Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I I?", said I

Along the many rides between campuses a single sign seemed to speak.  Among all of the advertisements that seem to numb the mind, to motivate, influence, prick away at wants and needs.  Across the piles of concrete and trees I zoomed in on words I had thought I imagined.  "What did that just say?"  hmmm...maybe I imagined seeing that.  Depending on the route the driver chose, it would seem odd to me to see these words, in my own language come to me.  They seemed to shout.  Who is this "I" and why would I care that this "I" is here?  What is it time for? 

That is one way to look at it.  There is a presence about a person who knows who they are.  It's undeniable.  When they walk into a room, something about the way the person speaks that gathers all of the attention and energy of the moment to themselves.  It could be that words are not required, and all eyes are upon them, drinking in their visage.  Perhaps we look for a flaw to feel that moment of triumph that confirms their mortality.  Perhaps that sounds weak, but the honesty of admitting our strange sense of inferiority when we encounter the gifted pricks away at our own being.  People are weak and there are many that can't stand someone that might have more ability.   Those looking glass moments when we see the best or worst in ourselves reflected in everyone around us.  Often you hear the smatterings of, "Who do they think they are!"  Of course that person is oblivious of the heated jealous nature.  Petty and self interested.  Frail and insecure.  We don't like to admit it at all because we have been driven to compete against each other and competition doesn't actually bring out the best in people, no, most often it just brings out the worst.

"It's a dog eat dog world out there." Or, "people" eat "people".

I said there was another way to look at the sign, and it actually seemed so simple.  Many sages since the beginning of time have been telling us a number of things.  Philosophers, scientists, writers, mystics, teachers, and leaders from all points of society have all been on the same road.  The quest for identity.  Here is wherever you are.  Time changes and doesn't change.   However it is always now.  You are the I.  Where does that leave us? 

Determining the what.  The what to show up for.  The what to create.  The what is your choice, path, opportunity, decision.  The what is your life

However, it seems there is a huge problem right now with decision making.  A huge lack of direction is going on, a lack of vision that seemed to have blinded many able bodied people.  We all seem to go after someone because we lack vision for our own lives.  We are on the hunt for the scapegoat.  The sacrificial lamb to blame for our choices.  It is the easy way out.

OR is it?  At the end of the day, you still have to look in the mirror and look at your own life.  Do you really do all you could with your life?  Is someone else responsible for living YOUR life for you?  All of those little compromises you make, the selling out points, the quiet justifications that someone else will fix it or solve it...comes down to realizing that you have to be here.  You have to show up.  You have to realize the time is always now.  You have to present yourself. have to decide to make a difference wherever you are.

I thought about it and we could look at it very differently indeed. We don't need to run away from our ego, we need to stop beating it up and hating it, and we really have to stop giving a damn about what anyone thinks.  We also have to stop looking for two people.  The person to blame and the person to save us from ourselves.  What could we accomplish if we never found those two people?

Perhaps we might even understand how empowered we might feel if we actually said these words.

"It's time...Here I am", said I.

and then did something.

Don't look for testicles.  You are who you are.  Don't be afraid of the reflection.  Perhaps that is why vampires fear their reflection.  There is nothing to see when someone feeds off others...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Public Service Announcement From The Youth of the World

Forgive me, I am a woman.  Forgive me, I am a bit naive.  Forgive me, I ask a lot of questions without the need to deceive.  I just wanted to ask all of you out there, perhaps you are in the choir, but for those of you who sing a long to this song...this is kind of directed to those who don't see eye-to-eye with us.  I want to ask how has peace ever come from war?  I can't think of a necessary war, not really.  Most of the wars would or could not have happened if they went unfunded within the last 100 years.  How much is life worth?  How much could be done if we allocated our resources towards getting ourselves off of oil?  Maybe that is what the oil-rich countries are afraid of.  That we would not need them, that we would use less of them and perhaps collaborate more towards a positive future.

If we learned to be self reliant instead of dependent, think of all of the things we could get done and how exciting that might be to build and create with each other instead of having enterprises emphasizing our differences, and though they are bad things.  Really, do we want everyone to be the same?  With the same thoughts, the same beliefs, the same everything when we need our more than ever.

So dark, the media in the west seems to appear.  Fights for money and not for life.  Fights over pensions, taxes, wages...between class systems that are driven by one tool.  A tool that has been given life to take away or add to our lives.  A thing has been given power over the breathing people who have a pulse and don't realize how important being an individual is.  A tool that is fought over instead of shared.  A thing that rules even the elite and moneyed classes.  How far we have to go that we would given intelligence to a hammer and not retain any wisdom.  A thing that has taken lives to pay others to take lives not because war is noble, but because it is paid for.

That we give so little thought to the youth of this age who remind us that "Peace is OURS...IF we want it."  That would mean for all of us.  Revenge?  What good is it?  Revenge can only come back time and time again for it is never satisfied. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.  (Emerson)

When will we rise up out of the dark ages and stop our blood sacrifices to our gods?  Be those gods of money, material, profits and religion or power, take down those sacrifice pits.  Blood spilled for nothing.  Wasted lives that we have no concept of how rare and precious each life is.  YOU were a ONE in a 300,000 Billion shot (Amram Scheinfeld)!  Each life is beyond calculation as far as potential impact.  So why are we told we have to BE like each other?  Oh what opportunities we miss when we fail to see and realize we all are needed.
So on this beautiful day, as I looked at the sunrise and noticed people around me.  Having their own thoughts, dreams and duties I thought of these words by Emerson, and this portion of an essay called, "Self Reliance".  I am glad he wrote them in a time where we were not so politically correct. 

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide;
that he must take himself
for better
for worse
as his portion, that through the wide universe is full of good
no kernal of nourishing can come to him,
but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
The power which resides in him is new in nature,
and none but he knows what that is which he can do,
nor does he know until he has tried.

Simply put, YOU want what exactly you want for yourself.  It takes just one to stop repeating messages of hate and revenge.  To be able to see and be who you are and not be a 'joiner'.  You can be a third rate copy of your idols or a first rate  Imitation is not flattery.  It steals from everything you could be.  

This world needs you, the authentic version now more than ever.  You have to accept yourself and quite trying to be what you believe others want you to be.  Seek yourself and you will find where your heart is.  I think if people really looked, they would find that the universe IS good, and if we realized that would we need to go to war with anyone?  What do you want?  Why waste the shot we have been given to be here.  300,000 Billion to One...what odds for each one of us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laughter of the gods

I write like
Oscar Wilde
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!
If you want to insult someone, tell them they remind you of someone else.  Tell them they lack the originality of a spider.  Compare them and destroy their original fire.  Prick away their pride and make them but a mere mortal, a replicated gene series that anyone can mix up in a lab.  Take away their identity and turn them back into the lump of clay that they are.  Tell them that they can only repeat the ideas of others and have them hate their own creation.  Breed discontent and confusion and then, finally, you will have killed all hope of any elevation out of their primordial soup.  There are (long pause) no more words to be said.

And if you analyze any section of text, you will get a variety of responses.  I pasted several different entries trying to get an analysis, not accepting or rejecting anything rendered.  The above paragraph came back, stating I write like Dan Brown.  A couple of emails I analyzed had results that ranged from Stephen King, David Foster Wallace to Kurt Vonnegut.  Are we writing what we read at that moment, just repeating the styles and cherry-picking the moments that color our text?

Then again, the artists of this world study strokes of the masters, try to recreate them and spend hours upon hours trying to capture that magic that was once created to recreate it in this era....and then stop.  A sigh.  A palette, a medium, a knife, a chisel, a block of stone...and then....ah damn.  Someone has done it before and they put down the tools and want to scream at the gods that they want to challenge the masters of all time.

But, there is only the remains to compete against.  Look at the lives that created, that we admire and elevate and aspire to be like.  I hear the echoes of laughter because as many of my friends would say, you should never aspire to be them.  Of course not!  We elevated their pain and misery.  Scientists that were locked away or killed for sharing their truth.  Artists who were only allowed to create images that glorified the gods of their ages.  When it came down to artists, their lives of paint and disease...or writings deemed to be absolute insanity.  Art consumes and dines on the drama of mankind.  Does it have to be as such?

We scream to be individuals, or I should say some of us do.  Some of us would scream to be a copy (aren't all of the dead celebrities living in Las Vegas?).  Ah, but what is the real quest?  Is it to be loved, as Henry Miller confessed upon his deathbed, "I just wanted to be loved."  But by whom?  I wondered as I watched the video of his final days.  I thought of it as the oddest thing to say.  Did he want his work to be loved or himself, the man?  Even then, it seemed kind of the most selfish thing to say. 

Please, don't think this post is is a statement of simply saying the machines believe it all has been said and done before.  So many lives have been lived that there is no possibility for innovation.  I would say that yes, we have come a very long way, just think about how many times the wheel has been reinvented.  Clay will continue to be molded, paints mixed, and our mediums will evolve as we create images of all that we see and hear along the way.

The gods may laugh at the renderings of humanity, but it is of no consequence, for words always retain the power of its messenger, to create or to destroy.   There is no one to blame.  We have the technology to use in whatever way we see fit and we do have the power to take the human element out of the equation and that perhaps makes me rage at the machine.  We want to be human and not a preconceived notion where everything is a calculated movement.  That is what technology shows us.  That we are studied renditions that takes away the possibility that we can choose to be something other that some form of genetic predestination. 

Yes, we may be simple creatures that have similar experiences along the way, but they are unique as snowflakes.  Humanity wants that.  We wrestle with that.  The art of simply being and not designed. do have something you would like to add, even if it has been done before, so reinvent.  It may be far superior to the original.

It's just a rant...but I like being ever so 'human'.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's Your Source of Power?

Upon my return to Nanjing, I had felt the pull to go back and see the Museum again, as though I may have missed something along the way. We often go to museums to learn something about the culture and past history of a culture. To see what life was like in a time called, 'before'.
As it is commonly known, China celebrates the image of the dragon. Often a dragon is closely associated with wisdom and isn't feared. However, in the west, the common approach is viewed with fearful appearances.   Our mythologies abound with dragon slayers, heralded for their 'courage'. I viewed the stark differences, as almost as if the west would embrace knowledge and sacrifice wisdom.  Actually, there is a lot more to that view.  How many centuries did the west go through telling the people that the 'world was flat?'  Flat or round, the 'discovery'  was little more than a person that was celebrated for having the elite acknowledge what was already in existence.  The world comedy of discovery and declaration comes down to this.  It already exists, but is not universally accepted as truth.

There is a difference between application and information. We can be well-informed, but at a total loss with how to use the information we have. Having all the information in the world and not knowing how to use it, makes a person not more intelligent, but foolish.
As I looked at the ancient symbols and methods of communicating we had at the time, such as chimes for distress, we seem to be ringing a lot of much so, that no one has any senses that are not disturbed. So we try to silence them along the way. Everyone is shouting that the sky has fallen, but no one knows what to do about it. People have seem to have forgotten how to live and rely on others to tell them how to think, feel, and listen. These basic survival skills, which have fallen away for many due to relying on others instead of being able to listen to one's own voice has been costly for many who relied on systems to make their way in life.
As I looked adoringly on these pieces of art, I noticed the screens used for concealment, but walls always have ears. Thousands of years of monarchy rule over many differing cultures, telling them, they must serve their rulers. People did serve them, and often people desire to be ruled, but when will people desire to rule themselves and not entrust themselves to systems? We have societies, but flawed when it comes to the responsibilities of power.
I went back to look at a throne. The interesting thing about the throne was the seat of power. The image of a red dragon, that was normally carefully concealed with a seat cushion. Had the dragon given the monarch their power that was hidden from the people? Or had the people given the monarch their power? So often we don't see the real source of our own power, that comes to us naturally when we refuse to slay dragons of wisdom that come into our lives. If we only favor information then we remain foolish and slay the dragon that could have given us the wisdom of the world.

Then again, that is still aiming too low.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In the Garden of War and Peace

Before Veteran's Day approaches, I thought I would ask instead of celebrating wars and the rumors of wars, or the stories of war heroes, what if we forgot our reasons for war for a moment?   I think I found a wonderful reason to forget them all. It is through remembering them, often hatred persists. We never seem to go forward, only told that we are supposed to hate our enemies and fight everyone and soon we forget why we are all fighting to begin with. There are wars that have lasted centuries, and some, since the beginning of time. Some in the name of peace. Some in the name of revenge. Some for no apparent reason at all, except to profit from it or to secure seats of power.
I have been to many war museums that proudly displayed their conquests over other nations. To record the past battles and victories along the way. Often these museums display the conquered with war trophies and stories that go along with them. However, hidden away, in a corner garden, I found the relics of warfare here. With nature growing all around it. Letting all of it go into the past, with the stories buried in the earth.
It seems ironic find such a peaceful setting. A conflict of seeing such beauty with the cannons now silent and still after taking so many lives along the way. I saw the wisdom of the silent weapons. Neither elevated for patriotic purposes or to be used to rub salt in the wounds of those who may have been defeated. Silent cannons raised and not aimed at another, but raised in a silent disuse.
Instead, they are a dark reminder of how stones were launched against each other. This is no fear of them ever being used again against another life.
As I looked at the inscriptions and saw how other nations may have interloped with this one in the past for their own financial gains, I thought this age, where others try to gain from those who seem less fortune along the way.
Proudly silent they remain in a garden not as a symbol of war, but of what peace looks like. A nation that celebrates peace should be as such and never proudly display weapons of warfare. With silent cannons and birds making their nests in the trees above them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Naturally Nature

As I left behind the Pearl River Delta in the Guangdong province, migrating north through the beautiful city of Guangzhou, I decided that I would capture the moments I saw on my long journey. I had no idea how starved my eyes were for the scenes of nature after living in Nanjing for nearly six months. The man-made structures are indeed beautiful, but there is no comparison to what the earth provides for us all. Man can only provide for some.
The landscapes breathe out the simple beauty and harmony as I looked out at the Pearl River and all of the waters that feed her.
So as I left, I tried to keep these images in my mind. The beauty. The calm. The depth.
The humble fishing boats in the haze of a setting sun.
And the fields that shout their bounty without making a single sound. This is the real treasure, the reality of the harmony we should all see in those moments when our man-made structures seem to get in the way. This is the beauty of China that few ever get to see. My eyes did not tire looking at her.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Be My Guest

Just three years ago, if you had told me that I would be in China listening to a Mayor give a celebratory speech in their former capital city,  I would have laughed in your face.  At that time I held the views that had still washed my brain; unable to separate politics from people, unable to separate the -isms and -ists. Yet, as I stood there, surrounded by red I took in this semi-bizarre moment as I watched 5 foreign businessmen being awarded honorary citizenship to the sound of light applause as we all held our wine glasses waiting to toast the moment.  I didn't see Communism celebrated in the room.  I saw money celebrated, jobs, self-interest, and commerce....dare I say the word...Capitalism.
As I watched the performers all play their roles, there was no difference.  The music may have been different.  The clothing of their imperial culture displayed.  However, I looked carefully at the venue, held in the purple mountain area.  I saw the haves and no have nots.  I saw the classes of power, money and academia present.  Of course jobs are always celebrated, and the flow of money, but I was struck by the odd performance.  Perhaps it was that I was comparing it to the many ceremonies and speeches I had seen in the past and finding absolutely no difference.
I had felt like I was the only one who openly noticed the show and admired it instead of treating it like wallpaper. 
And the original closing words of George Orwell's Animal Farm came to my mind,  The original ending of the book that existed before the CIA purchased it when they remade the movie.   "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Perhaps I am one of the creatures looking in just to tell you, there is no difference.  

As Orwell also wrote, Some animals are more equal than others. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

In the Museum of the Sun

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water. Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country's disasters deserves to be king of the universe.
The truth often sounds paradoxical.
Verse 78
Tao Te Ching
Jane English Translation

When I walked through the Museum of Sun Yet-sen, my jaw dropped open. The colours of the banners seemed to jolt me. In the west, many of us are painfully uneducated about the ending of the monarchy in China. I was trying my best to remedy the situation myself. Much has been spoken of, with regard to all of the dynasties of the various monarchies that ruled China for thousands of years. Yet, a humble young man from the Guangdong province who held the belief that equality belonged to all and not just the elite few followed a deep passion within.
This museum replicated the humble beginnings of Sun Yet-sen with painstaking detail only usually given to saints. It is rare that you see a person that loves their people more than any shred of power that could be given to them, and that was precisely how this humble man rose to led a nation to independence, a democratic republic.
As I walked through I noticed a complete reverence for the place. Books that Sun Yet-sen had studied, his student desk, portraits of the libraries he studied at abroad, his imprisonment in the United Kingdom by the Chinese Embassy...each and every detail of his life held up for the public to see.
Even village recreation to show the environment he came from. All as a beacon to shine out for the people that anyone could be an instrument of positive change.
As I walked along the these pathways and looked at this young man's life I couldn't help but admire the heroism and courage it took to create a republic. He realized nothing is too big to fail and I saw why China still embraces his memory today. The power always resides with the people, it always will.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We are Many - Only the Unloved Hate

In memory of SSG Lilian Clemons.  For your family, and for your son who looked me in the eyes and asked me if your death was right.  For which I found no words to respond truthfully, so I went to find the truth.  We can only bring about peace by being peace and not fighting for it.  You didn't die in vain, you changed my life.

"And I don't want the world to see me
Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am"  
-Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls

Alone, I am just one.  Together, we are the voices of many.  We outnumber them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Artist Invites Artist - Global Challanges

I knew there was something incredible about Alette Simmons-Jimenez when I met her over three years ago in Miami when she went for was seemed like an impossible dream called Artformz Alternative.  It was only five years old and survived the horrific hurricane seasons we had gone through, at a time when many galleries had shut down, she evolved the gallery into a collaborative environment that shared the spotlight and it became more about others.

In her latest venture, Artist Invites Artist - once again, a new direction is explored.    Using Kickstarter to help with projects to help anyone desiring to help artists from around the world with their projects.

If you are a giving person, and are so inclined, take a real look at how little it takes to help someone achieve their dreams. It is important to have those voices come forward to be heard, not for the sake of making money, but for the ability to have an impact on the world around us.  Perhaps to have those messages inspire us, move us or simply to discover each other. 

And perhaps even though I am all the way around the world...I am able to help her through this little post.

Visit Artformz Alternative in the Wynwood District in Miami, if you ever get a chance.  If you do, tell Alette I said hello. There is always time to help a friend.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Being Human

In the marketplace of life, who determines the value? Is it the buyer or the seller? Often we see something, ask for the price and determine then if we are willing to trade for it. I often love to go to open markets, more to watch the people than actually to acquire things. You see the wave of human drama as sellers, anxious to unload what is perishable to a public that is trying to fulfill their family's needs. Samples of produce are often cut open to display its fresh quality openly, yet when a seller doesn't have such a display, buyers often walk by the stand suspecting something may be a little off.
As I walked through an area in Zhongshan, I viewed the story board of safety tips for the community. Step by step cautions relating to a multitude of topics. The social training that all societies employ in differing venues. How often it seems we rely on others to tell us how we should behave.
Shouldn't it be as simple as this sign above?

After all, we are human and at one time or another we hang our laundry outside to dry.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Legend of Hou Yi and Chang'e

It is the time of the Harvest moon in the east. From the 14th to the 16th day of the 8th of the lunar calendar.   It is a time of celebration for the living. In the east there are often holidays to commemorate their ancestors, but the Harvest Moon festivals have great significance here in Asia. This year, being in China, I thought I would share with you one of the great legends of China as it was shared with me.

"A long, long time ago, a terrible drought plagued the earth. Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smoldering volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched, and rivers ran dry. Many people died of hunger and thirst.

The King of Heaven sent Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and the grass and trees turned green. Life had been restored and humanity was saved

One day, a charming young woman, Chang'e makes her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo container, A young man comes forward, asking for a drink. When she sees the red bow and white arrows hanging from his belt, Chang'e realizes that he is their saviour, Hou Yi. Inviting him to drink, Chang'e plucks a beautiful flower and gives it to him as a token of respect. Hou Yi, in turn, selects a beautiful silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindles the spark of their love. And soon after that, they get married.

A mortal's life is limited, of course. So in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'e forever, Hou Yi decides to look for an elixir of life. He goes to the Kunlun Mountains where the Western Queen Mother lives.

Out of respect for the good deeds the has done, the Western Queen Mother rewards Hou Yi with elixir, a fine powder made from kernels of fruit which grows on the tree of eternity. At the same time, she tells him, "If you and your wife share the elixir, you will both enjoy eternal life. But if only one of you takes it, that one will ascend to Heaven and become immortal."

Hou Yi returned home and tells his wife all that has happened and they decide to drink the elixir together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is full and bright.

A wicked and merciless man named Feng Meng secretly overhears about their plan. He wishes Hou Yi an early death so that he can drink the elixir himself and become immortal. His opportunity finally arrives. One day,when the full moon is rising, Hou Yi is on his way home from hunting. Feng Meng ambushes and kills him. Feng Meng then runs to Hou Yi's home and tries to force Chang'e to give him the elixir, however, without hesitating, Chang'e picks up the elixir and drinks it all.

Overcome with grief, Chang'e rushes to her dead husband's side, weeping bitterly. While she is by his side, the elixir begins to take effect and Chang'e feels herself being lifted towards Heaven.

Chang'e decides to live on the moon because it is nearest to the earth. There she lives a simple and contented life. Even though she is in Heaven, her heart remains in the world of mortals. Never does she forget the deep love she has for Hou Yi and the love she feels for the people who have shared their sadness and happiness."

Now make a wish, for this is the time of harvest celebration, which is both a celebration of life and of love eternal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Overcoming the Hardness of Life

The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words
and work
without doing
Are understood by very few.
The Tao Te Ching - 43rd Verse
Jane English Translation
I had written in an earlier entry of a find of a tree growing through a boulder, located at a museum in Nanjing. While on my sojourn in Zhongshan we came to a little oasis in a park. It isn't often I get drawn to do strange things, but I felt compelled to climb in to and area where I just felt like I would find something similar. There it was, the seemingly impossible, another tree that come up through a boulder. The one above in Zhongshan, the one below in Nanjing.
I reflected on my journey, how the softness in my own life seemed to open more doors than with a hard stance. Often with the hardness, it went against my nature, making the pressures of life seem unbearable at times. When I looked at these trees I thought about the journey from a small seed to go through where no light existed, by a force of faith, that some amount of space came and it reached up towards the light and water. As its roots expanded, the softness made way up and out of the rock.
Should it be an impossible journey? Should it be so hard? Often I wondered about the times I needed to have just a little more patience, just a little more strength to push through. At the same time I looked and actually could observe the action and nonaction at the same time. They may not be perfect trees out there on their own, growing without opposition.
But in this oasis of calm, I saw the harmony of how life can actually be soft even when it appears to be hard.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burning Incense without Prayers

This is the only Buddhist Temple I have been to in China. Not that I frequent Buddhist temples for religious reasons, but I tend to visit temples because they are the symbols of believing in something bigger than yourself. For that feeling, I love to look at the expanse of the sky to realize how small I am, but in the neon haze, it often can be difficult to feel that sense of smallness we often need.
In this temple, the monks are completely vacant. There were no nuns, just the statues remained with a few people keeping up the temples, selling incense and prayer papers. I watched a woman carefully go through the practiced ritual with almost a moment of hesitation as she shoved her prayer bucket into the flames.
I looked at the flames and wondered for a moment if the ashes would speak for her. Half of the time I stared at the flames and wondered how often we do little things like this in times of trouble to make ourselves feel a sense of peace about the circumstances that pass through our lives like seasons. When we think of past wounds, are they still there or have we covered them up with rotting bandages?
It was my turn and I was kind of wrestling with the plastic covering the incense. A flame tender assisted me as I decided to burn them; not for myself, but for all of the people that seemed to lack hope. With all that my eyes had seen in China, I felt I had much to be thankful for, so without prayers I took the incense and placed the sticks in various places, spreading them out so the scent could waft through the temple. There were no names, just silence. There were no bows, just my paces.
I followed the young woman who modeled the way for me. All along the way, I thought of the people without names who I had only seen. Without belief in anything but the stars I could see that spiral out into galaxies, I felt small, and smaller still did my life seem to appear. I could not feign any sort of reverence, but I did pay respect to the purpose of the place. I had no complaints in the heat of the day. But, for a moment I understood why people pray. Life can be hard. The task is living, not dying. There is pain in life. You can do everything possible in the world to avoid it. You can protect yourself from others.

However, in doing so, a person then gives up on living by being too afraid to live and only thinking of all of what 'might' happen to them. In focusing on what 'might' happen, you might might miss all of the good along the way.

Here is to walls coming down in order to be free...wherever you are.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Art...Real or Fake

I saw a post from one young blogger, a great young woman who is studying literature in the United States. She did a film review, an ironic choice of "F is for Fake", the very last film that Orson Welles released in his lifetime in 1973. I have always been attracted to people who seem to be rebels, but who they really are is always up for interpretation. The premise of the film goes into the question, What is art? In Orson's view, art is all fake.

But what about those who just are driven to create? It made me look at my own journey. I am drawn to people, and often they are drawn to me and tell me their stories. Often, they are filled with pain, the pain associated with life. I remember when I was in Paris, and a strange man saw me the Buttes Chaumont, which is in the XVIII district of Paris. He saw me photographing all sorts of things in the park, and followed me, just watching me. Finally, he came up to me and asked if I would join him for coffee.

"My English is not that good, so it would be nice if I could talk to you." He began. There was something about his approach. Something so honest about it, that I couldn't decline. So I agreed and left with him to a nearby cafe. He was holding a satchel, not really much of one. He was asking about my French, and began to tell his story.

"I have lived a horrible life." He started slowly and then opened up his bag. He reached inside to pull out a large envelope and laid it on the table in between our cups of coffee. "I have asked many strangers, to write about me, and I think you are a writer." As he poured out his life before me, I listened to detail after detail. A life, that at many times, went through many valleys that were dark and horrible. The agony of his life was centered around one event. One event he kept reliving over and over again. It was over a lost love. There was a Romeo and Juliet quality to the story, but I wasn't falling for it.

There was a woman he loved very much, when he was very young. He had asked her to marry him and she agreed, but her father opposed the marriage. He still pressed her for her hand in marriage, but at the time, she was not in the position to go against her father nor go against the love of her life. So she made a different choice, and threw herself to her death in front of a train...dying instantly.

He never let go and kept living in a beautiful, dark hell of his own making. He didn't give himself permission to have a life he could live. When he finished his story, I asked him one question.

"Why haven't you let yourself live? You died that day...and every day for over 20 years, you have kept throwing yourself in front the train with her. She chose to die. You need to choose to live." His eyes welled with tears. I don't know why no one had told him that before. I don't know why he came up to me that day. I looked over the envelope's contents...and the words, in so many different chaotic writing was full of drama and pain.

Pain is very easy to hold on to and becomes the identity of a person. Sad and dark lives that should have been or could have been something else. I have seen people defend their pain. Justify it. Violently protect it. But a wound that continues to be ripped open again and again...never heals.

You don't stay in these valleys of keep walking through it.

So, I view art differently. Art doesn't have to be fake. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to create, to be flawed, and not care about comparisons along the way. Because I am not trying to be anyone else but me.

Leave the fake images and plastic in Hollywood. So, as I grow, evolve and learn differing crafts and developing talents...I share this virgin effort with you, called...simply "What If..."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Eat or Be Eaten?

I often view the markets with a mixture of pleasure and disgust. I can't help that side of me, as I gradually became a vegetarian bit by bit. It started off as I started growing physically intolerant of meat. Now, as I have become more sensitive, the smell of the flesh of dead animals bothers me. It was a strange evolution for me, but I have managed to stay away from red meat completely.
I walked through the market, and felt the heat of the day as we were all walking through Zhong Shan, and saw people who just needed to sleep. It's like that with the body, if you fail to listen to its needs it just kind of gives out on you.
As I wandered by, a friend and I noticed these two fish who had been cut wide open to display their freshness. I was totally horrified because their hearts were still beating. Half of their bodies were gone, and there were the hearts, still pumping blood. I felt done. The last bit of meat I had left on my menu was gone.
They were still struggling to live and somehow I became completely sympathetic to their pain. No, I don't get after people who need meat to live. However, in a very strange way I wondered about my growing intolerance within myself.
I looked at the fish heads, with mouths wide open and then saw the fish in the pond outside, fat and swarming to be fed, ever so trusting, poking their heads out of the water.
What a different view life has in this pond for them. Maybe in a few months I can eat salmon steaks again...maybe, but only if they are killed swiftly with a bit of mercy. Or I could just stay as I am...not missing the taste of their flesh, and choosing to go a different way. We often forget about the lives that feed into ours. How little would it take for someone to view us as little more than fattened cattle if intelligence was used as a food guide?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Miami is Calling You...

(C) 2010 Philip Brooker

For me, this was a welcome invitation to receive. I looked at the suitcase and thought of how wonderful it would be to see this master artist again. What most of you probably haven't realized is that you have seen his work throughout the world, but haven't been aware of the creator. At times, this giving soul has lent his incredible talent to many non-profit events, such as Haiti and others along the way.

However, he is, an artist, a film maker, a silent humanitarian, a life with misspelled words, and above all a friend. In a world that tries to make everything into a competition and about comparing, we often fail to look and observe. Very often, I have found that we all need to dial ourselves down and remember what life was like before all of the business of busy-ness came into our lives.

Slow down and look.

Plan to go to Miami, and while you are there, go to Lincoln Avenue. Let this poster collection be an invitation to discover the works of Philip Brooker.

Go have time.

I have always believed that art should tell a story, even tell us parts we may at times not want to hear, without words.

So turn the page...