10 06 2011

I was watching Bjork’s performance at the Royal Opera House this morning, and admiring her stunning creativity across disciplines—I’ve always held her music, her words, and her vocal acumen in the highest of regard, but her staging and willingness to trust in collaboration are also impressive to behold—when I started to feel a thought.  Which is a heck of a thing to do, by the way, feeling a thought.  Good luck with it.  You aren’t thinking, you’re just appreciating from that zone in which you’ve read your heart should be, when suddenly you’re thinking, only you didn’t mean to start thinking.  But bam, you have an idea, and it didn’t come from your brain.

And what I was think-feeling was this:  Love is Creation.  Creation is Love.

This was a confusing feely-thinky for me, but since it didn’t really come from my brain, I decided to entertain it.  At first, I only liked it because I’ve always had a problem with love.  I know that there are people, animals, and things for which I feel severe and sincere care, and I’ve been happy to consider that love, even if I couldn’t define the parameters of such a love.  And I’ve always been a little dismayed to see how widely varying people’s ideas of romantic love is, because if we can’t agree as to the purpose and scope of a particular feeling, then it’s not an institution—that is, it isn’t a single thing known by all who experience it—and there’s no sense to saying that we are in love, because we’re really just in two loves that intersect unreliably and aren’t necessarily meaningful to one another.

But Love is Creation.  Love is any product of the use of our vast imaginations.  It’s how we build our entire world.  An idea becomes important enough to manifest, and its manifestation is a labor built entirely upon the beauty we felt in the idea.  I was thinking about this when Bjork began “All is Full of Love,” and for once, the obviousness of the situation wasn’t lost on me.  I glanced out the window, and I saw that it was an idea:  to at once shield and to permit commingling.  To separate and to keep unbroken.  It’s a beautiful idea; a form of love.

There are those of you who think I’ve really gone off the hippie-drippy deep end, and to those of you who do, I say this:  I hope you will still hang out with me when I come to town, Allison.  And you may think I’m crazy, but you’re going to agree with me one day.

Creation is Love.  Also, destruction is love, in that an idea comes to pass.  Every idea comes from a wish, a need, and enacting is always leads to purpose, even if it’s hidden from you at first. People are just strings with a lot of kinks, and everything they think and do is an effort to straighten themselves out.  Sometimes, they tie themselves in more knots, but those knots will eventually come out, just like all the ones that already exist.  It just takes effort.  It just takes more ideas and more doing.  Which is all that creation is.  And everything you do to bring yourself to that loose, carefree, complication-less state is love.

I’ll end with a Beck lyric from the album One Foot in the Grave, which I think is a pretty remarkable although not-so-obvious champion of this Creation-is-Love idea.  If you haven’t hear it, you should give it a shot.  And don’t worry about liking it or paying attention to it.  It does its work subtly.  To wit:

go where you want to
do the things you feel
walk around with a broken leg
and a hundred dollar bill


Artists, Aberrations, Acceptance, Popcorn

18 04 2011

A lot of times, artists are poor.  I’m not an artist, but I was wondering the other day why I wasn’t.  Then I realized it was because I had no talent.  But then I realized, and just stay with me here, that I was an artist, and it’s not just because I’m poor.  Though, sadly, it turns out that my second-grade Art teacher was right:  I am a poor artist.

I am an artist because I am drawn to mediums that should help me express what toddles about in my heart and in my head.  I’m a poor artist because I don’t stick with a form long enough to sharpen my blade to the point that I can do so compellingly, clearly, vibrantly.  That’s okay because of my relative youth.  Perhaps I am still trying to get a clear perception of that which toddles about in my heart and in my head, and no attempts at putting these probable aberrations into the world is going to be successful until I do.  Maybe I’m just finding it difficult to be honest with myself about what I am.  Maybe a large percentage of us have this problem.

I know so few parents who can happily encourage and assist their children in exploring the things they wish to explore.  If you think about it from a purist viewpoint, isn’t that exactly what we should be doing?  We arrive in the world, and we bring other people into the world, and the real aim of anyone should be to find the path that is best for them, their growth, their being.  But that’s not possible in our world, where there is a basic set of accepted values, whether they are distorted or not, and everyone and everything in a new person’s world can’t help but relate to the child through a veil of adopted values, essentially dropping the veil over their eyes as well.  Whether those values are best for that person’s development and exploration isn’t important, really.  It’s about being given something rather than being given the chance to figure it out.

I used to be, and sometimes still am, so frustrated that I can’t seem to pull the trigger on any of the career masks our world has prepared for me.  But I’m starting to come to a point where I see the whole play as such madness that I can hardly believe anyone else can do it.  This is one hell of a playground we’re given, and what can we think to do with it but learn a set list of teachings from our institutions and choose, at an “appropriate” age, one of the previously devised things to “be.”  Whether I choose to take the postman’s costume, or the attorney’s, or the butcher’s, in the end I’m just covering myself up.

I was thinking about this because I know a very bright, very kind young lady who has just decided to go to law school, and I blinked ten years down the road and I saw her being a lawyer, sending her kids to school, kissing her husband good-night, and there is nothing wrong with any of that.  The richness of any manner of life can be astounding, and I believe wholly that your experience can always be amazing if you just pay attention.  It’s just that when you put on a costume, when you choose a pre-formed career, so much of your energy is automatically devoted to pulling that one lever, and so much of your personal development is pushed to the attic for later.  I just feel that maybe a lot of that lack of personal development, the world over, could be be responsible for our deficiencies as a species, deficiencies that a lot of these pre-formed careers are needlessly institutionalized to eradicate.  That’s just my sense, though.

Artists, on the other hand, and I know that there are plenty of them who look to create art that is commercially viable, which is tainted in its own right, but true artists are people who have a much harder time than even I do thinking that they could possibly take what is inside of them and squeeze it into one of these molds.  So they go their own way, and they let their minds and hearts take them to do things they are compelled to get done, most of them probably without a prayer of helping them sustain their living.  Where there is no avenue for others to understand what they are doing, others don’t take the time to value their work.  You blaze your own path in this society at your own peril for loneliness and destitution, and it is an amazing thing to see people walk that line.

It’s a commonly held belief that the best artists are often tortured souls, but is it possible that these people are actually just amazing human beings who are tortured because their compulsion to go their own way separates them from the rest of their people?  When people are so oriented to value a certain set of established skills and ideas, do they not involuntarily but automatically ostracize those beyond their immediate understandings?  Is the artist a tortured soul, or is the artist a human being who is tortured by their lack of acceptance in the world in which they live?

you’ve got a hole in your heart

12 03 2011

I got a surprising number of notes and pieces of hate mail after I posted this past week but password protected it.  Okay, no hate mail.  But a lot of “wtf” mail.  For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym “wtf,” I think it is a forestry group based in Canada.  To clear the air, I wrote on Monday night in a fit of anger, and my anger was directed at myself, and I was not kind.  I posted it because I wanted to see if I really felt that way about myself.  So that I could return in time and see how things have changed, if at all.  I wanted to post it because I know that no matter how uncharacteristic, it was me, and that nothing any of us says at any point in time isn’t us.  I wanted to keep others from seeing it because I don’t like that part of myself, obviously, but I wanted it documented and appropriately timestamped.  So, sorry.  No one gets the password.  If that’s not a metaphor for the darkest chambers of the human heart, I don’t know what is.

Feel free to put this song on as you read the rest.  Or stop and watch.  You get to see Christopher Crisci without a beard, even.

This week has been a long crawl out from under that feeling.  And it’s not over, but it may never be over, which isn’t a problem.  Just a circumstance.  Last night, I took my night alone and listened to music.  I hadn’t done that in a while.  I just sat and listened to whatever music I wished for a few hours.  I love doing this because you’ll find all kinds of thoughts that have been on the edge of your mind and all kinds of feelings that have been on the edge of your heart shaken loose by the music, and they all fall into place, mingle sweetly or otherwise, in the moment of your being.  Your brain directs your focus most of your days; but with music, for me anyway, my being gets to notice itself in a seemingly random parade of aspects that make sense in a way that words don’t describe.

So there I was, recognizing myself as a million different things, a million different people, seeing my current state against a backdrop of everything I’ve been and will probably have to be before the end, and it was… nice.  I don’t feel that different today.  But it was nice.

I awoke with one of the songs in my head, “Blue Eleanor” by Old Canes, and this is a song I’ve always liked (it’s why I picked it last night), but today I got obsessed with it.  Immediately upon waking, I put it on repeat.  I got my guitar and learned to play it.  I turned the song off and tried to play it, but I don’t know all of the words and frankly, the strumming is faster than I usually play, and I kept losing my pick like a teenager.  I didn’t want to ruin my plans for the day—doing a little tune-up on my neglected car—but I didn’t want to stop with the song, so I grabbed my earphones and ipod and put the sucker on repeat.

A quick aside:  it is a popular misconception that NGK spark plugs come pre-gapped; they do not.  I would like to make popular a truer conception that you should always gap your plugs, man.  Don’t be lazy… pay attention.  You’ll save yourself time in the end.

As I listened to the song all morning whilst working on the car in a really perfect chill, I realized I couldn’t have picked a better song, and then I realized that I hadn’t picked the song.  It kind of picked me.  It’s beautiful because it’s the perfect song for feeling sort of bad but sort of hopeful.  It’s full of platitudes, but they’re truthful platitudes.  It’s got a simple but infectious energy; you feel up to the task even though it is hard and you know the outcome isn’t falling your way.  It’s emotionally honest but melodramatic, which is a big plus…  it makes the song a little manipulative, but if you’re feeling the tone at all, i.e., if it’s resonating with you, it’s kind of fun to take up the slack of the emotional rope.  And the best part about it, if you’re in the state of being that can appreciate it, is that it mopes but it doesn’t dwell.

It’s a song of a tough moment that doesn’t bemoan the fact that it’s a tough moment.  So nice.

I’ve got one more thought to add, because I never stop when I should (after first paragraph).  Taking the line “you’ve got a hole in your heart” totally out of context, I was thinking about how the only reason anyone we know exists is because they’ve got a hole in their heart.  If you don’t, you feel absolute love, and according to a great many spiritual traditions, you’re outta here.

I say this because that means you can look at every single person you meet and know that there is something within them that is aching, that they don’t know how to fix, and they’re doing the human thing of bleeding out but constantly trying to refill their hearts with love.  They may not be doing it in a very kind way.  They may feel weak and act pitifully.  They may feel so frightened of running out that they behave jealously, angrily, demandingly, trying to squeeze all of the “love” they can out of others so they can feel whole.  But no matter how we each behave, if nothing else, we can look at one another and recognize that we’re all in the same proverbial boat, and everyone is deserving of your empathy and admiration.

Yeah, probably should have stopped earlier.  It’s cool, I maintain revision rights.

Protected: worthiness

8 03 2011

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

dream attack

21 12 2010

This is your first lesson in not trusting me:  nothing about this post refers to either dreams or attacks, despite the title.  It’s just not there.  Well, there may be a panic attack later.

It’s a tear from the Silver Jews’ song “Trains Across the Sea,” the larger line of which goes “I just got back from a dream attack / that took me by surprise.”  I’ve been having problems with words lately, and on the ride home from work I was listening to that song, and I liked how it sounded.  It’s nothing special, I suppose, but it resonated with me, and I’m barely too weird to ignore that as a possibly significant occurrence.*

I’ve long been mildly obsessed with words, their meanings, and their conveyances, and lately, their singular meaninglessness between two people.  I should say in between two people, because once a construction leaves one person’s mouth, it doesn’t mean anything until another person hears it and decides what it all means based on his or her personal orientations to the world, the words, and the person speaking.  I used to be in love with written communication.  Books, articles, correspondence—especially correspondence—but in the past few years have realized that the word, which I once thought was so powerful, is nothing until the listener or reader gives it power.

If you believe that the onus is on the writer/speaker to clearly state and support their thoughts in order for words to be properly utilized, then I agree with you to a point.  In fact, it’s never been a hassle for me to sit in front of a computer for an inordinate amount of time while deciding on the most precise term to use, or to make a sentence force the reader follow a relatively carefully orchestrated line of thought.  The less you leave to the imagination, I reasoned, the more effective the communication and the better use of everyone’s time.  I still feel it’s the case—it’s the only way to be properly understood, and for most of us nothing’s more important to our sense of sanity than being understood.  Except that now I also know that people find what they’re looking for, and it doesn’t matter the amount of care you put into crafting a thought—it’s going to be misunderstood by someone.  Sometimes.

At its grandest, this is a problem of a subjective reality, which is also a recent favorite interest of mine.  In a very real way, nobody is able to understand anyone else.  Everything will never mean the same thing to two people.  We just have a collection of humans trying to build a consensus about what reality is, and it’s pretty solid, except that you can never control how close on the continuum of Truth (a continuum because there is no fixed, immutable Truth) two people will find themselves.  Sometimes that distance is pretty substantial.  In certain situations, that difference can really affect two people.  But it’s a disturbing concept even at low levels.

You can tell two people that a FACT is a fixed truth all day long, but in practice, and therefore in their minds where their reality is constructed, they will eventually have a difference of sense.  Show them a guitar and then show them a hundred stringed instruments and ask them to name which ones are guitars, and somewhere along the line they’ll disagree.  One will see a minor difference that they feel violates their feeling of what a guitar is, or one will not notice a particular difference and label it guitar when guitar, strictly speaking, it is not.  And imagine what kinds of differences of understanding you’re going to have with anything intangible:  emotions, beliefs, life directions.  No wonder it’s so attractive to live the prescribed life of your culture.  When you start thinking about and finding more personally meaningful ways in which to express and direct yourself, you are left basically alone in your world before you know it.  You’d better be ready for that.

I say all of that to say this:  I no longer know what is worth one’s direction.  Words were once my thing, I believed in them, I thought that I could issue them and command where they went and what they did, but I cannot.  No one can.  I am clinging to the idea that they’re at all useful by the narrowest of margins.  I suppose that in the same vein I am clinging to the idea that anything is real by the narrowest of margins.  You feel things, the world mixes around, you feel things differently, and it’s all just a giant sandbox being raked around by a thousand toddlers; everything’s the same, but it’s always changing, and you’re not going anywhere.


*I am suddenly freaked out by the word “occurrence.”  Look at it:  it’s spelled like a stutter, all hung-up and tight-jawed.  It’s like falling down a scaffolding and cracking into something on every level.

DNR Order for a Telecommunications Device

22 11 2010

Yesterday, my phone died of exposure.  It was left too long, too far from its electrical bottle, and it starved.  Night closed in on the gadget and there was nothing to be done.  Minor inconvenience, I thought.  I’d soon enough be back near the charger, and I’d just as soon catch up with what I’d missed.

Today, I got back to the charger.  I dutifully plugged the phone in as soon as I arrived.  I went about cleaning up my space, which was in some disarray after an illness left me unwilling to keep tidy for the better part of a week.  I even switched the phone on after a bit of charging, but the startup is quite a long while, and I walked out of the room before it booted.

Before I knew it, it was almost time for me to head to work, so I hustled back up to my room and got hastily ready, and can you guess what I left behind?  Yes!  My bottle of water!  And also my phone.  The dread I felt at the realization was so substantial that I became immediately suspicious.

Wait, I thought, what am I really missing for the next eight hours, or the previous twelve? If history provides any light, the odds were pretty good that I wasn’t missing much.  Some random text from someone telling me they saw a hot dog vendor and thought of me.  A call from my sister asking if I’d figured out whether I was going home for Thanksgiving yet.  A call from my mother asking me if my sister was coming for Thanksgiving.  In fact, I realized that my phone is hardly ever a tool of happiness in my life.  Nobody ever texts and invites me to a hot tub party or calls to see if I’m interested in an impromptu screening of RoboCop 3 that they are watching from a hot tub.  The best I get is a hassling text from my sister because I haven’t returned her call and she’s presuming I’m dead or playing dead because I don’t want to come home and see her and be reminded that I look more like her than anyone else in the family and she’s not exactly mannish.  Well, I’m not exactly girlish!  I will show you all my muscles if we need this cleared up. I do have nice eyelashes, I’ve been told.

The point is that at one point in the evening, I even felt a phantom buzz from my pocket, but I didn’t reach for the phone with happy expectation.  I winced.  I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, I think the convenience of having a mobile phone was eclipsed by the inconvenience of having everyone you know presume you’re available for them at any given moment.  When I look at my messages screen and see 2 voicemails waiting, I am immediately disheartened.

I asked several people about this.  Actually, I started by asking them if they were old enough to have ever had real live answering machines.  And if they’d had one with their parents growing up, and if they had one when they moved out, and how long they had one before they got a mobile phone, and how long they had both phones before dropping the home phone—since everyone with whom I spoke had only mobile phones, having abandoned the land line.

And the big question I asked was “When you returned home from a day at school or work, or a night out at dinner, and you got in and saw the answering machine flashing (indicating a waiting message), how did you feel?”  And everyone remarked that they were excited.  “And how do you feel when you look at your mobile phone now and see that you have a voicemail waiting?”  And everyone said it was annoying, or deflating, or even made them angry.

I’m sure there are university studies that have been done on this, but if there haven’t, let me go ahead and save some donor money:  being available all the time, and worse, having other people assume you’re going to be available all the time, sucks.  It sucks you right out of your own world, into a world where you have to break your concentration to answer a quick text, or you have to leave your conversational companion for a moment to tell someone where you’ll be later in case they want to meet up.

It is no exaggeration to say that with mobile phones and all the services they provide, wondrous though they are, you are forcing yourself to split your time between two worlds.  Which may not be so bad except that you are doing it in small increments of time, leaving you, in a way, never here nor there.

I’ve been over 24 hours without a mobile phone, and I have enjoyed it immensely.  In fact, I’m now back in the room where my fully-charged, powered-on phone sits, and I really don’t want to pick it up.  There’s no one with whom I need to communicate, but more importantly, I don’t feel like breaking the spell I’ve arranged about myself:  I am alone in a room.  It feels solid, this room, and so do I.  I can deal directly with any of these objects or toys or thoughts or books around me, and I feel like that’s right.  The moment I look into the portal the phone provides, and I’m not calling it evil and I’m not calling it good, I’m effectively gone from here. And I want to be here.  I suppose I’ll have to pick it back up at some point.

But maybe not yet.

Exploring the Farthest Reaches of YOU

15 10 2010

There is a theory, an idea, a belief, an understanding that some people have that every individual human is God.  That the whole making man in the image of Himself thing isn’t about physicality, but is an indication that as the ultimate creative force in the universe, God split off billions of Gods, billions of ultimate creative forces.  Us.  And others.  The reason that we don’t know how to fly through the center of the Earth or give rise to awesome T-Rex Whales who levitate and sing like Pavarotti through the gentle warble of kitten purr is because we have forgotten our true natures, having been bound by the incredibly narrow band of experience that our five senses afford us.

The point, then, is to thwart an admittedly rather human-sounding ailment:  loneliness.  God planned to let these Gods run free over the whole created universe and experience it, to develop independent perspectives about it, enjoy it, and alter it.  In time, each God-soul would rise back to their God-mind and rejoin all of the other Gods, each having experienced life and creation in unique ways.  A fantastical diversity plan designed to foster so much newness that loneliness was basically out the window.

For those of you wondering how I feel about this:  I like it.  It makes at least as much sense as anything else I’ve heard, and might feel even better.  Not just because one day I might get out of my own head and be able to safely greet you by chopping off my foot and making a strawberry-scented rainbow fur hand emerge.  Shake on it.

So.  If we are creative beings, meaning that our highest function is to create, and the means by which we attain the ability to use our highest function is to forget the limitations we’ve placed on ourselves (preventing our creative abilities from creating), then can one look at the body as though it is a collection of different kinds of creative functions (which, when all fully functioning are powerful enough to create any and all worlds around it, create the rules and the possibilities of the self and the environment), then it is very interesting to think about how creatively skilled certain people are at certain things and wonder if that aspect of their selves is possibly truly completely unblocked.  And to wonder if they’re on to unblocking the next thing.  And to wonder how close any of us are likely to become a wholly creative being again.

I know that from the time I was very young, my voice is one aspect of my self that I have noticed being sometimes weak.  When I was in trouble with an adult, or talking to someone who was acting aggressively, or giving some stupid talk to the class about something for which I’d inadequately prepared, my voice would always shrink, and most often would close up, leaving my mouth open but without words issuing.  Any time I felt weak or frightened, my throat would immediately constrict and feel so tight that my attention would be completely drawn to it.  I couldn’t not notice how my throat reacted.  It was serious.

I worked on feeling comfortable in threatening situations, and surely through the years, my problem has far improved.  I still feel my throat tighten and my voice shrink when I’m alarmed or nervous, but others may not notice it so much, and it is certainly much less likely to paralyze me.  I’ve given 45-minute talks to crowds of around a hundred, talked down an angry and aggressive fella at a bar, and have given a wedding toast or three with genuine confidence, maybe one even with aplomb.  My voice problem is largely gone, though it still arises to varying extents on occasion.

A couple of years ago, when I undertook my 10-day Vipassana meditation, we learned how to turn our awareness inwards to a point that, when things were going well, we could feel the least likely things in our bodies:  the pulse within the little toe; subtle tinglings on the backs of the hands; even the tiny touches of six distinct legs of an ant crawling up the leg.  One day, I was able to push my attention even deeper within myself so that I was sensing the general pulse of the inner workings of my body.  I was honestly intoxicated as I sensed the fast but not frenetic activity through my spine.  I passed my attention straight through the center of my body, and it was exhilarating, but I received a surprise when I reached my throat.

All of the rhythmic pulsation and vibrant energetic activity of the rest of my journey nearly deadened within my throat.  Right at the voice box.  It felt muffled, wire-crossed, and as though it was shorting out continuously.  I was instantly thrown from my meditation, and I realized that this energetic mangling represented my occasional vocal incapacity.  It seemed that it was either the cause of my lack of creative power or that my lack of creative power caused it.  I don’t know which one—I’m pretty slack on learning my metaphysics, okay?

It was a shocking realization, and one which gives me plenty of cause for consideration when thinking about the connection our minds and bodies share.  Is there a weakness in my body at the center of the weakness I feel when in hostile environments?  If we are creative beings, is this why I feel this fear?  So that I will intentionally try to improve my abilities, shed my fears, and so strengthen this weakened part of my (spiritual or emotional or physical) body?  It’s a crazy thought, possibly.  Either that, or it is SO SANE that it boggles the mind.

And, if we are indeed fully creative beings, only trying to forget the limitations our physical bodies place on us, is someone who is a wonderful and expressive singer someone who is my energetic opposite?  You’ve heard certain singers described as “other worldly”—maybe they actually are, having attained such a high level of creative ability in that energetic center that they have progressed beyond the normal physical restrictions of the human voice.  And perhaps my issue is what it is because I am meant to continuously improve and grow my weakened creative powers there.

Maybe it’s not a mistake that when I started learning guitar as a teenager, I never got interested in the technical mastery of playing lead, but was constantly drawn towards learning to play and sing well simultaneously, a pursuit that appeals to me to this day.  I realized it again today as I was driving home, listening to a John Vanderslice song and deciding I was going to learn how to play it.  “If I Live or if I Die” is a musically very simple song, but I’m way into the lyrics and the melody.  And that means what I’m actually interested in is expressing well vocally, as JV does in the song.

And I didn’t decide to look up tab when I got home last night after listening to the phenomenal guitaring Slash provided for “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” did I?

Whatever your drive is, whatever your perceived weakness, physical or creative or otherwise, I say go with it.  Can you really afford not to, if the prize at the end is ultimate creative ability?  Do you even realize that then you’ll be able to open a beer with your mind, and then not have to drink it to be suddenly drunk*?  Come on man!

*Please create instantaneous drunken states responsibly.