Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thoughts on caffeine, doing without, and other things.

   At the time that I began writing this blog, I had decided to try to kick caffeine, and had gone roughly thirty six hours without drinking coffee (and it was rough). About halfway through that second day, I drank a long espresso, and that ended that experiment. Although short lived, it was the first time that I can remember going without caffeine as an adult,
   Before making the conscious decision to drink that cup, I had been back-and forth over whether or not to do so, considering both the potential benefits and drawbacks. Unusually for me, this difficulty in deciding didn't feel particularly stressful or anxiety producing. I'm glad I realize this aspect.
   Towards the end of my ruminations, I suddenly remembered how many emotions had surfaced when I stopped smoking cigarettes all of those years ago, and how difficult that aspect of it in particular had been to deal with (aside from the nicotine addiction). Eventually, I got a bit more used to having such a wide breadth of feelings. Still, it's only a bit.
   I have come to realize over the years that there's a lot to be considered when it comes to changing my habits. Of course, the idea of having more control of my body and desires feels empowering, but it doesn't avoid this particular problem; are the potential outcomes worth the freedoms sacrificed in the process?
   I'd like to imagine that there is a way to not feel the need to look at things in this way, but at this point in time, I cannot fathom it significantly differently. I don't know if it's cynicism, a cultural "ism", or just the way the world is, but it seems to me that something has to be lost for something else to be gained.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Writing about anything

   Thinking about what to write in this blog, I often have trouble coming up with ideas.
   As a matter of practice, I try not to think too hard when trying to figure out what I want to say, as I believe that, for the most part, the creative ideas I have are thought of in a pretty simple way. This is not to say that the execution of these things should be, or is simple, only that the things that I find most satisfying flow from me easily, when I my mind is quiet, and I am not concerned with how they might end up or appear to others.
   The other day, as I tried to think of something to write, I decided quite intentionally to give up, suddenly remembering that writing about anything was what was really important to me. I realized that this is, in essence, what I do anyway, and that a topic may just be my way of giving myself permission to do so.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Seeing art where it is made

   I have been thinking a lot about my attitudes to art recently, especially modern art, and am currently in the process of noting them in my visually attempting blog (though it may remain forever in draft mode). The things that I have been writing about there, focused mostly on what I don't like about much of the art that I see, have given rise to thoughts about what I do like, and what moves me in it.
   Pondering the time that I studied fine arts in school and in the years following, I discovered something of vital importance to me; in almost all cases, it was a qualitatively better experience for me when I viewed art where it was made.
   Recalling the times that I spent visiting artists in their studios, I realized that the difference between seeing art in this way, as opposed to an institutional setting like an art gallery, was the human component. In the artist's workspace, I sensed a connection to a person. It is people, living things in general, that move.
   In those years, most studios I saw were of friends who had asked me for my input. But I also visited people that were only acquaintances, and even with relative strangers, I usually felt this connection.              
   Really, I believe it is a relation, and I realized that this correlation could also be felt, though not as strongly, if the artist was not there at the time. There was a presence of life which animated the work for me. This was true even when I didn't particularly care for what I was looking at.
   I haven't given too much time or thought to figuring out how to fully address this absence in the work that I sometimes attempt to produce myself, nor how to find better ways to see others work so I can more fully appreciate it. This disturbs me, because I can at times be very moved by art, even when seen in an environment that I don't find conducive for its' successful reception.
   I can't think of a time where I have not felt it a bit difficult to breathe after being in a museum or art gellery for more than fifteen minutes, usually chalking this sensation up to claustrophobia. More to the point, it seems that museums and art galleries feel just too lifeless to me.
   I don't think it's death that I fear, rather the absence of the living.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The right connection

   As I walked in the park yesterday, I had an old, familiar but unwanted feeling. A sense of what could almost be described as dread, certainly negativity, pervaded my outlook. As is usual in these situations, I could not seem to muster any concrete ideas on how to change my view.
   Nearing the corner of the southeast side of Stow Lake, I saw a man that I once had an argument with, a man that I find disrespectful and bullying. I imagined that something bad was going to happen, and supposed that seeing him in some way justified my negative view of the world at that moment.
   I felt him look at me as we passed, and he let out a loud spit as I heard him turn around to call his dog. I sensed that it was directed at me, but kept on walking as if oblivious to his presence. I was glad that I did.
   I continued on, satisfied that I hadn't engaged outside of my own feelings, and a minute or so later approached a pleasant woman that I see almost daily, and with whom I've had some nice conversations about wonderful things that we had each recently experienced in the park.
   "Beautiful day" she said as we passed, and my mood instantly changed.
   I suddenly sensed a connection to the world, as if I hadn't had one for some time, even though I may have felt one recently. I just tend to forget the good things more easily than the negative ones.
    I realized at that moment in a visceral way that it is absolutely vital for me to try to focus on the positive relationships that I have, no matter their depth or complexity, and to reaffirm them often. It seems that I have difficulty recalling them with sufficient force to keep myself filled with the feelings that I get from them. Without them, I am often left feeling alone and fearful.
   

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Self-editing

   I've had some things happen in my life recently, particularly in the last week, which have helped me to visualize the complex ways that I censor myself from doing what I feel.
   I was going to add the word heart to the previous sentence ("feel in my heart"), but realized that saying so might have been another way to split myself away from my feelings; it would posit that there was some kind of difference between my feelings, as if some were more essential or real than others.
   I'm glad that I caught myself.
   The experience which really allowed me to see a clear example of this occured through a relationship I have with a person that I would casually say hello to when I see them. This individual began doing something that I found bothersome and inconsiderate, although it didn't affect me directly. I became increasingly annoyed by the behavior, and decided to stop acknowledging them when we would pass.
   For the first few days, I could feel their gaze on me as my eyes would avoid them. I felt like I had a right to do what I wanted to in instances like this; after all, all that I really have in life that really belongs to me is my opinions and choices.
   Well, after a few days, while I was writing, I came to realize that I may be hurting this person for something that was not really terrible; they were just doing something that I didn't like or approve of. It became clear at that moment that this individual probably had a good heart. I didn't want to cause pain to that heart, nor others' if I could help it.
   The thought occured to me that perhaps I should talk with them about why I had stopped greeting them, explain my feelings, but I held back. I thought that the situation was not really that big of a deal, or that talking with them at all was perhaps too forward. It just seemed too something.
   It registered clearly to me as I thought on it that I often do this; I feel that I should do something, then stop from doing so the more I think about it. My rational interrupts what seems to be my true feelings.
   So I set out to try to repair the damage, ready to talk to, or simply say hello to them again when I saw them, but they ignored my gaze as we passed. I didn't want to force anything their way, realizing that they had probably been hurt by my sudden lack of friendliness. I'm pretty certain that they had no idea why I had stopped greeting them, but were now protecting themselves from me, and perhaps more pain.
   I understand now that I had done something similar; I had shielded myself from my own uncomfortable feelings about the world by protecting myself from it.
   I decided that I would continue to be open to repairing our very superficial relationship, and never stopped being open to acknowledge them, should they decide to look my way again.
   They did.
   "Nice hat" I heard as we passed on what was perhaps the third or fourth day after my intial avoidance of them, to which I replied, "thanks".
   I'm assuming that this person didn't really care very much about my hat, but figured that they too had probably decided to mend things. The hat seemed like it could be an opening for that. They were right.
   I believe now that it was my desire and ability to remain available in this circumstance that had allowed them to fill that opening with a gesture of warmth.
   It strikes me that although my relationship with this person was, and still is not significant in my life (I really know nothing about them), the experience was.
   I had made a true, meaningful connection with another person.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My unquiet mind

   As I watched the voter returns from the recent presidential elections, I was quite shocked by what I was witnessing.
   Like many people it seems, I was quite surprised as I watched the returns reported. Disappointed, for sure, but I didn't think about it much more than that as I got into bed for the night.
   Surprisingly to me, I had trouble falling asleep immediately, which was unusual, but imagined it a short alteration in my normal pattern. Perhaps it was inevitable after seeing the news I had just retreated from.
   As I tried to calm myself, I became aware that thoughts had changed; what had started as rapid, seemingly random thoughts about nothing in particular, had changed to particular ones about people who seemed to do whatever they wanted in the world, without apparent care for others.
   Unanswered questions formed in my brain, oscillating between the new President-elect of the United States, to a man who I see on occasion walking his dog in Golden Gate Park, then back and forth again and again. The man seems from the park seems to enjoy watching his dog attempt to catch squirrels, and did not care for my protestations when I confronted him about it. What seemed to unite these two individuals for me was that both men appeared comfortable in saying and acting as they wished, apparently at ease with themselves for being that way.
   I kept trying to fathom how a person could think like those individuals (Donald Trump, too, seems to say and do whatever he pleases), but came to no comfortable, calming conclusion. I couldn't imagine how one could act so inconsiderately and justify that behavior to themselves. That was what was so remarkable and hard for me to really understand.
   Personally, when I am angry or frustrated I can act in ways that I wished I had not. Still, I always feel really badly about it afterwards. Usually excessively so.
   Perhaps I couldn't quiet my mind because what I regard as selfish, inconsiderate people really do bother and disturb me. Or, maybe it was because I was so uncomfortable with wishing I could act below my own higher values without bitter self-judgment.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The clocks took the stars

   When I first moved to San Francisco, I was enamored by the beach. Getting there from where I lived in New York City was really a pain (and a commitment of the good part of a day), and I relished that here, in my new home, I could take a thirty minute ride on public transportation there. Later, I got a car, and it became even easier.
   In those first couple of years, I would walk the shoreline, enjoying watching groups of snowy plovers dart in and out of the receding waters. Often, I would sit at the top of the dunes, off to myself, and think.
   Later on, I started to drive on occasion to the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, to walk or look at California quail. Then, I discovered some of the beautiful spots in Golden Gate Park, closer to my apartment.
   It was here that I realized I could walk the same stretch of path around Stow Lake, taking in all of the life there, and have now done so for perhaps three years now. I am there now almost daily, and have rarely felt bored or tired of it. The animal life fluctuates to some extent by season, but it is mostly the weather and varying light that creates the nuances that keep me interested in a physical environment that doesn't seem to change that much.
   As the days have been getting steadily shorter during this late fall, the sunrise further and further away when I arrive, I have been able to experience early mornings that have on occasion been quite clear. I have been moved by the deepness of the sky, the clarity of the stars, and the sometimes beautiful glow of the moonlight.
   Many times, I just like to be part of an environment that is so dark and still.
   I have looked up to the sky, seeing signs of living that at the moment are every bit as vivid as the ones nearby me, including my body, Even though I  believe that those things are in some ways imperceptily far away, I still feel as related to that as I do to this. There is something about the sometimes near darkness, at other times deep blue illumination, that reminds me how little of the world I really know.
   I never really purported to know much of the world, anyway.
   Today marked the end of daylight savings time, and already I feel melancholic for that near-absence of light. Getting to the lake one hour earlier is not so feasible, and even if I did, I risk getting a ticket for parking there before 6:00 a.m.
   When I was there this morning, a guy who I see regularly made a comment about how light it was there today, and seemed pleased by the fact. Although it has been at times somewhat frightening in that early hour, with so few (sometimes, no other) people around, I have come to love it.
   In some ways, I feel like I had discovered something that didn't exist before for me.