“I sketch the best when the conditions are just a little uncomfortable.” Salvador Dali
I saw this picture and quote a few days ago and liked it but noticed that it really stuck with me. We strive for comfort and security - it's natural, but regardless, life is constantly throwing us curveballs and making things challenging. Perhaps the best approach is not to fight it but to use it. Mr D reckons so. In fact, it appears, he seeks out the uncomfortable. Myself, I am not going to do that - cause I get plenty for free all the time (discomfort - physical and mental), so I will continue to savour any down time (sleeping, napping, escaping in a book, with a song or walking on the beach) but seeing this picture and quote have changed my mind about the uncomfortable times. Rather than curse them, I am going to use them. Let's see if it works!
It's not that I am lazy - but I can be so lazy.
Motivation is overrated. Success is a mirage.
Gimme a camel, some fresh dates and a cup of tea in the desert, surrounded by nothing, any day.
We aren't going anywhere. Nothing matters, ultimately, so why get caught up in it?
Because it's so seductively real-feeling. Our minds trick us - drive us on - this thing, that thing, the next thing. Want, want, want.
Why am I writing this now? Because I feel I should. A little. (Also, cause I do like writing these things - once I get going...) Why do I feel like I 'should'? Because I have been doing it for five years now and to miss a whole month would be - I dunno - negligent. Wasteful. Some part of me believes I am building something. Something worthwhile. An artist's journal. Insights into my mind.
At the same time I know it's nothing that original or deep. Just the free flowing ramblings of another survivor. I feel like a teenager right now. This is how I used to write at thirteen. Just put down whatever comes. (Which is actually a good way to write. But you are supposed to tighten it up later, edit, make it a little fancy, polished. Later never comes.)
We didn't have LOLs back then to punctuate our sentences. We didn't have lots of things. No blogs. No computers. I used to write in notebooks with a ball point.
Where was I? Oh, yeah; forty four years back. Say hello to the new old me - or the old new me!
I haven't changed much. They called me lazy in school. Labelled me. Underachiever. But why waste time on bullshit! I knew life was not going to be what they presented it as. I knew what was useful and what was useless (for future me.) Stuff like - physics, history, Latin (yes! we had to study it! OMG, right!) - most of the academic stuff. English was good. Maths - good. Art - oh, yeah! Choir, drama... now we are talking!
I was right. I didn't quite know it back then, but I was a free spirit, a mini rebel, an artist. And nothing has changed. Well, lots has changed. I have lived a life. My best friends from school are all heading towards sixty now. Those great people I remember as vital, good hearted, zesty, lucid sixteen year olds. They're all doing things, they've been through it all, too. You don't know how it goes until it's mostly gone. Seems like a bit of a rip off in a way. But there's no point in complaining. Cause no one is listening. You're the adult now! The authority. If you can't fix it - no one else can. That much you know. It's beyond ironic.
So why do I bother? Same reason everybody else does. It's easiest just to go with the flow. Keep being who you are. Doing what you do. How you've always done it.
And although I have very little in the way of material reward to show for my devotion to creativity and passion and self expression, to living free spirited, unattached, unemployed, still making stuff up, creating every day - although I have not found success in the current social definition of success - I have been able to keep it going for a long time. Been a bohemian, a drifter, a dreamer, a poet, a romantic. I have not given up.
I am who I am and who I have always been. Same kid. Feeling life deeply, strongly, wildly. Overwhelmed at times by the ferociousness of reality, the demands of a sentient mind. But coping. Making the best of things. Taking what comes and dealing with it on my own terms in my own way.
I never had any choice. I was born to be who I am. That much is clear. I resisted, circumnavigated society's insidious pressures to constrain and contain me. I have eluded conformity. Things haven't turned out ideally but they don't. Not for anybody. That much I know for sure. But if you are lucky, you can hang on to yourself - be true, face it or flee it as the case my call for - but follow your inner voice, stay alert, aware, open, hopeful. Keep dreaming.
Sure, be lazy. Unless you feel like doing something. Unless you get a good idea. Then do that.
Not into psychobabble
Quick new age cures
Life, by nature, is flawed, unstable
Replete with random potholes and
Mistakes made over and over
It’s human nature
Heightened states of threat
Prolonged exposure to distress
You know how it gets
Somehow, we survive
Do as we must
Metamorphosis takes a while
Ever evolving self
Often undetected or downplayed
Like a glacier
Or a slow cook roast
Over time we get philosophically remade
Dead or improved
One or the other
Get bruised, lose a tooth
Learn to suffer
There is always a lag
You’re never rid of those bags
The first few decades will fuck you up
Then a couple more to recover
Ever evolving self
The process is slow
Progressively we grow
But change is not always pleasureful
All faults excused
Face it - we’re fallible
Dead or improved
The hard lessons are the most valuable
Dead or improved
You’ll get there in the end
One way or the other
As I walked along the beach today, I thought about how I have been lucky in my life to have been able to spend chunks of time with very diverse groups of people.
I came to be thinking about it because of a friend of mine, Colton. We’ve just been friends for a year of so and although we haven’t really hung out that much in actuality, the bond is strong. It’s based on a positive outlook on life, a love of music. self expression and spirit. I answered an ad for a Korg Electribe rhythm production sampler on Gumtree and ended up at a boutique studio tucked away in the hills of Wilson’s Creek. I was met by the sound engineer, a Canadian with dreads and an easy manner. I didn’t buy the sampler but a few weeks later I invited him to a electronic music jam session in Byron and our friendship was formed.
He is one of a handful of musicians and music producers I have come to know over the last few years since I started doing my music production diploma at SAE. There are many top quality people like my teacher/mentors, Tyler from San Diego and James from Scotland. As well as them, there are the audio techs at school, fellow students and numerous DJs and local musicians who I have come to be friends with.
Spending time and interacting with these peeps has been a wonderful side benefit of my decision to studying music. Being around musos, I have come to know the breed from the inside. And I must say, they are a quality ilk. Easy going, considerate, and talented. Before I found myself enmeshed in the audio world, in my decades previous as more of a visual - art and film - person, I have to admit, I kind of always considered audio studies to be less desirable. It didn’t seem to offer the same vitality and energy that say, shooting or directing presented. I never considered it as something I would choose. Ironically, now that I am in it - deeply immersed - I have come to realise that it is a fantastically rewarding pursuit - in some ways the best ever. It’s like I stumbled into an entire world of wonder and magic that was always right there - I just never knew. It has been a revelatory experience, one that seems like it will continue to engulf, thrill me and pay me creative dividends way beyond expectations.
As well, it has connected me, more tangibly, with a new group of excellent people. Audio people are a true cool breed and I am very happy to be part of this exciting new subsection of creators.
I recall feeling a similar thrill when I was just nineteen and in my first year at art school. I looked around and thought; Wow, everyone here is kind of a weirdo! I found a place to belong! Previous to that I had tried two universities - Sophia, Tokyo and Sydney and found the whole academic world to be far too passive - too rote - too dry - and mostly unrewarding for me. At art school it was all about doing - expressing who we were - as honestly and intensely as possible. Not about being fed a whole bunch of old, preexisting concepts from books. We were there to discover and find meaning by making stuff - images, drawings, paintings, sculptures. I was lucky, cause back then National Art School was 95% practical. Just doing. There was an art history class - but it was just looking at slides after smoking joints and casually discussing images together and with the teachers - who were all practicing artists. Indeed, in third year of the painting major, we were each given a small studio space on the top floor an old sandstone jail and instructed to go for it. Teachers would drop by now and then for a chat, but really it was about allowing us to forge out own ways. A lot was learnt from each other. I loved being friends with and hanging out with artists back then as much as I do hanging out with musicians these days.
Back in high school in Tokyo, the group I eventually became part of was twofold. One was a couple of guys from the year below me. I was young for my class and although I did have a few friends it wasn’t till I somehow started hanging out with a Canadian, American and Brazilian guy from the class below (Richard, Kurt and Ricky) that I really found a place to belong. It helped that we were all non-conformists, rode motorbikes and liked partying. The other group I found place with was with the girls from the girls school. They would all go to a tiny basement cafe called Comos, in Hiroo, and drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and banter. Somehow, I became part of the gang. There were a few other guys, as well, but it was mostly the girls. A Hawaiian, a Texan, a Korean and a Japanese Brazilian were the stand outs. I learnt so much about life from these chicks. The Hawaiian girl, Jenny, and I became best friends eventually. She was one of the best people I have ever met. At the time, I was a little over weight and kind of an outsider, but through humour, a love of casual hanging out, and a willingness for explorative mischief in general - I became an integral member of the group. I was privy to some amazing stories and inside info! At school I was a non-achiever, not into sports or any extra curricular activities. I had trouble with authority and an efforts by teachers to order me around would get my back up. I mostly avoided trouble (by not getting caught) but did not find much value in the system - other than it supplying my clan and opportunities to facetiously rebel.
Another group that came out of this time was the night life people. I used to go out to discos and nightclubs and became friends with a number of Japanese nightclub workers, owners and partiers of the time. I also got to know some hostesses, high end call girls and members of the yakuza (tough but honourable). Being fluent in Japanese at the time was unusual and having lived there since the age of ten, I had insight into and respect for their traditions and mannerisms. I was a friendly, fun-seeking teen and was quickly able to become a kind of mascot to a number of interesting characters. In a few Roppongi nightclubs I was more than just a regular, I was availed special treatment - like being able to hang out in the DJ booth, sit in the VIP areas on occasion, and supplied with plenty of free drinks. It was pretty awesome. My preferred garb of the time was the full disco regalia - wide collared open shirt, vest and jacket - with heeled shoes or cowboy boots. I was as close to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever as there was. It was an awesome time. A few times I almost got into some trouble, but somehow always managed to avoid anything serious. And again, it was because of my proximity and connection to the group that I was able to find meaning and satisfaction in the scene. I had incredible access to the Japanese ‘mizu shobai’ (nightlife world) of the time and got to witness and experience some dynamic and exciting things thanks to my proximity and friendships with key players.
A decade later, in the 90’s, it was all about film. A group of us used to hang out at the Tropicana cafe in Kings Cross - actors, writers, directors - and talk about projects and dreams. This was a fun bunch, too. I had found a new gang. The Tropfest was born in this time. I was there when it was first discussed - just an idea. John took it up and ran with it. My friend Rob Mac and I each had our short films in the first two - screened at the cafe itself back in those days. Rob and I went on to make a TV show called Coo-ee Australia for Japanese TV on spec. Many of the actors from those days have done well and we’re still friends. I continued to be involved in the film business for a decade, working on mostly Japanese TV commercials, TV shows and documentaries around Australia, New Zealand, the US and Japan. Film crews were my new family. Another fine bunch of people. Grips, DPs, art directors, runners. Lots of free spirits convening on projects. Like a circus troupe. Hard workers. Hard players.
After that I tried my hand at screenwriting, studying in LA. That was pretty solitary. I spent about three years immersed in that world. Studied at various places, read a thousand screenplays. One by one, I wrote six features. None of them got picked up. Maybe if there had been a gang, I may have endured.
The next group was poker players. What started as a casual tournament down at the local ended up lasting for a decade and over 3,000 tournaments. In the end I was semi-professional, making a few hundred a week, playing most nights, travelling around to wherever a good game was. Poker players are another strange breed. Itinerant, quirky, strong personalities. I got to know some good people, making friends from Lithuania, Germany, Britain and the US, as well as plenty of Aussies. Shared some good adventures and laughs.
So… it’s all about the people. Forming connections, bonds. Finding your tribe, or tribes that fit with what you are doing. Sharing pursuits, passions, techniques, goals, dreams. And now that I consider it all, it is the friendships and those special connections that endure. Memories were made. Some I will never see again. Most. But it doesn’t matter. We shared some good times together. It’s good to be part of a gang, affiliated with and immersed together in a common pursuit. We humans are good for each other.
I am not one to give advice
Cause what do I know?
By many measures of success
I’ve got little to show
On top of that I am not that happy
With how elusive happiness is
Every day is some kind of struggle
Convoluted ordeal or quiz
I would have it together by now
Life would fall into place
Proceed steady pace
With substance and grace
But it hasn’t
And it doesn’t
I’ve been betrayed
Too many times to mention
By colleagues and friends
There’s no prevention
Life throws shit at you
It stinks how dirty you have to get
So much so that it becomes familiar
You kind of get used to it
Maybe I am happy, really
Beyond my realistic and harsh assessment
Maybe I just don’t realise
The nature of the game to it’s full extent
And that actually I am winning
Just through the depth of my immersion
Full integration (often against my will)
Discontent (seems all downhill)
Maybe this is how it is supposed to feel
Life at it’s a best
Strife and affray
A crisis a day
Vice and discomfort
Plans in disarray
If that’s the case
Then I’m a champion
So heed what I have to say:
Just take it as it comes
Stumble from one mistake to the next
It’s a fucking weird game
But few options remain
So just take your next breath
And continue to play
Used to be a time when, if I was waiting for a plane to depart, I’d grab a coffee, pull out my iPad and immediately start writing a poem. I am at an airport now, Gold Coast, heading to Sydney and I am writing - but I am writing about how when I used to do be in this situation I would immediately, habitually start expressing myself lyrically. I am writing, in a self observational way, about how I have observed in myself a different energy and behaviour to usual.
How? What’s different? (A chorus of other in the Departure Lounge spontaneously chimes.)
To be honest, I think that for the moment at least, it appears my romanticism, my idealism, have waned slightly. I used to feel compelled to express my emotions through creative prose. That was kind of a barometer for me. Right now, I don’t feel that. It’s not that I feel bad or lacking, it’s just that the thoughts and feelings are not making their way to the front of my consciousness, requesting (or demanding) to be released, expressed.
(The chorus is silent now, uninterested in the bard’s introspective monologue. They return to their personal devices - tune back in to interior diatribes of their own.)
What I do feel is more of a calm. Less immediately compelled to visit the muse. It’s not that I don’t feel like being creative - it’s just that, I guess, I am not in the mood to do it with rhyme. Instead, I am writing this confessional (what a weird, loaded word!) - so still writing but in a more perfunctory manner. So, what am I confessing? Do I feel guilty for not sprucing poetry? Not really. But it is unusual. Although, if I consider where I am at in my life, it does make sense.
To explain: six days a week for over a year now, I have been spending four to six hours in the studios at SAE where I am studying electronic music production. So I have been awash in audio magic. Actually, not all magic. Quite a lot of process. Trial and error. Exploration. But what I am saying is that my focus - a new language has been found - and my new language has been sound, noise, melody, beats.
And, quite frankly, it has been surprisingly engrossing and rewarding. It began three years ago, when I discovered a new joy playing with Garageband on my iPad. I soon became addicted and committed to creating all kinds of crazy songs using loops and vocals recorded directly into my iPad in cafes, in my car, wherever. I made something like 140 songs over a year. They were pretty raw. Sometimes I would have beginners luck and smash out something kind of OK - I wasn’t even doing proper mixing, not even volume levels! - I relied more on concepts, lyric content and enthusiastic inventiveness to push things through. Naively, some might say delusionally, I went through the steps and brought out an album - releasing a proper CD with fancy cover, illustrated lyric sheet and even had a launch night at a local cafe (Rock & Roll Coffee Company, Mullumbimby). Sold like five copies! Actually, not like five: five. The thing is here: I did it. Completed the cycle.
Fate took care of the next step by calling to my attention an open day at SAE. Why not?, I thought. I always drive by, curious about the inside. Having traditionally been more of a film, images guy, I never really considered pursuing audio but when I turned up, I was curiously enthralled by the studios and got some good vibes. Tentatively, I signed up for a twice a week course in Ableton - electronic music production. Fortuitously, I was eligible for a scholarship that would cover 90% of the cost. Nothing to lose. Even then, when it came time to fully commit to commencing, I got the jitters. Did I really need to do this? As a big lover of routine and a commitment-phobe, I got very close to not going ahead. But something kept me in there.
A couple of times, after the first two classes, I felt out of my depth. I had no idea how to even make the most basic of drum beats, for heaven’s sake. All the others were experienced performers, most with active and dynamic SoundCloud pages, song releases, band experience.
So what kept me in?
One was the software itself. Ableton, despite seeming somewhat overwhelming at first is like a magic playground. Each new toy is like a puzzle to be worked out but once you have cracked the code and can use the new element it adds an exciting new layer to your production capabilities. And the best part? The possibilities are endless! The kid in me (never far from the surface) is continually delighted by the fun factor. Playing with sounds - making stuff up. It’s like sonic Lego. Phonic papier mache. Audio art class. Love, love, love. After getting over the first mountain of challenging newness and confusing complexity - which for me took about 3 or 4 months of solid application. (So worth it!)
The other thing factor in my sticking with and becoming an Ableton advocate was my teacher/mentor. For me, someone who never took easily to the teacher/student relationship, he was the ideal leader. He led by example. Chilled. No pressure. But always patient with us newbies, attentive to individual rhythms (figuratively and literally) and generous with his time and in sharing his amazing skills. I am certain his easy style and low key, natural encouragement helped me hang in there during the make or break early stages. And beyond. Like a flight instructor he got me to the stage where I could fly solo. And I am up in the sky as often as I can be. I salute the squad leader, ever grateful.
After I finished the Music Cert III, I signed up for the Diploma in Music Production. While there was still some Ableton in that one, it was more expansive - with some excellent music theory and studio technique stuff. Another teacher appeared who would adeptly educate and inspire me. A highly motivated, passionate Scotsman, also with a vast knowledge and lots of talent. I am still there and still learning. It’s awesome to be in an instructive and productive environment. Starting on ground level and making the slow ascent. Back to school at fifty seven. Who would have thought!
So, what am I really saying here?
(As much as I enjoy and advocate just going with the flow with writing - like I am doing here - I like, whenever possible, to consider what I am going on about and to share something that may be of value; a whisper of insight, a summation of substance of potentially applicable relevance to those in the chorus who may still be sticking around. In this case: thee.)
What I am saying is: taking on a whole new strain of creativity and starting right from the beginning has had it’s challenging moments but, at the same time, there is a wonderful freedom in coming in cold, being totally green, a beginner again. If I review my own path from the start, three years ago, to now - I have gone from being a curious novice with an interest and passion to now being someone with a pocketful of skills and some sauce sachets of knowledge who can - on his own - a build a decent tune from the ground up - from beats, to bass, to chords and melody to effects, levels, mix and mastering. I’ve gotten pretty good at something new. On a leap of faith, a bit of luck, providence, professional guidance and self belief. I recommend it. When life presents you with the opportunity to expand - take it. Or not. Sometimes it’s a waste of time. Luckily for me, this one was a good one.
Where it may lead, I cannot predict but for now, I am enjoying the ride. Less poem writing at airports but, hey, not a big price to pay.
You can listen to my recent audio creations here: www.soundcloud.com/lewiejpd
It was my first day at a new school. Not only that but I was starting in the middle of the year. And it was a new country for me; I had just arrived. Greeted by snow and civil, gentle people speaking in a tongue I was unaccustomed to. The school, however, was an international one and English was the main language. Not Australian English, though.
I was from the bush, on the edge of Sydney, and a week earlier I was sitting in my old school, The Bush School, Wahroonga Public. Hand built, wooden shack style classrooms. I had only recently been shown a map of the world. I was used to running around barefoot, playing in the creek, climbing cliffs and avoiding venomous snakes. Now I was in one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world, sitting with a bunch of strangers from a variety of nations. Sons of diplomats, businessmen, wealthy families.
Where was Dom, from down the road? Jane Lumby, my very first crush? Mr. Harding, my fourth grade teacher - the kindest, warmest teacher I had met? Do they even have Twisties in this country? (No.) The school is massive! Multiple buildings of multiple stories. And everyone is dressed so formally! A tie? A jacket? Seems excessive. I’m a singlet kid. My hair is long-ish, I like being outside - playing. This all seems a bit serious all of a sudden. And now everyone is staring at me. I have been asked a question.
The new kid. Everyone is curious.
“Do they play basketball in Australia?”
I had seen the gymnasium earlier. It was humongous. This school was big on sports, competitiveness in general. We used to play chasings and the game with the four squares drawn in chalk and a tennis ball, but that was about it.
I must have seemed a little vague. I felt slightly overwhelmed. I knew my two brothers were out there somewhere in classrooms of their own, facing challenges of their own - but I doubt I could have found them in the sprawl. I didn’t like that feeling. As the eldest, I was protective of them. Liked to know where they were. And my parents. They had dropped us off - in a bright orange taxi. One that had an automatically opening back door. That was cool. But the driver did not speak a word of English. Luckily, my father had memorised three key place names - coordinates between where we were and where we were headed.
Tengenji. Furukawabashi. Isarago.
Maybe one day, I would need this knowledge myself. I learnt the sequence, speaking it to myself over and over, like a rhyme. Every morning my parents would accompany us in a taxi, drop us off and then carry on to the office - where my father’s business was. Before we arrived in Tokyo, he had slept there, on the floor on a futon. Getting things set up. He had convinced a select number of Australian companies - a glass manufacturer, a chemical company, an envelope company - to give him seed money in exchange for representation in this exciting, rapidly growing new economy. He and my Mum had already taken the time to do an intensive course in Japanese language at ANU in Canberra in preparation. As well, he had visited Japan before, as part of a team representing his father’s chemical company. He had seen opportunity there, connected with the culture, appreciated the people. After all, they were in many ways like him. Thoughtful, considerate, forward looking.
So there I was, just a few days in to what was initially planned to be a two or three year adventure but turned into a protracted stay that would last two decades and shape and nourish my family and myself in untold ways. But this was still week one. I didn’t even really attempt to grasp what was happening and how things may unfold. I was just taking it a day at a time. It was exotic, novel, abuzz.
“Do they play basketball in Australia?”
It was the teacher asking me. Attempting to welcome me into the fold. Find out more from the sprightly but shy Aussie kid - probably the first that any of them had ever met. His accent was heavily American, a drawl. The school was populated by 50 different nationalities but the academic system was the American one. Many of the teachers were Canadian. Catholic brothers. And the majority of the other students were American.
I wasn’t sure. Some kids threw out explanations, mimicked ball bouncing, shooting for the hoop. I got it. Must be netball. I had seen girls playing back at school in Wahroonga. But only girls. So I told them.
“Yeah, only girls...”
But because I was a little Aussie and my accent must have been broad it came out sounding indecipherable to them. A mass ‘huh?!”
What? Huh? Giggles, echoing.
It was an all boys school. Netball was for girls. Wasn’t it obvious? Why wouldn’t they even already know that? And why couldn’t they understand me. There are only two sexes in the world. Males and females. We were all male. Surely they knew about girls. (Though I hadn’t seen any there.) I was confused but persistent.
It became kind of absurd. A guessing game. Lots of kids were laughing, shouting out speculations. Mr Potter was determined to get to the bottom of it.
“Is that a sport in Australia?”
“No! Gills. Only gills play it.”
Blank faces. Giggling.
The whole thing had gone from being a simple question to a minor international incident. The flow of the class had been disrupted. I felt out of place, indeed, I briefly questioned my entire grasp of and understanding of reality. There are women in this world, right? I saw some on the way here in the taxi!
Tengenji. Furukawabashi. Isarago.
Gills! Gills! Gills!
I couldn’t quite work out how to explain them.
Then finally, I figured it out. Since they are too complex, mysterious to define, I can say what they are not.
“Not boys. Boys don’t play it....”
Instantly a bright flash of light, comprehension illuminated the room and all in it. The puzzle had been solved.
“Oh, grrrrrrrrls! Grrrrrrrrrrls!”
“Yeah.” I meekly shrugged. Like, obviously. What a saga!
Everyone clapped and laughed raucously.
Then the energy moved on. I was relieved. First test passed. A thousand more to come. The adventure had just begun.
Will you find yourself in this place?
It still has all the potential that it always had
But have you the will to use it wisely?
Living on fumes
Humming new tunes
Not always immune
To reality’s brutality
Diverging in and out of illusion
With every new day a new mood at play
And a fresh set of circumstantial challenges
It’s the way the game is set up
Just the way life unfolds
Leaves you kind of crumpled
Like just now
You may have momentarily locked eyes
With the bearer of your dreams
But you looked down
Averted your gaze
Unlike the you of yore
No more chancing encounters
No more urgency at play
Too many bouts with breaking hearts
Unfulfilled hopes, left to die
But at the time it felt that way
And the face in the mirror
Less absorbing that’s for sure
Though you still don’t act your age
Most likely never will
Seems like a long time
Like a life
Seemed like forever
But now we’re nearing the crunch time
Rearing up on the reckoning
The dark abyss discreetly murmurs, beckoning
And, again, it begs the question
Will you find yourself in this place?
Before your course is curtailed
Or will you just quietly fade away?
Find yourself or fade away?
Could they be one and the same?
It’s funny, this place
You just never quite know
Where you stand
I'll be honest.
I thought it would get easier.
I thought my life would lead somewhere, I don't know - grander, more bountiful, more integrated, more rewarding.
I haven't given up. I still may get there. Things still may turn out how I envisaged.
I do have doubts, though.
But doubts are nothing new. Doubts are like flies, mosquitoes. Everyone gets bugged by them. And everyone hates them.
You try and flick them off, squash them if you can but still, you carry on with what you are doing.
My doubts I can deal with.
What I am attempting to come to terms with is the balance between being grateful for what I have and acknowledging my yearning for better things.
I accept myself as a person. I am comfortable in my skin. By no means has it been an easy entity to inhabit but I have endured and learnt to make the best of things.
Beneath my outwardly chilled demeanour there is a churning intensity. Much of my time and energy is spent attempting to channel it in positive ways, subdue it, make friends with it.
Over the decades I have struggled with anxiety and depression, addictions, weight fluctuations, close to the edge life-threatening experiences.
I share this because it is the truth and I feel no need to hide anything. I know that many, if not all, experience some, most, all or even more of these things. We usually just shut up about them and endure.
I feel lucky that I have found my way through to this point and can be open about it.
My storyline, in most respects, is not particularly unusual.
I can say that as someone who has always been sensitive, perhaps overly so, and hyper sentient (I can't turn it off), that were it not for the release and understanding, integration that has come from my various forms of creative expression - I would not have been able to endure.
So, I ask myself, still, and often: What is the point?
Is it just about surviving?
What is 'making it'?
When will satisfaction, peace finally come?
It's a rigged game.
The challenges, demands, the things that get you - they never stop coming.
Work out one thing and two more pop up.
There is no retirement from life. It's work, work, work until the last breath.
And we kind of fear death, at least prefer to stay alive - even if and when it feels like shit - because of the finality and incomprehensibility of death.
It lurks, taunts us sometimes. Even beckons on occasion.
But our instincts are strong. We must continue. We must carry on.
Looking back, it makes sense how I got here. If I look at the steps, factor in the choices, the circumstance, the paths taken, the random, the coincidental - it all makes sense in retrospect.
But when we are younger - when we are formulating our dreams, envisioning our futures - we cannot know what lies ahead. We construct our ideals from the concepts at our desposal at the time.
And then, over the years, things happen - maybe from our own doing, but also from pure chance, due to others, or just because they do.
We adapt, we carry on.
We thought we knew where we were going but there are so many unexpected twists and turns, dead ends and surprise peaks that must be scaled that we become a little flabbergasted, weary.
And all along, time slowly ticks away. Suddenly, years have passed, then decades. We are shocked to see in the mirror a reflection not of our hopeful, idealistic spirits but of weathered and battle scarred veterans. Any of us who are not suffering from or who have suffered some form of psyche PTSD is lucky and amongst the very few.
The world being in the state it is at the moment with the good people, the average population being hoodwinked and bullied by unscrupulous, selfish politicians and their greedy, morally vapid money and power accumulating cronies in big business doesn't help. We are oppressed, make no mistake about it. We are being twisted into submission through rules and laws and agendas set by the gang at the top calling all the shots, serving only themselves. There is still goodness and kindness but it is only to be found at ground level. The current set of people in power have little care for the well being of others. We're forced to struggle to survive on little or noting in a game rigged in favour of the elite.
So, the system is doing us no favours. We're becoming fragmented, frazzled, distracted. No easy paths to leading a simple, uncomplicated, pure lifestyle. And it's only going to get faster and thicker.
I have no answers. I just take each day as it comes, wade through the swirling, pungent swamp of uncomfortable demands and try to find a tree branch to hold onto or a tiny patch of shore to crawl on and lay down for a minute, to snatch a brief day dream of how I thought it might have turned out or how I wish it would, knowing that any minute a storm will hit, the marsh men will shake me from my slumber and move me along, a gator will appear... something, something not to my liking will poke or prod me, bite or scratch me and force me to unwillingly get back in to the pit and carry on with the struggle.
A little. But not far off how it feels more often that not these days. Is it just me? Or does it feel unduly tough being a human these days?
Like I said, and I'm being honest - not what I expected.
There’s just so much going on
And, although, of course
There always was
It’s in our face
On our screens
In our ears
A constant drone
A prolonged scream
We feel overloaded
Foggy, numb and bloated
There’s only so much
One person can absorb
So much of what we are fed
Trying to grab our attention
For selfish reasons
Look away, I say
See the clouds and imagine things
See the mountains and head towards them
Climb above the every day fog
Of useless information clouding your vision
You need to!
No, not later!
It’s an addiction
This over stimulation
It delivers no joy
Its just distraction
Packed with platitudes
To sway your attitude
To swipe something from you
Your time or energy, your money
It’s corrupting, egregious
Don’t shrug or laugh it off
It corrupts you
It isn’t funny
Look away, I say
Turn off your device
Step back from the screen
Sure, life is an illusion anyway
But nature’s presentation is so much more pristine
Has substance, grounding, meaning
Get real again
Use your ingenuity
To create a depth of reality
That you can rely on
And believe in
Beyond the prism of digital domains
Which pretty quickly can become a prison
Escape to find yourself
Go outside and stay there
Unplug and unwind
Go outside of your craving mind
So much more out there
Look away, look away
Before the shiny thing
Makes you dumb and blind
Far in the distance
You may find yourself
Ready and awaiting your return
I need a reason
To get up in the morning
An interest strong
To keep me interested
To help me carry on
Days can wear you down
Once you’ve been around the block
A few hundred times
Not much can shock
You get kind of resigned
Despite best intentions
To remain spirited, keen
There’s a shift in perception
Life loses it’s sheen
Now I’m not complaining
It is what it is
I’m really just saying
You should not be surprised
When you get here
If you make it this far
There’s no prize for endurance
In fact it’s bizarre
What a let down
After the build up of youth, middle age
After years of vigilance and persistence
How you end up with in shade
Out of the limelight
Adrift from the crowd
Removed from the parade
And it’s not sudden
It creeps up on you slow
Like the reverse of seduction
Leaves you perplexed, listless, T.K.O’d
Down for the count
And tempted to remain
Prone, maybe linger
Immersed in the muffled mundane
But you shouldn’t
It’s just a different kind of challenge
That you need to accept and embrace
In many ways harder than
Demands of the earlier, preliminary races
It’s not all presented to you
Laid out on your plate
You’ve got to rustle up your hustle
Grapple with your diminishing fate
Decide to continue
Despite lowered odds
A limited menu
And an audit from the gods
Play it as you will
It’s up to you
Now you know just who you are
You need to watch the levels on the reservoir
Find enrichment in truth rather than thrill
I mean, I can only write what I write, eh?
Sometimes I manufacture an internal pressure based on expectation that I should be writing ‘better’ or creating content more poignant, meaningful, entertaining.
But all I can do is reflect on my life.
So what if it’s not world changing, spectacular, of pristine quality? None of that is me, anyway. I’m just an ordinary guy making my way through life, taking it as it comes. Definitely not plotted out or polished.
Much of my time is spent just trying to deal with the challenges - physical, emotional, mental and circumstantial - that life presents me. As I am sure you know, and probably concur, it’s a full time job.
On top of all that administrative dealing - between the gaps, when I can, when I am able to/compelled to - I cruise into Creativille and check out what’s happening. Do a little composition, splash some paint around or play with some MIDI note sequencing.
This is my escape, my salvation. Getting into creative projects is one of my main sources of soothing distraction, uplifting hullabaloo, temporarily elevating salvation.
I know that in the long run none of it will mean anything - but what are you going to do? Lay down and die? Eventually, yes. But until then? Gotta do something. Everyone finds their thing(s), eventually.
Much of a life is just a reaction to what has happened already. Our childhoods - the time when we are least equipped to understand, adequately deal with complex emotions and demanding situations - is when reality comes crashing in and often overwhelms us. With our resilient, hopeful, naive little minds we do our best to makes sense of things and deal with what comes.
From when we hit our teens we begin to form our identities more succinctly and formulate through trial and error, instinct and deep consideration, contemplation strategies to carry us forward into the expansive unknown called our futures.
The thing is that much of what has happened, occurred during our early years is so random and essentially indecipherable that our young selves are not really capable of fully or properly resolving things. Of course, we do our best, but it’s a rare person who does not transition our of youth with a bevy of skewed perceptions, phobias and emotion packed time bombs that will have to be unpicked and disarmed over the next few decades.
On top of all this, there will be the ongoing, surging flow of incidents and accidents across the spectrum from delectable to horrific that will require thought, attention and action.
Essentially, we are not properly equipped. It’s a loaded game.
Sure, there are times of relief, chill, uplifting. Life can treat us royally for a time, as well.
Undoubtably, there is some magic, mystery, romance. Hopefully, the balance tips in favour of the positive. But some days, some weeks, some years - it’s difficult to believe this.
This is all just my perception, but it comes not just from self experience but from observation as well. I try to be accurate in my assessment and intuitive in my understanding of the life experience.
There’s nothing new in what I am talking about but I am not trying to write anything new. I am quite simply attempting to honestly transcribe my sequence of thoughts.
We think of writing, written works as being elevated, illuminating, polished. We read things that are written by people we believe know a little more than we do, can tell us things that will help us on our journeys.
But my writing - it’s not like that. I’m no professor, no expert, no preacher.
I have way more questions than answers. I’m more an off-the-cuff speculator/spectator than a sanctimonious expert. I’m a muddy, ruffled, fellow soldier down the trenches rather than an order-wielding officer acting like I have the answers. It is a war out there (in here) and in a way it’s every man and woman for themselves. (But, thankfully, most of the time - when we most need it, someone else is sometimes there for us.)
Sometimes it feels over the top. Cruel, even. Writing stuff like this helps me come to terms with things - even though I present no resolution, offer no tips or suggestions. If I could, I would. But like I have been saying; I’m no expert.
Like you (maybe), I just make things up as I go along.
Life goes in waves and for me, at the moment, due to a concerted effort in pursuing positive activities and showing behavioural restraint as well as a run of fortune that seems to be close to 50/50 (I’ll take it!), I am feeling mostly able to deal with where things are at. Some days, naturally, feel decidedly more challenging than others but if I consider things - like say this last week for example - I have had more good days than bad.
Is this constant barrage of burdens, small, medium and large, part of some bigger plan? It seems not. Then - why?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
But if I stumble upon anything prophetic, enlightened, if I suddenly become a saviour, a guru or even a more eloquent, informed and incisive writer all of a sudden; I’ll let you know. Until that time, I guess we are both just going to have to make do with this kind of casual confessional/conjecture, this candid, unsophisticated deliberation.
Make the best of what is.
Communicating is one of my things.
Just not so much by talking.
Rather than use dialogue or conversation, I share my points of view in other ways - randomly alternating an arsenal of creative proficiencies - art, music and writing.
It’s an every day, many hour activity these days. Actually, it always has been - but as time has gone by, I have definitely become more focused and dedicated. Part of the reason is that I get a deep satisfaction from losing myself in what I’m doing. It’s a way of really getting into life. Like an athlete does, lovers do, and scientists. Dedication and application get results. And one of the delightful benefits of the creative life is that one continues to improve and advance with age (not ‘forward’ advance - it’s more multi-dimensional). There are no limits. Lovers break up, athletes lose speed and power but an artist just keeps going and going. Often we start slow, seem lazy or unmotivated at times, appear temperamental, are irregular in our output in both quality and quantity - but we keep on keeping on. The rewards are rarely material or financial - which can make enthusiasm hard to muster at times - but they are, especially when one has persevered for decades - soulfully rewarding.
I have been write things here, in this artist’s journal, steadily for the last five years. It used to be more often - and sometimes I feel like I am being neglectful of it. But the thing is; other pursuits - poems, collages and new electronic music tracks are taking up my time and energy every day. So, to set aside some time to delve into my headspace and express it in writing - not through a poem (which I love doing) and is like a tasty snack - but in stream of consciousness straight forward prose (going with the flow form) is rarer. I never really know exactly where these journal entries are going to lead - exactly what is going to come out - and to be honest I find it easier to work on one of the other creative forms - they are more inventive and engaging.
The other thing is, I don’t have to do as much introspection. I don’t have to self reflect, open up, be raw as I whisper and wispish as I roar as with the other formats. Writing for this journal is more like going for a long run. It takes commitment. Especially right before starting. The payoff is usually there - it can be cathartic, revelatory, amusing or insightful - but not always. I don’t allow myself to edit of judge what I have written - either as I am doing it - or afterwards. I just let it all out. Keeps it real, keeps the flow. When I read back on these, down the track, I want to know what I have expressed is not only honest but un-sculptured. I just want pure transcription of mind space.
So, I am here now; doing one. And what I was thinking was - what is it exactly that I wish to communicate? Is there anything that is going to make a difference? To me or anybody else? Is making a difference even my goal? Life is such a turgid, ever shifting, momentum that no one thing, nothing is really of much lasting relevance in the long run.
So why bother, eh? Especially with something like this that is non-essential - that is just the blurting out of one little human, one artist fellow who lives in a rented room in a small town and essentially does the same thing day in-day out: sleeps in/goes to beach/goes to cafe/writes/makes new artworks/goes to studio to work on new tracks/comes home/makes giant salad/surfs the net/does more writing/watches stuff/goes to sleep late/then starts again.
Creature of habit.
Essentially, I am just existing in a most basic way. I have tried to work things out so that I don’t receive many (or any) phone calls, very few emails and get no visitors where I live. I have streamlined my simple existence so that I perform the basic functions necessary for survival - to make it through the day - and then the rest of the time I fill with either nature time (meditation and exercise), coffee time (stories or poems on my iPad), art time (on canvas or digital) or music time (Ableton explorations at SAE , where I am studying - in one of the studios).
Stuff like socialising, going to an office/job, participating in group activities - are no long part of my routine. I have gone from minimising these things to eliminating them altogether. Not sure if this is ideal - now that I am saying it - but it must be what I need for the moment - otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. (Flawed logic - I know. Self delusion has got me into all sorts of strife in the past.)
Part of the reason I am conducting my time in this way is because I find some common things quite taxing. Although I can function perfectly well in any and all social situations, as time has progressed, I find them less and less rewarding. Of course, there are exceptions - like family. I always have time for my loved ones. (But I do live away from them - so the expectations are naturally limited.)
I have heard the monikers ‘hermit’ and ‘recluse’ used in reference to me recently. When I get home to the share house, I usually just go in my room and stay there - concentrate of working on my stuff. I’m not a fan of lounge rooms in general - most definitely not if there is a TV on. I hate feeling like I am wasting time - unless it is intentional - and sitting around shooting the shit is not something I chose to participate in. (Luckily my two housemates have their own blend of quirky habits and seem OK with it. Slightly puzzled, at times maybe, but accepting.
Should I be saying all this? Ha, ha. Fuck it - it’s true! The truth will set you free, it’s been said. (A relief - let’s hope it’s right.) But no, I don’t have any fear around saying it like it is in this forum. It’s all just temporary. Interpretation. Could even be fiction.
Labels are only labels, concepts and opinions ephemeral. Obviously, my life is much more intricate and abstruse than this brief account may reveal. I CAN act ‘normal’ (conforming, placating other’s expectations) - but I CHOOSE not to have to. It does not serve me or my mission - which is feeding my spirit and mind, fully creating new stuff all the time.
Did some one say ‘obsessive’? LOL. Again - just a word. And nothing wrong with healthy obsessions. You have to do something, right? No one is getting hurt. Confounded, maybe.
Although, it is totally beyond my control as to how this is interpreted - I do hope that for some readers, it opens up and sanctions new behavioural possibilities. Shows that it’s OK (I say!) to follow your own intuition, forge your own path - even if it puts you in the ‘outsider’ or dare I say - ‘weirdo’ - category. Truth is nobody else is keeping score. Everybody is fully consumed by obstacles and developments of their own - whatever that may be. Every one is doing what they must to navigate through this crazy (and occasionally partly sane) realm we inhabit.
Saying that, what is the crossover on a perception level? Say between me and you? There is much we have in common - interpretation of things - of everything - must be so different. We are all the sum of our inputs/experiences/upbringings and much of what we are is essentially just a reaction to what has been forced upon us up to this point - mixed in with a whole lot of other things, of course. It’s all so random!
Just thinking about it now is kind of blowing my mind. Not an atomic bomb level - but, you know, a hand grenade, at least. How can I even be writing this - and you reading it - and what the hell am I talking about? What am I trying to say? And why? Makes me believe that, despite what we may believe that we are all much more connected and entangled than we may think.
We all know life is freaky. Every day brings new examples. We want to keep on living - even though if you really assess it - it’s kind of hard work, mostly. Thankless even. It seems more that way, as continue to get older, anyway.
Every age has it’s own stages, it’s own challenges and rewards. When you get past fifty, there’s an undeniable shift in your relationship to life itself. It’s not only me - others have confirmed - youth and all it’s trappings are over. Many of the things you relied on to keep you interested and engaged are no longer in your spectrum. If they are they are fading. New attitudes, new behaviours become essential. I say all this like it’s some sort of revelation, surprise. And that’s because it kind of was - for me at least. It’s like the fun part of the game is over and while the game itself continues on and you remain as a player - there are parts that are no-go zones. And some of those parts may likely have been your favourite bits. The bits that you were not only good at but enjoyed.
It takes adjusting, let me tell you. (If you are around my age, you’ll relate.) At a certain point you have to do a total reassessment and work out a new approach - physically, mentally and spiritually. Mortality is a bigger consideration. Bigger picture things need to be considered. Health becomes vital - requires more vigilant attention, maintenance. Ignore it at your peril. (Some do.)
Fantasies - of great success, of perfect love, of enduring romance, of fool proof security, certainty, of changing the world - lose their muster. They are harder to sustain. As you grow and become more substantial, realistic, perhaps even of more social value - you realise more clearly how puny you and your aspirations really are in the scheme of things.
This revelation is two pronged. It can be rather depressing, distressing. But in another way, it is strangely comforting. The pressure is off. Self expectation can be corralled. After all, what is the point? Of anything?
It’s insane. But it’s also sobering.
What a journey it has been, I find myself thinking. So much! But where has it all gone? You can’t hold on to anything. Memories - they are fine and enjoyable (with a degree of payoff) but they can also be quite maddening because some of them include lifetime peaks - things that can never be recreated or relived. They can be reminders that you’ve had your go at being young and wild and reckless - and it’s over! There are still things you can do, of course, with effort, that will be rewarding - but the pay-off is reduced to 71% (estimate). They are not as prevalent or as flowing freely anymore and - I don’t know - it’s just not quite the same.
It may sound like I am complaining - but I am not. I have more or less come to terms with it all. Life has beaten into submission! (LOL. Cry. Wipe tears and shrug.) A long and slow, relentless assault. White flag!
The other prong that I mentioned - the positive one - comes once you have found acceptance. Some hoity-toity, altruistic qualities start floating around. Stuff like dignity, wisdom, endurance. You don’t immediately get any of these but, in tiny increments, they find their places in your existence. Some consolation! (It is.)
Just being a survivor is something. Connecting on deeper planes with others of your age (and all ages, in fact) brings some comfort. You are able to make conversations and connections more substantial, meaningful. Empathy is up.
A resolution not to give in too early or without profound resistance wells up in you. Sure, there’s plenty that you can’t change - but with focus and effort you can sustain what remains. You can work with what you’ve got - and by now you know well what that is - to hone it, perfect it, squeeze out whatever juice is in it.
Maybe you will become a teacher, an advisor, a mentor. You can give to your protégés the information, knowledge and encouragement that you wish you had received along the way on your own journey. You can make your life less about you and more about others. (This is a good one - natural for parents, of course - but available and rewarding to all.)
So - there you go. There I am. Here I was. A verbal ablution. An unfiltered declaration, a semi-spiritual sound off.
See what I mean? I just start writing and let it all pour out. There’s nothing particularly profound or even insightful here but it is where my head is at currently. I share because I can, because I choose to. I do it because I know myself that reading another’s truth can be illuminating, comforting. I have committed to sharing mine, as best I can - not as often as I wish, lately, as I mentioned - because above and beyond anything else we all need and want to feel connected.
The fact that I am able to share my vulnerabilities, ambivalent perceptions and my unresolved feelings without censorship is subtly uplifting. By necessity, out in society, we feel compelled to present our strongest selves but underneath, inside, we are all susceptible to a ceaseless flood of challenges and demands. If nothing else, we are versatile creatures, for sure. Each uniquely individual - but probably more alike than we realise.
So, it’s unlikely you will find yourself seated beside me at a dinner or engaged in a D&M phone convo like we may have done in the old days, so this is what you get instead - a slice of headspace to mull over and interpret in a way that best serves you. Whoever you are.
Whoever I am
I would like to give some good advice
I really would
To assist you in your journey
Make it a little easier
Try to do some good
I’m no expert
Not by any stretch
I’ve meandered through
In an ad lib way
Taking things as they come
And I have not come up
With any useful tips or leads
That may be of assistance
Sorry bout that!
I never claimed to be a guru
I am getting old but none the wiser
Still just as baffled as I ever was
An off-the-cuff, shape-shifting soul-survivor
(Four hyphens - that’s auspicious!)
Full of questions with very few answers
A veteran novice, I guess you could say
Making constant minute adjustments
In a swirling state of delight, curiosity and dismay
Just a guy waiting at the bus stop
Watching the traffic go by
I have said a lot of nothing much
I have travelled a long way to not arrive anywhere
I’ve always wrestled
With the contradictions of existence
Tried to see beyond the systems
Lots of theories, observations
But very few answers
I take my chances
Doll the rice
And carry on
Doll the rice
Doll the rice
Doll the rice
I never claimed to be a guru
That doesn’t mean I am not cheering for you
Cause I am
Bit of yoo-hoo from the notaguru
Intro to introspection
The ad said
Would I like that
I asked myself
There was a picture of a fish
I was perplexed
Tempted to go along
Just to find out why
That had chosen such an image
To represent their course
It was an American Shad
I googled it
The next day on my way home
From ping pong
I decided to make mash potatoes
Then I went to the outdoor bar
Of a small motel
In an unusual neighbourhood
And had a martini
My pocket camera was low on battery
So I didn’t get a shot
Of the old man
Who fell off his stool
And somersaulted into the kiddie’s pool
But I did chat with him after
And he said it was refreshing
To meet someone
Without an iPhone
When he spotted my old Nokia flip
That I continued to use
For not pictures, no video
Just an ancient ring
Like from a mythology
I would often choose not to answer
Because I couldn’t be bothered
So why even have it?
I did the course
And it was a waste of time
Apparently, I would never be a master
Unless I consider myself
I forgot to ask about the fish
ART GETS ME HIGH
Author & Artist