A portrait about Pèter Berke
– Interview from the 25‘th of May 2019, Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka –
image description: Peter stands in front of a wall, which he has designed and drawn in his time of Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka.
1. When was the last time you felt happiness from the bottom of your heart?
I think I feel happy in very simple moments like yesterday. I was just sitting in the hammock and saw my girlfriend in the other hammock. Then this very simple pure feeling of existence together with other people came over me. I think most of the time I’m happy, but when I realise I have everything and it’s just nice to exist, I really feel it. It is possible to feel this way much more often than we think it is. Obviously, I am now here in Sri Lanka on vacation and people would say: why wouldn’t you feel happy? I think you can also realise this at home and when you are doing your job and you are stressed. When you realise it you get grounded somehow and feel the same.
2. What was the most soul touching experience in your life?
Some of my friends and my sister have children and when I saw them the first time it was always like a miracle. I don’t know it’s just very interesting that you create a new person with not much effort. People do it all the time even by accident. (laughs) But you know, when you just see another tiny person and think about the fact that it will develop into a full-grown human being it’s really touching. Quite many of my childhood friends get babies now. I am always surprised, because I remember them as very irresponsible and crazy people, but when they have to take care about the family, they change.
3. Do you believe in a god or a higher power?
I don’t believe in a god or higher power and when I think about what governs this universe, I have no answers to the questions. My parents made me to go to the catholic church when I was young, but I didn’t have very good experiences in church and kind of abandoned it. If it is not built in your system of thoughts and it’s really hard to believe in something. Religions have positive aspects like, creating communities and guidelines of life, but once you are not really raised like that it’s very difficult to get in that way.
3.1 How do you explain the living on our earth? Are you more convinced of a scientific explanation?
Well, I think science can only explain a very small part of our existence. To be honest, I don’t really have a better explanation. I had some very spiritual experiences through some psychedelic drugs. I have been growing magic mushrooms and I have had some interesting experiences on a high dose of psilocybin. Psilocybin is the psycho active compound of the magic mushrooms. Through an experience like this I had a very, very strong understanding how I am not separated from my environment and we are all a part of a net woven together. The energy of all living being is connected and you can explain it scientifically too. When do you think about yourself, either as an individual, we know that we are not just one. I wouldn’t be existing with millions of bacteria in and on my body. We normally don’t think about this, because we have our little ego which is constantly there and separating us from the outside. But through one of these mushroom experiences I just felt completely dissolved in nature. It is very difficult to explain, because we don’t have the vocabulary for such experiences. When I had that experience on a high dose, I was alone in the forest. I just walked around and the visual effects came first seeing patterns on the trees and the ground. As I got deeper in the trip, I slowly started losing my sense like my knowledge of the world just started falling apart.
3.2 Did you see every plant and tree as a single existing being?
I started to not understand my environment. The words disappeared from my mind. I just didn’t know what a tree was, and I was just looking around and asking myself: “What’s this?” Slowly just everything fell apart and I didn’t know that I was there. I ended up just lying on this hill side and it was very scary, because my brain tried to hold on what I knew, but everything was slipping away. It felt very long. I was really scared, because I was like going crazy. Somehow, I just calmed down and I don’t know how much time I’ve spent there. You don’t know if a week has past or more and then you look at your phone and see it’s only one minute. I brought my phone with me to check the time, because it calms you down when you know time is still passing. When I was in that scared moment, I pulled my phone and looked at the time, but I just didn’t understand that either. I starred at the phone for some time and then I threw it away, because I didn’t understand the numbers. So, after some time I slowly started to get things back to my mind. First, I had a conversation with my girlfriend in my head. Then I realised there is this conversation, so I am. I started remembering people like family members slowly. I was sitting there on a hill for one hour and my shoes were down the hill, my hat was few meters up and my backpack was there as well. I stared recognizing my own stuff, the objects I am using every day. It was just a very powerful feeling recognizing it all belongs to me. I saw my legs and I understood that these are my owns leg. Before that, I was just looking on them, but I made no connection to my body. Then I understood and thought: “Wouh, this is my body and it serves me very well.” I felt very grateful having this functional body. This feeling actually stayed for a very long time. Just being grateful for the simplest things, being healthy, having this body and people, who care about me. I just stayed in the forest for the rest of the day. After I came back from this very scary and intense experience, I climbed a tall beech tree and I had a phone conversation with my brother. I just realised how important it is to stay in touch with him. It was a very special day with that time alone experiencing this ego death and then going back to social life.
4. How would you describe spirituality in your own words?
If we look at the word spiritual. Obviously, it’s coming from spirit and I don’t really know if things have spirit, but through an experience like this you understand that everything has some kind of an energy and its very fluid. I also had another moment when I was out in the forest again and then it started raining and I had to look for a shelter. I found this big oak tree which was hollow inside and I was sitting in there. The inside of the tree was just rotting away and just kind of this wood dust became the soil again and plants were growing out of it. Inside of the tree were spider webs and all kind of small insects. It made me think about parenthood. My grandfather just died. Maybe his body is not here, but the knowledge he gave us and his energy is still here. I didn’t believe what they are trying to teach us in the catholic church that the soul or spirit would go to another place. At the same time I believe in the spirit that my grandfather had. I don’t know if I want to call it spirit. It’s so difficult.
5. Imagine, the last day of your life has come and there is nobody who has any information about you and your life. All the information has mysteriously been deleted. If I would give you an empty sheet of paper and you could leave a message with the three most important wisdoms of your life, which three wisdoms would you write down?
Remember to breathe.
6. Have you already found your determination of life as an illustrator?
I am pretty satisfied with my job, because I am not controlled by anybody else. I think it’s important to have a drive. I try to make stuff that makes sense for other people too and has a meaning. I do illustrations for magazines and they pay me, but quite often I work voluntarily. For example: Last month I did a magazine cover for a Norwegian environmental magazine for free, because they run on a low budget. It actually gave me more satisfaction, because it was about something I care about and it was very relevant for me. The issue was about responsible and sustainable traveling. This magazine reaches many people and hopefully my image will have an impact on them too. So at the moment making illustrations is very satisfying but if challenges and interests arise in my life I might take them on.
7. If an artist would draw a picture about your life, what animal would he choose a symbol for you? What would the landscape around you look like in the drawing? What kind of weather would it be there?
When I came to Sri Lanka I saw the water monitors. I like that animal, because they spent part of their time on the land and much in the water. They are good at climbing trees, eat all kind of shit. I think that’s kind of like me that I can adapt to many different environments. Sometimes when they try to get away from something, they climb up the trees. From the trees they jump into a river or something else and that’s how I want to be depicted. It would be in the middle of the monsoon rain in Sri Lanka.
Additional information: 30 years old, illustrator, Hungarian living in Copenhagen, Denmark//8