Jeanne-Claude, wife and artistic partner of better-known art-wrapper Christo, died this week at 74. Jeanne-Claude and Christo were known for their temporary art projects in which they used materials on a monumental scale to change our perception of things, to make us think and (more often than not) to lead us to a smile. The Gates was their last substantial project, located in Central Park in 2005 (pic is me and my friend Steve at The Gates).
In describing their work and Jeanne-Claude's view of it, the Times obit wrote:
... all of their projects ... were intended to be temporary. Whether executed in oil drum or brightly colored fabric, the art of Jeanne-Claude and her husband ... expressed “the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”
This resonated with me because recently I have been reflecting on the concept of impermanence. Burning Man, where I've gone for five of the past ten years, is a recognition of and embrace of impermanence. An entire city appears, and then disappears, in seven days. The figurative heart of that city -- The Man -- is burned to ashes as the entire community watches. A lavish wooden temple is covered with thousands of participant messages of hopes, dreams and fears, and then burned and released into the atmosphere.
This year I also began a meditation practice. I am beginning to understand the Buddha's thoughts on impermanence. He recognized that all things are impermanent, and that by embracing this knowledge we can better deal with the constant change (and constant loss) in our lives that so often cause us suffering.
Life is short and fleeting. If we are not afraid to lose things -- ultimately, we lose everything -- we have a better chance of living in the moment. Christo and Jeanne-Claude got it.