, and less positive, way. You created a foundation for them that will guide them the rest of their lives. You have also mentored and loved friends in a way that has helped them to go to Rilke’s inward place and identify their muses. We are so driven to identify “success” through the lens of economics that we are loathe to challenge the essentials of that philosophy as being flawed. We have lots of idioms like “money doesn’t bring happiness” which tell us that we know in our hearts that economics is not the path to success but still we persist in that paradigm which is so destructive to our humanness.

    You are my dearest friend and I have felt safe enough in our relationship to take you into my heart in a way that I don’t do with others. You have challenged me emotionally and intellectually. You have been a great cheer leader for my professional follies. You are my soul-mate. Don’t make me come to Kenosha to slap you!

    Can’t wait to see you in March. We already have reservations for dinner in SF with Marc and Sandy. Perhaps we will go early and play in the City – something to ponder between now and then.

    Hugs and so much love on your birthday,

    Arnie

    >

  2. I second much of what Arnie has said, regarding your impact on the rest of us. And that, David, is a beautiful painting. xo

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