Friday, March 18, 2011

About Business as Usual

At this time while we are aware of the horrific events in Japan, I and people I know and many that I don’t know are in our studios focusing on a line, a shape, a color, a texture.

Isn’t there always some horror somewhere? Of the natural kind, or blood shed for political upheaval or famine taking children’s lives or AIDS decimating a population? How then do we go about business as usual? I was celebrating a birthday, grateful for all the love in my life as others were attempting to cope with unimaginable loss. I remember clearly walking out of the house where my best friend lay dying and being surprised and offended by the world looking so normal. I was on my way to do some grocery shopping.

We form a picture of the world when we are young which is constantly under revision. The experiences that darkened my world were about death: I was ten years old when I lost a beloved aunt and a dear cousin, my puppy was run over and died, and I saw some horrific wartime photos. These experiences influenced the choices I made ever after. I wonder about the survivors of the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and of devastating earthquakes and other catastrophes. How did their lives go on?

Only recently have I understood how that sudden first experience of death shaped my life. At some unthinking level, I chose to make my life about life. To this day I am reluctant to miss anything that life offers with the result that I have made many very unrealistic decisions. Supporting myself by painting is amongst the silliest of these. A totally romantic decision, but it was the right choice.

Writer E.B. White said: “All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” I do too. In spite of the fact that our lives can be taken with no regard for the plans we make. Edna Saint Vincent Millay ended a poem about loss with these words: Life must go on; I forget just why.

The image above is Lament ©1996, acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 22" x 68.


  1. If there had been a Facebook "like" button next to this post, I would have clicked it.

    I wouldn't put the Dresden bombing in the same category as Hiroshima and Nagasaki (no matter how much the German right would like to have it there). Dresden was hardly an innocent, peace loving "cultural center." It was the railroad switchyard for Auschwitz and all the Polish camps. Trains from Europe to Poland came through Dresden. Tens of thousands of Jews lived only because Dresden was shut down.

  2. I was not aware of what was happening in Dresden. Thank you for filling that gap for me, Gordon.
    I still don't really understand how human beings can inflict such suffering on each other.