No matter one’s preference for comfort and security, each one of us is a traveler on a journey into the unknown. A journey that will challenge us and change us, if we let it.
In the Buddhist koan that inspired my painting, Traveler’s Raft, a traveler that must cross an expanse of water to reach Nirvana. After lashing together some logs and crossing over, the Buddha poses the question of what to do with the raft. The story suggests he advises the traveler to gently place the raft on the shore and be on her/his way.
In life there are many threshold moments that capture the spirit of this “crossing over”. The ones that loom largest in my mind usually require me to let go of something, be it control over a loved one, the mind’s faculties as we age, or the body in death. The spiritual practice of “letting go” helps to prepare me for these inevitable thresholds.
When I painted Traveler’s Raft, I didn’t realize that the Buddha had offered the traveler an answer. My gut response was to “burn the raft” and send it back into the water like Cortez in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, leaving me no recourse but to press on into my uncertain future.
I had in mind with this painting to express my own difficulty with change, and to acknowledge how tempting it can be to lose hope when life becomes challenging. I never want to be in a position where I choose the easier option of losing heart while in pursuit of the things in life which are most meaningful to me. If there’s a raft still floating on the shore that could take me back to what is familiar and comfortable, I just might go back. Better burn the raft.