Work in the valley gave me an an unlimited travel budget, in addition to a hunger to find the best players in what I considered my field. My field was art and through interactions with other artists and research on my own I decided to focus on the top players in my field, and study their work in person.
So I went to London and went through the National Gallery as well as the Portrait Gallery and other museums, not sure what my top artist was there but a lot of Renaissance. I went to Paris to study the impressionists, my visit to Musée d'Orsay changed my entire attitude and changed the way I look at art. Until that point I had not much respect for impressionism. After that point I gained much respect for both impressionism and art, and got a glimpse of what a profound change in seeing involves.
With this newly gained perspective i started looking at Van Gogh. I went to Amsterdam and the Hague and in addition to Van Gogh looked at Rembrandt, Bruegel and the Northern Renaissance. I discovered Vermeer in person - I was running through a gallery at closing time and arrived, almost out of breath, at one of his smaller paintings. I was stunned and this small painting took my last breath away.
Anyway - back to Paris I resumed studying with sculpture and painting, and started studying Picasso and Dali. I continued my education on Picasso and Dali in Madrid, where there are three major museums stuffed with the best the world can offer in terms of painting, including Goya, and Hieronymus Bosch. My interest in Bosch came after I got acquainted with surrealism, and his work as a sort of a predecessor, the first surrealist.
Now big impact on my consciousness was of course Rome and Florence. The Vatican museums and the Uffizi produced in me growth equal in its intensity to that of going to the moon. I stared at the Botticelli and other pre-Renaissance for hours on end. Most impact on me in Rome was produced by the sculptures in the Vatican museum, and by the work of Michelangelo. Later i saw Bernini in person as well - I spent a whole day with his sculptures at Galleria Borghese.
With all this newly acquired knowledge and new standards I started spending more time in New York and the galleries there. I was flying on weekends to see the major museums, including MOMA and the Whitney. Modern art entered my consciousness, with the solid backing of old art.
And here I will pose for a minute, because art has and will always be at the forefront of what I consider worthy of thought. But there is another thing I discovered, which is a school of thought which dealt with how we see the world, and it had little, if anything to do with art.
I went to Japan, and in a summer I spent time in several temples of the Rinzai school of Zen in Kyoto. Sitting on the mats somewhere in Arashyama, surrounded by ponds and zen gardens, I was struck by lightning. Her I found, I saw and felt, the ultimate efficiency and beauty of simplicity. I saw and felt the effects of Zen and later on adopted that outlook for my life.
What did the discovery of Zen mean? It meant that on my return to America I started seeing how much time and resources we expend on things that fill our rooms and our environment. I remember a conversation with someone about their experience with a seventy thousand dollar kitchen in Westchester. Imagine the amount of pressure and resources that would take to cut up a simple salad. it's like having dinner and dragging a locomotive behind.
When I think of dinner - i imagine going to the fruit stand guy on the corner, having an avocado, a few tomatoes, fruit, eating it in a park or in a nice public space somewhere in Manhattan and using the rest of the time and resources to have fun and enjoy the company of family and friends, of galleries, museums and theaters, libraries if you want, of which our city abounds.
To sum it up and to circle back to the title I gave to this post - I had the piece of mind and resources to study what mattered to me without the pressure to produce immediate results and act on the so gained knowledge, and to expand my outlook on the world and find a set of beliefs and standards for life that struck a chord with me.