20 February 2021

"Stop pouring the tea, the cup is a already full!"


        surveillance camera from a camp in the Antarctic 

What is curiosity? And why is a person curious? I wonder if its opposite has to do with living in a closed system, as if like a house, all its window shuttered, its door shut and sealed off from the outside?

If this is the lack of curiosity, then its opposite might be a house with open windows, curtains fluffing in the breeze, doors open and unlocked, butterflies and bugs alike coming and going with ease?

What happens in our lives that we so easily begin to close our windows? And by doing so do we not cut out the world? Cutting it off as if it is a set of tiny newborn fingers grasping incessantly for something just out beyond us?

Somehow, somewhere along the way it gets lost and we shut down. Is it because of a lack of education, or because of too much, that we turn our backs on the world around us?

Maybe Life becomes too frightening, and we opt only for what our fearful conditioned minds dictate?

Artists (like me) need to be very careful to not become too closed, too smug in our beliefs. I can be guilty of this! My ideas are continually challenged by paintings which I do not like, nor understand. The key to a discriminating eye is to know the difference between the two.

The following is a little anecdotal tale famous in Zen circles. It is the classic story of the celebrated professor of Zen from the big city who treks up to see the lone Zen master way up in the hills living by himself. The Zen master receives the professor politely and serves him tea. As they sit at his humble table the master pours tea into the professor's small cup until it overflows and begins to flow out across the small table. Protesting loudly the professor says: 

"Stop, stop! the cup is already full, can't you see?"

to which the master replies, scolding the poor professor:

"Just like the tea cup your mind is too full to receive anything I have to offer you!!"

The professor instantly became the Monk's student.

I have always loved this tale. As a painter, one can ask just when does one's mind becomes "too full"? At what point does having an abundance of knowledge and experience in a craft like Painting become a hindrance?

I admit that there are areas in my own life where I think I know a lot. I have inherited many ideas from my own education which have sometimes clouded my own original curious thirst for 'otherness'. I can see that it has prevented me from looking at my prejudgements and I would like to change that.

Perhaps, being curious is a porous state of mind, filtering out the inedible from the edible?  Maybe a house with screens on its windows to keep out the bugs but allowing the butterflies? I am not so sure....  

In the meantime, another day, another picture.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 12 February, 2021, oil on  canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

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