Peace through Strength

Watch me paint this Eagle and Dove in 2 minutes (time lapse)

When I re-share my oil paintings they take on new meaning depending on the state of the world and our individual perspective at the time of viewing. How has your definition of “peace” and “strength” evolved over the past two years? Your answer may be different if I ask you from month to month, day to day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

A healthy human condition is fluid. Our emotions are malleable. “Malleable” has two basic definitions ( The first is “capable of being shaped or formed, as by hammering or pressure”. This is normal and helps us grow. We adapt and respond to hardships, challenges, progress and regression. We are flexible and responsive to changing environments, lifestyle and health status, and political climates. This is the good, productive kind of malleable.

The second definition for “malleable” is “easily controlled or influenced”. This type of human condition endangers the future of mankind. It makes possible the reality of mass psychosis, in which the majority of the world’s population believes things that are false, that have relatively low risk of lasting harm or fatality compared to other risks. They then submit and might even become irrationally, unquestioningly loyal to an extreme solution that creates more hardship, suffering, and death. Oftentimes the lower risk of inaction (allowing a crisis to organically resolve without coercion or tighter control) is the more logical choice, but it requires bravery to ignore the bleating to act when people want swift solutions.

“Peace through Strength” is not a concept exclusive to world governments and military. Modern warfare relies heavily on psychological weapons that are directed not only at armies, but tragically at the civilian population, including children and the elderly. When a populace is controlled or influenced to turn their backs on their own nation, institutions, society, values, neighbors and families, the war has been won by the enemies of the People. For it is the people who determine how much wealth their rulers can siphon from the backs of their labor, and it is the people who either see the profit motive behind their rulers’ mandates or are blind to it. It is the people who submit, comply, and allow to be overtaken. When the people agree to enslavement, the objectives of the (tyrannical) ruling class is reached.

When we are strong, the need for a physical rescue may be unnecessary, thereby achieving a peaceful outcome to a confrontation or a coercive breach of our human rights. Indeed, a crisis may be averted before it even takes root, never escalating to the point where more dramatic measures are required to resolve the situation. Peace through strength is possible, even when it seems that the situation is too far gone. Telling ourselves that it’s “too late” or we “can’t do anything”, is an excuse for an unwillingness to try.

When we are easily controlled or influenced, our spirit and purpose is hijacked. We are distracted and diverted from our true predestined path when entities attempt to change us. We do not deserve this interference in our destiny. But if we stay off course indefinitely, we do so willingly, because no one can take away our free will. Being influenced requires consent at some stage. No matter how difficult it may be to stand firm in one’s own beliefs when broken, standing alone, ridiculed, shamed, and threatened, it is nonetheless possible. It requires strength.

Ordinary moments test us. When we feel uncomfortable in a conversation, are we strong enough to do the right thing? Are we resolutely silent when it is best to let an issue go, and honestly outspoken when it’s best to intervene? Do we do the right thing even when it’s difficult, or do we submit to the cowardice of the moment? Do we let the fatigue of the era overwhelm us, or do we dig in deep and persevere?

It may seem inconsequential, but even the smallest decision matters. The energy of our individual strength rises to empower us collectively. We are not a collective, who do not matter as individuals. We are individuals who make an extraordinary impact collectively. If we are individually fearful, beaten, broken, hopeless, discouraged, depressed, sullen, resentful, bitter, and hostile, we drown each other. If we are individually strong, we bring peace to all.

One of the truest paths to peace is for individuals to nurture their personal human strength and potential for courage. Be strong in mind, body, and spirit. A healthy and positive outlook generates energy. This energy creates an unwavering desire to remain free. Tyranny has no fertile ground for roots to grab hold when the garden of our soul is built on solid rock. Choosing to be free is that rock.

When standing in even the smallest of crossroads, making what seems like an insignificant decision about whether to get exercise or skip it, whether to eat a nutritionally healthy lunch or not, whether to work passionately on a project or slump through the hours, whether to take time for a real conversation with a loved one or mutter unimportant things we’ll never remember later, whether to wear the clothes we save for “good” or pick something from the dull front part of our closet, whether to plant or uproot what has been planted, whether to do something extraordinary today, or not…  imagine an eagle and a dove in flight. There are no small decisions. Every act of integrity adds more light to the winning column for humanity. Choosing to be positive is act of integrity. It takes effort. It takes strength. If others may mock you for it, it even takes bravery.

Peace of mind, body, and spirit comes through strength of character. It comes through the courage of standing in our personal, highly individual values; values that have these points in common: integrity, empathy and mercy. It comes through the bravery and energy we put into everyday decisions to choose hope, joy, love and freedom. Be as a dove, by first becoming an eagle.

Eagles Fly

First, two oil paintings, then the story behind both… make sure you don’t miss the challenge I’m offering you!

Watch me paint Eagle and Dove in the video above, and Eagle takes down Owl in the video below, in two minutes (time lapse)

“[during the painting of ‘Eagle and Dove’] light began dancing on the canvas (32 second mark, when I’m painting the sky), moving where I was trying to paint. It definitely got my attention because it was distracting to paint while that was going on. My guess is that the outside hummingbird feeder was swaying from either the wind or overzealous birds, and the light bounced off of it into the house, creating a light show on my canvas. However it happened, the result was light on my painting. When unexpected distractions occur while creating, an artist may choose to take a break from the work, or work through it. Regardless of what path is taken, disruptions and detours change our experience, and potentially the outcome of our art. Self-actualization can make the difference for whether or not the outcome is positive.”

– from blog series Compare 3, “Painting Light”, by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

Here, I was only talking about distractions that happen when trying to create art (and applying those momentary lapses in control to an overall philosophical pondering about life in general), but what I was not addressing is the type of distraction that occurs at the inspiration stage of art (or any type of planning, even if deciding whether or not to have a second cup of coffee).

But if I were to consider these two paintings more carefully, Eagle and Dove and Eagle takes down Owl, I’ll remember that I was influenced by outside events and other people when I was inspired to create these art compositions. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. As I shared earlier in the Compare 3 series, blog article “Painting Music“, new work benefits from collaboration, and that was true of “Eagle and Dove”, which is also known as “Peace through Strength”. But obviously people wouldn’t be able to find my eagle paintings unless I offer a title with the word eagle in it, so I have since created an alternate title that I now use.

This is another example of distractions and outside influence. I changed the title of my work- and that’s far from the first or last time doing this- because I’m responding to what words people need in order to find and connect with my art. It’s good to be flexible and make sound marketing decisions if one’s goal is to share art and make connections. Compromise in the area of cooperation is healthy. Compromise in the area of vision and values is dysfunctional.

Eagles fly. I was looking back at my pictures of eagles. I took this very sad one, of a caged eagle who was being rehabilitated after a gunshot wound. Look at the information sign mounted along the fencing, in the second photo.

Caged eagle (for rehabilitation) at Wesselman Nature Preserve 2017 in Evansville, Indiana USA

Eagles are meant to fly. After surviving a horrible ordeal, it may be rehabilitating to be caged for a short while. But it’s always important to return to the wild as quickly as possible.

I’ve experienced positive exchanges through the modern age of instant worldwide digital communication. Even the negative experiences have helped me grow (and this includes when I was targeted by terror groups). I don’t regret life’s winding road, and how it leads me to where I should go. But, when does a road become a hindrance, a detour, or even a dead end?

When we become aware of how much influence others have over us, we may realize that we are no longer flying. We are grounded, caged, or even dying. When our will to live is slowly whittled away, we may not even realize what’s happening until it’s too late. Humanity thrives on creative spirit, freedom, and unhindered access to nature, quiet, and God.

There may come a time when social media is recognized as dysfunctional and abusive. Has that time come for you? It did for me. I closed most of my accounts and I’m not active on the few that remain. As a result, my art has changed. I didn’t realize the influence of social steering on me, as I felt I was capable of rising above it. But awareness of restricted freedom does not set one free. Awareness alone is not enough. One must break the chains. I don’t regret painting art like “Eagle takes down Owl“; it was a reaction to world events and the culture of the time. I’ve often contributed to the historical time capsule, and I’m honored to do so. But a balanced life quickly counter balances when influence is too heavily weighted on the spirit.

As humans, are we meant to be caged? Should we chain ourselves to our screens to the outside world? What about our connection to our inner selves, and our spiritual channel to God? What happens to us when we ground our solo flights through life? What happens when our every thought is influenced by other people, events as portrayed by other people, and agendas that are presented with skewed or even manufactured perceptions by other people?

Healthy communication is about sharing. It frees humanity to speak from the heart, without restricting how many words it takes to say it. Short, clipped words are dynamic, powerful, and addictive, while also more prone to miscommunication and hostility. It often takes more time to say something that is healing and beneficial, while one word can tear down a soul. 

This is what I wanted to present to you as a challenge today. May I suggest that you stop reading and posting on social media for one full week, or as long as you’re willing to last? Perhaps begin with a single day. An afternoon? An hour? Try what you can handle and see how you feel. If you accept my challenge offer, you may be surprised at how freeing it is to be released from the influence of so many voices in your ear.

Painting Light

This next theme for my “Compare Three” series is not what it seems. When I say Painting Light, I don’t mean that I’ve painted the light, but rather the light has put itself into my paintings! It was quite an extraordinary experience, each time. And since it’s happened exactly three times so far, I put all three in. During the act of creating, mysterious events may happen that can be described as “serendipitous” or something more. What we make of these events is up to us.

None of the dazzling light that interacts with “Flag on Mars” was edited in. This was all naturally occurring while I was painting, and was at times so blinding that I could barely see the canvas to paint (about midway through video). There’s a simple explanation. My usual painting station was already occupied by another painting in the works and I didn’t want to move my work lamp, so I set up a second station by the patio glass doors for natural lighting. The sun blared through the glass and directly struck the painting at intervals. When the video was sped up to create the short time lapse, the light effects were quite extraordinary. When unexpected things happen during the art process, the act of creating becomes something “more”.

In this next example, my experience with light happened after the painting was done. But I want to first share the painting itself because, as often happens in art, the inspiration for the painting matters and is why the “heavenly” lighting effects were emotional. This art was meant to illustrate the belief that loved ones send messages from beyond. In my personal story, these messages are “delivered” through the number 62 (age Mom was when she died; the number my family sees, especially on important dates, seemingly random, yet occurring so often that patterns defy statistical probability). I started by literally painting that number, and then let the art unfold. It was intended to be an abstract, but somehow I just drifted into painting a rather faint suggestion of a bird. It felt right, so I let it evolve. These are colors that Mom liked, and since it’s not really my style of art, it was probably hers. We tended to like opposite things. If I liked bold, she’d like subtle, and vice versa. In the end, it felt like “her” painting, something she would have liked.

This next video shows what happened to the “Bird of Light” painting when I woke up the next morning. The entire color scheme appeared in shades of red. While Mom’s favorite colors were greens and yellows, my favorite is red. But it was the beautiful light that really took my breath away, and how it added itself so perfectly to the composition of the painting. On the video I say that when things like this happen, it “confirms everything”. When we create according to our belief system and are true to our individual faith and hope, we tend to see our thoughts actualized.

Therefore, what was “confirmed” was what I believed. Being a realist allows for hope and positivity, because it is understood that these are important to the human condition. An open heart accepts life’s tragic moments as well as its peaks of awe and wonder, and is content in a solitary space where serendipity is welcome. The very act of creating is a choice, and sometimes we perceive a response that feels intimate, meaningful, and mysteriously serendipitous, “confirming everything”.

In this last example, “Eagle and Dove” (previously mentioned in blog post “Painting Music“), light began dancing on the canvas (32 second mark, when I’m painting the sky), moving where I was trying to paint. It definitely got my attention because it was distracting to paint while that was going on. My guess is that the outside hummingbird feeder was swaying from either the wind or overzealous birds, and the light bounced off of it into the house, creating a light show on my canvas. However it happened, the result was light on my painting. When unexpected distractions occur while creating, an artist may choose to take a break from the work, or work through it. Regardless of what path is taken, disruptions and detours change our experience, and potentially the outcome of our art. Self-actualization can make the difference for whether or not the outcome is positive.