Stay Fully Alive

a more recent smaller painting: In Quiet Prayer

Horatio issued me this challenge: do something new, something you’ve never done before. Paint something different, something that boggles you.

I love this challenge. In other words, step out of your comfort zone. Dare to not know where you are going. Make a mess with great gusto and intention. Court chaos and wrestle it into something that resembles order for you and no one else.

Horatio might have said, “Dare to see again, purely, with no filters, knowledge, or preconceptions.” He might have added, “What might you see, who might you be, if you stepped beyond the safety of your ideals, your beliefs, and great mass of weighty and important knowledge?”

The child in me, the one not yet accustomed to sitting in a desk or raising my hand or waiting my turn would loudly sing the answer: You’d be fully alive! I’d be fully alive.

from a few years ago, a larger piece: Meditation

I’ve always appreciated how similar are an artist’s path and that of a spiritual seeker. The aim of the exercise is the same. A meditation practice to still a busy mind is identical to an actor’s training to be fully present on the stage or a painter’s pursuit to see purely (to see without the disruption of interpretation). On both paths, truth is a fluid thing. Truth is what is happening right now. What happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow are distractions at best. They are stories that get in the way. They are of no consequence to this moment of living, this moment of aliveness. It is, an actor learns, a fool’s errand to attempt to repeat yesterday’s performance.

Horatio’s challenge is relevant for every human being wrestling with the big questions or trying to stave off or make sense of the chaos. Dare to dance with what’s right in front of you. Dare to drop the questions.

Picasso famously said that every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once he or she grows up. He might well have said that every child is fully alive. The problem is to remain fully alive once he or she grows up.

playing around with simplicity. This one is hot off the easel and not yet named.

this is how she looks in a frame. Magic!

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Order Chaos

One panel of a triptych I did for a performance with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. This is, "Prometheus: Resurrection"

One panel of a triptych I did for a performance with The Portland Chamber Orchestra. This is, “Prometheus: Resurrection”

There is order. There is chaos. They are as intimately related as magnetic poles, the pull and push of action. Chaos is pulled into order and order is pulled into chaos, forms are thrown up and pulled down again. Life spins on this axis.

Today during my walk I made certain to step on the leaves. With the assistance of the wind, the trees are releasing leaves in great flurries of color. Orange and yellow and red swirl to the ground and then swirl on the ground, too. The movement is an invitation to step boldly on the carpet of color. I love the sound that it makes, the swirling and the crunching. What was out of reach a few short moments ago is now underfoot. Life is like that.

The wind off the lake was bitter so we turned down a side street and sought protection amidst the houses. It is rare that we don’t, as a Buddhist might say, “Eat the cold,” but today we desired presence to be warm. We scurried home, shuffling our feet through the leaves, and sipped hot apple cider, fingers wrapped around the mug to absorb the heat.

I read recently that the path to realizing our divinity is to accept our human-ness. Trying to be better than we are blinds us to how beautiful we really are. It’s a paradox. Apparently, divinity is not found in perfection but in the messiness of everyday. It is not a fixed state, but moves between the poles, sometimes wearing the mask of order, sometimes arriving in the face of chaos.

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Get Almost Naked

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Saul-The-Chi-Lantern shared two bits of wisdom this morning. The first was his secret for remaining free of the chaos of domestic life. When he returns home and finds the vacuum is running, all three televisions are blaring and there is an implied list of things for him to do, in his words, “I get almost naked. I take off most of my clothes because it will appear as if I am about to take a bath.” He suggested running a little bit of bath water just to support the illusion. He said, “In this way, you remain aloof of the confusion. People will leave you alone.”

Once, while exiting the freeway on my way to the Polyclinic, I saw a fully naked man walking leisurely down the sidewalk and, as proof of Saul’s theory, no one bothered this man. Most, if not all pedestrians and motorists alike steered clear of the fully-naked-man. Though a true scientist would argue that my assertion is false. Had the sidewalk man been nearly naked instead of fully naked he would prove a better sample case.

The second bit concerned intentional party behavior wisdom. Saul told us that as a young man he had the reputation for never sitting down at parties. People assumed that his capacity to stand for hours at a time came from stamina developed from his tai chi practice. Saul said, “This was not the case. I was dedicated to continued sampling of the appetizers on the table but had to mask my repeated visits to the table. Too many visits to the food table is not polite. My stamina had nothing to do with tai chi and everything to do with my dedication to food.”

There you have it. Pearls of wisdom for living a good life: 1) Get almost naked to remain free of the chaos. 2) Make several trips to the appetizers but do so in a subtle if not polite manner.

In case it slipped by unnoticed, be aware that both pearls are essentially studies in the fine art of creating illusion. 1) Pretend you are taking a bath. 2) Weave an illusion of stamina so you might graze the snacks without calling attention to your real intention.

Saying, “There you go! 70 years of wisdom reduced to two essential pearls,” Saul spun around and led us into a silent practice of the form.