i go through each day fearful of many things. it can be something as basic as making eye contact with the fellow pedestrian. it can be as complex as having to determine the next 10 years of my life… in one given moment (the absurdity of such a task is even more telling as i type). fear, of course, rests on a continuum. or perhaps even more deeply, fear itself is a continuum. if one lives with such a belief that one state of being rests in relation to another… that one feeling interweaves with another… then we have a hard task in examining fear. fear of what? fear about what.. whom?
we live life in widening circles, don’t we? circles because life seems to return to certain seasons. that one promise, one problem, one notion is often returned to, whether sooner or later. and widening because i wish to live life with a peculiar hope of expansion, of growth, of warmth. yes, the very same kind of warmth that causes molecular structures to slowly let go of one another. the kind of warmth that calms, soothes an environment… that allows free movement of that which was held so tightly. or to be simple, the warmth of a hug… that evolves into another.. onto another.. unto another.
but already, something cascades within myself. something that soars with elation.. into the depths of constraint. it’s that thing we feel the moment we realize we want something. it’s that barrier that surrounds desire. the fear? fear of grasping that which i desire? fear of clasping that which amazes? yes, fear. the fear that lies self-imposed.
why are we so afraid? why do we fear what we do not know? what we cannot foresee? and yes… what we create ourselves: illusions.
we have good reasons. i have good reasons. i have been hurt. you have been hurt. i have failed. and you have failed. and yes, to protect ourselves, we create what we imagine so that we won’t have to get close again.
i often have these moments when i play music. there are moments where i feel that i am standing before a cliff. the descent is endless. i cannot see the end, nor see safety. these moments always rest at a crux: they make demands. they ask you to let go and follow. they ask you to trust. and they ask you to jump. what you don’t know, of course, is just where it’ll lead you. you don’t know what memories might be invoked. you don’t know what emotions will rise. and you don’t know what you may have to be honest about. there are angels and demons within… and you don’t know which ones will be called. such is the nature of human authenticity. but there is also that hope isn’t there? there is that lovely whisper that helps you believe… helps you foresee that with such a plunge, there is ascent. that with a jump, you can fly. the fall: a precursor to the rise.
ah but yes, i’m not really talking about music am i? i’m talking about life. that precious, fragile thing that all structures and expressions of existence rush from. that feeling in your chest that tells you that you’re alive. the reminder that you are breathing.. sensing.
why do we fear? why do we stop when we haven’t even taken a step? why… why do we believe our own illusions?
uncertainty. isn’t it?
we fear what we do not know. we fear what we haven’t felt. we fear what we haven’t contained. as kids, we didn’t really have a choice since everything was new. wonder was the default state of being. but as adults, we’ve replaced that with our own versions of life… some more visionary, most self-contained. we’ve lost our ability to gaze. to see beyond and into the possible. to become what’s possible. to be free. to be human.
these moments are battlefields. it is a war between what always has been and what could be. the choice is whether we want what we don’t know. whether we want what we cannot perceive. and there is fear there. of course. in the pursuit of the wonders of science, we’ve intensified our capability of ending our existence. with the journey into the soul, we magnify the potential of losing ourselves. risk. most definitely.
but is not the other end.. possible? is not love available? is not wonder on the fringe?
as much as we fear, can we not also love?
as much as we dread, can we not also hope?
yes, this is our juncture… this is our everyday moment. this is our quotidian ledge from which we can choose to gaze into the face of our brothers and sisters, to act with warmth towards those who have known cold, to think with diligence in intensifying our care and our expressions. i am, quite simply, talking about the ordinary. that very simple question: how then shall we live?
each night, my mom sits in her custom floor chair. warm barley tea and korean crackers, korean dramas and kleenex. this is her zone. a nightly space carved for relaxation. in the center of this scene is her canvas: a cross-stitch cloth where she intricately weaves colorful threads.. re:creating everything from van gogh to the last supper. every night, unfailingly, she’ll do this for hours as she nods herself to sleep.
not too long ago, i asked her why she does this.
“all the tiredness from the day, the hardships of life, the worries about money… when i do this, i don’t remember any of that.”
she sang opera growin up. in fact, her best friend went on to sing in the sydney opera circuit. my humble mom says that she sang better than her. this makes me think about if she were able to attend college, her voice may have been heard beyond the walls of our home, extend beyond the pews at church. but opera’s boring she says, she wanted to be a pop star. go figure.
my mom’s an artist because of the simple fact that she understands life. the process, the dynamism, the seasons… essentially that you are not in control and at best, you can flow. after all, is not art an arena where we try to be elemental, primordial… to communicate as the wind with the wave, as the… ?
one time, she came to one of my jazz concerts and remarked of the singer, “she has so much han in her voice,” while palming her heart. han. suffering. soul.
i believe that she understands these things because art isn’t art to her. i believe that many of us think of art as something detached, as something extraordinary.. a museum, a gallery. we think that is where art resides. in concert halls, art is there. but is it not the ordinary, the everyday where art is meant to be, meant to come from, meant to be about? that art is just an expression of life? we forget that life feeds art. that life, not technique, is the impulse of all that we create, do, speak, invoke, touch… that art is life. or perhaps life is art?
to me, art is anything we do with intentionality and intensity.
anything that brings our being into focus, draws us into the flowing moment.
i think of the mechanic who meticulously cleans his tools. who understands the intricacies of engines. who knows how to navigate between problems and solutions, questions and answers. who owns what he is doing.
or perhaps the kitchen. the one who instinctually knows which knife to use when cutting the given. what spices to use. the timing in which to transition the stages of the food. how to present it… and really… how to receive the reactions from those eating it. enjoying it yourself.
children. the sensual/philosophical/culturally/blah-ical task of raising a living idea into the world.. only to release it. and watch, hear, feel, enjoy as it roams, journeys.
you get the point.
we are all creators. creation is what we do because we are human. art is what we do, what we are because we are alive. we live because art helps us remember why it is we are breathing.
creativity is that peculiar power that brings us closest to God, i believe. to create.. is to mimic what God does. or to put it differently, to create is to embody the image that has been marked in us.
but of course, it’s not easy. but then again, i am speaking of disposition. a posture. a way of framing life in such a way that we live with intensity, with intention. purpose, imagination.
my mom has done alterations for cleaners for as long as i can remember. because of her weathered hands, i have been able to travel the world, attend top universities, play music, organize communities. and in a beautiful way that i, she can only attribute to grace, her work has not overcome her. she has taken the same skills of sewing… and has been able to love what she does with it. to create something she purely wants. and that is what makes her free. what makes her peaceful. that nightly space where she can be free of all that she must carry.
i realized over the weekend that whenever i have to make life choices, i come to chicago.
or to put it another way.. whenever i am at a sort of crossroads, i somehow end up in chicago.
i discovered blue tones there.
i realized that i was more interested in questions of spirit and soul there.
and now, i was reminded to choose passion and what is life-giving.
you know how it is. three times = a pattern.
or perhaps now, a ritual.
chicago, the soul city.
the home i go to discover that which is within.
things are all uncertain again..
but strangely i feel at peace.
i suppose that in ambiguity, possibilities are more readily accepted.
thanks again chicago.