One of my mentors and I were talking yesterday about the best advice he'd ever received. "Contemplate form," his mentor had told him. Contemplate form.
His response, he said, had been "Oh gee, thanks," and I can understand that. What does that even mean? But then he explained that his mentor was reminding him to seek things that are a good in themselves, like a statue, or a painting, serving no other purpose than to be beautiful, good, pleasing. Certainly there are other meanings or experiences to have of art, but when it comes to restoring the soul, art in service of the Beautiful is the best.
It was serendipitous that he happened to mention that this piece of advice led him to the National Gallery in DC. The National Gallery is one of my favorite places in the world for seeking the Beautiful, and as he described an afternoon he spent contemplating a favorite sculpture, I thought about my time there in front of the Rothkos, how satisfied sitting on the little bench in front of them made me feel. All filled up, like I was doing something that fed me completely. One of the things I love about Rothko's paintings is that, to me, they are pure experience. They don't represent anything other than themselves, they don't take me anywhere other than into the colors and shapes themselves, as a place to be, to rest. They resist any other way of relating to them.
Today, it was easy to be happy, for the first time in a long time. Driving home from my board meeting, I had a lot of thoughts about that. One of them was this - Kristin used to have a Pinto. She used to have a Pinto and when she wasn't driving the Pinto, she was sometimes riding her bike around Santa Fe, in a big flowy skirt with no shoes on. That's how I remember it, anyway. And the other thing I was remembering about that, was the feeling of witnessing her being that person, adventurous, independent, and beautiful. It's a pleasure to think about the time when she was new in my world, when we were just getting to know each other, not even consciously realizing that we were determining what role we would play in each other's lives for years to come.
Some relationships, of course, never quite find their feet. They take work, or adjustments, or are uncomfortable and just never quite fit right. Sometimes that's a good thing, and that work serves your soul in some way, makes you some better version of yourself. But there are other friendships in which I primarily feel blessed, where I find moment after moment of contentment, of realizing that there is really no other place I would rather be. Not that I don't still get distracted even in the presence of those friends, that's how I am of course, fragmented and human. But there are times when being with a certain person is so clearly a good in itself, serving no purpose or end other than the one in that moment, and it doesn't matter whether we are sitting in a garden or driving in the car, or going to a concert or just staying home. The experience of that moment is that the friendship itself is a place to be, a place where I find myself reminded that humans, like art, have their own way, independent of action or activity, of being a good in themselves, and of representing the upper-case-B Beautiful.