Of Art & Monks & Crystal Sniffers in the Mayan Jungle.
Some stories read like candy for your soul.
And “It’s A Pig’s Life”, retold and illustrated by Erin Ko, is one of them. This tale is such a treat that I am even gonna’ show you some love, dear reader, by giving you the following link, where you can make a swift and hasty exit from elephant journal—and read the tale in peace, without my invaluable insights and commentary. (All you need to do is click on any of the images and it’ll take you there.)
But if you stay, this is how it begins…
Safe to say Erin had me at “Pop!”, but it also gains in juice and delight. Here we go:
You can feel the student/teacher relationship in this. We are at the monastery, the sow is an embodiment of peace and wellness. It’s gooood, baby, and now the bomb drops, as it were.
“You must kill me.” Talk about a tall order. This is no “bring me a double chai latte”, this is the real deal. And events unfold, as events must.
More more more…
Here is where my girlfriend almost pitched the laptop into a nearby vine-grown inky-bottom well.
Look! Look at the bamboo. Look at the karma wheels. Look at the little pig. This is life. This is the juice. This is why I am so blessed to hang out with these people.
This is everything and more, it is your mom making you a birthday cake. It is a child’s pose. This image is the cat crying from the fence-post, it is your little brother looking forlorn at the short bag of weed you sold him, because you are 14 and caught deep in the throes of addiction yourself. It is that girl you let down, and the farmer on whose stolen land you are a trespasser. It is knowing that you will trespass again. It is the black sea turtle and the demon god’s younger sister, Shiela, who will eat you as soon as she looks at you.
This image is your very toaster, and all the toast it will ever yield, people. Am I making sense?
Enter the pause.
And, cut to redemption.
There is really nothing I can say to add to this, but don’t worry, that won’t stop me from talking.
Who would make such a thing?
Glad you asked.
Erin didn’t fall out of bed and toss that book together. Well, I mean, maybe she did, but you know what I’m getting at. Her work is the product of a life of study, traveling through Asia, discipline, and observation. A life of embracing and discarding. Erin and her mate Alex live life loosely, but it is not by accident.
There’s a silence born of mindfulness and intelligent approach. I lived with them at the Ondarte International Artist Residency during November. Somehow, we are all still here now, making art in the Mayan Jungle, looking often at the sea, a backyard that informs our every day.
I was sitting at Turtle Bay Cafe a couple of days ago with Erin and Alex, talking about everything and other stuff too. They are two artists with mad skills and elite computer intelligence. Seriously. Their brains are viewable from Google Earth. Talk fell to social media, connectedness, and what the hell is going on here. The coffee tasted good.
On connectedness and group consciousness, hive mind and the unknown potential we brush up against once in a great while, Alex said something like this:
“I have stopped making fun of any attempt to connect. Whatever it is. Because in the attempting, something is achieved.”
My delicate little flower of a mind flew to a new height. There was a moment of perfection. But not like, you know, Jimmy Stewart “It’s a Wonderful Life” stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with it) or even final scene in “Taken” perfection. There was just this moment, when truth has been spoken, and the truth takes away a few of your falsehoods on its own power.
“This is Activism, this is change advocacy, this is yoga. This is the sum total of right thinking.” says I to me. I checked my coffee cup to make sure it was coffee.
What Alex said brought up a mirror for me, showing all-too-vividly my own smallness. I love to think of myself as superior to religious people. I’m even devouring Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” this week, just for more firepower. I have laughed for years at people who use crystals. But I read tarot cards! WTF? I often talk with Ganesha, and have even been known to recite mantras and receive comfort from them.
Here’s the thing: Alex reminded me—in a way I doubt if I’ll successfully convey to you—that it’s all good. The only danger to any of this stuff is the intolerance which seems as inextricable from belief as bright is from dawn.
Where is the monk in all of this?
The monk is here, right now.
He is sitting inside you, knowing everything there is to know about all of it, but not in some condescending, listen-to-me-I-got-the-wisdom sort of way. He is respectful and loving to you as you are now. He is respectful and loving to all of life. As it is. He is in a state of perfection brought about in part by having attained complete harmony with imperfection.
Above all, he holds all others blameless. He is like Maude in Harold and Maude when she tells Harold:
“It’s best not to be too moral.Ya cheat yourself out of too much life.”
Sometimes, wisdom is just being real about “the truth”. We do not know what we do not know, and nobody else’s search is our whipping boy. If we can drink that in like the finest mango orange banana smoothie, nobody burns at the stake, ever.
So what’s the takeaway?
Drink coffee with the people you love.
Spread seeds of unknowing and wide-open wonder.
Act as if every path is as valid as yours.
Find questions you will never answer, and bring them to your Yodas.
Manage conversations today, take them higher.
Ask, invite, jump, run, live, believe.
Allow others room to do the same.
Never, never pretend you know.
Consider that sometimes, a pig is a monk.
Editor: Andrea B.