I CAN CLEAR THE WAY
THE PAST IS DEAD
To create something of this time, speaks to the now. And may realize impact now. But with no guarantee of a future.
To create something ahead of its time, could only realize that level of impact later. And may not have significant influence now, nor enjoy full appreciation now. But its value may increase beyond expectation – later.
Nobody really knows exactly what later will look like. Nobody really knows the values of the future.
But the now has its flaws, and the future is more likely to admit it. The future’s success lies in the inevitable incompleteness of the now.
And the success in the now, is in that which is concerned with yesterday’s weaknesses.
I rarely used to write as candidly as I’ve done on certain recent occasions. Breaking the rules of what I’ve felt would be a better thing to write. A more worthy thing. Not sure how long it will last. I’ve felt the impulse waning, and the writing shifts into other topics. But that’s partly a diversion from my tolerance level for my own stories, which aren’t always so comfortable. But – I’m a little bit of the mind that one’s own story is the most (perhaps the only) quasi-honest thing that they’ll ever have to offer. Writing involves persona, but a persona does have roots.
When venturing into the darker places, I’ve thought “am I making myself look bad?” Aside from the heart-to-heart with close friends, I would try to be more enjoyable than what is real, in real life. Try to avoid subjecting people to actual reality. It’s the polite thing to do, right? But this is a blog. On the internet people have a choice to tune you in or turn you off, or just turn your page to a better day. A more productive, enlightened, insightful, less self-indulgent, more palatable day.
I’m inclined to get personal because I’ve wanted to see more of it around and the brand of “truth” that it offers. And because people like to say things in life aren’t personal, even though sometimes they damn well are. And because some like to say that you shouldn’t write about the personal, and especially that you shouldn’t blog about the personal. Why not? I do it because I don’t want to be a vegetable. Because I am not an emotional zombie. Because nobody is.
Nobody is any of these things, and yet with current trends of cancel culture, conspiracy violence, and a revolving door of media-corrupted and debased relationships underscored by apps treating people as a pizza to be ordered, a mounting loss of respect for basic humanity is upon us. To write the personal is, in a way, to stand for humanity.
It seems tragic to have to remind ourselves that humanity itself is intrinsically worth something. And that it deserves respect on this basis alone. And that humanity is why we are doing what we are doing — everything we do. Because of love. Because of need. Humanity is everything to us in fact — even when we forget this. And we were not put on this earth merely to exist as an extension of somebody else’s agenda, or for whatever our value is or isn’t to them.
So how can the personal be so offensive? Does it seem too… feminine maybe? Too low? Too self-important, unless you’re a celebrity whose stories are automatically more valid than yours because they are rich and famous and you aren’t? And so everyone wants to hear their story, but only for the tabloids to take them down later also? For their humanity. Or is the personal just too real, as if we are not even grown up enough to handle that? What exactly do we need to reject about it? Don’t write about yourself, we’re told. Don’t talk about yourself. Why not?
We have stories. Why not tell them? What exactly is so offensive about a first-person narrative now? Is it really that much more “selfish” than anything else? Or is it just that it doesn’t sell as well as a how-to? Is it less practical and functional? Is it less… “good business”? Maybe even less…. bullshit? Does everything have to be monetized to have any kind of value? Does human experience have no value? Are our most unusual personal narratives “crazy”? Obviously that’s all total nonsense. Yes I said obviously. Let’s stop playing dumb because we can do better than this.
To understand humanity one has to get personal. To piece together a complete picture of history, even, we study people’s letters and diaries. Women’s history would hardly even exist without such accounts. Without the surviving poetry of World War I and II veterans, that entire front-line perspective of the very real horrors and consequence and the human cost of those wars would be missing. What about works like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? We’d just never know. All the history we’d have then is “big history.” Only life’s biggest winners — the most powerful and influential. And grossly incomplete. The personal does have its place — even in the most important research.
Everyone has their take on what’s going on in the world. Everyone has their take on what’s going on with another person, with groups. To write the personal is almost more responsible, because one presumes only to know oneself. Of course we do not really know others, much as we like to think so. We can only theorize. Yet if you write yourself and pretend that the writing is of others — of characters or even real players — it would seem more respectable to forge that little white lie.
Shouldn’t we pretend to be “above it all” to help our career and reputation? I struggle with my own cowardice too. To write the personal is to actually share. To allow oneself to be seen, beyond hiding behind signifiers that would elevate our status. But to write the personal is also to subject oneself to something as fraught and complex as the ideology of our own existence. And as fraught and complex as the admission of ourselves as sensory and emotional beings. Sensitive beings. Souls, even. In doing this, our stories propel us all into bridging the gaps of our differences. Enabling myths to be dispelled and theories to evolve and opinions to expand. Is this why the personal can seem so offensive in theory? Is it simply too demanding to step into another person’s experience, or even to dive more deeply into our own? The personal can be as antagonistic to core beliefs, as much as it can be seductive for its intimacy. Does its seductive quality make it too easy?
In the darker times I’ve had the thought, would I be writing like this if I were happier? Perhaps no. But I would still be writing something if I were happier. So do I just pretend this current reality of my humanity doesn’t exist? What good will that do? Convince or encourage more people to sit alone on the couch by themselves crying in their own worst moments, thinking no one understands and fearing what will happen if anyone discovers their grotesque vulnerability? That’s no great service either. Will I ever be happy again? I assume so or can only hope. For now, I will at least do something with whatever is going on in the moment. What could I give, as an artist, more than these diverse momentary truths of my existence?
To worry so much about saving face is to never be free. And, I would argue, to worry so much about saving face is to limit what you have to give. To worry too much about saving face — maybe that’s the true self-serving disease.
My style or I guess you could say my interest is the total fullness of life. It is not look at this but ignore that. It is not, fall in love halfway. It is all the way. It is not, take only this but not that. Elevate this but reject that. It is the total fullness of a person, of life.
It is, if you’re going to do something—anything—do it it all the way. Commit yourself. But commitment also requires flexibility. I have not always been willing to take the bad with the good. But when I have I have almost never regretted it. At some point in the process, the self is exceeded.
Sometimes I have committed to misguided projects or the wrong goals. But I don’t believe I commit to the wrong people, insofar that I even could. They’ve been meant for me somehow, and I for them. Sometimes I did not succeed to love them completely enough. Often. I’ve only recently learned how to do this, or to focus upon it better. And I make mistakes. In better moments I own them now, even when others don’t. Apologize, even when others don’t. See someone, even if I am unseen. It’s not a weakness. It’s not a sickness. It’s a clarity I want to see more of in the world. It’s a humility. Not a humiliation. It’s an appreciation.
It’s an expansion of the mind and especially the heart. I want to be in a world with more curiosity and a willingness to grow. If it causes pain, it is more painful to live only for one’s own egocentric and woefully limited consciousness.
My love of art and poetry came first. But I did not love them all the way either, for a long time. I had some toxic influences. Art is a very difficult occupation. Yet an incredibly kind influence also. And almost like a force of nature.
Some will make you feel bad about what you have to offer, as if it’s worth less than something they do. Though they may feel superior, these people’s attitudes are as easy as they come, and not hard to find. Continue. Do it more. That’s the only way. Some do not understand that it is a useless enterprise to try and break someone down, who is not going to give up anyway. They will hardly know that their arguments achieve nothing. They think they know what they are talking about. But they do not know. Nobody knows what is really going on especially outside of their own little bubble. There’s a reason arrogance is unflattering – it can only serve one. It’s someone handing you shit on a silver platter, as if the packaging makes a difference.
People do not reject you when it seems they do. They reject a second-hand idea. They reject a part of themselves they don’t want to see, or would rather disown. Because they do not allow themselves the same freedom. Because they have a template in their mind, or a temple. Your piece does not fit perfectly into their finite puzzle. Because they do not realize that you can have that, and also this. Have me, and also have you. You can have the total fullness of life.
THE LONG, SLOW SCENE
There’s a reason why, in popular movies, it’s rarely the moneymaker…
Time is work now, so time needs a reason. One way to sell the long, slow, or quiet is to use the word meditative, as if to assign a proper function to the act or experience. Otherwise the word used is boring. Meditation – an intentional act of focused attention – has a functional purpose, and more than that, an exciting one. Self-improvement, personal growth, etc.
For its existence to make sense, to have some value.
April 9, 2020
There needs to be a point. What’s the point?
Well what’s the point of anything, really. Can’t anything be considered pointless, from one perspective or another? How much is cheap, superficial, manipulative, etc., but is also entertaining? How much is considered valid, is considered a success, just because it makes money? Is that a good point to make?
If someone chooses writing poetry over television in the evening, if someone almost never watches television, are they just being an elitist asshole?
Who decides what is really valuable – the group, or the individual? It is a real question to ask, and difficult to answer. I speak for myself on clashing with enough stress and anxiety over the group, about being a worker among workers and the other roles I play, daughter, girlfriend, associate, fellow and etc, about not causing offense, I have to talk myself into being an individual also. That this is not only ok, but essential. This individual, the closet poet.
As an artist or writer, of course, function should not have to be the biggest consideration. Nor simply placating – another form of mere survival, of utility. This is part of the whole point of making art. If anything it is helpful to resist functionality which culture already boasts well enough of. Because there is more to life than functioning, plain and simple. There is more to life than spending time, energy, and effort only on practical considerations.
It seems obvious, until you have to fight for it.
May 12, 2020 – May 15, 2020
SELF-ABSORPTION, SELF-PITY AND BEING SPECIAL
- Reflected in cultural values via consumption or covert invalidation.
- Natural to the human experience in phases, as is generosity of spirit, understanding, kindness, caring, and empathy.
- Escalated by rejection, marginalization, and isolation.
- Add one of two words, for giggles: HYSTERIA or EGOTISTICAL.
- Things people say to dismiss certain temperaments, occupations, or situations that they don’t value or don’t understand.
- Things people say when they feel superior to certain emotions, occupations, or predicaments.
- Things people say when they disown aspects of themselves.
- Toxic or counterproductive when overapplied. Unless it’s the basis for a whole career, then it could be a success. See #1.
May 14, 2020
The obvious part is the absolutely majestic creature gliding in the wind over the dark bay cliffs, rising and falling gracefully, confidently. Then there’s the subtle part. The feathers opening and closing slightly at times, partly by the wind, but partly, it seems, for personality, for fun, like dancing. Delicate details that need to be observed very closely to be seen. Or it might as well be a garden-variety bird in the sky. Kinda cool, nothing special. Nothing unique.
The time it took. The sense of space it created in the moment. I felt a brief sense of reverence, before going back to my urban life where I survive like anyone else by way of destruction of the natural because I’m no different in that way. Maybe I just take more time than the average person to watch, to see, to take in — before joining the crowds once again to the disposable lifestyle of take-out containers, fast fashion, high-volume traffic, smartphone apps. We won’t be getting away with this unchecked, as we’ve already begun to reluctantly note.
Now is the perfect time to regard nature, to recover a sense of respect for it within this sudden struggle to now survive the elements that we can not control. Now is the perfect time, because we actually have time, to observe and be with the subtleties in life if we want to, not just gloss over everything. Plenty of time. To appreciate its delicate elements.
We have been the most interesting species, to ourselves. The most worthy of survival, at any cost. Even at our own peril, we are too precious. This sounds harsh but isn’t it true?
Sustained attention to nature is more important now than ever. Nature has more than a functional purpose for us. It is more than just a physical resource, which most of us know, but we need to start acting like it.
May 2, 2020
_E_F-A_SOR_TIO_, SELF-P_T_ AND BEI_G _PE_IAL
- Ozone layer of collective consciousness.
- Amnesia of self as culture, ideology.
- Disaster versus appeal.
May 18, 2020
That flap of roof
Just like a quail
–Thoughts from October. I dig up this saved draft I’d hesitated to share but now it’s wrapping its arms around a sleepless night and my travel bug, that escapist impulse to jump in a car, on a plane, a train, a boat, anything–
All that really needs to escape is that toxic tendency toward self-censorship.
Writing is still elusive. Writing is hard, unforgiving in a way at times. Writing involves so much organization, I often can’t even handle it without also making visual art. Words have felt like pressure cookers, images like rivers. Images like relief.
It’s said that words, language, are limited and inadequate – but which mode of expression isn’t?
Images aren’t enough either, as enamored as we are of them. There’s things that pictures just can’t do, can’t show the same way. Pictures can not take the place of words. So then it’s the writing that happens by surprise in the midst of creating art. Writing is the relief. Out of a sudden desperation, exasperation that can’t be expressed immediately enough without switching mediums, turning to words.
Images and words have never been separate to me. Two sides of the same coin.
There’s the times none of it seems to satisfy – images, words, whatever. The moment’s raw and the only thing to do is keep going. With the current project, with any project. Whatever’s in front of you. The medium hardly makes much of a difference. It might make you feel better, or just more like crap but you don’t stop. I feel strangely serene now in the face of intensity when it’s there. Its presence doesn’t scare me as it once did. As if my brain partitioned into two coexisting sides of reality, dark and peaceful.
When the inspiration gets intense, weird, dark, I imagine some of the reactions and opinions those pieces could incite. Oh well.
Mixing beige paint in my room and laying it over black I contemplate my favorite person to be with. Wanting this man is futile. Will you leave once again and call me months from now, and what will I say then? No more? I love you?
Even the worst of you could not make me cold for long. An inescapable fact, love. I want out of here, too, restless. It’s the middle of the night.
I toss this whole situation into question. My job, my expensive life here in Oakland. What am I doing? This art. These photographs. This writing. How much could I sacrifice to be able to do this all the time, nothing but this for as long as it takes? Almost everything, I’m thinking.
What if I just said, everything? What would everything look like?
Rain. Blue-grey-violet light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Waking to dreams of the one I’d loved the most until finally many years later I didn’t – not that same way, pointing at a studio apartment for rent in the paper. A large hexagon shaped space with beige floors in the photo, possibly carpet but nice, facing the street through bay windows. I wanted to live there instead of him, could I – but hadn’t I already? The thought makes me feel a bit sick. Something bad happened there? Can’t remember. Many years ago, yesterday. Being alone, wine, my computer, music, emails and IM, that’s it. Scribbling in my journal in red and purple ink in bed, at my green desk covered in scraps of paper, notes, purple orchids and pots, flipping through thousands of photographs taken traveling and academic papers, lost in a foreign history of my own. Plants, tall stacks of drafts, paintings beautiful amidst abstract misery and desperation. Had I really lived there? Or just imagined it? The memory makes me ill. Did I just make it up, the feeling? The place?
Now staring into asphalt and a partly cloudy sky, intermittent city trees, standing in the street, waiting. Forever. Where is my friend? We’re going to eat some sort of special bread from the bakery, a sweet bread or something? As the sun falls hours later she finally shows, separating from a group of people I don’t recognize, surprised when I bring it up as if she’d never really intended to go.
Another fuzzy event I can’t recall, another one putting me off for some unidentifiable reason too. So out of character for her, I don’t understand. There was no one to be with.
Sitting outside on the sidewalk uncertain of what to do now. Nobody around. The air is fresh and bright. There must have been a porch there, or some stairs, then a book appears in my hand. I open its nearly eight by ten cover and skim. 50 or so pages, with illustrations. Joy. It was about joy. This was written by a friend, a pianist, he’d given this to me. No longer conscious of the street, completely absorbed in its lyrical writing and sparse, minimalistic line drawings lightly watercolored until an elation grows and spreads too immensely to look down any longer, too much to process any more information mentally. I close it to feel its weight in my hands instead and look up lifting up into the air like years before, planes floating off a runway above shapes shrinking and tightening viewed through tiny windows. So happy. Magical. Then I’m here. Rain. Blue-grey light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Curtains. Oakland in the window. My room. No one’s around.
Were all of those people trades for someone I really want to be with today? Not sure I care what it means but it resonates for a few minutes.
Shaking off these dreams I get up to go out to the cafe. The significance doesn’t feel so important, but I’m pretty sure I know why I’m remembering them so readily. Vacation – no work for two weeks. Whenever there’s more space, when more time is sensed and freedom and days ahead open, the volume of dreams I remember increases and changes: popcorn strings of memories like momentary portals into a higher consciousness about these experiences, mixed with creative currents more otherworldly and imaginative, like being inside of a hidden universe that rarely reveals, suppressed by routine realities. Routines both necessary and destructive. I used to take them too seriously. And now I just don’t believe that I have to anymore. Everything in my spirit won’t even let me anymore; it’s over. My own way of seeing and being wakes up and takes priority and the space just has to be made for it, or it’s like I’ll just die.
This is the thing that may not make sense from the outside but it’s been said before many times over that a certain type of artist – perhaps so-called “real” artists – create because they have to. We have to. Maybe this is not true of all artists but in my own experience the choice has been to create, or to suffer a progressive downward spiral into an internal hell, self-imprisoned. I’m fine to coast for a while but finally these become my two options and for others who are like me I wouldn’t doubt them to feel just as lost and miserable without creating. Not that creating functions as a universal remedy for bad feelings – that would be silly. For me though feeling bad and not creating would be an even worse if not dangerous condition than feeling bad and creating. I didn’t desire this aspect of an artist’s life to be true of myself and I thought the idea sounded corny and overdramatic when I read about it in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” at nineteen. Coincidentally it was the only idea from the book I never forgot: write if you must write, if your need for writing is as though your life depended upon it. I was too young then to understand these words more comprehensively, but cross the age of 30 when the focus of your generation suddenly becomes status and success and power and out of nowhere you feel like a complete loser. Your dreams of being an artist or writer become even more naive and irresponsible and idealistic than when you were nineteen. They’re beyond merely objectionable now, if not borderline reprehensible in a way they weren’t before. Those benign impractical fantasies of young adulthood suddenly become things you could actually harm yourself with.
Was it Henry Miller who pointed out something like anyone can be an artist — until the age of 35? This is not the same thing as declaring an intention to go into teaching or law or nursing or politics or business. Creative ambitions might be treated as a curiosity or a bit of fun at best, but taken less and less seriously as time progresses. It’s especially challenging for those choosing to abandon their former career path, to pursue art no longer as a hobby but as a primary occupation. Are you published? No. Do you have a professional website? No. Business card? No. Portfolio? Not in any organized fashion, not yet. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet the unsatisfactory answer to every question. Some start early, going ahead despite the odds to establish a position for themselves in the creative arts, publicly – others like me punish themselves for years first instead. Just for inevitably being who you are despite every attempt to be something else, yet not quite understanding why you just can’t fit in to the occupations or places you’ve wandered into for safety and security. By the time you finally come out of it to recognize what the trouble really is and you’ve already spent your money on degrees in other fields for other careers, who will indulge your grandiose aspirations now at this point? But if you find that this is something you have to do – and you know this to be true of yourself because of the consequences you’ve experienced in avoiding this truth for your entire life, then the choice is clear. Whether or not you’re any good at what you create at this point, whether or not you have everything you need for success in place, it ceases to matter. You’ve worked your way to the top in places you didn’t even want to be, simply by showing up and working hard. If you have to start at the bottom all over again, it will be worth it. And how long will it take, exactly, to get to somewhere in the middle, if you even dare to imagine you could? This ceases to matter also. You’re tired of pretending, of lying. You don’t think about the people who would criticize you as much anymore, or the what ifs, or the opportunities you’ve turned down or run away from in the past. You think about what you need to do to make it happen.
I don’t feel sorry for myself or for those in my shoes. I feel for those who are like me but still unable to create for whatever reason. I know these people are out there so when somebody says they’re an artist, I tend to believe them no matter their current occupation or lifestyle or hobbies.
Two weeks of taking pictures and assembling them, drawing, writing, cups of tea and coffee, sleeping, planning, going to the gym, seeing friends. I pour cream into my coffee as I only do in cafes – anywhere else, it’s black. It’s noisy in here, there’s nowhere to sit comfortably. Each conversation this morning is too loud and too much as I move from table to table seeking a place where I can think. Think and write. I’ve been desperately needing solace from these crowds. Yet appreciate an unexpected sense of relief in this scene too, full of friends telling stories rather than singles with their devices. I settle in near the speakers, faint music, not overbearing mainstream sounds like they often play but sounds with real feeling, though not especially edgy. I realize I’ve forgotten to put in earrings this morning, which I’ve been wearing since I was three months old. It feels oddly troubling.
My mind and body are glowing, not in a physical sense. Something else. I remember all the other times like this. I remember the soft sunshine and the libraries and the roses in the window and the moped and the kissing and the airports and the poems scribbled out for fun with no concern for editing and the smells of cattle in foreign places and the miles and miles of road and ancient redwoods and the river. I remember the intense dreams. Stories of living life as art.
You’re free today. You have two weeks. Sit down. It’s been a while since I’ve written, instead relishing the easy relief from words I enjoy so much in working with images. Writing is so exposing, really so scary. It doesn’t matter. Text messages pop up, you ignore them for now.
Go write. I’m dying to write now. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, doesn’t matter if it’s good writing or bad, doesn’t matter if it’s real art.
This was taken from scraps. Cutouts produced incidentally while creating other black and white paper designs, extras tossed aside in the moment: the true first negative space of those projects, their waste, their remainder. Sifted through the pile of odd shapes belonging nowhere, randomly assorted without purpose. Four pieces chosen quickly, without thinking and no plan, without altering them further in any way, and within minutes assembled together and pasted up this leaning figure. Looks like a lot of things to me but speaks like an example.
Urging to make significant or even delicious more of those elements in us and in the world so easy to reject, to cast out, to trample on, or to simply pass by. Art and poetry are not luxuries but necessities for this reason. To allow the unattended or just what looks like refuse to be seen and voiced and appreciated rather than tossed a token now and again, hardly a crumb. The expendable, impractical, unnecessary – yours and mine too. With poetry especially we have a marginalized form expressing the marginalized in apt communion. To celebrate mystery, quiet amidst the noisy, or to place the unwanted or left behind because are we not all neglected or forgotten in some way and do we not all feel this. To serve the imperfect, the difficult, the unsavory or troublesome, even the scary at times. Our beauty does not exclude these flaws in a culture pretending to disown their existence.
What nobody would detect or consider without looking very, very, closely – art changing our minds about what’s beautiful and worthy, what we’re capable of discerning. Not just a world in which we consume choice fragments of one another relentlessly and treat ourselves so, but a hunger for the whole range and process of a more private experience admired, an intelligence beyond the conspicuous so that every day just a little bit, even just a little to be able to show up and not be afraid to look further. Since it’s the not looking – hiding – that’s more dangerous.
— And since culture’s infinitely richer than it could possibly be credited in any given moment — momentarily magnificent or bewildered or painfully plain. So are we.