[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[Shifting Seasons and New Adventures]

Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror.  It’s passing, yet I’m the one who’s doing all the moving.

[Martin Amis]

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Bye, bye Mid-Wilshire!

For almost four years now – it’s just been my and my fur babies, Sake and Stella; we’ve been living near The Grove, enjoying leisurely walks and the menagerie of urban art the area has to offer.  Living alone was exhilarating, liberating, freeing …. and lonely. As a social creature, I thrive when I’m surrounded by a supportive community – and doubly so when that community is comprised of close and dear friends.  And don’t get me wrong, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my independence; but, life has a funny way of letting you know that you deserve so, so much more.  I’ve never lived with a significant other – or even an insignificant one; so when my boyfriend and I started whimsically discussing moving in together – my heart skipped a beat, and then another…and then I found myself in a strange inexorable state somewhere between pure elation and an anxiety attack.  But without a question, was going to be the easiest decision I’d ever made; yes, yes and a thousand more times yes! Though we’ve only been together for a little over a year, we’ve been friends for four years and have the most amazing connection and to boot, he’s the easiest person to be around – and my best friend. So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been sorting, packing, unpacking, resorting, throwing away and donating almost 60% of my belongings (and, ignoring my blog…); granted, lots of it was either from college and severely run down, or from my first year of Los Angeles and incredibly inexpensive – but regardless, it’s all gone!  And what’s more, is that I’m 99.5% moved into the new place already – and I’ve never, ever been this happy.

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That new ish!

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Don’t think we have enough pilllows… #cohabitationproblems

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The last graffiti at my old apartment


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The kitties all getting along =)

 

That said, it’s been a strange hiatus from writing but now that I’m settled in, expect to see much more from this Bouncy Kitty; including knocking out more Bucket List items – I just canceled cable (so thank goodness for HBO Go and my addiction to Game of Thrones!) and I’ll be able to develop more time to reading, yoga and exploring the East Side of LA.  So stay tuned and stay weird my friends =)

[A Higher State of Consciousness]

There’s a running joke within my circle of friends that our cats actually own us; when I consider the amount of time, money and effort spent curating those relationships, cuddling and cleaning up after them – it instantly becomes harder to argue the contrary.  What, if any, is the difference between a pet animal and their human counterpart? At its most basic level,  two lives are coming together to coexist in harmony; conversely, at it’s most complex, there are two differing levels of consciousness that are forced to somehow reconcile their innate differences.   Once the qualifications and implications for ‘ownership’ are considered within this seemingly symbiotic relationship, in it’s most simplistic form it all comes down to consciousness.  Is Sake my pet or am I his? To answer this question, you’d have to take a long hard look at our relative levels of consciousness and through that, infer which one of us has the ability to assert their consciousness upon another individual.   Regardless of if you’re inspecting the relationship between humans, animals, plants or even minerals – each and every relationship between two separate entities – is dictated by an individual understanding of consciousness.  In turn, this opens the door for even more questions.  What is ‘consciousness’, how do we as humans define ‘consciousness’ and last but certainly not least – who are we as humanity to ascribe or limit levels of consciousness?

Consciousness is defined two-fold as both being awake and aware of one’s environment through one’s thoughts, feelings and existence as well as the innate distinction in recognizing yourself within the world.  For an incredible amount of time, the definition of consciousness was limited to the human psyche; after all, can you ask a rock if it’s aware that of it’s mineral state or can you have a philosophical discussion with your dog about his motives for hiding every tennis ball in the depths of your backyard?   After a brief life as a stem cell, each cell within the human body has a distinct function, making it markedly different from other cells; does this mean that within each cell is a level of consciousness an self-awareness? A school of thought led by philosopher Ned Block proposed that there are actually two forms of consciousness, phenomenal and access; the former being the sensory reception of true, raw experience and the later being of the mind and available for analysis and introspection.  Overtime and through plenty of scientific research, it’s been proven that animals of all shapes and sizes – from Orangutans,  Elephants and Dolphins down to the Cephalopods like the Octopus and the Squid, African Grey Parrots, Dogs and Cats – all exhibit forms of what we now recognize as consciousness.   Whether it’s the ability to paint with their trunks, observe themselves in the mirror, or open cans with their tentacles – there have been ample examples of empathetic animals who are aware of the world around them as well as their place within it.  So, as I posited before – beside being at the top of the food chain, who are we to exert our opposable thumbs driven brand of control over the world?

There are ‘isms’ we choose to hie behind and  they each attribute and apply arbitrary levels of consciousness to forms far beyond our human understanding. At a larger, umbrella level – many people make their dietary choices based on what feels good for their body; like the 40-40-20, Atkins or Paleo diet.  And I fully believe that we should all pay close attention to the minutiae of nutritional needs and wants.  But if you look beyond those diets, you find people that ascribe to an ‘ism’ – like Veganism or Vegetarianism; each on the idea that animals retain a level of consciousness that doesn’t exist in plants.  Quite to the contrary – like humans, plants are born out of reproduction between a male and female, live, grow, undergo photosynthesis which produces energy and oxygen, reproduce and die;  blow by blow, a parallel life to any animal or human.   Humans, plants and animals alike all contain trace amounts of the hallucinogenic chemical dimethyltryptamine and to boot, plant systems – especially trees – have been shown to communicate with each other through a type of fungi called mychorrhizae.  If plants are able to communicate, this means they’re able to process and analyze their external world, and wouldn’t that make them conscious beings?

As a society, we’ve grown comfortable ascribing qualities, assigning traits and categorically grouping objects together because it’s the easiest way to deal with the unfathomable amount of chaos, clutter and disorganization within the world.  However, as we push for a greater understanding of our external surroundings, we’re left with the realization that not only do we not completely get it, but most likely we never will.  For years, because there’s been an assumption that animals don’t or won’t operate within parallel plane of consciousness we can exploit them for entertainment purposes like a circus, or Sea World, or as of recently – the Sochi Olympics .    As our definition of consciousness evolves, we should concurrently update our definition of entertainment as well.   The more we study animals like orcas, pigs and elephants within their natural environment, the more we learn about their high aptitude for learning and their incredible levels of both community and intelligence.  After all is said and done, can we still truly call it entertainment when we see our aquatic counterparts reduced to jumping through hoops, or when we limit a four legged friend to the limitations,isolation and dimensions of a cage?  If we acknowledge our own human need for a safe community where we can cultivate relationships, we can’t simply dismiss the needs and freedoms of other animals simply to satiate our necessity for control and amusement. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have been more than influential in bringing these truths to light for me, and I highly recommend watching both of them.

When we sent the Mars Rover to explore the great red planet, there was an assumption that without a carbon based biosignature of life – like humans, plants or animals – that life literally ceased to exist.  But the big picture is anything but: because we’re limited to what we know about the building blocks of life on Earth, our view on life elsewhere is also limited; if we are allowed to expand our definition of life beyond a basic chemical building block, evolving our definition of consciousness shouldn’t be far behind.

[Writer’s Block: Find Your Purpose]

I came into the office this morning with every intention of cracking down, getting my tea fix and doing the good ol’Excel plug-and-chug to get me through the day.  On a personal level, for the last few weeks I’ve been suffering from the strangest writers block. I felt that I didn’t have intention, that I didn’t have a purpose of even an audience.  Then, last night as I was getting into my journal to figure out my personal trajectory for 2014, I found myself thinking ‘What the hell is the point?’  I’ve felt like tapped out, under-performing, uninterested and overwhelmed; all in all, I was my own worst case scenario. My words were lackluster, my thoughts couldn’t be caught or collected with a net outfitted for a killer whale.   My mother warned me about this when I was a kid – this idea of ‘wanting too much’ for myself; of spreading myself too thin and giving 75% to various pursuits when I could choose to give 100% to just a few.  Pick your battles, she told me; but what if you want it all?

On on side of the coin -my paying job has given me one of the most visible accounts, and on the flip side I’ve been upgraded to a Journalist / Editor at The DJ List; add that all together and mix it up, and I’ve essentially been running myself into the ground trying to please everyone with my work.  But the question remains, am I pleased?  Have I developed a voice; have I made a mark; do I influence people and make them think; these are the questions that swim laps in my head from the second I wake up to the second I sleep.  And then there’s the ultimate, why does it matter?  And the answer will be different, each and every day – but at the end of it all, there’s only one answer that matters: because I wanted it.

Another lesson I learned at a young age was if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all; I think that goes doubly for if you don’t have anything to say at all.  Don’t force it, don’t make yourself regurgitate words you didn’t want to swallow in the first place – don’t pick a topic that bores or snores you and don’t write if your heart isn’t involved; words tend to lose their meanings when so many get in the way. 

[A Drop In The Ocean]

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

In most college towns, it’s pretty common that you graduate then move on and get on with the rest of your life.  But, Santa Barbara – the land of sand and surf – it’s where people come to retire; where they get a job at bar or in the food industry so they can enjoy each and every day, find a place in the community and give back.   And it’s not uncommon for people to take longer to graduate from University, or from SBCC – our local community college.  When you live in a place that beautiful, it takes a hell of a lot to compel you to leave; doubly so when your friends are still there too.  I should know, it took me five years. But, I digress.  Whether people moved away or stayed, the bond with other Santa Barbara-ians, or fellow Gauchos as we refer to them is real and the community is rich. The bartenders in Santa Barbara are fixtures of the community and most of them have been firmly planted in the downtown scene since I left in ’08, including close friends from college and my housemates from my last year in Santa Barbara.

Before I relocated myself to Los Angeles, I spent five amazing years going to the University of California in Santa Barbara and during that process I met some of the most amazing people in the world.  Whether it was in passing walking to class, gallivanting to the beach, heading downtown to bar hop or enjoying a lazy Sunday in the grass – there were always smiling, familiar faces simply itching to make connections.  Regardless of our incredible amounts of differences, all of us were well aware of one thing: that we were pursuing our futures in paradise. Granted, not every decision was a mature one but we all managed to do so eventually. We ditched class in February to go to the beach, when we won the NCAA championship in soccer our reaction was to tear down the goal post and throw it into the Pacific and Halloween provided the perfect excuse to spend a week wearing costumes; and then, of course – there’s the party scene. Not saying that everyone participated, but let’s get something clear – we all knew how to unwind, and we were oh so good at it. But don’t get it twisted – sure, we’ve ranked near the top of almost every ‘Top Party School’ pool from US News down to Playboy, but we also have had more Nobel Prizes awarded to us than every other UC combined; we’re walking, talking examples of the ‘work hard, play harder’ mantra and are damn proud of it.

For anyone connected to the Santa Barbara community, this week has been a trying one; a frustrating, harrowing, nerve bending, soul shaking one. Last Thursday night,  a pillar of the Santa Barbara community was leaving work and subsequently was struck by a drunk driver leaving a holiday party blocks away. She spent the last week in the ER, fighting against all odds to come back to us but yesterday afternoon our community was dealt with a sorrowing blow.

If you went to college in Santa Barbara, chances are you crossed paths with Mallory more than once – I know I did. If you didn’t know her personally, which regretfully I never had the chance for, you probably know someone that did;  I do.  I might have only had brief encounters with her, but when so many lives in the community have been touched by one individual – when a substantial drop in our ocean has been removed – the sorrow and anguish is wholeheartedly by everyone in it.  In the past 24 hours, in the moments of sadness and pain – there’s also been an outpouring of support from the extended Santa Barbara community.

So how do we put these pieces back together and rebuild our small, but strong, community?

We learn; we grow.

 There’s the small things, like simply reaching out to the friends and extended family from Santa Barbara and letting them know that we’re all in this together, big things like the Facebook Support Page, and last but not least – large things, like a page on Fundly that’s already raised over $30,000 in less than a day.

Last but not least, there’s this:

The next time a friend comes to drink at your house, make them a comfortable place to crash and take their keys until you feel it’s appropriate to drive. Designate a sober driver, or just rock-paper-scissors it; a lot of bars will give free non-alcoholic drinks to anyone that’s been delegated the role for the night. If you’re going out on the town, call a cab, Uber, Lyft  or, if that’s not in your price range – try taking public transportation.  If you work in a bar, club or anywhere someone could leave under the influence, take an inventory of the people you’re serving and those that are leaving.  And most importantly, keep an open and honest dialogue about drunk driving with the people in your life: if there’s someone that has a problem, talk to them – and set an example.  Here’s the thing – it’s the holidays, and we’re all someone’s child;  this is not the time of year where parents should be burying theirs. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let your loved one’s do it either.  Let’s smarten up this holiday season, please; for everyone’s sake.

Before You Know Kindness

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross –

This morning has ushered in a lot of reflection and as with most stories, this should also start from the very beginning…

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
― Albert Einstein

Leave it to me to want to come into the world on a Friday morning.  In 1984, through a fantastic stroke of genius – and after 18 years of marriage,  my parents finally had their first (and only!) child and from day one, I was immersed in a world of strange coincidence and wonder.  My name had already been chosen for me – Amanda Pearl – partly because of the simple beauty, and partly because of family history.  My mother was the third in a line of amazing, strong African American women named Lola and would be damned if I was the fourth; which is where Amanda comes in.  The direct translation from Latin is “Lovable; one who is loved” and my family made more than sure of that.  Middle names have a good and long tradition of being lineage based – and mine is no different.  My parents couldn’t be more different from each other and it has very little to do with their ethnic background – but, that definitely plays a significant hand! When they went down to the courthouse to apply for their marriage license, they were asked assorted bits of information, including parents names, maiden names, place of birth, etc – and all of a sudden, they got the strangest question: “You two aren’t…related…are you?” As it happens, both of their mothers have the same maiden name – Pearl.  If that wasn’t weird enough, I just happened to pop into the world on Pearl Harbor Day.  And if those weren’t enough coincidences to handle on the day of my birth – my mom shares her maiden name with the street I grew up on.

My first word was “Hi” and it couldn’t be more fitting – I used to crawl, then skip and frolic, from table to table when my family would take me out to dinner.  I was an extrovert by nature and as social as they came; playtime was my favorite, and as an only child playtime with friends was even better. But the more I would interact with others, the more I became aware – even at a young age – that the world was cruel and slightly unfair.  To their own credit – and absolutely nothing to do with me – my parents separated before I was 2 and got a divorce shortly after. When I was 3, my father’s dad passed away and as the stories go – I sat there with him in the hospital on his last day, and asked where he was going.  He told me he was going to a much better place, where he would be better – and all I could wonder was could I go there to? I remember the look in his eyes – partially bewildered and taken back by my question, partially amused by the workings of a child’s mind.  When he passed away, the void he left permeated physical space – it crept into my heart; but at the time, I lacked the words, maturity or knowledge to express any of this.

As with most people, growing older meant growing stranger – growing wilder, growing weirder.  It took a long time for me to grow into myself – and as I sit here at 28, I can’t say much has changed.  The “big glasses”-“big braces”-“big hair” snafus that seemed to be singular occurrences for most girls hit me like a hat trick in elementary school.  I was highly intelligent…which meant I was peculiar, learning long division on my own and with my head in the books.  Social, sure – to a point; but as with every other consecutive phase in my life, I got along better with teachers, aides and instructors and found it increasingly hard to relate to people my age.  I went from being a fan of mud baths and minimal clothing to a math-nerd, book-worm, and then thanks to both coaching and coaxing from my family, an athlete.  I choose my schools based on academic and athletic merit…leaving the school district I grew up in for al all girls middle school, then twice in High School – once to play basketball and the second time, to escape it.  And each time, I had a similar thought: I had built these support systems like ecosystems around me only to disrupt them by leaving.  The only constant seemed to be me – moving on, moving forward and lamenting on what I saw in the rear view mirror.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” 
― James Baldwin

As a child, I always found myself to be of the more “emotional” variety and I think my parents would agree 110% – as a child, the news would make me upset.  I’d frequently find myself in tears without much of a rhyme or reason – and when your parents are bombarding you with statements like “If you don’t know why you’re crying, you need to stop” life can get pretty frustrating. When I was in elementary school, my parents noticed that I would get sick with far more frequency than the other kids – I would end up in the nurse’s office with a sour stomach, begging to see a doctor.  I now wish I’d been more specific – after finding out I had ulcers, I was also placed in therapy…in 5th grade.  In a few weeks, I’d grown absolutely sick of the phrases “Well, how about you draw us a picture.” and “Let’s see if you can put this puzzle back together…” – why wouldn’t they just let me talk about my feelings?!  The coup de grâce was in 6th grade when a close friend of mine passed away – I’d just started on a competitive basketball team and we were about to leave for my very first away tournament; to this day, I still feel like I don’t have closure – but it’s also helped me process death differently. The school therapist was the opposite of helpful, and  bless her soul, my sixth grade art teacher – and granted, art was my least favorite subject at this point – became my safety net.  Through her guidance, I learned that the arts were created to embrace the emotions, and there was no shame in that.  There is a confidence that we ought to possess, for life possesses us.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.”

–  نعومي شهاب ناي –

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words; but a year ago to this day, that’s exactly where I stood: mouth gaping open, head in my hands and tears forging a river from my duct to the floor.  Losses, I’m told, come in threes – and this situation was no different.  First, there was my great uncle who passed away, natural causes mind you but that’s of no importance to me; a loss is still a loss, the world is always dimmer in the moments we suffer.  Then I got the news that a friend had his life taken in the strangest of circumstances: whether it was his own doing or there was foul play, the circumstances are upsetting to say the very least.  Last but not least, was the toughest blow for me to take…

My step mom has been in my life as far as I can remember, and best friend, Jan, has been like an Aunt to me.  Being a product of divorce, I was given wisdom at a young age that family isn’t determined by blood – it’s determined by heart, and my step mom’s love for me is a shining beacon of an example.  Jan has been through more than any one person should have to endure in a lifetime – and I’m not just flippantly saying that; how many people that you know have survived brain cancer…twice.  That said, I’ve heard from a young age that God doesn’t give us problems that we can’t handle – well, Jan may as well be Job reincarnated.  A year ago, the unthinkable happened – her granddaughter’s husband opened fire on his two children, shooting both in the head and then himself.  Bless their souls, one of the children survived – but we waited weeks on pins and needles for the news.

In that time, I’d gone into myself and had refused to resurface; I wasn’t the bubbly girl skipping to her cubicle with a smile on her face anymore.  I was sad.  I was 28 and afraid of the world, and I’d never felt so alone.  But loneliness is like drowning, it can’t consume you unless you let it: so I reached out.  I put my pride aside and – slowly, one by one and over time – I came face to face with my fears.  What I needed to remember was that verbalizing the truth doesn’t make it any more or less true, but it makes us human.  To reach out and be touched is the human condition and by no means should we deprive ourselves of it.

As painful and tragic as this week was last year, at the end of it all, I have to – we have to – remember that even in tragedy life is magical, precious and beautiful.  It’s true that people cannot hurt us if we don’t let them into our souls, but if we don’t open up – people can’t love us, either.  The battles you’re fighting in your head – those demons you struggle against, have the courage to fight them and the tenacity to talk about them.  People – strangers, family, friends, mentors – they’re  kinder and stronger than you think, but they’re also just as broken as we are – and there’s no telling what they’ve been through…

“Put away your pride: be kind to strangers, love your neighbors, hug your friends.
Cherish the people close to you and remember that everyone is fighting their own battles;
but if this year has taught me anything, its that we don’t need to fight them alone.” 

-Amanda Pearl

The Audiofiles: Keeping the Creative Process Alive

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
 

I need to preface this post with a teensy-tinsy blanket statement – but I wholeheartedly both stand by and believe in it:

You don’t have to be artistic to be creative;
You don’t have to be creative to be artistic.

Truth be told, there’s people that fall directly in the middle of this Venn Diagram of expression – and over time one can definitely migrate from one end of the spectrum to the other – but for the most part I believe there are those of us that re-purpose the artistic constructs of others to fit our lives and there are those that build them.

Reusable Art by Nicole McGee

Being artistic can be applied to basically one field: the arts.  Dancing, singing, acting, painting, sculpting, modeling, etc, etc – they can all be made into collaborative mediums but at the end of the day, a dance is a dance and a song is a song.  The power of the creative mind is to take an artistic medium and apply what I like to call, the “fuck-it-all” method.

Here’s an example:

A painter gets his canvas and says to himself, “You know what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna paint a cityscape!” So, he grabs his trusty brushes and has it.  When the day is done it might not be a cityscape – it might be a masochistic panda, a whimsical forest or just dots on the page, but – irregardless – it’s still a painting.

The creative is the person that looks at that end result, and regardless of what it is thinks “Hey, this painting of (fill in the blank) could be a lot cooler if I broke it into pieces and assembled it back into a lamp shade.”  Bye bye old form, hello new function.  This is the essence of the creator.

As we grow older, our routines begin to present themselves and we become settled in both our way of life and school of thought – I believe the challenge we’re consistently presented with is how to both maintain the essence of the moment and, conversely, perpetually evolve ourselves.  And that answer is simple: art and creativity.

The biggest challenge the creative type faces is being pigeon-holed: we’re such free spirits that we don’t want no stinkin’ restrictions, even when it comes to a (theoretically) freeform field like the arts.  Just think about picking up an instrument – I’m sure with some coaxing, and deviations from sobriety, that one could pick up an instrument and play a basic tune, chord or scale.  No one expects to hear “Flight of the Bumblebee” but avant-garde noise, as close as some would deem it to dubstep, isn’t an actual genre.  It’s creative, sure; but art? Not exactly.

Light bulb Aquariums; what will they think of next?!

As much as we don’t want to admit it – all art tends to follow some form or function; I wouldn’t say it follows rules but it tiptoes where they deserve to be broken.  Creativity, conversely, blossoms from a world founded more on streams of consciousness and moments of inspiration than conformity.

As a community, as a culture – and even as individuals – we have a collective history creating and repurposing our art; a coat rack turns a purse holder, old CD-$’s become hanging room dividers and broken mirrors can mature into disco balls.   As different as each is to me – there are inherent similarities that one simply can’t shake: both processes require we open our minds to redefining failure.  Neither are perfect, and both are open to public – and sometimes, unpopular – debate.

The goal, for me at least, is to achieve a unique synthesis of both worlds; to fuel my passions as well as fill whatever voids I’ve created in my life.  There is nothing wrong with adding some structure to a world more reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s mind and alternatively, there’s no harm in arbitrarily throwing splatter paint on something with rigid form and bland characteristics.