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,Ca.in 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: http://www.salvationmountain.us/bio.html
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? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome
I think you may be surprised at the famous people (allegedly) affected--for good and ill-- by it:http://www.asperger-syndrome.me.uk/people.htm
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.