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Laughing and Crying

Laughing and Crying

Inspired by a famous subject in traditional Chinese art called "The Vinegar Tasters," the painting shows three elderly men tasting from a barrel of vinegar that represents life.

The one viewing life from a Buddhist lens claims it tastes bitter, due to the suffering and unease of living not only with pain, but also with the impermanence of pleasure. The one viewing life through Confucian philosophy scowls and says it tastes sour, seeing life as rotten, degenerate, and in need of correction. The last one who represents Taoism smiles and says it's sweet, accepting life as perfect in its natural state.

I can see the world from all three perspectives, and more so this week than ever. As Danté Stewart says, "We hold multitudes. We can be angry at what's happening in the world and allow ourselves to enjoy something as simple as a meal, a hug, a memory, and time." There is a happiness in me to see The Oxherd Boy published and out in the world, even through the pain I feel as people in power continue to engage in the machinations of violence and war fueled by unbridled fear, greed, and ego, leading so many in a merry dance of hate, intolerance, and soullessness.

To this, I lean on Anaïs Nin's bold claim as a response: "I am far from blind, far from indifferent, but I will not indulge in impotent, passive despair. I will not add to the despair of the world. I am working on counterpoisons... I create a space in which people can breathe, restore their faith and strength to live."

The Oxherd Boy is not meant to be an escape. It is not meant to be a delusion or a distraction or an idealistic, romanticized world that never existed. It is not meant to make us forget suffering, but rather to remember it, to remember this unifying phenomenon that binds us all in the human condition and awakens the potential for understanding, and more still -- to remember what it is to laugh, to remember love, the daily work of it, the daily act of it, that can be done only through us and us alone.

May we all learn to recognize it and make it the counterpoison that allows the world to breathe once more.

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