Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grasshopper Mind

A thousand times a day
I resolve myself
to do something.

A thousand times a day
I resolve myself
against it.

Grasshopper mind.

I wrote this poem back around 1978. Around that time I was also reading a book about the French Minister of Culture and philosopher, Andre Malraux. One of the things that he commented on was that whenever you choose a path, you leave all other paths unchosen. A simple thought that has complex implications. This thought haunted and hounded me for a long time. I had a need to find a way around it. I became obsessed with it. It was a sickness, literally. That sickness is my OCD and it is an anxiety disorder.

Every time I would start to explore one path, to see where it might lead me I would become anxiety ridden that it might be the wrong path. I would have to stop and go back and start over on another path. Part way down that new path I would become overcome by the same concerns and anxieties. Once again I would stop, turn around and go back to the beginning to start over. Sometimes it might be a change in materials and techniques. Other times it might be a change in subject matter. Sometimes I might be so indecisive that I would do nothing but make excuses for a while. I don’t think that I was really aware of it at the time. Now, I can look back and see why I didn’t make a whole lot of forward progress. This is one of the realities of my life. This is how I have lived most of my life.

In some cases fear can be a motivating force. Fear of becoming trapped in a life that I saw as filled with unhappiness motivated me to say goodbye to family and friends and move alone to the other side of the country. Fear of wondering if I would wake up one day as a stagnant old man and wondering what might have been if I had just tried motivated me to attempt various things. In other cases it can cause paralysis. Fear of trying something because I might fail. Fear of trying something new and different because I might be ridiculed or be seen as strange.

Youth had its own set of anxieties and resolutions, as did every decade of my life. Now I’m getting older and I don’t have as many years to screw around and indulge myself. The greatest anxiety now is that I might not discover whom I truly am and what I am supposed to be doing before I die. Yet, jumping from one path to another seems so counter productive to achieving this goal.

Now, I have long believed that the solution to a problem, any problem, lies within the problem itself. If I sit quietly and think about it, pray about it, reflect on it or contemplate it, the answer will make itself known. This sounds easy enough but how many things are easier said than done? What also adds to the difficulty is that the answer might be something that I don’t want to hear. Actually, it might be something that I am not ready to hear or accept. Big difference. I try to make myself fit into cultural norms that just don’t work for me. It is not that these norms are wrong but rather one size does not fit all.

I look at the work of other artists and I see unified bodies of work. I see a cohesive whole that moves forward with deliberation and purpose. Then I look at myself and I see zigzagging all over the place. So what’s a poor boy supposed to do? Well, the answer for me is to accept the fact that my path is a crooked path. In the Judeo-Christian Bible the prophet, Isaiah says that God makes straight lines with crooked writing. I can relate to that idea. In a recent post the blogger, Philip Edson does an interview with the artist Jafabrit and discusses her work, which she calls interstitial art. She defines this as “Art that blurs the divide between fine art and craft, high art and low. Art that crosses boundaries.” Jafabrit goes on to say, “I love so many types of art and the process of doing them. Over time each discipline/medium has added to my repertoire and each satisfies a creative need.”

Perhaps I have spent too much of my time being obsessed with achieving some form of financial success or recognition. Those aren’t really bad things especially when you are trying to support yourself. But trying to be someone other than who I really am isn’t a good thing either. A recent event has freed me from an anxiety that was a major stumbling block. Now, as an artist, I am free to be a happy wanderer. Free to wander along a road that goes here, there, and everywhere. Free to embrace my anxieties and eccentricities and see where they lead me. God knows fighting them and trying to deny them only left me tired and frustrated.

The above paintings are a continuation of my attempts to combine representational with abstract. They are all oil and oil pastel on prepared paper. The first is titled, “Standing Alone” and measures 20” X 16” (51 cm X 40.5 cm). The next measures 24” X24” (61 cm X 61 cm) and is titled, “Distant Echo.” The final piece measures 24” X 18” (61 cm X 46 cm) and is titled, “Red Hot Mama.”


Blogger Cara Dawn Romero said...

Oh Brother Traveler,

I read your post as though it were my own. I have such good intentions but my ability to move on them is paralyzed with too much thinking. I paint, write and do beadwork. Sometimes I tell myself I need to pick just one and try to do it well, but I know better than that. My mind races in so many different directions I will never be able to settle on one thing and one thing only.

Add to that situation the need to work 40+ hours a week in order to pay the bills and it turns into a boat load full of false starts and sudden stops.

Recently I have painfully learned that time doesn’t care if I do or if I don’t – it’s going to keep its schedule whether I keep mine or not. SO I must do…..

3:26 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Another thought provoking article Ed. I am pleased that whatever has happened to you recently has made you feel free to pursue whatever you want. I was thinking about this idea of paths and although the concept serves a useful purpose it is only one philosophical way of looking at things. I can’t remember who said something on the lines of ‘if we are on a spiritual journey that journey is only half an inch long but miles deep’. I prefer to look at things that way. We don’t move very far in our lives really.

If it’s any help, I want you to know that I have grappled with many of the issues that you have. I do no fit into the cultural or social norms of society (whatever they are) but these days I care less about it. No one is entitled to judge me except me. It is my life and I long since rejected the fear and guilt brought about by the Judeo-Christian tradition that you sometimes mention. Although I was brought up a Christian I have come to realise that if there is a God (I’m not even very certain about that these days) that he, she or it has no religion. The idea that our lives are a sin is what I call balmy army stuff. The Christian Bible and all others were, after all, written by mere mortals (reflecting the social mores of the day) and have never been endorsed by God. We are as we are and, as you say, no one size fits all. Organised religion may have helped society to become more civilised but I think the time is right to move on. If the old religions were keepers of the gateway, the time has come for us to move into the landscape. It was inevitable that we would reach this point and take personal responsibility for our morals. I can’t remember which US preacher who told his congregation that ‘you don’t have to think for yourselves as all the thinking has been done for you’ but I totally reject such an idea and think he is looking at life and religion from the wrong end of the telescope.

My only desire in life is that when I am old I can look back and say that I did all the things I wanted to. In the main I have already achieved that ambition and I feel happy about that. I no longer seek approval from anyone – certainly if they don’t seek approval from me. If anyone were to say to me ‘I don’t approve of the way you live your life’ my answer would be quite simply ‘I don’t seek your approval’.

As for the purpose of our lives – I don’t know. If I find our when I die that is fair enough but it is not that important to me at this moment. I can’t worry about the many things that we don’t know and possibly never will.

I should add that I am not advocating anarchy that comes with total personal freedom. What I am saying is that total personal freedom comes with total personal responsibility. This is where the ‘love and peace man’ of the 60’s floundered in my opinion – although that is another story.

6:51 AM  
Blogger jafabrit said...

There is a phrase, "jack of all trades and master of none". That is often used to dimiss/devalue or manipulate. Ha! and who defines what a master is and why are we supposed to fit that subjective ambiguous criteria of master. Why are we supposed to pick a path defined by others?

I am taking a path, but its MINE. When you see my work as a whole, as diverse as it is you can see a unified body, and common thread, ME!

"Free to wander along a road that goes here, there, and everywhere. Free to embrace my anxieties and eccentricities and see where they lead me."

that sounds like an exciting journey. Philip directed me here and again a thoughtful post.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi Cara, thanks for visiting. It always amazes me how many of us share similar views and experiences.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi Philip, what a great response. Thank you. I like the thought you expressed, "if we are on a spiritual journey that journey is only half an inch long but miles deep." Like you I want to live a life that is lived well and fully. One of the benefits of aging is that I care less and less about the opinions others might have of me. And how true that personal responsibility is integral to personal freedom.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi Jafabrit, thanks for your comments. I like your thinking on the jack-of-all-trades. When I worked in the educational field I met many people who were "masters" i.e., they had Ph.D's. For the most part I found them unable to think outside of their own particular field and unable to see how it fit into the whole. Basically, they couldn't see the forest for the trees.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Ed - I don't wish to sound like a stuck record but all roads lead back to education. Shouldn't the ultimate recognition be given to those that can see the forest, the trees and the sky! Hey, make it a required qualification to be President even!! This one would have to look up 'forest' in a dictionary to find out what it meant.

3:59 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Philip, you don't sound like a stuck record. What you say is true although I have a slightly different take on it. I also taught my daughters that there is a big difference between an educated person and an intelligent person. They both have the intellectual skills but only one knows how or choses to use them. I also told students that I could teach them to draw or paint but could not teach them to be an artist. They had to learn that themselves. They had to choose to use the tools I taught them. I agree that ultimate recognition should be given to those who see the whole picture. Regretfully the culture is so myopic and self serving they never see more than the end of their own noses. Also the Prez would have trouble with a dictionary, too many big words and no pictures.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

Ed - there are some very funny pictures of Bush on the Internet. My favourite is where he is looking through a huge pair of binoculars surrounded by military personnel. He seems very interested in what he is looking at even though the lens caps are still on. There is another where he is reading from a book to a group of young school children. If you look closely at the picture you can see the book is upside down. Says it all really.

10:17 AM  
Blogger amber said...

great reflections Ed
I too can much relate to your post,sadly I could never have written it

Wonderful!!!!the art too

4:17 PM  
Blogger The Epiphany Artist said...

Amen yup and YUP!

11:01 PM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

You know I love the work you share here...and perhaps, the resonance shared is the real heart of the matter.

While there are many conventional paths and well-marked trails -- I find it achingly funny that the old restrictive Academy the French Impressionists resisted still lives in the US of A, reinforcing art as inaccessible hermeneutics, art about art, art as political screed ever so sleekly po-mo and knowing -- who knows what constitutes the effective path to the heart of things?

Perhaps the seeming inefficiencies of a grasshopper mind will help us leap from flower to flower better than the locked-on-linear ant-path.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Amber-Thanks for your comments. Please, never sell yourself short. Writing is a skill like painting and you are gifted as a painter.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Terri-Thanks to you and in the words of J.S.Bach, "Soli Deo Gloria"

4:46 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Hi Lori, yes grasshopper is my preferred state now that I accept myself even more. The Impressionists used the Salons to sidestep the Academies and now it is our turn to use the internet to, maybe not sidestep the galleries but to augment them and teach a new generation of art a lovers. I always did fancy having my own gallery, if only on the internet, Ed's Art-O-Rama or Art Emporium.

4:51 PM  

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