Overnight success takes a lot longer than the name implies. The Japanese artist Hokusai became better known quite late in his life. In 1810 when he was 50 years old, he went to a Buddhist temple to pray to Myōken to make him a great artist. He'd already been working for many years on his art at that point. On his way home from the temple he was struck by lightning. Jump to many years later and Hokusai did become a great artist. He's most renowned for his famous woodblock print series which includes, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa".
It would have taken much grit and persistence to stick with it and believe in himself. As Hokusai himself reflected, “From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking in to account. At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants. And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvellous and divine. When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own”
It reminds me that we do not know the timeline of how things will play out in our lives. One of the ways that helps cultivate patience is to develop an intimate relationship towards ourselves and the world we live in. Roger Keyes poem, below, looks at this intimacy that Hokusai -- and that all of us -- can develop with the world in which we live. May we all have more patience with ourselves.
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
--Roger Keyes: Hokusai Says
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