Chapter 42: Everything Beautiful Is Absurd
You are the greatest. You are like the music of Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach and more.
You make me laugh, and always at a time when I need it most.
You tell us that you felt hurt at the enthusiasm with which people dropped the mala, etcetera. The Rajneesh Times called it a stunning statement. That made me laugh even more.
I have not been with a Zen master - at least in this life. But I recognize one when I see one, and you are absolutely the top - hitting people when they need it, and in the manner most appropriate. Of course, I’m waiting for my comeuppance - it’s bound to happen. And that too makes me laugh. Is joy also an absurdity?
Everything beautiful is absurd. Joy is one of those experiences which are not utilitarian. Love, peace, enlightenment - all are absurd, absurd in the sense that there is no meaning beyond themselves. Their meaning is intrinsic.
I am reminded of Picasso. He was painting.. For almost two hours a man was standing behind him, watching; he could not figure out what the painting was, what the meaning was. Finally, he could not resist the temptation of asking Picasso.
Picasso looked at him and said, “This is something! I was really going to ask you, because you have been watching for two hours: perhaps you may have found the meaning. I was so much engaged in painting, so much into it - I was not there, only painting was happening. So I was hoping that perhaps you might be able to say to me what is the meaning of it all. As far as I am concerned, just painting it has been such a joyous experience - now no other reward is needed.”
And one thing more he said. “You ask me what is the meaning of this painting, but you never ask these flowers what is their meaning. You never ask the sun, you never ask the moon, you never ask the whole sky full of stars what is the meaning. Why do you torture a poor painter? If the whole existence can remain without explaining what its meaning is, can’t my small painting also remain without meaning? One thing I can say, it is tremendously beautiful.”
The man said, “That’s right, it is attractive, it is beautiful; but a thing without meaning is absurd.”
Picasso said, “Exactly. It is not a commodity. In the marketplace everything has a meaning. It is a commodity, it is for some utilitarian purpose. But life is not just the marketplace, and it is good that it is not so. In life there are a few things which are utterly meaningless, yet absolutely fulfilling.
“This painting is absurd. It is so absurd that I cannot figure out how I am going to hang it in my house - which way is going to be up, which way is going to be down. I cannot figure it out. If you can help - because you have been observing for two hours.how should I hang it?”
The man said, “You are mad! You are painting it, and you don’t know how to hang it?”
Picasso said, “I am mad, you are not - that’s why I am asking you.”
The man tried in all possible ways - there are only four possible ways to hang it. It was beautiful each way. The man said to Picasso, “You and your painting will drive me crazy! It was stupid of me to stand here and waste time. And this is as crazy as you are, because you can hang it any way and it looks right.”
Picasso said, “That’s the beauty of it!”