The Testimony of
The following article documents the curious life and philosophy of Peter Blouin ’66.
Reprinted from the Cornell Alumni News, May 1971
The newspapers day after day document some world . . . but that same world has Picasso in it, and you could just do a newspaper on Picasso and be much more in tune with the real beauty that could be.
I meet people like Allen Atwell, who tells me how to wrestle with certain pains, to forget about the work and to worry about seeing. He was saying that if you just drew and kept looking and didn’t worry about the product, trying to sell the product, trying to make this product, but just kept looking, eventually someone will be interested in these marks you’re making.
I’ve learned a lot through the answers of Jesus, like “Thou shall not fornicate.” My voice says, “Okay, here’s this whole way saying ‘Thou shall not fornicate,’ what are you going to do about it?” And there’s been the sense that I’ve recently come into through The Gospel of Peace, which is that I have the potential to be like Jesus, of being Jesus, as he says in his words: if you do my will, I will be in you.
And something I’ve read that Philip wrote, apparently was that “one man cannot recognize the beauty of another unless he himself possesses that beauty,” so Jesus made his disciples beautiful so they could see his beauty. But otherwise people did not know who Jesus was. He could walk around without being just mobbed because people couldn’t see that if they did touch him or talk to him that he would help them. And then even the people he did talk to often didn’t understand. We ourselves are always missing each other. We don’t appreciate how beautiful we are.
And I’ve become aware of the nature of that which is keeping me and other people from really celebrating the magic of life. In The Gospel of Peace Jesus explains that we haven’t been living by the laws of life, and if we were, life would constantly reveal itself and everything would just start blooming. In the spirit of his image you could begin looking at these drawings and you would know them. Life is just waiting to reveal itself to us, but we don’t always know why, but I’ve begun to see why we keep not being turned on. Jesus says it’s because we have death inside us, and the only way to get that death out is to fast and to pray.
It seems I’m always being called to roles of aloneness, like I don’t smoke dope. I’m always choosing myself out of a sociability. I choose myself out of that and I’m united with someone like Van Gogh or Jesus or the Bowery bum. But I don’t feel the pain because I’m always choosing something that has to do with a greater growth, a greater wholeness.
Whatever we do of Satan’s world we have to pay for. He promises that if we put ourselves more in debt we’ll be relieved of the debt we’re experiencing. If I’m a heroin addict, Satan promises that if I take more heroin I’ll be relieved of my pain. The drag about heroin probably is that it’s cooked. The drag about Bowery bums is that they’re drinking pasteurized wine, they’re drinking cooked wine. If they were drinking raw wine, they would get healthy because they’d be eating food, and live food teaches you, whereas dead things teach nothing.
If you want to know what a chicken is and you kill it, it’s going to be hard to find out. If a man has live wine, it’s going to discipline him. It is his mother. Live wine would stop a man from drinking, it would hurt him until he stopped, just like my dog bites the puppies until they stop nursing.
Tonsils, someone tells me, are the watchdog of the body, and if too many pollutants start coming in, they start reacting, a sign to a man that’s he’s got to check what he’s putting into himself. But instead of doing that he cuts them out. Many people won’t believe these words, that life comes from life, so they go on cooking breads, cooking meat, and they say, no, this isn’t true. They’re going to have to wait forty years to get cancer from cigarettes, and even then they might not believe smoking did it to them.
Apple pie seems pretty neat, and everybody else is doing it. But then I realize when I do it that I have become everyone else, and that’s frightening. At first it seems so innocent. Like you want to be like everyone else because everyone else seems to be flowing. But all of a sudden you realize that, wow, that’s no place to be at all. And then, you know, being sort of a disciple of Jesus, it’s an incredible transition to try to make.
In order to be an addict of the world, I would have to have supportive systems. I’d have to employ myself somewhere and not tell my employers that I think what they’re doing is absurd so that I could have enough money to eat out of Satan’s kitchens.
I see a woman walk through the Architecture library wearing a white dress because she’s the person that cleans up. Men are constantly given a chance to see the absurdity of what’s happening, but then they’re not given the chance to do anything about it. She’s got this huge, bulky figure because she doesn’t respond to the fact that eating too much is pain. She’s had so much pain that she’s given up trying to be beautiful. So they put this uniform on her that reveals it all. She’s imprisoned.
Most people, it seems, put in such a brief showing…. They go to church on Sunday and it seems like, wow, look at all these people going to church But six days and nights that church is deserted, and on the seventh day you start being in that family and you remember what it was like to go to church. You remember how little you saw, how little you really came in touch with those other people, and you start realizing why it is that we’re so lonely, why it is we can’t connect.
When I eat cooked food I get sick. But other times I’m really strong. I was arrested in California because ten minutes earlier a person of my description robbed a bank, bare feet and long hair, and it was in a city. Fortunately I was in possession of myself and I just played Jesus. I was just being at peace, and they photographed me, handcuffed me, man they felt they had me. Like, wow, bank robbery-ten minutes later they’ve got the guy, and I had money in my wallet, twenty-five dollars. It might have been just the exact amount. They took me over to the detective station and this huge guy was there and he sort of grinned at me and said “Hello.” And I just said “Peace be with you.” And he smiled at me. So I knew-I mean I just didn’t feel alien.
Every once in a while I get very tempted by my pain to give in, and do a banana split. And in just doing it, just beginning to do it, I’ll see the poverty, I’ll see this huge woman inside this little cage and everybody else is trying to celebrate Sunday outside, and she’s inside, oppressed by people, and I’ll know that the food is cooked. Jesus says “You can sow cooked seed, but to think you’re going to get a plant,” he says, “forget it.”
When you go into a restaurant, if you have to wait for someone to prepare all these things, you’ve got to pay them for the time, and you’re paying to enslave them in that restaurant. With live food you don’t have to worry about preserving it, it’s just there; and if you’re hungry, you just eat.
Earlier in my life I thought, wow, Jesus’ words often are a heavy trip when your desires start wanting to do something else. Especially for us, growing up, something like Thou shall not fornicate started to mean people laying little subtleties of that one law, like you shouldn’t touch too much or shouldn’t kiss too much and all these little tunes, and it starts becoming this wall.
But now I come to learn that it’s not a wall at all, it’s a door, and if you go through that door, then you get life. I mean if you really follow the law, then what’s happening is that you keep feeling the wall until you feel the door. But otherwise, you just keep feeling the wall and you try to celebrate that. You try to celebrate woman this way and all you ever do is keep touching what you see and you never go through, you never go through to highness. You only go through to illusion.
There’s the confusion of you’ve got to go all the way through school in order to become. When you’re given a gift like that I’ve been given, you start seeing that you can’t make it that way, you’ve got to be direct. I’m not waiting for years to become a great artist. I’m just being it because I want to be it, and I’ve found out that you don’t have to wait. All of a sudden I dug that about artists. They turn on to beauty and then they just start turning on to the fact that whatever marks they make are unique.
I started to turn on to a certain understanding of Jesus’ words like “For God there’s only life.” So there’s a sense that if you just could do that which does bring you peace, then you’re going to find your reward. In other words, yesterday morning I just stayed and drew because it gave me peace. It turns out that’s maybe what I really was meant to do, to sit and do those drawings. So I’ve started to adjust to that. In other words, Jesus says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Today’s problems are enough.” There’s this nowness of our being together to celebrate. Tomorrow I may be in Florida.
The little boy that’s too noisy needs to be taught music, because everyone needs to be redeemed to what they are. Jesus came to show us, incarnate, what a man really could be. And this is what I’m working on doing again. Heretofore, men put all their energies into products to show men what life could really be, and slowly men have also been working on themselves as they’ve gotten rid of kings and hierarchies and governments, and men have become poets and writers and beatniks and hippies, and people have started working on being, as Whitman and Thoreau did. And now everybody has this incredible potential, at least in America, and a lot of primitive peoples have had it, to just be themselves. A bird just sings, and Jesus tells us, dig it, you know. And when you begin to dig it, you begin to understand what he means. In other words, everything is just scripture until you begin to understand what it means. You can document it, historicalize it and everything, but when you begin to understand what it means, then it’s totally different.
And Jesus says in The Gospel of Peace “Learn to play from the animals.” Well, the goat’s been chewing me apart in a groovy way. But I really discovered something-he’s been chewing the edge of my coat, and I had a feeling why he was, but it took me a little while to really get around to checking. Then when I checked I was right, there was grain because it fell into rny pocket, and that’s why he was chewing it. And a long time ago when I began sleeping where I was instead of checking out that I had a place to sleep for sure, I learned from my dog how to really handle it.
I’d go with my dog to a friend’s place-and there were about 10 people-some of them smoking dope. I was hungry for sleep and I had to rest. I didn’t want to associate with anything, which is sort of a dangerous way to be, you know, to want to sleep somewhere but you don’t want to associate with anybody. It’s not the way to play the game in terms of the world, but in terms of Jesus you might be all right. If one is with the way, then one is meant to sleep there, it’s all going to work out.
So I walked in this place and my dog just went and he just laid down, and I dug that’s what dogs always do, and he looks beautiful-so maybe I will too. Then you find people think it’s a compliment if you’re willing to go to sleep in their house or go to sleep on them, with them, that you trust them, which is sort of a nice thing to hear when you thought you had to be a little paranoid about going to sleep there. So I moved the chairs so I could sleep behind the couch.
And later the people that rented the apartment came into the room-I knew they were there-and they walked out again, and in the morning this girl, Kathy, said to me, “I knew it was you because no one else moves furniture around,” and in the imperfection of things that’s all I could do. I mean I . . . I couldn’t ask her . . I couldn’t offend her. I just had to try to ride the wagon that it was really all right, and in many ways I could see it was really all right. There was a certain mirth about the fact that Peter comes in, moves the furniture around, goes to sleep, and I hadn’t bothered anybody.
Jesus is just revealing that if we would do the laws of life we would begin seeing as an innate gift. We are innately meant to be high. After my last fast, which didn’t go all the way because of my own poverty, I thought about the peace I’ve sort of attained. Gandhi did the same thing. Gandhi started his fasts, and there’s a book on his fasting. “I may be crazy,” he said, “but I’m the only one having to suffer for it. I’m not hurting anybody else, and I’m digging,” he said, “that it’s really working, things are happening. People outside of me are being affected.”
Peter Blouin graduated from Cornell in February 1966. Since that time, he has undergone several transformations but has held constantly to his recognition of the wisdom of Jesus’ words. A friend who was watching Peter at work on a sculpture suggested “Floating Clouds” as a descriptive name, which Peter apparently prefers to Blouin. He next became a student of The Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ, [an imaginative work of modern fiction.]
Peter’s words have been excerpted from a taped interview in which he delivered, almost non-stop, an extraordinarily consistent description of the relationships between, and the unity of, his religion, art, and life. His eyes are steady and will hold your gaze, while a voice that suggests both calm and exhaustion patiently explains the oneness of religious and artistic vision.
Peter’s drawing, seen here, is titled “Peace Be With You.”