Monthly Archives: November 2007

Fighting Oneself, Revisited

This is one of the strangest times of my life. I remember feeling something similar to this over four years ago, but I haven’t had it since.

I’m fighting my old self again. Fighting against these feelings and past habits.

I wish I could define and explain it. Vincent Gallo has a song he titled “Glad To Be Unhappy”, filled his distinctly minimalistic piano and acoustic guitar sounds, so sparse you don’t know where the downbeat falls. But there are no lyrics, and I think I’m starting to understand why.

Everything is so simple when you’re set in your heart. But when you’re filled with such paradoxical, contradictory feelings, nothing makes any sense. The world is turned upside down.

It’s frustrating1 and beautiful all at once.

I think a part of me wants to think about it. I want to keep this feeling, where every song sounds as good as the first time you heard it, and the leaden sky is urging you forward with every step you take. To be so inspired.

And while part of me knows that to fight against ones inner nature is foolish2, another part of me knows how destructive it can be.

  1. The original title of that post was actually just a 5×5 pixel square, meant to confuse the reader into not knowing what to think. Trolley tried to correct me once and told me the title was broken, and I had to let him know it was done on purpose. With my new headline images plugin, the graphic title doesn’t quite work so I had to change it. []
  2. To add another level to this, I’m fighting against fighting myself []

Differing Perceptions

Julie's drawing of me

Julie drew this picture of me. The details betray her perspicacity.

Such as the way my shirt tails dangle insouciantly from the sweater. How the pant bottoms are slightly bunched up. And while I don’t wear a tie that often, the preppy top + skater bottoms style is accurate. Even the length of chain and the shape of my glasses. All the little details I think about when I dress myself. The only thing that isn’t me is the hair, which falls flat in the winter, due to the fact that it’s toque wearing season.

Also, I have no eyes, nose or mouth is this picture. Only my wide-arm glasses, which I’ve said before is a large part of my identity. Obviously, her exclusion of my facial features has put even more emphasis on this.

I wonder: why are my arms drawn behind my back? Posture says a lot about a person. Maybe this was done without any consideration, but maybe there was subconscious intent.

It’s always interesting to find out how other people see you. A self-image is often biased.

So which image is more accurate; yours or theirs?

Becoming Pat

At the core of our beings, Pat and I are the same person.

What separates us is our emotion, or lack thereof. Pat’s the logical one, I’m the emotional one. I’ve always looked up to him — his strength, his morals, his personality — without really understanding why.

It’s only in the last year that I’ve come to realize Pat is a Taoist. This comes with the realization that I’m a Taoist myself, and explains why I try to be more like him.

The interesting part is that he doesn’t even know that he’s a Taoist — sort of like Winnie the Pooh — which is exactly what makes him a true Taoist.

One of Chuang Tzŭ’s parables illustrates this point. In an abbreviated version, Knowledge seeks a conscious reflection to know the Tao, and asked Silent Do Nothing and Reckless Blurter, before asking The Yellow Emperor (ahhh, the Romantic personification of Chinese fables):

Knowledge said to The Yellow Emperor, “I asked Silent Do Nothing and he kept quiet. Not only didn’t he answer me, but he didn’t even know how to answer. I asked Reckless Blurter, and though he wanted to tell me, he didn’t, and even forgot my questions. Now I’ve asked you, and you know all about it. Why do you say that you’re far from it?”.

The Yellow Emperor said, “Silent Do Nothing was truly right, because he didn’t know anything. Reckless Blurter was nearly right, because he’d forgotten it. You and I are far from right, because we know far too much“.

The same is true for Tai Chi1, or any martial art for that matter. Dissect it too much, and you lose the meaning. Think about it too much, and you don’t react. As Michael Babin wrote in his article on self-defense training:

It is sad but true that real skill comes from seemingly endless drilling of the basics and then learning how to transcend/forget most of what you have so patiently learned.

In other words, learning structure is essential to learning to react to a complete lack of structure (i.e. a real fight); but if you focus on structure for too long it becomes counter-productive to “being without structure” in martial terms. One of the many annoying paradoxes in the internal arts.

One of the many paradoxes in the Taoist philosophy as well. As much as I try to study it, learn it, and apply it, I find myself thinking about it too much. As a result, I occasionally stray from being centered, and lose my balance.

It’s the conscious reflection which Knowledge is seeking that preemptively dooms his search. This is my problem as well. I buy Taoist books with a thirst for knowledge, but they’re all telling me the same thing now. Not that the books haven’t helped at all, but I feel like I’ve reached a limit. Perhaps even the simple act of writing about this is counter-productive.

I have the understanding, but I can’t apply it without thinking about it first, and it’s the attempt to apply it that ruins the point. I’ve yet to reach a stage of pure reaction and spontaneity, like Pat.

But I’m getting there.

  1. Yet another example of how Tai Chi is the physical expression of the philosophy. Or perhaps this could be reverse-generalized, and said that the Taoist philosophy is reflected in everything, such as martial arts. []

Winter Window

Thumbnail: A winter scene out my window

Turning over and over in the sky, length after length of whiteness unwound over the earth and shrouded it. The blizzard was alone in the world; it had no rival.

When he climbed down from the window sill Yura’s first impulse was to dress, run outside, and start doing something.

—Doctor Zhivago

When one looks outside their window and sees this, this blanket of purity, what else can one feel but serenity, contentment, and hope?

A Chance To Create

Good news. Wait no. Great fucking news.

I met with Frédéric, the owner of the Salon, and after showing him a portfolio of my pictures, he agreed to let me have an exhibit in the next show in February.

As this wasn’t only his art gallery but his house as well, I offered to let him make the decision after seeing my completed work. He told me there was no need, as he trusted me based on what he had seen in my portfolio, which I felt was a very nice compliment.

As artists (and I use this in the loosest sense of the word to describe myself), we’re very different. I told him that I like to study photographic techniques, especially in photos that I like, and apply those techniques to what I want to express or show. When I look at a piece of visual art, I look at meaning and intent. When I create, I keep the same thing in mind. Frédéric, on the other hand, is more of a gut-feeling type of artist. He does what he feels is right, and doesn’t worry as much about the underlying message.

He asked if I was single, and I told him I was. “Good”, he said, “That’ll help you focus”. It made me think of a quote by Alexander Dumas:

Woman inspires us to great things, and prevents us from achieving them.

I made a remark about how I’d have a forum to develop my ideas now, projects I never pursued because I didn’t have a way to get them to a wider audience. He told me that I shouldn’t worry about an audience, and gave me an example to demonstrate his point: if you create the most beautiful thing you’ve ever done and you keep it in your basement, it isn’t art because no one sees it1, but to get caught up in that dilemma, and to not create simply because of that, is a tragedy.

So now I can pursue and develop one of my photo project ideas. I have to decide on a theme. I have see how much enlargement I can do to my photos without too much loss of quality. I have to decide on the size of the final prints. I have to decide on the frame size and shape. I have to get the final prints framed.

I’ve always wanted to create accessible art2.

Perhaps this will be my chance.

  1. An interpretive answer to the Zen kōan of the sound a tree makes falling down in the forest, I’m sure []
  2. As opposed to something such as poetry, which is less accessible to the common person. As a medium, film, photography, and music (with lyrics) are more easily digestible. []