There is an apocryphal story of character actor Edmund Gwenn on his deathbed (Gwenn was a wonderful actor and is perhaps best known for playing Santa in the original version of the film, “Miracle on 34th Street.”). A friend was visiting with him who knew he was close to death. “It must be terribly hard for you, Teddy ” he said. Teddy was Gwenn’s nickname. Gwenn replied, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
The truth of the story is doubtful, but it’s a great tale anyway. I felt sort of like this when doing “Demons and Devas.” Demons are easy, but how do you draw Devas?
I guess it says something about me, or about human nature that I can doodle up a demon in a minute. I actually censored myself on this – there were a few demon drawings I tossed out because they seemed too creepy. I’m definitely not a cartoonist who specialized in horror themes. There’s plenty who are. You could start with the virtuoso Charles Burns, for instance. So my demons are somewhat sympathetic characters, some of them quite “cartoony,” but maybe not as quite as much as Warren Kremer’s “Hot Stuff.” (Kremer was the “Casper the Friendly Ghost” cartoonist mentioned last time.)
Devas are different. When my partner, Cameron, saw my “Demons,” she suggested I do an equal number of Devas. It certainly seemed inappropriate to me to do cartoon versions of the images one gets in an Google image search for “Buddhist Devas.” (Try it!) Or anyway, that’s just not my style. As in so many things, I take Cameron’s advice to “keep it silly” to heart. Cameron helped by looking through some of my doodles. She particularly favored the lady with the elaborate hat. I picked some nonhumanoids, including a little blue bird, a crowned gorilla, and a winged dog. Some appear to be extraterrestrials (Why not?). The guy with the key looks a little sleazy. All in all, the result is a bunch of the most unorthodox, goofy Devas you are likely to ever encounter. Despite my skepticism, if I ever end up visiting a Deva realm, I hope the inhabitants don’t hold my imaginary Devas against me!
I’ve read some interesting books on cosmology and other popular science books on all the things we don’t know. (Did you know that the matter and energy our science does know about constitutes only 5% of the matter and energy which make up the universe?) This is a mysterious universe! The appropriate attitude seems to be to cultivate the state some Buddhists call “Don’t Know Mind.”
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”
– Stephen Hawking
Next Time: The first Do-It-Yourself Dharma feature on Vipassana Meditation. After that I think we’ll head back to see what’s up with Edzl and Pretzl.
PS: 1/27/20 – The Devas need work – at least some of them. The Demons are much more dynamic by comparison. In making simpler, more open backgrounds, I was trying to impart a sense of calmness to the Devas, but I still think they need to be more interesting. Deva no. 14, the kinda cubist lady should be replaced and Deva no. 8, the lady with the goofy hat needs to have her facial color intensity taken down a few notches. I was trying to suggest inner energy, but instead she just looks like she’s got a magenta sunburn. I will get back and revise these Devas, but right now I’ve got my hands full with the next Edzl episode.