The Buddhist & The Showgirl

This week has been a mish mosh of thoughts about art/celebrity, impermanence and health as well as this question about how to get started and how to write about a creative process.

In my questioning, I looked to True Perception, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s book on Dharma Art for guidance. I was completely surprised (and pleased) to stumble upon Marilyn Monroe’s name on page seven. Here is what Trungpa has to say about Marilyn and the art process:

“If you want to become an artist and you want to have the best of everything, you can’t just have it. You have to start by paying attention to reality. You need to learn to eat properly, to cook properly, to clean your house or your room, to work with your clothes. You need to work with your basic reality. Then you go beyond that, and you begin to have something much more substantial. And beyond that, you actually begin to produce a master artistic world altogether. That is the same as in my tradition of Kagyu Buddhism. It is long and arduous; you can’t become suddenly good at something. Of course, it is possible that overnight you come up with a good gadget, a good idea; the next day you patent that and begin to manufacture it, and suddenly you become a multimillionaire. That could happen. But we do not regard that as a true way of doing things. We are bypassing a lot of training, discipline, and reality. And often, when people produce a good work of art in that way and make a lot of money suddenly, they end up committing suicide, dead. Just like Marilyn Monroe.”

Although Trungpa is simplifying the events of her life and death, I think there is value here. Trungpa is encouraging us to have a grounded experience of life, which can serve as a platform for launching into the imaginative, vulnerable and shifting experience of creating art. He goes on to say:

“We have to be honest, real, and very earthy, and we need to really appreciate things as they are. They are so beautiful and wonderful already, but in order to appreciate that, it takes time and discipline – so much discipline.”

As I seek to understand Marilyn through research, I see that she did not have that grounded kind of platform to launch herself from (and crash back down to sometimes). A platform made up of everyday experiences, friends that you can show all your sides to, and building a trust in oneself. When I think about the why of this project and particularly why Marilyn Monroe, I think that maybe she has appeared in my consciousness because she has things to teach me. And maybe this is her first lesson to me, by way of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: Do the dishes. Appreciate things as they are. Value the friendships you have. Allow the quiet.

I did more cooking and cleaning than usual this week, by the way.

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