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It is a silly thing – a frivolous thing. Hope is the breath of a bubble waiting to burst.
In the midst of our more confidently brazen facades, we scoff it off as naive – a thing for children’s stories and religious tales when the fairy godmother might come and sweep us away and the brethren hope for the return of their savior.
When all is well, what need have we for hope? When tomorrow and the next look as bright and full of possibility as today what need have we to break our stride? I’m ok. You’re ok. Everything is grand. Everything is ok. Our needs are met and our systems intact and life provides because life will always and forever provide in as abundant a manner as now – or so we believe – what need have we then for hope? It is, in those times, when earlier moments of want are forgotten, that hope turns into it’s own ego reflection and becomes ‘expectation’.
Hope is that fleeting moment – that briefest of uplifts – before the story kicks in. The story of “what I want or need”. Or what I believe it should be. What I think should happen next. And how we will feel or want to feel when it all works out like we expect it to.
Every archetype has its counterbalance. Discernment becomes judgement. Joy can turn to hubris. And so on.
We are talking about Hope.
When we awaken in the morning and it’s another day and the news bombards us with more vicious attacks and security outrages, political upheavals, and vomitous personality flaws, and the bills in a stack that need to be paid sit in unopened envelopes while I scoff down another breakfast and that one blood relative that just needs a break or a chance or something anything is still calling and I haven’t been paid and more stuff and dramas and dead weights and the kids or the cats or the car, maybe it’s the dog, there’s the old scars prickled with new scabs. It’s then when dreams seem so far away buried on some distant horizon blanketed in grey and the expectation of the day to day becomes a breadcrumb trail leading away from better times because now these days are the only days. It is then.
It is then, too, that hope seems a trivial thing. For what is there to hope for when yesterday’s trials just get worse today and the next looks to be about the same and rather than healing all wounds, time just continues to grind away? Every dream becomes dust. Your sweet reflection rusts.
Why hope? Why hope at all?
It’s not about a better job or the kids will be ok. It’s not about a sweeter place for our bones to stay. It’s not about things. It’s not about structures. Hope isn’t about belief systems and carefully weighed outcomes. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. Hope doesn’t care about any of this.
My structures will be torn down by his structure will be torn down by her structure til you build your structure all over again to be torn down all over again and the cycle continues. It’s not about winning or losing. Hope isn’t an outcome.
Hope is the breath of being and not being at the same time. An inhalation turns into the exhalation and into an inhalation. Over and over and over again.
Hope is the barest flicker of a candle flame in the middle between believing and not believing in the next gracious moment.
Remember when it was the pyre of all our desires burning in an ever lasting blaze? Everything – with or without name – all thrown in at once – won’t need that again! – burning burning – everything just burning away. We were dawn’s new day ever-lasting to become the sun as if we were only and ever the first greatest golden one and this is the end forever and ever and in the midst of playing that last note, that last chord, that last song we would ever hear and could possibly hear for once there will be peace on this earth world without end name without name flame within flame – has anything ever looked sounded seemed so clear…
Comes the darker hour of night.
Comes that moment after losing sight.
Mind chewing away on all the could have beens should have beens maybe why why did I even think – even consider – even entertain for a moment’s breath – I could touch that sky? Let alone – fly?
When everything – and I mean everything – the leaking pipe, the traffic light, the unopened envelopes, the endless parade of tirades, the places I’m powerless – the bottom’s dropped out – the cries of a billion starving mouths with nowhere to sleep, the still-boxed dreams that could have been – all whispering and whimpering amongst themselves, screaming and shouting and crying out loud:
Where have you been all this time. You’ll never make it. You don’t even know where to begin. Won’t you help me?
That candle flickers inside, casting a light, a glimpse – I’m still here. We’re still here. It’s ok. We’re ok. It’s going to be ok. One foot in front of the other. I hope there’s still a floor!
If I could be one voice in the dark. If I could be one spark in a world waiting to ignite. Needing to ignite. Praying to ignite. Hoping.
If I could be one dream. One whisper. One song. One being. Still banging that drum, ringing that bell, dreaming that dream. Singing that song and pulling myself apart at the seams… for you. For them. For us. For everything. Just to inspire the belief that there can be more than that and more than this because there is only this and forever this. And whatever we choose make of it.
If you are that one only soul remaining – that one candle flame flickering – that one tiny breath. That whisper. That whimper. That one soul still left dancing… If you can be that and inspire that feeling in another – that sensation – or reflection – that is hope. It is the hope that we are growing towards better days and the best is not behind us.
It is the driving force that says: Grow. Survive. Thrive. There might be another day. There might be a better day. But if we don’t LIVE in this one we’ll never make it to the next. If we don’t build towards that possible future now, then what do we have? Life begets life. Breath becomes breath.
And hope begets hope.
If you see me crawling alone on the side of the street, destitute and wondering if this asphalt is the only thing that has ever been – I am only human – toss a crumb – a smile, a coin, it’s truly all the same – in my direction because you never know if what to you is the mere faintest of distractions might actually save a life, a soul, a spirit in need of resurrection, maybe just a human reflecting humanity in need of connection.
See, if I can be just one whisper, one underlying tone – one breeze upon the nape of your neck making you feel a little less alone, that taste that still lingers on the tip of your tongue reminding you of songs yet to be sung or that memory of a dance so good now long gone, that recollection of a time so serene, so magic, so visceral, so real or that possibility of what could be – it hasn’t even happened yet – if I could be that future – if I could be that
That it could be
The intimation of the greatest of pasts and futures in the now.
It is the song that sings: we have yet to hear the final note. Hope keeps it’s money in the game. Hope strategizes moves and sees me completing actions beyond which my tiny mind can even comprehend. And I – my mind – this heart – we are only messengers of hope – of life – of love and laughter and soft sweet surrenders for all whose candles flicker, whose wells run dry because they do sometimes.
Hope, said Alexander Pope, springs eternal in the human breast.
In the darkest of your night, in the softest of your light, in the deepest of your fright, in the barest of your sight… Hope eternally springs forth like a the barest of a new shoot, a new bud, a new blossom after winter’s cold remorse.
Hope is the effulgent light of our mystical hearts and the great human potential of all we could be. It is that well spring of eternal devotion that we direct ourselves towards – a notion that is as close to beyond our imaginations as we can comprehend. It is all of the everything at once. It is the sky folding into the earth and back again and our place in that as one more beautiful and intricate cog of a machine whose only true goal is beauty, life, death, entropy, all of it at once. It is mind no mind. It is a verse of the song of this infinite dance.
And it is hope that, even in the most trying of times – in the darkest of your moments – which may not be as dark as those of some but, still, may be darker than others – everything has its day and everything has its night – the darkest night hopes for the brightest light and the brightest light hopes for the darkness of night – it is hope that keeps us alive.
Hope says, “We will meet again.”
May you remember hope.
As an artist, they say, you should always be producing. And it should be better. And more. And also more better. And, the older you get, the more this adage echoes through your mind. Does what I’m doing have value? Is this worth the time I’m spending on it? How long until it’s done and how will it compare to previous works? And so on. The questions, the inquiries, the pressures, the doubts – they’re endless.
Looking back on the early days of my artistic career, I see a person who found value in creation for the sake of the thing. I just knew I wanted to make it. I had to. And I had nothing to compare it to. I had no previous sales. I had a small collection of work but not enough that I had a spectrum of pieces to compare anything to. There was no endless feed of social media to insert it into. I had only pen and paper, brush, canvas and paint, coupled with a will to simply create.
I remember spending half a winter in the early 2000s (while working on the painting Limits, amongst others) learning Adobe After Effects. I spent hours and days creating rudimentary animations, visual smorgasbords of psychedelia, and the like. It had no real ‘value’ and I certainly wasn’t going to sell it. I didn’t fancy that I’d be going off to be a visual projectionist either. By today’s digital standards, it was all rather basic stuff. Which is to say: I spent a lot of time f***ing around that winter. But it brought me joy and provided me with this other creative outlet that, in some ways, informed what was on my easel., Also, along the way, I learned a useful skill (After Effects) and had fun.
Similar things could be said for nights spent turning chalk pastels into piles of muddy dust. Or bottles of ink into splattered vistas of no real use or value to anyone other than myself. Maybe I was just beautifying a corner. Or expressing a momentary emotion. Maybe I was just exploring how a thing worked and letting the chatter work itself out without any thought to the destination or marketable value of the resulting product.
Whatever story I tell myself of ‘why’ I’m doing the thing, the fact is, I’m sometimes spending my time on things which likely have no tangible value within my body of work, may never see the light of day or find an audience, and is simply for my own creative exploration.
The job of an artist is to LIVE CREATIVELY. Every square inch of that time and space is a place to drop in and make or do or explore. This isn’t to say every waking moment should be this endless act of creation. Sometimes, sitting in the sun and reading a book or playing with the kitten or puttering in the garden or garage is the only obvious next step.
On the other hand when the heart says ‘Hey I want to explore this thing’ then go ahead. I say: see where that thread takes you or where that tangent leads. My own personal creative tangents create space for a kind of creative processing that allows my painting practice to be all the more clear and in tune. It’s helpful to compartmentalize these things of course: I can’t just go explore something to the detriment of my ‘work’ these days but I can find time and space for those joyful creative unknowns.
The avenues and outlets I follow – allowing the muse to unpack itself in various novel and creative ways – are like the branchings of a tree. I never know when one branch might actually bear fruit or even what that fruit might be. Many of those fruits are, for the most part, nourishing only to myself. Maybe it is this tea stand I made or a side project website that makes me laugh. But that nourishment – those breaths of creative fire – inspire me to move forwards in my creative flow. That inspiration invariably seeps into my work and actions.
As we creative types get older, we hopefully learn to discern between distraction and inspiration, between fucking around and fucking off (although the latter has its value as well). I have a sketchbook I draw in. It’s a place of lots of fucking around. It’s dorky mental lines that maybe turn into a sketch into a painting into something truly noteworthy. Maybe. 99 times out of a 100 it’s just ramblings. There’s no thought of ‘how can I monetize this.’
What I’m trying to say is:
The world is heavy. It’s no joke. And we artists have this sense that we have to do things that are ‘meaningful’ and make things ‘of value’ and so on. It is all very serious. And then, on top of that, you have got to hustle your work and maintain your brand and make sure you adequately engage with your social media platforms and run a business and heft your burdens and don’t forget the personal stuff – there’s got to be room for that – and so on. Phew!
Look: It’s ok to just breath for a moment. And, more so, it’s ok to just play sometimes. If you can make that space for yourself, revel in it for a bit. Give some paper over to random drawing. Paint over a canvas you forgot about with just who knows what for the sake of it. Remember that feeling? You were ten years old and you just were lost in your creative flow, just messing around, making the most meaninglessly important thing ever. You didn’t even need to ‘give yourself permission.’ You just did it. That’s art. Treasure that part. Nourish that part. It’s still in there just waiting to play, to explore, to dabble, and to dance.
I’m telling you, even artists should have hobbies.
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