Peering intently at brush strokes that magically created semi-abstract trees and branches and leaves and footpaths into the hazy distance, I can get happily lost. These places that exist only on a piece of stretched canvas and in the artist’s mind draw me in and protect me from the world outside my cocoon. There, in that soft forest, there are no bullets nor guns nor loud voices drenched in rage. Oils or watercolors on receptive canvas or paper can provide serenity when the world around me refuses to allow an opportunity for calm reflection. When tranquility is under siege, art can provide shelter and solace. If I had the skills and vision of a talented artist, I might lock myself away in my studio, where I could create the world as I want it to be. How does one paint tenderness and love and compassion? Visionary artists transfigure colors and shapes into emotions. I am not sure whether their achievements are almost magic or entirely magic. I envy and admire them.
There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
~ Nelson Mandela ~
Mandela’s words are worth heeding, I tell myself. And I ask myself what is the life I am capable of living? Am I living it? Everyone should ask themselves that question, and then reach for the expansive possibility.
The cardiologist did not surprise me. She said I do not drink enough water and I do not get enough exercise. The ice in my glass of gin and tonic provides insufficient hydration. I should drink sixty (?!) ounces of water every day. By my calculations, if I do that I will spend roughly half of my time drinking and the other half peeing, leaving me no time for exercise. Perhaps she wants me to extend my days from 24 hours to 36 hours, giving me 12 hours to split between exercising, eating, and other necessities. I realize, of course, she is right. I need to take better care of myself if I want to fully enjoy life and, possibly, extend it for several more years.
The competition between hatred and love is on full display in every corner of the planet. No, that is not correct. The unfortunate display is—or, at least, seems to be—the victory of hatred over love and forgiveness and compassion and a dozen other healing emotions. And our appreciation for the planet on which we live is buried under layer upon layer of seething rage. Screw planet Earth; let bullets fly, let missiles explode, let shrapnel claim the lives of everyone embroiled in battles for superiority or survival. Whether each of us as individuals has a personal stake in the fray or not, we are drawn into the fury of bitter animosity. And should we express understanding for either rage or compassion, we are attacked, as if we were a dangerous enemy ready to carve our names in the foreheads of adversaries we did not realize we had. Obviously, I need to spend more time viewing semi-abstract images of beautiful, peaceful forests; while the world seems to be readying itself for self-incineration, I should not let it ruin life’s experiences.