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artofbonsai.org • View topic - The Force
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 Post subject: The Force
PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:50 pm 
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The Force
by Antoni Payeras

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Bonsai by Walter Pall
Illustration by Will Heath



A few years ago, while joking around with Kevin Wilson, we found ourselves discussing the ability of Bonsai to attract all kinds of people eager for glory and those that are using Bonsai to try to overcome their pettiness. In that discussion, it was evident that, if we looked at a list of Bonsai artist’s names, we could find two distinct groups.

In the first and largest group, friendship is the predominant concern among them. Composed of people concerned with the development of bonsai, this group creates and offers opportunities for the active dissemination of Bonsai knowledge, with little regard for self-advancement. These are people who talk about trees, not the personalities who create them, knowing that the most important thing is to grow as individuals, ever conscious that the more progress that is made on the path of knowledge, the further the edge is moved.

The other group is easy to describe, consisting of people who care more about themselves and what others are doing to their own trees. For them Bonsai is simply a means to glory and satisfying their own ego.

While we both agreed on this grouping of bonsai artists, it was Kevin who found the perfect comparison. He said that Bonsai is like "The Force" in the Star Wars movies. As in that tale, there is a dark side to the force that binds together our unique universe. This is not unlike the idea of the division between good and evil, yin and yang, or the many other opposite natures we can find represented in various religions.

The question is does Bonsai have a light and a dark side as well? I believe that if any of us who have walked enough years on this world thinks about it, eventually we would have to confirm this idea. Like all things, bonsai does indeed have a light and a dark side.

For me, I can see the persona of Yoda in my master, John Naka. The light side of the force is what he taught us to live by in our art. He taught about learning from nature, observing the tree as a living being, and bringing out its highest beauty. This philosophy ultimately becomes a path to what the Japanese call "The Way", where Bonsai is simply a means to personal development. Those who practice such are experiencing the light side and this is obvious to others who know how to see.

The dark side is also obvious. Those using Bonsai as an object that will provide status and those who pursue quick recognition, glory, and honor embrace the dark side. As in the movie, the dark side is very attractive and there is a strong temptation to fall into it, as it feeds on the exploitation of base human nature: jealousy, greed, arrogance, and desire for immediate gratification. It is easy to be seduced by it, especially when buying a few mature trees and taking a few short classes with the right teacher can make one look like an instant “authority” in bonsai.

If you look at the Spanish artists, it is be easy to recognize many characters of the Star Wars movie, the old Obi-Wan Kenobi, the young Luke Skywalker, and many other Jedi Knights. However, there are also some characters from the dark side, Darth Vader, Palpatine, the Dark Lord of the Sith, and so on. Among them are some who believe and Sith are nothing but mere servants. The dark side leads to a bonsai "Mastery" without even knowing basic wiring, or having only a basic knowledge of bonsai.

A good friend once said that while in Spain there are many differences between regions and nationalities, there is something that unites us more than the flag ....... envy.
I think this applies not only to Spain, but is applicable to the rest of Europe as well, which is the area that I am more familiar with.

"Envy is a religion for mediocre people. It’s comforting, it responds to matters that are sprayed inside, and it also rots the soul, it allows a justification for all of the indifference, and cheapness; to the point of belief that those are virtues and that the doors to heaven will only open to unhappy people like them. They go through life without leaving a mark no more than excluding others and making others feel less, and possibly destroy those who, by its very existence and be who they are, show their poverty of spirit, mind and surrounding. Blessed is the man for which bark the cretins, because his soul will never belong to them." - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

May the force be with you.


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:14 am 
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Well interesting topic, although you know all yin has a bit of yang and vice versa, meaning there is no pure good or bad. At least in real life. With regard to the topic of some people wanting more attention and wining trophy's just because they could buy a great tree, well that's fine as well. I think there is no bad in it! After all, people that spend 20-5O thousand euros on a tree and show it on an exhibition have just spend that amount so people can see great art there is no other way people can see such great trees and get inspired to make a better effort. Are they great artist? who knows some are good some not so good. Most of the times if invited to a meeting, famous people request a great tree to work on, and therefore it is hard not to show something good at the end. But that also fine. Must people need a teacher or someone to look up, some need a hero an these people provide that. If these people get recognition and feel good. well there is no harm. Some actually believe it, but would not likely compete in something like the KOB design competition but thats another subject.
Besides even the worst of them is a much better person than those that do nothing day by day, that just consumes oxygen and food and create nothing and maintain nothing and inspire nothing. So for the most part most people that do, cultivate, create, teach, purchase and save trees are doing something constructive so how could that be bad?
I think like in everything there are people with big egos and people that inspire more or less, that is a normal human nature. As for the bonsai way of life, at the end it is a personal path, which we can't judge as our view and knowledge of others is very limited, we can only judge ourselves and we can only find our paths and be happy.


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:24 pm 
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I find the article slightly amusing in that you are saying bonsai people are like people every where - there are some good and some bad and some in between. Seems obvious to me.

The reason you can find a variety of character types in the Star Wars series is that George Lucas applied the mythic journey a la Joseph Campbell to the story almost to the letter. The mythic journey neatly characterizes the players into roles that reoccur through epic stories or in mythology. So bonsai people could be on the mythic journey also. To me, Darth Vadar is like the collector who takes a whole field of trees without permission. And Luke is the bonsai artist that has great talent and uses it impulsively but often to good effect. Not sure I would call anyone Yoda, he was one funky looking being - talked funny too.


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:57 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
James,

This article is posted in the "Eristic" section of AoB, where many subjects concerning bonsai are discussed, some directly artistic and others not so directly. These discussions can not only lead to a better understanding of the art of bonsai, but also of the artists themselves. Take Vance Wood's article "The Problem With American Bonsai" for example, although it is not about art directly, it generated more discussion than most threads on any bonsai forum. It also directly led to the "Europe vs North America Bonsai Contest" which was the first contest of its type and brought together a collection of high quality bonsai from around the world, which remains unsurpassed anywhere on line.

In this article, Antoni Payeras has brought forth something, that like Rob mentioned, may be obvious, but is seldom spoke of. As much as we like to close our eyes to it, the bonsai community is polluted with politics, people are claiming instant master status after simply purchasing a few trees, beginners are defaming and debating with the very experienced artists on-line and efficiently silencing them.

Maybe it has always been this way, maybe it is a new thing, a beast fed by the Internet, maybe there is nothing we can do about it, maybe just by shining light on it, we can make a small difference. Who knows?

Light side and dark side, good people and bad people, people who give their all to help the community and people that simply take, those that help build the community and those who seem to spend all their time tearing it down, unfortunately both sides are part of the community.

Antoni is correct, there are two sides in bonsai, maybe there is nothing we can do about it, but then again, maybe just deciding which side we personally will be on is enough?

Personally I choose to help add to and build the community, even though it seems to be the most difficult path to take.


Will


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 4:32 am 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2009 5:43 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:31 pm 
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Antoni is illustrating a situation that exists only in Europe, to a different degree in each country thereof, so it may be hard for Americans to understand what motivated his article. Indeed, the bonsai scene in America is nothing whatsoever like the bonsai scene in Europe.

There, the rapid acceleration of the art in both quality and quantity has attracted some who 'lobby' their way to fame or acceptance as some sort of authority rather than earn it through their work. They perceive bonsai as an easy vehicle to achieve the applause they yearn. Others, who start out with artistic integrity will get sucked in to the fast track and abandon their principles - and their former relationships. Their choice. Generally, they are the spoilers.

Those artists (or patrons, for that matter) who display sincerity and integrity in both their work and their dealings with others gather frequently at events - or just for kicks. They are friends who have mutual respect for each other artistically and personally. Trees and friendship reign.

To those artists I would say be thankful that you have so many others with whom you can share your time and your passion, and forge warm and lasting friendships. It is a most valuable part of life and art.

I would much prefer to walk with you than to ride with the others.

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 7:50 am 
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Not having read the original post that was censored makes it difficult to respond in any degree of accuracy. However, this is the eristic forum where these types of debates can take place in a civilised manner.

Antoni wrote an article on his blog, I would prefer to label it an editorial than an article, mind you that is just my opinion. When said article was written there was definitely a reason behind it, someone offered the raw material to be sculpted, and Antoni created the sculpture nothing more.

I personally did not feel or get offended in what was written, but applaud his written words, because he had the intestinal fortitude to speak out from his inner feelings. The truth always hurts to those affected but in comparison it's like water on a ducks back if it doesn't concern you, or you do not feel threatened because you are not the obvious targeted audience. Furthermore, I did not feel personally he targeted anyone in particular. He voiced a discontent over the way bonsai is evolving in his neck of the woods and how certain folks or group of people may be portraying bonsai in a different light.

On the other hand I support Colin's words to some extent. Colin lived in Europe for some time and has felt or noticed the discussion first hand. My reservation with regards to his written comment stems from the allusion that it is a European scene. This is where I disagree and would add that it has manifested itself in America and other parts of the world as well. There might be differing degrees but we need to remember that America's involvement with bonsai is rather young in comparison. What will America look like in years to come.

For those that have circulated the scene and the net for a while and have failed to see Antoni's observation, is either because of shear ignorance or indifference to see and accept the obvious. I close with the following quote from Enrique:

As for the bonsai way of life, at the end it is a personal path, which we can't judge as our view and knowledge of others is very limited, we can only judge ourselves and we can only find our paths and be happy

and my personal one...

Bonsai is the journey not the destination


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:36 am 
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I agree with Richard that this started to happen in America, and other places. Especially it will happen more ofther with those that go to study in Japan for some period of time and then come back. Simply because the Japanease way will gave them access to purchase cheaper material and access to get some material not so much open to others. The end result is that you get people well verse in bonsai, but find that back home there is little material to work on, with the quality found normaly at good japanease masters nurseries. So then they import material. They get instant fame, just from wiring a tree etc. sometimes not even. But they get invited to judge, demos etc. Anyway I am awared of this and see it happen in Europe and many other places. And sure some people need or look for this feeling of thinking them selfs better. But if we look at a bigger scale, from a more ignorant point of view and we go to see some exhibit, were some of this trees can be found. For the general public that is great. they get to see some great art. How cares who made it, or if that person is famous. For them this people are great artist, and that is fine. People sometimes need that for them to start something. If it motivates people into this or any other constructive art form that is wonderfull. As for the fights and superiority etc, well that it is pity, it does not affect me. Of course somethimes one can get a good laught, but thats about it. I look more to learn and I always like to question. As written in a research institute. Students are there not to learn from their mentors but to question their studies and go beyond them.


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:36 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:27 am 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:44 am 
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This phenomena isn't limited to Europe. It's describing basic human nature so where ever humans are there will be this type of behavior. As an example, Budi recently posted an article to AOB, "Trapped by Bonsai" and he touches on some of the same points occurring in Southeast Asia. It has happened in the USA also but not as publicly. Its happening in South America - one of Florida's most famous compositions was recently south to a South American collector with many 0s in the price.
That it exists in bonsai is a good sign - it means we are doing a human activity.


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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:10 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:08 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: The Force
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:52 pm 
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Colin,

Do you have any idea how strange it seems to other people when I laugh out loud at my computer screen?


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