The Middle Way

Zen Spot #24 — Mindfulness, meditation and plastered saints with gats February 14, 2018 00:05

Midnight in Paris

I loathe Woody Allen, but I love his movies. In particular, I love Midnight in Paris featuring Owen Wilson. 

Without giving away too much, the story is about a contemporary Los Angeles script writer who finds himself in Paris, with his fiance, for a vacation with her parents. Wilson’s character is inspired, as a writer, by the creative culture in turn-of-the-century Paris — populated by Picasso, Gertrude Stein, The Fitzgeralds, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Hemingway and many more. He imagines, for a time, what it would have been like to live during that era, with the expectation that life would have been amazing.

Then, one night, while out for a stroll by himself, an early Twentieth Century limousine pulls up and the passenger asks him to get in. Shortly thereafter, he gets out and finds himself in turn-of-the-century Paris, with the accompanying good fortune of meeting all his heroes.

Carnival barkers crucified between 1975 and 1985

The walls of CBGB, the Punk music club in New York City’s Bowery, were true, ambitious, calculated, spiraling and unconscious. Control that could have been exercised over the crucifixion of cheap playbills was turned over to the gods and chance. The air and culture was saturated. That single, never-ending, unanswerable, existential question floated between the walls and hovered while musicians, artists, writers and thinkers tried to grab it, like reaching into a swarm of flies, with the desire to shackle it and jam it down a listener’s throat. Philosophies, schools and ideas were smashed together, bash-printed on the cheapest crap available, and then stapled to the plaster with hope.

While I was alive during this era, I didn’t know it was taking place despite living less than two hours away. Populated by David Byrne, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, The New York Dolls, Television, The Ramones and Patti Smith, the era is my turn-of-the-century Paris. Artists, writers, musicians and performers could be picked from obscurity and brought to the masses.

Last month 

For the first time in 10 years, last month I visited the largest, most prestigious art galleries in New York City. Most sit two miles from the site that held CBGB. After a two hour bus ride, and with a broken foot, I spent several hours hobbling through the rooms that held the art of the artists who were picked from obscurity — the artists I wanted to be, supported by the patrons I wanted to know, in the place I wanted to be.

It should be noted, however, that, had I lived in the East Village during the time I describe, I wouldn’t be alive. The substances that almost took my life in the 90s would have achieved their goal in the 70s and 80s. The irony and the fear are not outside my reach.

With this understanding, and because, in part, of the physical limitations that my foot applies to my mobility, I sat down below the street art shown above, across the street from the Mary Boone gallery. I was happy that the street art above my head reminded me of the interior of CBGB. 

It wasn’t midnight, but a cab did pull up to the curb in front of me. A young man — an artist maybe— got in and was taken into his future or perhaps into the past.

I smiled, took a breath and closed my eyes.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?

 

 


Zen Spot #74 — Mindfulness, meditation and a wandering, anonymous street artist February 10, 2018 00:05

Glued 

My love of street art is well documented. From small Sharpie drawings on postal stickers cemented to the back of traffic signs, to large paintings on the outside walls of corner bars, the need for visual artists to express themselves fascinates me. Each tells a personal story.

90 miles of love

Whatever story the artist is telling in the photo above, it turns like the page of an esoteric children’s book. Something about a king and her court perhaps. There is a specificity. No matter, it is personal, for now.

I found it in Philadelphia, in October.

There was no telling, in the moment, that the artwork above was a single page until, while walking on the east side of Eighth Avenue, near Jane Street, in New York City, that I passed another drawing by the same artist, plastered to a similar mail box. It fit the shape of the box the same way — trimmed, with the rounded top. Black and white, but different. Flimsy paper that two or three good rains can destroy. 

I’m not sure if the image had changed or if it was the next page from the same story.

The artist traveled 90 miles. Was she from Brooklyn and visiting Philadelphia? Vice versa? Is the story told, one page at a time, in cities all over the country? All over the world?

I found the New York image in March.

A confession?

Must one travel to turn all the pages to find out what happens? Is the message so personal — and awful — that its truth must be shared, with the express intent of never having one person know the whole story, with its creator still having screamed it quietly to the whole world. 

Guilty. 

You.

The southern sky

In Philadelphia, I leaned back against the green metal, faced the southern sky and folded my legs. An awful page from a personal story opened in my mind’s eye. Never a children’s book.

Sometimes it’s enough to simply absorb the sun on one’s face.

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About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?