Past and Future

Published on 5 January 2024 at 17:49

Medium: Watercolor on Paper

Date: September 2023


The Knight of the Past and the General of the Future

As I look upon the watercolor that mirrors my life, I find myself reflecting on a phrase I once wrote: “Knight of the Past and General of the Future.” In this artistic representation, the Knight lies within a funeral casket, symbolizing the past, while the Future, embodied as a General, gazes down tenderly. This scene, set against the backdrop of a funeral adorned with the flowers of the present, encapsulates the journey of my life.

A life of Dichotomies

Though lying in repose, the Knight is very much alive. His eyes, vibrant and reflective, bear witness to a life lived battling various dichotomies. These dichotomies, as intricate as the segments of his armor, reflect the contradictions that have defined my existence.

My life's narrative weaves through contrasting experiences: from laboring in fields alongside migrant workers to embracing the role of Little Lord Fauntleroy at home, a testament to the varied facets of my upbringing. At home, I maintained a stoic demeanor before my mother, never daring to question, while my inner world was rich with ancient mythology, literature, and a passion for the arts. The rigid discipline of Sunday school teachings and church programs in my rural community contrasted starkly with my personal struggles and early sexual feelings, which at one point led me to contemplate extreme measures in pursuit of perceived spiritual perfection. I wanted to be perfect in the eyes of God and further, in the eyes of mom.

The silence and underlying tensions in our household, marked by unspoken anger and jealousy, stood in stark contrast to the brightness and acceptance I found in working in town. This duality continued into my university years, where I pursued dual majors in Business Administration and Art History, the latter being a secret passion of mine. My life was a relentless cycle of work in the cafeteria, rigorous study, and living in a parsonage among other hardworking, religious students from similar backgrounds. One boy, Larry, and I celebrated each week on Sunday night after church with a small ice cream cone.  Larry did become a professor at MIT.

After graduating, I landed what felt like a dream job at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, complete with a TR3 sports car and a girlfriend whose hands sparkled with 40 diamonds, her platinum blonde hair shining just as brightly. My next endeavor led me to join the army, hoping to learn Chinese, but fate took me to Germany instead. There, for the first time in my life, I experienced what it meant to have free time, a period that marked the beginning of my adult life. During this newfound leisure, I discovered a passion for drawing, a personal journey into the world of art. Interestingly, it took me two years in Germany to taste beer, a beverage once deemed a 'leading sin' in the Methodist Church and at the university I attended.

The 'compartments of armor' that symbolize the different aspects of my life were still very much a part of me. In Germany, I was recognized as the Model Soldier of the Army, a title that reflected my adherence to duty. Yet, I balanced this by crafting gifts for visiting generals from the Pentagon, intertwining my role as a soldier with my artistic pursuits. My work as a spy was complemented by my passion for painting, creating a unique blend of military duty and artistic expression. These dichotomies are vividly represented in the armor of the Knight of the Past.

In New York, my journey took another turn as I attempted to help individuals struggling with mental illness, not fully realizing the impossibility of such a task, despite my best intentions and efforts. I supported one man for 22 years, during which I often thought to myself, 'If I could give him just 30 seconds of peace, it would be worth sacrificing my own life.' This relentless dedication saw the Knight in me working tirelessly, channeling all my resources and energy into what I considered my own private salvation army. By day, I was clad in expensive clothing, executing my duties with intelligence and efficiency, even earning accolades from the New York Times as one of the best officers in New York's museums.

A Tapestry of Complexities

These dichotomies, once intertwined, forged the complex tapestry of my life, a life I have depicted through my artwork. In this artistic expression, the circle symbolizes unity, a unity maintained through immense discipline. My effort to reconcile these dichotomies included 22 years of dedicated martial arts training. The rigorous discipline cultivated in my early rural life proved invaluable across all facets of my existence. Yet, amidst this discipline, I recognized a void: the absence of normal emotional experiences. For years, I grappled with this realization, understanding that such feelings were strangely alien to my life's experience.

A poignant moment that encapsulates this emotional journey occurred during the last meeting with my brother before his passing. Our mother, mustering considerable courage, attempted to kiss us for the first time. With her eyes closed in anticipation, she missed. Her excitement was palpable as she exclaimed, “I know how to do it. I've learned from the Italians in New York.” This interaction highlighted the stark contrast between our rural upbringing and the diverse experiences she encountered later in life. This passage of personal and cultural growth culminated in my appointment as the Assistant Director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was only in the years leading up to my 85th birthday that I finally began to understand and experience the emotions that had long eluded me, including the simple, profound reason why people hold hands.

On a bus trip from Philadelphia to New York City, my mother's interaction with two couples, who identified as Jewish, left her in awe. She expressed her surprise to me, saying, “I didn’t know men talked.” This remark reflected the vast cultural distance she had traversed from our rural roots.

Reflections for the Present

We have reached a point where we are laying to rest the Knight, a figure who tirelessly sought to understand and feel emotions. In the casket, the Knight's expression remains wary, a testament to his lifelong vigilance. However, standing above him is the General, a figure who gazes down with a sense of compassion. This General is not just powerful but also exudes maturity. Encircling him is a kaleidoscope of hopes, each color representing a different aspect of the future he embodies.

Reflections for the Future

The General, embodying my envisioned future, represents strength and peace. Encircling his head are large, colored circles, symbols of the varied hopes he harbors. This future self represents a transition from the dichotomies of my past to a more integrated, peaceful existence.

In the last two years, I've experienced a profound transformation in my approach to music. After playing the cello for over 80 years without emotional connection, I discovered a YouTube channel hosted by a Scottish physicist and musician. His courses taught me an invaluable lesson: to play with feeling, one must slow down and truly listen. This realization, much to my astonishment, brought a newfound depth to my music.

There's a palpable sense of happiness and peace when I look at the General's face. He signifies a farewell to the Knight and the dichotomies that once influenced him. While these dichotomies remain a part of my life, they no longer exert the same control. The complexity arising from them has softened, thanks to a sense of unity that rounds off their sharp edges. This change stems from a kind of love, a response to life's events, rather than confronting them with an armored suit.

Looking Ahead

I've shifted my focus from striving for perfection or attempting to save others, despite being acutely aware of suffering around me. As I navigate the later years of my life, I have embraced a different perspective. My endeavors now include maintaining an active website,, where I weekly update my blog with descriptions of artworks in my gallery. Currently, there are 36 posts. In the realm of publishing, I've published three children’s books last year all available on Amazon, part of a series of 12. Furthermore, I am working on a coffee table book that will feature my blogs alongside illustrations. This project, along with my renewed passion for painting, has led me to reorganize my life and workspace to better support my artistic aspirations.

In sharing my experiences and art with the world through media and publications, I embody the sentiment a friend once expressed: "You have a few more fucks to give so let’s make it count."

As I continue this path of creative and personal evolution, I am guided by the wisdom that life's true essence is not found in relentless pursuit but in the meaningful connections we forge and the stories we share. With each brushstroke on canvas, each word penned for my books, and every interaction on my website, I am not just sharing a piece of art or a narrative - I am sharing a piece of my soul. My journey, chronicled through art and words, is a testament to the belief that it is never too late to reinvent oneself, to find new passions, and to make a lasting impact. I am poised to make these remaining years as enriching and fulfilling as possible. In this chapter of my life, I'm not just living – I'm thriving, embracing each day as an opportunity to add another vibrant stroke to the ever-expanding canvas of my life's work.



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