Michael Divine

Writings: On Spirituality


The unexamined life is not worth living—so said Plato. And to lead an examined life is to lead a spiritual life. I don’t subscribe to any particular doctrine. Nor does my art seek to promote any one doctrine over another. I am interested in living a full and vibrant and loving life and examining the nuances of that experience along the way. These are some reflections on that experience.


‘In a recent interview, Marc Andreessen [an investor who made all his money in tech and then VC investing] was asked what his best advice would be to a smart 23-year-old American today. “Don’t follow your passion,” he said. “Your passion is likely more dumb and useless than anything else. Your passion should be your hobby, not your work. Do it in your spare time.”‘ Business Insider – Jun 22, 2021 Don’t follow your passions. Don’t do that which brings you joy. At best, it’s a frivolity. At worse, it’s just taking up your spare time when you could be […]

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The Sword of Laughter

“What matters is to move surely and calmly, with the appropriate humor and appropriate melancholy in the temporal and spatial landscape that we are.” – Michael Krogerus “The Decision Book“ One of the things I can thank my mother for (and there’s many things) is instilling in me a healthily strong sense of humor. Dinner time in my house for the family of five would often see my dad recounting something he’d heard on Paul Harvey, a radio talk show host, while driving home from work. I’d remark on something I thought funny – some increasingly sarcastic off-hand comment. My […]

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Compassion: Recognizing Ourselves In Others

Here is a thing that boggles my mind: we need to convince other – we need to argue about – why people should be compassionate towards one another. We need to debate why we should guarantee a living wage? How is the bottom line more important than the basic needs of your workers? We discuss into absurdity why we should pass laws to guarantee that our veterans are cared for. And we need to convince people that we should care for the planet instead of just dumping toxic chemicals will-nilly everywhere. And we have the world we’ve created… that echoes […]

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What’s In a Name (And the Choosing of our Own)

Names: what we name things. We name things all the time. Often we are using names we’ve been told to call things. Those names serve the purpose of being a point of reference in a conversation. Sketchbook. Pen. Cat. And then there’s more signifying names: my cat’s name is Figaro. Or Lukki. Or Maceo.  I had a name that was given to me when I was born – Michael – and it accompanied a middle name – Robert, my dad’s name – and Brown, my father’s last name. And that was my identity for many years, tying me to a […]

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On the Subject of Bitches

When a man in charge is frank with his opinions, curt with his commands, and just has abrupt no-nonsense way about him, he is seen as a guy who knows how to lead and is respected and well-regarded. He may not always even be the nicest guy – he can be kind of a dick even – yet something about him seems to command respect. Well, people say, it’s the fact that he’s intelligent, level-headed, and knows what he wants and, though he might even be a bit headstrong, he really does know how to do it and he gets […]

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Some Gratitude on a Chilly Evening

The vast multitudes and all the myriad walks of life. I wonder at it and I wonder at how I ended up here: making art, doing what I love, living unafraid, neither angry nor resentful, but loving it. I wonder at it all and the only thing I am left with – the only answer that comes back to me, echoing from my heart and what feels like the heart of all things – is gratitude: at this gift, this life.

Gratitude is like the late afternoon sunshine, touching everything, turning it gold.

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Compassion and Vampires

I ran across this quote from Chogyam Trungpa the other day from the book:

“Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.”
-Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

I read the book years ago and it has forever echoed in my mind. The title pretty much carries it’s message: it’s not about how many mantras or sun salutations you can do or how many retreats you’ve been to or how spiritual you dress or look or what temple you visit or how many holy books are on your bookshelves or how many pictures of holy beings are on your altar – it’s about you and your process, everything else is just icing – a mask, something we identify with. I consider this often when I am in my day to day life – when I am interacting in my day to day world – buying groceries, crossing the street, cleaning out the cat litter box. It’s al just stuff and my buddha statue on my altar is no more or less holy, it’s just a different reminder, a placeholder – an icon to jog me back to – it doesn’t matter what the fuck you are doing – if you do it with compassion and wisdom, it’s awesome.

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What I Learn From Painting

Around 2am I usually just can’t paint any more. Sometimes it’s a tad later. Sometimes a tad earlier. But usually it’s about five or six hours in and my hand is cramped and my back is aching and my eyes are starting to blur and my brushstrokes start to lose their precision. The good things is that once I get like that I usually feel pretty good about my work for the night. It means that I covered a lot of ground. Painting is about ‘the process’ as much as ‘the product’. Sometimes, it’s just a lot of blanks to fill in. You see, the story is written. The path is clear. I’m just following a dotted line that leads to an inevitable conclusion. There are nuances to be explored, and colors and lines to be enunciated but the gist of the piece – this piece that I’m working on right now anyhow – was decided long ago. I am merely completing the vision.

While I paint, my mind wanders through many worlds and my heart travels through multitudinous emotions the way one might try on different outfits. And there are pure zen moments where I’m not thinking about anything. Or elated loving moments where my heart is suddenly sort of glowing. Don’t dwell on it, though! Such feelings are mere feelings and as ephemeral as the clouds. But I do appreciate those moments. It never hurts to simply center one’s sense of consciousness in the center of one’s chest instead of in the center of the head, where we tend to look out at the world from.

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Form, Formlessness, and Life

This afternoon, after a short time, I closed my eyes while sitting in the hanging chair suspended from the eave of my house. My sleepy sleep deep mind rocked back and forth like a babe in a basinet and I could feel each rise and each dip so supremely deep that I might have been rocked to sleep, if even for a moment. Eventually tho I rose again and put the book back – Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa – in which was spoken of and I read of the act of recognizing and indentifying oneself […]

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The Multifaceted Diamond

Over the years I’ve encountered numerous philosophies and ways of being in the world. I’ve tried them on like outfits. Some fit okay but weren’t suitable for all occasions and had to be left behind. Others didn’t fit at all and, in their metaphorical stitching, were shoddily made, had too many loose threads and too many hidden pockets. I can’t deal with that sort of mess. Some have fit rather well – sexy when they need to be sexy, respectable when they need to be respectable, and secure, when they need to be secure. In essence, some have reflected deeper […]

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