Rembrandt marked time by doing self portraits. Whenever a major success or failure culminated in his life he courageously stared himself in the mirror and painted what he saw. He was honest with himself. When the world deemed him successful and important, he painted himself that way. When the collectors had abandoned him and life found him penniless, destitute, and alone…he painted himself then too.

Most of us look in the mirror everyday of our lives. We see each other a million times without really ever seeing ourselves. When I painted and drew my mother and father it was a big shock. When I, or most people, look at our parents, we don’t really see them, we see a mental construct of who they have been over the majority of their lives. We simultaneously blend the mother of our youth with that of the present day. As an artist though, you concern yourself with what is in front of you, you appraise the now…and try to record it.

When I painted my mother and father I looked at them. Perhaps for the first time every I really looked at them. I looked at them with my “artist’s” eyes. I was struck with how old they looked. The lines on their faces and the creases of time that were there in reality, weren’t there in my mental construct. I saw them for who they really are. I saw them perhaps for the first time.

My father asked me why I was doing this pilgrimage. It was an honest question. He said, “Common, admit it…you are really doing this for you…right?” Could I really be doing this for others as a selfless act—I hadn’t considered that. His query has forced me to analyze and see if there is/were any truth to that claim.

When doing a self portrait, you are forced to look at yourself in reality. Not for the mental construct that we carry around about us as if it were real. We really look at ourselves for what we have done, what we will continue to do, and how all that we have done up to now has brought us here. We ask ourselves, “Is what I’ve done really matter?” “Have I really helped to make ‘Peace on Earth’?” Today, I painted two self-portraits. I took a look at myself for who I really am.

I did a self portrait before I left on this pilgrimage, when I look at it now some six months on, it looks unsure, but committed…devoted. It looks as if it hopes what he is about to partake upon will work. Not afraid, but ready to test what he believes is right and true…and that which is love. It looks as though I am hoping t0 BE the love that I hope to be in the world—it hopes for peace.

Today, my self-portraits are different. I have come 2,900 miles and have walked and run through 6 states. I have been on the road and at the mercy of the elements and others. I have walked for peace and love, and have been blessed to know peace and love from most that I meet. I stepped out taking no money or food, and I have yet to miss a meal. In fact, I am fatter now then when I started. People have really been THAT kind.

But what now?

As I sit here in a hotel graciously provided by a friend, I am acutely aware that there are others sleeping on the streets tonight. Even though I have little…I have so much. I look out over Juarez, Mexico I am reminded that not everyone will have a great day because they haven’t yet awakened. They haven’t figured out that love is the only thing that is worth living for…and the only thing worthy of giving your life for, YET. We are all on a continuum of gradual awakening. I admit I’ve not been perfect. I’ve been impatient with others, perhaps even argumentative, and yet I have been able to love as well. We all have. We have all been the best we can be—and occasionally something else.

Today, as I went to investigate the art museums here in El Paso, a man approached me. He asked me for 70 cents. I honestly didn’t have any money on me, I had given the $23 dollars that others had given to me to a man yesterday who said he needed gas money. But it struck me, and made me happy to say and know that if I did have any money on me, I would have given it all to him. What a DIFFERENT way to live life than that which we most often indulge.

And it was genuine. 6 months spent giving love as often as possible. 6 months of receiving love from others whenever offered. It is as big of a paradigm switch as if when you approached an ATM at night, you weren’t worried about someone hitting you over the head and stealing your money, instead you were getting some out to be ready to give it to others…willingly.

But, I asked myself, am I like Jimmy Swaggert? Am I like Joe Diamaggio, Jim and Tammy Fae, or anyone else who has been caught doing something “we” all thought no one in “their” position would. Have I held on to any secret private non-loving behaviors. Like everyone else, I’m not perfect, we all make mistakes, but am I doing anything on purpose to be unloving to others? Doing anything to hurt or not love others now seems unthinkable.

So today, as I sat and stared at myself, and really really looked deeply at myself, I was confronted by what I saw, who I am, all masks aside, I was confronted with me. I can answer my dad’s query. I can tell him and you honestly, I do this for others. I do this for love. And, for the first time in a long time, perhaps my whole life, when I looked at my self portrait…I liked what I saw.

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