Douglass Truth — “This Human Project”

Awhile back I attended a week-long retreat with Tsoknyi Rinpoche in upstate New York, and the guy I ended up sharing a room with turned out to be this brilliant painter, writer, and creator of theatrical events called Douglass Truth. He has a new show coming up, with performances so far only out west, but with any luck there will be some East Coast dates at some point, because the trailer is so much fun. Check out his artwork here.

on inspiration

The Chronicle Project site, a tribute to the life and teachings of the extraordinary Tibetan Buddhist lama Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, has a “quote at random” feature, and the other day when I visited this one came up (from “One Stroke” in Dharma Art, page 100):

Genuine inspiration is not particularly dramatic. It’s very ordinary. It comes from settling down in your environment and accepting situations as natural. Out of that you begin to realize that you can dance with them. So inspiration comes from acceptance rather than from having a sudden flash of a good gimmick coming up in your mind….Inspiration has two parts: openness and clear vision, or in Sanskrit, shunyata and prajna. Both are based on the notion of original mind, traditionally known as buddha mind, which is blank, nonterritorial, noncompetitive, and open.

whirlwind tour of European architecture by night

After watching Daniel Dennett confidently tell me the “True Purpose” of humor, and reading some of his fundamentalist defenders, I was thoroughly depressed. Fortunately, I later came across the video embedded below, which in itself is a magnificent – and appropriately wordless – response to the shabby grey reductionist religion of “evolutionary psychology” (more on that particular talk in another post).

The video is a brief, breathtaking tour of European architecture in 28 buildings, made by Luke Shepard over the course of a three-month trip. A list of them is here, on Luke’s website. On the same page you can find a map with all of these buildings located.

treat yourself…

…to a glimpse of some work of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s (who goes by the name Kongtrul Jigme Namgyel when he paints). His day job is a Tibetan lama in the Dzogchen tradition with thousands of students all over the world. And then he just happened to take up painting one day… Here are a few more that he’s done. Also here.

Meeting reality directly requires confidence in the fundamentally positive nature of our being. The more we trust what arises in our mind to come from this creative source, the more we can let the mind be as it is, rather than approach it with judgment, fear or manipulation based on our likes and dislikes. My hope is that my paintings communicate the beauty of this unhindered practice of free expression.

I attended a weekend program with him some time ago in Brighton, England but haven’t connected with him since, although he has a center within the state and usually visits each year. I appreciated his distinctively spacious style of teaching. And his ever-astonishing paintings, I find, one after another, stop the conceptual mind cold, startling it into really seeing. Reminding it of how to see, of the big view beyond any manipulation and rejection.

In each moment of awareness we encounter impressions of the outer world through our sense perceptions as well as our inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions. When we are able to let this incredible array of experience be, without trying to reject what we fear or pull in what we are attracted to—when we relax into experience without trying to manipulate it in any way—we have a complete experience of mind, naked and unaltered. Painting, when it is free of such notions as beauty and ugliness or should and shouldn’t, can be used to express this complete experience of mind. When art evolves from this understanding it provides the possibility for those who see it to also experience the unfabricated nature of their own mind.

I wish to urge students of the dharma who may have forsaken their creative impulse in favor of practice to realize there is no conflict between creativity and meditation. Creativity can be understood, in essence, to be the practice of our own nature and that nature’s expression. You may find your way in to the nature through creativity; or you may come out from the nature to express creativity. Both have to be appreciated as the best of our mind’s potential.

This reminds me of something I was told Trungpa Rinpoche once said: that his teachings on “dharma art,” properly understood, were the highest teachings he had to offer.

The role of the artist is to stop creating and allow experience to unfold in a natural way – creative energy is innate and spontaneously present.