An end of year story

December 27, 2008


10 bowls of music that are also gardens    

There is a story in Ben Okri’s, Arcadia  that never fails to put things into perspective for me. I’ll paraphrase and quote it here.

You die and get to Heaven’s gate and are met by a mysterious person. Together you review the life you’ve lived. You complain that you had no breaks, things didn’t work out for you, that you weren’t helped, that you didn’t belong to the right circles, that people blocked your way, in short you pour out a torrent of excuses.

But for every excuse you bring forth, the infinitely patient person points to little things here and there that you could have done, little mental adjustments you could have made. He gently offers you examples of where, instead of giving up, you could have been more patient. Tenderly he shows you all the little things you could have done, within the range of your ability and will, that would have made a difference.  And they make sense, you see how by being more alive to your life ,and not afraid, things could have been so much more livable, indeed quite wonderful.

You suddenly see that you could have been perfectly happy during all the time that you were perfectly miserable. That you could have been free instead of being a prisoner. That you could have been one of the radiant ones of the earth. That living could have been fun. It could have been worthwhile.  That life could have been a playground of possibilities. And living could have been composed of experiments in surprise, in immortality. Experiments in the art of astonishment. Fascinating time-games. Space-games. Dimension-games.

You suddenly see that living is the place where gods play within mortal flesh. An open-ended play in which dying is the most open-ended ending of them all, opening out into the infinity of nothingness, or into the infinity of absolute being.  

Living is where amazing things can be done in consciousness and in history. Living ought to be the unfolding masterpiece of the loving spirit. And dying ought to set this masterpiece free to enrich the world. A good life is the masterwork of the magic intelligence that dwells within us.
Faced with the enormity of this thought doom, failure, despair and unhappiness seemed a small thing, a gross missing of the point of it all.

Painting is…..

December 16, 2008


Okri bowl

This piece was inspired by a section from Ben Okri’s  ‘Arcadia’.  Somewhere near the end is this wonderful lyrical ode to painting. It just goes on and on, I’ll excerpt some of it here , hoping that by leaving out a lot I don’t do violence to it.

Painting is the meaning of humanity in a visible moment… It is the frozen music of time’s justice and injustice…It is the secret history of light, the psychodrama of colour, the moment in a mind, the moment in a song.
Painting is the magic riddle of mortality. It is the longing for the eternal, the happiness of the transient, the enigma of creation, the home of the heart, the fountain where loss is soothed. It is the eternal future, for painting is never in the past tense, only in the ever flowing present tense, an eternal now, a never-ending summer, a life always living, a moment never ceasing.
Painting is water, air, fire, earth, dream, but it is never death. Painting is life,life smiling at death with light as its secret.
…Painting is secret structures, harmonies, balance, chaos, force-fields, philosophy, patience, rhythm, wit, sadness, delight, tragedy… When paintings die, they go back to God’s mind.

Painting is the nightmare of the devil. Codes in colours and shapes. It is the yearning of all things to live and persist in memory. Painting is the only mortal space where angels dwell in stillness…Painting is human love transcending human forgetfulness. It is mortality staring at itself in the evanescent mirror of immortality. It is spaces dancing, dimensions interacting, realms interpenetrating, time zones colliding, eliding, harmonising. …Painting is the shaman’s mirror, the warrior’s truest shield, the healer’s armour against fate and tragedy. The celebration of light.

Painting is the weapon the wise use against vicissitude. It will one day heal profound sickness of body, mind, and spirit. It is the technology of the wise primitive, the science and medicine of the forgotten ancients.