A Timely Reminder

One of the reasons I haven’t been very communicative lately (other than frequent migraines) is that for several months now I’ve been feeling stuck in a slump with nothing much interesting happening in my life and in my head. Whether this is actually true or not doesn’t seem to make much of a difference when it comes to feelings. Every day I receive the DailyOm inspiring spiritual lesson of the day and most of the time I just stick it in a folder to read at some other time, since inspiration and spirituality are not high on the agenda these days. But this one caught my eye and really made me feel a whole lot better. Here is an excerpt for your reading pleasure:

No Going Back
Every Step is Forward

Periods of intense forward movement often give way to periods of what seems like stagnation.

There are times when we feel that we are spinning our wheels in the mud in terms of our spiritual progress. This can be especially true following a period of major growth in which we feel as if we’ve gained a lot of ground. In fact, this is the way growth goes—periods of intense forward movement give way to periods of what seems like stagnation. In those moments when we feel discouraged, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t ever really go backward. It may be that we are at a standstill because there is a new obstacle in our paths, or a new layer to get through, but the hard work we have done cannot be undone.

Every step on the path is meaningful, and even one that seems to take us backward is a forward step in the sense that it is what we must do to move to the next level. In addition, an intense growth spurt requires that we rest for a time in order to fully integrate the new energies that have been liberated by our hard work. When we feel we are not making progress, we can encourage ourselves to take a moment to rest. We can meditate more, feed ourselves well, and get extra sleep. Before we know it, we will be spurred on to work toward the next level of our development, and this rest will make sense then as something we needed in order to continue.

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On The Road

I’ve had a pretty harrowing week so far. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on what could have triggered the numerous meltdowns I had in the past few days I realize I’ve been reacting based on old scripts which of course have nothing to do with the here and now but have gotten so deeply entrenched over the years that “losing it” has become a knee-jerk reaction.

I read—more like devoured—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in the past couple of days. It’s a Pulitzer prize-winning (and Oprah Book Club!) novel about a father and his son trudging through a post-apocalyptic American landscape, trying to survive on what morsels of food they can find and avoid being killed and eaten by the few remaining humans they come across. A harrowing story to be sure, and if it had been written by anyone else than McCarthy, I doubt I would have made it past the first few pages, but it’s the kind of book you can’t put down once you’ve started it and from the first, I was drawn in by the poignant relationship between father and son who have nothing left but each other and the great love and tenderness they share to keep going day after day.

As I was reading it, I was able to enjoy the writing and keep my emotions detached from the gruesome world McCarthy describes. But then when I finished it in the middle of the night, I exploded into bitter tears with the realization that for much of my life, I’ve been walking around feeling pretty much like these fictional characters did, more in tune with my own inner apocalypse than the actual living world around me.

Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I read a book review in Vogue magazine about a successful book editor’s memoirs relating his descent into his own private hell of crack addiction. Now in his early 40’s, he’s managed to get sober and stay that way for the past five years and according to the interview, this book was the catharsis the author needed, helping him to honour the life he led even through the worst of times while also attaining some kind of closure. I was uplifted by this story and after that I fell into a long sleep and had the very rare experience of dreaming simple, almost pleasant dreams.

No big surprise then that this morning I had a story forming in my mind. It was writing itself out as I was going through my morning rituals of walking the dog, feeding the kidz, getting myself ready for my painting class starting today. So I pulled out one of the beautiful notebooks I collect for those moments of profound insight and inspiration, and I started telling the tale I’ve only told a handful of people about, one that should be long gone and buried by now but which has left me with unhealed scars. It’s time I make peace with the past, release the old hurtful memories, turn them into creative fodder and move back into the present.

Longing for Weightlesness

I met someone in the form of a handsome man the other day who somehow woke me from the slumber I’ve been in and has made me long for things I thought I’d given up on for good. I should rejoice and celebrate the mere fact that I’ve gotten in touch with that softer side of myself again and maybe even allow myself to feel hopeful that wonderful things are on their way.

But instead, I feel miserable. Although I do my best not to, I can’t help but long for the phone to ring. Not to mention the angst, migraines, more angst and for once when sleep would really come in handy, too anxious to let myself shut down and rest for a while. Most people in my position might be floating on a little cloud, but in my case, I feel like the walls are closing in on me while I’m weighed down by a lead suit that makes me unable to move or think, never mind do something to make myself feel better. This is definitely no way to live.

So I had to ask myself: if I had to choose between the possibility of finding “true love” and achieving that state of complete calm and wellbeing—a feeling I experienced maybe twice in my life for just a few fleeting seconds (and ended as soon as I realized how good it felt)—which would I opt for? I didn’t have to think about this one too long: give me peace of mind. Once I have that, everything becomes a possibility as opposed to a punishing experience.

A Timely Reminder

Monthlies kicked in yesterday, and though I seemed to be doing better for a day or two, I’ve been thrown under the waves again, feeling very sick and in pain from head to toe. At least I know for sure this is only temporary. I thought my daily dose of wisdom from DailyOm was right on cue and well worth sharing:

Below the Surface
Finding Deep Strength

We have all have times in our lives when we think we don’t have the strength to carry on. You do, and you can.

We have all faced moments in our lives when the pressure mounts beyond what we feel we can handle, and we find ourselves thinking that we do not have the strength to carry on. Sometimes we have just gotten through a major obstacle or illness only to find another one waiting for us the moment we finally catch our breath. Sometimes we endure one loss after another, wondering when we will get a break from life’s travails. It does not seem fair or right that life should demand more of us when we feel we have given all we can, but sometimes this is the way life works.

When we look back on our lives, we see that we have survived many trials and surmounted many obstacles, often to our own amazement. In each of those instances, we had to break through our ideas about how much we can handle and go deeper into our hidden reserves. The thought that we do not have the strength to handle what is before us can be likened to the hard surface of a frozen lake. It appears to be an impenetrable fact, but when we break through it, we find that a deep well of energy and inspiration was trapped beneath that icy barrier the whole time. Sometimes we break through by cutting a hole into our resistance with our willpower, and sometimes we melt the ice with compassion for our predicament and ourselves. Either way, each time we break through, we reach a new understanding of the strength we store within ourselves.

When we find ourselves up against that frozen barrier of thinking we cannot handle our situation, we may find that the kindest choice is to love ourselves and our resistance too. We can simply accept that we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stretched, and we can offer ourselves loving kindness and compassion. If we can extend to ourselves the unconditional warmth of a mother’s love, before we know it, the ice will begin to break.

Necessary Changes (Part 1)

I watched Obama’s presidential address this evening about the oil spill in the gulf: “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes” and “We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.” will likely be quoted in every article written about this address until the end of time.

There was a blurb in my New York Times email summary yesterday which announced:

Environmentalists Use Oil Spill as a Rallying Cry. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been declared the worst environmental catastrophe ever in the United States. And that could help American environmentalists in the long run.

My first thought before I read the article was a cynical one; “Well yeah, that’s great for the environmentalists, but the establishment needs to take this seriously too”. Though I did expect him to say words to that effect, I was still relieved to hear the President say that he will ensure measures be taken to turn around America’s dependence on fossil fuels and that new avenues be developed for more viable sources and efficient use of energy. Of course, I’m not expecting things to change overnight, and it’s a sure bet the lobbyists will do everything in their power to keep the status quo in place, but even they won’t ever again be able to deny that this disaster could have been avoided if offshore drilling hadn’t taken place to begin with. A 6-month moratorium on drilling seems like a good way for Obama to show he means business. To the naysayers who affirm the U.S. can’t afford a transition to clean energy, Obama said, “I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy—because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.”

It’s simply part of human nature to put off making necessary big changes until a major catastrophe leaves no other options. In the business world, the assumption is that executives will work 70-100 hours per week and do whatever it takes to get the job done. The option is to keep up the pace or get replaced by more ambitious candidates. When a decision-maker cracks under stress and/or make big mistakes in the line of fire it’s usually put down to the fact that the individual is the cause of the problem but the question is almost never raised as to whether proper resources were allocated to begin with. Corporations have one modus operandi; keep pumping the planet and it’s inhabitants for all they’ve got while there’s a profit to be made and keep costs down, at any cost.

It’s about time serious measures be taken to keep the big offenders in check to ensure we preserve this planet for generations to come. It’s never been ours to destroy in the first place; after all, we’re all just temporary residents here.

Photo: President Obama delivers his speech on the BP oil spill from the Oval Office. (Source: CBS)

Clever and Spooky

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For many years now, this derelict van has been parked in front of a hangar on my street. At nighttime, I’ve often had the spooky impression someone was sitting in it and staring at me, and a quick peek always revealed it to be empty—so imagine my surprise when I peered at the passenger window one day to find the mannequin sitting there—I fairly jumped out of my skin! I decided to photograph it recently when the owner of the van showed up. He was amused by my picture-taking and when asked about the strange passenger, Mikael explained that as a wholesaler he uses the van to transport merchandise and that it’s an effective anti-theft device. He showed me his hangar filled to the brim with—among other things—as-seen of TV shammies. We had a little chat and found out we’ve been neighbours for nearly a decade and I ended up getting a free shammy out of it. Now the van is more amusing than spooky to me, proving, once again that we only fear that which we don’t understand.

Pics by Smiler

Can Creativity Save Lives?

If you’ve been reading me, then you must know I’ve been looking through various name listings lately. I’m looking at “old English names” “Author names” “Artist Names”, etc. for the precious bundle of joy due to arrive here in just 4 or 5 days. Imagine my surprise when I saw listed under “H” in artist names a certain Adolph Hitler. I do recall reading somewhere that he had considered studies in art and architecture. I had never delved too much into the personal history of the man because had never considered him as a human being before—just a scary monster who was best left along with the other underbed dwellers—so the following entry in About.com somehow chilled me to the bone:

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:
Hitler described himself as a painter in the Academic tradition. Most everyone else who’s seen his work has described Hitler’s painting style as either “Bad” or “Extremely bad.”

Date and place of birth: April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria

Life: Though he became convinced in his youth that he possessed great artistic talent, very few other people (besides his own mother) felt similarly about Adolf Hitler. He received an “excellent” mark in Art during his final year of formal schooling, but his failure to complete a Leaving Certificate in the U.S. equivalent of high school did him no favors when he first took the exam to enter the prestigious Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien (Academy of Fine Art in Vienna) in 1907. Ostensibly rejecting him for lack of academic skills, the Academy’s admissions department also commented on Hitler’s lack of understanding of human anatomy. Undaunted, Hitler again took the entrance exam in 1908, with similar results. He temporarily refocused on a future in architecture but this, too, did not come to pass due to lack of education. Regrettably, he then embarked upon a well-documented crooked path toward attempted world domination after this final artistic disappointment.

Important works: None of his own. The most important thing Hitler did for art was to spotlight the “Degenerates” – artists whose works were avant garde, or otherwise failed to meet National Socialist arts policies. Of course, he did this for the wrong reasons, wanting to ridicule and ruin talented artists’ careers. No one was more enraged than he when his plan backfired and the public flocked to Degenerate exhibitions.

Date and place of death: April 30, 1945, Berlin (Committed suicide in an underground bunker of the chancellery building.)

Art quotes by Adolph Hitler:

  • All my life I have wanted to be a great painter in oils … As soon as I have carried out my program for Germany, I shall take up painting. I feel that I have it in my soul to become one of the great artists of the age and that future historians will remember me not for what I have done for Germany, but for my art.
  • As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should go to prison. I will purge the nation of them.
  • My pictures, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau. – from Hitler’s Last Will and Testament dated April 29, 1945.

Sources and Further Reading (see original article)

As you may know (or can easily find out by reading a bit more of this blog), I am on a journey of recovery and so far the most effective form of treatment to get me out of a debilitating clinical depression (the state I’m in by default if I’m not being manic) has been to make creativity and creative output the priority in my life, and wanting to share this experience led me to start createthreesixty5.com.

So far I’ve been very impressed with the quality of work our collaborators have submitted, and I do want to encourage almost all creative effort at all level of experience, perceived talent or skill. But I have asked myself the question “what if someone starts sending in truly horrible stuff? Will I want to have my name attached to that as an aesthete, as a Creative & Art Director?” So far I haven’t had to deal with this issue. But after reading the above, and especially the excellent New Yorker article called Hitler as Artist (the chilling conclusion addresses an issue I have struggled with for the better part of my life), I’m starting to think I have a strong ethical responsibility if I am to become any kind of authority on Creativity at any point in time.

The moral of the story? Better let people express themselves, however “badly” than brimming their creative impulses and risk them lashing out and becoming mass murderers on a universal scale instead. Sheesh.

Drawing by Adolph Hitler. As much as I hate to say it, I don’t find it so bad and would publish it on the other site if someone sent me something in a similar vein. A most troubling thought, all things considered.