Today is November 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you in love with life?” Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work grew out of the New York City street culture of the 1980s. Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism. He achieved this by using sexual images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness.
Haring's work grew to popularity from his spontaneous drawings in New York City subways—chalk outlines of figures, dogs, and other stylized images on blank black advertising-space backgrounds. He also painted his figures on the lower part of the subway walls sitting on the floor. After public recognition he created larger scale works, such as colorful murals, many of them commissioned. His imagery has "become a widely recognized visual language". His later work often addressed political and societal themes—especially homosexuality and AIDS—through his own iconography.
Haring died on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. In 2014 Haring was one of the inaugural honorees in the Rainbow Honor Walk, a walk of fame in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood noting LGBTQ people who have "made significant contributions in their fields." In June 2019, Haring was one of the inaugural fifty American "pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes" inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City's Stonewall Inn.
Although he died barely into his 30s, Haring left behind an insightful, poignant, and penetrating look into his spirit with his diary, posthumously published as the quiet, symphonic wonder Keith Haring Journals. Below are two observations by Haring: the first on the intersection of having confidence in being one’s self and the other on being in love with life.
“If I always seek to pattern my life after another, mine is being wasted re-doing things for my own empty acceptance. But, if I live my life my way and only let the other [artists] influence me as a reference, a starting point, I can build an even higher awareness instead of staying dormant… I only wish that I could have more confidence and try to forget all my silly preconceptions, misconceptions, and just live. Just live. Just. Live. Just live till I die.
I think it is important to be in love with life. I have met people who are in their 70s and 80s who love life so much that, behind their aged bodies, the numbers disappear. Life is very fragile and always elusive. As soon as we think we ‘understand,’ there is another mystery. I do not understand anything. That is, I think, the key to understand everything.”
American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his 1838 “A Psalm of Life” poem to remind us, as Haring’s life did, to fall in love with life.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
As you labor and navigate the chaos, how often do you catch yourself in love with life?