Painting by Victor Nizovtsev

“This is what we are like. Collectively as a species, this is our emotional landscape. I met an old lady once, almost 100 years old, and she told me, “There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge? Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

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We Indians do not teach that there is only one God. We know that everything has power, including the most inanimate and insignificant things. Stones have power. A thread of grass has power. Trees and clouds and all our relatives in the world of insects and animals have power. We believe you have to respect them by recognizing their presence. Honoring the power of spirits in this way, it also becomes our power. It protects us.

— Russell Means, activist and actor US, Lakota Oglala

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“There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with Earth. We’ve been homo sapiens for a long time. Now it’s time to become homo conscious. Our love and admiration for the Earth has the power to unite us and remove all boundaries, separation and discrimination. Centuries of individualism and competition have brought about tremendous destruction and alienation. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another, as children of the same mother. We need more than new technology to protect the planet. We need real community and co-operation.

— Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

What has power for me is enchantment, beauty and questioning, looking closely enough to find the beauty and connections that are there. A mind that stops appreciating and questioning has given up the ghost. It has withdrawn from life.

We need beauty like we need food. Our idea of an inanimate world has stripped beauty out of our days on earth. Who will bring us back to beauty in all its forms?

I don’t expect much on this score from the mechanics of society like the business folks, politicians and money managers. I look to the artists and thinkers. I think beauty resides in ideas and vision as much as it does in the contours of physical reality. How things are connected has beauty. Meaning has beauty. Beauty comes out of ideas as much as things, for me.

Reflecting, questioning and making connections — is that philosophy? — has beauty in it. Language has a beauty I’m always listening for. Yes I know it can have ugliness in it too, but we can’t refuse to pay attention because of that. We don’t live in a culture that is devoted to beauty, unfortunately, which is why I admire those who devote themselves to seeing and creating it. They are swimming against the tide.

Beauty has power in it. It’s not a frail and delicate thing. Its life force is strong because it comes from the depths that are creating the universe. Its currents carry all beings through the rhythms of life.

Getting attached to beauty is not the point. That’s always a temptation but it can prevent the flow of new life as it seeks to evolve with its unexpected mix of the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful. We are challenged to stay attentive and sensitive. It’s an artist’s work.

I see my lifelong search for beauty behind just about everything I’ve done since childhood. All the traveling to the “old world ,” all the reading and painting and relationships, my need to sidestep the modern world and somehow access the past where beauty held more sway. Letting myself search in an eccentric fashion for something I couldn’t even articulate somehow led me to my true life.

Not quite knowing what I was doing or why didn’t keep me from doing it. I can’t take credit for whatever success I’ve had. I know it came with a lot of failure, but there seem to be protective forces working if you don’t get too far off your natural path.

The path of the artist is not an easy one in our time, but it has the compensation of giving your soul the meaning it requires to thrive.

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

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