I spent yesterday afternoon at UCLA waiting through the commencement ceremony to get this fuzzy photo of my son in line to be announced as having earned his baccalaureate in Electrical Engineering from UCLA. He was recognized as acting President of the IEEE club and received Student Welfare recognition as well. Now it’s off with him to Google next month. (Starting work the day before my birthday. Happy coincidence!)
Kevin – eldest son – is graduating in three weeks from UCLA. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for his graduation present. I’m conflicted, naturally, as he is heading off to Google and will probably be making more money than I do next year.
Overcoming that is the richness of the experience that I had parenting him. That role has attenuated over the last four years. But there are wonderful memories. They start with keeping the Legos sorted in the drawer organizers so that he could exercise his imagination knowing exactly where the perfect piece was waiting. They include the two boys whacking each other on the butt with tennis rackets after stuffing their Pokémon comforters into their one-piece jamies. They peak with him lecturing me on morality at dinner at UCLA during his sophomore year – myself taking great satisfaction that he had internalized the lessons that I offered him a decade earlier as we struggled through a destructive divorce. And they conclude with me becoming aware of his painful struggle as IEEE president trying to manage a 300% increase in membership, and wondering why he hadn’t called for advice.
My first intention was to put together a scrap book, but the memorabilia ends with elementary school. I considered buying him a piece of art, but that’s such a personal choice.
As I considered this problem over the last two weeks, I’ve had occasion to ride down into the crafts section on the Santa Barbara Art Walk, looking for Olga Hortujac and Rio, two new presenters. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be Native American banners. That came with a strong pull to stop and take a look, but I pushed it off.
Yesterday, though, when I stopped to explain my quest to Steve Richardson, he recommended that I visit Neal Crosbie’s booth. His directions were explicit, and I found myself at just the booth I had been passing.
The first thing Neil asked me is what I did, and I told him “Love people.” Pause. “But if you mean ‘How do I make money?’ – writing software.”
Neal does primitive drawings with crayon – not pastels, but actual wax crayon. They are demanding pieces: crude stick-like outlines filled with delicate detail that is overlaid with chaotic sprays. The visual focus of each piece is a blocky figure with expressive eyes and knobbly knees.
Neal writes an aphorism onto each piece. Fittingly – as he labels the figure “Coyoteman” – most are tongue-in-check. That Amerindian god seems to channel through Neal. We spent a half an hour together while I picked two pieces for my son, laughing merrily. How good a time we were having was related to me later by Steve, who told me “the laughter in that booth went all up and down the Art Walk today.”
Primitive art has the quality of not imposing specifics on the viewer. It is thus a potent means of expressing relationships.
So I have these two pieces for my son.
The first “Fuck It Cross the Great River” evokes our scouting experiences, my pride in the courage he demonstrates, and an exhortation to project his virtues into the world.
The second “Art is a Form of Hypnotism. You’re Welcome” encapsulates my hope that he will learn to swim in the deep pool of mysticism that I navigate.
Congratulations on your accomplishments! I am a very proud father.
I’m going to be 57 in a couple of months. I’ve tried to gather the wisdom I’ve been granted in this blog.
I say “granted” because I am conscious that it’s not mine. When I wrote the introduction to “Love Works” back in 2008, I remarked
I have benefited again and again from “private conversations” with people both living and dead. I am honored by the association with their company.
Sometimes that’s beneficial – even if a little later then I’d like. After I posted “Extinctions” last week out at Love Returns, I had a voice come in to observe that hemoglobin is red because it combines iron with oxygen. So when John spoke of the oceans becoming “blood,” he may have been seeing that bacteria that bound oxygen to iron bloomed in the ocean. That’s a stronger interpretation than the one that I offered – but I wasn’t about to go back and rework the clip.
Part of surrendering ownership of all of these ideas is that I am also conscious of interactions with personalities that work to push me down. When I posted Trial-by-“Fired” last week, I had also put a comment up on the Washington Post site. The Republican retirees that haunt cyberspace put pressure on my employer to try to discipline me.
Whatever. F’em if they can’t take a joke. Even if the joke IS true.
But more typical are these voices: when I post a comment on a pretty lady’s site, the thought “See. All he wants is sex.” Or when I check my blog stats at work “You’re just a click whore.” They used to be loud, but they’ve become quieter. They can’t help themselves, but they’re trying to avoid my attention.
I don’t give energy back to them, so when they broadcast into the space of my intentions, I heal them. They are dissipating.
Every now and then I hit a powerful reserve, though. These are things hidden deep in our subconscious, in our Freudian behaviors. When I finished taping this week’s video, they came at me hard last night. The ancient reptiles: “He’s telling them everything!”
Yes, I have been. For a long time. But they enjoy their fantasies more.
Everybody wants to be God of their own world. Nobody wants to contemplate how much effort it takes to clean up afterward.
Yeah. “Bruce, Almighty.”
Watching Donald Trump serve as president brings up a memory from my elementary school years. The Cub Scout pack took a field trip down to the tide pools in Palos Verdes. I spent the day picking my way through the kelp-coated rocks, amazed by what I was seeing, until one of my school chums said: “Hey Brian, come see this! These kids have found some crabs!”
Excited, I rushed over, hearing raucous laughter, to be confronted by the sound of a crab being crushed against the rock under an older boy’s boot.
The principal characteristic of a stable democracy – often the only thing that prevents it from devolving to fascism – is the existence of a robust and independent justice system. The lack of such a system is what has allowed Putin to make himself the richest man in the world while running Russia. Again and again, his political enemies have languished in jail while the courts transfer their assets to Putin and his cronies.
Watching Trump dismantle our federal justice system is terrifying to me. The onslaught of court cases brought against Trump since the inauguration demonstrate the dangers of letting a narcissistic fraudster into office, and that many of them involve foreign financial dealings means that they are brought in federal court. Trump’s political and financial interests are aligned to the end of destroying the system.
In my mind, that Republican legislators green-light the demolition only builds greater certainty that they’ve got something to hide. Perhaps Republican campaign operatives are linked to the weaponization of the data stolen from the DNC by the Russians?
I was back in Palos Verdes a few years ago. The abused tide pools now are barren rock.
When the technology of painterly representation had approached photo-realism in the 1700’s, academic art filled the museums and sitting rooms, but eventually its practitioners came under attack for their trite formulations. A series of movements attempted to recapture the experience of a scene: Impressionism its atmospheric qualities; Expressionism the observer’s sensitivities; Cubism the fragmentary memory; and Fauvism the raw sensation. Progressively, the artist sought not to render a scene, but to evoke a response in the viewer.
When I met Steve Richardson out at the Santa Barbara Art Walk, he lamented his popular pieces. Steve had been taught in a style similar to that of George Inness, an 1800s American that celebrated the tamed landscape. Eventually, Inness represented the world as a garden, and so did Steve. The paintings were harmonious, soothing, beautiful.
The patch that Steve extolled to me was in the background of a field. In front of the tree line, a crudely painted bush demanded attention. The colors were not blended in the strokes, but asserted their own identify before submitting to life-like hues.
Steve has come back to that canvas again and again. The soothing grass now argues among the blades, as living grass does. The backlit trees grumble at the passage of the light. But that patch of brush still shouts over it all. It is out of character.
Crude brushwork is not the only technique that Steve has exercised in his expressive aggression. The palette knife is a favorite on boats – one thrusting boldly from a chaotic pier – and on monuments. Clouded shores and skies are summarized with thin washes that pool in gesso ridges. On trees silhouetted against sunlight, leaves dance as spatter drops.
I’ve argued with Steve without effect. He pleases his eye – and his eye is discerning. But art is a way of expressing the inner nature of things. Rather than incomprehension, I sense a real resistance to this idea. He seems to not want to reveal himself that deeply to the world.
So I was astonished when, having pulled two art boards painted on the shore with the same palette, he pulled up two more. I think he was interested in which I liked the most, and I sorted them and said: “Steve, this is absolutely amazing.”
The first, largest piece is in his original style: designed to please, but generic – almost trite. It doesn’t convey the reality of the subject but an idea of a relationship we have with nature. Nature is to soothe. Nature is to conform to our sensibilities.
The next piece is obviously representative of a specific setting, but the textures of the paint still show the artist’s caution. Things shouldn’t bump too harshly against one another. The large fields caress one another even when they don’t yield.
And then the third: the action of the finger is obvious, the fog imposing itself on the rock. In the foreground the energy of the wash is suggested by in the blurred vigor of the finger’s path. The paint reveals the physical feeling of its application. The eye submits to touch.
And finally, the artistic sensibility completely surrenders. The elements of the scene are offered in blotches. The rough edges of the rock argue with the sky and water – the stark blue of the latter only visible as a breaker that crashes against the cliff. The brownish sunlight blares from the wash and the billowed fog. The elements express their nature in contrast each to the other.
Seeming to me, as it were, as they were before they were ever seen at all – knowing each other only as fields of force, some less obdurate, but all seeking to assert their nature.
This is not the artist’s sensibility; it is not the human response: it is the expression of things in of themselves working through the artist.
In the Biblical sense, to be a “Man” is to enter into the world to wrestle with its moral compromises.
Those compromises are rooted in the ancient competitions that Darwin called “natural selection.” So it’s not just humanity that we must wrestle with – no, the burden is much larger than that. Judgment is passed on us because our very presence catalyzes win-win collaboration that threatens the survival of the most successful zero-sum competitors. They marshal all their tools to eliminate that threat to their dominance.
There’s no point in complaining about it. The things that we love evolved that way. But we end up physically and psychically battered.
As I have persisted in surrender to that process, every now and then I feel a presence of infinite feminine patience, compassion and healing reach out to me. She sends me thoughts such as “Oh, my precious son. You are so lonely.” Or “Thank you for being strong for us.”
Sometimes that presence finds a route into the world through a female. Those moments, often occurring on the dance floor, are intensely beautiful. But when the dance is over, she finds herself confronted with this choice: to surrender herself to service to that compassion and healing, or to dally with males that don’t demand so much work.
And so I find myself confronted with this dilemma: they want to be pursued, but the Divine Feminine that reaches out to me requires a space of absolute stillness. I find myself often standing stock-still in the middle of the floor, eyes closed in concentration, trying to create that space. And so the ladies dance away.
That hurts, but the alternative would be far, far worse. Any lady that receives that presence and turns away from it to pursue other options would be completely crushed by the forces that oppose Men. Sustaining Men in their struggle requires absolute devotion to Her. Again in the Biblical sense, it demands that they become a Woman.
This is why I am alone in the world.
I’ve been following a blogger here at WordPress for a while, and I wanted to send her a private message, so I’m putting this up so that I can link to it from a comment on her blog.
Her blog is a personal journey of recovery and self-affirmation. When I encountered the work, it had transformed from a powerful, moving written account of what it is like to stand at the edge of the abyss of self-destruction. From that place, the creator turned to visual memes that characterized the virtues revealed within her by Christ: courage, determination, sensitivity, patience, joy, fertility, and so many others. She has achieved what I have not: finding a means to cast the kaleidoscope of Divine Love’s influence on our lives into delicious morsels that her readers can assimilate one at a time.
As she marshalled those virtues within herself, she occasionally reflected on the turning point in her struggle: the hearing of “Here I am to Worship” while at a recovery center. The first time she wrote of that, I was cast back into that moment with her, and felt love establish a beach-head.
Her self-expression was always playfully deprecating; her concerns often that she was not making progress on the life-path that society has allocated to women. As a counter, I told her once that eventually her work would turn outwards. That is coming to pass: now she writes often of the dynamic of her interaction with the world. The terms are more and more confident of her womanly spirituality – the powerful, graceful affirmation of virtue that anchors it firmly to the future, possible only because she possesses a womb in which potentiality can take root and flower.
I cannot express how much I am in awe of that capacity. It awakens powerfully in me the urge to protect, to shield her from the corrupting influences that swirl all around us. But I am also beginning to sense the same certainty that was characteristic of Jacqueline Onassis: that her virtue will call to her protectors at the time and place of her need.
The exclamation that arises in me in the presence of such a woman has always been “Oh Woman! Oh Beauty! Oh Life!” I struggle with desire, even from the separation of a continent, understanding that distance is necessary to the end goal: that such women not become wrapped up in a relationship, but stand as shining stars to inspire their sisters.
I know that doesn’t seem fair, but we are here on Earth to create conditions in which the Divine Feminine will allow itself to be seduced. Laying down what seems to be our natural rights is to open the door to the virtues of the spirit that she tenders. It is time, dear sister, to see her as an equal to Christ, and yourself as one among her priestesses – not for the purpose of displacing Christ, but for the purpose of healing him.