Thursday, 15 December 2011


I INTRODUCE TO YOU A REAL LIVE FOREST GUMP--A SIMPLE GENIUS.  I've known him for 20 years and the feelings I have for him are similar to the feelings I felt for the movie character. I don't think he would be offended by the comparison.  And, like Forest Gump, the effect my friend has had on the world is  way, way disproportionate to his intellect. In fact it is very likely you have seen him on the silver screen in the movie INTO THE WILD--produced by Sean Penn.  Royalty checks still come to him.

Meet leonard Knight---artist--Christian--a man with a message.
I took this picture one year ago.
He lives here!
He made this!  It is called Salvation Mountain--located 3 miles east of Niland, a very un-scenic desert. 27 years of labor are represented. Tour busses bring the curious to view it.

Here are the most recently used-up paint cans.  An estimated 100,000 of them were used in the painted mud art work---all donated by well wishers. 
And here he is a few days ago---clearly Leonard is in decline.
Here's the full story:
His spirits rise when I sing a song to him---he joins me: "Jesus loves me---this I know---for the Bible tells me so---If I love him when I die---he will take me home on high". I have interviewed him several times over the years. Once I ask him for his religious views.  He said I was the first person who had ever asked.  His theology is heartrendingly simple and childlike:  God loves us---wants us to repent and accept Jesus---and love each other. Little did I suspect that this very day would mark the end of his career----for in the night he was taken to the hospital---diagnosed as incapable of managing his life and will be sent to an El Cajon, Ca nursing home.  Word quickly spread through the Slabs and perhaps around the world.

I seize the opportunity to quiz his caretaker Kevin Eubank MSW who protected and befriended the ailing artist these last few years. He told me that Leonard has asperger syndrome--a mild form of autism with the downside of  diminished ability to read social cues (and the host of relational problems that entails) BUT with the upside of a super ability to FOCUS  and PERSIST.  Want to know more?
I think you may be surprised at the famous people (allegedly) affected--for good and ill-- by it: 
 Leonard came to this spot 27 years ago bringing a giant home-made hot air balloon that he tediously pieced together from scraps-- thinking the desert environment would make inflating it easier--it didn't and eventually that years-long project was abandoned.  He lingered awhile-- long enough to generate another vision---paint his message---GOD IS LOVE-- on the nearby hill---and then plunged headlong into the task FOR THE NEXT 26 YEARS.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:----Is this a life well spent? ---He seemed happy-- told me he was excited each day to work on the mountain----delighted by everyone's support: (people donated equipment, vehicles, paint)--- (the nearby restaurant gave him free meals) ---But he lived a lifetime without intimate friends---or lovers--pushed them away, Kevin said.  I find it interesting that larger minds--(-like Kevins'--- as well as writers, photographers) centered on him--gathered around him at various times for inspiration---just as they did around Forest Gump. Perhaps we are drawn to people not afraid to commit---to something--anything---people who by genetic defect are not troubled by the anxiety of meaninglessness.  We complicated, confused personalities (most of us) might sometimes envy those simple spirits who dive boldly into---anything.  They at least have the courage to dive.  I may well  have dabbled my life away as a dilettante.  I've been discussing the title question for a week now with my friends--I have answered no--- that life is a smorgasbord of infinite dishes and that Leonard stopped--tragically-- at the bread.  But in the end, they persuaded me that the answer is yes--by my own criterion of a good life: RESPONDING TO ONES FASCINATIONS-----WAKING UP ONES CREATIVITY-----SHARING ONES ADVENTURE.  Leonard did these three things and his brain seemingly glowed for a lifetime AND INCIDENTALLY , THE WORLD BEAT A PATH TO HIS DOOR.

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