Saturday, July 25, 2009

High on Henry Miller and Hieronymus Bosch

My body and mind pulsate as this morning’s caffeine makes its way through all systems. Buzzed, and high on Henry Miller, I’m ravenously devouring page after page of “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch”.

Try as I might to significantly lighten my load before the move I can’t seem to part with a single book and the collection continues to grow as new “Amazon” arrivals reach me daily. I’m an addict.

My first experience with Miller came when I borrowed Justin’s copy of “Tropic of Cancer” a year or two back and I tore through that with an equal hunger. Finding it delightfully timely and perfectly suited for my (then) melancholy mood and general disdain towards life I was drawn in from the very first page:

“I am living in the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead. […] There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere. The cancer of time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a lock step toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.” Miller p.1

Pretty grim for a book that actually contains quite a bit of humor but I returned the copy to its owner and only today, received my own. I have recently found a new joy in re-reading books and discovering how different they sound at different times in my life.

Perkier now, in this current period of transition and renewal, I’m finding “Big Sur…” to be written just for me. Perhaps I heavily project, or maybe divine timing really does exist, in either case, I’ll try to share some parallels I’ve drawn so far.

Moving for my art, I frequently ponder the strangeness of abandoning the thriving artistic community in San Francisco for “a pit” (that is, according to the peanut gallery) like LA. However, I’m compelled. Then I stumble upon this, “It is my belief that the immature artist seldom thrives in idyllic surroundings. What he seems to need though I am the last to advocate it, is more first-hand experience of life – more bitter experience, in other words. In short, more struggle, more privation, more anguish, more disillusionment”. Miller p. 13

Reading this my instinct seems, somehow confirmed or rather illuminated. If everyone’s negative predictions come true, I may very well be injecting myself into an environment that will further my disillusionment and stir my bitter distaste towards (parts) of society and life in general. Or not.

I also worry about being so isolated, so potentially alone and far from the comfort of my 7x7 world. But then Miller states that, “artists never thrive in colonies. Ants do” and “what the budding artist needs is the privilege of wrestling with his problems in solitude”. Miller p.13

I have my insignificant little problems to wrestle and I’ve moved many times in my young life. Every time there is a period of real solitude while the new home is being established and during these times, difficult as they may be, my art has always thrived.

As my Buddhist practice deepens I am inspired to go more minimal. Wishing to be free, or feel freer from my possessions and attachments I have been downsizing when it comes to my belongings. It has been an interesting process, sometimes painful but ultimately rewarding for me. When it came to my artwork, I finally chose to let go of my paintings too. Snapping pictures for posterity I have placed about half on the sidewalk outside and will prime the remaining canvases to be used again. Creating a blank slate for my imagination and releasing the work that came before as a snake sheds her skin or a monk destroys his beautiful sand mandala.

“If he is an artist he will be compelled to make sacrifices which worldly people find absurd and unnecessary. In following the inner light he will inevitably choose for his boon companion poverty. And, if he has in him the makings of a great artist, he may renounce everything, even his art”. Miller p.15

Although my physical environment will soon change, I know in my heart it’s of little importance seeing as how my own mind is my reality and this body my current home. An ancient Yogic Sutra by Patanjali states that, “through contentment, supreme joy is gained”. Miller points to a similar notion saying, “one’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. Which is to say that there are no limits to vision.” p.25 Can I find contentment or new vision this moment? Can I ever? Will I?

Pressing forward I go, still unsure, excited, always questioning, always hoping. Then scratching all that, trying to let it all go and trying to stay present and mindful. I aim for some kind of yet-to-be-discovered artistic integrity based on little more than my intuition and insanity. Life is good! Onward.

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