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Posts from April, 2008

How We Give

April 10th, 2008

I’d planned on painting this evening but the current painting is finished. Instead, I found msyelf working on the second in the series, having finished the fifth. After drawing for a while and once again asking Fi (the cat) to graciously not curl up his twenty pound body on the drawing pad on my lap, I found myself reading up on some CSS manipulation for a site I’ve been working on and then looking into Rollingstone.com to see what was up there. I find interesting articles in amongst the music stuff, which I am less interested in than the journalism. I stumbled upon an interesting article about a fellow named Larry Brilliant – real name – and his philosophies and current station as head of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, or tentacle if you will.

I understand that all things that come across in writing, no matter how… objective they may strive to be are still subject to the conceits and filters of the writers and editors. Larry will come across through what he makes available to the interviewer and delivered to the reader through sound bites, snippets and word play, a few casual observations and some interviews with allies, associates and critics. Yet, the final feeling i get from it is “Why do we do what we do- for profit, personal gain, or… something more estimable?”. Mr. Brilliant has found himself asked to head up Google’s giving back system, and at that sitting upon a pile of cash to do something with. Not bad for an ex-guru-following-acid-eating-hippie (a highly stressed point as it were, as if to make the RS reader more sympathetic to him and to give him some street cred). But regardless of his history and his story, the point of the matter is that he is a guy who has tried to do a lot to help others and has, in many ways, succeeded, at least, according to this article and according to the perspective I’m left with.

When I read this kind of thing it makes me think two things- why do I do what I do and how do I give back. We strive to make things more sustainable- using recycled paper for everything, low wattage bulbs, etc- but there is more to it. So we look for foundations to give money to, a percentage of our profits. We are no multi billion dollar Google, but, at the same time, we do fairly well, all things considered and that $50 spent on dinner could maybe be better used by someone in need… so it is given to someone in need… And yet, it never feels like it is enough.

I wonder if there is an alternate reality where there is a me that figured out how to take this painting stuff out into the world and help cure cancer with it, or help to solve the hunger or water issues. And was able to do so without seeking personal gain. Such an interesting thing, personal gain. Even if we give because it makes us feel good to give (a valid reason I hear) it is still for personal gain! So how to give without giving from a sense of… well… self. Giving to simply give. This is a great lesson of life. Along with the lesson of how to love, so is the lesson of how to give. Such lessons can be traced back to the original core belief in the sense of self/ego/identity and it is that sense that leads to so many dilemmas. What is really giving? What is really loving? What is really breathing? What is really being?

Shall we stop giving until we have truly perfected the art of giving? Shall we stop loving until we have truly figured out how to love?

Practice makes perfect, or so they say. Life is the kind of thing that can only be perfected by being utilized. Like yoga, where we cannot learn how to properly do our downward dog by reading books, although they can offer advice, we cannot learn how to properly love or give by memorizing the words of those who may have found something close enough to approximate a sense of what it is to love or give selflessly. We can only learn by practice.

So we give and we give and we give, until there is nothing left to give. We love until we feel we have no more love to give. Maybe at that point we realize it was never “I” that was doing the loving afterall. At that point, we may discover what a true love really is.

The Song We Play

April 8th, 2008

The silent stillness of late night surroundings finds me solitary and drinking a glass of red wine with a side dish of cheese and olives. It is a usual place for me on a late night Monday night these days listening to late night music like Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. What a weird collaboration of soundscapes and mental landscapes it is and yet, it was through this experimentation and willingness to go “out there” (and, incidentally, “in there”) that led them to great albums like Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. . The willingness to walk the edge, push the boundaries, leads us to find the new. In this world of the reinvented, the borrowed, the done time and again, it is that newness that stands the test of time.

The other day, I found a collection of music called Psychedelic Archaeology vols. 1-10. Interesting, I thought, I always wanted to see what I’d been missing in my collection. This montage, if you will, of Psychedelic rock from the 60’s didn’t purport to have any Beatles, old Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix. It was the underground. And rightly so- none of it held a candle to that which I already have. Much of it “sounded like…” or “seemed to borrow from…” or something and so was quickly forgotten, having never had an authentic and true voice and having never having had something really real to say. This is not to say that Ummagumma is a great album- it’s weird, psychedelic and distinctly of that era. Yet, because Pink Floyd went on to create bolder and more beautiful work (peaking out with The Wall) the early work has greater significance. We can see this with some artists. Early Picasso and Dali pieces or any great artist in fact. Although the early pieces may not hold the same clarity of vision (or confusion as the case may have been!) that the later works have, early works often show a passion and a willingness to push, to find the edges and see what lies over them. The challenge as an artist is to always be willing to push, to explore and to never settle into a “groove”.

I read in some book a long long time ago now that, in order to be a successful artist you should find something and stick to it. For example, the book suggested, if you paint cats well, then paint pictures of cats! Hundreds of pictures of cats! Non-stop cats! Just and only cats and maybe sometimes cats and a bird too but mostly cats! I can think of more than a few artists who have gone this route. Just replace “cats” with, well, cottages in the woods, or whales in the ocean or… Eventually one becomes less of an “artist” and more of an “artisan”. An artisan is more of a crafts person than an artist in the truest sense of the word. An “artist” is one who engages in their work with a passion for exploration and is willing to turn down an unknown road with gusto. Artisans usually play it safe and stick to the tried and true. This is not to put down the craftsmen and artisans. After all, there are many beautiful works created by such people and I own some of these things myself. I may find a woman weaving while I am traveling and love what she is making and she is a skilled artisan, following the patterns of her culture and the colors of her native tongue creating a work of art, of sorts- an elaboration on a theme.

What is the theme of my own life? Growth. Movement from darkness to light and back again. A desire for purity. A desire for fuzziness. Movement between polarities. Finding happiness within and not basing that happiness on external conditions. Learning to be malleable…

Those may be sub-plots but what is the theme?

Expansion.

What is the story?

Well, it began in a little town called Milford… whatever, that’s not the story- that is a story… one of many that I have lived. How long has this story gone on and how many forms has it taken? It’s like this great concert- every song that passes is another lifetime. There are tragic songs and there are fuck-yeah-pump–your-fist-in-the-air songs. There are songs that seems like they just aren’t going anywhere at all and then all of a sudden peak and crescedo and you wonder what you were doing all that time in between. I do sometimes…

Each song… maybe we get something out of it, maybe we don’t. Each lifetime is the same but in this analogy, our own minds are the band. They are the guitarists and drummers and bassists and keyboardists and maybe the accordions, fiddles, violins, hand claps and triangle players as well. They are the whole orchestra. And we, our own consciousnesses are the conductors, the song writers, the visionaries at the helm. What song do we want to play today, we might as well ask ourselves when we awaken in the morning.

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