A Gift, Like No Other

In 2016 and 2017 I would listen to the audiobook by Wayne Dyer, "Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life", over and over again, when I walked on the boardwalk in Rockaway. The book is a collection of his interpretations of the "Tao Te Ching", written by Lao Tzu in the 4th Century BC. It was inspiring and fascinating and I found great comfort in listening to it, like so many find in reading the Bible or other religious scriptures. His interpretations in the book, and the Tao Te Ching, appear so simple and clear but are also so deep and powerful.  One of particular interest to me was "If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job, then let go." Wayne Dyer's explanation was the following: Live our lives, do the good we do, and do not become attached or stuck in any one place. Move on, because there is more good for us to do. I understood it, and believed in it. But this holiday season, in a visit to the "Holiday Light" display at the Bronx Zoo, I really got it.

We were ready to leave, thinking we saw everything and a friend in our group checked the map and realized that we missed an attraction, the ice sculptore section. It was getting pretty late and I was really ready to leave, but I'm so glad that he checked the map because for me, the exhibit was the absolute highlight of the visit. There was an area, under a tent, fenced off, with a crowd of people watching the sculptor perform his art.   He would take a huge block of ice, rectangular shaped, and go to work with a variety of tools - scrapers, chisels, blow torch, etc. While we watched, he transformed this block of ice into a beautiful work of art, a marlin jumping out of the water. I admired his intensity, and he was clearly passionate about his work.

But it was not the marlin leaping up from the water that most impressed me. Next to the marlin he was working on was an ice sculpture of a fox climbing down a tree trunk, that he worked on just before the marlin. Behind that was a hummingbird perched on a tree branch, that he created a couple of hours before. And off to the side was one he worked on yesterday, a bearded ship captain. The fox was still very beautiful, almost perfect, but you could see it was starting to melt. The hummingbird that he created before the fox, beautiful as well, but melting even more. And the ship captain; I could tell what it was from its shape, but barely. In a few hours, or maybe tomorrow it would be unrecognizable.

I thought, how could he be so passionate about his art, and while he's working, watch the beauty he created hours before melt, knowing they would all would soon be just puddles on the ground? And then I thought of the quote, "... do your job, then let go." The artist created his masterpiece, moved it to a place for all to see, and then worked on the next block of ice, creating another beautiful sculpture. And that is what we do in life. We live day by day, letting yesterday go, embracing today and giving it our full attention. We inspire people, we are inspired by others. And moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, we move on and we bring our best self to every moment, every encounter.

Well that is certainly what works best for us, but sometimes it is not easy to do. We can get stuck in one place, a set of negative thoughts, focusing on someone who has wronged us and sometimes letting that wrong, and the pain it caused us, define us. We often let the pain of yesterday weigh us down today. Everyone of us are challenged with that at times in our life. But when I find myself dwelling on yesterday I hope to remember the ice sculptor, and all of his work. I will think of the brilliance of what he may be working in the moment, and not dwell on the steady dripping of water falling from the blurring piece he worked on yesterday. I hope that will help me choose the present, always choose the present.

I will try to look at life from the perspective of the artist. And when you think about it, everyone of us is an artist. Our art is what we paint, what we sculp, what we write, what we give, our kindness, our smile, our words, how we show up in the world, every moment. Each of us is a work of art, and a gift.

A gift, like no other.

* Credit to the artist, Evan Hughes. I spoke with him on a break and told him I'd be writing this blog. He said people frequently ask him whether it bothers him that his beautiful work melts soon after. Here is his perspective that he shared with me: "Working against the art itself forces one to look and enjoy it while it lasts. For me it has caused me to enjoy the whole process more and be able to make art without taking myself too seriously." We have stayed connected through Instagram and he posts photos of his other beautiful work. (Evanhughesart)

Joe Fox
January 3, 2021