Valery Vatenin

“Boomer had asked her once, in a telephone call from Virginia, “Why does this stuff, these hand-painted hallucinations that don’t do nothin’ but confuse the puddin’ out of a perfectly reasonable wall, why does it mean so much to you?” It was a poor connection, but he could have sworn he heard her say, “In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak.”

― Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All


“This world operates through polarities and pairings that both oppose and complement each other and humans are no exception. The heart beats with two sides, the lungs double up to breathe, breasts hang side by side and the testicles as well. The eyes and ears watch and listen from two sides of the same face…

A person is both a unity and an opposition, so is a marriage and so are most social relationships as well. A whole society works that way, with opposing political parties and with upper classes looking down on those trying to move up in the world. Each thing carries its own shadow and the inner oppositions in people repeatedly become reflected in outer conflicts that are even harder to get a handle on. Whatever we refuse to face within us will become a collective fate in the world around us. The wise come to know their own inner conflicts, while the unwise keep insisting that all the trouble is the fault of others.”

- Michael Meade, “Fate and Destiny”


“There are wonderful artists in the world, so many in so many fields; film and music, everywhere, it’s wonderful how rich it is, and of course this gives you strength, because you know so many people are working sincerely on something,”

— Pina Bausch

There is a connection between art and meaning in life. For me, it’s the one “stair that doesn’t creak” as long as it goes beyond “pretty.” Not that I have anything against decoration, sometimes it’s just the right thing for the time and place. We don’t always have to be deep and profound.

The dedication and devoted application of the artist, if it’s fueled by love of nature, of beauty and the questions of existence, inspire my undying admiration. I never wanted to be anything but an artist/philosopher. It has been my guide and inspired teacher.

What would the world be without art?

That’s an interesting phrase, “the haunted house of life.” We all carry the ghosts of our culture and upbringing. We need some way to the fresh waters of perception, some clarity, some sustaining vision of what and where we are. Will we get that from precepts drilled into us by school or church?

We are surrounded and inundated by injunctions to be and do a myriad things in life by a culture that lives on the surface, that is running after chimeras. Any creative person learns to focus on essentials and leave the rest. We learn to pay attention to inner forces. We’re aware of dramas and oppositional forces playing out in all life, including in our own selves. A work of art without conflict and contrast in it is boring. We instinctively know it’s lifeless.

Artists and creative people are always dealing with elementals. They are engaged in the work of raising consciousness, the world’s and their own. The more deeply they see, discover and communicate, the more they contribute to the general fund of consciousness. That’s no small feat. The world is made out of consciousness, after all.

The accolades of society, if it comes, is nice to have, but it is not a motivation to do the work. The meaning of the work is in the love of doing it. It’s important to be clear about that. It’s unfortunate that we live at a time and in a culture that is so caught up in the thousand-and-one things, but any artist who understands the calling is willing to nurture it by the discipline of the work.

We are fragmented selves in a fragmented world. Artists are healing the divides.

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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