Doesn’t make sense
Sometimes I rage to God about aging. It makes no sense. It’s almost cruel. When you finally know certain things, you can’t act upon them.
|For These Times||
Doesn’t make sense
Sometimes I rage to God about aging. It makes no sense. It’s almost cruel. When you finally know certain things, you can’t act upon them.
Ran across a neighbor about my age when walking and told him about a possible newsletter that might start in our development the would keep an eye on the upkeep of the property while double checking the egos of those on the board. I played a part in connecting the information gatherer with the information distributor and perhaps the tides can change. I thought eventually my neighbor would be interested in it as his views over time seemed critical of the present regime. It just was there to do.
He answered unexpectedly. While agreeing with observations about the present board and their actions, or lack of, he thought scrutiny would make their egos more defensive and gear up for more of a battle. Kidding, I said this could lead to World War III easily. He listened and then said my behavior by putting these two people together was passive aggressive. Hmmmm. Unasked for tutelage. Still, maybe a little truth here. Perhaps a bunch of other things too. Reactive behavior? Maybe. A need to stir the pot? Maybe. Just being self important and asserting self? Maybe. But there also might be some good coming from this. People might have an outlet to voice grievances and vent frustrations. Also things might become run better.
My neighbor, in a teacher mode, for he is a practitioner of a form of Buddhist meditation, said he'd choose to just let the situation dissolve under its own weight and not stir up egos. I told him I understood that. In vernacular, best let sleeping dogs lie, or live and let live. It might be best to let the ebb and flow of tensions follow their own course. The Buddhists, however, have practiced their disciplines for centuries and the world has not stopped its craziness. They might be refined and evolved in their practice, and it is good to have them around as they are good examples of human beings, but nothing has changed. Their practice has not answered the world's need to change. A new consciousness has not arrived. To be blunt, they have not transformed the world. Life has just continued, probably the same, with or without their presence.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the Orthodox Jews who follow the Torah, said to be the initial and most comprehensive instructions for life and living. The practitioners believe they should follow the do's and don'ts as instructed until the Messiah comes and delivers them. Within their pages a wide acceptance of human behavior is accepted and not rejected. Purity is not the object. Withdrawal is not the object. In the Torah, or its offshoot, the Talmud, jealousy is spoken of in a positive light, for without it, you would not work hard for a house just like your neighbors have. Lust is also understood, for without it there would be no children. Life is worked with, understood, enjoyed and then tempered and put in service to an overall vision. Isolation and aestheticism is not sought. Dissolving the ego or karma or action/reaction is not necessarily a good thing. First, because it can't be done and second because existence has to continue, not withdrawn from into other realms.
Well, the Jewish Orthodox see themselves as an example for the world, yet obviously have fallen short. Goodness has not prevailed, peace is not in the world, the lion rests not with the lamb, antisemitism is on the rise, and heaven has not been brought to earth. Perhaps when the Messiah comes it will be so. But if so it didn't matter whether they followed the Torah or not, for they are being saved by God, not by what they did to make a better world. They basically failed.
Of course there are many levels here. On an historic level the orthodox serve a purpose as kind of an historic timeline. Clutching the Torah is a rallying and unification point and a standard by which to measure activities against and keep time. It defines a group that keeps an identity consistent through time and therefore it keeps time. But as far as changing themselves or the world it has not worked. But as said on some level it serves some purpose.
The disciplines of the world keep men going in their respective roles. They keep personal resolution going in order to survive. They provide a vehicle for developing good habits and growth. But they are not the answer nor can they be counted upon. They all fall short of their aims. Their aims are slightly askew and their practice is somewhat askew. These codes of behavior serve some purpose, have some value, but fall short and yes, eventually fail.
This is life on earth at this time. Given this, one is left with a choice. Either there is a God or there is not a God. If there is not a God one goes their own way. If there is a God there is hope, a possible purpose for everything, a higher and bigger dimension that maybe we will know. There is no proof for either position. One either comes to accept that there is a God or not. Even if nothing is known nor can be concluded, it is good if there is a God, for then nothingness doesn't prevail.
If there is a God, and given all systems and actions here on earth seem to work for a time but eventually fall short, we are left with questions unanswered. What we need is help, because we can't do it alone no matter what system we employ or practice. The Orthodox Jewish people claim the entire world will come against them at some point and the only one they can turn to is God. To some extent that is the reality for us all. On all levels, whether vibrational, harmonic, verbally, or experiential, we will reach the point where all fails to some extent, and where we need help. Spiritual evolution has not answered all of our needs. The wisdoms of the world can't endure. We are left humbled, softened, opened to receiving and accepting without resistance. Pain, not practice, has brought us to this point. We have not evolved to the point where we can fly. Rather, we see our limitations and we look to the light of God and need him honestly and sincerely, whether quietly and privately and silently, or in some public arena on our knees. We have tried everything and this is all that is left. Until this happens, we patiently wait, watch, and wonder and hold onto a tentative equilibrium.
Is there time?
Is it time to come to the maker? To even think about doing so? To be serious about it? Or is it not yet time? I feel it though, although not quite completely. We still have our needs, our wants. We still want what we haven't had. We still want our share here. We want what we think is our entitlement. But when shall we let go and jump. Not yet, but soon. Maybe.
Our lives still have some pleasure. Something is still gotten out of life, but there are a lot of dead ends. Many things have become stale. Many things disappoint. There is little redemption in most of what we do, run across or have. Nothing feels good, like “that's it.” Nothing satisfies. There are still unfinished desires and needs. There is much that is incomplete, but is there enough time left to complete?
Life and living
I was scattered,
all over the place.
In my mid-years
I lived narrowly,
I had to survive.
Finally, I took a breath,
inhaling from life
what was offered.
should have been
Reason for writing
I have to find out if there is such a thing as a calling. Is it just primitive thinking, evangelical nonsense, or can it really exist today? Does the sum total of this and the previous 2 centuries allow for such a thing? If so, does it apply to me?
Is there a resolution to my life? Do my struggles lead to an answer and does this answer mean something? Is the storyline describing this process really count, or am I just reading into reality?
My dad once said all different experiences add up and combine to a certain outcome.
My art, my writing, my thinking, my questions and observations, will they all lead to something. I continue to write and draw to find out. It is a question worth answering.
(This was written some years ago.)
My dad called me Saturday morning with my mom in the background. We discussed the weather (they being in New York and I'm in Florida). We discussed that I worked last night, some maintenance issue where I live and my mom's health. She was on pain killer and took a sleeping pill and later fell, bruising her wrist and hitting her head. My father, who is attentive to my mother, was concerned and hoped she had no head injury. This week they'll see a doctor. Right now she seems okay. Lost her balance. I wished them a happy 65th anniversary which was coming up. We both agreed my coming up now would be difficult. Coming up later would be better.
The conversation was trailing off. It was good to hear my father's voice. Felt like home. I always wonder if I'm doing the right thing by not being closer, but finances and just survival dictate I can't, although I'm not sure and I hope I don't regret this. His voice was home and I think my voice was home for them. In this big, lonely world, there was comfort this. Often I don't acknowledge the emptiness and estrangement I feel. People, even nice people, are strangers to some extent. Family, even a family that's had its difficulties, after time has gone by, can offer some comfort, warmth, security and belonging. I had forgotten how much I missed it until this reminder came.
While the sun sparkled
late in the afternoon
journeys to the past appear
images never to be again
just once in a lifetime
just once forever
of my mom
of my sister
each a onetime moment.
God's system and mine
My positions are hard. They are concepts and I need clarification on them. It's as if I'm driving to a certain destination and have to know what roads to take; I-95 or Military Trail? In art there is incompleteness, starts and stops, and I need unity, cohesion, one way to do it, one technique, one vision. But what I think I need and what I have are two different things. In reality I have conflicts and loose ends that are beyond my ability to unify.
So I petition God to help me, to resolve the conflicts, to turn duplicity into one. Or, to help me understand an approach that will pull it all together. I petition God and want a contract drawn.
Now God seems to be not fully concerned with my needs. Or rather they are not foremost. What seems to happen is he eases me out of whatever dilemma I have. It's like evaporating water. I'm attempting to direct the water routes to go here or there and he's evaporating the water itself.
I'm threatened by this because if the water evaporates I'll have nothing to work with and resolve. The waterways and where they lead become irrelevant. I fear I'll be left in a permanent state of betwixt and between and never reach a conclusion or arrive at a destination. Perhaps like Sisyphus I'll forever be starting over rolling the rock up the hill. Not funny.
Perhaps what God is leaning towards is meeting me half way with a workable solution. He helps me to see all the variable solutions and forms and approaches and combinations and accept them for what they are. This bigger view still doesn't have all the answers and remains hard to act upon, but it allows me to live with all the conflicts and inconsistencies. Plus the bigger vision might change into a still bigger vision, and bring a bigger understanding.
So God meets me where I am at. I can't just give up my water routes and have them evaporate. I still will spend time arranging them while some of the water evaporates. The good thing is that evaporation doesn't mean the water is lost forever. Some is, some escapes, but some comes back as rain or snow. Perhaps even as a gentle moisture that that settles in and engulfs the whole process and keeps it in a womb like comfort. This way there are less jolts and pressures and pulls and jerks. At least they are modified. As such, what seems irreconcilable and opposite and at odds becomes loosely connected within this overall atmosphere.
And so, it's how I think God meets me here amid my dead ends and incompleteness. My sanity is saved. It lets me work and continue and still be me, but helps me slowly evolve into a higher realm.
As a child
snapshots of aging men in tee shirts
staring out windows with their TV’s blasting,
overhead fans turning
above noisy restaurants
up and down 1st and 2nd avenues
imprinted my mind.
These images are recalled decades later
as I’m lying on my back,
blood laboring through my body
tired but not able to sleep
up but not able to do.
Much time is spent like this
only understood with age and isolation.
There is a question here.
Were these men my future,
the sum total of bangs, bruises,
ending in a state of inertia,
or am I similar but different
perhaps like a fatigued boxer
in the late stages of a fight
patiently waiting for the right opening
so I can turn this thing around?
How things unfolded
My initial impulse to do art came from various sources. Van Gogh, Gauguin, the colorful expressionists, some Russian realists, later Rembrandt, and Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. All filled my mind. Then there were always art postcards and small art books from my mom. Some Faulkner black and white photographs affected me. Development was scattered and all over the place. For me there was not one consistent evolving direction. Around the age of nineteen, I was influenced by a man who emulated the Dutch masters and their love of light and dark and depth. It was good to see and understand their painting achievements and for a while I adopted and conformed to his agenda. However, while it was his passion, his training in reality was rooted in 19th century principles. As a result there were gaps in his methods. His drawing was not sound and his color and value formulas had limitations. He jumped to the 16th century Dutch masters, but skipping centuries doesn't always work.
Later, seeking a firmer foundation, I studied with an end of the line student of a lineage dating back to the 19th century French Academy. It was a watered down tradition. One drew optically, as one sees, that is, as light and shade hit the retina. In a sense you were a slave to visual phenomena. Knowledge of structure, proportion, and anatomy were underplayed and hence there was a loss of freedom of expression. Some good was there, as with long poses and consistent lighting, but the training I felt violated my senses.
Years later after many defeats and some victories, I discovered a younger man who became quite accomplished in the art of painting in the manner of the Dutch masters. His thinking was clear, and his painting had beauty. Within the confines of what I would have wanted to achieve within this agenda of the old masters, he had accomplished a lot. As much as is possible and more than anyone I knew or had run across or heard of, he had pulled it off. He became a painter's painter.
Previously I attributed my stumbling to New York where I grew up. Too hard, too jagged, too much. My parents were also partly responsible, too unstable, not enough backing and tranquility. And responsibility goes also to the schools, the early one where you were just a number, the junior and high school that was progressive, modern, and scoffed at technique and tradition. The school was liberal but basically worshiped success. It was elitist in its own way. Perhaps I envied Andrew Wyeth, brought up in a country setting, removed from canned education, allowed to evolve and be nurtured in a tranquil setting.
The younger man grew up in the same city I did and had to deal with it, went to Columbia so had some academic pressure, went against the grain and achieved impressive skills through hard well directed efforts. He asked the right questions. He had a good background, encouraging parents, a heritage to lean on, money, good appearance and he wasn't broken. He didn't rebel or conform, but followed his interest.
Earlier I had studied with the teacher of someone who influenced this artist, who had wrestled with the same historical issues, but did not complete the journey. This young artist did all that and I admire him. He came from the same background as me but with different ingredients pulled something off. I was an early scout who never finished the journey.
Later, in all honesty, I realized the Dutch painting agenda, or the classical realism agenda, influenced me, but was not my essence. My essence came earlier. While having many influences, it never evolved into one way of working. Instead, it consisted of surges in various directions, each pure in intent but only semi related.
Much later, I picked up all these pieces and created a body of work with a different focus. There is promise in what I do even though it's still a battle. As an artist I'll probably never reach my full potential (too many gaps in time missing) but a statement with meaning is within my grasp.
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.