A PLACE FOR ME TO FIGURE IT OUT.
My dad and I just watched our last two cows get butchered. For ten years my family tried half-heartedly to run a ranch. The experience was really more about my brothers and I growing up in an environment full of responsibilities such as raising cattle for beef, horses, goats, chickens for eggs and meat, ducks, of course a plethora of dogs and cats, building shit, taking shit down, gardening, etc. It was a great way to grow up even if the only result is that we know how to DO things such as solve problems on our own. Being the creative types that we are, however, lent itself to a situation where my brothers and I became busy with rehearsals, practices, shows, and our ever-lovely minimum wage jobs on top of our school work or we moved out to go to art school. Basically the ranch life slowly deteriorated. After ten years, it is time to move on from the ranch, time for a lifestyle change.
So, as I watched the sunrise through the trees on Monday morning while the last two cows dropped, it dawned on me that the life I have most consciously known, the life that pushed me into adulthood, is no longer my life. This dawn is new. Thinking on what little projection I can see for life in the next ten years has me emotional and excited. It will be a decade full of art, music, theater, new adventures, laughter, and love. A year from now I will have graduated with a four-year degree and start my life that doesn’t include a summer and winter vacation (or will it?). What a wonderful moment in time. My brother will have graduated from his program, another will be graduating high school, who knows what the other two will be up to but they’re strongly directing themselves towards music. We are, all of the people in my inner circle, moving forward towards a more rich and creative life: I’m in love with this change.
When we first moved onto property it felt like Disneyland compared to the gated communities we had lived in prior. With all of the space, the trees, the possibilities we ran around those 26 acres like there was nothing else in the world. I remember the first cattle we bought in an auction and naming them Juicy and Fillet to avoid getting too attached, but once Tom, the Butcher, came around there was nothing but excitement for some fresh, grass-fed beef. We were such good ranchers that when our first calf was born we didn’t even know Juicy was pregnant. There’s nothing quite like seeing an animal born, raised on the pasture unperturbed for its whole life, watching it receive a painless death and cleaned up only to fill your freezer and feed your family of eight for several months. We gave up on the detachment approach after that. Mostly the ranch was a space for us to explore and create. We constructed paintball courses and would have huge tournaments on the weekends, we built a half-pipe that was six feet tall and twenty feet long that we’d ride almost every day, we had relay races in the front pasture with all of the cousins while the parents and grandparents would laugh and shoot at us with airsoft guns, and we would ride dirtbikes and quads all over the hill. It was a place of expression, or as my dad calls it, “the Rockstar Factory.” We threw huge dance parties and costume parties, dug out a 150 foot slip’n’slide, and put together mini concerts on the porch; I mean the activities were endless. Unfortunately, living on property like that requires a lot of maintenance and all we wanted to do was create art and make music.
I’ve lived in a lot of places in my relatively short life and I’ll likely live in many more, but the ten years I spent on that piece of property was worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears we put into that place. Now, the time for that life has passed and it’s time for another lifestyle change. Time to downsize and re-prioritize our lives to accommodate the change that happened in this last year, but it is difficult to let it all go. My parents’ divorce, my grandpa’s suicide, my dog’s death, my mom getting a little crazy, my brother and I finishing up our artistic education, my youngest brothers-whose diapers I changed-getting their driver’s licenses and cars and jobs, people not doing anything but floating around exhausting their resources, and everyone is packing up and moving. I mean it has just been one thing after another and it has been exhausting. Accepting that life changes can often be one of life’s biggest challenges, but this time I could not be more excited, or more anxious, for what is to come. These next ten years are going to be even more awesome than the last.
It doesn't seem to get any easier, being alone. Easier to ignore, perhaps, as life ticks away, but the sensation felt when existing by oneself and without loved ones to count on in day to day life does not lesson. If anything it only grows stronger. I had no clue what it meant to be alone when I moved out of my parents house at the age of eighteen. I thought I did because I had, for the most part, been isolated from friends growing up due simply to the location of home. But I didn’t know what it was to never come home to anything but an empty house, or an empty room. There are no noises; no sounds of living people. Sometimes I can’t help but think that if something happened to me it would take several days before someone thought of my absence. All of those who would take notice if they could are too far away and phone calls are too irregular for it to make a difference.
There are many reasons why I have put myself in this position. First off, I believe it to be only temporary and my heart is faithful to that position. Mostly I chose this path because of its independence. The life I had been living was not my own, but my parents life. A life I admire and long for, but not mine. I desperately needed to go off and discover who I was when no one else was around. Even just to know something seemingly so simple as what my morning routine was when I didn’t need to schedule time in the bathroom around four other people. What I have discovered is that I actually function excellently on my own. On my own schedule I am clean, productive, and adventurous. But the loneliness often depresses my spirit. I lived most of my life with people. Not around them, but with them. I miss the days when someone wanted to know where I was going each time I stepped out of the door, even when I wasn’t even leaving the property. Now days, I can live an entire week without anyone knowing where I’ve been, unless I go out of my way to tell someone, and as freeing as that can be it is also terrifying.
The freedom in a life by oneself is that no one really relies on you. It doesn’t matter if you never leave the house on your day off and it doesn’t matter if you never go home because there is no one expecting you. Your schedule is all your own. There’s no waiting in the car for someone to find their shoes. No staying overlong because someone is still conversing with someone you don’t know or have no interest in speaking with. No scheduling car usage. No arguing over who did or didn’t do the dishes last. No one to nag you for being lazy or absent. Simply no one.
No one is a terrifying prospect. My mother likes to console me, “I’m just a phone call away!” But what about when you don’t answer your phone? What about when all I need is to curl up into a ball and cry in someone’s arms? What about when I need to get home at night and I’m walking the streets all by myself? Who’s going to help me when everyone who cares for me is three thousand miles away? There’s no picking me up at 2 in the morning. There’s no coming over to my house when I need comfort.
Being alone is terrifying not because I am incapable of functioning on my own, but because when push comes to shove there isn’t anyone to know where you’ve been or how you are. How and where you exist is unknown to others. Our capacity for communal living wouldn’t have evolved as such if we could survive on our own. Life is meant to be shared and experienced with and for others. The world is not a solo show. Each character is an individual with their own path, but it takes the whole cast and crew to produce the play.
After actually living by myself for a year and existing in a state of mild depression, I had finally found someone. A true and close friend. (My best friend). For the first time in two years I didn’t feel alone, because I wasn’t. Our relationship requires a lot of work and learning, which is perhaps the best part, but for some reason amidst all of our differences we decided to be there for one another. A brief moment of community and then I moved across the country only to be flown back to stage one loneliness. New city, new school, new people, new loneliness. I have the blessing of seeing my younger brother once a week, which gives me something to move towards constantly. Yet, apart from a couple of hours on Sundays I feel invisible to the world.
Basically what I’m saying is being alone sucks ass and anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves. And when you exist in a community full of other independent peoples, who have all come from somewhere else, there is a bond created in that independence, but simultaneously everyone is doing their own thing. Everyone is struggling through these years of loneliness in order to eventually not be alone AND live the lives we deserve to live.
A war indeed.
An Early Morning Revelation...
In our society, importance and emphasis are placed on grand gestures and large actions. Theses are seen as a viable way to measure the constitution of one’s character. I say this is misguided. A politician may pass a law that favors the greater good of the people, even greater than that of their own constituents, but behind closed doors he abuses his family and is an alcoholic who seemingly only finds pleasure in the arms of a woman who is not his wife. They will argue that he did a great service for his country, when in actuality he is a coward, a thief, and a liar.
I believe that the small, intricate details of ones life are what define a character. Especially those actions that are on the surface and seemingly benign and useless, but really are infected with a simple kindness. Holding the door for someone, for example, seems of little to no consequence, but it can infect you, that person, and even those in the vicinity who noticed, with smiles and thanks. Even if just for a moment, that point in the universe was a more positive place. Perhaps this is where the idea of ‘proper society’ came from, although that was quickly diluted with greed, lust, and contempt. Still, the thought of a world where everyone was at least kind to each other in small acts is a pleasing one; even if we still hated each others guts, there would be an air of mutual respect and validation for each being.
Small actions: the way you interact with people in your day-to-day life (strangers and familiars), how you care for your environment, how you care for yourself, etc. These are the things that truly dictate the ways in which society moves forward. The grand gestures are simply thoughts or ideas up-scaled so that everyone can see them, but have no more substance without accommodating action. When the Union gave the Native Americans land reservations, it did not change the fact that all we have was stolen from them, it did not end their suffering. When the Union forced the Confederacy to rejoin the nation, it did not end slavery, or Jim Crow, or lynching. When we passed the Civil Rights Acts, racism did not cease or desist. When our legislatures gave women the right to vote it did not end the double-standard or misogyny. One grand gesture does not make-up for thousands of smaller misgivings, those little details of life. It can help to move things in the right direction, or not. The details are the most important aspects of life. The fine print on a document can affect the most authority and the most change.
It is in small ways that we can affect change in others as well, for we are, all of us, naturally resistant to making huge changes in our lives. The next time you feel as if your life is meaningless, or makes no difference, smile at that stranger on the subway, help the old lady carry her groceries home, act in small ways from the kindness within your heart. It can do wonders for the soul. Worry only about the things you can control, instead of the things you have no grasp on. This is how we, as individuals, can affect change for the greater society. We can infect the world with our small acts of simple kindness.
Existence is the relationship between the subject and the object. This is my artistic practice. For months I have been attempting to explain why i am so drawn to eastern philosophies and the concept of existence. above all I have wondered what this means for my artistic practice.
If art is my exploration of existence, and existence is the relationship between the subject and the object, then my artistic practice is an exploration of the relationship between the subject and the object, for therein lies existence (i.e. the meaning of life).
The subject="I"=individual self= thoughts=experiences
The object="this"=material world=actions=awareness
Existence = subject + object
= individual self + material world
= thoughts + actions
=experience + awareness
In exploring life through my practice, I have found it very difficult to distinguish my "Self" from thoughts, but the Self is where our thoughts meet our actions. This is where reality lies. Reality is not the material world and it is not solely our individual self, although we can find truths amongst these things. Instead reality, the reality of existence, is how we relate to the material world through our Self. Realizing this is a new step forward for me.
In modern society there is a great disconnect between the world as a place to conquer and the world as a place of which we exist. Conquering the world requires productivity, motivation, modernity, success, the separation of good/bad, win/lose, etcetera, and ultimately being completely unaware of everything in the process. Existence requires a simple cooperation between the geological and the biological elements of nature, and being present with your self.
It has become so easy to fall into the flow of the conquering world because it is a world of autopilot and being how you are told to be, instead of being who you were meant to be/who you truly are. Being who you truly are requires awareness and the conscious noticing of what is occurring in each and every moment, which unfortunately our society is as such that it breeds beings who are incapable of being present and aware. Instead we are taught to be constantly moving towards some goal or another way of in the future, and then once we have reached that goal we set another, thus continuing a vicious cycle of discontentment all the while never enjoying anything we have already accomplished or experienced because it wasn’t “good enough” or it wasn't "it." The big secret society doesn’t tell us: YOU HAVE ALREADY ARRIVED AT YOUR FUTURE. If the future only exists in our imaginations and plans in the present, then in truth how you are living right now is your future. If right now all you can do is scheme for the future and try to get somewhere else, then your future will consist of that same pattern and discontentment because in the future you will still only be in the present.
It is time to pause, and to notice the world you are of and the future you are experiencing in this moment.
Our perception of the world is crucial to existence.
Perception is intuitive understanding; it is how we regard, understand, and interpret life; it is the lens through which we experience the world. Perception is also our greatest inhibition. Existence is the relationship of something to nothing and without either of these there is not experience, no existence. Perception is limited because our minds are only able to perceive something and therefore the absence of this goes unnoticed although it is absolutely essential.
With music, for example, there are the notes and the absence of notes, the pause in between, which creates the melody of a song. Without those pauses there is only noise. Our brains perceive the procession of these notes as a continuous stream when in reality there are beaks in between. Even light is a pulse, a relationship between light and absence of light, though we only perceive the light but cannot see the absence of the light because our brains stream the images together like one everlasting motion picture.
All of existence is based on this relationship. The pulse, the vibration, the something and the nothing: Solid vs. space, on vs. off, sound vs. no sound, etc. Our perception of these relationships can furthermore be described through notation. Notation is how we select elements of reality: a system of symbols that enables the classification of perception. Our attention is the narrowed perception by which we see notation piece by piece rendering us unable to see the whole picture. These are laws of our existence that we have no way of ridding from our beings. There are several ways in which we can alter our perception by exercising the mind to broaden our experience, but existing without perception is impossible. This is also a good basis for explaining the individual for no one person can perceive the world as another, as we each have our own notations and attentions, thus making it impossible to be anyone but oneself no matter how hard one might try.
Give me land that has not been conquered. Show me a place that does not contain a trail of pain. Take me to a place that has not seen torture and suffering, and I will see the benefits of our progressive societies. Let me live in a land that exists with freedom without having to steal the freedom of others.
Someone once told me that we live in a complex world and to find a simple life amongst it is to find beauty. In this I believe. I believe in the simplification of life. Perhaps my mind is too full of novels and romantic thoughts, but we have reached the society we live in now by way of greed and fear. Our ancestors came to this land because they were so overwrought in their own land that they looked to take a new home, a new beginning, but the home they found was not theirs to take. This land, deemed ‘unconquered,’ was already home to its own natives and economies. The Europeans called them ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized’, but they were the ones doing the taking. Those who had called this land home for many lifetimes lived in harmony with the land instead of trampling over it and destroying what the land had to offer. They took the homes of people who understood, people who were not blinded by fear or greed. People who took what they needed and in return gave the land a promise to nurture the land and keep it safe, a promise to not take so much that the land was destroyed. ‘Civilized’ society swept through and not only murdered the lands inhabitants, but the land itself. If that is civilization, then I want no part. Somehow, greed and fear prevailed to such an extent that there is seemingly no remembrance of the cost paid for this society to flourish.
We call ourselves a free country, yet we took the land’s freedom in order to get here. Even greater, we believe we are free when at every turn there is yet another power trying to imprison us through their surveillance and analyzation, all the while we sit here and watch them steal our freedom without a thought or acknowledgment.
Alas, I write only of the past, and as the past no longer exists there is no word or opinion in the world to change what has been done. So the question remains, what is there to do next to make the best of this existence?
Perhaps keeping my soul open will allow the answers to be known. Right now I find myself dissatisfied with what I see, and this troubles me deeply. Not knowing what to do about this dissatisfaction troubles me even more. This world is strange and I don’t comprehend or see my place in it. So where will my drive take me? Where is my soul taking me? What do I hope for? What do I trust? There is a sense of purpose and change welling up inside of me, but I don’t know where or how to apply it. I do know that I need to start with myself, because only with the self can one truly enact change. Even as I want to be seen in this society I see how it lacks in meaning and in purpose. The truth is that society has been spread thin. So thin that all allegiances to community waiver and come up short. If we cannot sense community, how will we connect to and sense the land?
We are so detached from the land that we have fenced it in a place for us to go and indulge in our greed, to stroke our pride and lie to ourselves by saying we find pleasure in the land. But the paths we walk on have been laid before us in the forest; they have claimed the forest floor just as we voice our appreciation for and our preservation of land, which we do not allow to be its own. Even nature is not allowed to be natural.
This I am also guilty of. As humans we cannot stop ourselves from conquering, because we do not see ourselves as the conquerors we truly are.
To conquer: to overcome and take control of a place or peoples by force.
Here is the big overwhelming question that has been asked, pondered, and answered for centuries upon centuries:
"What is the meaning of life?"
What does is mean? It means everything, all of existence. Why life? to exist and existence just is.
The very fact of our race spending our time and our ability to question life is part of the meaning of life itself. Perhaps the only way to answer the question is to open your mind and experience existence. It we spend all of our lives on the questions, then how will we ever receive the answers? Questioning life is a good thing because questioning means noticing and noticing is the first step to an open mind. An open mind will allow you to experience existence and therefore life.
We spend our lives in opposition to life and that renders us blind to life. Why is the human race so different from any other species? We become stuck on the questions and then the world around us becomes obstructed and hazy. Opposition to life comes in so many beautiful and skillful forms: defying gravity, planes, cars, spacecraft, anti-gravity machines, wrinkle cream; measuring time and space of which there are no measurable limits; trying to escape death although death is a vital part of the reproduction of life; placing boundaries and walls in impermanent space with impermanent materials, and then becoming furious when they collapse and deteriorate, asking, "why?"; holding on to everything so tightly when all we need is to let go and allow the past be the past and the moment to evolve into the future as is will whether or not we accept that truth. We oppose change and movement, which are in the very essence of existence and of life. We even get mad when the weather changes from one season to the next, but without the changing seasons it would not be life.
The world is full of guesses and superstitions, but I believe in a universal truth. Religions say that each of us is born with a purpose and each of us as individuals. Some people have looked to the stars and unearthly heavens as means of explaining why we are each so different. We live on a scale of time, which we have created for ourselves, trying to measure and organize the unexplained details of life. Perhaps we cannot understand. We cannot know and it is only in the acceptance of that wherein we find enlightenment and peace.
The Bible says, “In the beginning…” and that the earth and the heavens were created, and with them time and conscience. It says that the creator knows all. It could ne that the creator knows all because it does not exist within our conceptualizing, but instead everything is only the present, including all of time itself. We each were born from the universe, from existence, in a moment where everything was just so and as such as it will never be again. There is not past. There is no future. There is only the illusion that this moment is moving into the next just as our brains conceive of what our eyes capture like rolling film.
So what is this moment? You cannot place a pin on a timeline for even infinity does not exist. This moment is already gone for by the time we realize it is happening is has already past because our brains don’t function or conceive at the same speed as existence. There are no pause or stop buttons in life. All we can do is notice and do our very best to experience. Life is a constant movement that waits for no thing, not even our minds. If the whole world could only notice, we would not recognize the lives we live. As creations of the universe we are naturals at being blind to the very thing we are born of, hiding in our minds and our fabrications, which we consider to be life. But even life itself is so vast that we are unable to fully know and experience it, we have too much conscience for that.
Where has the life gone from community and connections between people?
There is a group of people in my living room at this very moment sitting around looking at Facebook photos trying to 'set-up' my roommate with someone. Now, once upon a time people would set their friends up on blind dates--whatever-- but now they are looking at photos and calling out everything that is wrong with this person or that person whom they will probably never even meet. I have prejudices and judgements like every other human being, its natural to an extent even, but that is some negative karma being thrown out into the universe. Some of these people are the same who place all of their energy into trying to fit in instead of being themselves, or are those who simply don't notice things. It's all a waste of energy and time, both of which we are all limited by, might I remind the world. So what is the point? Why spend all of this life judging other people for their lives while you sit on your ass all day getting fatter and more discontent by the second of passing time.
Yesterday, my roommate asked, "Don't you just wish you could fast-forward a couple of years?"
I said no, because in the next moment I could be dead. In fact, the next moment doesn't exist, just like the past doesn't exist, so why would want to fast-forward, when you would be missing out on everything between now and then? You want to skip this moment and get to the next but it will always just be this moment, because we have nothing else. What makes you think that skipping forward will make you any more content? If you're unhappy with your moment than do something about it, right now.
So now I have had my own fair share of shit-talk and judgement as I sit here listening to Amy Winehouse and calling out people for not connecting with people face to face, although they're in there connecting with each other and I'm here sitting on my computer all by myself. Hypocrisy is an amazing thing. Go us.
"Sestina" by Dante Alighieri
I have come, alas, to the great circle of shadow,
to the short day and to the whitening hills,
when the colour is all lost from the grass,
though my desire will not lose its green,
so rooted is it in this hardest stone,
that speaks and feels as though it were a woman.
And likewise this heaven-born woman
stays frozen, like the snow in shadow,
and is unmoved, or moved like a stone,
by the sweet season that warms all the hills,
and makes them alter from pure white to green,
so as to clothe them with the flowers and grass.
When her head wears a crown of grass
she draws the mind from any other woman,
because she blends her gold hair with the green
so well that Amor lingers in their shadow,
he who fastens me in these low hills,
more certainly than lime fastens stone.
Her beauty has more virtue than rare stone.
The wound she gives cannot be healed with grass,
since I have travelled, through the plains and hills,
to find my release from such a woman,
yet from her light had never a shadow
thrown on me, by hill, wall, or leaves’ green.
I have seen her walk all dressed in green,
so formed she would have sparked love in a stone,
that love I bear for her very shadow,
so that I wished her, in those fields of grass,
as much in love as ever yet was woman,
closed around by all the highest hills.
The rivers will flow upwards to the hills
before this wood, that is so soft and green,
takes fire, as might ever lovely woman,
for me, who would choose to sleep on stone,
all my life, and go eating grass,
only to gaze at where her clothes cast shadow.
Whenever the hills cast blackest shadow,
with her sweet green, the lovely woman
hides it, as a man hides stone in grass.
Day 3: Mimnermos
"Short-lived is treasured youth"
Short-lived is treasured youth,
like a dream. And soon
the painful and ugly old age
looms above our heads,
hated and despised alike,
takes over men deforming
and making them unrecognizable,
damaging the sight, and the mind.
Day 2: Hesiod, 5th century b.c.e.
"Rough is the road to happiness"
A lot of sweat put the immortal gods
to the forefront of the virtue
Long and hard and painful
the road to happiness in the beginning.
But when you get there
it becomes so easy
and pleasant that you forget
all the hardships that preceded.
I might as well say that this project has been established by my roommate and me to keep our wits about us during our summer break from school. We are memorizing a poem a day, moving week by week through the major poetic movements of history.
Week 1- Ancient Greek
Week 2-Provencal Literature
Week 8-American Transcendentalist
Day 1: Archilocus (Archilochos) 650s BCE
Oh soul, turn by unbearable concerns.
Stand up, defend yourself from your enemies.
Outsmart them moving cautiously through their ambushes.
But do not triumph when you win, nor lay down crying when defeated.
Nor get overjoyed in your joys or overwhelmed in your sorrows.
Just learn what rhythm governs human affairs.
This is, I believe, a tribute to the argument of an open mind. Ancient cultures believed the heart, mind, and soul to be one thing, whereas the organs of the brain and the heart were not necessarily connected to them. Be humble, be aware. Keep yourself open to the world and its possibilities while protecting yourself, and fulfillment you will receive.
"Burning Man, children, is about sex, drugs, music, and baby wipes." -Don Farwell
Mess is one thing. If you have your crap all over your home because you actively use it as a living space, then good for you. Letting the grime and filth accumulate, however, is nasty and you need to clean that shit up. If a million people raging in the desert-drunk, high, dehydrated, sweaty, covered in playa dust- can keep themselves and their camp clean, so can you.