Window-shopping, North Beach, San Francisco.
An excerpt from Bonnie Friedman's book Writing past Dark:
"In New York I saw a Buddhist monk making a sand mandala. He had six or seven bowls of colored sand - egg-yolk orange, midnight blue, dusty gray among them - and a metal cone the size of a bull's horn, which had a tiny hole at the end. The monk scooped a bit of sand into the cone and when he tapped, a trickle of sand beaded out of the hole a few grains at a time. With this he painted elaborate, complicated scenes: a procession of elephants looped tail to trunk, many-tiered palaces, flying birds, regal tigers, each intricate quarter of the design mirroring the opposite quarter in byzantine symmetry, the entire disk perhaps four feet across.
"In the hour I watched - this was in the Museum of Natural History, at the raging height of an apocalyptically hot summer - the monk shaped the tail of a lion. First he used yellow. Then he shaded with an echoing curve of red, then white. The tail shimmered like a flame.
"It was a meditation to construct this mandala. It was being drawn for the spiritual benefit of the artist and of those people who would see it. The monk leaned intently over his trickle of sand. It would take three months to finish the work. It would take hundreds of hours of steady focus. Then, when it was done - kaput! He'd throw it to the wind. Or he would take it and toss it into the sea "for," a sign explained, "the spiritual benefit of the fish."
"This is how it is with mandalas. With them, it's all in the doing. When they're done, they're gone. How can he bear it? I thought. In every tap of the funnel there is farewell. In every moment of the wrist, good-bye, bood-bye. The reward for the effort is giving it to the wind, giving it to the fish in the sea, doing it to be doing it, not to have it done."
It's up to us
It seems to me that every writer and artist experiences much the same thing. We create art, then release it to the wind. We can't know how people will react; if their thoughts will be the same as ours when we wrote the words, put brush to canvas or picked up a camera. All art is subjective. People see what they want to see, according to their unique philosophies; their life experiences and travels; their cultures and traditions. To worry about reactions to our work is futile. Our job is simply to create.
In his novel The Dork of Cork, author Chet Raymo writes about the importance of following one's passion, rather than listening to the opinions of others. "Just paint," one character tells another, who repeats it to herself like a mantra. And she paints.
All too often we censor ourselves, worried what others might think. Instead, we should focus on creating work that depicts truth and beauty.
Just paint. Just write. Just create.
Store in Chinatown, San Francisco.