Help Yourself

This one may be a long one.  We’ll see.  Firstly, thank you for reading this.  It is a great joy of mine to be able to share good ideas with others, ideas that have helped me and which I believe can help others.  I begin here with an idea that I picked up from the buddhist monk Mingyur Rinpoche who shares in his 2019 book In Love With The World.  He summons the memory of Gandhi in posing it.  Mingyur Rinpoche says be the change you want to see in the world.  Help the world by helping yourself.  That is so special and poignant and true and good I believe that I am going to put a space here to signal a pause for the reader to consider, one that can truly allow that sentiment to sink in.

I urge you to go back and read that sentence again.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Help the world by helping yourself.  I mean that is truly poignant and I am thinking about making that my motto for the next 6 months or so, maybe much longer, years or even a lifetime and so on.  I will be turning 40 in September.  I am only a few years younger than Mingyur Rinpoche.  He has had a ton to teach me.  The idea that the essence of meditation is awareness is a very big and important idea that I learned from Mingyur.  The ideas that one can do formal meditation and informal meditation where formal meditation is a sitting practice for example where one sits for ten to twenty minutes and focuses on their breathing.  Informal practice is where the fruits of that meditational sitting practice are infused throughout the day in every aspect of life.  

That was a part of my own revelation about art being the craft of life as well.  I had come up with that through conversations with family and friends but it really came to light in learning from Mingyur via online videos and books.  I have to say at this juncture how pivotal the internet has been to my learning.  Currently I am learning to be an all around knowledgable person on a vast cross section of present day issues and topics.  These include but are not limited to AI (artificial intelligence), DNA editing and CRISP, autonomous cars, climate change, the geo-political nuclear scene, knowledge, consciousness, evolution, faith, inclusivity, peace and many many other topics.  

I discovered Mingyur online and really have received so much learning from his videos.  His format is similar to others that I have learned from online informally including Brainard Carey (art) and Ashely Turner (yoga, psychotherapy).  Also I have learned from countless TED talks and related content.  So much knowledge in this way.  Good knowledge.  Useful knowledge.  I see so much promise in the TED community and it is not something you live in.  You have your own life of course.  But it is a seemingly indefatigable resource from which to gather new knowledge which has good hearts and character at its core.  And that is so important.  That is why I love TED so much.  It is almost like they have taken the addictive quality of media online and used it for good purposes to make us smarter and better people.  Thank you Jesus.  And it is not at all religious either which I find another plus.  

I am also learning a TON from a gentleman named Rob Reid who I learned of through TED as well.  He has talked about drones, synbio, Fermi’s paradox, AI and much much more.  As he puts it his programs are to bring the listener to knowing a top percentile of something important.  That is so key.  That is what I feel like the internet has the capabilities to do in general.  So much good content out there.  If we focus in on that good content the bickering that sometimes erupts fades away.  

I am seeing more and more how this idea and practice of helping yourself in order to help the world is so very important.  It is about concentrating in on the things that you can control and really growing your own garden so to speak.  Cultivating your own dynamic potential.  You don’t need to wait for anyone to do that.  That is what my entire revolution of art as the craft of life is all about.  I do believe that we are all artists and that our lives, ourselves are art.  This is so apropos with things like DNA editing coming to the fore along with artificial intelligence how we will be looking for meaning outside of regularly scheduled work.  Empathy, compassion, joy come to mind here.  I think of Ashley’s saying how comparison is the thief of joy.  I always remember a director in my local art world telling me how my paintings would never be in museums.  That kind of down-talking is exactly what we don’t need more of.  We need more empathy.  More compassion.  More inclusivity.  More understanding.  The art world as it has been set up has a tendency to allow for individuals to arise and seemingly have power over the people that want to make good art from their heart and also be relevant in the present day art world.  That power is ultimately an illusion.  I have seen it vanish for myself first hand.  There is an art in us that no director or curator or even other artist can take from us.  We are enough as local musician Angie Haze says.  That is the key to all of this.  That is in part why I have the community that I set up called The Art Fire going.  It is a place to share conventional art but also art as life and talk about our innate value as artists (read as people).  We are all artists.  My aunt helped me to see that.  A few times now.  I also understood it for myself and I see that when that is the case, meaning that we acknowledge it we are freed from any sort of bondage that may be lurking in our lives or subconscious that are simply remnants from outdated power structures in the art world and life itself.  

It is not about power it is about empowerment!  It is not about angles it is about agency!  It is not about ego it is about presence.  Eckart Tolle has taught me so much via his books on tape that tell of the power of now.  An online blurb I saw recently also intimated the power of presence saying that when we are focused on the past too much we are depressed and when we are focused in on the future too much we are anxious but when we are in the present we are at peace.  This is so important.  This is the key to mindfulness as taught and shared by Jon Kabat Zinn.  Being present, with attention, on purpose and non-judgmentally is what mindfulness is all about.  This too is where art as the craft of life emerges as a truth.  As a power within us to be blossomed.  It frees us.  Art as life frees us from the stricture of thinking only or primarily in terms of exhibitions.  We already have the art within.  It is in our breath and is the very work I believe that Kabat Zinn, Tolle, Turner, Carey and Puddicombe are working with.  It is what I have been seeing with this connection between presence and getting to what is the very most contemporary in art.

It was my goal to get to what is absolutely the most contemporary in art and I did this through going to traditional exhibitions locally and nationally which also had international works displayed.  I read and read and read.  And thought and thought and thought.  And felt and felt and felt.  And let go in so many ways of what was not serving me in any way shape or form.  I always wanted to be like my heroes like Van Gogh and Picasso and I realized that in order to do that I would have to be unlike them paradoxically because they were trailblazers.  In order to be like them I would have to blaze my own trail.  And blaze somehow without ego.  That is another revelation, that ego can be left aside.  We can keep self along the way and maybe a small amount of ego is healthy but all in all we can let go of always having to be right without losing our own individual platforms and perspectives.  Community is great but it is not everything.  We can’t just allow ourselves to be consumed in community.  It is so very important that we get to know ourselves, truly.  To spend time cultivating our own garden and sharing from what we find if we choose to do so.  I do think it is important to share what can help others.  But first as Mingyur is saying, help yourself.  I am doing that through this writing.  It is so very empowering and freeing to share this writing, these ideas, this knowledge with my friends and all who are truly looking to learn for themselves.

I am doing conventional practice still and there is a bit of hypocrisy there sometimes in that I talk so much about the death of the exhibition yet I still make paintings, why?  Well, it is because I have felt called to make art from since before I can remember.  It may be that one day we will have transformed enough to be doing more things with our energies than making statements in the forms of exhibitions.  As I think about it here I do see how exhibitions are important.  But what I really see as important is the voice of people being represented and we can do so much of that on our own now through in person meetings and online exchanges.  I don’t believe that you should live your life trying to be too perfect.  I still want to have a big beautiful show of my SSG work.  And from time to time I think about doing my lifework in the form of an exhibition just to see how my ideas would translate.  But the truth is I get so much more excited about it all when I think about how I can learn from people through TED for example, people from MIT and Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge and all kinds of other places beyond ivy league circles.  It is about the democracy of our life and world as global citizens.  The world is changing.  Big factors like Yuval Noah Harari has said are climate change, nuclear weapons and technological disruption.  Deep listening to programs like TED and Rob Reid’s After On podcast bring you to an understanding about relevant topics of our day like DNA editing, artificial intelligence, the preciousness of our oceans as they relate to climate change and so much other knowledge about are quickly changing world.  Crypto currency is another one.  We could take all of this information and make some exhibitions or we could live our lives as art.  All of it.  And really see how much we can cultivate and change ourselves in the process for betterment and right action.  There is so much potential in changing yourself for the better.  It is about transforming, transmuting and growing.  The internet is allowing us to learn, learn, learn.  It has been my contention that thinking about art as the craft of life with knowledge and awareness as key components can be a way in which we transform or blossom from our innate goodness into living goodness and keep goodness throughout all that we do.  Don’t try to be perfect.  Be you! 

I am grateful for this chance to learn about myself and help myself by sharing it here for others to read.  I am grateful to have a mind with which to read and write.  I am grateful for peaceful surroundings in which to work and I send good energy through thought and intentions to folks who are facing a storm coming in the south of the United States and also all the refugees in the world who are just trying to live a good life.  Blessings to all with a good spirit.  Love to all.  Peace.  Strength.  Hope.  Empowerment.  Agency.  Life.  Love.  Peace