Success and Failure: Partners in Crime

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Success is not a place at which one arrives, but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” – Alex Noble

At age 30, Martin Ramirez left his wife and two children in Mexico to earn money on the railroads of California. After five years, the Great Depression threw him out of work and he wound up homeless.  Living on the street, he became mentally ill and was institutionalized with catatonic schizophrenia.  He spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals and died in DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn,  California in 1963.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Ramirez a failure. His life was sad, hard, and lonely, but he had one thing. While institutionalized, he started creating large art works with available materials, including brown paper bags, scraps of examining-table paper, and book pages glued together with a paste he made by chewing potatoes until they were soggy. You can see some of his works here.

Martin Ramirez Horse

Martin Ramirez Tunnel

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5 Responses to Success and Failure: Partners in Crime

  1. sekani says:

    Great post Dad!

  2. salome hancock says:

    good presentation. can be a murky area alright- conforming to media-presented stereotypes sure isn’t the answer. we all have different make-ups; can-do’s and can’t-do’s, and that’s fine. we all have a place at the table; find our own power source and tune that in to find meaning and enjoyment, and a sense of belonging in the world. each of us so deserves that. sally

  3. Liz says:

    Thanks, David. I, too, cringe at the constant pressure for “success,” even at a very young age. And in my kayak club, one of my favorite activities is “leapfrog,” where we all line up and the person in the back paddles hard to the front of the line, and then the new last person takes her turn, and so on. It’s just play; I love it.
    And what a fascinating story about Ramirez; I had no idea who was the artist behind those beautiful stamps!

  4. Sharon says:

    We often confuse success with monetary gain and not self-worth. If we would just enjoy who we are then we would all be successful. Wabi sabi is more of a Zen moment often performed as part of a tea ceremony. The rough earthen ware vessels are examined for their individual characteristics and how that provided beauty to the object. The idea is that nothing is perfect, nothing last forever, and nothing is finished. We are all flawed and we will not last forever but we can all strive to be better not to just ourselves but others around us. Pay it forward. Or as Sonny in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” would say to his guests “In India we have a saying: Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright then it is not the end.”

  5. Thank you for this beautiful article! Always wonderful to find another wabi friend.

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