Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Flannel lessons

I was walking in a store the other day and saw a flannel shirt on a shelf. I looked at it for a moment and thought to myself, "I like that color combination... should I buy it?"

I was wearing a flannel at the time.

Sometimes, inconsequential moments can be vessels for surprise epiphanies, and this was just such a time. The differences between the flannel on the shelf and the one I was wearing were few, but some minute characteristic made me think for a split second that it could be rational to buy another shirt so similar.

Now the materialistic and often manipulative influence of a consumeristic society certainly plays a part here. With such a surfeit of material goods, whatever's newer, better or bigger somehow has the power to overshadow our perfectly adequate current possessions. Of course, this is the success of consumerism- access to an overabundance of products paired with strategic marketing to create an unending desire for more. Despite this being against everything I'd like to represent, I can't say I am exempt from this effect. I can express gratitude for the things I have, and then in the same breath express desire for something new.

(*For the record, I do realize that living in a socioeconomic position where an overabundance of provisions is even something to wrestle with is, in itself, an immense privilege. But the basic truth is that we wrestle with the culture we're immersed in, relative to what we've known and experienced throughout our lives..)

I've thought before that perhaps the best way to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of materialism is to avoid stores altogether. If I'm not exposed to what's new, I won't desire it. But standing in front of the flannel on the shelf, I realized that hiding from the market we live in is an impermanent and hallow method of remaining materially content. A more genuine solution to keep my behavior congruent with my values occurred to me:

Contentment is not about the absence of something better, it's about- in the presence or possibility of something better- choosing to be content through gratitude for what you already have. It's being able to acknowledge that yes, there is something newer or greater, but what I've got does the job, and I'm satisfied with just that.

Since that day, I haven't gone more than a few hours without thinking about this. It's a simple and possibly obvious statement to some, but nonetheless has impacted me significantly; although the situation may have seemed trivial, this perspective is applicable to the non-material areas of life as well the material. Be it with technology, relationships, food, or a car, this is one way to mobilize gratitude- move it from a state of feeling, to a state of behavior-affecting action.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Break-in

Most of the time, the internal call to create, to activate artistic vision (be it through writing, or otherwise creating with my hands) feels like a wild beast.. a roaring and grizzly face that comes out from within to stare me down and demand productivity. It's an indispensable urging, but even so, feels like a monster of a task the majority of the time.

Sometimes though, the calling exudes a kind of glowing allure, and rather than demanding, it feels as a seductive beckoning... an irresistible desire to get moving and making before the wave of motivation washes out..

But those times are infrequent for me, and I feel lucky to be so inspired on such occasions that I'm immediately compelled to drop whatever nonsense I'm up to to give time and energy to the good work of creating. Typically though, as is the case when staring into the more beastly face of art, I'm faced with the challenge of persuading myself into action in the absence of inspiration. I recall Picasso's quote, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.."

This is a true and bittersweet recognition; it's encouraging to know that action produces momentum to continue, and sometimes momentum is enough if pressing inspiration is nowhere to be found. The only difficulty then, is getting started: how do you get moving before momentum or inspiration have even awoke? (I'm sure procrastinators of the world, in whatever field or discipline, can unite in this struggle.) In fact, I face the same exact dilemma with exercise, because unless there's a soccer ball involved, working out has very little appeal when I'm comfortable at home. So a few months back I started trying a sneaky back-door approach, to see if I could coax myself by only committing to a deceptively small amount of exercise. 10 minutes was the expectation, no more no less. As it turns out, it is 100% inevitable that once I've finished the 10 minutes, once I've begun to sweat, I want more. After experiencing the most minute accomplishment, I wonder how much more I could push myself...

So I figure this approach has got to work for my artistic life as well, but what is the break-in? What small fragment of the process will lure me into the work? it must be manageable, non-intimidating, and virtually impossible to deny the ease of. When it comes to writing, the task is daunting for many reasons ("What's the point? I don't know what to write about. I suck. I haven't got the time..." and so on.), so what if my lure tactic was to require simply that I sit down and write 200 words; they don't need to amount to anything cohesive, they don't need to glow with genius, there simply must be 200 of them. It can be the worst combination of sentences I've ever composed, and with that, I require that I be completely satisfied.

If the expectation is simply that I sit down and write something shitty, then the barrier of intimidation is obliterated {mission accomplished!} and 99.9% of the time that I've done this, by the time I hit the 200 word minimum I'm actually believing I have more to contribute to the page, and I crave to continue. Perhaps this is what Picasso felt, as though inspiration creeps by your door every so often, peeking in silently to see what you're up to. When I'm found complaining and making excuses to evade work, he backs away, because who would want to work with a whining artist? But when I'm found quietly working in his absence, he enters, pleased, and pulls up a chair.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


All of life functions within various economies, as defined as "the management of resources, especially with a view to its productivity." Our bodies operate on an economy of air, nutrients, water etc. Business functions within an economy of money. There is another pivotal system of resources though that I think we ought to acknowledge- the economy that regulates what we do with ourselves day in and day out, managing the currency of time. In this economy, every little thing we do has a price, and how we spend our wealth both reflects and determines who we are.

The unique thing about this particular economy is that everyone is allotted the exact same amount of time at the start of each new day (save for the day we die or become otherwise incapacitated). Just by nature of being alive and functioning, we all begin the day equal in wealth, regardless of geography or history, and it pays no mind to the differences imposed by other resources.

...this is an incomplete thought, I just find it curious to consider that in this economy of time, we all begin the day with the same currency to make, save, and spend, and that our decisions with this resource represent who we are perhaps more than with any other system of life or society...


I sometimes imagine the experience of living as geographical terrain; changing emotions are mountains and canyons. Some days, the dreary ones, it feels like some invisible ceiling is creeping down, leveling all the peaks and valleys into one pancake-like existence. The thought of this flattening scares me shitless and rattles my insides...

because as exhausting as it is to climb those mountains and sink into those canyons, without them, life would just be a lonely trudge through a dull open plain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Escapes (and still more on pain)

(to preface: I began writing this one soon after I wrote the initial Pain piece, but of course neglected it and lost track. Came across it again and it still resonates, so I buffed it up a bit and here goes...)

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HURT, I WONDER? Sometimes all I can do is escape..

Human escapes are myriad: alcohol, shopping, eating, dating, gambling... they can all be thieves. They can also be illusionists, taking reality and dressing it up in a new outfit, perhaps softer fabrics and more attractive colors..

Escapes are seductive.

..but when they prove themselves empty and deceptive (and when abused, they always do) how else do you exist in the eye of your storm? I’ve been thinking about refining my struggles, letting all the curiosity and loneliness and wonder manifest however they want..

Better to consume it all and use it, before it consumes us.

I’m reminded of Ray Lamontagne speaking to his demons, fierce and poignant, disregarding fear like some pedestrian absurdity:

“I looked my demons in the eyes, laid bare my chest, said ‘Do your best to destroy me.. see, I’ve been to hell and back so many times I must admit you kinda bore me.’ There’s a lot of things that can kill a man, there’s a lot of ways to die. Yes and some already did and walk beside me..”

In the face of your demons, I can’t think of anything more powerful than to call them small and mundane, bare your chest, and ask for more.

Don't let your demons take the fight out of you;

in fact, they should put the fight back in.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I've been told that during workouts you must always push past the initial sting of muscle fatigue. When your muscles first start to feel tired is precisely when you need to push harder, because remaining after that point is what will get you results. Once the burn has set in, it's tempting to quit in the interest of the body's desire for comfort. But to gain the most from a workout it's imperative to dig deeper than that first pain and ultimately, you will be much stronger for it.

I believe this is much like love, as it is most powerful, most compelling, shows its deepest colors of commitment, and experiences most profound depth and growth when upheld
through the burn.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sometimes, the most healthy and necessary thing you can do is get outside of yourself.. step away from the vacuum of your own cyclical worries and analyses to nourish yourself with the reminder that all along, there has been an entire world carrying on outside while you were cooped up in your own mind..