There are days, like this wet, chill morning, when I feel as if I have turned into a sheet of unlimited canvas.
On this blank canvas, an artist unleashes his passion in vibrant color and bold forms. His images etch themselves on me. In his all- consuming passion of creation, he forgets to notice that it is my blood he uses to wash his brushes when they become soiled.
The artist who has his will over my consciousness is impatient. His hands cannot keep pace with his tumultuous imagination. He barely starts creating one image when his imagination shifts within him. It fires him with a feverish restlessness and drags him away and off on another audaciously dizzy flight of fancy which takes his breath away; breath still unrecovered from another flight of a few seconds ago.
Yet, the tenacity of the artist is such that- exhausted though he is- he doesn’t give up. He cannot. His exhilaration wouldn’t permit it. The more he is pushed beyond the edge, the more precisely fine- tuned becomes his poise. He leaps from one crumbling crag to another, as the sheer cliff of his exuberant imagination dissolves and reforms under his feet.
This transition takes places so rapidly and continuously, that he can almost not keep pace. He is running a race with his imagination. It teases him, challenges him. It dares him to step on his dying perceptions and rise to his higher self. This upward flight, where the more he gives, the more is demanded of him, goes inexorably on and on. He grits his teeth, muscles straining, nerves quivering under a strain turned inhuman in its ferocity. He fights for survival- which seems to get more and more difficult every minute. Any moment he will lose his footing and will plunge into the gaping abyss of a mundane life swirling menacingly below him.
Through this mad flight for life, he doesn’t let go of his precious palette and brushes even for an instant. The rock face is his playground. The canvas keeps presenting a blank face to him as he moves upward. He is compelled to discard as lost whatever he created a moment ago and must begin afresh. He doesn’t know when he will be compelled to abandon his current creation but he goes on. He has to. He has never learned to stop. A living thing can only learn to live, it cannot learn to die.
This series of disjointed images become a trail of embarrassing zeros dropping off in the wake of his flight. The frustrating wasteland of incompleteness haunts him. Its shabbiness taunts him, asking him what he did with his life. He falls silent and hides his bleeding limbs. The effort of committed passion become the sores of some shameful affliction.
In his pain, he turns on himself. He rends his flesh and beats his chest. The fine- tuned instrument of his survival- his body- has turned into an exquisite instrument of betrayal. As countless others before him, he can’t bear his body- because it has betrayed his soul. “Of what use”, he screams to a stoic universe, “is my body if it could create nothing but this series of zeros?!”
But isn’t there, shouldn’t there be, more to it than that? What if there IS more..?
What if these unfinished images- useless individually- part of a bigger picture? What if they are meant to be taken, not as unfinished individual pictures but as a complete part of a bigger whole? What if they are meant to come together to create a canvas as vast as life herself? Will she breathe in its colors, demonstrate her vibrancy in its forms? Will she live, challenge, dance and fulfill? Will the artist’s incomplete images form something breathtakingly beautiful in its completeness?
Will the artist look back on a lifetime of apparent failure and find that his failures were never failures at all? The hurried cameos he was compelled to abandon, will they become the pieces of a jigsaw falling spontaneously into place? Will he then be amazed? Will his heart overflow with gratitude and gladness for the invisible guidance which had the vision to guide him into creating what he could never have visualized or imagined?
Will he, the despairing artist, someday say, “Thank God I did not give up mid-way, as I was sorely tempted to! Thank God I was faithful to my task and did not waste time grumbling about the terrible working conditions! Thank God I did not lose my focus; for to have lost my commitment to my task would have been to sentence myself to the tyranny of failure.”
Would he someday say, “He never said it would be easy… only that it would be worth it. And that’s SO right..!”
That’s how I feel some days… an unlimited canvas in the hands of an artist.