Last night at the Toots and the Maytals concert, I had an epiphany inspired by Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. Toots was the living spirit of benevolence. He played all the songs we wanted to hear, and even took off his sunglasses at one point to show us his smiling eyes, thus reaffirming what Marcus Aurelius wrote about 1,900 years ago: “The good and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking it.” If you think singing in a reggae band, or attending a reggae concert and dancing along with the crowd, is a silly waste of time, think again. The community spirit ran deep among the music lovers at Benaroya Hall; people of all ages—babies to oldsters, and lots of folks in between—were smiling and bopping along with “Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston” just like in the old days when Toots was a younger man.
All that groovin’ builds trust in the populace, which for Marcus Aurelius would be a capital virtue, I think. “Have I done something for the general interest? Well then I have had my reward,” he wrote, and: “Unity in a manner exists, as in the stars. Thus the ascent to a higher degree is able to produce a sympathy even in things that are separated.”
In that spirit, I’m sharing some photos of a creation taking place in my studio these days: a baby quilt for a child who lives in Spain. I’m calling the design “European Childhood.” You’ll see why if you look closely at the squares-in-progress below: Paddington Bear is there from London, the dark blue fabric looks like night in a Spanish city, and another scene shows toddlers at the beach in a retro French style. Also visible are the season’s hottest colors—grey and yellow, as in a famous painting now on display at the Manet exhibit*—to suggest that this little guy is with it!
Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll post photos of this quilt as it progresses and thoughts on some books I’m reading. Since I spend most of my time alone in my studio working on projects like this, or silently practicing T’ai chi and Qigong in studios around town, I’m not that connected to people–colleagues and students–the way I used to be. And I realized at that concert that I still have much to offer the world. There probably are not that many bloggers reading Marcus Aurelius these days. Yet, as the great man wrote, “Such are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts. Dye it then with a continuous series of thoughts such as these… Revere that which is best in the universe; and this is that which makes use of all things and directs all things. And in like manner also revere that which is best in yourself.”
Thanks for reading… and for living a good life.
- In the Conservatory (1877-79) by Edouard Manet, features an attractive couple in an ambiguous conversation (note the wedding rings, yet their hands do not touch). The woman’s shimmery grey dress and spread-out pleats seem custom-made to reflect the yellow glints emanating from her gloves, hat, and parasol. Check out the intriguing review of this and other paintings by Manet in today’s New York Times!