When I was ten years old my mother passed away quietly in her sleep. Death came to my mother in her 40th year and it hit our family completely unprepared. I am the youngest of the four children and I didn't actually know what happened until I came home from school that day. I will never forget climbing up onto my dad's lap and weeping. My life changed forever in that moment. The next day when I walked to school it seemed so strange that the whole world was just going forward like it always did. Something had come to a stop in my life like the slow motion film clip of the crash test dummies going through the windshield. My mother had gone away for ever, stopped existing but the rest of the world carried on.
As with all terrible things there was a gift hidden within the event of my mothers death. I learned from an early age that we can survive horrible things. Life becomes difficult and then it gets better. It is as if life has a sort of wave pattern like the sea alive with its waves and of course so is sound. Eventually my wound and leave me with a glorious scar. In two years my father would find a new life partner (still with her 44 years later) and my lost mother was replaced- sort of.
When I think back to this early dance with death I think that it may have been the moment that I became an artist. That day I walked to school and noticed how strange I felt and how separate I was from the rest of the world, maybe I was stepping into my artist destiny. I believe artists endure a certain separateness. This separateness the artists feel is not one that makes them in any way better or worse. They are still obviously part of the human family. It is the separateness that the shaman feels in his village or perhaps the prophetess that speaks to the people on behalf of God. There is this certain out side looking in that I have always felt. Ok, maybe it's is too grandiose to think that artists might be speaking for God (tho I think Joan of Ark certainly was and what artist doesn't identify with Saint Joan?). Another way to think about this is just that artist have a hard time fitting into the regular world and so they end up making their own world. They make it the way they want it to be or feel that it should be. In my world death is not the end but a new beginning. Death is a stepping over into another kind of life. Death is when our time to take or test is over and it is time to hand in what we have completed. Death is the stopping point for when we rise up into our next life.
I found this in Solomon's Proverbs this morning;
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely" don't squander your precious life.
Then I was curious about the word "discipline," feeling like I have some negative associations with this word, so I consulted a dictionary and found this;
Discipline, 1. to instruct or educate, to inform the mind; to prepare instruction in correct principles and habits; as to discipline youth for a procession, or for future usefulness. 2. to instruct and govern; to teach rules and practice and accustom to order and subordination as in the training of an army.
I have included the woodblock print of the skull and hour glass with this meditation because there is nothing like being reminded of our mortality - that presses our feet back to the fire of knowing our days are numbered and precious. We do not have time to waste - and life is to be lived, and to really live our lives discipline is there to keep us not only potent, but protected as well.
I am curious how others think about discipline and her life benefits. Perhaps you can share an antidote of how discipline has brought you good things.
This is the working drawing to my painting String Game. This piece comes from a series of works I began two years ago that were inspired by meditations on relationship. With Brenda and I being at the center of our large family of six children, all of which have strong and distinct personalities that can easily come at odds with one another, we have striven hard to keep our relationships with in our family healthy and open. The lessons we learn within our immediate family we have sought to apply to all of those we come in contact on a daily basis.
Since all people at their inner core are social creatures, we desperately need to learn how to navigate relationships with the people coming in and out of our life with finesse and authenticity because with out these potent relationships we remain in wing clipped lives never reaching our full potential. And yet even as I type these words I can not help but think how rare this actually is in our day to day life that quickly gets mucked up with jealousy, lust, misunderstanding, the wrong words or the right words but the wrong attitude.... It would seem that failure is at every turn in the road of seeking these relationships that we so desperately need. I think what we do then is simply continue to reach out, speak out and get up when we fall. I really believe that our life depends on us figuring out how to build relationships with others that become healthy and strong.
The mystery of God becoming man has been the subject of many paintings through the ages. God leaving the splender of heaven to kick around in the sticks and mud of Earth for 33 years was definetly a step or two down.
The idea of humility and suffering as a prerequisite for glory is a recurring theme through out the Bible. It has rung true for my life as well. It would seem that often times some really wonderful break through in my life is proceeded by a stretch of experience that feels insufferable, horrible even. That has been the case over and over. It helps to remind myself of this pattern because it can help tug me through those tough times.