At 10 years old I believed heaven was not a place but a feeling – the feeling of selflessness, of loving another and valuing his or her well-being more than your own. I knew then that it would be hard to achieve but worth it to try. I’m 55 now and I still believe that view of heaven. It’s still hard but I’m still trying. I’ve spent my life as an artist because I believe that art can change the world. I supplement my income by working as a contractor which I enjoy too. You do a good job at a fair price and it’s amazing how essential you become. My uncle John once told me he loved and admired art but it wasn’t a necessity for life. I said, “Nice theory; too bad you can’t prove it.” Since the cave dweller there has never been a culture that existed without art. I believe this is because it’s the job of an artist to “see” what others cannot. And I’ve “seen” that there is a profound longing and aversion deep within us. We long to answer to our heart, to reconnect with the deepest part of our being, our world and the people in it. But there’s an equally powerful aversion that causes us to hesitate. Answering to the heart opens us up to vulnerability and pain. But most terrifying of all – unpredictability. No matter how routine or boring our lives, we cling to it for security like a three-year-old to a teddy bear. Predictability is math and science and what drives those is logic and rationality. Thirty years ago I saw that logic was far simpler than I’d imagined. It’s based on one simple act repeated, similar to how all life is based on the constant replication of a single cell. The act is that of recognizing uniqueness, which creates the object. But an object can’t be unique without a whole from which it is separate. This creates distance, measurement and direction. When uniqueness is applied to events we have time, another measurement. It’s all so beautiful! What could possibly go wrong? Perhaps it’s at the beginning — the separation, the creation of self at the expense of selflessness. It’s not a bad system but out of balance. What can go wrong is 9/11. Those towers were the symbol of the dominance of a way of life, and I don’t mean democracy. Shocked and saddened by the attack, I remembered how from my dorm room in Brooklyn I’d seen those towers being built. As a messenger riding up their elevators to make deliveries I saw the amazing view. But in the dust and rubble I also saw something else. One tower, square and straight, rising scores of stories above its surroundings, powerfully epitomizes what logic and rationality can accomplish. But what does such a thing choose for balance? The mirror image of itself. I believe we and those towers were well-intentioned but our aversion has created an imbalance, a separation we must now struggle to repair. To answer to the longing, our hearts risk a vulnerability which threatens the security that our cocoon of separation affords us. But what our heart allows has never been more essential or more needed. I believe we could use a little more heaven.
Dan - W. Townshend, Vermont
Entered on July 31, 2008
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