“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”
― Seneca, Philosopher

As another year comes to a close and another begins, we all must take the time to reflect as well as to prepare.

Time moves so swiftly doesn’t it? Even without counting the minutes of the day or the days of the week, it consistently moves forward, regardless of what you do with your life and what thoughts and feelings occur within you. This is precisely the reason why we must continue to remind and encourage ourselves (and others) to live presently – to create and experience moments that matter.

French artist, Jean Dubuffet seen here at work. Dubuffet is famous for his radical and graphic style of painting that he felt was a more authentic and humanistic approach to creation.

When I look back at the last 18 months or so, I can logically say that’s it’s been at least an eventful if not a trying year; I lost a dear friend, received a health scare, had a fire (which cost me half my home, most of my art, and rattled my marriage), and I had to move not once, but three times. Even my daily routine of visual creation and the writing of the blog lost its consistency. Yet, despite all that, all I can feel is gratitude.

The Firebird by Marc Chagall. Whenever I see a Chagall, it feels like love.

Why? Because at the end of the day I’m still here. And so many of the people I care and think about are also still here. The opportunity to create and learn and share continues to exist each moment, and as an artist — in fact, as a human being — this is all that matters. We must welcome all experience (even those that may seem painful at the time) because we don’t know which one will turn us on.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Philosopher

Without difficulty, we don’t get to experience the events and emotions that challenge us to be better. We don’t get to see things that would’ve never appeared otherwise, nor would we meet those all important people who change our lives. Sometimes disruption, misfortune and unanswered prayers are blessings in disguise.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust, Writer

Green Wheat Fields, Auvers by Vincent Van Gogh. What we plant, we reap. Good conditions — positive thoughts, good people, and serene environments — make for a good life.

In fact, the disruptions to my life became opportunities to reinvent myself and think outside of the box. It forced me to bear down again, make tough decisions, and take positive action.  The result was that my art took on a new stylistic direction and my perspective of the universe grew both broader and deeper. If I had chosen the alternative — to sit helplessly, whining and complaining — I would’ve gone no where, or even worse, backwards. It’s far to easy to be consumed with past regret or worry for the future. Even the smartest person in the world cannot tell us what will happen next, not even in the short term. History has proven that prediction is as useless as complaint and condemnation. We must stay away from arrogant or negative thinking which can come from any source, both self-serving and benevolent.

“Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind.” — Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker

As creative people, we can’t afford to waste our time with envy, competition, and non-constructive criticism. Such passive approach to living is antithetical to the art of creating. To be consumed in that world invites the potential for exponential negativity and judgement. Sure, real violence and injustice exists but we must park the bad elements of life into an area that can be managed. Our focus must be on the positive and the actionable. We must be persistent and patient.

Italian composer Ennio Morricone  is always working at his craft and continues to do so right into his eighties. Despite a magnificent career — one which consists of composing over 500 scores including for films such as The Mission, Cinema Paradiso, The Untouchables, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and many others — he only won his first Oscar for Best Original Score (for Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight) last year at the ripe old age of 87. Yet he has always remained productive, humble and grateful.

“There isn’t a great soundtrack without a great movie that inspires it.” — Ennio Morricone, Composer

Artists need to look within themselves, while engaging in the world outside of themselves. We invite, interpret and respond — all of which are beautiful and enriching actions. This is where our self-expression comes from. And upon the execution and delivery of our ideas and feelings, we experience not mere happiness — a short term state of being which can be easily achieved via various artificial means —but real joy and fulfillment.  What could possibly be better than being caught up in the creative process?

The artist that lives fully in the moment, continually observing, both within and outside of himself, who is constantly learning and discovering, and ultimately productive is one that lives with absolute truth, joy and wisdom. Everything else is bonus.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh