“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - The Buddha
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. --
Just as I was able to hobble around on my left foot, last night I fell and hurt my OTHER foot... the ankle, to be precise... so I am spending today (again) on my hosts' couch... which is entirely frustrating. The ankle is fine... swollen, but fine. Having fallen many, many, many, MANY times in the past, I know there's no need to worry. The swelling has already gone down from last night, when I tripped walking up Georgia Avenue with my friend and host Eric Riley. I stepped off the edge of the brick sidewalk to make room for two women walking the other direction... one of whom was a not unattractive blonde in a short business skirt and high heels.
And here, I must confess -- though I am staunchly opposed to Capitalism, the women are hot.
And while that may not be definitive proof that chivalry is painful, it at least provides more evidence to suggest that at least some of the pain some men put upon themselves comes from sex and it's related mess.
I hobble forward -- metaphorically -- however, undaunted.
Prior to my first real tumble (no metaphor) in more than a year, I had spent several hours that afternoon in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. My plan was to visit several sights of interest and report to you, Dear Readers, on it all; and that may happen yet, since no one knows what tomorrow brings. But I did know I had to go and see ONE THING, even if I didn't get to see anything else:
|3 of more than 30 of the Seagram Murals.|
Rothko has been one of my favorite painters for several years. Prior to seeing these up close, the color field paintings were my favorite. But now... at least at this point in my life... these are my new favorites.
These three are part of a series he painted as part of a 1958 commission for the Four Seasons in New York by Joseph Seagram. Rothko, notoriously OCD about how his work was shown, and feeling like a restaurant wasn't the proper place to show his work -- maybe out of fears that people would be too busy eating to really pay attention -- pulled out of the commission. But continued to paint the series anyway.
These three murals -- and really, all of Rothko's later work, including the color fields -- are all about boundaries for me. You see this more by comparing these to his other works; but the work is in all the fine detail. Sometimes he paints staunch impassible lines through which no color bleeds. In others -- like these in the National Gallery of Art, the colors bleed. (To see the difference, look at these Rothkos at the Tate Museum of Modern Art.)
I sat in front of them for a little over an hour, taking them all in. It was something of a religious experience for me, sitting there
-- even with the insufferable noise of some stuck up art critic trying to impress his views on a much younger and thoroughly enraptured student about the "message" of a surrealist mural placed inappropriately near Rothko's murals.
The word that kept filtering through my mind was boundaries. Rothko battled them in his work, and in the end, when he sliced his wrists open and committed suicide in 1970. I've always fought them, too. Boundaries define us as much as they hinder us. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to boundaries... set by government, primarily... but also those boundaries set by other people.
And it is those I found myself meditating on.
I started this blog with the tagline: NECROPSY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Okay, so I tend to be ambitious, and I'm still gaining momentum. Traveling around has always suited me. Visiting friends, seeing places for the first time or revisiting them with new eyes. You can't get a sense of the country you live in while you're on a guided tour. To really see it -- and to have a chance to experience it without someone else's interpretation -- you have to set out and see it.
One thing you begin to realize is that most boundaries mean very little except to others. State boundaries. County boundaries. City and town incorporation limits. Abstract. Nothing. They bleed, always bleed, whether provincially minded residents believe it or not. Every place I've been in my life, someone has said:
"That's the weather here in [insert locale, county, region, or state]. It can turn in 20 minutes."
[Translation: the weather is never as predictable as we'd like.]
Boundaries bleed, and sometimes the blood is real. We have proof enough of that in every war in history.
I've been dealing with a sudden lack of boundary... which is freeing and terrifying and heartbreaking all at once. And this first segment of my travels has been, in some ways, a methodical autopsy of the relationship.
But the boundaries bleed. A marriage in America is about more than love. It's tied into tax money, real estate, visions of success and failure, manhood and femininity. Marriage in America, like it or not, is tied to our culturally driven definition of The American Dream. That's why political sex scandals are so interesting. Most politicians are married -- because the electorate like "family oriented" folk -- so when a politician gets caught diddling the intern or looking for anonymous gay sex in airport bathrooms, we become hyper-focused. Marriage -- and our conceptions of it -- is tied to everything.
And when a marriage is over, all of those things change.
For me, there's a still certain bitter-sweetness to all of it.
Yet as I sat in front of Rothko's murals, the proof of his own struggle with the boundaries that defined and confined him, I began to reflect on the fact that even though I've been essentially decompressing and dealing with a complex amount of emotions, that I've also felt pretty good. Settled in my soul, somehow. Because while I may need to eventually find a place to store my books and keep my cat and have a place to write, I also just need to be able to go.
If you're into Post WW II American Artists, it's worth checking out the Jackson Pollock they have in the same gallery as Rothko:
|Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)|
This one, too, and the rest of Pollock's splash paintings, also remind me of boundaries; but we each have our own ways of fighting them.
(More today. Still.)
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