November 25, 2012 by Frank Margarella
I found Nirvana around the same time I realized I would never be as good as I wanted to be.
This took place about ten minutes ago; 2:50 in the morning, I had just filled the sink with hot water to let my dishes soak and allow the water to cool to a hand-friendly temperature. I had finished reading a short comic written and drawn by an old high school classmate (well, I say old classmate, but we graduated only a year and a half ago. Consider that “old” if you will).
When I reached the last page and after I wrote a very sincere praising of his work as a comment in his Facebook post, I felt my nose go runny and my eyes well up a small bit. It wasn’t a particularly sad story; morbid black comedy, for sure, but not sad. It was unique and well written. The composition of the text bubbles were superbly placed and the art, while by no means a Van Gogh, was expressive and made great use of shadow and texture. And I cried.
There wasn’t any sobbing and the lump in my throat simply wasn’t there. I just cried and sniveled.
Why? Because I don’t think I’ll ever make something that good. I’ll never make something that I could ever classify as deep or meaningful. BRICKFARM isn’t that deep, but it’s personality is just something I feel is wholly missing from every single thing I’ve done. My drawings? All fan art and dick jokes. Maybe some tits. My writing? I called the failed republican nominee Mitt Romney, “Mitt ‘Hairy Chest of Truth’ Romney” and thought that that was comedy.
Maybe I’m just being a little bitch. Maybe I do make good shit. As I sit here and contemplate whether or not I’m ever going to be a half-decent artist or not, I’m going to have to come to terms with the idea that I might forever be infantile and inexperienced.
That’s when the nirvana hit.
Now, as a buddhist, I’m going to explicitly say that I’m not using the definition of the literal nirvana that is obtained upon a supposed enlightenment (if enlightenment is even a thing). The definition of nirvana that I’m using is to see the world with clearer eyes. To see things as they are. No hope or optimism, but instead acceptance and willingness to change for the better and take criticism.
I’ll never be a great artist. Good. Then I’ll never reach a peak and fall off the mountain. I’d rather have my day coming than to have to leave my day behind.
I’ll never be recognized on a public scale for my work. Good. Then I’ll have no fall from grace. I’d rather have nothing to lose.
I’ll never be better than my old high school classmate. Good. Then I’ll have someone to look up to. I’d rather have an idol than be under the pressure of being an idol.
There’s a certain calm in knowing exactly who and what you are. Always being a beginner means always being able to learn.
A Zen Buddhist once told me, through one of his fantastic books,
“In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.” – Shunryu Suzuki
I’d better get to work on those dishes.