Lolita generously invited me to offer a guest blog this morning. Back in April of 2011 I met Lol’s close friend, Lizard King, during his visit to the Pathome Asoke Monastery at Amphoe Mueang Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Lizard King suggested to me at that time that I might benefit from some adventure and some re-connection with my backstreet roots. To this end, I traveled to the United States with Lizard. That is when I met Lolita and became interested in her blogging about the relationship between music and art. That is when a key was offered that unlocked a door to deeper appreciation of visual art.
Exploring the realm of visual art has been challenging for me, and not only because of my physical impairment. I was exposed to very little art in my urban Bangkok youth. Sure, there was plenty of graffiti. My friends described to me imagery of violence, of loveless sex, of angry protest. I could connect to these themes, because they were the themes of my street. But I was cheated of the details. The subtleties of the visual expression – color choices, textural variations, subject composition, were unavailable to your humble monk.
During my years at the Pathome Asoke Monastery my awareness of the visual arts broadened. My brothers were engaged in painting, pottery, calligraphy. They spoke of the Asian master artists and their inspiring works. I learned that visual art might portray other subjects than those of urban deprivation. I understood that our community’s love of nature, for example, found expression in the Monastery’s creative pursuits. Nevertheless, my appreciation for the visual depiction of, for example, a lotus tree in full blossom, was still limited to my knowledge and experience of that tree, even as my understanding of street graffiti was limited to my knowledge of the street. I had yet to discover my path to an experience of the visual details. How could the blind monk ever experience the visual details?
My order is not prone towards brooding over personal limitations. Rather, we focus on our gifts, our blessings. Not long after joining the monastic community, I was invited to begin studying the traditional 4-stringed seung. I became devoted to the discipline of mastering this ancient Thai guitar. Feeling the vibrations of strings resonating through the instrument as I strummed and plucked was a sensual revelation to me. The low string, with it’s slow oscillation, bathed me in a deep calm, in a deep connection with my soul. A pluck on the high string shot through me like sparkling laughter. And there was more to it. There was color! (to be continued).