I am reading Gary Zukav’s Spiritual Partnership in anticipation of our upcoming interview. In it, he briefly describes the emotional turmoil that plagued the sculptor Michelangelo. Apparently, the older Michelangelo got, the angrier he got, until, in his eighties, he rarely finished a work, preferring instead to smash the sculptures with hammers.
Now that I think of it, Mark Twain apparently grew hard and bitter in his waning years. This is due in part, it is said, to the death of his daughter—but a lot of people have lost daughters and not drawn the curtain on hope.
It is sometimes important for artists to hear stories like these, grim as they sound. In his song “Star”, David Bowie sings, “I could fall asleep at night as a rock ‘n roll star/I could fall in love all right as a rock ‘n roll star.” Quite honest, that. Everyone, artists and non-artists alike, are frequently warned that success solves nothing, but everyone rarely listens.
So I don’t want to wag my finger. The warnings about fame and success and the rest are so often filled with the sour scowl of disappointment that it is hard to hear them clearly. What is so bad about millions of people reading your books or listening to your music? Why, nothing at all, of course.
But Bowie had it right, especially the falling asleep part. As with anything we long for to solve all our problems, we are seeking that universal stamp of approval that will free us once and for all from want. That is, wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t need anything to be happy? Yes, it would, except in the fantasy of fame, those who are not famous often forget that once this fame is attained they can never lose the fame or they would also lose their happiness.
The important thing to remember is the not-needing-anything-to-be-happy part. The desire is correct, but not the means of achieving that desire. The beauty of not needing anything to be happy is anyone can achieve it at any time. So when you look at another person and they seem free because they are beautiful or successful or famous or wealthy, you are actually a step closer to what you seek. If you had no idea of freedom, you would never be able to identify it incorrectly in another person. Forget the trappings you dressed it in, and seek the feeling for itself, because as every artist knows, if you can imagine something, it is only a matter of time before you find it.