MindMeet’s Storyteller, Araxe Hajian, spent an afternoon enchanted by the luminous beauty of Beatrix Ost, as they pondered aspects of the human experience one day before violence charged into their quiet college town of Charlottesville, VA. This is the first of a two-part interview.
A young Ost poses for a photo featured in her recent memoir, More than Everything. (Source: Beatrix Ost)
AH: On the eve of so much hate gathering, let’s talk about its opposite. About LOVE.
BO: We cannot exist without it. It has as many facets as there are. It’s what keeps us going, what makes us human. It’s much more than when you are quarreling about what are the kids doing now and where the money is coming from. If you cut that out and it’s just two people? It is authenticity, discovery.
AH: So, Love is not about the day-to-day interactions and transactions.
BO: Ah, it is much bigger than that. Often it is such a small gesture and it shows so much. I came from a time when women were very much at war with each other. The art galleries of the 80s were all women and full of artifice. This is not any more. Women have learned to love each other. You go to a restaurant and there is a table of eight women and eight faces laughing their heads off and dressed to kill for each other. This is a gesture of love to one another. They are so eager to help each other. Yes, it is a sisterhood of love.
AH: When did you first feel a connection to something larger than yourself?
BO: When my son was 12, a clairvoyant man said, “This child was a Rinpoche in Tibet¸ he has it inside. He is a reincarnate.” I thought, “What? What did I know of Tibet?” But it truly came to that. So, this is this. And we took our first trip to Tibet with Bob Thurman and walked up the holy mountain. It was a big task, but so grand to me. There was something mighty and profoundly changing already in me. I got enormously interested in Buddhism. My son, Fabian, studied at a Buddhist university. He gave me books. Through him, I opened. And I have been quietly picking and choosing, taking it in, and meditating.
Ost lounging in a window sill during a fashion photography shoot. (Source: The Coveteur)
AH: And how did that sense of largeness manifest in your life?
BO: My world and mind became enormously enlarged. I sat down and wrote a book for my sons, but was told, “It’s not for your sons; it’s for the world.” I wrote about what happened to Germany through Hitler. My father, who helped Jewish people to flee, had a strong position and personality. There were many people like us and it was a story that needed to be told. How we lived in and after the war. And how our morale and my mother’s flowers on the table made us all sane.
AH: Were you encouraged to be creative when you were growing up?
BO: The war was outside, but at our table, where there were always 20 people eating because the hungry relatives came to live with us. The war was outside and we weren’t allowed to talk about it. We spoke about philosophy and art and my father spoke Latin with his father at the table. It was an interesting world. You couldn’t buy anything and that made me become inventive, so I guess I became this fashion-person. A creative person.
AH: You came from a background of abundance, but also one of war and suffering. How would you define wealth?
BO: It’s a big bouquet from which you can give a lot. It’s like having the scent of roses in your hand and it already spreads out. Having that kind of wealth—you can do so much good. Money is a good Mittel zum Zweck—a means to an end. I have been poor and I have had lovely money around. It never ever changed me. I never had desires which were purely paid for. It was always within. So, when there was more money we could rent a villa and invite all our friends. But if not, then we would just go to the lake and have a picnic. It’s the same pleasure. It’s a feeling and nothing can buy a feeling.
Ost posing during a recent interview. (Source: Whurk Magazine)
AH: Did you ever get a piece of advice that changed the way you view things?
BO: The Dalai Lama came here to Charlottesville for a conference of World Peace Laureates. He gave us ideas and advice in the most direct, simplified way—no corners where things can hide. He said things like, “You people go to the gym every day. You get a beautiful body from it, all muscle and healthy. Why don’t you go and meditate and get a strong mind?” It was like, Boom! There it is. He is right.
AH: Has that helped you strengthen your mind?
BO: I am always working on it… I once had a little brooch made that says practicing silence. I used to go out at night in a fantastic dress and wear it. I would be approached and I would point at my sign. So, I became a watcher and a listener. My ears became huge. I built up a library of thought and things I heard. Many profane and stupid things. And many subtly clever things. I wanted to overcome being an easy talker, which I am. And I also wanted to not be bored because I can become terribly bored. I did it to become a listener.
AH: What does balance mean to you?
BO: It’s an equilibrium. And it is also something I am working on. Because I have one good thing and one not good thing. The good thing is that I cannot keep any negativity in me. It bursts out in a second. I could say, “You asshole!” And then three minutes later, I can apologize. But then it’s over. It’s outside of me. I never remember that I had anything with that person. I cannot hate. Sometimes I have outbursts. Absolutely. But they are like a rainstorm—gone very quickly. I don’t carry it around.
Beatrix Ost is an artist, writer, designer, actress, and film and theatre producer who lives in Charlottesville, VA, and New York City. Her most recent books include More than Everything: My Voyage with the Gods of Love, A Piece of Me: My Childhood in Wartime Bavaria, and The Philosopher’s Style. Beatrix also creates beauty out of bomb fragments by designing jewelry for Article22.