At some point when I finally started to become a mature person and was able to reflect on the convoluted and torturous path that my life has taken, it occurred to me that I had finally come to a stage in my life (after most of my egotistical self-delusion had finally run its course and exhausted itself) in which I was primarily working to achieve a naturalness of expression in the various things I did, i.e., writing, music and art. I still feel this very strongly, that this elusive quality of naturalness is my life’s fundamental pursuit, though I would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what I mean by this word naturalness.

I came to this fascination with the mysterious quality of naturalness through my interest in the arts. When I studied drawing I struggled to achieve some skill, and eventually achieved some, in accurate rendering. Then the question occurred to me: why is it so important to achieve accurate renderings? Maybe there are other reasons for drawing. In music I worked hard to develop some technical skill on the flute, which inevitably led me to a similar question about music. And similarly in my writing. In the pursuit of art of any kind, it eventually becomes clear that to pursue virtuosity as one’s primary goal is a dead-end. So what else is there? It seems to me that it’s to discover one’s own hidden quality of naturalness through the practice of art.

To be natural is not easy. “For a plant or stone to be natural is no problem. But for us there is some problem, indeed a big problem. To be natural is something which we must work on,” says Shunryu Suzuki-roshi. For example, I’m a fan of the art of Cy Twombly. His paintings and drawings seem deceptively simple, almost childlike. There is a feeling of freedom, grace and vitality in them. Directness, honesty. Looking at Twombly’s art you might very well say “What is that? Anybody could do that easily. I could do that.” But if you actually try to do it you will quickly find that it is not so easy. You make something you think will be similar to Twombly but it feels wrong, the contrived quality of what you have done is obvious. So why is that, and how can one draw or paint (or write or play music) with a quality of naturalness? Ah, this is the question! The never-ending inquiry that occupies me more than any other and which motivates my own efforts in writing and music and (to a lesser extent) art, and which gives my life meaning. To seek after a true quality of naturalness in not only the arts but in everything I do is the ongoing business of my life.

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