All this madness started, a few years back, because a generous French artist named Elaine, stumbled across my blog and subsequent paintings. She described my work as “Zen paintings” and I didn’t know how to handle that moniker. I had run-away to Montana to create work without labels. I saw myself in a fight for my life against the parameters of realism, abstraction and other draconian concepts of defining art.
I immediately read everything I could find with “Zen” in the title. The most popular choice was obviously Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read and reread that book at least four times over the course of two years. I initially saw him as the quick-answer to my passion; however, over time I discarded more and more of his madman cathartic theories until I was left with only a single passage to build a life:
“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there”
I systematically discarded every one of his half-cooked, hair-brained thoughts to find the simplistic genius I was seeking. I realized, then, after forsaking 600 pages of his rants, that the true Zen masters are lost to history. A legitimate guru, Zen master or even dharma bum will not waste the effort of recording his thoughts, theories, or passions.
If the meaning of life is to follow your passion to success; then a dharma-stylized life is the antithesis of measurable success. Yet the meaning of life is exposed through Zen?
I’d love to ask Richard Branson (Virgin) if he is happy because he is a rich bugger that can do whatever he pleases or if he is happy because of his work… or if he is happy.
What brings me joy? Well, obviously painting. But I am equally as content listening to Robert B. Parker audiobooks, drinking gin, or watching British murder mysteries. It is only the guilt that I feel for practicing useless tasks (pretty much everything listed after painting) that has me reflecting on this question. But isn’t that self-reproach at conflict with seeking Zen? Living in the moment and basically doing whatever one feels like (with regard for others, but complete disregard for long-term personal consequences) is my idea of perfecting Zen.