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This Song is Too Good

Happy Friday.

Listen to this tune and enjoy it as it rumbles your loins...  I especially want to point out the incredible key's playing.  Just nasty nasty stuff.  

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Much Ado About ______.

I've always "hated" abstract art.  Not abstract painting but the art in which it seems like somebody just dumped over a trash bin and slapped a title on it and said "Hey this is art."  I always assumed that it was lazy and self-serving: "What is the artist thinking? Nobody else is going to enjoy this."  My artistic hubris never allowed me to see beyond the practical expressions of art that I so comfortably gravitate towards.  

I recently came across this article and saw this piece of abstract art, and realized I've been quite vain in my appreciation for the arts.  Historically, I would have scoffed at such a piece. Not this time around though. I was shocked though by my reaction: 

If you haven't clicked on and read the article, I'll give you a brief synopsis.  An artist by the name of Robert Rauschenberg decided he was going to create empty.  His method was to draw a piece and then erase it completely.  However, he quickly realized this wouldn't work: 

...drew a picture, rubbed it out, and felt silly. Something was subtracted, but nobody cared. Rauschenberg wasn't important, not yet, and erasing a Nobody's something was not like erasing a Somebody's something, and that's when he decided he would do a totally crazy thing; he would go, with no invitation, to the hottest, most successful artist in the city and ask him to hand over a drawing that would automatically have artistic (and commercial) value, and tell him, "I want to erase what you give me. That's how I will create empty.

Rauschenberg showed up at Willem de Kooning's door and persuaded him into allowing him to create empty with one of his works.  In display of Kooning's own artistic servitude, he chose a drawing that he absolutely did not want to give up: 

"These I would miss. I like them." But then, as before, he dropped them back into their folder. "No," he said, "I want it to be very hard to erase; I'm going to make it so hard for you to erase this."

De Kooning gave Rauschenberg a cherished charcoal drawing and Rauschenberg took the next 2 months to erase the piece.  Now as both men are dead, no one in the world knows what the original piece was.  

 Erased De Kooning Drawing - Robert Rauschenberg - 1953

Erased De Kooning Drawing - Robert Rauschenberg - 1953

 

I was pleasantly shocked by the level of discomfort Rauschenberg's Erased De Kooning gave me.  There was a pang in my gut.  Aaaahh... YOUR NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. Art is sacred and you don't delete art.   

I'm a bit of a sentimental hoarder.  Anything artist / creative to the slightest degree, I hold onto. I have journals, notebooks, scribbled drawings, pictures, and videos that sit untouched and undesired in boxes or folders on my computer. I have an aching desire to just burn it all and be rid of the clutter.  However, there is another part of me that cannot.  Something feels sacrilegious to me about destroying any semblance of a creative work.  I don't think that I am the only person that holds such an emotional attachment to creative works.  That's why it pains me to think that there was something beautiful here that has been completely wiped from human existence except for in the minds of these two dead men. 

Historically, I would have stopped at that pain and said "this is stupid." Now I recognize that Rauschenberg's piece has made me feel deeply.  The pang of regret and loss over something I would never have known is Rauschenberg's gift.  There was suffering in his work; De Kooning made sure of that.  And that suffering has created something that asks questions: What was there before?  Why did Rauschenberg erase it?  What am I holding onto in my life that I ought to erase?

The purpose of art is not always to entertain or please us aesthetically as I've immaturely thought.  No.  Art is to supposed "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."  This piece made very uncomfortable.

 

-the things i think i think

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Heaven and Hell Are The EXACT Same

Imagine a banquet hall filled with the most delicious food conceivable.  The catch is, the only way to eat the food is with chopsticks and the chopsticks in this hall are 3 feet long.  No matter how hard we try.  We simply cannot feed ourselves.  The decadence of the food exacerbates our hunger and the pain forces us to focus relentlessly and unsuccessfully on feeding ourselves.  

Welcome to Hell!

Now imagine the same banquet hall with the most delicious food conceivable.  This time around, we're using the 3 foot long chopsticks to feed our neighbor sitting across from us, and in return, she/he feeds us. The complete and utter satisfaction of all is unlike anything experienced.  It's no sweat for me and no sweat for my neighbor.  

This here is Heaven!

Heaven and Hell aren't created from different inherent circumstances.  Heaven and Hell are states of existence that reflect the nature of the choices we make.  If we choose to focus on feeding others, we will be fed.  If we choose to focus on feeding ourselves, we will never be satisfied.  

This isn't my wisdom.  This is from a Chinese proverb that my mentor/guitar teacher shared with me.   Check it out here: http://mir.pravo.by/webroot/delivery/files/books/Heaven%20and%20hell.pdf

 

-the things i think i think

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Never Settle for Anything Less than a WIN-WIN

I'm very lucky to have come across teacher / mentor that is willing to invest in his students (me being one of them) from a place of truth and love.  Much of any wisdom that I may touch on has been engendered from my conversations with him.  

In a recent conversation, he led me down a path of logic to conclude that all problems/situations have an infinite number of potential solutions that fall under categories of: lose-lose, win-lose, win-win (and perhaps some in-betweeners) etc.   In that infinite number of possible solutions, I agreed that their must be a win-win solution present.  After conceding that point, I was done for... 

If a WIN-WIN solution is possible, then how could I ever choose anything less than behavior that fosters the Win-Win outcome.  The only way I would choose anything less is out of laziness, ignorance, fear, or selfishness.  I do this often.  I settle for an easier route (generally the one that benefits me with the complete ignorance of the other-side's outcome).  Well that sucks.  

However, this idea is changing the way I approach all problems and I can see massive changes in my life resulting. Win-Win decisions almost always require much more personal sacrifice but, every time I actually do it, I find the outcome is completely worth the trouble.  Beside it being the right and ethical thing to do, it ends up being more fruitful.  

Simply never settle for anything less than a WIN-WIN for all parties involved.  

 

-the things i think i think

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Ownership and Communication

Last week I had one of those days...  You know the ones.  The ones where you no matter how many proverbial "lay-ups" you got, there seems to be an invisible 8 ft defender standing above the rim just waiting for the last second to swat all your plans and expectations back in your face.

I had 4 separate people cancel on me for things that I had scheduled with them for the week.  Each had a legitimate reason for why our appointment wasn't going to work out and I wasn't even remotely perturbed by any individual cancellation.  However, after a day full of "Hey sorry, but I can't anymore..."'s,  I got a little wary.  

I started thinking.  There is no way that this is a coincidence.  There must be something more to the story here.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that something (or someone) is me.  I am the common denominator with all of these cancellations.  Maybe it isn't that these people are cancelling on me but rather that I set up a relationship in which I'm pushing or facilitating easy cancellation.  Maybe I'm asking more of my relationships than what is really fair and kind.  

Am I really exploiting others... my friends?  

I thought about my communication and I realized that though I'd set many of the appointments up previously.  I hadn't checked-in on them in a while.  I often tell myself I'm really bad with scheduling.  Well.  That's bullshit.  I choose not to be good at scheduling because I'm lazy and am not respecting others' time the way I ought to.  I'm too caught up in "trying" to manage my schedule to consider the various personal and professional needs of the others involved.  That sucks.  

It has been both a melancholy and liberating feeling since I realized that my selfishness (which is an outcropping of my insecurities and fears) is at the core of this ^ problem and almost every problem I have.  One part of me is ecstatic; I have the ability to change myself and immediately put an end to the problems I create.  The other part of me is terrified. Shit! All of these issues I've created?  What kind of a person am I?  How do I just stop being selfish?

I'm learning that when things don't go my way, I have two choices: 1) to point the finger and look at where the others involved fell short or 2) to accept full responsibility for the situation and be honest where my shortcomings have played a role.  Honesty is key and honesty with myself can be brutally painful.  

 

 

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Ten Minute Free-Write #2 - Moose

Moose

    The rivers hadn’t been this high for years.  As long as I could remember at least.  My father said he’d seen it -the flooding that is - this bad only once before in his 30’s.  He was on a trip with all of his college friends but that’s a story for another time.  We ate just outside Ontario in Wilderness the likes of which I’ve been imagining my entire life.  The air’s flavor rushes up my nostrils and lands on the back of my tongue tickling my taste buds and informing me that I’ve never consumed fresh oxygen before.  This air is pure.

    My father has been hunting here ever since he was 16.  That was the year his father deemed him man enough for the wild.  Take a guess how old I am right now.  

    I’ve been terrified that we wouldn’t come.  The floods have been getting national attention on the news for a week and my father threatened that “It may not be safe this year. Especially for your first time.”

     Now that we’re here and I see the cold electricity in his eyes, I know that he was only playing with me.  He needs this place the way we humans need air.  Without it, there is only death.  I’m not saying my father would up and die without the trip, but I’m saying it is apparent that this place is the oxygen for the lungs of his soul.  

    The boat we’ll be driving, or more accurately, be carried away in is an old row boat: Tin or aluminum and sturdy.  Not the kind of boat I’m excited to step into but the sort of boat my grandfather would swear is “just as good as any of these new boats with the fancy carpet and comfy seats.”  

    Maybe that wisdom will sink in in my later years but for now, I’m just going to make sure to steer clear of the spider webs and try to keep my feet out of the inches of rust water at the bottom.  

    My father gave neither a sign of approval nor disdain at the sight of the boat.  I think he’s probably caught between the desire to carry on his father’s example that simpler is better while simultaneously aching for the creature comforts of the modern day. He hopped in the back and grunted that I was to unhook the front.  

    He ripped the chord and the motor stretched her atrophied legs.  I jumped in and was scrambling to get the knot undone.  There is no way I was gonna let him be tethered up when he was ready to let that engine rip. 

    Sure enough on the next yank the motor fired up.  He was revving it a bit making sure she was warm. I had seconds.  My desperate arm raced to untie the figure 8’s of the rope on the dock tie.  

    I finished, pushed off, and sat back all cool-like just as he turned to me.  He had his mouth open but caught the words in his mouth right as he was going to let them out.  He gave me a wry smile and said “Well here we go then.” 

    Test one… passed with flying colors.  He tried to return back to the face of a stern leader but a little corner of his mouth was stuck in a proud smile.  I smiled and played it cool but I knew I impressed him.  He’d have to step it up to get me.  For a second I realized I’m digging my own grave. This is only going to fuel him to be harder with the next test.  Ehh..Bring it…  

    We pulled away from the dock slowly.  I looked into the water and was shocked that it was ocean clear.  I could see 20 feet deep.  Structure, rocks, and leaves.  The only difference was the reflection of the cold chilling grey sky above that let me know the water was as pure as the air but not teeming with life like the ocean.  Their was a wildness… a respect was demanded by this water.  

    I looked up and I saw a cow Moose and her calf walking away from the waters edge and back into the woods.  My whole soul rushed out from where I keep it deep in my heart to fill every square inch of my body. Skin tingling and hair dancing. This must be what my father means when he says, “Life breathes in us at all times, waiting for us to calm our fear so that it can fill us…”

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How Did We Get Here? What Can We Do?

So as the nation's favorite reality tv show - The 2016 Presidential Election - progresses, I keep finding myself asking "How did we get here?"  How is it that our two "choices" of candidates are two people that I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving my theoretical children with.  I swear, if any of us had the opportunity to interview these candidates to be a co-worker at our respective companies, we'd say: "HELL NO, he/she is evil and terrifying!"  Yet somehow, these two characters are the options for us to "vote" to represent our country.  I say "vote" for because our "vote" is a complete farce and if you don't believe me, this cheesy yet informative video explains why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90RajY2nrgk.

I know that this idea of our vote is meaningless is upsetting and Un-American but I can't help but need to share it.  Our continual choice to participate in a system that is expertly designed (NOT "BROKEN!") to eliminate the individuals' voice in the democracy is frightening.  We continue under this veil of choosing the lesser of two evils and I fear that this is fear driven logic that will only perpetuate the problem.  We want change, yet we aren't individually willing to make sacrifices in our own lives for it because we don't reeeealllly care.  Maybe that's a generalization.  Actually, not maybe... that is a generalization.  It is one made based off of my life.  I spend my waking time split between working on music, tutoring, art, food, working out, and leisure.  My and, I'll generalize, our day to day lives are more important and demanding to allow us to really spend time on the country.    I think this is an outcropping of the shocking level of privilege and patriotic hubris our country champions.  

I had an amazing opportunity to live in Vienna, Austria for 9 months and I would discuss politics with my Austrian roommate.  He was far more knowledgable than I about the workings of the Austrian government AND, sadly enough, the American government.  I thought maybe he was an anomaly, a political buff per se,  but he said that almost all Austrians knew as much as him, if not more.  

Anyway, at some point I indicated that he MUST think Austria is the best country and must be teeming with Austrian pride.  It's YOUR TEAM bro!  Quite contrary to my belief system, he said that he didn't think Austria was the greatest country at all and that he was very dissatisfied with so many of the flaws in it that he couldn't conclude that they were the best.  He then challenged me: "why it was so important for you to believe that America is the best country?"  I was shocked.  My whole life I had been so pumped with the obvious fact America IS the greatest country in the world that I had never thought to ask why it mattered.  I recognize that we have more freedom, power, and military safety collectively than any other country.  Yet instead of being taught to be incredibly grateful for these gifts, I've been taught to wear it as a badge of pride: 

I've thought about this through the years and I can only conclude that this obsession with American Pride must root in political propaganda and be a ploy to control the constituency.  What better way to be able to do whatever the FUCK you want than to convince your populace that they are the best: America, we are the modern Chosen People.  Give your populace enough luxury: a vote, upward financial possibility, infrastructure, and a dream rooted in monetary success, to appease them.  Then pump them with the idea that they are great just for being a born here: 

We won't ask questions... We all want to believe we're special after all.  Sure, some will ask questions but only if they're ostracized within the community we'll be too comfortable sacrifice the time to be a drop in a bucket for change.  

So yah, I'm sitting here preaching to not participate in the vote!  Or at very least not to vote for either of the two principal candidates...

I know. It is so offensive...

I'm on my high horse telling you NOT TO participate in the 1 day out of every 4 years where you exercise your 'MURICAN FREEDOM for the sake of the country by "choosing" between two previously selected candidates put forth from two massively corrupt parties funded by morally dicey corporations.  

I'm telling you not to participate because I believe that every time we do, we are buying into this attractive falsehood that we have some say in who runs our country.  We don't. Not on a national scale.  So lets quit lying to ourselves!  It is perpetuating a delusion that is going to destroy us.  If we want to participate in our democracy, we HAVE to participate small.  We have to run for local boards and councils.  We have to sacrifice and put our time into our communities and trust that other Americans will also.  

That's tough^ and I'll be honest, I'm not willing to sacrifice my time to do that.  But at least now I'm accepting the fact that I'm living quite selfishly in regard to the political climate of our country. Calling myself selfish sucks; I don't want to be selfish.  I don't think any of us want to be selfish, yet I think most of us are... I certainly am.  When I sit here and call a spade a spade on myself, it makes me want to participate in my local community more.  It makes me want to be the change that I want instead of just blog or post on facebook about it.  It also makes me disgusted at the patronizing Gold Star "I VOTED" sticker our government gives us to make us think we're doing something.  Those stickers are kinda like when you tell your 10 year old cousin that you'll time him to run downstairs and get you a soda.  WOW you got it in under 45 seconds!  YOU DID IT Johnny!  He feels great about himself and is none the wiser to the fact that you manipulated the shit out of him. 

What can we do?  

In reality, I think the only way real change is going to happen is if young companies start incentivizing their employees to participate in local government.  Google does a 4.5 day work week and gives the remaining 0.5 day to their employees to work on something they're passionate about.  You know what came out of that project?  GMAIL... the single most successful email product in the world.  

I can't even begin to imagine what change we could make if our corporations paid us even a half day a week to work on the development of our communities: bonuses to run for alderman, sit on a board, or participate in local votes.  This IS possible.  And we - the young - have the power to demand this.   Companies need us the same way that we need them to make a living.  Why not demand this public service from our private organizations. 

But what do I know? These are just...

-The things I think I think

 

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Bon Iver - a capella

This version of the tune has been stuck in my head ever since I ripped it off youtube and put it on one of my classic Burned CD's about 5 years ago.  Haven't heard it in a while.  Amazing. 

There is something about raw musical passion that is insanely contagious.

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Quick Poetry - Clutter

Dive deeply in to the sea within, The river beneath my skin, that flows red and white, heightened, clutter in my life. All this clutter in my room. There's no more room. Not to move, not to breathe. All of these materials distracting me. Highlighting my inability to accept responsibility.

Clutter

Clouding my mind like no other, I can hear the words from my mother, but I store away another piece of truth so I don't have to choose the road that ain't smooth

Clutter

T-shirts and water cups, sheets of paper and blankets balled up on the floor. Pennies and loose change, dust on the sill, but still, I can't seem to pop the pill, take control of myself to keep this room clean.

Clutter

Taking over my brain, insecurities and an ego's quest for fame, covering up for a heart-full of shame. Treating life like a game, trying to advance on all fronts. Gonna be a jack of all spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts. Don't get in my way once I start.

Clutter

This modern disease, seeping through the blood of the 21st century. My phones got measles look at the red dots popping. Duty calls me to the couch popping fools with red dots, Tell myself I'm more than I'm not, and that's why I can never stop

Clutter.

-Things I think I think

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