Friday, October 31, 2008

An epiphany

Karen bought me a book a while back, Musicophila by Oliver Sachs. It has sat on the shelf these many months.

Wanting something to read I picked it up today to find that it spoke to me deeply.

Sachs talks about people’s relationship to music. In Chapter 1 he describes people who were indifferent to music before some cataclysmic physical event, for example, Tony’s being struck by lightning or Salimah’s being prescribed LTG for her seizures.

This made me think back to my own epiphany about painting. I was dealing with depression and was barely able to keep things together. We tried several drugs along with therapy but nothing seemed to work. Then I started on Wellbutrin and began to see the world in an entirely new way. Keep in mind I’m 49, 47 then, and hadn’t painted since, well, never. Then I saw the Dada exhibit at the East Gallery and had my first and only panic attack.

I moved out from my family and my wife of 23 years into a furnished apartment of a grad student who had a summer internship at U Cal Berkeley. Every night, every night, I painted until 1 or 2 in the morning then woke to drive an hour to work, coming home only to start painting until 1 or 2 or 3 again. I lost 20+ pounds and I am a small guy to start with. I barely ate. Mostly I drew and painted – amateurish as it was.

I’ve wondered about this change in me and the day, in DC, when I saw the Dada exhibit that drove me over the edge. I had changed somehow, fundamentally, going from being a boy to a man, from being to blind to seeing, from a world of black and white to one of color. And I think, this is what Sachs is talking about.