Wednesday, April 01, 2009

For A Good Time, Call "Om Mani Padme Hum"

Graffiti (the plural form of "graffito") has been with us since prehistoric times. In the 'Sixties, which some argue is prehistory of one sort or another, graffiti evolved into what we liked to call "guerrilla art." Naturally, we reckoned that we invented the concept, but I rather suspect it has always been guerrilla art.

Remember "Taki 187?" Remember "Andre the Giant?" I know I do, so a while ago, when I was strolling down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California with my beloved youngest daughter, and we saw a picture of the Dalai Lama stenciled on a wall, I launched into a pedantic art history dissertation that ended with, "So you see, my dear, it is just like Andre the Giant was in the 'Sixties."

She did not say anything in response, but as I try to recall that fateful day, I do believe that sharp, red horns sprouted from her head, if ever so briefly.

My beloved youngest daughter is now 13 years old, which as we all know only too well, is a truly sinister, horrible, and crazed age. A sort of goblin bobcat age, if I remember correctly. She has today called to inform me that graffiti has now been elevated to an entire lifestyle -- she reckons her generation has invented the concept -- and the crux of this lifestyle is what is now known as "bombing with the crew."

I used to know of a profession where "bombing with the crew" required permission from the National Security Council, or the Godfather, and in some cases both; however, after I got the meds under the tongue, she hastened to explain that this refers to going out and spray painting anything that stands still long enough to be spray painted.

She says this is "art."

I said, "Oh, you mean guerrilla art?" She said, no, one needs opposable thumbs to manipulate the spray cans.

I rather weakly asked, "You mean like chalk drawing on the sidewalks of Paris?"

She said, "No, Daddy! This is Buddhist! You even said so!" This last, the bad grace to remind me of the January 2008 Buddhism Through Vandalism post, right here on this very 'blog.

I felt so much better.

Now, our friends the Tibetans, have of course elevated graffiti to the realm of the sacred. They will paint, scratch, scrawl, chisel, or chip "Om Mani Padme Hum" onto or into any surface that pleases them. They have been doing this for well over 1,000 years, and as one goes about in Central Asia, the living canvas of their devotional vandalism is everywhere to be seen.

After directing me to a dozen or more pay to play web sites, of which I found the one called "Bombing Science" to be the most profound, my daughter announced that she would be spending her Spring Break "bombing" the rocks in the desert.

In California, this sort of thing can be a felony, yet I suppose we cannot let fear of felony prevent us from doing that which spontaneously arises as right at the time.

Nevertheless, I told her, "Hey! In California, this sort of thing can be a felony!" I went on to explain that, as an amateur naturalist, Hippie Generation environmentalist, and all-around greenie, I personally abhor anything painted on rocks, unless of course, it is a prehistoric pictograph. I ended with, "And honey, we just don't do that," leaving resolution of discursive thinking to yet another pedantic dissertation.

"But the Tibetans do it," she countered.

So, after a lot of argument, of the sort that lawyers usually do at sidebar, we reached a negotiated settlement.

She can paint all the rocks she wants...

...just as long as they're in Tibet.

Under Lama Supervision, of course.

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