(What he was thinking, 1, is here)
After Gavin died, I found a post-it note at his desk that stated:
Ataraxia: a tranquil indifference to the world’s vicissitudes.
I can’t think of anything he strove for more than this: calm and ease with the world.
As time went on and I sat in his office where I'd found the note, doing "estate business," (har har!) I wondered how he had managed to stare at these words all day long during his frustrating and futile fight with cancer (which angered him on many, many occasions). But I had, somehow, lost the note (I’d put it in a “special place” #yeahright). So I looked it up. Wikipedia had a different view of its meaning:
… For the Pyrrhonians, owing to one's inability to say which sense impressions are true and which ones are false, it is the quietude that arises from suspending judgment on dogmatic beliefs or anything non-evident and continuing to inquire. The experience was said to have fallen on the painter Apelles who was trying to paint the foamy saliva of a horse. He was so unsuccessful that, in a rage, he gave up and threw the sponge he was cleaning his brushes with at the medium, thus producing the effect of the horse's foam.
I could compare the two definitions and try to psychoanalyze him, but probably, actually, I couldn’t. And I’m not sure it would be useful, since I THINK he wrote the note before his diagnosis and I don’t know where his version came from.
But I love that the example quotes another artist. Gavin was always using his work to explore, and he was often, often frustrated. Looking for definition, and finding Apelles, was for me and probably for him, too, like running into an old friend.
I remember how often Gavin wanted to tear up his beautiful sheets of Arches (and how often he did), when all anyone saw was the tranquil and pristine result. How often his struggles were with the page or his idea, and NOT with the wicked and messy world we live in. It’s a kind of transcendence that the artist has, even with cancer and the whole bit.
He knew how lucky he was to be an artist, allowed to use his energy this way. And I know how often putting it on paper helped him find peace.
Which is nice, because I tend to dwell on the hurt.
Which might be what makes writers.