Thursday, March 23, 2006

How to Best Use Our Traditional Arts

I watched a beautiful foreign film on Tuesday, titled – “Himalaya”. It was released a couple years ago and I believe it may have been an Academy award nominee in the Foreign Film category. On the surface the movie is the story of a Tibetan tribe torn between an allegiance to an old chief and a well-loved upstart, attempting to take control. However, the actual heart of the story was revealed near the end of the film – it was the story of a Lama trained to paint and pray in traditional fashion without any regard for change or outside inspiration.

In the film, the Lama “took a journey” through the world and returned to the monastery to paint his inspiration. The new paintings told stories of survival and change in a difficult world.

While my own work draws heavily from Asian influences both in painting and philosophy; I have always felt emptiness to the beautiful yet unfulfilling motifs of traditional Buddhist paintings – such as Tibetan sand painting. I’m sure my ego-centric Western Civilization approach to life makes assumptions of waste when viewing the selfless paintings of traditional Asia – but how can I fully respect those influences while continuing my own journey along their path? The Beat Generation more often than not seemed to miss the ‘dharma boat’ due to a lack of discipline, yet at the same time it was the “lack of discipline” which offered the first alternative entry into the strict eastern perspective of Zen and Taoist thought for the rest of us.

The authentic American problems faced by Kerouac’s characters and genuine friends are the meaty-references we need to further our own understanding of enlightenment while surrounded by the intrusions of the “information age” and the western life in general.

Just like the Tibetan Lama in the film, “Himalaya” – we must utilize the traditional as a tool for interpreting the common place tribulations facing society. – DN

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