Own it: Authenticity

Rain clouds loomed outside as I sat across from my spiritual advisor, Br. Robert, in the simple room. “You have to own it,” he said. “You’re an artist. Own it.”

He talked about his early years as a friar. The other friars didn’t think much of his penchant for painting, forcing Br. Robert to sacrifice his own time, money, and space for it. At one point, he even tried to suppress the urge because it interfered so much with his religious duties. Just as Thomas Merton complained about his “double” as a writer pestering him during his early years with the Trappists, Br. Robert struggled with the artist fighting for expression from within.

When he left the friars–and the Catholic Church for a time–Brother Robert lived on Skid Row, trying to make his work as an artist. He found a deep, resonant calling. Surviving on rice and beans–tuna fish, when he could afford it–he scraped by, but his art taught him his vows better than his stint with the friars. Poverty. Obedience. Chastity. The words clarified as the years wore on.

For Br. Robert, devotion to art proved a devotion to God.

“Own it,” he had said. The words made sense as he said them, but didn’t resonate. As the years has pass, the words Br. Robert and I shared deepen and clarify, like his vows. Tempered and stretched by experience, his wisdom grows. I understand him now.

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An Update: Thesis

Again, I apologize for my lack of posting. I’ll try to maintain one per week until my schedule dies down–perhaps posting a quote or video now and then as well. For now, here’s an update.

Last week, I applied for a Fullbright in France, a dream I’ve had since my high school trip to France. Unfortunately, I had forgotten it, but last year, a Fullbright scholar named Ahmed came to teach French at my school. I met him at tryouts for a play and the two of us became friends. He rekindled that dream and my love for French culture and language.

He’s back in France now, but we write sometimes, and little by little, I’m putting aside money for a possible voyage to Provence. Unfortunately food and bills often take precedent.

Now, I must focus on my thesis: the challenges of absurdity and judgment in the fiction of Albert Camus. By tomorrow, I hope to have a 30-page draft for my adviser. From there, let the edits begin.

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Aurelius quote

Some advice from my favorite Stoic, Marcus Aurelius, that I ran across today:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

 

Reflections in an empty cafe

Okay, so the cafe isn’t quite empty. It’s got a few green-shirted workers sweeping the

Cafe La Verna, as pictured on St. Bonaventure’s site.

floor and standing around balancing on their heels. But it’s almost empty.

A gray drizzle shadows the campus outside and a warm fire flickers nearby, giving the illusion of warmth. Most of the students have left for break or are elbow-deep in packing. I’m staying to work and reflect. It’s been a busy few weeks and I need to catch my breath, write my thesis, and sort out my post-graduation life.

A few thoughts swirl in my head. Last fall, I sat in this same cafe for 12 hours. It’s a campus-bound Starbucks with earthy colors and cozy chairs called La Verna, a place where time slips away unnoticed and people pass through like birds in migration. Grounded there for so long, I felt like a rock watching the seasons change.

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