A PLACE FOR ME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
Art Under Quarantine
Left: Me working from home. Right: Sunset rides with my partner.
For the life of an arts administrator, working from home can be a blessing, even though it is difficult to be separated from your co-workers. I have been doing programming for The Center for the Arts for almost three years now. The typical week involves sitting at a desktop in a crowded office for forty hours of the week and then spending the evenings making dinner and going to sleep. Regular activities like cleaning the floors and doing laundry get put off constantly. Having the time to spend with loved ones and getting to see sunshine and exercise can be but dreams when you become wholly engrossed in the work that you love. And that's just it, I love the work.
Now we find ourselves forced to stay home and work less (those of us who are blessed enough to be working in this time of crisis). My “Shelter in Place” workday consists of having coffee and breakfast with my partner followed by some emails. Then a virtual staff check in every day, which is to say more actual checking-in then we allow ourselves time for on a regular basis. Around noon I might go outside into the sunshine and do a cardio workout, or do some yoga to stretch out the sore muscles from the day before and then have lunch (not at my computer like I usually would). I’m only halfway through my day and have already been better to myself and spent more quality time with loved ones than on a regular basis. After lunch, I might move my workspace to the couch for a change in scenery and hunker down for a couple more hours of emails, phone calls, and spreadsheets.
When I’m done, I’ll read a novel I’ve been trying to finish for a couple of weeks until my partner is done with work. When he gets home, we’ll go for a sunset ride on his Harley, cook dinner together, listen to music, enjoy a glass or two of wine, watch a movie, play a game together...there are so many things that we have taken for granted because we are wholly focused on working. Constantly. I’ve been getting projects done that I’ve spent months pushing off. I’ve been spending more time with loved ones and more time on self-care. All the while still getting the work done, because the arts industry doesn’t actually have an “off button.”
Still, there are things this new and temporary way of life are lacking. I used to have in-person meetings with members of the community to talk about shows, fundraisers, gallery exhibitions, youth summer camps, etcetera. I can’t take a stroll through the contemporary art gallery or visit the local businesses in downtown. On any given night of the week there might be live music in our venue and I could enjoy musicians and artists from around the world. On a Thursday there might be a gallery opening where I could connect with artists and art-lovers while enjoying a beverage at our beautiful bar and lovely appetizers provided by our hospitality staff.
The arts are not just an industry I work in. Art is how I live my life. Whether it’s sculpting and painting in my studio, writing music with my band, organizing youth arts summer camps, contracting Michael Franti to perform in Grass Valley, installing an exhibition in The Granucci Gallery, or meeting with Creating Communities Beyond Bias to organize a Love Walk event, everything in my universe involves art, creativity, and most of all human connection.
Art is not just a pretty picture on a wall or a band you pay to see. Art is the foundation of culture. It’s a conversation, a question, and an expression of the self and the world. Art is what has moved society forward through every major crisis the world has seen: revolutions, wars, plagues, and depressions. On one hand, art is a reaction to the state of the world and it comments on and questions what is happening. On the other hand, art influences and directs culture. It causes people to think differently and improve our experience of life. What better thing for a pandemic than the arts? I never thought I’d say this, but we are so lucky to be living in a digital age. We can participate in art and performance through devices, whereas we might otherwise be contained solely within the walls of our homes.
Now is the time for reflection and prioritization. It’s for getting healthy, being creative, and spending time with those whom you choose to be within six feet from because, if anything, you’ve already infected each other.
Be well <3
Thoughts on a Saturday
I’m very thankful for my life. It’s full of love, joy, productivity, art, passion, and people who I would do anything for and would do anything for me. Is there anything else one truly needs?
As I sit here in the silence of a Saturday morning watching the sun slowly embrace the pine trees in my yard I find myself content with the world. There is a strange sort of comfort in knowing that society is taking a rest, beginning it’s day a little more slowly. Of course, the birds and the bees are about their business as usual. Why should they know the difference between a Monday and a Saturday? A beautiful, sunny day is much like the rest, but weather and the changing of the season are their true time keepers. I think that ignoring these natural rhythms has rendered society blind - to the world and to ourselves.
A long time ago, before Christianity and the rule of masculinity, nature was the religion. Each changing of the season a celebration, each day an opportunity to thank nature for what it provides. Now we have made nature and weather and inconvenience. An intruder that we must fence off to establish order. And yet, nature is the most complex and well-functioning system in existence. It is existence. Nature will always win. If we exhaust all our resources, nature will simply burn us out and reset itself long after the plague that is humanity has perished. And still society has boxed her up and framed her nicely on our screens so that we can “appreciate” a fleeting glance at something so incredibly complex that all of humanity, thus far, has not figured her out. I don’t think we are able to, which perhaps is where faith and religion come in to play: a way to accept that which we cannot understand.
I no longer practice any sort of religion. I find more comfort, as well as intellectual fulfillment, in observing and considering all faiths and philosophies choosing bits and pieces here and there to consider and combine. A “both-and” philosophy as opposed to an “either-or.” It allows a lot of room for contemplation and even more room for acceptance. At the end of the day, I want to have enjoyed bothe the sunrise and the sunset, no matter what happened in between.
Now the sun has reached where I sit on my porch, kissing the arm of the chair with a soft promise of warmth. It’s going to be an enjoyable day.
Five to Ten
When I was 18 years old I graduated from high school and moved to Seattle, Washington, to attend Cornish College of the Arts. I wanted to be an artist. I dreamt of going to Rome, learning italian, and seeing St. Peter’s Basilica. My five to ten year plan included living in an apartments in a city on my own, and pursuing an art career. Although dorm life can get claustrophobic, it was definitely closer to this dream than living on the ranch in Smartsville, California. It’s a huge difference to wake up to the sound of construction instead of waking up to a cow munching grass outside your bedroom window. Living in a city was refreshing, convenient, and exciting! I was on my own and experiencing new nouns (people, places, things). Five to ten year plan engaged.
When I was 19 and had been living in the city for a year, I moved into a little studio apartment in the University District, my first place on my own. It was awesome, right on the main strip, across the street was a grocery store, the next block was a farmers market on Saturdays, and a huge, beautiful park, Ravenna Park, was a short walk away. I spent a lot of time on the trails of that part. If you have never been to Seattle, the parks there were designed by the same brothers who did Central Park in New York City, so yeah, they are awesome. That summer I studied abroad in Rome, and learned just enough italian to confuse waiters, or “cameriere,” at restaurants into asking me, “il menu, in inglese or italiano?” So I guess my five to ten year plan was truncated a little.
When I was 20, I was living in Brooklyn, New York, making work in a studio for an exhibition in DUMBO, and working as a Benefit Coordinator for A.I.R. (Artists In Residence) Gallery, which was the first ever artist-run feminist art gallery in the world. That was also the year I gave away my virginity and officially entered the world of full “adulting.’ While I was in New York City, a faculty member asked us where we saw our lives in five to ten years. It took me a while to come to a conclusion, but when I finally asked myself what I wanted, and needed, I realized that I had accomplished my dreams in less than five years, instead of ten, and what I wanted was actually what I had before I went on this “grand adventure.” My new five to ten year projection/dream was to live within 30 minutes of my family, live in a house with some sort of spatial property and an art studio, have a dog or two, and to be working within the field of art and creativity.
When I was 21, I graduated at the top of my class with my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree. I immediately moved back to my hometown, Grass Valley, California, and began to let the tension ease from my soul after struggling to stay afloat during my college years. At the time, I moved into the guest bedroom of my dad’s house for a couple months while I worked on getting a more stable job then my part-time marketing job and the random demolition and interior painting work. My first week back I went to a crossfit gym for the first time….ouch. My previous idea of exercise was a light mixture of walking in heels and yoga, and then suddenly I couldn’t move any of my limbs. Simultaneously, I joined the funk band my dad was playing in, ELEVATION featuring J Silk, as a backup singer and began performing all around the foothills in local bars and such. I had just finished getting a visual arts degree and immediately moved to performing. Figures. I was still working on achieving that next five to ten year goal but was well on my way.
When I was 22, I got a job working at a local nonprofit organization, The Center for the Arts, as a Gallery Manager and Programs Assistant. I moved into a house on an acre in an industrial area that has a 400 square foot art studio/workshop in it and a huge wrap around covered deck, which is hugely important for the optimal lifestyle (See “People of the Porch: A joyous life.”). I adopted a three-legged cat, Marshall Mathers, who had his leg amputated by my friend, Celina, after getting hit by a car when he was six months old. Don’t worry, he gets around stupendously! My band released our first album, nine tracks of original ELEVATION funk rock! At work I kept getting more and more responsibilities and eventually became the Visual Arts and Youth Programming Manager, amongst other things. In general, I just felt happy and productive all the time. Other than substituting a cat for the dog, I had achieved everything I set out to do on my five to ten year plan. Granted it was extremely challenging to get there: a lot of fighting within myself as well as with my surroundings. But I made it happen for myself.
Now I am 23 and am approaching two years of being in the “The Promised Land,” which is how I still feel about it, and I keep asking myself, what’s next? I put a lot of self-analyzation into this question because it involves so many more: “who am I,” “what do I want,” “how will I get there,” and “what’s important to me?” What, in my awesome life that I have carved out for myself, do I feel is lacking? Other than being financially stable--everyone’s dream--I feel a lack of companionship. The majority of people, friends and family, that I spend time with are couples. I’m like the eternal Third-Wheel, and proud. There are days, however, that come with the feeling of loneliness and, sometimes, hollowness. I want someone who is mine, and me theirs, before anyone else. Is it selfish? Of course it is, but I have gotten to where I am by putting my own needs first above all else. In my opinion, if you can’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of anyone, or anything, else. And the real satisfaction in life is the knowledge that you did, or are doing, something that has a positive effect in this world, right? So yeah, I’m going to be selfish, but I’m going to be selfish with intention. Who knows where it will take me in the next five to ten years?
The Promised Land
I’ve been asked a lot recently where it is that I want to go, and I keep telling them that I'm already there. I’ve made it to my promise land. A year and a half ago, I was in a state of misery of sorts. I was struggling to keep friendships, working 80 hours a week, and doing the best I could to keep it together and finish what I started. A year and a half ago, I graduated the top of my class from a 4-year arts program, packed up my life in a U-Haul and drove my ass back down to California with only the promise of a temporary place to stay at my dads house. Within a matter of months I got a job doing what I love and what I went to school for, I got a place of my own, I joined a super awesome funk band, and was again surrounded by people who love and support me.
Today I interviewed on our local radio station, KVMR, talking about our bands upcoming gig and two of our songs from the album we released last October were aired. I am a part of an arts organization, The Center for the Arts, challenged with the enrichment of the arts community of my hometown including performance, visual, and written arts. I do less of making visual art and more of promoting and supporting local artists and youth arts programming. I forgot to take a vacation this year because I was so enthralled with what I was doing that it didn't occur to me to take a break, or need one. On a daily basis I am encouraged and supported by loved ones, coworkers, and strangers with whom I encounter. Sure, I have the same struggles as any adult in the modern world-relationships, financial, etc- but it has been years since I was content with my life on a daily basis.
I live in my hometown in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, and not just because of the scenery. The people here care about other people, about art, about community. How could I want to be anywhere else? Im in the promise land!
Not for people who get offended.....
1. Suck a bag of dicks (especially if you think farts aren't funny)/cunnilingus/pay attention to your person.
2. Wear costumes.
3. Use intoxicants, or continue so.
4. Drink a lot of beer.
5. Spend most of your life on the porch.
6. PAV: Protein And Vegetables.
7. Exercise like a muthafucka!
8. Listen to good music...constantly.
10. Don't give too many fucks.
11. Power of suggestion.
12. Get shit done.
13. When in doubt, smoke it out.
14. Go to the beach. Remain.
15. Manage yo' products!
Family Leg Day 2016, by yours truly.
I have been pressed these last few years, time and time again to look at artist’s works as references and inspiration to my own. I find, that I do not, and have rarely, found my inspiration from such resources. I acknowledge the irony in an artist who doesn’t look at ‘art’ and though I find it educational to understand the histories of art while also using contemporary practices to inform methodologies in my own studio, I simply find my inspiration in other things.
First, I love reading. Mainly I lose myself in a well-written fiction or fantasy novel, but I also very much enjoy a good autobiography written by an actor. Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, and, most recently, Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman have had more influence on my artistic practice than any contemporary painter or sculptor. I also love theologies such as Alan Watts’ The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are and We: The psychology of romantic love by Robert Johnson (based in Jungian psychology). These books and essays allow me not only to look at art and artistic practice, but also give me insight in what it is to be a human being living on this earth. What I find in writings is an insight into how to live my life successfully, and believe me when I say that much of it has to do with creativity and passion.
For me, being an artist has no boundaries, but it does have expectations. Those expectations are the same ones I hold to myself and those around me in order to be a human being who not only contributes to this world (so as not to waste this beautiful life gifted to them), but a content being as well. These are as follows:
1. Have a discipline.
2. Never sacrifice anything for your passion.
3. Live your life with conviction, patience, and joy.
A discipline can be anything, anything, that one dedicates to practice. I have several disciplines, the first of which is art. My “artistic practice” provides me with challenges in which I find both success and failure. Now, some will argue that most of the learning comes through the failure portion but I disagree. I think it is the combination of the two that provides the learning because if we never succeeded then failure would have no comparison. I will agree that success can boost your will power to move forward. In my studio, this practice allows me the freedom experiment with new ways of making and new materials and rewards me when something ends up looking cool as shit, or reflects a thought that removes me, or someone else, from the distracting mess of day-to-day shenanigans. A discipline not only allows one to grow and learn, but it most importantly ensures that one is doing something. If you’re really into pinecones, than you better be doing something related to pinecones on a daily basis (Yes, drawing pictures and daydreaming always counts). Note: a discipline is not required to be your income, (but it sure fucking helps with all of that time you spend on the practice).
When I say to never sacrifice anything for your passion I trust that you have some set priorities. For instance, I would not sacrifice one of my brothers if it meant I would be a successful artist, or would I? Kidding. What I am referring to is most of the world that give up their passion or their love for that steady income and likewise the people who give up their happiness in order to pursue success. If you give up all of those things that give your life meaning in order to chase down that “American Dream” then you most certainly will never find what you’re looking for. To all of those fame searchers in the world, consider yourself warned: even if the whole world knows your name and face that does not mean you will feel complete as a human being. Just saying. Again, priorities. My priorities include my family and by extension my community, and this wonderful body-heart-mind complex I seem to have. It also just so happens that I have found one of the best ways to nurture myself, as well as my community, is through living a creative lifestyle. I love how that works out. What this means to me is that in order to service my artistic career I don’t have to sacrifice traveling, having a family, living wherever I am happiest, or what I do for income to feed and shelter myself, because at the end of the day they are all one and the same: MY LIFE.
Conviction as a young adult separated from their community of origin, especially as an easy-going individual, somehow gets easily smashed by all of those who seem to know more than you because they are “older.” Well, I have come to the realization that until I have buried six feet under there will always be someone “older” and wiser. Always trusting that someone else is right is no way to live a life. Instead I now have this conclusion: You have a brain, use it; you have an opinion, express it; you have a heart, listen to it. Please adhere in no particular order. In fact, simultaneity is probably best. Just remember that life requires time (construct that it is) and it may take a minute, or a lifetime to find your voice nonetheless for some other person to listen. Patience is a helpful bastard. Most importantly, try to find joy wherever you can. Joy is different than happiness, at least for me. To me joy requires suffering. Joy is when you can’t keep yourself from smiling and laughing even though your crying because someone you love just died. It doesn’t always have to be that dramatic but I personally have felt joy in several such moments. Joy not only helps ease the pain, but it makes the pain worth it--Some sort of sick validation/balance complex. When you really think about it, if there’s no joy, than what the point?
Summation of how to live an inspired life:
1. Have a practice or discipline that makes you kick your own ass.
2. Passion is the food and juice of life so don’t throw it out.
3. Have a backbone, don’t be hasty, and remember that laughing stops the tears.
Untitled 2017, Mixed media, 62x45x10”
I come from a small, rural town in northern California where the phrase “conceptual art” is not used commonly. In fact, it wasn’t until halfway through my first year at Cornish College of the Arts that I began to understand what conceptual art was or meant. Nevada County, California, has a wonderfully supportive, localized arts community, but what I knew of visual arts before I left largely surrounded representational painting and sculpture that more closely aligned itself with craftsmanship than it did conceptualism. I myself mainly practiced figurative acrylic painting until coming to Seattle.
Growing up on a ranch amidst an agricultural environment, people gave me quizzical looks when I told them that I wanted to be an artist and got to school for visual arts. This declaration was always followed by the question, “What’s your backup plan?” because it had not yet occurred to them that art and innovation are the foundations of culture. Since I began studying at Cornish, my eyes have been opened to new ways of thinking and making. In fact, I barely used a paintbrush for my first three years at school. Instead, I explored new processes and ways of making like plaster molding, site-specific installation, performance, photography, and crocheting as ways of expressing concepts and evoking thought.
My BFA exhibition will now consist of a series of sculptures that combine all of my successes from my time at Cornish. The work is about finding balance materially in order to express the internal search for balance. Materially the work consists of lumber, crocheted yarn, and paint. These elements are intertwined to find unlikely relationships. For instance, a painted sculpture made of lumber is held up by a crocheted piece that is attached to the wall (see photo below). Without the yarn the wood would fall over and without the wood the yarn would hang on the wall purposelessly. Symbolically, the piece reflects a state of mind where I felt that my foundations, my solid, physical self, was falling apart and heading towards the concrete only to be held aloft by my softer more malleable self, aka mind. Boom, in four years I went from California Cowgirl who paints to understanding and making conceptual art.
So, why should people come to the exhibition? I want people to come to the exhibition to see the accumulation of four years of study resulting in artworks that not only show skill and craftsmanship, but critical thinking and culture. It is a tribute to the students who decided to dedicate themselves to a practice that is met with quizzical looks and awe, a practice where there is no boss telling you your duties but instead requires you to challenge yourself to be successful, and a practice that can enact change in the psychology of a society.
This exhibition is not only a representation of Cornish College of the Arts, but also a representation the new generation of artists who will go forward and influence the culture of the world.
What do you value most?
The Farwell Boys 2015, Toby, Rick, Lucas, Forrest, Donovan
(aka my four brothers and my late grandfather (Pappy-Rick)
The thing I value most in life is contentment. Now, contentment can be different things to every person. For me, contentment is the balance of joy and work.
To work, for me, means to put the talents and intuition I was born with combined with the skills I have learned and will learn over the course of my lifetime in good effect. So far this has expressed itself through creative practices such as writing, painting, sculpture, performance, music, installation, tutoring, sailing instruction, cooking, crocheting, knitting, design, and so much more I have done and have yet to do. These are the things I do that I feel satisfaction for completing a job well done; thinking creatively and using my skill set to solve problems and accomplish goals I continuously set for myself. There is nothing quite like putting all of your energy and effort in completing something where the reward is simply completion. You did it. I did it. We did it together. Working tirelessly to finish a project that was simultaneously back and mind breaking to the point where I am physically and mentally exhausting is one of the greatest rewards.
To find and experience joy means to feel true happiness while also feeling and understanding deep sorrow. For me the immediate example of this comes within my family and relationships. The last three years have been very trying for my family as well as for my friendships. I moved two states away from the people I loved in hope of freeing myself to look deeper within and grow as my own human being. It is difficult to be alone, but it is also easy to find friends, however temporary or permanent, along the way to teach you about the world and about yourself. During this time it seems that every autumn brings about another dark, trying period to learn from.
First, my parents separated, completely changing the structure of our family. My world was immediately expanded to what it is to have a relationship with another human being and what it is that I value in relationships. Relationships are both dynamic and static, like any written character. Some relationships consist solely of nice smiles and "how are you's?" while others are so deep that words need not be said. I have accepted this, and I know deep down that each person I know will help me grow no matter how small that growth is.
Second, my grandfather committed suicide. Next week marks the one year anniversary of this incident. I cannot express enough how heartbreaking and natural the experience of this is. My Pappy chose to take his own life by walking into the woods and shooting himself in the head with a handgun he had bought a couple years previously for that very purpose. The issue was that he was reported missing and it took two weeks to find his body; because he was a bit of an asshole (a very loved and adored asshole) and had to go out on his own terms. For several weeks over the holidays I was surrounded by friends and family full of sorrow, tears, condolences, support, cheering up, laughter, and joy. I had never cried, or laughed, so hard, ever. We were there supporting each other through the bad times while simultaneously making good times and good memories. That experience is one I treasure and look forward to as my life progresses. Relationships are not only the good times, but supporting each other in the bad times as well.
Third, a dear friend, my uncle of sorts, was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and given a couple months to live. Now, the last time I say him was May 2016, in NYC. From what I hear he has never been more full of gratitude and love than he has been these last few weeks. This one is a particularly interesting challenge for me as I have not spoken to him directly since this new ‘life-changing’ event. I have, however, spoken with my family about this over the phone (I haven’t seen them in person in almost six months), but to hear your family distraught and in tears over the phone and the only way to give them any comfort is an "I love you" and tears of your own is very trying. All I want when I think about it is to be there physically as well as mentally to give my love and support to them and to our friend-who is by extension our family. How can you be involved in someone’s life when you live different lives in different places? You try. You put effort in, and work towards being involved in their day-to-day life once more. Yes, you find new loved one’s in your daily life, but you can never let go of someone you have loved; They are imprinted on your heart eternally.
Until I had begun experiencing these things, as an adult, I did not understand the concept of joy. Now I do. Joy means that even though every living being in the world is struggling through hardships there is still laughter to be found, there is still work to be done, there is still love to be given, there is always pain to feel, and there is always happiness to be found. Hope is finding a smile in a pile of shit.
What do you value most?
November 26th, 2016
A Poem for a Cold Day: "Breathe"
Adapt to your environment,
But do not lose yourself.
Remember all of you is too much for everything.
Heal your wounds as they arise,
But do not sicken yourself with worry.
Remember you do not know what is to come.
Guard your heart,
But do not close it off completely.
Remember to stay open to love in the world.
Accomplish your goals,
But do not forget to dream.
Remember there is more than one success.
Realize your true self,
But do not resist change.
Remember each moment is new.
Embrace the light,
But do not fear the darkness.
Remember there is more than what you can see.
Live your life,
But do not plow through at your greatest speed.
Remember breath takes time.
Explaining Existence_Alan Watts
One of my favorite explanations to date...
"There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can't have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn't be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side-by-side with white, or white unless side-by-side with black.
"In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn't, for if the world went on and on without rest for ever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don't. So because it doesn't get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It's like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It's also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it's always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn't always hide in the same place.
"God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.
"Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that's the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do. He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.
"Of course, you must remember that God isn't shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren't, we wouldn't know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn't any outside to him. [With a sufficiently intelligent child, I illustrate this with a Möbius strip—a ring of paper tape twisted once in such a way that it has only one side and one edge.] The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as 'he' and not 'she,' God isn't a man or a woman. I didn't say 'it' because we usually say 'it' for things that aren't alive.
"God is the Self of the world, but you can't see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can't see your own eyes, and you certainly can't bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.
"You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn't really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out
how the good people will get the better of the bad. It's the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world."
Watts, Alan. Excerpt from, "On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"
The Long-Game and the Present
It is easy to fall into the world of instantaneous information where we see one thing and, without hardly processing what it was, move onto the next thing. The most prominent example of this is social media platforms where we scroll from one image, video, story, to the next and never actually spend any time with anything. We are under the illusion that because the speed of information, the speed of life, is so fast that we can be more aware of the present moment and that we are living in the NOW. Are we, though?
Our attention spans have become limited to reading the first line and deciding that we know enough about the subject. Being that I am a student at a private art school five days a week and work at a gallery five days a week, I am exposed to a lot of art, art-making, and art people, so I will use this as an example: studies show the average time a person will spend looking at a piece of visual art is 15 to 30 seconds. Pieces of work that a person spent months, or years of their life to create and all we can give them from our attention span is 15 to 30 seconds. Are we so focused on trying to see and know as much as possible that we can’t spend more than 30 seconds with something? How often does the average person sit with themselves and think on their lives, their environment, their world, or their internal development? Of course, it is much easier in a moment of pause to take out your smartphone and browse social media aimlessly for 20 minutes than it would be for us to actually exercise our brains, or acknowledge that we have one.
So here we are, completely obsessed with the present and simultaneously not noticing anything while becoming increasingly incapable of making decisions in our lives that would actually lead us towards contentment. We are constantly wanting the lives we don’t have and not noticing that we are already living the only life that we could ever be content with, it just takes us actually being present. Spending that time there is a silence in conversation to sit and be where we are instead of going onto our phones and pretending that we have working brains. Actually absorbing the art and culture around us in order to have a deeper and more meaningful experience of life.
Yet, I ask myself this: The present is all good and so forth, but what about goals in life? Well, we certainly won’t be able to achieve our goals if we can’t kick ass in the present. Sometimes we have to survive through difficult decisions in order to achieve contentment. I have spent the last three years trying to ignore the fact that I want to be somewhere else with other people. But, I have forced myself to stick with my gut and my original decision to be on my own and figure out how the world works so that I can support myself and my passions AND be where I want to be. That is the long-game sacrifice I made for my own betterment and contentment. In order to reach the larger goal, however, I have to pay close attention to how I am leading my life on a moment-to-moment basis. Being frustrated or depressed by my living situation or the people I am not surrounded by does not make getting where I want to be any easier. Trust me, I try this on a weekly basis. What does help is actually immersing myself into the culture and energy of what is happening around me. Spending more than 30 seconds to look at a piece of art. Reading the whole article and then several follow-up articles instead of the headline.
No more headliners. Pay attention and experience your life.
In my studio today.
For a while in high school I was annoying my father asking to let me go back to church with my cousin. I felt a spiritual lacking. Finally he decided that we would have a family service on the porch every sunday. It began with him sitting us down on the couches in our livingroom and explaining why my brothers had to wake up so early on a sunday morning: me, the one sister. He went around and asked us each what we knew/remembered about church and christianity. He then read aloud the first commandment from his Bible and asked us what we thought it meant. This continued for a couple months. We gradually graduated to sitting around the bar on the porch once it became warmer. We would read one of the commandments or from Jesus’s Sermon on a Hill in the book of Matthew and have a two-hour discussion on what we thought it meant. I think this was my first actual introduction to having an analytical discussion. My Dad says that he can’t believe the different angles we brought to the surface. He had studied the bible all of his life, he lives by it to many extents, but his five young children had caused him to see it differently. Success. My Mother, on the other hand, is a newfound pagan. She is exploring the world of the goddess and feminine energy in order to bring balance back into her life. Her and I discuss this balancing of energy often along with the goddess and the moon and in that way we have come to better understand ourselves as women and each other.
'Sunday Service' wasn’t the only thing we have practiced on that porch with Dad. I have had some of the best moments with him sitting there, looking at that view. Everything from drinking coffee and sharing a cigarette while discussing my future to dancing, laughing, and drinking our asses off to mourning over a divorce, a dog, a grandfather. That is my family’s religion. We are the people of the porch and we come together to find joy, company, solace, and mourning.
We Are All Wizards.
This morning I have come to the conclusion that we are all actually wizards. There has been folklore, myth, tales, etc. for centuries, but our scientific and analytical experience of the world has told us that such things are not possible are simply something we tell our children. I think people have forgotten and/or ignored two important details of our existence: energy and imagination. Now, when it comes to imagination most people tend to become disheartened rather easily for one reason or another (fear), but I have found it is usually quite easy to re awaken a person’s imagination. Energy, on the other hand, is something people either relate to a physics class or a protein bar, which are both correct, but they fail to notice that energy is actually everything. As in: the Whole Universe. Because everything is energy, the energy you choose, or not, to put out in the world collides with everything else’s energy and that’s how life happens. BAM.
Considering these qualities of life has me realizing the power of thought and attitude and all of those other wonderful things. A good friend is always telling me to live in the joy, be joyfull and the world will give you joy in return. So, i’ve been practicing this in situations where I typically would be nervous or instantly assume it will not work out in my favor I instead try smiling and I speak out loud, “This will work,” and, “This is going to happen for me and be wonderful.” I am shocked at the success rate of this strategy. Yesterday, I was watching a storm roll in and the weather report kept telling me it was supposed to rain all day today, but I’m supposed to go on a hike. So, I looked at the sky with a smile on my face and said, “This weather will pass and tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day for hiking.” What a beautiful and sunny morning it is. I am a witch, a wizard, a sorceress, because I can control the weather with my mind. I also can make people call me when I want to and if you try to light me on fire I will stand in the flames laughing with joy until the wood is all ash and I still standing tall and free.
I exist in a world full of creativity, which is where imagination and energy are applied together. When I see my brothers focus their energy on their respective art forms I am continuously amazed at how awesome and powerful they are. Their skills look like magic tricks with the ease with which they perform. How do they do that?! At the same time I get the same response when my father watches me work on a painting, so I can see both sides. I just will the painting to be so, and a few hours later it’s there. We all have the power to shape our worlds in this universe. I recommend starting with joy: it’s a wizard’s best friend.