Saturday, May 20, 2017

Company and security

   This morning I had some time before an appointment, so I decided to take a short walk to the ATM to get some cash. Although it was about eight thirty, the Pacific Heights neighborhood I was in was still bustling with morning rush hour activity. As I passed three young adults waiting for a bus (or some other transportation), I noticed that they were all standing, on this beautiful spring morning, heads down and seemingly transfixed by their phone screens.
   It almost never fails to make me wonder what people could possibly be looking at so often and long on their devices. Sometimes, seeing them do so makes me long for the interactive street life I grew up with.
   Let me add here that I'm  not trying to idealize these reminsences, as there were many times that these experiences felt both hostile and frightening; still, people did tend to look at each other, instead of elsewhere.
   After my stop at the bank, I walked up the hill on Fillmore Street, continuing to see people with their phones out, but noticed that many of them were simply carrying them; I immediately thought of baby blankets, and the comfort they provided.
   I want to be clear that I am not meaning to infer anything condescending, or to imply that these people were like babies emotionally, but it made me a little sad. It reminded me of how difficult and scary being in the world can be, and for how many years I tried to numb and avoid these feelings through various methods.
   I felt good this morning, aware of myself and my body, which helped me to see others with compassion rather than judgment.
   I wondered a bit more about these people, their phones, and myself, and my thoughts turned to the notion of companionship. It occured to me that these screens, and the information they contained, could perhaps help one to access past positive experiences to assist in the negotiation of the potentially terrifying streets of the present.
   I realized at that moment that these people's aims were probably not very different from mine, though I personally find it more necessary and satisfying to look for that similar sense of connection within myself and my actual surroundings, in that order. I felt proud at that moment to be as bare to the world as I was.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adam Cooperstein

   Adam Cooperstein.
   Like my own body, my name is something that I was born with, and have needed to more or less accept. Until recently, I really haven't thought that deeply aboout it, but just seem to have become accustomed to it. When I use the word accustomed here, I mean it more in the sense of indoctrinated.
   For many years I felt quite ashamed of my name, especially the surname, as I wished that it sounded somehow less ethnic.
   When I was growing up, I wished I had a last name like Jones or Smith, and while I no longer feel so uncomfortable at the sound of it, trying to getting a better sense of my association with it, and how I represent it (or vice versa) has taken regular and deep looking at it on my part.
   By employing different methods to loosen my own conditioning to the words Adam Cooperstein has been helpful, and I've found that photographing it, as written by myself and by others, has been particularly useful. Taking pictures seems to give me a kind of objective distance that is sometimes difficult to achieve otherwise.
   Yesterday morning, as I thought about these things, I wondered about my father, and if he too had ever thought about these things. Was he ever embarrassed about it, or wonder if it accurately stood for what he felt himself to be?
   It is a kind of cultural given that parents are proud (I assume to varying degrees) of their offspring, but I wonder to what extent they think about the surname aspect of this connection. For example, is it ordinary for a man to look past the pride of passing on his own name, and think about the fact that this new person will now be tied to it?
   Although growing up without a name would surely make some forms of identification quite difficult for a young person, I wonder if it could help one to figure out who they are for themselves, without having to adapt to something that they've been branded with.
   While I'm aware, probably for the first time in a very concrete way, that I am free to change my name, as well as my body, it just seems like I would be supplanting one older definition for a newer one. Still, I would in a sense  represent or be represented by that word or words.
   Although difficult and frightening, might it not be wonderful to be that much less defined in the world?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Penny on the ledge

   It had been unseasonably warm here in San Francisco, and I had stuck my head out of one of our living room windows, as I sometimes do, to feel the temperature and see what was going on outside my one bedroom apartment.
     

   Looking straight, and then down, I noticed that there was a penny perched on our window ledge, which is shown above (the penny was no longer there when I took the picture). Somehow lodged on that thin ledge, I wondered how it could have gotten there, and if it had been thrown, how it had managed to stay. It seemed to me that it could only have been placed there gently, which could only have been done from our window, which neither my wife nor I had done.
   It was quite a wonderful feeling that I experienced at that moment, and it supplanted the self-critical thoughts that I had had from an earlier naptime dream. This fantastic experience gave me pause to clear that fear and replace it with something of mystery.

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.