“I don’t know about my paintings, but I’m proud of my life”
An epitaph for a full anti-job life
I read The Third Coast a few years back, and to this day I still can’t stop thinking about a passage regarding the dying days of artist Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.
Moholy taught and practiced art and design in Chicago, but was always outshined by other artists and architects, most notably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—famous for some of the most brutalist, boring buildings in the city.
Anyway, in the book, as Moholy is dying of Leukemia, a friend asks him if he was satisfied with his body of work. Moholy reportedly answered:
“I don’t know about my paintings, but I’m proud of my life.”
Reading that, I’m still flled with a sense of peace so rare in a culture that, like ours, pressures us leaving something behind, some sort of legacy, as if our we were getting one final report card upon death, a final grade on whether we did the homework right.
“I’m proud of my life.” Not my work. That’s all there is to it at the end.
The book continues, describing Moholy’s funeral:
“[The] eulogy managed to praise and patronize at the same time…comparing Moholy to a ‘an unprejudiced child at play’…[it] might have envied Moholy’s innocence, but also made clear that Moholy hadn’t moved big shafts of still or bought and sold companies the way the Fat Men did.”
Good for the Fat Men. But they forget that work—which will eventually fade away no matter what--is merely a means to a good life.
Team Moholy all the way.