Nothing could be less true about life than this: If we just work hard enough . . . if we put our minds and hearts and . . . if we just believe, we can do anything! Nothing can stop us! Nothing!
No. A thousand times no.
Yes, it sounds wonderful to hear, to think, to feel — deeply, or on the surface, only — and the entire business and marketing edifice rests upon our blind acceptance of this sentiment. Beyond the merely commercial, too, it’s one of those “necessary fictions” we humans live for, which makes it far easier to swallow in any form, for any reason. Generation after generation bestows this “gift” (mercilessly) on its children. It’s virtually written in unbreakable stone. But we all know, deep down, it’s nonsense, it’s a fairy tale, right up there with the shy, geeky boy who gets the Home Coming Queen at the end of the story. Right up there with the one about the gifted writer, musician, artist, scientist, carpenter, or mathematician, always getting their due, finding their rightful place in the world — their place in history, if they’re gifted enough.
Truth is, the world has lost out on literally hundreds of millions of the most talented, beautiful souls, in umpteen fields, for umpteen reasons, none of which included a failure to work hard enough. These angels of the mind, of the heart, devoted themselves to their gift, their arts and crafts, with all the burning passion one could possibly muster, but we never knew, we never got to see their brilliance, their fire, their genius.
I had a friend who fit the above in many ways. He passed away in a car accident at the age of 21, full of life, full to the brim with a lust for it, for everything, for experiencing all that life could bring, and a few things it never can or will — just like Jimi, Vincent, and Rimbaud. He was certainly moving toward an unforgettable future, but it ended on the way to the Eastern Shore.
We humans are so strange. We constantly, easily juxtapose endless clichés, soft and hard, tough and overly sentimental, cancelling each one out without batting an eye. Life–owes–you–nothing! There are no guarantees! Life is hard — and then you die! These nostrums run up against those already mentioned, and push-pull us into confusions so strong, so all-encompassing, it’s like being battered by fierce waves while sensing no lost ground. It’s like conscious oblivion.
Roy Taylor was a self-taught painter, with no formal education in that field. A natural rebel and (mostly happy) outsider, searching for the dark side, the light in the darkness, the unseen and unknown — he always seemed to be the first out of the gate. Most people probably know someone like that. The man or woman destined to be the first to discover what it is to be alive at a certain age, in a certain place and time. The friend who passes through the forbidden zone before others, and comes back to let us all know what he or she finds. For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, that often boiled down to encounters with the Triple Goddess: Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll . . .
As Sinatra once sang, Regrets, I have a few. A big one is that I have only one of Roy’s paintings, and it needs a new frame. I’m not positive about the date of composition, but I think it’s from 1975, when Roy and I were 17, going on 35, or at least thought of ourselves like that, now and then.
Not exactly sure about the inspiration here, or the girl depicted, but I think it’s Maggie, his girlfriend at the time.
More on art, life, and brilliance missed in the next post.