I am about the furthest you can get from being a religious person, but I also see a distinct difference between religion and faith, and I think I have plenty of the latter. I suppose karma is the concept that best summarizes how I conceive of faith.
(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.
Over the past week or so, two incidents have occurred that epitomize this philosophy of putting out good energy and having it come back to you.
Four summers ago, I opened up a small art gallery on our front porch. In hindsight, it was both ambitious and premature. I realized all too quickly that I was completely out of my comfort zone, having people - customers! - strangers! - coming and going into my space. As well, I was absolutely uncertain, even unwilling to assume the identity of an artist. Even four years later, I still grapple mightily with this. Back then, it was ten times worse.
In the summer, this area fills up with wealthy tourists, and they enjoy wandering round our village with plenty of disposable income. For three years, I had set up a tent down at the ultra-popular waterfront market every Friday in the summer, selling greeting cards and photography framed in antique windows. I'd done pretty well. Kate Hudson had bought a card. Her mom Goldie Hawn had bought a framed photograph.
So in the summer of 2013, when Arwen was a baby puppy, I decided that rather than setting up at the market on Fridays, I'd sell stuff from the porch. That way I could have the dogs nearby and save the hassle of carting everything down to the market and back. And that's how I discovered how absolutely unprepared I was to go it alone.
I dreaded Fridays.
Every time anyone came by, I wanted to hide but instead I had to make myself at least be marginally social. Sell things, though? Pigs might fly.
One July Friday, a couple came by, and I noticed that the man hung back, staying outside with a dog. I told his wife that he was welcome to bring the dog in, so he did. I got my camera out and asked if I could photograph the dog, Chloe - it was a welcome distraction, and something I could grasp onto and hide behind, a comfortable activity. The couple looked around in an uncommitted way, then bought a few cards. A few minutes later, the man came back and said he wanted to buy a large, almost life-size print of Soleil, done on metal...it was the most expensive piece I had for sale. He said it reminded him of a dog he knew. I was flabbergasted. Before I knew it, he handed me a pile of bills, and they went on their way with what they'd bought. I later sent them a few 5x7s of Chloe. That was the last I heard from them. I really never could decide whether they'd bought the piece out of kindness/pity, or because they actually liked it. Either way, it was the one redeeming happy moment of that entire miserable venture of a gallery.
Fast forward four years later, the lady got in touch asking if I remembered them. Chloe is now fifteen and in poor health. Did I still have those photos? Well, it took a bit of hunting, but I found them. And I was able to share them with these kind and generous people who probably never did realize how much their visit actually meant to me. Perhaps these photos can be a compensation of sorts. I hope so.
The other incident played out much more simply. I follow a fair number of artist blogs, and one of them has featured an ongoing series called ''Haters gonna hate''. The woman who writes it has been an artist for quite some time, and she has seen and heard it all when it comes to selling art. The blog series addresses the many subtle and not so subtle obstacles artists have to overcome when trying to sell their creations. These obstacles can come from both within (defeatism, anxiety, self-doubt) and without (ranging from disinterest and tactlessness to outright spite). Anyway, her blog this week talked about Meryl Streep's doubts in herself as an actress, and her admittance that every film role begins with surprising incertitude and anxiety. Even the masters, the acclaimed, the revered - they too face these same obstacles and worries and doubts.
I wrote a thank you comment regarding the blog entry and the whole series, basically saying that she probably had no idea how much her words have helped build me up as an artist, helped me embrace that identity, after four decades of stifling and denying it.
She wrote me back, saying that the comment had made her day. Unbeknownst to me, she'd received a fair amount of blowback and negativity about her series, and she'd been feeling pretty down about it. Knowing that she'd helped one person, one stranger, made all the difference in the world, and made it worthwhile.
We live in a very negative world. It really is worth the effort to put out positive energy whenever you can. Not only is it needed, more than ever, but you may be surprised at how, sooner or later that energy is inevitably reflected right back at you.