“Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power... Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
There are bits and pieces coming to me these days… bits of wisdom, pieces of insight. And I so much want to put it all together, to finish the puzzle, so it looks whole and makes sense. But I’m not sure this is a thing that should be put together. These bits are maybe more like seeds. One is dropped here, another there, and soon they take root and grow and together make that forest I can only picture in my mind.
It’s only recently that I have felt I am a real artist. And a good one too. My last two paintings especially have brought me here. There is very real joy in all of this, and I think it’s the sense of peace that has made room for the confidence to know that what I make is good. My eyes are watchful for beauty, in all things. And when I paint from this place, the result vibrates with insight.
As I think about creating my life as if it were a work of art, I realize that it means starting from nothing. It means that the canvas is empty and there is nothing else. Everything has been stripped away, the old things, things that were part of a life I no longer lead. And it’s been painful at times. Losing a lover, unexpectedly losing friends, and loved ones passing away that never really leave, not to mention the loss of so much material gain, everything’s been stripped back to essentials.
But there was a pearl that came the other day when someone commented on a musician I was listening to, that he only really made his best music in middle-age. And I realize in my own middle age that I am just hitting my stride. I think it’s because I am finally okay with who I actually am. I didn’t just find myself. I found her, embraced her, and let her flourish. As Joan Didion said, “I am what I am. To look for reasons is beside the point.” It is important to just be.
The seeds have taken root and are beginning to sprout. The art is gaining a strong following and the sales are starting to come in. All affirmation of what I needed to know first in myself. Such an important step that couldn’t be skipped.
Another bit… so much coming to me about simply being, about the great “I Am”, and about oneness. It reminds me of Tom Shadyac’s movie titled “I Am” which I’ve watched over and over again. It was the first time I came across the idea of the oneness of the universe from the perspective of physics. It’s what the ancient Rabbis have been saying about G-d for centuries and is affirmed in the tiniest bit of creation. Everything is related to everything else. It is One Whole. And hearing another Rabbi say just the other day, because I Am is the name of G-d, any time we begin a statement with those words, we are invoking our relatedness to G-d. It is therefore a falsehood to say I am stupid or I am ugly. Because G-d is beauty and love and Oneness and peace, I am all of those things too. As this Rabbi said, “I am someone. I am some of One.”
This is my second life. I have only recently been reborn. And everything is on its way. With the old life left behind, I am free to embrace all that is good and right. How wonderful it all is and will be…. I imagine it is beyond what I can imagine.
Another insight… I listen to music always when I am painting and most of the time even when I am not. It takes me on different tangents. This week it was Burton Cummings. For those old enough to know, he has had quite a career since The Guess Who. I came across one of his songs that I hadn’t heard in years, called “Heavenly Blue.”
The lyric that doesn’t leave me is…“living with the ghost of you” and I realized it wasn’t about a man who didn’t stay or friendships that didn’t last, but about me. As I am remade, I live with the ghost of my previous life. It offered so many beautiful things, some of them still with me and coming with me into the second half. But anything that isn’t love in its essence has been stripped away. Just like the seed falling to the ground, and the husk stripped away, the old form dies, before the new life begins. I see the newness everywhere, even as I long for things not yet seen.
But that is the process of making art, and a life, of allowing something to grow. There is pain, and a falling away, and a burial, and a renewed life as the new sprout breaks ground. I imagine looking back some day and seeing a majestic forest, full of the things my heart has always wanted, strong and majestic, fragrant and beautiful, with sunlight and shade. And it will be great. Because it came from the heart of my own portion of the I Am.