The Forceby Antoni PayerasBonsai by Walter Pall
Illustration by Will Heath
A few years ago, while joking around with Kevin Wilson, we found ourselves discussing the ability of Bonsai to attract all kinds of people eager for glory and those that are using Bonsai to try to overcome their pettiness. In that discussion, it was evident that, if we looked at a list of Bonsai artist’s names, we could find two distinct groups.
In the first and largest group, friendship is the predominant concern among them. Composed of people concerned with the development of bonsai, this group creates and offers opportunities for the active dissemination of Bonsai knowledge, with little regard for self-advancement. These are people who talk about trees, not the personalities who create them, knowing that the most important thing is to grow as individuals, ever conscious that the more progress that is made on the path of knowledge, the further the edge is moved.
The other group is easy to describe, consisting of people who care more about themselves and what others are doing to their own trees. For them Bonsai is simply a means to glory and satisfying their own ego.
While we both agreed on this grouping of bonsai artists, it was Kevin who found the perfect comparison. He said that Bonsai is like "The Force" in the Star Wars movies. As in that tale, there is a dark side to the force that binds together our unique universe. This is not unlike the idea of the division between good and evil, yin and yang, or the many other opposite natures we can find represented in various religions.
The question is does Bonsai have a light and a dark side as well? I believe that if any of us who have walked enough years on this world thinks about it, eventually we would have to confirm this idea. Like all things, bonsai does indeed have a light and a dark side.
For me, I can see the persona of Yoda in my master, John Naka. The light side of the force is what he taught us to live by in our art. He taught about learning from nature, observing the tree as a living being, and bringing out its highest beauty. This philosophy ultimately becomes a path to what the Japanese call "The Way", where Bonsai is simply a means to personal development. Those who practice such are experiencing the light side and this is obvious to others who know how to see.
The dark side is also obvious. Those using Bonsai as an object that will provide status and those who pursue quick recognition, glory, and honor embrace the dark side. As in the movie, the dark side is very attractive and there is a strong temptation to fall into it, as it feeds on the exploitation of base human nature: jealousy, greed, arrogance, and desire for immediate gratification. It is easy to be seduced by it, especially when buying a few mature trees and taking a few short classes with the right teacher can make one look like an instant “authority” in bonsai.
If you look at the Spanish artists, it is be easy to recognize many characters of the Star Wars movie, the old Obi-Wan Kenobi, the young Luke Skywalker, and many other Jedi Knights. However, there are also some characters from the dark side, Darth Vader, Palpatine, the Dark Lord of the Sith, and so on. Among them are some who believe and Sith are nothing but mere servants. The dark side leads to a bonsai "Mastery" without even knowing basic wiring, or having only a basic knowledge of bonsai.
A good friend once said that while in Spain there are many differences between regions and nationalities, there is something that unites us more than the flag ....... envy.
I think this applies not only to Spain, but is applicable to the rest of Europe as well, which is the area that I am more familiar with. "Envy is a religion for mediocre people. It’s comforting, it responds to matters that are sprayed inside, and it also rots the soul, it allows a justification for all of the indifference, and cheapness; to the point of belief that those are virtues and that the doors to heaven will only open to unhappy people like them. They go through life without leaving a mark no more than excluding others and making others feel less, and possibly destroy those who, by its very existence and be who they are, show their poverty of spirit, mind and surrounding. Blessed is the man for which bark the cretins, because his soul will never belong to them."
- Carlos Ruiz Zafón
May the force be with you.