Accepting Your Contradictions

red purple dots pixabay photo

When I was younger, I tried very hard not to appear a hypocrite. I would look down upon those whom I perceived as blatantly hypocritical and unaware of their own contradictions. Yet no matter how much of a purist I tried to be, holes would always appear in some shape or form. The more I tried not to be a hypocrite, the more I began to feel the weight of life on my shoulders. In the process I felt my vitality and joie de vivre being sapped.

Some of the most inspirational icons in the world were full of contradictions. John Lennon is a great example. For much of his music career he promoted the ideas of peace, love and togetherness. He got his positive messages across to millions of people with great success, but his domestic life was at times anything but peaceful. It has been said that he could be volatile and even physically abusive. He spent very little time with his eldest son Julian (even though he wanted to mend his relationship with Julian before the time of his death). Yet does this diminish my opinion of John Lennon? Absolutely not. He was a hugely talented and authentic singer songwriter who openly acknowledged his flaws and contradictions, often in his songs such as Jealous Guy and Getting Better.

Accepting your contradictions is one of the most liberating and beautiful forms of surrender. The moment you do this, life becomes less heavy and sweeter.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

Image: susannp4

Mona Lisa Madness At The Louvre

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Mona Lisa frenzy at the Louvre museum, Paris

 

I don’t think I’ve seen anything else quite like this in any other art museum I’ve been to around the world. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci is arguably the most iconic work of art in the world and the most well known. Perhaps the only other work by an old master with an iconic status almost equal to (but not quite of the same magnitude of) the Mona Lisa is The Girl With The Pearl Earing by the Dutch painter Johanes Vermeer.

It is actually quite rare that a random member of the general public knows the title of a work of art by a famous artist. Everyone has heard of Picasso but how many can name the title of one of his many works? The same for Andy Warhol, the same for Jackson Pollock, Damien Hirst etc.

I am quite fascinated by the monumental popularity of the Mona Lisa. The stampede to even just catch a glimpse of this painting is akin to trying to catch a glimpse of a famous rockstar doing a signing at some small record store. As much as I wanted to get up close to see the Mona Lisa, I eventually gave up. Instead I channelled my energies into immersing myself into the nearby epic painting entitled The Cornation Of The Virgin by the Italian master Tintoretto.

But why is the Mona Lisa the most iconic painting in the world? Firstly its provonence. Since it was completed in 1519, it has been in the hands of French kings and emperors before finally settling in the Louvre. The genesis though of its current global popularity can be traced back to an 1867 essay on Leonardo by the English essayist and art critic Walter Pater where he dissected and wrote very passionately and poetically about the Mona Lisa (or La Gionconda as it was known back then). Pater’s essay is not only one of the most famous essays on any single piece of art, at the time it was seen as quite groundbreaking especially since art criticism was a fairly new concept back then. Since then the painting has been caught in the crossfire of a series of high profile events. In 1911 it was stolen from the Louvre. Picasso and his friend the French poet Guillaume Appolinaire (who once demanded that the Louvre be ‘burnt down’) were seen as two potential suspects. Eventually the thief was revealed to be a Louvre employee at the time, Vincenzo Peruggia. In 1956, part of the painting was destroyed when someone hurled acid at it. Then it was vandalised again in 1974 when a woman sprayed red paint on it. The painting is now kept behind bullet proof glass as can be seen in the photo above this post.

The painting has also been appropriated by other artists. Most famously by the father of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp, who added a mustache to the painting in his 1919 piece ‘L.H.O.O.Q’. Later famous artists like Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol have also appropriated the painting in their work.

The truth is that the Mona Lisa has the greatest legacy out of any other single work of art ever created hence the unprecedented fascination in it. This painting would go for a whopping sum of money if it were ever released on the open market at auction in either Sotherby’s or Christies. The record paid so far for a single work of art to date is $300 million in September 2015 for the painting ‘Interchange’ by the abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. I predict that if the Mona Lisa were ever auctioned (perish the thought) it would breach the billion dollar mark. It is that important and as a financial ‘security’ or ‘instrument’; tremendously desirable.

As for me, I like Da Vinci’s work but I’ve always been more interested in his mind, his ideas and ways of working than the actual finished pieces of art. His sensitivity to nature and the world as well his acute understanding of the anatomy of the human body have always impressed me.

His thinking was incredibly ahead of his time. His dreaming and vision had no boundaries. I love his sketches. Some of his skeches contain many of his inventions – one looking like a modern day helicopter. Incredible to think that these were concocted over half a millennium ago.

 

by Nicholas Peart

22nd September 2016

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Embracing Sensitivity

 

Soap ball

I am a very sensitive person. That is who I am. But sometimes I felt that this was not accepted by others. I would hear some say, ‘you are too sensitive’ or ‘stop being so sensitive’. Perhaps this comes from people wanting you to conform more to their standards of who they want you to be. And when you display characteristics or behaviour which goes beyond the boundaries of who they want you to be, this creates problems. I know this from experience. There are people, for example, who I love and who have certain traits and characteristics which make me love them even more. But then they may also display traits which I don’t . For example this person might be too loud, brash and opinionated. Here though, it is me with the problem and not this person, since I cannot accept those traits. I cannot accept that these traits are a part of who this person is and it is me who is in fact creating new problems for myself. With a greater level of awareness, I would immediately realise that there is something that I need to work on, explore in greater depth and get to the root of.

So to get back to the issue of ‘being too sensitive’. You are very sensitive but this is fine. That is an important part of who you are. Those who say that you are too sensitive are unable to accept you for who you are. Perhaps because they cannot accept themselves and, looking into this more deeply, there may be a deep repression, frustration and disconnection within themselves. If you have this awareness, than the initial annoyance which you have towards the person telling you that you are too sensitive morphs into compassion. Think about this for a moment.

The writer Matt Haig has a chapter in his wonderful book Reasons To Stay Alive entitled ‘In praise of thin skins’ where he talks about being ‘thin skinned’ but saying that that is just the way he is. Instead of fighting it and being ashamed of it he accepts and embraces it saying that that is who he is. I find such an attitude very inspiring and also helpful. This is wise and healing advice to those trapped in doubt and confusion.

Below I am featuring a six minute video of the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s take on sensitivity. Love him or hate him he explains sensitivity very eloquently in this video. All of us are born sensitive but we have much of our sensitivity knocked out of us sometimes by our parents who, for example, tell us to ‘stop crying’, by our environment at school and in our work environment. Much of our sensitivity (and, by extension, much of who we truly are) is compromised as we try to ‘fit in’ in this world.

In the wake of watching the video I begin to accept my sensitivity even more and realise that it is more of a gift (not meaning this in a conceited way) than something to be ashamed of and suppressed. What’s more, I realise that real sensitivity in this world is in short supply.¬†There is most definitely a link between art and sensitivity. Picasso once famously said that every child is born an artist yet the real challenge is to remain an artist. Every child comes into this world an artist just as every child comes into this world a very sensitive being (as I stated earlier). Yet why do so many children have their creativity and sensitivity knocked out of them at an early age? This is mostly out of fear than the parents being ‘bad’ people. The parents are most likely already struggling and see security and certainty as the tools to keep their life trajectory very much on the smooth and well travelled road. They may also not really know themselves, but that is another area for probing another time. Forsaking the ten lane highway for some obscure and seldom trodden dirt track is a shot into the unknown and an extra dose of uncertainty and challenge in an already challenging world.

So be glad that you are a sensitive. If only there were more of us.

 

by Nicholas Peart

30th July 2016

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Image: CC0 Creative Commons

Who Moved My Cheese? Dealing With Change

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Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson is a fantastic little book, originally released almost 20 years ago, about how one can successfully deal with change. The story features four characters; two mice called Sniff and Scurry and two little people named Hem and Haw. The mice represent the simple parts of ourselves and Hem and Haw the complex parts. Sniff ‘sniffs’ out changes early and Scurry ‘scurries’ into action. Hem blocks and fears change and as a result remains stagnant whereas Haw is more open and willing to adapt to change as he sees change leading to something better. Haw is prepared to ‘move with the cheese’ whilst Hem perpetually moans ‘who moved my cheese?’.

For Haw it’s not just about acquiring more cheese. He is just as excited by the journey, challenge and adventure of finding it. So even if he failed in his quest to find more cheese, the buzz of trying to find more is more satisfying than simply complaining about having no cheese left whilst feeling trapped and always remaining at the same station without ever moving.

Initially, I assumed the book to be more of a manual to achieve success professionally. A book for businesses. But it is much more than that. The story is timeless and up there with the greats like The Prophet and Aesop’s Fables.

In my life I have played the roles of all of these characters. Yet it has been the character of Hem who I’ve played the most. Those times of fear, procrastination, denial and sabotaging my happiness, which have affected my life. These emotions have always anchored me to the same station and very soon I become trapped. And even when there’s cheese remaining, it’s taste is different and it’s just not satisfying anymore. Clawing at this remaining cheese doesn’t pump my heart or nourish my soul or spice up my life.

Sometimes I want to ask ‘who put this brain inside of me?’ Some may sniff (no pun intended!) at the brain of a mouse and how it lacks the complexity of a human brain but precisely! It deals in simplicity and basic instincts and doesn’t have any of this crazy emotional baggage which wrecks havoc on our lives. Their skills to move on and adapt are more advanced than ours. They don’t waste time unnecessarily overanalysing things.

Expanding on this short story, is it enough to settle on finding just any cheese station? It is one thing setting off and finding more cheese, but more specifically, are you after a particular kind of cheese? Cheese is a metaphor for all kinds of things. This could be money, a certain possession, a fulfilling job, a certain type of partner, a new experience, excellent health, happiness, inner peace etc. – it can be anything you want.

What is my cheese? Perhaps for me the best type of cheese is the one called Self-Discovery or Self-Knowledge. The more I get to know myself the more of this cheese gets accumulated. Even if at times the journey is painful, as I navigate the maze to find more of this type of cheese, I invariably get hopelessly lost, demoralised and insecure that I will never find more of this Self-Knowledge cheese on the less travelled roads of the maze. It is much easier and less painful to search through the more accessible routes of the maze of life and look for more ordinary cheese. A station containing enormous slabs of mass produced mild bland cheddar may be enough for some and there is nothing wrong with that – each to their own. But what a thing it would be to find a cheese station containing some of the rarest, most exotic and tastiest cheeses. Rich and irresistibly creamy and tangy flavoured French and Italian cheeses for example.

Yet the paths of the maze to reach the stations containing these cheeses can be emotionally treacherous and many have lost their heads and their minds, and simply given up. The roads on this maze are not well paved and well lit 10 lane highways where one can idly cruise and be off their guard. Oh no sir! If only!! These roads are more like narrow hazardous Himalayan passes at least 5000 metres above sea level where just one minor slip could be fatal. It is challenging and demands full concentration but what a buzz to travel on those roads! Once you’ve travelled on those roads travelling on all other roads is a piece of old piss. In fact, after having successfully navigated those roads, travelling on those well lit 10 lane highways becomes an insufferably dull experience. You then almost become allergic to Hem!! Hem is fearful of change but you become fearful of ever ending up like Hem. You begin to embrace change like most people walk through their front door.

This is an indispensable book. Short, concise, to the point and it may even change your life and your ways of thinking for the better.

 

by Nicholas Peart

2nd June 2016

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