at the risk of seeming ridiculous…


Posted in written thoughts by Charles on August 31, 2010

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.


6 Responses

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  1. Grace said, on August 31, 2010 at 15:37

    mmmm 🙂

  2. jen said, on August 31, 2010 at 17:05


  3. said, on August 31, 2010 at 17:21

    you should know jen that the singer i’m talking about.. that my mom remarked of… is you!

    • Jen Qiu said, on September 1, 2010 at 22:32

      Aw. Definitely an honor.

  4. benson said, on September 1, 2010 at 00:49

    good stuff, chuck 🙂

  5. fiver said, on September 3, 2010 at 06:09

    The words you write are full of grace, and full of han. As does your music. I’m proud of you man.

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