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How to be human

I went to the library today to see an interview with an art teacher of mine. He was 92 years old when I signed up for my first art class with him, five or six years ago. The interview quickly turned into a science lecture, art lesson, story-telling hour and a little stand-up comedy as Dick Rauh, now in his late 90s, captured the hearts and minds of the 400 or so attendees.

Aside from his fascinating life story that brought him to today’s talk, I simply marveled at his vigor. What an exemplar of how to be human in this challenging world of ours. I’d been in class with him, so I know that he’s funny, curious, smart, humble. He’s all those things and he also really knows his stuff – his botany, his plant morphology, yes, but also color, tone, values, and he just has an eye for the right image. But it is his genuine joy in his work that just animates him. Like someone plugged him into a socket! It’s a pleasure to be in his space because he fills all the space around him with pure possibility. His infectious appreciation for nature’s brilliant plan to pollinate and procreate is childlike in its wonder and almost spiritual in his stunned awe at how it all works. Dick takes your hand, if you’ll offer it, and he brings you right along with him on his journey of amazement. It is just plain happy-making to spend an hour or two with him.

His work, realistic in style, is beautiful and illustrative, too. Dick is as interested in the hulls and husks of flowering plants as the colorful petals; maybe more so. Cracked open, dried, withering and beginning to turn brown, he finds the art in nature’s graphics. Fractal motifs are everywhere, and beauty is found and expressed in his work in everything, not just the colorful, shiny or fragrant.

I walked away inspired to turn my attention to all the parts, to recognize the importance of the underbrush, to honor the necessary function of decay, to find gratitude and even joy in the repetitive, cyclical patterns of death and life. And I felt more convinced than ever that an enduring attitude of curiosity, long-term dedication to a personally satisfying task, outreach to others and a willingness to be humble all combine to being key to a happy life.

All this from a Sunday afternoon library lecture. Who’d have guessed it? Keep your eyes, your ears and, most of all, your heart open. The world has surprising gifts for you.

Peace and love to you in the week ahead.


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