The Matchbook Diaries


Humanity

The essence of folk art is its humanity. Folk art doesn’t have any pretenses; it’s sturdy, nearly sloppy, almost practical. Folk art isn’t above being likeable and is never in danger of being misunderstood. In a museum, fine art is regal and sublime; when I behold such things, I feel the transcendence that only a genius is capable of provoking. I gaze long at a masterpiece of fine art and feel the finger of God; and then for as long as I can sustain it, using that fine art, I surf upwards into cool limitless places. I know why it’s called fine.

Folk art makes me feel the fingers of men and women. Sometimes I see passion and ferocity, a spirit straining at something, reaching to refine the common world. Other times I feel a hearth – contentment and simplicity, the spirit of someone who wants just what they have. I feel the folk in both.

I’ve now spent 40 of my 52 years gathering truth from the heart of God. Sometimes God is dazzling and infinite, hard as diamond and dispassionate. Then God feels like a refuge, like fine art. Most of the time God wades into the moral density and emotional filth of me and reveals that nothing can survive Infinite Love. Everything true is beautiful, and everything false is hideous. What is ugly in me is not the bit of me that isn’t like God, but rather what isn’t like me. The holy stories I study tell me this: God rejects divinity not humanity. I am never condemned for my shameful choices and behavior. But when I am proud, when I judge and reject, then I am intolerable to God. The great moral danger isn’t in the absurdity of my humanity, my lies, my fears; the terrible and eternal danger is in my secret belief that I’m better than you are.

One of my favorite films is The Gambler. Mark Wahlberg, in character as hero of the film says, “There was a student just the other day who said that my problem, if one’s nature is a problem, rather than just problematic, is that I see things in terms of victory or death, and not just victory, but total victory. And it’s true; I always have. It’s either victory, or don’t bother. The only thing worth doing is the impossible. Everything else is gray. You’re born as a man with the nerves of a soldier, the apprehension of an angel, to lift a phrase, but there is no use for it. Here? Where’s the use for it? You’re set up to be a philosopher or a king or Shakespeare, and this is all they give you? This?….then it’s a career, which is not the same thing as existence. I want unlimited things. I want everything. A real love. A real house. A real thing to do every day. I’d rather die if I don’t get it. Did I just say that out loud?”

I’m not a genius. I know three, so I know I’m not one. I have exceptional talent in seeing and celebrating beauty, but I’m certainly not going to be famous or even merit a sidebar. Freedom isn’t hidden within being exceptional, which inevitably is about comparing my life to yours. Freedom is in being me, in being utterly, unfeignedly myself, and as the queen of me, choosing to love, without limit or shame, that which I love. I can’t be Picasso because I’m Aimee. The joy is in my own identity, my audacious expression of my own humanity. That’s total victory: the annihilation of all falseness, perfecting my imperfection.

My joy, my total freedom, is being slightly wasted on ginned tonic, listening to 10,000 Maniacs loudly and wanting to dance with my husband. It’s being thrashed by the Indian Ocean on our little speedboat as we roar back to Dar from a day at the sandbar. It’s coming into my tiny, tiny house after my morning run, stoned on the afterrush, and thinking, This is So. Cool. It’s looking up and saying, “MY God! My God. Thank you, thanks a lot, thanks.”