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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Reckoning With Reality

Smiler asked me a simple question:  “Why the past tense Jonas? Do you not paint anymore?”

The question was simple enough.  The answer?  Rather complicated.

I pondered the question as I pedaled for hours against a gusty west wind.  I pondered the question as I cooked my dinner.  I pondered this question all day long.

The answer?  There’s more than one.

I think back on my youth and all my creative endeavors.  I taught myself how to paint with oils, dedicating long hours to brushes and palette knives, turpentine, tinctures and linseed oil.  I hungered to learn the craft, to learn if I, too, could be a painter.  I mastered the techniques.

And discovered I was no artist.

I wrote “poetry” in great volume.  Discovered I was no poet.

I beat on drums, but realized I was never destined to be a drummer.

I devoted myself to a great many undertakings.  In so doing, I discovered my limitations and true talents.

It wasn’t my destiny to be an artist, a poet or a musician.

What I did well was marshal resources to clean up hazardous waste sites.

I discovered I could manage people and budgets to achieve goals that differed greatly from those I had once envisioned for myself.  Despite my cherished, youthful dreams, there is something to be said for cleaner water and less-toxic soils (for others, mostly).

I discovered my true talents and, in so doing, suffered a great deal of personal regret...while enjoying a significant measure of satisfaction.

* * *

Then there is the matter of Time.

There was a time when my energy was boundless.  There was a time when I was young, when crackled within me more energy than that of a nuclear reactor.

I faintly recall those days.  I marvel they ever existed.

I’m a seventh-decade denizen.  My body?  As stalwart as it has been, it’s now held together by baling wire and bubble gum.  The fires that once burned so fiercely and so bright have morphed to embers.

That’s simply the way Life is.  I thought myself immortal...once.  I know better now.

* * *

And, finally, there’s this:

I no longer seek fame or fortune, conquest or glory.

I content myself with simple meals, simple pleasures and modest explorations of the world around me. 

Nowadays, I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve.

And so it is that I have come full circle.  While I once aspired to be all and do all, I’ve come to deeply appreciate those who have truly achieved mastery within my diverse fields of dreams.  I’ve dabbled enough in so many things to understand just how difficult it is to master...anything.

Our lives are what they are.  Too short, too constrained, too demanding, too tiring,

Even so...

It’s been an amazing experience.

* * *


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonas, I understand. For the past few years, I've been grieving. Grieving for a lot of things. Mostly, grieving for my loss of hope and dreams, aspirations. But writing poems, playing with paint and linseed oil... beating out rhythms, these are things that deserve to be done for their own sake, I'm sure you know that.

Yet while I say this to you, I say it to myself too. There is not a single day that I don't ask myself "what's the use? Why do I bother?" I might be good, but I'll never be great and it's always a struggle to pick up my pen, pencil, brush, whatever it is, to express myself. But I also know that those rare moments when I lose myself in the experience of making something, even though it'll never end up on a museum wall or win prestigious awards... they make it all worthwhile.

You've got a couple of decades on me, yet I think I know exactly how it feels to look behind on those days when energy seemed boundless and to wonder how that was ever possible.

The way you express yourself Jonas... you most definitely have the soul of an artist and poet. And I always feel like I've received a blessing whenever I see your response to something I've put out there. That alone must be worth something?

That being said, I am very grateful that there are people like you who make sure our natural resources are looked after. Who's to say that isn't more important, or at least equally important to a painting hanging on a wall for all to see?

Sun Jun 03, 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I take great pleasure in a great many things, Smiler. The fact that you find my words comforting gives me great satisfaction. In truth, I derive great joy from a great many things. Simple pleasures though they may be, I'm grateful for each and every one.

And, yes, of course you are correct in noting that many things are worth doing simply for the joy inherent in the doing. That's how I always felt about making music. I wish I could surround myself with my friends so that we could all make music together. Time exacts a toll.

When all is said and done, this Truth remains: we can find pleasure and satisfaction in the most humble of endeavors. As I grow older, I see this Truth more clearly. I'm grateful for that.

Sun Jun 03, 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Achieving greatness or wealth or fame doesn't matter. It's whether or not we can feel things with the heart of a poet or see things with the eye of a painter that counts. And you tick both of those boxes, Jonas. Yes, indeed!

Mon Jun 04, 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger June Calender said...

"I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve" -- that is one of the most thought provoking, profound statements I've, maybe, ever read. Only a mature person could write it, I hope I'm mature enough to understand it. The entire post was beautifully said; you so seldom reveal anything like this much. Thank you.

Mon Jun 04, 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

Nowadays, I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve.

Oh man. Yes. I suppose.

Is it okay to say that I would give anything to sit across a cup of coffee from you right now and all you "know", although realizing it will all be different tomorrow. Lifetimes happen in a day. Lifetimes. I have lived so many.

Mon Jun 04, 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned many things in my younger years, tried many things and stuck with nothing really, other than photography. What I did discover about myself is that I like learning. I try something, learn it and then want to move on to learn something new. Just how I am.

As for cleaning up the toxic waste sites, very important work and thank you.

My work is much humbler but I do love it. Last week I sat and cried with a patient who told me she was dying and that her family doesn't appreciate how hard she is working to stay alive just a little longer for them. This lovely lady is a year younger than me. Her life is ending already. It makes me think about my time here. What really does matter.

Tue Jun 05, 08:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nowadays, I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve.

I don't know if it shows my youth or immaturity or a drive that'll always been in me, but that hunger to achieve still burns within me I guess, even as I'm trapped under the burden of chronic depression.

This exchange of ours has really made an impression on me and tapped into my current bout of self-pity, most of all I think because these are matters which I struggle with every day, every day wondering whether I should or shouldn't make the effort to to put something out there, whether or not it be worthy of notice or not. I should be grateful for all the compliments I receive from various people, teachers, friends, acquaintances who all seem to agree I have talent in various areas. But I often use the analogy of someone who is very good at playing the piano, and then goes off to study at Juliard and discovers she is only average at best among the truly gifted. I've never been to Juliard, or any equivalent, so I guess I'll never know for sure.

Every day I struggle between the desire to make things and the pull of apathy, which tells me all my efforts are for naught, that I should just put down pencil and brushes and let others make their mark, because what is the point really? This is nothing new to me, I've been struggling with those questions my whole life.

Is it enough to simply be mediocre if one derives pleasure from something? Yes, of course. But then, is it enough to be mediocre if one is tortured all the while? And is that the soul of an artist seeking expression, or just the the victory of depression over yet another victim? The only thing I know for sure is we have all been given the capacity to create. The rest... is just the mind playing it's own games.

Tue Jun 05, 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

One never knows when a blog entry or comment will become something more...a portal to a great many thoughts or emotions.

Thank you, Selma. You heap too much praise upon me but, hey, I like that about you!

Your comment, June, that only a mature person could have written: "I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve" made me picture a high school valedictorian uttering that phrase during a commencement address. It would strike purt near everyone as decidedly odd. Youth is destined to seek, aspire, dream, achieve. Youth must.

The "lion in winter" can rest a spell. Look around and appreciate.

Nothing I'd like more, Annie, than share a cup of coffee with you (along with a tune or two). My life ain't over. You and me may get that chance yet!

Nothin' wrong with "humble work" Lilith. Buddha might even say that's the best work of all.

Oh, Smiler, you've touched on a great many themes/heartaches that have haunted so many creative souls for...forever. I, too, am a clinical depressive. My friends, by and large, are musicians, artists, writers, photographers, creatives of many stripes who ponder/suffer/question/agonize over these very same questions...endlessly.

There are no definitive answers. There will never be definitive answers. The creative heart/soul will do what they must do. The mind will ponder.

Sat Jun 09, 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Smiler said...

Jonas, here is my answer to our latest exchange:

xx ilana

Sat Jun 16, 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Secret Agent Woman said...

I had to think about that one a bit. I have never been one to have big aspirations. I always wanted to do well enough - be a decent therapist, a good mother, and so on. But everything I do, I have never had a real need to excel at anything. I guess that's fortunate, since I won't have a let down?

Sat Jun 16, 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

You are too kind, Ilana.

Buddhists would embrace you, SAW, declare you a kindred spirit.

Sun Jun 17, 06:32:00 PM  

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