…”the answer to the meaning of existence…”

Sounds pretentious, eh? Well it isn”t, really: the above title is a fragment from a citation.

W.H. Auden, the British poet, not really famous (I think?) but well respected by some of his fellow-writers (an example: Graham Greene, Nobel Prize for Literature) and by myself (I don’t count, but…) said:

“What answer to the meaning of existence should one require beyond the right to exercise one’s gifts?”

It sounds – and maybe it IS – simple. Still, not so simple after all… and not rarely simple things demand an enormous quantity of complicated skills and luck… I think drawing and painting, maybe a bit of writing too (but I’m pretty sure only about drawing and painting; photography is collateral…) are my gifts. I am – would be – very pleased to be able to exercise them and I do not demand more meaning than that…

But life is a complicated, messy thing and only the very lucky ones could do what should be, in a perfect society, the normal, the natural thing to do: exercise one’s gifts, in exchange for some food and some shelter… Maybe a functional car, too…

For about 6 -7 years now I’ve  choosen to EXERCISE MY GIFTS (drawing, painting). That was – still is MY  “meaning of existence” (could be futile and vanity and chasing the wind… but then what isn’t? don’t tell me politics or making money or being famous because I will sneer…)  Right now, at least for a while, I will have a meaningless existence: I will try to earn some money, to get a second job, etc.

But – as I always say to my French Nuns (whom I teach acrylics and watercolor only 8 h per week…) : “C’est pas grave!” (It’s not that bad?)

Finally, I was one of the lucky ones, having these 6 years and my 4 years of Art High School… Most people have a meaningless existence all their life (not that they want that, of course…)

This is a self portrait I draw when I was 17 years old, oh boy!

P.S. Paul Newman, one of my favourite actors, died. I hope he didn’t suffer too much… Remembering him (and Joan Woodward, his wife, and Orson Wells and Lee Remick…) in the Long Hot Summer makes me think, again, that “all is vanity and chasing the wind”. But then, there are some good moments too…


12 responses to “…”the answer to the meaning of existence…”

  1. Such a handsome 17 you were Danu. By the way I’ve had similar musings myself about the meaning of life being an imperative to use our gifts, to exercise our passions, even if that is not rewarded in financial or even societal fame. I applaud you for living your art.

  2. I was. Was being the main word… Thanks, susan!

    I wish I could applaud myself but I HAVE to go see my old parents (80 and 83) in Romania. They are not ill (thanks God!) but you know, at this age… I wish I could see them at least once more… and then, there are the bloody car payments! and other things…

    I do not complain and I do not back up from my gifts… I just have to earn some money and I’s hardy possible to do it as an artist… But, who know? maybe I will gain the lottery! (then I’ll come visit you and bob in the mythical county of northern California!

  3. Danu

    I think you must continue to applaud yourself – your commitment to your art is evident and if life’s small necessities occasionally remove us temporarily from that commitment, it is OK. Chasing the wind may seem at times like a futile activity, but there are times in such a pursuit where you catch up enough to feel the cool breeze across your cheek – live for those moments!

  4. Yes, that’s I thought, also… I’ve CHOOSE the only futile activity I believed I had some gift for and still wait for the breeze… Who knows?

  5. Happy to hear that you are still teaching the nuns, Danu!
    I agree with everything you say, as almost always…
    As I was 22 I fell in a very deep depression, which lasted 2 years, because of the stuff with meaning of existence. A very hard time, which I mostly spent in bed , unable to get up because the question always arose:
    “For what?”

    30 years later I still haven’t found the answer, but I have learnt to live, to function and even to be happy without it!

    My “philosophy” is now: ENJOY YOUR LIFE
    Tis is how I live. If enjoying means painting, then I paint. And this is is what it actually means. But if one day there is something else which I enjoy more, then I will stop painting and dedicate myself entirely to it.

  6. Almost the same here, miki!

    For me, it was the middle-age-crysis which did the trick… I’ve started wondering what I do really want to do with (what it is still remaining from) my life and to simplify it…

    Bouddhism – especially some concepts from zen bouddhism (but not exclusely – I’m no real buddhist, no orange dresss and such…) helped also… Especially, live the present (which was also known by the greeks and the romans, no? Lucretius? but I think it came also from the Orient…) and some other practical principles…

    You are one of a kind, Miki! (in the best sens!) I admire you a lot for your talent and energy and I wish all goes right with your plans!

  7. DaNu, pe cind nu-l cunosteam… Dar pe atunci nici el inca nu se cunostea pe sine, se…

    Acum se recunoaste cu nostalgie in asemenea desemne demne de admiratiunea si afectiunea noastra, a pretenarilor si comentatorilor sai

  8. Multzam de vorbele bune, Ovidiu… Ma intreb cum erai tu insutzi, ca adolescent… si cat din noi, cei de acum, s-a pastrat din adolescentzii de altadata…

  9. “But life is a complicated, messy thing and only the very lucky ones could do what should be, in a perfect society, the normal, the natural thing to do: exercise one’s gifts, in exchange for some food and some shelter… Maybe a functional car, too…”

    Oh, if only, Danu! I hope that you come closer to this perfect society every day. When I win the lottery, I’ll send you to see you parents.

    Loved this post.

  10. P.S. What a buff seventeen-year old you were!

  11. P.P.S. Wow- I’m out of practice with my blog commenting. Just wanted to add that Paul Newman’s death really saddened me too. He lived a good long life, but selfishly, I wish people of his talent and integrity could stay on earth forever.

  12. Moonbeam, I pray that you win the lottery!

    I pray for me too but, you know, fat chance…

    Yes, I was. (I don’t exactly know what a buff is, but I hope it’s something good…)

    Paul Newman’s my kind of people! I wish I could be with people like that – but, apart from Internet where I have you and a few other friends… fat chance again (even the chances are better than winning the lottery; I do not think that Hollywood people are better, in that essential way, than ordinary folks, you can meet at the corner…

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