Sometimes people will ask me, “What were you thinking of when you did that painting?” Often the question is an enquiry about what I had in mind that gave birth to that painting. Occasionally something about the process stands out in my mind which I can then relate to the questioner, but more often than not I find I have to utter some banality since I don’t know how to communicate what I went through and what produced the painting. Gerhard Richter has observed that painting is another form of thinking, something that you do in secret and then reveal in public. That feels exactly right to me since the process of creating a painting is a form of thinking out-loud; just as with most thinking, the thoughts evolve as they are encountered and engaged with, and to try and tell someone how you reached the final painting is like trying to explain how you set out for one place, got lost on the way, explored roads and fields, until you finally “arrived.” Unless you took the trip it makes no logical sense.
I think much of our spiritual growth occurs this way, as well. We start out tackling some one issue, which issue leads to another issue, which leads to… and on and on. Sometimes, when people come for spiritual counseling, they will relate to me all the various issues that they want to tackle about their interior life, and the sheer quantity of what they see immobilizes them; in such a case the session always comes to the moment when they ask, “How can I know what to do?”
In my experience… both with painting and spiritual growth… the key is to just begin. Living in the midst of a technological culture we think that we have to see all of the issues, draw up a mission statement, delineate the steps that will be required, find funding, etc. The real key to growth is: Choose one characteristic and begin working on just that one. Wrestling with that issue within yourself will give birth to insights about other aspects about yourself, which will lead you down other roads until you realize that where you are is where you had no idea that you wanted to be.
When I look back at the footsteps I’ve taken in my own journey, I am aware that I could not have plotted this trip: the Navy, working in a vineyard, working with Juvenile delinquents, working as a supervisor in a hospital, living in a monastery, working with German Shepherd dogs, making sausage, editing, artwork, learning to cook… and on and on. And I have to say: I do not regret one moment of this trip!
I feel particularly blessed that I have a glimpse of the next part of my life’s journey… to live on the Big Island beginning in June of 2019. One thing that this trip and creating paintings has taught me, however, is to live fully in this moment, and that all of the moments will lead me to a happiness that I cannot yet even fathom.