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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

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The Illustration Friday word of the week is time.

I have a friend who is—on the surface of things—about to run out of time. Though he has always run faster than just about anyone, one of the diseases of our age has caught up with him. “Dying,” I think, “What’s wrong with this picture?” It’s Mad-Tea-Party surreal, and accompanying the experience is a tinny voice in my head singing that Second World War era tune, “We’ll Meet Again.” You might remember it from the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

We’ll meet again…don’t know where, don’t know when. But I’m sure we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

In response to the news, a friend in the market said yesterday, “Well, we all have our expiration date.” Such a dreadful way to put it…so very final. Having no personal evidence, I cling stubbornly to the belief that we dance again with those who have been significant in our life, maybe even over and over again. It just makes sense, and my heart-knowing agrees. When another friend’s mother passed on last year, I quietly assured her father that he would see her again. His bitter response was, “I don’t believe in all that.” I could feel his pain, and wanted to at least plant the seed of hope there, for isn’t life all too brief and difficult if we believe that this is all there is? “Well, you’ll be surprised then,” I replied. Perhaps I should have kept my thoughts to myself and mumbled the usual  social condolences…

I can’t say I understand the mechanics of it all, nor do I believe in the standard version of a Heaven, but I have always been a firm believer in the idea that there is much more going on down here and ‘out there’ than we can even begin to grasp or imagine. If it’s just us, and this is all there is, it “seems like an awful waste of space,” as the young Jody Foster’s father says in the 1997 film, Contact. My personal version of a Higher Power wouldn’t make that sort of error in judgement.

No, I am sure we will meet again.

“Mad Tea Party”     (watercolor, pen & ink)      The original is available here

"Mad Tea Party" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Mad Tea Party” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ahead.

In my world, ahead is another word for the future. No… not the Back to the Future kind, but the kind that exists inside my very own head. Admittedly, it’s a place I spend a lot of time in… Trying to simultaneously exist in this studio moment and the future, I observe myself wondering… “Will the painting I’m making work out? Will anyone love it? Will I alienate everyone, and be pronounced a hack? Should I get a regular job and end the misery? What’s for dinner… ?”

Of course, any bystander could tell me that this train of thought(s) is all a huge drain on my batteries, and especially on my creative batteries. But it seems to be a mental loop that runs pretty much on automatic. Most embarrassing to admit. I have gotten to the point where I can frequently ignore those monkey-mind voices and work anyway, but the fact that they are still there in the background is not something that I am proud of. I wish they would go away and leave me in peace… I take only a small bit of comfort in knowing that this mental state is largely ‘par’ for the human condition.

Conventional wisdom says that Time is linear—comprised of Past, Present and Future. But many spiritual teachers and mystics state that there is only NOW. In the past or in the future, everything was, or will still be, NOW. Yes, it’s a lot to wrap a little lump of cerebral cortex around…

Unfortunately, my mind is not usually content to hang out solely in the this NOW… everywhere else but here always looks so much more inviting, less problematic… and probably was, or will be, so much better than it is now. The contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, has written and taught extensively about this dilemma. Although he is not speaking specifically to the artist crowd, he is very clear that the full experience of being alive, not to mention any guidance that may be available, can only be experienced in this NOW. (I know from personal experience that this available guidance can even include practical information like what color to paint next, or even what to draw in the first place…)

I’m still trudging away on this journey back to the NOW… I’ll meet you there?

“Bird Thoughts (watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil)

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