This is New York: Wang Lu Ri, Living Simply Within Complexity
NEW YORK—Wang Lu Ri gave up an 8-year graduate degree in art to draw caricatures at Times Square.
He sits at a small desk behind his stand that is decked out with the usual exaggerated pictures of Obama, Justin Bieber, and drawings of tourists Wang said he was fated to meet.
Wang, 53, arrived in New York 16 years ago.
“My personality did not allow me to fit into modern Chinese society,” he said. After he completed undergrad at an arts school in China, he left for Japan.
“I left China wanting to become an artist. But what do you become an artist for? People often become artists for selfish reasons, to make a mark in society, to have their work remembered,” he said. “But I don’t want any of these things.”
Instead, Wang spends around eight hours a day studying his faded purple book of Buddhist principles. He said he has no friends, but he is at peace with himself and the world. He purposely distances himself from society as much as he can.
“By some people’s standards, I am a failure of a man. I do not own a house. I do not make a lot of money,” he said. “But I am at peace with myself because I know that what happens to us is a result of our own decisions, whether we made kind or bad decisions.”
He’s an unconventional monk, if one can even call him that. He has a wife and two children; they live together in Bayside, Queens.
He dedicates his time to the mundane occupation of drawing comical sketches. But Wang said he lives solely for the good of others.
“I cannot save the world,” Wang said. “I can only save myself. By being a good person, I am giving my contribution to society.”
He said he grew up wondering why he had to suffer more than those around him, even prior to his embarking on a spiritual path. Wang believes people reincarnate instead of going to heaven because they were not good people in their past lives.
So he is happy to suffer now in order to have a good future after his human life is over.
Wang refused to discuss much about his youth, except that was born in Liaoning Province in northern China and began to draw at 14.
He said his deepest sorrow is for Chinese people as a whole, particularly those in China today.
“People in China have lost proper education for four generations,” he said. “That is very pitiful.”
His parents’ generation was marred by the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the generation before that by a series of wars.
In Wang’s opinion, the last time someone inside China had been educated properly was during the Qing Dynasty. And by education, he means the education of how to be a human being.
“Someone once told me that the answers to life’s questions lie in ancient Chinese culture,” he said. ”Ancient Chinese analysis of human beings and human life is very profound.”
Wang also reads traditional Taoist texts, as well as Confucian aphorisms on how to fulfill one’s role in society.
He said he found inner peace by understanding and fulfilling what his destined roles are in society, which is as a father and husband.
Wang works long hours to make money for his children’s educations and he makes enough so his wife doesn’t have to work.
“I believe women have the most to offer when it comes to the upbringing of a child,” he said. “She was better at it, so I worked.”