Sunday 14 October 2018


    I am 85 years old and as is only natural at my age I have been having problems with my health. In fact if it had not been for medical intervention, I would be dead by now. Not that I even wanted the medical intervention all that much. I was not suicidal, but as a result of remembering previous lives I am quite convinced that death is neither final nor permanent but we just go on from life to life, learning all the lessons we have to learn before being released to a state of bliss. Not that the prospect of all these future lives is necessarily a pleasant one. Some orthodox believers think that believing that God is loving  means that all we have to do is be reasonably good -- not even perfect --  and we only have to ask God to hear our prayers and He will make  life easy for us.  Our own memories of personal experience can tell us that this is not the case.  A loving God does not necessarily want to make life easy for us any more than loving parents choose to give in to  their children's every whim. Expecting life to be easy is simply not realistic.

     So when I had a heart attack in New Year 2016, I knew that I only had to wait for death and it would come. I was  not at all afraid  of anything about it except the fact that  I was living alone and consequently would have to die alone. I did not want to die in hospital where the natural process of death would be interfered  with.  I wanted to die at home in the presence of  a good friend. So I called a really good friend who is very protective of me, but, since he is such  a good friend he refused to do any such thing but  called Emergency.  The ambulance came and I was shipped off to the St, Catharines General Hospital  and fitted with a pacemaker, which saved my life.

     A change that came about as a result is that a neighbor who  was living  in the rooming house next door and who had seen the ambulance come and go offered to move in with me and look after me as he had looked after his mother in her last years. He is still with me. He is a real expert on the subject of physical health since he once trained for the  Olympics.  He has helped me so much  with my exercise and nutrition, which are both really essential for health, that in spite of the fact that I had surgery for colon cancer in 2017 -- of course because of it as well -- my health is actually getting better. When I  last saw my cardiologist he said I was in great shape.

     But there is an additional reason for my improved health, both physical and  mental, and that is that I am constantly doing art. I always loved to do art ever since I was a child.  There is a longstanding tradition of artistic talent and interest in my father's family although my mother could only draw stick figures. My father could sketch quite well but   preferred to  treat it only as a hobby  and quite actively tried to discourage us from taking to art as a career because he said there was no money in it.  His father used  his  own interest in decoration as a silversmith and was successful at it, so my father really had no reason to be  so disparaging.  He actually had three children who were actively interested in art: myself, my younger brother and my youngest sister.  He succeeded in diverting me into an academic career, since this was also something in which I was deeply interested. and the teachers at my high school were strongly encouraging me to pursue it.  But my brother and sister both managed to get into art school. My sister went on to a respectable career as an art therapist for mentally ill patients until she married and was able to pursue art as a hobby. She has ended up giving art classes to tourists on Hawaii. My brother was absolutely determined to be a great artist and with the help of his wife, who supported him, he has achieved that goal, painting under the name of Malcolm Bucknall and showing his art on Facebook. He makes a lot more money in his old age than our father ended up doing, but of course that is quite an exceptional outcome.
     Until I retired I did not spend much time doing art, although I did find time for it on two occasions: in my last year at the University of Illinois and when I went on sabbatical from Brock to Paris in the l970's. I'll tell you about these two occasions later on. But ever since I retired in 1993 I have dedicated myself t artistic creation of various kinds and been deeply fulfilled and blissfully happy. I have been doing some writing but most of my creativity has gone into visual art. My Brock pension supplies me with ample means to do so.
     Part of my joy in art comes from the sheer application of color. I started out with watercolor and would just take a big brushfull of color and draw it across the paper in different directions. This was not a particularly  sophisticated technique, pretty naive and rudimentary, and I took no great pride in the results. Some people give up on art because they feel they are not  producing great art from the start and have little prospect  of   ever doing so,  but I did not even want to produce great art.  I left that to my brother, from whom I was actually buying his art because I admired  it. (I bought from other artists too). I just wanted to have fun and I got it by the application of color and the free and easy movement of my hand and arm across the paper.  It was quite as much therapy as what my sister had been doing with her patients and I felt completely relaxed.  I am sure this simple happiness was good for my mental and physical health and aided the good effects of exercise and nutrition. There was no struggle or striving, no competition as there had been in academic work, just the simple satisfaction of  doing this thing for the sheer sake of doing it and for no other reason.

     I have tried other media, such as gouache and oils and marker, and have continued to have fun trying these different techniques. I get quite a rush of inspiration every time  I try a  new medium. It is genuinely exciting. As I  get more proficient  with constant practice I take increased pleasure in the effects I am producing and like to show off the results. I took a course from Linda Hankin, another Niagara artist, in how to use the right or intuitive side of my brain in my art and the result is increased skill and joy as I apply my watercolor markers, which have become my preferred medium, to the paper , with no preconceived plan about what I am doing, and astonish myself about what takes place on the paper. I hardly need to watch television or read  as I have such an endless source of entertainment at my disposal. Strength through joy, as Hitler said,  But I think I have a far better way of obtaining it than Hitler ever did. I had times of being happy and productive in my academic career but also times of being completely miserable. I suppose there were things I had to learn from my distress. But now I am learning to be completely happy as an artist and something tells me that that is what I will be doing in my next existence. I am already looking forward to it.


No comments:

Post a Comment