Mom commented and listened
(took place 7-8 years ago)
While in New York, mom and dad and I would have a small dinner. Their energy to give was very limited, and much of it came from my dad. I had Health Valley vegetable soup which hit the spot.
I showed mom prints of my drawings. First we looked at the drawing I did of ballet slippers. She commented that the lace was too light because it doesn't differentiate from the instep of the slippers. She was not sure where the shoe began or ended. I think the prints did not have enough contrast for her, nor enough “wow” factor and they were too monotone. How much had to do with her eyesight I'm not certain.
She said, people like something clear, that makes sense right away. She suggested that where my outline was light, I should darken it. I explained that I work optically and follow what the light does. I said the mass of the shoe was being hit with light and I drew it as such. She suggested I enclose it with one outline, which I sometimes I did when not working totally optically. I had to, and still have to digest her comments. I'm not sure if they were very deep or very superficial or a mix but I was glad for the involvement.
I talked further about the optical way I see, that being colored shapes varying in value. It was not by chance, because for eleven months in Minneapolis my eye was trained to see this way and it seems to have been imprinted now in the way I see, for good or bad. This is in contrast to how I would have liked to have learned, that is by borrowing from nature while having an internal language and incorporating nature into this language. I attempt this but my knowledge is limited and is not at the highest level. The work I do in this manner, I consider my more narrative works. They are less objective but they are clearer. Mom seemed to like them more.
Surprisingly she seemed to “get” the different methods of working that I was talking about. After all these years she does seem to “get it.”
I also explained how I don't have the benefit of north lighting, which is steady and consistent. I went on to say the light is different in the morning and afternoons, either cloudy and sunny, and how when starting drawings, I can use yellow light but later I need natural light. What I hoped to achieve is an overall impression, an average of all the lights. This might sacrifice the power of one consistent light source, but it is an accommodation I have had to work with. She listened.
(Refers to previous post)
My dad offered a contrasting view to mom's. He said that the general gestalt of my work, the message, the total package is more than just art. The art might be one or two levels lower than I prefer, but it is part of a larger picture. The final purpose is not to sell, but to open up a door to a fresh vision that comes from a place that has a heart. Wow. Good stuff dad.
How a ‘vision’ works
Upon planning a visit to my parents up north, and befuddled for a few days as to what clothes to bring, I had a flash in the morning of what clothes I would need. It occurred the moment upon wakening when not fully asleep or awake. This is an indication of how vision works. You can ask for answers, but the answers appear when we are not expecting them.
Law of reconciliation
I saw a documentary about a cheetah mother with 4 or 5 cubs that were going hungry. Suddenly there was a herd of wildebeests and the mother cheetah took a chance and attacked a male. The weakened cheetah battled, but the wildebeest was too tough, strong and resilient. The battle lasted 20 seconds or so, and the cheetah walked away with a limp. In the wild this is a sure death sentence. Her cubs were still playful, not sensing the weight of what happened. The mom limped to a small hill, her cubs around her, and with a quiet dignity awaited her and her cubs’ fate.
There was no complaining. No whimpering. No crying. She and her cubs were doomed. For a mom to see this is horrible. Not only for her, but for her offspring which would face starvation and death. How overwhelming. She accepted her fate with dignity and silence. To think of all the nurturing that went into her cubs, the care, the love, the hunting, the sacrifice. People do the same. We sacrifice not only for children, but for ideas, accomplishments, excellence, to just be good, to be competent. To see all that, aside from just dying, to come to no avail is beyond heartbreaking. So the biggest perspective is needed. The largest reconciliation is needed, and all the suffering and pain is part of a bigger picture. The end results are often beyond our grasp. Yet it is all part of living. Our broken dreams, and broken selves serve a purpose too.
Reconciliation helps us rise above ourselves. To see that just to exist, and to participate and to accept, and even to trust, no matter what the outcome, is close to the essence itself.
As a kid
if the window was up
mom told me to put it down.
If the window was down
mom told me to put it up.
It wasn’t about the weather,
it was about pleasing her.
If people came over
and it was too quiet
she nudged me
and I filled in the gaps
making things social and smooth.
In New York
when I was wronged
I tried to defend myself.
One day she said
“you’re always getting into trouble.”
After that I always avoided trouble.
who I might have been
had I been left alone.
What is left?
Let’s say there exists a perfect set of rules to follow God by. If you did so your life would be difficult, probably even not work out. It seems as if life itself has its own rules that almost contradict the following of God. In this life it seems we have a script imprinted in us from the start. Our physical, mental and emotional needs have to be met on some level. The following of God goes one way, the ways of life another.
Let’s say an adult young man is gaping at women’s breasts all day. This would be rude, very damaging to his character. While an overactive libido can be understood, as a young man he should not satisfy every immediate desire and learn self-control, otherwise he will have trouble later working, living and surviving in this world. Plus, if he acts on his desires he might have a whole bunch of kids he couldn’t take care of, causing obvious burdens to the society around him. Restraint and delayed gratification have to be practiced. Seemingly words of wisdom.
However, for an elderly and tottering man, this primal urge could be a sign of life, helping him get through the day. We might say the maker would not encourage lust, but in this instance lust keeps life going when all else has failed. To live another day, even in lust, gives one a chance during that day to have some appreciation for the maker.
I remember reading about the Jewish leader Solomon, how in the last years of his life he had 13 wives in whom he apparently lost himself in. Before this he was a wise ruler, fair and knowledgeable. He always had women, but as a younger man he was very active in all affairs of life. At first I thought this was a negative about his character. It implied that he was falling away from God, but maybe not. If one accepts psychology and that all our activities are rooted in sexuality, perhaps Solomon was cutting through the nonsense. It seems as if many elderly men do this. Solomon needed God, but he needed also the distraction, comfort and entertainment offered by some women. It’s almost as if two things were left; the love of God and the love of women, and these two don’t necessarily mesh, but both are here to stay, and everything else is merely a diversion.
Easing the stranglehold
If you are going through a difficult time, you might for a moment be still and let your being be flooded with a presence felt as a light in you, around you, and through you. A spiritual gravity so to speak. You are encompassed by it. It is a good thing. For the moment you feel lifted and experience another realm.
However, one cannot stay in this realm. One cannot meet it even halfway. You have to return to your situation, to the laws and rules that run it. The physics of the world demand this. The light doesn't eliminate them. What does happen is that you bring back to your situation the understanding that there is a light, a presence. Just knowing and experiencing this eases the stranglehold your situation has upon you.
I try not to eat pizza often, but weakened this time and ordered two slices from a nearby place that made it New York style. Upon picking it up, the storefront was crowded and I hadn’t been there in quite a while, and thinking I wouldn’t be recognized, I blurted out “are my slices ready?” He then said “I'm doing fine” even though I hadn’t asked him. A few sentences later I said to him he “was just being a wise ass.”
The principle here was I was calling it as it was, being direct and blunt, not mushy. This is supposed to be a good thing, but, often isn’t. Often I’m wrong when I confront people. I might be cut off driving 9 times and the 10th time make a conscious decision to say something and I find out it’s out of place.
This young man basically wanted recognition, to feel important, to be remembered and acknowledged and I acted coldly and he was hurt. And then my blunt comment showed my callousness. So, contrary to what you’d normally think, standing up to people, correcting them, often flies in one's face. Instead of being corrected, the people see me as arrogant.
Later he asked me how I was doing and I said weaving and dodging while things around me collapse. He said if you’re weaving and dodging then you’re doing ok.
My impatience had been forgiven.
Sometimes my mom’s statements leave me speechless. An example is when my father said “In the future...” and my mom blurted in “what future.” She sometimes shows no control, nor is there any comfort in her tone. It’s the original trauma I had with her revisited. This tone was crippling way back when, and it is relived when she talks like this. Normally a feeling of protection should come from a mom. This is the opposite, more like desertion. You are left feeling naked.
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.