Tonglen / Phoenix II (major revision 2018)
Compassion illuminates love and love fuels compassion. This is the Phoenix fire turning its blazing cartwheels across the generations. Through numberless saints and martyrs, hate and fear, born of ignorance and suffering, are extinguished in courageous self-sacrifice, and thereby transmuted through compassion into strength and love. "Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that..." - M.L.K. We breathe in suffering and breathe out peace. This is the essence of a Tibetan meditative practice known as Tonglen. 
This painting is my breath. It is my prostration to the saints and martyrs, to the freedom fighters, to the Phoenix born of love and adorned with the radiant wings of compassion. Who saw the Phoenix reborn when Tich Quang Duc Sacrificed himself at that intersection in Saigon in 1963 (lower left hand corner of this painting)? Who would foretell that the photo taken by Malcolm Brown would ripple across the world and echo beyond the War to young Muhamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian student who would ignite, with his own immolation, the Arab Spring, and rebirth of democratic hope across the Middle East? Four dictatorships fell in the wake of these flames. 
...And still, who would mourn as the Phoenix fell again in Libya, Syria, Paris, and... and... and.... beyond.  On Christmas, 2018, another Tunisian, a television reporter, Abderrazak Zorgui, posted a video, saying, “I have decided today to put a revolution in motion... In Kasserine, there are people dying of hunger. Why? Are we not humans? We’re people just like you. The unemployed people of Kasserine, the jobless, the ones who have no means of subsistence, the ones who have  nothing to eat....I’m going to set myself on fire in twenty minutes.” His video was live-streamed onto YouTube. In his poignant farewell, Zorgui added, Whoever wishes to support me will be welcom­e. I am going to protest alone. I am going to set myself on fire, and, if at least one person gets a job thanks to me, I will be satisfied”* There have been thousands of attempted and hundreds of successful self-immolations, since Bauozizi...  
The cycles of our transformation turn in great arcs of time. Individual lives are far too small to measure this progress of the soul, but still we burn. We blaze for peace. This is the indomitable spirit. The Phoenix shall rise eternal.  

Tonglen... we breathe in the suffering. We see it. We hear it. We empathize with it, and then we breathe out peace with our words, our deeds, and our presence.   

Quang Duc's heart did not burn. It is kept as a holy relic. The heart did not burn.

*Info on Zorgui from- Wright, Robin. 2018. “Is Revolutionary Fervor Afire—Again—in Tunisia?”  The New Yorker magazine.
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