Facing Adversity

There are so many things going on that I cannot talk about publicly for a variety of reasons, but all of these things piled up can make life feel particularly challenging at this moment. The specifics are unimportant. Most people are grappling with things they cannot and do not talk about for personal reasons. What I do know is that staying calm in the midst of it all, certainly helps. In addition, I remind myself to take time to appreciate all that I have.

Which reminds me of the story about the man who is being chased by a tiger. There is a cliff straight ahead and all other escape routes are cut off to him. He must make a choice – get eaten by the tiger or jump off the cliff to his certain death. So he does what any reasonable person would do, he jumps off the cliff, but on the way down he grabs hold of a shrub growing out of the cliff’s sheer face. As he hangs on for dear life he notices a single flower growing from the shrub. He marvels at the beauty of this flower while clinging to what few moments he has left of his life as his grip loosens.

This isn’t how the real story actually goes, there are a number of variations to it, though the central theme remains the same – what do we do, how do we behave when things get tough? The above story is how I reconstructed the original Zen story, which features a strawberry and not a flower. My interpretation isn’t about the importance of staying present or the inevitability of death, though both are worthy topics to discuss. To me this is about how we behave in the face of adversity. We think of life as going on endlessly. When excitedly awaiting something, the minutes pass slowly, however our lives are just seconds when compared to the history of mankind. We are all going off the cliff to our deaths eventually, but on our way down, how do we behave? In the face of adversity, can I still marvel at the beauty of this life and the planet I’ve been fortunate enough to occupy while looking for an alternate way to descend the cliff without plummeting to a gruesome death on the sharp rocks below?

When things are tough can I remember to be curious and explore despite everything else that’s going on?

When creating a new project there are a few themes that crop up over and over. One of them is this idea that there is always more going on below the surface. One of my first pieces that I designed, I put a large metal zipper in to signify that what looks like a pretty garden has more going on. Another one of my pieces I entitled, “It’s Not What You Think”.

Bringing this idea into one’s art is something I continue to explore. The layers of the human experience, the depths to which we can delude ourselves, but also the honesty with which we can examine our experiences and hopefully learn from them is the fertile ground we can explore as we create. During this time of uncertainty, with the pandemic raging, the virus mutating, the constant and seemingly relentless drama in the United States, not to mention the myriad personal challenges most of us face, can I still see beauty in this world? Can I still create inspite of it all?

Yes. Yes, I can.