This I Believe

Joseph - Mount Vernon, Washington
Entered on September 19, 2006

To speak of success is to speak also of failure and the relationship that one has to the other. Success is a relative term. Success like failure finds definition in its surroundings. Individual success can and should be defined repeatedly by each of us. Success like life itself is a moving target where we sometimes manage to hit a bull’s eye and at others miss it entirely. Thus on any given day the (this) answer may change depending upon a myriad of ecological factors.

As I reflect on the question with the presumption of some successes whose magnitude varies considerably I keep returning to the beginning. The belief in one’s self and the development of a personal philosophy. The necessary components of such consideration seem to be coming to terms with an apriori constantly changing definition of the meaning and purpose of life itself.

Early on I felt and audaciously stated I wanted to lead a “worthy” life. I wanted to feel that each and every moment counted and thus would be appreciated to the fullest and when appropriate, shared with others to make this life experience better for all. I defined myself as an optimistic person who believes that human beings are more prone to do good than evil and that when nurtured well this can be accomplished.

I became fascinated with change and my relationship to it. I realized that I could not fight it and thus could only remain a part of the inevitable onward flow of time and events. I embraced diversity and while, on occasion, outraged by various acts of intolerance I remain committed to the ideal that life is over all a beneficial experience. I believe this even in the face of, at times, horribly contradictory evidence.

Success then has been critically dependent upon my commitment to and awareness of my (our) constant repositioning on the time continuum. It is an act of humility that acknowledges on one hand that I am unique and on the other connected to all other things in the cosmos. With this in mind I have gone forward in fits and starts sometimes well and often with misconception and failure. But I try; I always try to be conscious that I am moving forward to an end that is far beyond my comprehension and exhilarating beyond belief.

For me and many others our successes are measured in terms of what we have produced, has weight and mass. Therefore I too have made large and small things that take up space. My efforts have largely been determined by a self-defined criteria of aesthetics. I am an artist and believe that gift was a preordained condition of my opportunity to join this form of existence. I am not religious but spiritual and thus my feelings about abstract concepts are tinged by my curiosity about cosmic determination. I believe in mystery and am a part of it. Because of this I do not feel the relentless compulsion shared by others to define and conquer those things I do not understand. This does not mean I am not an inventive adventurer but rather I remain respectful of what I do not know and am innocent in its presence.

Success is not a complex idea but it is a complex reality. It is not a complex feeling but it remains a complex definition. Success is often more simple than we imagine even though often its attributes have taken us to the very limits of our cerebral and spiritual abilities. For me success is being willing to engage in the beliefs that I have formed over the 64 years of my life. It is in not having given into those who would say no or “you can’t”. It is about having a personal concept of right and wrong. It is in knowing and accepting the limits and the great wonders of our essence and having been able to lead a life where I am reminded daily of the importance of such consideration. Success is feeling a part of this world, the people, and other people’s success and at times the dreadful failures of those who would only take and not give.

There is no secret to my success any more than of my failures. I continue because and in spite of them both. I paint, sculpt, write and compose the nature of them in some fashion every day. It is why I believe in the value and message of art. Art transcends all the “stuff” we make, all the “stuff” we own and all the “stuff” we aspire to have. I am privileged to, by design, live and work with the most essential and basic of life’s ingredients. Thus the challenge remains to be humble and generous with the gift I arrived with and that will continue to accompany me on to whenever and wherever.