The Artwork of Michael Divine

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McLightenment, a Burning Man Art Grant, The Chopra Center and Fear

March 28th, 2008

This year we will be heading to Burning Man to create an art project known as McLightenment. We received a generous grant from Burning Man Arts to help make it happen and happening it is. We will be leaving San Diego on August 19th, arriving at Black Rock City on the 22nd. The entire thing, tho funny and satirical, is both a fitting accomplice to the American Dream theme for this year and holds deeper truths within it. Truths that make themselves known in the most unlikely (or likely as the case may be) of places.

I was recently asked to display my work at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA, just north of Encinitas in Southern California. It is located in a wealthy hacienda style community of resort condos, golf courses and tennis courts. A woman working at the center who has some charge over the art on the walls had spotted my work in the recent Vision Magazine and contacted me. Needless to say, I was honored by the offer and took them up on it, sharing with them the terms and conditions of hanging my work. I was told it wouldn’t be a problem displaying my artwork as long as they could agree to take full responsibility with full liability for my work while it is there. I have learned to ask this and, if such insurance can not be provided in writing, I turn people down. Since having a painting stolen from the Kripalu Center last year and receiving little recompense for it’s loss, I insist that all displays of my work that I am not present for, especially large valuable pieces, require a signed contract by all parties involved. This is something all artists should do, as it holds people accountable. Art is not furniture. It is life, and the blood, sweat, tears, that go into it are not easily replaced.

So I brought my work to the Chopra Center, had it hung, it looked great, etc etc. Then I went on to ask them about a signed contract. While they stated that yes they would assume full liability for it’s loss or damage, they refused to put this in writing. Now, I can understand if someone says ‘No, I’m sorry but we can’t be responsible for it for this reason or this reason…’. Great, that person is clear in their boundaries. However, here are people, from a center that professes to teach clarity, being completely unclear in their business practices and sidestepping their responsibility.

In talking with the woman whom I’d been in contact with I dug a little deeper into the issue. It seems that by putting it in writing they felt that maybe they would be manifesting it’s theft! What superstitious nonsense! I don’t have car insurance just to drive around being afraid I’ll get into an accident.

“So you would rather live in fear,” I asked, “than put beautiful artwork on your walls?”

“Well,” she said, “you put it that way ti sounds kind of strange… it feels uncomfortable, but yes… I suppose”

Well, when you are not living in Truth, the truth can make you feel uncomfortable. That uncomfortableness is your boundary. You can either retreat at that point to where you have been all this time or you can push yourself a little further and actually facilitate growth.

It is unfortunate that they have decided to retreat rather than put their signature where their words are. After all, if one will agree verbally to something, it is only the fact that they aren’t actually committed to it that they won’t sign their name to the same statement. I have contracts with everyone I work with. It is ceremony in some ways- a kind of ritual that we can all agree to and refer back to to see what we agreed to should any part of our agreement come into question. There is magic to the written word. Always ask questions, always hold to your truth.

So the moral of this story is that the so-called Spiritual Centers are just as holy as the tire change place down the street, maybe even less. But for a few dollars there you can go and feel holy, feel spiritual. For a few dollars at the tire place, you can change your tires. Commodities and exchanges. This is what McLightenment is all about. Fast Food Drive-thru enlightenment. A quick fix with little commitment. And we ask- what did you really get out of it anyways? There is no quick fix.

Well, we will be found on the Playa between the Man and Center Camp with easy-on, easy-off access. Come find us, we’ll have your order ready and waiting…

Also, as Burning Man has not covered all of the expenses associated with the project, if you would like to donate to McLightenment, so we can truly make this a memorable experience for you, please do: DONATE

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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