Farewell, Lou Reed, and love for black angels.

November 11th, 2013 2 comments
Lou Reed and friends. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground.

I managed to scrape up my remaining scraps from my teenage rock wall of long ago. Some clippings were a bit wrinkled. I guess that’s fitting.

It was posted on my friend Karl’s facebook page on October 27th:

He was lucky to have lived as long as he did.

“Who?” I wondered, and I started to get a sick feeling. I scrolled down the page, and when the news was revealed, I just couldn’t believe it. Lou Reed.

Earlier this year, when I read the message to his fans from his wife, Laurie Anderson, I was filled with a sense of happiness. She was thanking everyone for the love and prayers as they fought through his illness. At the time, it looked as though he would make it–or that at least he would be granted a little more time–and I suppose he was.

From The New York Times:

He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him.

Dr. Charles Miller, Mr. Reed’s liver transplant doctor, said.

Lou Reed was 71.

I didn’t expect that his death would hit me as much as it did. It wasn’t as though I knew him, and I fully realize the absurdness to think that we are somehow “connected”. But then again, aren’t we all?

As a sullen and mostly awkward 80s teenager, I was highly drawn to an edgier side of rock n’ roll; putting people like Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop at the top of my list. I was convinced that they had come through their own versions of youthful angst and ennui by boldly trailblazing through everything that was trite and typically successful by societal standards. They did what they wanted to do, and were who they wanted to be, and thumbed their noses (or worse) at anyone who questioned it. They were fearless artists… heroes. They still are.

I was spellbound by the album The Velvet Underground and Nico with tunes like Heroin, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and what I still believe to be a masterpiece; The Black Angel’s Death Song.

I can’t find much to explain the meaning behind the lyrics of The Black Angel’s Death Song, let alone anything from Lou Reed, who was not especially known for being one to explain his lyrics–his poetry… his music. I read somewhere (sorry, but I was unable to find or cite an exact quote) that he said that the lyrics to the song are meaningless, and that he just thought the words sounded cool strung together. Which rather sounds like one of his bogus responses to some journalist that he didn’t like (there weren’t many that he did). Even as I think of myself as a journalist of sorts, I understood his general disdain for them. I think when he was on the rise, it was especially trying for someone like him. He just wanted to make art in the way that felt right to him without having to explain it. Many of the questions asked of him at the time were inane and simple; designed to treat him as a spectacle or a curiosity—likely due to the topics he chose to write and sing about. But to much of the press, the art was incidental; and really, what artist wouldn’t be pissed off by such a disingenuous approach to storytelling?

Returning to The Black Angel’s Death Song. The lyrics are sad and beautiful at times; harsh and gritty at others. There is a rapid, desperate sort of cadence in the delivery of the lyrics, accompanied by an almost upbeat, but frantically manic and clearly dissonant gypsy-style violin melody. Add to that, the intermittent sound of the air hose–which rather sounds like a fuse being lit–and you have yourself one hell of song, akin to a race against time. (And isn’t that how life feels sometimes?) There are several things going on here:

(second verse)

Not a ghost bloodied country
All covered with sleep
Where the black angel did weep
Not an old city street in the east
Gone to choose

With the sadness, there is compassion. There is empathy for the angel, as we note that the angel; indeed, feels sympathy and perhaps regret or sorrow.

Also, this is clearly a song about choices. The combination of the words, “choices”, “choice”, and “choose” is used throughout the song. The word appears in one of the forms, no less than fifteen times.

(sixth verse)

Cut mouth bleeding razor’s
Forgetting the pain
Antiseptic remains cool goodbye
So you fly
To the cozy brown snow of the east
Gone to choose, choose again

This seems to reflect the pain of loss–perhaps lost love that at times in life, is next to impossible to digest or make sense of. “Antiseptic remains” may refer to numbness wearing off. “So you fly to the cozy brown snow of the east…” something familiar which may offer some comfort, yet when one feels hopelessly sick, there is no solace or comfort to be found; i.e., there is nothing cozy about brown snow… which may well be a drug reference.

(ninth verse)

And if Epiphany’s terror reduced you to shame
Have your head bobbed and weaved
Choose a side to be on

Perhaps this speaks to a realization that things were not as they seemed–which can be a death of sorts. “Bob and weave” is a boxing reference. They are also hairstyles. Resentment about a decision that was made–or that someone failed to make–led to a match of wills. Here, he jests sarcastically.

(tenth verse)

If you choose, if you choose, try to lose
For the loss of remain come and start

(final verse)

Start the game
I chi chi
Chi chi I
Chi chi chi
Ka ta koh
Choose to choose
Choose to lose
Choose to go

Sometimes life is a game, and therefore, so is death–perhaps they are one and the same. We experience small deaths and rebirths throughout life. This seems to speak to the notion that in the game of life,  indeed, we sometimes cut our losses; i.e., “Choose to lose,” or walk away. And then we start all over again.

To thine own self, be true.

– William Shakespeare (spoken by Polonius in Hamlet; Act 1 scene 3)

Lou Reed was no apologist, and he was true to his nature. He was regarded as difficult by more than a few (and that might be putting it kindly), and his general success in terms of his popularity sometimes suffered as a result. I’m guessing that he wasn’t too bothered about it. I think he felt he made the connection he needed to make with the people that mattered to him. At least that’s what I’d like to think. And that’s a fine legacy.

There are few artists that have knocked me over on a first listen. Lou Reed had that effect on me as a kid. I was blown away by Walk on the Wild Side, which was likely the first tune of his that I heard, and from there I was hooked. He was a brilliant storyteller, and from the time I was old enough to listen to the lyrics of songs, I was enthralled with their ability to impact, and take me somewhere else. Of course, I didn’t understand much of what he was talking about at the time, but somehow I knew it was raw and daring… and funny. I was beyond excited to put the needle on my Transformer record for the first time.

His album, New York had a similar effect on me, and I instantly fell in love with Romeo Had Juliet and all the tracks that followed. Its energy was every bit as raw and fresh as his other great works, and the honesty and emotion in his words gripped me. The stories were bitter and filled with love and resentment, as if to say, “Wake up.” Last Great American Whale really says it–a ballad that is grim, majestic and beautiful. The message is pretty simple:  “It’s time to give a shit.”

I only had the chance to see him perform live once–which was during his New York tour. It was a great, energetic show; and from what I could tell, he loved his fans–his people. Maybe we were lucky that night because he wasn’t  particularly known for his warm fuzziness. Or maybe that was just how I received it. He smiled a few times, maybe even told a joke or two, and performed plenty of old songs as well as all the songs from the New York album. Everybody left smiling. It was perfect.

Incidentally, that was how I wanted this piece to be–so it took me a while to get it out. And obviously, much of it is conjecture. But then, plenty of stuff that he did wasn’t perfect. He did it anyway.

Thanks, Lou.

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Creativity and Love. Let it Be.

July 14th, 2013 2 comments
Lake Michigan

Let the water flow as it needs to. Let the wildflowers grow as they were meant to.

Catching up on a long overdue post… And by the way, I know I will feel pretty happy to not have to say that anymore. Getting there, I think! On my list, this beautiful, warm, sunny day in July is to finish up a blog post for a client. The words have been slow to come on that one, so my heart told me to take a break from it, and work on the thing that’s at the top of my mind—my own, sweet ambitions. In this instance, the words are like a flooding river. Somehow, I think the other stuff will be easier when this water goes where it’s supposed to.

I’m realizing that creativity is a lot like love. Maybe they are even one and the same. And speaking of which, there’s this ancient notion that love comes to us when we aren’t chasing it… when we aren’t trying to own it—and when it becomes less about us—and more about life and those around us. It’s funny… but sometimes we get so caught up in the things that we think are important, and then we come to find that these are precisely the things that are keeping us from what we want—or what we think we want. And sometimes what we want is the opposite of what we actually need.

Surrendering will, or letting go can be scary, but it is exactly what needs to happen for growth and transformation to occur. When we want to control things that are beyond our control, it’s good to take a step back and ask ourselves why. See… thoughts are a form of energy—but I believe the absence of thought—or a stilling of the mind is a form of energy as well. We empower certain feelings or ideas by how we direct our thoughts. We expand the possibilities and create opportunity by our ability to quiet our thoughts… and simply be.

Part of faith is awareness. It is also acceptance. It’s putting trust into the idea that things will unfold just as they are meant to—and ultimately, it allows us the freedom to be ourselves—as we are meant to be. As we give others the break that they need and perhaps deserve, we also give ourselves the same break. This is also a form of love.

 I’ve had friends say to me, “I know I have a lot to give,” or “I feel that I’m a creative person, but I feel so bottled up right now.” That bottled-up feeling comes from things that we are holding on to. This is a hard thing to go through and face, and sometimes the process of letting go is really challenging, but when we do, we suddenly have freedom—more than we even imagined possible—and that is an amazing gift. Hugs and love to all my friends, but when we are facing this particular struggle, hopefully it helps to be reminded that we are all creative souls. It’s part of the gift of being human. When we truly accept this gift, we can make good use of it. Let’s embrace it.

Until next time, my friends… SEIZE THE PREY.

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To the Young Writer Seeking the Star Position

December 18th, 2012 No comments
young writer seeking star job

If you’re trying to land that special post, then get to hoppin’.

Thanks and kudos to Karen for reaching out. She recently sent me a note on LinkedIn, explaining that she is a recent college grad, trying to get a foot in at a particular publication.
I find that the best way to make the connections you’re after is by making your presence known. I’ll bet you’re thinking, “Well, right. That’s what I’m trying to do. But how?” It seems you’re off to a good start.
My answer is twofold. 1) The truth is that you need to start somewhere, so roll up those sleeves and get ready to work. I’m guessing that you’ve realized this by now, but most writers who are fresh out of college are not snatched up by The New Yorker. Look at your favorite publications, and then the number of people who are writing for them. These are highly coveted positions. That said, perhaps you are one of the very talented and lucky few who can break into the place you wish to be, and if this is truly your dream, then absolutely, you should go for it. Also, take note of the writing styles of your favorite writers as well as the audience. Some readers are more sophisticated and have high vocabularies, for example, while others–perhaps not so much. Additionally, think about language and jargon. Are you talking to a specific industry or enthusiast? For instance, foodies expect you to not simply know food, they expect you to be the authority–and they expect you to speak their language. That’s why they come to you. So, should you emulate someone else’s style? Nope. Not if you want to stand out and make a name for yourself. We all have our influences. Use them wisely. This takes us to part deux.
2) It’s an old adage. It helps to know people. So how do you get to know people? You network. And by the way, there are all kinds of networking groups; just search good ol’ Google. Try one. Try three. Not all of them will be a good fit, but keep trying. Find groups that not only interest you, but that actually help you. Make friends with like-minded people, and people who are doing what you want to be doing–or working where you want to work. Be patient with people, and with yourself. Be friendly, kind, polite, and focused (a.k.a. “professional”). Keep your eyes on the prize, and be mindful of who you’re spending time with. In other words, while Darren might be cute and fun to talk to, he might just be interested in taking you out on a date. Maybe dating Darren is what you want, but if you’re more concerned with getting the job you’re after–Darren can wait. You’re probably better off talking to Joan, who happens to be the creative director at your favorite publication. Getting the picture? So… what do you say to Joan? Good question. Do you know what makes her tick? Hey, maybe she’s a writer, too. Maybe she’s written a book or has given an interview. Start with a question about something that interests her–a subject she has written on, perhaps. It’s been said that we work with people that we know, like, and trust. In the end, it’s all you, Baby. Get them to know you, like you, and trust you. And don’t hesitate to reach out to your top dog. If you want to talk to David Remnick, ask him if he’s got twenty minutes for you. You might be pleasantly surprised. Have your questions ready.
Last but not least, I will add that it’s good to be flexible and open-minded. You may have your heart set on a particular desk right now, but keep in mind that things change, and sometimes this includes our dreams and goals. I’ll leave you with the words of John Lennon:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Good luck, Karen, and thanks for the note–and by all means–SEIZE THE PREY.

 

Here’s the song for today’s post (kinda cheesy, I know; but on the other hand, I am always and forever a HUGE Paul Newman fan. ;)):

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The Creative Path. What’s the Point? Where Does It Lead?

December 3rd, 2012 No comments
Fall sky in Madison, WI.

On the road again.

Why do we create things? It’s so that we can share, isn’t it? I think that in the end, it’s about love. And even when it’s about hate, it’s about love. Isn’t that funny (in the odd and twisted sense)? But think about it. Expressions of darkness or wickedness are still attempts to connect with someone… awry, though they may be.

Sometimes we can be absolutely anywhere on earth–and we look all around us, and we feel like there is nothing. We could be in a desert, or in a major city. Is it ironic that someone with thousands of friends on facebook can still feel lonely? And is that comical, or sad? Or both? Sometimes, no matter the circumstances, the world seems empty, and we feel utterly alone. Does this mean that we are not looking hard enough? Or is it that we are not looking within?

Why do we experience sadness, resentment, or regret? Why do we grieve? We are missing something, yes? I think loneliness stems from the perceived absence of love, and yet, most often, this is merely a perception, and not the reality. It’s because we aren’t connecting or sharing–and sometimes we lack the energy to do so.

So let’s look at some of our most creative moments. What are we feeling when breakthroughs occur? Exhilaration, joy, inspiration, excitement, and ecstasy. Where do these feelings come from? I believe they come from within–and from a standpoint of gratefulness. It’s common to get these feelings when we fall in love. Isn’t it true that when we fall in love, we let go of ourselves completely (more or less)? But we also give completely. It’s a mutual exchange of gratitude. Now, isn’t it also true that when we feel brokenhearted or destroyed, we have moments of clarity? By virtue of our suffering and struggling, we have breakthroughs and epiphanies. There is something about feeling raw and wounded that makes us open and fresh, once again–which can yield great moments of creativity. Perhaps this is a return to gratefulness. Be grateful, Creative Beasts, and SEIZE THE PREY.

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Swimming Lessons.

November 6th, 2012 1 comment
Galapagos

Learning.

Hello, Creative Beasts! How have you been? I’m thinking about you, and wishing wonderful things for you all. Today is a big day for us, here in America, as citizens make there ways to the polls to cast their votes to determine who will serve as the president of our nation for the next four years. There is excitement in the air, and also, a good deal of tension, to say the least. But you know what? It’s okay.

Above all else, what I hope that people will remember and hold in their hearts at this time, is that no matter what happens, there is a bigger picture. As human beings at the end of the day, we are all still simply human–whether we are democrats or republicans, Christian or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim, male or female, gay or straight–we are all humans, living together on this planet we call “Earth.” And when all is said and done, our needs and desires are all pretty similar. We all have our very basic needs of survival, and beyond that, I think it’s very simple: we all hope to experience love and joy at some level.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve thought a great deal about things like fear and anxiety, failure, unrest, anger and conflict–and then conversely–peace, love, joy, harmony, progress, faith–and what it means to be enlightened.
As my faith in greatness has grown, I’ve learned that our fears are mostly unnecessary. That said, I still fall prey to fear on occasion. Yesterday, for example, I felt some anxiety about the upcoming election. It felt like I had a pit in my stomach, a tightness in my chest, and at times, I felt short of breath. I had to work through this. Some of it, I talked through with friends, and at other times, I just dealt with it quietly on my own. Today, I feel much better.
Struggles and Challenges
We all know people who are battling something, and at times in our lives, perhaps we are the ones who are fighting and struggling. To these people, I want to express how much I love you–and care. And I’ll just come right out and say that I know that this might sound like a crock of shit. It’s not. Here’s the thing:  Let’s look for a moment at the various struggles people face–for example; maybe it’s a fear that’s holding you back in your career, or perhaps a relationship with another person, or an unhealthy desire. You may see it as a problem, but it just might be your gift. It most likely means that you care about something very deeply–and that means that you have a soul. So while you might sometimes feel like you’re being eaten alive… take a deep breath. This is a good thing!
The Back Float
I believe I was six years old when I took my first swimming class. We lived in Seattle. I will never forget my instructor, Nancy. I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd, now, but I do remember she had long, brown hair, freckles, and was pretty in a fresh-faced, earthy kind of way. She looked like a swimmer… because she was one. I liked her.
It was a sunny, summer morning in the outdoor municipal pool, and the lesson of the day was one in back floating. As little kids, when we are first learning to swim, we are often facing some exciting moments. We take huge gulps of air, and shut our eyes tightly before we plunge into the water. It’s both exhilarating and a little scary, at times–until we become more familiar and comfortable with what we’re doing. Back floating was a very new experience, and that day, I think I was more scared than I was excited about it. I had to put my trust in Nancy, and truthfully, I was only semi-comfortable with that idea–at that moment.
“Okay, Trish. I need you to lean back, and I’m going to hold you up at first,” Nancy said.
I tried doing what she told me to do, but for some reason, I struggled. Leaning into the water, I could feel the tips of her fingers under my back as I looked up at the sky. I must have turned, when I said, “No, Nancy; I can do it, I can do it.”
I think I said it several times before she grabbed my roughly forty-pound body by the shoulders, and dunked me below the surface. She just as quickly pulled me up, blinking and sputtering; feeling a little shocked and upset. She looked me in the eyes, and said, “Now. Are you going to say ‘No,’ to me again?”
I wanted to start crying, but I tucked my lip in and held back my tears. Looking back apologetically, I said, “No.”
“Okay,” she said with a calm smile. “Let’s try it again.”
That day, after quite a few failed attempts… I learned to float on my back. I was so happy and proud of myself. I couldn’t wait to show my parents.
I wanted to share this story, because it’s an important lesson that has stuck with me all of these years. I believe we will have many moments like this in our lives–and at many different levels… if we are lucky. (And let me add that I really don’t believe in luck.;)) Cherish these lessons. You will learn to swim, back float, and much, much more. Have courage… and have faith, peace, and love, Creative Beasts. And as always, SEIZE THE PREY.
p.s. Thank you, Nancy–wherever you are–from the bottom of my heart.

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“Is my life coming together, or coming apart?” Great question. …Activity vs. Achievement.

March 28th, 2012 No comments

Dare to Dream: a T_Haus self-portrait.

Hi, Creative Beasts. This question is one that a friend of mine posted on facebook, recently–a Creative Beast, living in New York. I ask myself this question often, it seems, now, and it feels a bit like what I imagine log-rolling to be. We are living in tenuous times, my friends, that is one thing for sure. Even so, we must have faith, that indeed, it is coming together. We can make it happen, but we must believe that this is so–and make it so.

So then… the big question is:

How do we make it so?

Yes… so… how do we turn our wantem-so-bad-we-tastem-dreams into realities? I’ve been thinking long and hard on this one, and maybe–just maybe–herein lies the rub. What I mean by that is that maybe at times, we over-think things–which can then, put us into a tailspin, or worse yet–paralyze us. We get so overwhelmed by the possibilities before us, that instead of making a choice and acting–we do… NOTHING. Ugh. That said, I’m guessing most of us have something that we’re trying to realize… something that is challenging us in terms of gaining traction and momentum. So what are the steps, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re mission is something akin to spinning straw into gold? (And the truth is that once we really set our minds to it, the mission will ideally become more real, more manageable, and achieveable).

…Do you ever think that you give other people some pretty darned-good advice, now and then? Do you ever wish you could just give yourself the same quality of advice–and then follow it? Could it be, that we need to be better consultants to ourselves?

Over-thinking = activity. NOT achievement. Stop agonizing over things that are out of your control.

Here’s the deal:

I don’t think I’m the only Creative Beast who has gotten herself stuck in the hamster wheel of life. That said, how do we get out? We need to jump, right? You have to make a move, other than the uphill climb on the exercise bike to Nowhere. Because here’s the deal, again: you’re working like hell and getting worn to nothing–FOR nothing.

Figure out your options. 86 the ones that won’t help you. Employ the ones that will. But then, again, how do we choose??

Okay… so this may be the tough part.

Making the right choice.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What kinds of choices are there? There are practical/realistic choices, there are gambles, and then there are some choices that include elements of each. The old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Now, while this has been proven over and over, we have also seen examples of fools who put all their eggs into one basket, only to see the basket wind up on the ground–eggs destroyed. Even still, to not make a decision, is probably–the worst decision.

Can we balance it out?

I think we must. Find something that works for you that will keep you going… keep you afloat… a lifeboat, if you will. Dream careers don’t always start out that way. Look at the creative people around you. Some of the successful ones make it look easy. Usually, this is due to long hours–in most cases, years–of hard work–and plenty of mistakes along the way–that most of us never see. But if you ask them, they will tell you their stories. Most truly great people have battle scars. It’s part of what has made them great. So, that said, we must choose wisely, but not too cautiously. Remember, if we risk nothing, we gain nothing.

So what’s in a lifeboat?

And how long can it sustain us? A lifeboat will have what you need to survive, but not indefinitely. It’s a short term solution. You need it to get you to a larger vessel–or to land. A “lifeboat” could be an interim or temporary job, or a series of gigs… it’s a step to help you along. Just don’t get too comfortable, because that’s when you will suddenly find yourself up Shit Creek with–you guessed it–no paddle.

Distractions

Mostly try to avoid them. I say “mostly,” because sometimes they can’t be avoided. Stay on track. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize. Occasionally (and this is probably more appropriate when you’re feeling a bit more… caught up or ahead, shall we say), they are a good thing, but be sage about this.

The Bigger Picture

This would be your dream–and the vessel to the other side. I think the key is, here, that you want to have some idea as to where you’re going. Again, choices will present themselves, and like my old friend Bob Seger said in his song, Beautiful Loser, you need to “Realize that you just can’t have it all.” Figure out which dream you want most, and stick to it like there’s no tomorrow because, guess what? There might not be a tomorrow. But as long as you’re on the road, you can change your path, any time you choose. Right?

Break it down. Then build it up.

Every story is the sum of its parts. What are the parts? What parts are doable right now? As you begin to check things from your list, you will begin to see things take shape.

The Thing With Dreams…

They keep changing. So be flexible. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue to go after what you want, but if you’re too rigid, it can hold you back. Few things in life are black and white. Be open to the changes and possibilities, eh?

So what’s my dream? Mostly to have the chance to live a creative life. More specifically, though, I have a huge desire to tell the stories of other creative people around the world, and that’s really where I want www.CreativeBeasts.com to go. So what’s been holding me back? I could say time, money and lack of resources, but I wonder if that’s really true. All the issues I’ve mentioned are ones that I’m trying to solve. I’ve been told that every problem contains its own solution. I like this concept.

What’s your dream?

Sharing your story takes courage and faith. Here’s one from my friend @MarkFairbanks about his creative journey that I think you’ll enjoy:

http://www.translatordigitalcafe.com/2011/11/getting-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable/

Also, be sure to check out Hugh MacLeod’s (@gapingvoid) book, Evil Plans.

Tools and Techniques

Mind mapping

Listmaking

Meditation

Sleep

Exercise

Bravery

So. What do you think? Share your ideas. Let’s help each other out. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Peace and love, Creative Beasts. And of course–SEIZE THE PREY.

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On becoming a Creative Beast: It’s a bit like death and dying. And then truly living.

October 8th, 2011 2 comments

There are two ways you can push yourself to get what you want:

The first is centered around breaking unhealthy patterns. This requires awareness, focus and discipline. It takes practice. It takes catching yourself every time you’re about to do that thing that keeps you from getting closer to where you need to be. It takes preparation, which will allow you to be proactive instead of reactive. It will give you the strength to remain calm and steady at the helm when a storm approaches. It takes meditation.

The second involves going one more step every time that you think you can’t do it. This sounds simple, and in a way–it is. This is where faith enters the picture, and where fear exits. Believe you will succeed. Then make it so.

These two forces oppose one another, spar, dance–and then, when the moment is right–make perfect love. They are the yin and the yang. They form muscle. They produce brilliant, magical children–or inventions. They create alchemy.

There is a third part to this equation, and that is the pursuit of something better. It helps to remember that at the end of every day, it comes down to you. As my friend Hugh MacLeod says, “Remember who you really are.” And as William Shakespeare said, “To thine own self, be true.” Once again, these words sound quite simple on the surface, but dig deep, and you will come to see that their wisdom is boundless. Becoming self-actualized is rewarding and empowering. That said, in the first story of Spider-Man (go ahead and laugh–but it’s a great story ;)), he learns what turns out to be his greatest life lesson: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Every day we are faced with opportunities to make choices. We are presented with options. There are plenty of things we can do–but either way–our choices are beholden to the laws of causality, also known as “cause and effect.” What you choose to do can mean the difference between finding peace and creating harmony or unleashing demons and wreaking havoc. Every choice serves something. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Only you can determine for yourself whether the choice you make is right or wrong–but at the end of the day, you will know the truth.

So how is finding oneself like dying and living? Giving up the old ways can be hard, and as we say goodbye, their is a loss that we must recognize and come to terms with. But this death is good, and it and makes way for a new life… a better one. Embrace it, and fear not. SEIZE THE PREY.

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Creativity and Our Responsibility to the World As We Know It.

September 12th, 2011 No comments

Hi Creative Beasts. It’s been seven months since my last post. I feel like I’m going to confession–except I’m not Catholic–or anything even remotely close. So why do I feel like I’m having a “Come to Jesus” meeting with you all? (And I would be the one getting called.) I’ll do my best to explain. There are few things that I’ve learned this year… or perhaps that I’m beginning to learn about life–and I’ll add the caveat that I am referring to none other than my life. Because mine is the only one that I’m living, as far as I know. Heh. However, I feel it necessary to make this distinction because what I’m about to share with you are simply my thoughts, for what they are worth, and you’re free to digest or eschew as you see fit.

A dear friend said recently, “Just when we think we know it all, we realize we know nothing.”

My first reaction to this statement was a bit flippant, and was something to the effect of, “Well, either way, we’re pretty much fucked, aren’t we?” It’s a dog’s dinner, as they say. But in all honesty, I get the point, and yes. Time after time, and throughout the course of life, we find ourselves coming back to the place at which we–at the very least–feel like everything as we once understood it to be, is now completely and utterly topsy-turvy. It’s humbling.

2011 has been a strange, and both brilliant and beautiful year along with some trials. It’s late, and perhaps one day I can follow up and expand a bit more on the joy and pain of it all, but for now, I’ll just share some of the things that I’m trying to learn, and that are maybe bringing me home, so to speak.

1) As creative beings, we have a responsibility to our worlds as we know them. Otherwise, why are we here, really? I think this is the biggest question I’ve been asking myself, lately, and it’s not the first time. But maybe it’s the first time I’ve gotten an answer that I’m a little closer to being satisfied with. My answer is that we need to be honest with ourselves about why we pursue the things that we do, and hopefully, somewhere in the creative process, and in the pursuit of something more, is the desire to make the world a better place.

Some of us work long hours at stuff that sometimes doesn’t make us happy and sometimes even eats at our souls, when we know in our hearts that we have something better to offer up. There’s this sense that there is a bigger picture happening–something greater taking shape–something to be a part of, or perhaps even take hold of and then bring to a higher level. That brings me to number two.

2) If you have something better, then do something better. Quit settling. It’s kind of like “the glass is either half-full or half-empty” thing, but frankly, it’s more than that. See, if there are areas in life in which you’ve been settling or compromising on for a while, then I believe this to be a more urgent matter.  You may need a fire under you–to help rekindle the one in your belly. It may be more beneficial to look at it this way: you can choose to start living, or you can just keep on dying. And if we face facts, every day that we’re alive, we’re another day closer to the end. That’s just the nature of things, so we may as well make the best of it, eh? Either way is correct, but your approach can really make a difference as to how things turn out. You can do something, or you can do nothing. It’s up to you. But if you choose to do nothing, then it’s probably best not to complain.

3) Love begins with you. Be kind to yourself at every opportunity. This can be hard. Creative Beasts are so self-admonishing. At times, we are painfully so. We observe, and we criticize, and we create based on what is formed from these interpretations. But very often, we are most critical of ourselves. We want the ideal. We seek perfection. This can be costly. It all starts with you. What you create inside is what is then reflected to the world around you.

4) Go forth with the mission of making something better. Maybe it’s just you that you want to improve upon. That’s okay, and in fact, it’s perfect. If you can become the best “you” that you can be, you can and will change other things for the better.

5) Don’t be afraid to let things happen. This is how some of our most amazing journeys will begin and by which we will be transformed. At some of our most terrifying and painful moments, we must simply remember to let go and have faith. It will be okay.

That’s it for now, Creative Beasts. Much love, and as always… SEIZE THE PREY.

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. – John Lennon

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Love, Inspiration and Why We Create. Happy Valentine’s Day.

February 14th, 2011 2 comments

Yes, Creative Beasts, today is Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Are you feeling it? I hope so.

What is love? It’s a feeling so powerful, that it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. While we may not truly understand it, we instinctively know that it is good. It can change things, and it can move mountains.

The word inspiration, literally means, “taking in the spirit.” When love’s arrow strikes our hearts, we are gifted with a new energy, and perhaps an altruistic vision that frees us to be brave and expand our horizons–and maybe even improve the world, if only just a little bit. Make no mistake that as confusing and even confounding as it may seem, at times–it is always a gift.

As humans–and as Creative Beasts–we are vulnerable creatures, and yet as Creative Beasts–we are already familiar with the concept of baring our souls. That’s just what we do. It comes with the territory, it’s part of the job description, etc., etc. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, we tend to get better at armoring ourselves as time goes on. How does this affect us and what we do? I think that generally, it’s fair to say that our work becomes more refined and better crafted because of practice, wisdom and dedication, and yet think of how much gets lost when edges become worn, in terms of our ability to feel. Whatever shape or form your creativity takes, part of its magic comes from a raw power–and part of that raw power is love. If you have it in your life, it is a very good thing. Be grateful. Recognize it. Use it. Respect it. Its energy will move you forward.

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

- William Blake

Happy Valentine’s Day. SEIZE THE PREY.

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Creativity, Work and Community: Feeding the Need.

February 4th, 2011 3 comments


A Russian friend of mine once told me, “There is saying in Russian: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.’” Words to live by, perhaps? While it never hurts to have a hundred dollars in one’s pocket, having a strong community of friends is something that is difficult to put a price tag on. It’s amazing how it often seems to go, that when you give a little, you get a lot.

Thursday, I had the serendipitous fortune of running into some dear friends at the local cafe. We shared great conversations that gave me fresh ideas on approach, and left me feeling inspired and energized. That’s what I would call a good day. It’s what I would also call “invaluable.”

First, was coffee with Stanley–an old friend who was once a photographer, now a painter–always an artist. We talked about the struggles and challenges that creative types face, and how communities come into play. Artists and creative thinkers of all kinds are typically afflicted in some way, with both a need to create, and the standard animal will to survive. The need to create, or to transcend our existence as we know it, can lead us to all sorts of places. Some are dark and deep, some are thoughtful and fresh, some maddening, and others, though more rare, are brilliantly spectacular and enlightening. In many instances, creative journeys are solo ones, and thereby lonely. You work at your craft, whether it’s painting, writing, making music or developing theories. Sometimes you hate it. Sometimes you don’t know why you do it. Other times it thrills you. And feedback can equally be a bitch. Something–anything, at times–is rewarding. Someone can say, “Man, you suck. Give it up!” And maybe you’ve been waiting so long for any kind of commentary, that even that can evoke a feeling of gratitude.

“Wow. That guy hates me,” you think. …Cool!”

Stan and I talked about the varying value of different communities. What is a community? “Sharing, participation and fellowship” is one definition. For some, that can exist at the local tavern, but then that begs the question, “What is it that ties folks together?” Hopefully, it isn’t alcohol, though in some instances, that is clearly the case. With creative minds, I believe it is the underlying knowledge that we all struggle with a similar form of craziness, and part of that is the need to create. From time to time, this may actually end up surfacing as a clinical diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, A.D.D. or obsessive compulsive disorder. Interestingly enough, these so-called disorders are generally regarded as problems that need to be corrected. And yet, isn’t it interesting that many of the world’s most gifted–and frequently celebrated people–are in some senses, and for all intents and purposes–a little bit crazy? So what’s their secret? Stanley and I agreed that mostly, it’s work. Blood sweat and tears. Hours and hours of working one’s craft (which, by the way, is one way in which O.C.D. can come in handy). Work is the difference between the ones who break through to reach a certain level of alchemy, and everybody else. Van Gogh, Picasso, Einstein and Edison all approached their work with a manic level of intensity. Stan said that the value in having the chance to do the work you want to–or maybe that you were meant to, in life–is golden, compared to having a bunch of stuff, such as four car garages, lawns to mow and more TVs than you know what to do with. So it’s mostly work, and maybe after all the time you’ve spent preparing for some moment to arrive–a little bit of luck–and then there’s friends… community.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
- Thomas Alva Edison

So what happens to the others that take a less obsessive approach? All kinds of things–and sometimes–nothing. Some join into the corporate dynamic and make that world work. Fantastic. Some flop around like fish without water, going this way and that. Some cling to the bar community because it helps them to feel more… normal. Some find a way to neatly blend different worlds, which is remarkable. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the balancing act is usually rather precarious, and hey, finding one’s groove can take time.

When Stan and I parted ways, I was on my way out the door, when someone called my name. I turned to the table I had nearly passed. It was my dear, long-time friend, Fred; a graphic designer, artist and wordsmith. He beckoned me to sit and chat, and it was then that I decided that this day was meant for creative friends and conversations, so I did. He started by asking me what was up, and where had I been… usual ice breakers. I said that I had been laying low, and then added–”Well… I’ve been sorta poor, lately.”

“What? You’ve been boring?” he asked, wide-eyed.

“Ha. No, I said, ‘poor.’”

“Oh, I thought you said, ‘boring!’ I’d rather have you be poor than boring,” he quipped with a grin.

That simple statement made my day. And it led me to decide that I will never again in my life, state that I am or have been poor. I may not have a hundred dollars in my pocket to flit, but my friends–my loved ones–my community–make me insanely wealthy. My humble and deepest gratitude to you all.

What else? Oh, yeah: SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. Febuary 7, 2011: I subscribe to http://GapingVoid.com/ to receive Hugh MacLeod’s daily cartoons via email, and this one, entitled, “The Hunger,” came in today:

http://bit.ly/gMkFOr

…I can’t help loving that it’s right in sync with my post, here, down to the very titles. Hugh has inspired me with his cartoons and words on countless occasions, and I am seriously excited to get my hands on his new book, Evil Plans, to be released February 17th, 2011. Congrats, Hugh!

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