The dream of success

In the past few days, I have felt a little dispirited.

One reason was that I did my corporate tax return for the past year, and that brought me face to face with the sad reality, that I sold so little art in the past year.

In fact, last year my income as an artist was WAY below the minimum wage in the USA.

Oh… I know, you could say that I was not very focused on marketing my art.
You could say that I just finished a big Art project and did not even have much time to work on my new art projects, resulting in the fact that I have only a few pieces of artwork available for sale.

Or you could say that this past year I traveled so much, that we spent more than half of the year cycling around China, visiting Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Morocco.

And you could also say with all honesty that in the past year, I have made many personal and emotional strides on my path in life.

But still, looking at my income on paper, made me feel so….well……. So…. very small.

But there was another reason I was feeling a bit insignificant.

This week, on our return back from Italy, we stopped at JFK airport in NY, to apply for the Fast Passport Access, which will allow us to avoid standing in the US immigration lines when we enter the US.

We had an appointment for 3pm, but we arrived early.
There were three officers sitting in a typical clerical room.
A few family photos were hanging on the walls by their desks.

A friendly officer welcomed Jules with a warm smile, calling him “Boss”, and I was invited to have my interview at the same time, at the desk of the lady officer nearby.

I could hear the interview conducted with Jules.

Officer: “I see that you were born in New York…sweet!”

Jules: “Yes…born in Manhattan.”

Officer: “I see that you are retired, what did you do before retiring?”

Jules: “I was a stockbroker.”

Officer: “Sweet! Great job!”

Officer: “I see you travel A LOT… You have a house in New Zealand… such a wonderful life!”

While my own interview went something like this:

Officer: “I see you were born in Israel?” (Now….she did not add any of this, but it sounded to me something like: isn’t that this little country in the middle of that horrible region that is causing all the troubles in the world today?…)

Me: “Yes…. I was born in Israel….”

Officer: “Oh…..”

Officer: “What is your profession?”

Me: “I am an artist.”

Officer: (with a bit of pity in her voice…) “Oh…”

Officer: “I see you’ve been arrested once…. What was that all about?”

Me: “The short and tearless story… Is that I had a domestic violence episode with my husband… He beat me.”

The officer pointed to Jules, sitting and smiling in the next desk over, and she asked with much surprise in her voice: “Domestic violence with THIS husband?….. He seems so nice…”

Me: “No… No…not with this husband…..he is indeed VERY sweet…. It was with my ex -husband before him…

After the interviews they took our photos, took our fingerprints and despite my not -so -impressive life… I was granted an approval along with Jules….(who was born in the ‘right’ country, had a career in finance and a very orderly life… And therefore passed with flying colors.)

So these two “episodes”….my tiny income last year as an artist combined with how my life looks so unimpressive on paper…. Made me feel a bit disheartened….

I know that the LIFE of a person, cannot be reduced to how it looks on paper…
And summing up a life in this way, means that you miss all the beauty, majesty and soul of a life well lived….

Think of some of the best poets and writers…that inspired generations….many of them lived isolated and reflective lives… Published one book, or self published a single book…
Which rarely sold….Or they died with a chest filled with writings that were never seen by anyone…

Think of some of the best painters… Many lived impoverished, and had sad lives, filled with a search for meaning and approval or acceptance for their individual styles…

One morning, I reached for the Wall Street Journal, and read a very interesting article.
It was called “Religion for everyone” and in it, Alain de Botton said:

“Insofar as modern society ever promises us access to a community, it is one centered on the worship of professional success.

We sense that we are brushing up against its gates when the first question we are asked at a party is “What do you do?,” our answer to which will determine whether we are warmly welcomed or conclusively abandoned…..

What matters above all, is what is on our business cards.

Those who have opted to spend their lives looking after children, writing poetry or nurturing orchards, will be left in no doubt that they have run contrary to the dominant mores of the powerful, who will marginalize them accordingly.

Given this level of discrimination, it is no surprise that many of us choose to throw ourselves with a vengeance into our careers.

Focusing on work to the exclusion of almost everything else, is a plausible strategy in a world that accepts workplace achievements as the main tokens for securing not just the financial means to survive physically, but also the attention that we require to thrive psychologically……..”

I wholeheartedly agree with these statements…

We seem to live in a world that values successful careers above all…
And it does not even matter if a person gets there by unethical means…as long as he gets there….

We seem to attribute so many positive qualities to those who are successful…. Forgetting that those are all just generalizations… And that there is no single formula to success… And that each person gets there in their own unique way…

Just as De Botton said, the strategy of immersing ourselves into our careers to the exclusion of everything else, becomes a “reasonable” course of action in a world that value success, high powered careers and the accumulation of money, above everything else…
And as he summed it up…. We need it not just to survive physically, but also to thrive psychologically….

We worship successful people and consider them good role models.
We listen to their opinions, even though they may have NO INSIGHT into the human spirit, or into anything that is real, soulful and truly valuable…

We crave success and money, as if they will bring us everlasting life… Perfect health….And eternal joy…. As if they can solve most of our problems…

Alas…..They cannot!

So after spending a few days feeling a bit disheartened… I meditated and this is the message I got:

“When your body and your ego and your DREAMS are all gone…. You will know that you are eternal and that you will last forever….

Do NOT think that you can only accomplish this after death… Because NOTHING is accomplished by death.

Death is nothing!

Everything is accomplished through LIFE…

The body neither lives nor dies…. Because the body CANNOT CONTAIN YOU….
You who are LIFE itself.

If you decide to stop listening to your own thoughts, and to become aware of the larger part of your mind that is connected to the Universal Divine Mind of God, you will know that you are NOT A BODY, and that you will last forever….

Death is an attempt to make the body real, and to make you believe that you reside WITHIN the body…. It is NOT SO…

God did not create the body, because it is destructible, and therefore NOT part of what is REAL….

The body is clearly an attempt to separate you from others, and to contain you, to limit your powers….
As long as you believe that you are INSIDE a body, you will not be free.

The body is clearly a separation device… And therefore it does not exist…

What was created as ONE, stays as one… And it does not change by the dreams that the holy children of life dream that they do, or imagine that they are…

Rest assured that you are safe…..loved and forever protected…. It cannot be otherwise…
You body is NOT REAL…. You ARE as God Created you… perfect, eternal and forever whole…”

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