blog > Life > Death

Graceful Transitions: Steve Jobs and Autumn in Catskills by Misha Lyuve

Oct 17, 2011

A wise man knows when to play hard and when to step down. I say – good for you, Steve Jobs, even in death you kept to a high design standard.

For a tree this wisdom is innate. You can witness it in every transition of seasons, but most profoundly in the fall, because it much resembles preparation for dying. Trees don’t get sad, on the contrary, they enter one of their most productive and festive periods. This is the season when apples are in abundance. This is the time when every leaf has an opportunity to dress up into the autumn glam before her last journey. This is also the time when the foliage gives itself fully to essential processes that will allow the next generation to arrive in the spring.

I don’t own an iPhone, iPad nor Mac. But I watched Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stamford. I do not have as much vision and talent as this man; you might or likely might not – but this is not a competition. In his speech he spoke of not living someone else’s life and having the courage to follow one’s heart and intuition. That is available to each and everyone.

Every year in October I venture to Catskill mountains for a breath of the astounding aroma of the fall. Before each my hike there is always a thought to just stay in, not take a gamble with the weather and autumn mud. This time around it was no different. But guess what waited for me on the top of the mountain? – a rainbow, as big as I’ve ever seen. One thing was clear: if I skipped the hike I would’ve missed the rainbow and wouldn’t have even known that I missed it. Most of life consists of such small choices and actions.

And as for Steve Job – don’t grieve the end of life you admire, better get busy doing something about your life if it doesn’t inspire you


Also read:
- What If There Were No Spring

Bury Me on Facebook by Misha Lyuve

Sep 17, 2011
In fond memories of Heather Vaughn and Richard Bowen. I am sure they are having a laugh with us

Unlike previous generations, after our death there will remain something beyond life-long accumulated clutter – our Facebook pages. They will be left for historians and biographers to assemble chronology of our life events, explain our ever changing tastes (and haircuts) and interpret motives behind our actions. And maybe more…

Two of my good acquaintances passed in the last two month. Their facebook pages turned into memorials and celebration of their lives, which made me realize: social media has not only conquered our lives, but even deaths now. Amen. However…

Looking at the comments left at these two pages, where memories became alive and pictures precious and gratitude astounding, grieving became more than just a lonely introverted individual experience, but a phenomenon where a community as a whole got a chance to express its love, respect and sadness.

And what I was left with is that underneath the hustle and bustle of our daily routine there is a stream of love. And more importantly, the expression of it is bursting with a desire to get out – it begs a question: why is the opening for that expression waiting for someone to die? Why don’t we rush and be an abundant expression of love, gratitude and admiration to the alive now?

Now a few words of wisdom. Remember those times, when you thought no one loves you, etc, and you imagine your own funeral? – that’s past. Now you can imagine your Facebook page full of lovely teary messages making up for the past lack of comments to your status updates and “likes” of your pictures. Also watch out what you’re posting – the delete function might not work from the other side.

You don’t know Jack by Misha Lyuve

Aug 7, 2011

Can one loathe euthanasia and, at the same time, admire Jack Kevorkian , its most prominent advocate, for the strength of his convictions and commitment? In other words, what would it take to separate a person from a cause he represents?

As if our support of gay marriage, women’s choice, or assisted suicide turns us into fair open-minded people; and our opposition makes us good Christians, or whatever good we are aspiring to be. Or as if one could really judge intentions and talent of our politicians based on their yes-no answers in the scorecard of controversial issues.

Watching “You don’t know Jack”, a movie about the life of late Dr. Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicide, made me think about how our society deals with controversy. There are plenty of reasonable arguments about personal choice, freedom, god, sanctity of life and a role of a government in our lives. Controversy starts when contradictions among these arguments lead to moral and philosophical dilemmas. A myriad of positions on a controversial issue are based merely on which arguments are more important to different people.

Let’s take Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who performed 130 assisted suicides, challenging legal and social orders and became synonymous with the cause itself. For his supporters he is a hero. His opponents blame him for being negligent and consider him a serial killer . But outside of the labels, who is Jack Kevorkian? His interviews and art give a lot of material to start answering this question, and in my opinion, “You don’t know Jack” is a great attempt to understand his motivations, struggles, and the character.

As for my life and death, I have a clear point of view how I think those should go. However, as for everyone else’s, I’m the first to admit, I don’t know jack. In fact, I think the most productive way to start participation in a debate on a controversial topic is with “I don’t know.” This would allow some real dialogues and could lead to finding much more effective solutions for controversial issues, leaving us much less divided and more compassionate and accepting.

Nearer my god to thee by Jack Kevorkian

Nearer my god to thee by Jack Kevorkian

About the painting in artist’s words:
This depicts how most human beings feel about dying — at least about their own deaths. Despite the solace of hypocritical religiosity and its seductive promise of an after-life of heavenly bliss, most of us will do anything to thwart the inevitable victory of biological death. We contemplate and face it with great apprehension, profound fear, and terror. Sparing no financial or physical sacrifice, pleading wantonly and unashamedly, clutching any hope of salvation through medicine or prayer. How forbidding that dark abyss! How stupendous the yearning to dodge its gaping orifice. How inexorable the engulfment. Yet, below are the disintegrating hulks of those who have gone before; they have made the insensible transition and wonder what the fuss is all about. After all, how excruciating can nothingness be?

Two deaths in London by Misha Lyuve

Jul 24, 2011
Listen to Amy while reading this post 


Lucian Freud and Amy Winehouse are the two names that aren’t likely to show up in the same sentence. But as they both died in London last week, the pair had me think about them together.

As different as they might seem – Freud (the Dr. Freud’s grandson) who shocked the world with his nudes that showed more flesh that most could handle and who lived till 88, and Winehouse whose brief, dense and volatile career and life, and now death at 27, rocked the world – the two seemed to have much more in common than one would think.

"Reflection", by Lucian Freud (self-portrait)

Reflection (self-portrait), by Lucian Freud

Kate Moss'a portrait, by Lucian Freud

Kate Moss's portrait, by Lucian Freud

Naked man with a rat, by Lucian Freud

Naked man with a rat, by Lucian Freud

So what is in common? – Raw, real and honest art. Fraud spent days with his models, in order to get into every detail of their bodies – and by the way, all kinds of bodies: young and old, skinny and fat – and discover details more intimate than a lover could see. I think the only reason why we would want to turn away from his paintings is because behind pretty and shiny pictures in magazines we forgot what real bodies look like.

And Amy wasn’t there to be nice, cute and clean or for someone to like her. Whatever demons that troubled her, with authentic roughness in her voice and from the depth of her chest, she made it very clear – she ain’t going to rehab. Yeh, rehab might’ve saved her life. But I think I get it now, maybe she was worried if there would be Amy left after rehab.

Now everyone is screaming about wasted life and lost talent – what do you know? – look at your own life and talents and see what you are waisting. No reason to judge Amy. Thank you very much

Alexander McQueen: savage and beauty by Misha Lyuve

Jun 2, 2011
My Alexander McQueen suit took me on a journey (see When art gets personal)


Alexander McQueen

“There is no way back now. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed before possible” -Alexander McQueen

Fashion had resonated to me more with commercialism, vanity and superficiality than with art – till I saw Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beuaty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gallerly? Theater? Catwalk? — all of it and none. Music, lighting, set up of the rooms, McQueen’s quoatations created an intense medium to experience his creativity, passion, drama, angels and demons, and allowed to immerse into his intensity. Faceless static manequens were such better carriers of art than flickering models; they gave time to experience, to process, to feel.

So here is McQueen: a son of a cab driver, described by othersbeer gut, shaved head, bad teeth and thick glottal cockney accent“, “foul-mouthed“, “hooligan“, “shy“; described by himself “I just want to be a wallflower. Nondescript. Just not anything. I don’t want to see me.” And that person created all this???

And suddenly I felt that maybe I am just getting a glimpse of how it was to be this man; when there is so much vision inside and such a huge gap with the outside — how intense that might feel? And the two ways out — death and madness — become reasonable and tangible. 

I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.“ 

I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.“ 

It is important to look at death because it is a part of life. It is a sad thing, melancholy but romantic at the same time.”

“It is the end of a cycle — everything has to end. The cycle of life is positive because it gives room for new things.”

When art gets personal by Misha Lyuve

May 19, 2011

There is nothing as effective in taking a career of an already successful artist to the next level as a sudden death or a suicide. One’s label can get selected for design of a royal wedding dress or get an exhibition in Metropolitan Museum of Art or even draw enough attention of a fool like me to buy their suit.

Yes, I own an Alexander McQueen’s suit.

We know art as something behind protective screens, shielded from daylight and flashlights of cameras or thoroughly wrapped from the touch of dirty fingers of movers.

But just because something can be worn every day, has to be adjusted to fit my size, and carries stains of my morning coffee, does it have to lose qualification of art? In fact, one thing is to have an experience in a museum or even see a painting hanging on the wall at home, but another to put an object on, having it envelope your body and touch your skin.

Is it the reason that I inadvertently avoid wearing my very artfully crafted suit, so that I don’t feel the weight of the dead body over my shoulders?

Has art got that personal with you?

A noteworthy suicide note and an inquiry into compassion by Misha Lyuve

Jan 11, 2011

Bill Zeller, a 27-year old Princeton PhD candidate and renowned internet programmer, committed a suicide and left a note that I find is worth a read (to read full letter click here)

The raw insights of his inner world and, ultimately, the act of suicide itself display a kaleidoscope of complex and contradictory intricacies of living. And I am sure if you read this letter you will end up with a wide range of opinions and emotions except for, probably, staying indifferent.

My question is about how the inner world is being expressed in the outer, for the most part in relationship with other humans.  Do we really have an idea of what the other, even someone close to us, is experiencing? After all, we’ve been conditioned to smile, exude success and thoughtlessly respond “great”s to “how are you?”s. And if we don’t feel it, we adjust. (Or else…?)

And for myself, I noticed that I became much harsher. In my life the intention to achieve desired destinations has become more important than attention, compassion or a random act of kindness.

Hmmm… definitely something to think about.

Leave comments with your thoughts.