Memo to God
Excuse me God:
Am I being realigned or dismantled?
I'm just wondering.
|For These Times
Memo to God
Excuse me God:
Am I being realigned or dismantled?
I'm just wondering.
Once in while give it credit
Years ago I did some paperhanging contracting to support myself. It was not a good time for my art. It was hard and demanding work day in day out. If you weren't busy you worried and if you were busy you were too busy. One contractor, who hired me for a picky well to do man in Fort Lee who owned a restaurant in Manhattan said to me when we were driving home in the snow on a trafficked highway, 'this is brutal' and I concurred. Later, when finished a touch of glue showed on the delicate fabric that I hung and that was it for me.
One time I had a job doing a model house in New Jersey for a developer and the pressure to finish was terrific and the conditions were horrific. I was doing a bathroom that had 11 ft high walls, partially covered by mirrors. Usually paper was the last thing to be added, but here the plumbing wasn't finished nor the sinks put in and even some electricals were not done. Help was not to be found and it would cut into my profits. So I hung by myself, on two boards hooked on two ladder rungs, above a lot of sharp edges. I was no kid at the time, and although a craftsman, had not been doing it that long.
The project manager liked me, which was good for a time until he invited me to hang his son's bedroom where he picked out the paper. His wife liked me too and asked my opinion on the paper her husband had picked. Now the wife said the husband did not spend enough time with the children and this was his attempt to make up for it, by putting up wallpaper in the son's room. I told here what I thought, the paper was too dark and scary and spooky. The wife spoke to me easily, much more easily than to him.
Well, that was a mistake. He let me go and I felt I kind of betrayed him. Maybe he was partially right, but, you know, we all need to feel important and valued and I went with it, albeit maybe too much. All we did was talk. Still, I was not detached enough and was no 'cool hand Luke.'
Anyhow, the stress was getting to me and I remember while hanging in that bathroom my heart felt as if it was bouncing out of my rib cage and I was worried. After the job was finished I went to my favorite health food store and I told the owner's son what I had experienced. His advise was so helpful. He said 'if your heart acts up again just pat it, rub it, and calm it down.' I'm not sure if this was from him or someone else or from something I read, but one should also speak to the troubled body part and tell it you're sorry for stressing it. In other words show it some care and acknowledge its importance as a living organism in your body.
My approach to my body changed as I felt sympathy for it at times. What I had put the poor thing through. It was a vessel I was given and it should be valued and cared for. True, sometimes one has to be tough and harden but that has gone too far, too far. Appreciation was what was needed.
Overtime the pastes used often covered my arms and the fumes were inhaled and my weight went down and I had to take an asthma medicine in order to sleep and it was time to leave. A black contractor who liked me saw my plight and treated me to a trip to Hawaii for two weeks, one of the only times that ever happened to me
Afterward, I walked away from it. It had promise but turned out not to be a future but instead put some money in my pocket and that was what I had to show.
To this day I remember the good advise from the health store manager and I follow it. My mind and will have put my body through much and instead of treating it like a workhorse I try to relate to it gently and with concern and understand what it goes through. It's like having a relationship. You have to work with it and not just use it.
The price of security
I've observed this about police and military retirees who have put 20 or 30 years in. Through the years I've run across some in work environments. Often they have trouble reasoning, learning and making decisions. They too often think in a political way, such as how I can I please my superior. To use the vernacular 'sucking up' becomes a way of life. They are always talking about 'covering their b..tts.' How can truth or good judgment emerge from such a mindset? All good thinking gets warped because it is not seeking a real solution.
Perhaps they started out with pure intentions. Their goals might have been to capture the bad guys or defend the country. Eventually however, the political process takes over and they become distorted and are holding on just to receive a pension. This becomes their compensation. They end up with a pension instead of a core.
The army veterans or ex-policemen I like never stayed at it that long. They got into it for good reasons but felt their insides getting sick. After some years, perhaps 5 or so, they had to get out. I ran across such people in the different jobs I've held. Looking, searching, maybe a little lost, no pension for their troubles, but still holding onto their souls.
Of course this is a generalization. Some survive it and do other things on the side and are able to relax in their later years while the ones who left have to scramble. Different occupations have their shortcomings and flaws. This occurs from just the pressure of life and competition. One moves up or down or just stays still and none of that is easy, but it is life. However, rarely is it clearer than with these long term government workers the price one pays for being removed and protected from the natural forces of existence.
Death and dying
Understanding wanting out
It is possible to be around such negative forces one would rather die than live. I’m not saying I condone this, but I understand it. When suffering real crisis, health issues or even a life and death situation, I recall my will to survive was present. It wasn’t time for me to quit. This was clear. I needed a miracle to survive whatever I was going through but I kept on whether I received it or not.
What’s more problematic is when things are stable (no imminent crisis, no loss of job, or bad health, or bad teeth, and no family member in trouble) and yet certain forces are at work that are very upsetting to your equilibrium. This can have a negative impact on your life. You might be ok, and this might have taken a lot of work, but even when you are ok the quality of your life could still be miserable. Imagine if you weren’t ok, what then? Another way of seeing it is that it took everything you had to get to zero, and now once you are even, maybe even a bit more, things still aren’t right. How disappointing. You worked and waited to reach the plus column, and once there, you are let down.
There was this lady friend, Betty, who I thought liked my artwork. She then bought a book about an artist who was a third rate Andrew Wyeth. He copied photos, which Wyeth never did, and did barely acceptable cliché paintings of poor southern rural African Americans. Not to demean him, but Betty was stubborn, and insisted he was great, and he wasn’t and I knew it. This told me that many of our talks were for naught. She hadn’t valued my efforts which I thought she had. Instead of support and cooperation, I received contention.
In the same time period a friend “Peter” somewhat dissed me, at least that’s how I perceived it at the time. Later it was straightened out. When I called him, I wanted to talk about my folks and about some money issues I had with them, but he couldn’t talk. In looking for some warmth, I got coldness. I turned my attention upstairs but even that seemed remote. Things were alright, but I was alone and that was my lot. How long, how long alone I asked? So I could understand at these times when someone, even when feeling well, could want to end it. If life offers nothing when you have tried and have been decent, and even have a little change in your pocket, why continue if it still disappoints?
There’s a joke about people who have money and yet are still unhappy. They’re unhappy because they no longer can blame everything on not having money. Some parallels exist here. Sometimes there is a configuration, even when circumstances are good, where life is devoid of any redemptive qualities and I can understand feeling empty and wanting out.
If you are not given a good sense of survival as a child, you will be prone to seek out principles and ideas as compensation. The intended purpose of “principles and ideas” is to redirect you back to a balance and a workable harmony with reality as it is. They are not the solution, but merely point you back to this reality. Principles and ideas are not the end but a tool.
They don't go away
Society doesn't go away. It doesn't disappear. Valentine’s Day, Superbowl Sunday, television, Christmas, all seem to outlast you. I thought they wouldn't still be here. I thought they could be outgrown. How in your face. No matter what struggles you've faced spiritually, no matter what you've wrestled with, torn your insides over, these forms persist and even outlive you. They did not even transform into something more palpable. They just stay as is on and on. Turns out they are more permanent than you.
As you age your shortcomings can seem to surface and reappear with more clarity and you have to live with them as they reenter your life. It is as if you are in quicksand; your exposed upper body is in the air reaching for the stars while your lower extremities are mired in the mud unable to extract themselves. You watch as this tug of war ensues, sometimes able to detach yourself, other times crying for help to be saved.
After my mom's passing, on top of everything else, I lamented the loss of my clarity concerning my art. To be an optical artist as I had been trained produced very quality pieces at times, but I still was limited. To draw from knowledge and not be sight dependent exposed gaps in my foundation. Woe is me. At various times an image of my mom lights up in my head, in bright lights, emanating from within me outwards. I would like to capture that, but how? It doesn't relate to any process I'm using. To use photos as a reference would be contrary to what I'm doing. To work from memory would not provide enough information. How would I draw the light coming from her being? Textured pencil layers? Maybe? Too many questions for my wellbeing it seems. I shouldn't be at point zero at this point.
My sister said, right after the funeral, she would like to take a picture of me sitting as I was on the floor leaning against a dresser somewhat sad. This will make a nice drawing. Would I use a dummy for the folds? Would I just do studies of the folds on me and work from them? Too many questions for me. While mourning for my mother, I would think that I would be compensated with an answer to my questions.
When talking with my dad before mom passed he I mentioned I had complained about not being close enough to them. He then said we speak often and that is a bonus. Think of all the people whose parents weren't around to even speak. True.
Maybe this can apply to art. I should be happy that I can do something, anything. At least I can play with some aspects of art and create some images. I have some alternatives. Maybe it's not the paradigm I wish for but it's something and I should be grateful it's there. This reasoning gives me some peace.
Recently I saw a video of a young long haired man sounding very hippie describe what he did when he killed a man who had just ran someone over and then tried to rape a woman. The predator was 6 ft and over 300 pounds and the young man took an ax and just hit him over the head. That was that and the young man was considered a hero.
In the interview he seemed so sincere and self effacing and all he asked for in return was access to a certain type of surfing board. Like a biblical David, he slayed the giant who was up to no good. His thinking seemed so clear and simple. When listening one could not help but feel so polluted and overly complicated.
I recall hearing my father comment on his grandchild and how pure his reactions were. He said as we get older we are forced to compromise and our motivations are not pure. There 's always self interest. The latter sentence I added.
To stay in this world it is hard to be consistent and true. I thought of my sister who survives by thousands of little compromises. She is at one extreme. Some surety and black and white action and belief is needed. However, on another level everything is compromise. It's the price of living, of handling a changing world.
As it turns out, this young man was accused later of murdering a 70 year old lawyer. So such heroic purity might have been an illusion, or maybe it was true when he saved the girl but he carried his omnipotence too far. And maybe that too far needed to be compromised so he could survive. It wasn't and now his life is messed up.
I think what will happen to us all is that we'll be put in a healing gel after this life. It will be like suspended animation. We will almost float in it, and all our rough edges and jagged wounds and warped thoughts will be suspended in this warm gel and slowly dissipate in some mysterious way.
Steven B. Nussdorf records his lifelong search to find meaning outside of the normal channels. He uses writing, poetry, and drawing to document this effort.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.