I’m not the only one who’s stressed out. There’s busy traffic, suicidal pedestrians, work pressures, bills, unexpected life events, medical concerns, judgemental people, cats trying to trip you, price fluctuations, eternal questions about life, the Universe, and Everything. I’d make an exhaustive list but quite frankly, Dear Reader, we don’t have that kind of time.
I (and practically everyone else on this planet) often seek ways to reduce stress. Perhaps a Zen koan, a few moments of meditation, some soothing tea, a relaxing game. A hobby. Creating a refuge. Baking. Once again, there are so many things to try that we don’t have the time needed to list them.
I rediscovered an old favorite, someone with a voice that’s like a mug of warm cocoa and a hug for the ears. I feel my blood pressure dropping as he speaks. I feel whole, like I’m okay, like I’m Just Enough, like I can do anything when I listen.
I’m talking about Bob Ross, of course.
During his long career as a painting instructor on PBS he taught a lot of people to make art. But he also tried to tell everyone that they could believe in themselves. The paintings he gave away after each show have been sold to make money for charity. He was like Mister Rogers for adults. Once a hard-ass Sargent in the Air Force, he had a dream of never having to yell or scream at anyone again. He found ways to make art. He learned the wet-on-wet oil painting technique that let him create whole paintings during short snatches of time, when he escaped the rigidity of the Service to create his own world.
I came looking for Zen and I found Bob.
I don’t paint with oils – too messy. But I can use some of his techniques with other media. I want to learn to keep that vision and that peace that he offers through his show in my heart. To continue to strive for excellence, but temper it with gentleness and playfulness. So that no matter what, art stays fun.
From now on I’m going to try and watch at least one of his episodes per week, as a meditation but also a way to learn to create that kind of hopeful world within my heart.
Here’s to you, Bob. You left the world better than you found it.