Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On Creativity

In my practice as an artist... drawing and shit... creativity doesn't come up much. Any drawing I've done is first and foremost an exercise in muscle memory, then visual memory and failing those two a form of... I guess spacial memory - remembering where in my many reference folders, reference books or pinterest account is a solution to whatever composition problem I am trying to solve at the time.

When I'm putting pencil or pen to paper, it is very rare for me to have the conscious string of thoughts 'I need a creative solution' largely because, that doesn't mean anything to me.

And yet, 'creativity' keeps coming up. Visual artists, Film makers, Musicians, Photographers, Designers, Architects etc can get lumped together under the term 'creatives', (I have problems with this term) and due to everyone being the best artist somebody knows - we've probably all at some point been complimented either directly or indirectly as 'x is very creative' spoken by a relative lay person.

Creativity is a celebrated but vague concept. It's a concept that concerns me because the emphasis placed on being 'creative' I believe stresses fledgling artists, possibly even accomplished and established artists. Which makes me feel I can't keep writing about creativity without parading out the etymology, let's find out what the Roman's were talking about when they brought up 'creativity' it derives from 'creo' to create, or make - However Chaucer gave the first example of 'create' used in English in a divine context. So before Chaucer, creation was anchored to a production of labor (maybe, I wasn't there.)

God 'making up' the heavens above and Earth below is the kind of creation that is quantum. And yes it's very slippery to try and describe divine creation, given the testimony of the physical universe all suggests that never happened. To my understanding there's very little physical evidence that a concept like nothing exists, or nowhere. But Chaucer may have been the first to push creativity in the direction of 'originality' which is a bit more convuluted but seems to ultimately derive from Latin's 'origo' - 'to rise up.' but generally means what you'd expect it to mean, the source, first, beginning etc.

It is this equivocation that to be creative = to be original that is interesting to observe, or at least test in the wilds of the art world. To simply produce something is necessary but not in itself sufficient to be creative, you must produce something never seen before. I'm asserting that creativity does not require originality, and my experience makes me confident, but not entirely convinced that what we call originality, doesn't really exist.

I'm going to break the post up into a selection of pieces because I can't figure out a way to tie them into one continuous narrative.

'Creatives' is an offensive term

If I may circle back, take for example the term 'creatives' used by people of all walks of life to describe certain walks of life. Visual Artists - painters, photographers, illustrators, sculptors, graphic designers, fashion designers etc. Audio - singers, songwriters, musicians, programmers, dancers...

And so on, I don't like this term when you switch from positive screening (adding professions to the category) to negative screening (excluding professions from the category). It doesn't really work any more - is an accountant non-creative? You may say 'yes' thinking stereotypically, but I say no. You get some very creative accountants when you have someone earning $10 million a year paying zero income tax. Is a lawyer not creative? No again, perhaps lawyers, in their requirement to 1) pick a specialization 2) research and memorize a tonne of precedents etc in order to build an argument for court or write new legislature, perhaps best illustrates what a creative process really is, once the mystique of originality is removed.

In all but the highest-compliance professions, there's scope to be creative in any human endeavor. Even someone fitting the bungee cord to you and doing the safety checks, while not having any scope to improvise on the job, is not excluded from dreaming up ways to innovate bungee jumping.

I can accept that words have meaning, and people 'know' what we mean when saying 'creatives' that we aren't referring to economists or auctioneers, telemarketers or fry-cooks. We are referring to 'those kind of people'. Just as I can accept that to describe an individual as creative, might suggest that individual is highly original in their output and I do not have sufficient lever to make this definition wider.

But creative as an adjective is best applied to individuals, and not professions. I even find the advertising world kind of strange in terms of their penchant for splitting up their workforce into 'creatives' and 'execs' or something, I've never worked in the world but my understanding is that you basically have an ideas-man who comes up with concepts and perhaps creates copy or imagery, and then another person that sells the idea to the client. The fact that it's treated as a fait accompli that the person who comes up with the idea cannot possibly sell the idea could possibly explain why so much advertising is bad and so much advertising dollars is wasted. I would also never suggest that sales people aren't creative. They may perform a script, but the repertoire they build up is essentially no different to a musician performing their catalog of original songs and covers.

You probably aren't creative.

In Zack Galifianakis' 2nd interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, he talks about his early days contemplating doing stand up and approaching Al Franken for advice. The advice is 'To be honest with you, you're probably not funny.' Zack reflects that what he was saying was 'a lot of people think they're funny, and they're not, and you should probably know that.'

And in a surprising sense of flow, this is the polar opposite but no less compelling reason to dislike a term like 'creatives' which is to say that most musicians, artists, designers etc are not very 'creative'. insofar as the common currency of the term 'creativity' = 'originality'.

Many artists are highly conservative, not as a political ideology but in what they do. I've met musicians who are dogmatically Jazz musicians, and musicians that are dogmatically classical musicians, and both generally have the air of conservatism, just Jazzholes are less conscious of it.

A great example of this un-original creation was the ABC's 'Redesign My Brain' episode dedicated to creativity. A series that explored neuroplasticity the recent buzzword for 'practice', sure felt like it was clutching at straws when it came to an episode on creativity. It did contain one gem though, the host was set a challenge by some guy, to design a vehicle that could travel 3 or 4 meters or something using only the energy of a mousetrap.

The host's solution was to attach a lever to the jaw of the trap and then tie that lever to the rear axle of the car so when you released the trap it drove the wheel and propelled the car forwards. In year 7 (first year junior high) I was set the same challenge, and devised the same solution.

When the host was getting evaluated, he was marked very low on originality. This I feel is a source of insight for all. The guy that set him the challenge remarked that his solution was rather obvious. Consider that in conjunction with every riddle or puzzle you've heard over your life. Eg. Betty lives on the 14th floor of an apartment building. Most days she rides the elevator to the 9th floor and then walks up the last 5 flights of stairs, but if it is raining she takes the elevator all the way to the 14th. Why?

The answer may not be immediately obvious, however there's only one answer that fits. In Betty's case it's because she is actually a small child, and she can't reach the buttons in the elevator above the 9th one. But when it rains she is carrying an umbrella so she can use it to press the 14 button in the elevator. And so forth with every riddle, the answer isn't immediately obvious, but you will feel satisfied at having deduced the answer, or you will possibly admire the person who eventually explains the answer to you, even though they may not have deduced it themselves.

Are you creative if you solve a riddle? Yes and no, your mind generated a solution to a problem, but by definition the solution can't be original. Few riddles are just open ended problems. But in art, you can get open ended problems and yet, while the answers aren't necessarily immediately obvious - most artists will flock to quite obvious answers.

There was a period of two years where virtually every art exhibition opening I went to had an artist statement that contained some slight deviation of '... the artist invites the viewer to re-imagine their relationship with space.' this was at the height of a frenzy of installation art, conceptual art, video art and performance art. The kind of art people hate, the kind of art that gets paraded to incense the broader community as to the decadent and deviant lifestyle of bohemians - that this is a profession.

Now consider that well worn artist statement as a job description - 'your primary task is to make people rethink their relationship with space.' If this was the job of an artist, that job gets very, very easy. You simply need to disrupt people so they become conscious of the space they are in. So... remove the chairs in a restaurant, or the tables, or even just the forks leaving diners with nothing but knives to use. If you can't get a restaurant to cooperate, or don't wish to go to the expense of setting up 99% of a restaurant in a gallery, there's very simple, very unimaginative ways to disrupt a person's relationship with space in ways that make the conscious of how they move through a room.

Take a used mattress, pierce it with toothbrushes until it looks like a porcupine flattened by a vehicle and put it in the center of a gallery, and you have something that 'invites the viewer to re-imagine their relationship with space' or go more minimal and just take the nearest chair on hand, lay it on its side and put it in a gallery, and you've made the same profound statement for less effort. Empty a wheelbarrow of sand, and observe that in the context of a gallery space observers are trained to find meaning and may start muttering about it's 'zen like qualities' or that it represents 'time unbound of the hour glass.' or the 'imminent threat of automation to the working classes.' and so on.

Let's get mathematical. And by saying that I mean I can't. Let's talk Jazz though, and a specific kind of Jazz, the kind of Jazz where you detach the mouthpiece from your saxophone and blow through it, or grab a pair of forks and gently scratch at the skin of a drum head, or take your sticks and tap out rhythms on the stands holding up the cymbals. This happens, I've seen it first hand. Performers seeking to play their instruments in any way but the conventional. Thus it seems unconventional, however there's an objectively knowable truth out there that I suspect a mathematician, statistician or actuary could determine - that there's far less ways to arrange the sounds produced through unconventional playing, than there is playing an instrument conventionally.

In absolute terms, of course if you incorporate the unconventional into the conventional you've expanded your options, if you focus and fixate on being unconventional though, your music very quickly starts to sound very very samey. There is of course, the very real possibility that our ears are not trained to identify unconventional sounds, and thus not appreciate unconventional music aka noise. But I suspect there is at least some truth, that there's less ways to be unconventional than there is - counter-intuitively - to be conventional.

Take your standard 52 card deck of playing cards. If you shuffle them fairly, the odds are that the same sequence of cards has never ever been produced before and never will again. I was told a perhaps apocryphal tale of a person that taught some Indian monarch the game of chess and the king was so pleased he told the person to name his reward, and the person asked for a bushel of rice doubled for every square of the chess board, the king thought it very modest, but discovered the power laws meant that the request would empty the national granaries. In mathematical speak 52! (52 factorial = 52 x 51 x 50 x 49 ... x 2 x 1) results in a number so large it renders it possible that no two people could shuffle two decks of cards and have ever produced the same 52 cards in the same order.

Thus when it comes to a sequence of playing cards, it's very very easy to do something very original that has never before been seen in the universe. Except it isn't very interesting. It's kind of amazing that in the Western Tradition of 8 distinct notes in an octave can be arranged into melodies that though similar seem endlessly interesting to us, especially if they tend to arrange into the progression of 3 chords that are most familiar to pop songs and most popular as a result.

It's strange. You can use just two shapes in Penrose tiling to produce a pattern that never recurs, which seems original but just because it never repeats doesn't mean that any picture of Penrose tiling doesn't look superficially the same. Give people an open ended abstract art concept to realise and they tend to produce very similar works. Very similar works to...

Marcel Duchamp was not that original

Duchamp took a men's ceramic urinal, laid it on it's side, signed it 'R Mutt' and put it in a gallery. The art world allegedly reeled in shock at such a challenge to the establishment, though I have no real understanding as to how insular the art world was, or how accessible it was to society at large. I don't know if in 1917 Mechanics listening to the radio in a workshop were debating whether 'Fountain' was art or not. I wasn't there.

But a century on, I've heard people credit it as the establishment of the genre of 'found art' and that it was one of the most profound statements in art history etc. When I first heard about 'Fountain' I was also pretty impressed and that Duchamp must have been quite a smartarse, which to an adolescent private school boy, is pretty much the pinnacle of human achievement.

But what if on Debut of 'Fountain' a single observer had said 'Reminds me of the flower sermon.' Now did Duchamp invent found art? Performance art? Perceptual art? or did the Buddha, along with Zen Buddhism 4 centuries before the birth of Jesus? at the very least did some Chan Buddhist monk invent the flower sermon and subsequently found art 9 centuries before Duchamp.

Or was it the ancient Greeks? According to Nassim Nicolas Taleb, the ancient Greeks distinguished between know-how and know-what. They had, two words for two types of knowledge that I can't be bothered digging out of a book I possibly lent to a friend 3 years ago and never had it returned. (google suggests it's episteme and techne which sounds about right to me) He suggests that know-how leads to expert domains, so baking involves know-how, you can be an expert baker. But art probably gets into the domain of know-what, and you can't really have any true expertise, just establishments that are ultimately, defenseless against anti-establishment attacks.

Which is what happened with 'Fountain' and whatever artist canned their own shit and sold it (almost 50 years later), and to an extent Minimalism, Concept Art, Video Art, the works of Damien Hirst and the Banksy fueled street art. They are all at core pointing out 'you can't tell me what art is('nt)'

This revelation, that art is undefinable, seems profound. To me, and I can only testify to my own emotions, to say that art is boundless, undefinable etc. is trivially true. Because my own experience of art across mediums demonstrate that I don't need infinite options, but options within a fairly narrow spectrum. That narrow spectrum is vastly more interesting to me, than the vast spectrum of possible art.

If there comes a widespread established notion that art is purely carved out of marble or oily pigment smeared onto a stretched canvas, virtually any object can make that same statement as fountain, Duchamp's bold statement may seem like a turning point in art history, but if you wanted to reproduce his piece it's very very easy. Just take an object you didn't make yourself, sign someone else's name to it (Duchamp's if you like) and display it in a Gallery.

Most of us intuitively recognize though that signing a butt plug Duchamp and putting it in our local gallery is more or less the exact same thing as 'Fountain' even though it is completely different - different materials, different utility of the found object, different signature, meta-references... yet our mind knows it makes the exact same statement, a statement everyone's heard and that the real pressure to be creative was to recognize that Duchamp recognized a singular moment in history where there was a prevailing assumption, that art consisted of paintings and sculpture produced and signed by an artist. Then he simply didn't do that.

Now, the issue of creativity truncates, so let's start with

Art History

Just as between the start of high school (or junior high for Americans) your Maths will walk you through linear equations, quadratic equations, trigonometry, probability in nice neat partitions. An education in art though seemingly mostly about making stuff, will actually consist of a walk through Classical Period, the Renaissance, Impressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Pop Art and then you're more or less into post-modernism. I was educated in a day and age where 'digital art' was the new thing, and nobody was predicting street art.

The thing is teacher wants you to go and paint or draw something in that class and to teach you a little art history and give you some ideas to go draw you get a string of names corresponding to the movements - Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, Warhol... it's not an exhaustive list, but there are defining artists from each period of art that eclipse their counterparts, even though names like Botticelli, Monet, Magritte and Kahlo get mentioned.

Because of the practical component of an art class, the teacher focuses attention on a few individuals to give concrete ideas of what to have a crack at. So you get Dali's melting clocks and told to draw on dream imagery, Picasso's overlaid perspectives of faces in profile and front on, Andy Warhol's flat color pallet and borrowed commercial imagery. So you can put on your smocks and go have a go.

Even in adulthood, art history is presented to the lay person in the kind of special exhibitions state and national galleries put on. Here the issue is marketing, how many more people turn up to a 3 month long exhibition of 'Van Gogh' or 'Monet' than one simply labelled 'The Impressionists'? Even though the third option may contain the best available pieces for loan of Van Gogh and Monet - presenting the best value, I suspect that the undiluted names of the superstars get the most feet through the door.

What effect does focusing on the heroes of movements, the most prominent figures in a scene have on an aspiring artists mind? It gives the impression that once a generation a singular individual, a creative genius, walks straight out of a vacuum and turns the art-world on its head, with a flash of insight and the shock of the new.

Just as with music genres, there tends to be a defining act, typically the pioneer, but this way of teaching the history creates a sense of magical originality that doesn't reflect reality. Even the genius is a product of their environment creating the new from the raw material of the familiar, but this gets lost in showing the works of Picasso in isolation, out of context or perhaps in the artificial context of a Picasso retrospective, Picasso Artbook or Picasso Gallery.

I could try and tear down the originality of Van Gogh, who was not an Impressionist, but post-impressionist as my rudimentary research shows, making him not a pioneer of Impressionism but one of it's best known examples and one of many artists in the Paris scene that jumped on the Japan-band-wagon as Japanese prints started flooding the Parisian markets and changing the preferences of colour palettes .

Or even Picasso, who didn't just advocate borrowing from other artists but stealing from them, who applied his principles of cubism to classical compositions by other well known artists and appropriating african art particularly mask art.

Both Picasso and Dali emerged from Dadaism, Dali more directly than Picasso who went off on his tangent of Cubism. Dali not only borrowed compositions from Renaissance masters, and did an entire series dedicated to the lost drawing skills of the renaissance, but was heavily influenced by the writing of Sigmund Freud, particularly 'On the Interpretation of Dreams' hence his amorphous blobs of self portrature that both resemble his face and a limp phallus propped up an a stick. He tied Freudian theories of sexual repression into the Catholic iconography of his Renaissance idols.

If you are willing to get really close, read all the sleep inducing info cards at the exhibition, or periodically look up and review the great artists history and development, strain their work through chronology, geography, history. You find their 'great quantum leaps' are often simply small but significant ones. That ability to really get up close and understand their processes and context though is lost when an art teacher has 10 minutes to flip through a book in front of a class, 30 minutes to let the students play at being an impressionist, surrealist, pop-artist etc. and 5  minutes for brush washing and 5 minutes for show and tell and then it's done for another week.

Pattern Recognition

For the record, I don't believe the correlation between intelligence and creativity is a particularly strong one. I suspect for example, a lot of people who create stuff, do so because they are really bad at estimating the probability of their success. Furthermore, it's generally accepted that there are multiple intelligences, of which most people I suspect can name two. Emotional Intelligence, and the intelligence people are talking about when they describe someone as intelligent.

I confess, I don't know what that kind of intelligence is, I project though, that it's pattern recognition. And pattern recognition is the thinking artists' means to appear original.

So an IQ test might ask a question like 'Guess which number comes next in the sequence: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, ?' the answer to which is most likely '20'. The clue is a string of 9 numbers in the sequence. Let's say they gave you just two numbers in a sequence: 1, 1, ?

To which a pattern recognizer might say 'the next number is 2, if it's a Fibonacci sequence, or 1, if the sequence is all ones.'

Those are the two smart guesses, given such little info. I would suggest for impressing a smart crowd, you guess '1' and then pontificate on how there isn't enough data to be confident it's a Fibonacci set, and in front of a less smart crowd guess '2' so you can wow them with the information that the Fibonacci set exists at all.

But if you want to look creative, and wholly original. Just guess anything but '1' or '2' like '3' for example.

This to me is the simplest way of being creative. To be non-conformist. By recognizing a pattern, you then simply don't do what the pattern predicts. Being creative is as easy as 1-2-2, as easy as A, B, F.

I've written about this before in a post about a year ago but only insofar as it relates to people logging onto fb, looking at the trending topics, and then writing a status update on those very topics. If you want to be an original voice in your social network, just exclude yourself on commenting on the topics that are trending.

Duchamp recognized a pattern that art going crowds were heavily subscribed to, and then he simply didn't follow that pattern when he produced Fountain. The limits of such originality is this:


Which is to say, you can be original once. It doesn't make for the kind of career a one-trick pony can bank on.

With 4 million+ views on facebook, that kid is not going to be able to make a career of casually strolling and then breaking into a run in the NFL. Specifically not him, because his reputation will proceed him. He'll probably have to fall back on excelling at completing passes to make it.

Sadly this doesn't happen in the domain of art. Infact the opposite seems to happen. Duchamp strolls past the gallery defenses with a urinal, and a century later, the artist kids are putting down the brushes and applying for a grant for their butt plug signed Duchamp.

All breaking the pattern really does though, is point out to people that the pattern existed in the first place.

Before moving on though consider short and long patterns.

If you have to do something original with a short sequence like 1,2,... it's much harder than a long sequence, because of the lack of information. Other people's minds are open to more possibilities at this stage. 1,2,4 is not that shocking. It's an easy adjustment to go from counting upwards in steps of one to doubling each step.

But if I gave you the sequence 'ABCDEFGHIJKLM...' being creative is easier, because the amount of information has got the audience closed in on strong expectations. Hence 'ABCDEFGHIJKLMLKJIHGFEDCBA' is trippy, although it produces 109 results in a google search prior to publication of this blog post, albeit only the second result appears in a book of poetry from 1998 as a line in what is essentially ASCII art presented as a poem, the rest are all ASCII art about creating a 'pyramid' 'ABCDEFGHIJKLM14151617181920212223242526' by contrast produces two results and neither featuring the actual sequence in totality. It is possibly wholly original.

But pattern recognition is the place to talk about the great literary deconstructionists. Alan Moore in the western comics canon, George RR Martin in Fantasy, and even recently in Japan - whoever directed One Punch Man.

There's a pattern to recognize among deconstructionists like these three, they take a trope laden long running genre and redefine it by injecting a kind of emotional realism into things that are traditionally escapist.

Even these guys are not as original as you may assume. In Fantasy it was Michael Moorcock who wrote the essay Epic Pooh in which he railed against Tolkein's precept that fantasy must be pure escapism and started writing fantasy centered on an anti-hero that in contrast to Conan the Barbarion, was weak and sickly sustained only by his magic sword. It was different enough.

George RR, bases many of his ideas in a Song of Ice and Fire, or as most know it 'A Game of Thrones' on History, and has the character of Sansa stark initially representing the escapist fantasy perspective living in a world that is tragically real for her. Compared to much of the fantasy that preceded it, George RR's work simply takes the notion of Knights and Dragons and removes all the romance from it, so the relationships are more politically expedient economic transactions, the Knights are professional sociopaths and we are given characters to empathise with and root for in the horrible reality of feudalism.

Alan Moore, worked with an even more ridiculous world, but his ability to generate a compelling comic book series in the 80s was simpler and in many ways more spectacular. His work on Miracle Man simply takes Superman, and then gives Superman human emotions. He asks reasonable questions that generated more interesting stories than DC ever has for Superman - not least of which, why would Superman bother with the alter-ego, the civilian life?

One Punch Man debuted last year to much acclaim, and while it is a truly great show in and of itself, a classic for the ages, it was a fine example of how an unoriginal idea can seem wholly original in a certain context. One Punch Man is the first work I'm aware of in the history of Japanese comics and cartoons to really get into deconstruction. It's essentially the same existential crisis of Moore's 'Miracle Man' run, but in a Japanese cartoon, and much more humorous and whimsical in tone. I'm not suggesting plagiarism, but just that it does stand out because the Japanese are really late to the deconstruction party in their popular culture. In a culture so laden with tropes that you do from time to time see self conscious references to them, they really haven't done a narrative based on deconstructing those tropes until One Punch Man - even so, it could be more spoof or parody than deconstruction like Moore and Martin are doing.

It's possible that another Quarterback will pull off the same trick as that middle school kid one day. Because when you are drilling a team to recognize and react in a split second to a play, it's hard for a manager to really have them invest the energy of the players into watching out for the Quarterback's body language. It won't be original, but in the NFL it may be more amazing as a play. But unlike deconstruction which is taking a long sequence - an entire genre, an entire history of a body of works, and changing it up, to ask the question 'how does a Quarterback behave?' is tackling a short sequence, by casually strolling, nobody could recognize that they in that moment were even playing football, that team pointed out that the pattern was there.

If I were to write though 'ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWBYZ' (9 results) that would be a good story with an unexpected twist at the end. These are the Christopher Nolans, and the somewhat less popular M.Night Shamalans of the world. There's still 25 other points of articulation to continue playing with. Unlike 1,2, Stroll... instead of 1,2,HUT!

By contrast, let's go all the way back to shuffling a standard deck of playing cards. Each draw is historically unique, and yet, it does not amaze us or leave us riveted just to watch cards get drawn from a deck. It facilitates excitement in Gambling, because almost any pattern we perceive to be recognizing is almost certainly false. To try and bet an how a romantic comedy will unfold would not work, the house would always lose when people know to hold their bets off until the third act where she realizes she should be with the protagonist.

But shuffling a deck of cards is not entertainment intrinsically, because too much is changing

Enter Scott McCloud's creative archetypes

While I'm confused by Carl Jung's concept of archetypes due to ignorance, I have some understanding that it was his observation that human's don't behave randomly that lead to more formal takes on personality. Myers-Briggs have one methodology that results in 16 personality types, then there's the 'Big Five' personality types, and shy away from because I don't view neurotocism as a personality trait so much as a character flaw - but that's my prejudice.

Most popular today are the 4 broad personality types, particularly in business settings, where you divide personalities up by introversion and extroversion, and then whether people tend to value concrete or abstract things.

Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, and Making Comics among other titles, was as far as I know the first to divide up these personalities in the creative arts. His four categories are:

1) Animists
2) Classicists
3) Formalists
4) Iconoclasts

Let me try and reword his classifications and extrapolate - Animists are primarily concerned with story, narrative how a piece makes us feel. They are all about connecting with an audience. Classicists are all about aesthetics and form, mastering the art, the technique and rendering things beautifully. Iconoclasts are all about the shock of the new, smashing forms and defying that which has come before it. Formalists are all about the science of the art, but rather than an aesthetic appreciation of form, they want to define the rules - the kind of people who make video-essays on Youtube to explain the method behind the magic of some film you like etc. and are kind of the chameleon creative camp as they determine formal rules for what the other three camps are doing intuitively, so they can reproduce it methodically.

The previous section about pattern recognition, could be regarded as a bunch of formalist bullshit I made up, to describe a mechanical way to be an Iconoclast. Just as an example.

The value though of putting these concepts into your head, is to broaden your definition of 'creativity'.

As a slight but relevant diversion, even if you don't regard yourself as creative, you might want to do a quick and dirty personality test. Draw a largish '+' on a piece of paper. like compass points. But instead of north and south write 'Tell' up top and 'Ask' down the bottom. Then in the west and east positions write 'Task' for west and 'People' for east. Now draw a small 'x' to mark the spot on the horizontal and verticle lines (so two 'x's) that roughly approximate your preference, or the ratio with which you tend to ask vs tell, and the extent to which in a project you tend to focus on the task or the people in a project.

After this you draw lines straight up and straight across from those x's and where they intercept, that's your personality style. Having done that, you can just have a look at this and hopefully the quarter you landed in describes how you behave in an organisational context, it should describe you, because I basically just asked you to describe yourself. Don't get too into it (or yourself) though, because these Jungian personality models just describe preferences, and people generally have enough flexibility to become 3/4 quite easily depending on the context. They can be all 4 just the non-adjacent quadrants take the most energy out of you.

This should however predict what creative campfire (to use McCloud's analogy) you tend to sit around, or would sit around if you started being creative. This isn't something formal though so the match ups are my opinion or conjecture.

Animist = Steadiness, Classicist = Influence, Formalist = Conscientiousness, Iconoclast = Dominance.

The DiSC model is primarily used in business contexts, primarily to describe management styles - and I made the analogy because there's an interesting phenomena that is relevant to attitudes about creativity: Different management styles are in vogue at different points in history.

In the early part of the 20th century, the star managers where Conscientious, because they had to poor over books and analyse data, humble modest men (historically speaking) that had to answer to bankers face to face and substantiate every transaction. By the 60's it had shifted to Influencers, the Madmen era, Madison avenue, marketing was just beginning, branding was taking off, real wages and consumption was growing and people needed to be sold stuff.

By the 80's Dominance came into style, because wage growth stopped in the 70s (and never resumed) and what was in vogue was growth through acquisition. Companies buying smaller companies and sending in some domineering dick bag to fire as many people as possible and cut every cost conceivable, report higher profits for a single quarter and then sell the hollowed out company at an improved evaluation.

There's no real evidence, but it seems the Conscientious people, weren't sitting idle for 60 years but instead were discovering that the Steady style of management produces the best results, because successful businesses are built on relationships. What there's no evidence of though is that introverted people who care about others have ever managed to be in vogue as managers. It seems they just produce really great results on the rare occasion they get to manage, when not shut out by a dominant or influential personality.

Now consider that art has a lot more history than the recent phenomena of corporations. So in the Renaissance - Classicist artists were in vogue, people who could render beautiful propaganda for the Church and Nobility. Da Vinci though, could be described as a stand-out formalist, attempting to capture the realism of nature and developing methods for accurate anatomy, rendering, perspective etc.

There have been various movements attempting more Realism, and perhaps the Dutch Golden Era of painting was a time for Formalists where a lot of what we now know about composition, lighting, focus etc was really perfected by the old Dutch Masters.

Tracking somewhat with the trends in business, the Iconoclasts rode high in the 80s with punk-rock. Even though its anti-establishment ostensibly, it's very much self-expression as priority, but with a disregard to aesthetics... a real 'Fuck you, you have to deal with me' aesthetic. But Iconoclasts have probably been vogueing for most of the modern era.

Alain De Botton in Art as Therapy, or at least when talking about it, advocates for art to be a return to propaganda, because much of art history was art as propaganda. It just propagated good values and ideals. He notes that intellectual movements that moved us into the modern era - namely that art should exist for arts sake, have left us with a glut of art that really says nothing of the human condition.

Thus, emerging probably with Dadaism, and resulting in things like performance art, conceptual art, installation art, video art, pop art etc. are all heavily biased towards an Iconoclast notion of creativity.

The pinnacle of the creative ideal is not to craft something so beautiful it takes our breath away, or write something so touching it makes us weep, or even to understand something so deeply that we cannot discern art from nature, but to make something so original it destroys our assumption of what art is.

Take a gander at a group of art students, and you'll notice the dominant aesthetic is still very 80's punk. DIY asymmetrical haircuts, dyed hair, piercings things that tend to say 'fuck you for judging me' so loudly as to invite judgement.

So I kind of like my pet theory that the Iconoclast quarter of art philosophy is overvalued. Except when you look at reality a little deeper.

The big money makers in the creative arts are... Pixar, Disney (Including Starwars), Harry Potter... Superhero movies are bit muddy, but Pixar, Disney and Harry Potter certainly are driven from an Animist foundation. They speak to the heart, of the human condition. People like them because of the emotions they illicit, and not because they challenge our pre-existing conceptions of what art should be.

Another important point is that the best stuff isn't produced by strict adherence to one particular camp. In my opinion this is the most important point. Writing an animist narrative about the human condition will be better if it is also finely crafted to Classicist ideals, it can be improved again by having a Formalist's insight into both the structure of narrative and the application of techniques and how to moderate them. It can be improved even more by adding iconoclastic elements of surprise.

So if you look at a big earner like 'Frozen' you'll find these elements. I suspect strongly that the main contributor to the success was that it spoke to the heart, it was a movie about sisterhood, betrayal, isolation, alienation, loyalty, love and acceptance. It's a Disney film, so the classicist standards of design and rendering almost go without saying. It was formalist in the sense of having higher degrees of self-consciousness than we are used to seeing from Disney, and there seems to be a great extent to which Frozen really consciously addressed a lot of the academic criticism of Disney animated features that have built up since the Little Mermaid-Lion King era. And subsequently it had iconoclastic aspects as well. The princess was saved by the princess, prince charming was now the villain, and the hero was more or less incidental. But at no point does it appear that the movie stopped caring about the characters in it.

In all my experience of people and personality tests though, (including horoscopes) the most common response is to gain a sense of validation that your way of doing things, your preferences have value and are legitimate. However, this tends to result in people being more obnoxiously themselves, and yes, it's possibly for introverts to be really obnoxious about it.

It's rare that the takeaway is to recognize that other preferences are equally legitimate and valuable. It seems in the domain of the arts at least, the market is just too large in this post modern era for anyone to be rail-roaded by their own creative personality not to be in vogue. There are markets for iconoclasts that might seem more prevelant, but there's still plenty of room to be a formalist, a classicist or animist and even make a decent living.

Can I wrap this up?

If reading this accomplished anything, I would hope it might give you enough food for thought to relax about being 'original', I do feel that originality is overvalued. Which is not to say it has no place, but is at most, one quarter of the creative picture.

I would advocate a definition of creativity, that simply entails if you create something, that is a creative act, whether it is 'truly' 'original' or a pastiche, a homage, or downright plagiarism.

Though outside my own subjective experience, I don't want to completely deny that quantum insights can happen. I'd be skeptical if they actually happened with the regularity that most lay people perceive. A really good articulation of this illusion of originality is in this video:


However the video itself uses the term creativity as an equivocation of originality. An equivocation that is false in my opinion, and I hope to have substantiated.

If there's any group of creative people I feel a need to defend, it's the classicists, and defending them in the face of an arts education that is increasingly abandoning any interest in teaching technical know-how.

Imagine if you will going into a gallery and looking at a bunch of canvasses that to your naked eye, appeared blank. Confused and possibly indignant, you read the plaque next to the piece and it says 'all the pieces on display are painted using pigments that reflect non-visible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, the artist invites you to reconsider your relationship to the nature of reality.'

It's an interesting point best made, and has been made, by scientists, but it makes for boring art. The canvas may depict a zebra where the 'dark' stripes reflect X-rays, and the 'light' stripes reflect UV, but to you it just looks like a blank canvas. All the paintings do.

Even though very little of the electro-magnetic spectrum is detectable by human retinas, the tiny slice that makes up our rainbow is infinitely interesting. And so to repeat myself, I find the vast horizons of iconoclastic notions of what art can be far less interesting than the relatively narrow subject matter of what art traditionally has been.

I like depictions of faces more interesting to draw and look at, than any other subject matter on earth. I generally prefer pieces that feature humans or anthropomorphic creatures than animals and landscapes, and I can follow my heirarchy of subject matter interest right down to the pits of art I'm adverse to seeing like found art, the lowest of the low.

But I like the flower sermon, and I like Duchamp's Fountain. I like cans of shit, and I like much of Hirst's stuff too. I liked the exhibition of nothing that toured the world a wile back and I like many of Yoko Ono's pieces, I rate her as a very talented artist.

But what drives much iconoclastic work is the excitement of novelty. Novelty is like magnesium though, it burns brightly and then it's gone. Part of history, formalists will come and tear it apart and explain why it worked and how and then it really becomes part of the classical cannon.

So many young artists aspiring to novelty, the new, the original, actually bring a classicist approach to it, they study and immitate the masters of historic iconoclastic movements. They create pieces that make the exact same point as Fountain, and reveal that once the point has been made and you've accepted it, Fountain is just not that interesting to look at. It conveys no emotion, it has functional value but otherwise little sculptural interest.

Many art pieces convey nothing more than 'I, the artist, get the point that some prior piece was making, because it made it's point well, but for some reason I needed to create a piece of art to broadcast the fact that I, like most people, get the point.'

Attempting to be original is too cerebral, I feel a good question to ask is 'what's going on emotionally?' Ask this of contemporary art and you'll see two clustered emotional responses to much art (excluding of course, boredom, because we tend to ignore bored people) - a kind of smug pride for the audience members that 'get it' and a kind of irritation/indignation for those that don't 'get it'.

The emotional landscape of contemporary art audiences is a divided one. In-Group vs Out-group, and if you are sensitive to it, you'll notice that much of a contemporary art exhibition, particularly graduate shows are just exercises in posturing, and very intellectual posturing. You could test it by keeping a tally of how often people at the exhibit say 'I think...' vs 'I feel...' and yet, despite all the aspirations to be original, I observe little evidence that anyone chasing that unicorn is really putting any thought into the pursuit.

So aware that this is supposed to be a conclusion, what is going on emotionally with me? Why write this post? What motivated me?

To be an artist myself has involved a lot of decisions that are unpleasant in order to afford the time I need to hone my craft- 6 years in still very much a work in progress. But I've been through that phase in life where people have asked me what I do, and I had no answer for them. That's a bad time of life. Remembering how bad that is, not fitting in, I have a visceral reaction whenever I learn of a young person enrolled in an Art school spending their time learning how to posture intellectually instead of doing the work that is really time intensive - honing your actual craft.

A concept is good, but it will always be an advantage to be able to express your concept more beautifully than somebody else. To get articulate in any art medium, means you have to spend a lot of time not being original but studying tried and true techniques. Thus I'm horrified to learn of how little art, art students create when they have 3 or so years sheltered from that question of 'what do you do?'

Few seem to emerge with any appreciation of simple, timeless concepts like 'beauty' and 'truth' etc. but are trying to articulate convoluted concepts like non-euclidean geometry through crochet.

To me, emotionally, it's a travesty that any institution would be trying to teach originality to people conformist enough to enroll in that institution in the first place. Steve Jobs would never work for Steve Jobs. I don't know if originality is what is lauded and what is taught, I just notice that my local reputable arts institution produces far more jazz musicians than society is demanding, far more installation artists than society is demanding, and far more avant garde theater directors than society is demanding.

There's an alternative explanation to the curriculum though, and that is that art schools attract risk-averse conformists. Who naturally gravitate to genres and mediums that have rarefied audiences and buyers to protect them from being truly exposed to popular opinion, and create works that require no real investment of time to build up the skills to execute at a generally accepted standard.

That world is opaque to me, I don't see the process just the output. So I don't know what is going on.

I just feel for the person who wants to create beautiful things, or to understand how things are created, who truly, honestly want to experiment, even if it's recreating. Or people that just want to express their sadness to see if anyone else also feels their sadness.

These are all good reasons to create.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Labels

I wouldn't label myself an empiricist because of ignorance. I haven't tested my theory of what an empiricist is against how I behave in life, my all-too-human predisposition toward confirmation bias suggests to me that more often than not, I'm not an empiricist.

I do as a discipline rather than habit force myself to read shit that contradicts my point of view, and not from tokenistic sources but passionate ones. I would label myself a contrarian, and sometimes I actively try to contradict my own held beliefs, but I wouldn't label myself a 'meta-contrarian' where I try to not follow the people who don't follow the crowd. Those I would perhaps label as 'iconoclasts' because it amuses me to observe that most creative iconoclasts tend to trot out the same old shit that iconoclasts have been trotting out for decades.

No I simply try to find reasons to abandon my beliefs because I believe this is a semi-robust form of empiricism. I'm skeptical of my own knowledge these days. I frequently ask myself 'but what if I'm wrong?'

The starkest and most painful form of perspective taking I ever practiced was buying and attempting to read 'The White Massai' a reference which may be so dated that those who know me might say 'is that when you started appropriating African culture?' but no, I read the White Massai because at the time my recently former partner had followed more or less the exact same decision making process of the protagonist. I never finished it, namely because by chapter 4 or 5 the plan was going as well as I expected it to, and so I was simply feeling validated and saddened - if I'm going to be dumped, I want it not to be for an objectively hair brained scheme.

But I still follow this practice of perspective taking, albeit as we've moved from mass media to curated media, it's gotten harder to even hear of public intellectuals that hold contrary views to mine, even though they generally have hours of keynote speeches all over youtube.

So I found myself watching 'Dear White People' because Netflix promoted it with no algorithmic presumption of who I was and what I'd enjoy, simply because they'd made it and it was new. My visceral response to the first episode's narration told me I wasn't going to like this show. So I force fed myself it,

I came in ignorant, I didn't read reviews or look up what it was about. I didn't read an article on a ezine targeted at my in-group to check whether I should be watching it or not - nor I guess consult what Donald Trump's tweets had to say about it. It was simply on my TV and I watched it. What I learned from 'Dear White People' is probably close to, or akin to, nothing. I suspect the show suffers from the satire trap that Malcolm Gladwell so excellently dissected on his podcast that is much more worth listening to than continuing to read this.

But there's a scene in episode two about the gay black journalist character where he is asked by his sassy gay editor if his assumption that the character is gay is correct and that character says 'I don't really believe in accepting labels blah blah blah' And that was interesting, because I've come across this attitude. Later the same character meets a white guy at a party that identifies or labels himself 'bisexual' but appends virtually the exact same 'I don't really believe in accepting labels blah blah blah' statement to the end.

In fairness there is a character that advises the main gay dude to 'find your label', gentle advice that in hindsight is probably the stance I latched onto, but the premise of a character rejecting labels in what I assume is a quest to speak their truth is what interests me as I have seen this very sentiment play out in life.

However among the curious sensible people I know who have expressed similar 'I don't really define myself that way' etc. I also notice that we human beings are not very consistent on our aversion/embracing of labels. Which is curious.

There appears to be domains where people readily embrace self-labeling, people find it exciting and fun - from the 'which crying breakfast are you?' buzz feed quiz level stupid, to the somewhat vacuous Roman and Chinese zodiac signs, to practically useful personality tests like Myers-Briggs and it's derivatives and allegories (like the indegenous American leadership compass with different totems at the points, or any of the archetypes that Jung obsessed over) In these contexts of labeling people I've never experienced and find it hard to imagine the conversation 'you're an extrovert right?' 'Well I don't really subscribe to the labels of patriarchal western colonialist psychology...' though I can imagine a militant athiest type responding to 'You must be a Gemini' with 'Please don't insult me with that astrological poppycock.'

Indeed in my direct experience it seems limited to questions of sexuality, although I have read at a remove opinion and editorial that expressed a similar desire to reject labels regarding physical disability and mental health issues, and I guess if you go back far enough into the archives questions of sexuality used to be classified as mental health issues.

The most readily accessible empathic space for a labels that push one outside of the mainstream and into otherness that I have is being left-handed. Although the wikipedia page on left handedness has some depressing and heartbreaking statistics, in the era I lived in I really only had some primary school teachers old enough to have a hangover from when you trained kids out of left handedness, and field hockey doesn't do left-handed sticks so I never got into it. Other than that though, my left-handedness is really only salient to me, and like a horoscope I sometimes believe it connects me mystically to prominent lefties of history like Da Vinci. It is not uncommon in my experience to have work colleagues around me for years that never bother to notice that I'm left handed, despite left-handedness making one a minority virtually anywhere but Ned Flanders' 'Leftorium' it is only slightly less rare for being left-handed to be of any practical consequence.

Any empathy I can muster with people whose sexuality deviates greatly from heterosexual, or what it is like to live in our age with a visible disability becomes a thought experiment for me. And while I could conceivably hire a wheelchair and live in it for a day, I'm not going to. Nor am I going to actually put the mental energy into running the experiment in my imagination. It is probably better to just read editorial on disability like the series the New York Times ran last year or the year before, or the japanese comic 'Real' to emphatically identify that way.

Thus my personal experience is devoid of any desire or practical motivation to reject or avoid labeling. In most of the contexts, the spaces I move through, desire to reject a label is bizarre to me. That bizareness is what makes it so fascinating. Sure in my school days (primary and secondary) I can understand that one might want to reject the label of being gay for example but this was most likely a pragmatic question of personal safety, akin to people might wanting to deny their Jewishness in the face of Gestapo inspectors knocking doors in Amsterdam this wasn't the intellectual rejection of a label coupled with an expectation that your community or greater society would carry your own bespoke/couture definition of self.

My understanding, which is not necessarily accurate, is that among those who seek to reject labels is a desire to not have their entire personality defined in the eyes of new acquaintances by what is just one aspect of themselves. Albeit the experience of having a nuanced personality simplified or lumped into one aspect is probably universal, just that there's a heirarchy and it is perhaps more desirable to receive the mainstream treatment of being reduced to your occupation, than reduced to your sexuality.

That I can understand, wrap my head around and indeed respect in the quest for personal dignity and just treatment. One's sexuality has little relevance to a job interview. (although it may be useful to know in sex work, but if Gay porn pays better and you're a gender conformist dude who isn't into dudes but willing to suck a dick for money, it shouldn't be a basis for discrimination, and casting agents should simply evaluate you on your dick size, body fat percentage and ability to sustain an erection)

But when I put myself in the shoes of the Bisexual white dude at the party talking to the gay black dude, or the gay editor talking to the gay black dude in Dear White People, and to be clear I'm just myself a white heterosexual male. How would I respond? Not just invoking my privelege, but let's go a step further and invoke white-male impugnity - I do not expect any real consequences to impact on my life based on what I say or do. So for some reason the question of sexuality has come up and this guy has stated 'I don't really believe in these labels...' to be purely and simply an agitator I would ask 'so you believe in anxiety?' hoping that this dude would bite the hook and allow me to monologue at him.

Given the context we aren't talking questions of personal safety, or professional advancement, but physically intimate relationships. I can't know but I'm pretty convinced that almost everyone in the presence of attraction to somebody experiences a natural degree of anxiety contemplating the possibility of rejection. People feel vulnerable, there's an interesting sideline about anticipatory pleasure - the greater the fantasy of the person attracted the greater the risk of rejection is to them. However I can draw on personal experience from very heterosexual situations that things that stand in the way of attempting to initiate a physically intimate relationship in the face of risk of rejection are questions of ambiguity.

Is the person single or not? They talk a lot about some 'Steve' dude, is that their boyfriend or their brother? are they fixated on someone they cannot obtain? have they processed the grief of their last relationship? Does their filial piety prevent them from dating someone of your ethnicity lest they upset their conservative parents? These are stressful forms of ambiguity that have nothing to do with sexuality, albeit if someone is bisexual the number of Steve-dude characters might multiply.

And in the context of a bar or party or nightclub or even in the context of a workplace conversation that is clearly not professional but interpersonal, the question of a sexuality label is pragmatic. Presuming you like most people are yearning in some part of your soul for the unconditional love of at least one other human being who is not your mother, why would you introduce ambiguity at this point? Somebody in these contexts that asks you 'are you gay?' is for one thing presuming you are familiar with the currency of such a label, and for the most part is asking 'would you put a dick in your mouth for fun?' as preamble to some future riskier question like 'would you like to put my dick in your mouth?' or 'would you like to put your dick in my mouth?' and lest we all forget John Cleese's sex education scene from the meaning of life, there's no need to stampede toward the penis, there's nothing wrong with a kiss. And I guess depending on what that person is searching for or interested in, the question may be preamble to 'would you ever walk along a waterfront hand in hand with me while we tell each other about our day?'

Responding to this question with 'I don't really subscribe to these labels' is a non-answer, which yes, may be diplomatic in a job interview to handle an inappropriate question, but simply leaves the question asked ambiguous in its practical repercussions. And increasing or introducing ambiguity in intimate settings by default will increase the anxiety. This isn't to say my relationship advice is that if you don't 'find your label' you'll never get laid, never be kissed etc. Just that it doesn't help. Only the kind of confidence that sees non-answers as 'well... he didn't say no' will risk making a move on you, and those that have the more reasonable level of confidence that notice 'he didn't say yes' will hesitate maybe try and collect more data, probably take it personally and have a good chance of withdrawing all together.

You may not like that for most people you meet the most interesting thing about you is your sexuality, but it wont change the fact that it is important practical information regarding a question almost everybody is obsessed with. I'm also prepared to to make a value statement and say that any characterisation of yourself that effectively tells people 'I won't tell you if you can ever catch me, but you can keep chasing me' is cruel and self indulgent. I have caught myself enjoying the indulgences of ambiguity - maintaining the interest of people I have no real interest in is a gratifying exercise in my sense of control, but cruel nonetheless. Like a dragon hoarding gold, even though I've never come across a fairytale or work of fantasy where a dragon makes a commercial transaction. Furthermore as a statement of my values, I believe that the kind of people that take an active interest in us, are more important to consider the well-being of than our reaction to the majority of people that take a passing, perhaps voyeuristic interest in us, even if that is more frequent and to our overall detriment.

But labels are more interesting and fascinating source of human inconsistency than questions of whether this will go into that.

Consider the author bio. Information that traditionally might tell us who wrote the opinions we've just read that might be helpful in establishing whether the author has a credible domain of expertise. Here's some info I read in an author bio recently:

"They are a writer, poet, artist, witch, tarot reader, zinester, rebel scholar, and community educator. She is a nonbinary queer bisexual femme, sober alcoholic, and practitioner of trauma magic."

I'm confused by the simultaneous use of 'They' and 'She' and the article was about a persons lived experience, so the only person unqualified to present their opinions on life would not be a person at all but an algorithm, so this might be an example of somebody relishing and enjoying the fun of labels. But for the arguments sake of here and now, let's suppose that this information is supposed to be informative.

Technical aside, in strict formal reasoning, who a speaker is should have no bearing on their argument. If someone as reputably unreliable and uninformed as Donald Trump were to say 'renewable energies offer an opportunity to build a new economy and a better future for those we will leave this earth' we shouldn't suddenly become opposed to renewable energy because he said it.

However, as a counter example let's consider this Author bio information:

"Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He got his Sc.B. in Cognitive Science from Brown and his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois."

I just pulled this off the second article on psychologytoday.com, today. This information is useful to the reader because the subject matter of the article steps into a domain of expertise. To be clear, formal reasoning permits a non-expert in say, psychology to make valid psychological observations, however our attention is a finite resource, whereby we may wish to employ some criteria as to who to listen to in a marketplace of ideas. Socrates placed an onus on people to put thought and effort into their beliefs in order to hold them, and information in a bio that informs us this person has put effort into formulating their opinions allows us to decide to listen to them, and also may be useful in deciding to defer to them. So the above author bio excerpt focuses on qualifications in broad but defined fields issued by physical institutions. Regardless of what you think on the quality of tertiary institutions, these particular institutions, your skepticism of the validity of psychology, or indeed science - it tells you the specifics of the expertise this author brings to his comments. Thus if he was dispensing financial advice this bio is as good as no bio at all, but if he is describing what marketers actually think and what theories of psychology they are attempting to exploit, he may be particularly insightful on the subject.

Now what about the label 'He' what does that inform me, the reader of his qualifications to comment on what? Nothing, I imagine whoever wrote the bio was simply following a convention of English known as 'gendered pronouns' it informs us that the author is what we might call, 'male' a 'man', a 'guy' a 'dude', a 'douche', a 'bastard' an 'arsehole' etc. Which is not to say that I or you are not subconsciously biased towards male medical practitioners and authority figures. It may well indeed be the case that due to prevalent stereotypes there's an unconscious inclination to consider 'his' advice more reassuring than 'her' advice even if they turn out to be the exact same advice.

I can no longer recall where I heard the anecdote, but apparently there used to be a widely held belief that women couldn't play the violin as well as men. Even though there was a consensus that music was about the sound, it took an apparently very long time before somebody managed to get orchestra's to hold blind auditions where they couldn't see who was playing, and through this innovation women were finally able to get violin chairs in orchestras.

So yes, regardless of Gender, you probably have unconscious bias for and against genders in different contexts. I do, I think. But this doesn't diminish the fact that these bias' are irrational and thus form no basis for accepting or rejecting the intrinsic argument.

So why in the case of the other author bio, is so much information dedicated to labeling a gender identity?

I don't know. And you can probably guess my prejudice against a resume of writer, poet, tarot reader, witch... rebel scholar etc. and if not, it would be my recognition that I hold all those exact qualifications and so do you. Conceding that if they were to inform me that the carpenter was a major arcana of the Ethiopian tarot deck I'd have to go verify, I don't know that off hand.

That sentence made the copy and paste cutoff because it uses 'They' where the next sentence uses 'She' to perform the same grammatical function - adding to the confusion. So what to make of the heady label brew of 'nonbinary queer bisexual femme' this set of labels has no informational value as to whether to pay attention or ignore a formal argument made by the speaker unless the argument is restricted to 'this is what life is like for a nonbinary queer bisexual femme' being the catchall, and I guess any subdivision of.

I'm going to assert something I can't possibly prove. That this author bio, is meant to be informative. That if it was changed to 'He is a writer, poet, artist, tarot reader, witch, zinester, rebel scholar and community educator.  He is a straight male, sober alcoholic and practitioner of trauma magic.' your impression of the article would be changed. Your impression of the rest of the bio would possibly be changed. Furthermore, including the word 'male' becomes redundant as the conventional use of the pronoun 'he' implies that piece of information without any further clarification. I guess in this context though gender role biases might assert themselves and the reader might think 'A witch? He must be a trans-man...'

Both cited author bios effectively relish the same joy of labels, the subtext is 'don't worry reader, they're cool, they are one of us.' They are argumentatively equivalent in that regard. You should listen to them because they have been approved for our target audience.

I would argue my prejudice that there is a meaningful difference between people relishing labels that are distributed and fiercely guarded by bureaucratic institutions, whom administer flawed but quite transparent tests to validate membership to the club, have cumbersome and expensive processes to advance up the tiers of rank and are regulated to ensure that the opportunity to join is ostensibly if not practically open to all versus a collection of like minded people adopting their own lingo and jargon to identify ingroup vs outgroup members and allocating prestige and rank based on how unlike a member is to people they don't identify with.

One is professional, the other cool kids deciding intellectualism is cool.

In 1996 Ewan McGregor's Rentboy character uttered this somewhat accurate onscreen prophecy: "One thousand years from now, there won't be any guys and there won't be any girls, just wankers. Sounds all right to me."

The somewhat inaccurate parts were that it only took 20 years, and 'any'. There are certainly scenes where guys and girls are unwelcome labels because they aren't nuanced enough, they lump gender in with sex, they are very proletariat, like domestic beer in a six pack of aluminium cans. While it may not get you kicked out of a party to be seen with one, it certainly might impact on whether you'll be invited back again.

So? So what if it's a fad or a fashion, let the kids be trendy and enjoy themselves. At the turn of the century the bravados of youth flexed their intellectual muscle by talking at length about religion as a social construct, now they talk about gender as a social construct. Why can't I sit back and let gender queer people enjoy the relative freedom, attention and accommodation of being currently in vogue?

Maybe I can.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fell In Love

When my psychologist tried to reach me through my avowed influence Miyamoto Musashi, and suggested that I 'sleep with 70 women' in some kind of romantic homage to his battle with the 70 students of the Yoshioka school, I was admittedly dubious.
But she was identifying something well known about myself - that basically since my sexual awakening, I have been looking for 'the one' and as terrible as the advice to go and sleep with 70 different women sounds, removing the face value she was suggesting that I basically form a discipline to act contrary to my habitual behavior in order to empirically test the most theraputic question of all 'how's that working for you?'
Because the simple answer was, that it wasn't. I had been single for something like 7 years when my psychologist suggested this. I didn't lack sex drive or curiosity (I mean, I wasn't compelled to sleep with whomever I could though, so maybe by some definition I did) nor did I lack a social environment with attractive women in it. I just had a tendency to focus on very few women of the general population. Pulling numbers out of my head in an attempt to describe my reality, lets say I would meet around 3 women a year I found attractive, but only 1 woman every 3 years would I want to pursue, sometimes for 3 years.
My best effort to break this mental habit was the one time I asked out a girl trying to objectively and cognitively look for evidence that someone was kind, brave, beautiful, honest ... a true constellation of human qualities that would make for a good partner and happy relationship. This was the only time I ever felt I tried to 'force' the chemistry. In my previous relationships I had dated women simply because I could and generally I had discovered over time that attachment was lacking for me.
I don't know if our chemistry can be out-thought, I would like to think it can because that's really all a person with a history of abusive relationships can do - think, experiment and hopefully discover that they can fall in love with someone their attachment style does not predispose them to for the better.

In my case it didn't work out. I got rejected. I found the process of motivating myself to court someone really exhausting and I basically gave up on the concept and just hoped for the best. I was trying at the time to escape someone I did naturally feel attracted to but all the evidence suggested it was destroying me mentally.

I did eventually escape that someone, through no efforts of my own. A better description was to say that they finally escaped me by starting their own relationship, at which point my instinct is to exit the picture to avoid all temptation to undermine someone else's relationship. In being altruistic I was most generous to myself.

To grieve privately though, a relationship that never really existed is incredibly painful because the grief and sense of loss is real but a community does not tend to acknowledge the heartbreak that can arise from somebody you've never dated. I feel sad as I write about this, but curiously I cannot recall why I was attracted to the person in question, in hindsight the miss match is obvious and while I feel for the predicament of my past self I feel no nostalgia for the prolonged and abortive courtship. I hope it means I have healed whatever wound had me pursue that pain.

I unfortunately next fell in love with someone equally unavailable, but only in the ultimate sense. I realised I loved this long standing friend when she divulged to me she was breaking up with her partner. It sent me into a wonderful panic.

But here is the thing, the kind of women I'm attracted enough to pursue, I'm attracted to because I can conceive of being happy for the long term with them. I have the patience to wait for the real deal. And I certainly had the patience to wait for this friend to go through the necessary grieving of ending a long term relationship. I also possess a strong sense of self, despite my fixation on finding 'the one' I do demand of myself some degree of self respect. Put simply, I need my prospective partners to demonstrate the capacity to be alone. I need them to take a risk on me, which isn't to say that they need to ask me out, the simply need to be put in a position where if I don't pursue them, they don't have an on hand backup plan.

This friend never was able to relinquish the role of being primary caretaker of their former partner. Nor was their any evidence they had stepped out of the role of being girlfriend in all but an official capacity. Eventually, the resumed the relationship officially.

There was a take away from this though, after spending a relatively short 6 months (for me) investing time and energy into this person I love, and that was this 'wanting somebody to change for you is at the direct expense of the person who doesn't need to change to be that person.' That's a bit wordy, and less than succinct but imagine if you were in love with Johnny but wished he would stop lying, putting time and energy into hoping that Johnny would become honest is at the expense of Bobby, who is honest and doesn't need to change at all and may love you too. You are making him wait and yourself by sitting around wishing that Johnny would somehow become Bobby.

Enter Yolanda. I noticed her immediately of course. She showed up at my work one day and her personal style screamed out new-age hippy. So I dismissed her off hand. I more or less make snap judgements like this about everyone. Still there was something about Yolanda that was undeniable, she had this bemused look and refreshingly for me, was engaging. Perhaps the single most attractive quality a human being can have.

We were employed by the same employer but we didn't work the same job. So what was incredibly rare about Yolanda, was that she was willing to engage people that weren't on the foreign language team. She crossed cliques. She would come and sit in the break room at work and complain out loud that everyone on break was just looking at their phones. Entirely through her own efforts I would talk to her, and she was delightful and easy to make laugh.

Yet, I wouldn't say I was attracted to her. I only know I noticed her because I can recall her, and our early interactions. The first to notice I liked her was my colleague Giulia, who has an almost Asperger's like ability to call out what she is thinking with no filter, a quality rare in women and even in Asperger's syndrome bearers over the age of 30.

But I was blocking the doorway while talking to Yolanda about having a nice clipboard. And Giulia said I would rather talk to a pretty girl than consider everyone else trying to leave. This struck me dumb, but I just felt it was one more piece of testimonial evidence that I am often a flirt without consciously knowing it.

And that was it really, because I was mostly preoccupied with the pain that my best prospect for finding lasting happiness in a relationship had decided their former partner was better than the wider world of possibilities that included me. That pain eventually resulted in my being ostracized, cut off. It happened some time just before my birthday, almost 3 years ago.

And so it was that my 31st birthday came and went. It was no exception to my ostracism, and I found most of my cognition dedicated to making excuses for this person I loved to not have remembered my birthday, good reasons for them not to care about me while still allowing them somehow, through my mental efforts to care about me despite the evidence that I'd lost out completely.

There is a point where most people who know me, are officially too late to wish me happy birthday, and that is after Bryce sends me birthday greetings. One of my oldest and most precious friends who is nevertheless reliably, but reliably none the less late to wish me happy birthday.

And so I was literally brooding about how I could no longer make excuses and that if someone had not wished me happy birthday by the time Bryce had then I had to face the fact that they just didn't care when my thoughts were interrupted by 'Happy birthday by the way.'

Which is when I noticed I was in the break room and Yolanda was there, and it hit me like a freight train that Yolanda was the person who I was wishing other women could turn into. It was at her expense that I was brooding.

There are some mysteries in life that I quite aggressively want to remain a mystery and how Yolanda knew it was my birthday is one of them. It was later determined that she didn't know my star sign, and the simplest explanation is that she overheard some colleagues talking about my birthday or perhaps saw someone wish me a belated birthday. But I prefer the mystery.

Frustratingly, having determined that I need to ask this Yolanda out, on a date or even to take a break together, she disappeared from my workplace. I didn't see her anymore, and I had no idea what her name is. In a moment of weakness I asked a supervisor friend to do my dirty work for me, and divulge her last name to me. The moment I did I felt wracked with guilt, my friend saw no problem and gave me the name so I could find her on facebook.

Through which Yolanda accepted me as a friend, and I saw she was performing at a gig. This I knew, and gig's are generally a nice quiet venue where by showing up you can get quality one-on-one time with a person and they really appreciate it. So I went to the gig and instead of being the typical quiet weeknight venue with punters sitting around a band room drinking some beers and quietly paying attention to the performers. I stumbled into what was a huge family picnic day type event except in the evening and attended by the entire Spanish speaking population of Melbourne. I was a very solitary white guy who unlike everyone else had absolutely no connections in the room.

It was the most self conscious I've probably ever felt, and all my instincts screamed out 'LEAVE' but instead I found a plastic cup that I could fill with water and a pole to lean against and I locked my feet up determined to wait it out. Yolanda walked straight passed me and I watched her look at me from the corner of her eye and immediately look straight ahead. I realized I had grossly miscalculated.

And so I laughed at myself, and resolved to simply be a spectator of a show I had paid to see. I was incredibly moved by the music and got to sit through the two sets. Yolanda has an amazing voice, especially for somebody her size. She is incredibly small, something that is easy to forget because her presence for me at least tends to dominate a room.

After the two sets I got to talk to her, to which she exclaimed 'what are you doing here?' and 'You stayed for both sets!' both with incredulity. Her friends and community were incredibly warm and welcoming people. But our brief exchanges had me learn that she was studying spiritual science (anthroposophy) a fact that required reconciliation with my world view, and so I texted my sister and 'she studies spiritual science' to which my sister replied 'you're a match made in heaven! scientifically speaking...' which I feel is one of her best calls.

I walked away from that gig alone, but excited, hyper-active even. I was so full of adrenaline I put Faith No More's 'Motherfucker' on my phone and rode home with more energy than I'd had all day.

The next day I asked her to come with me to the next gig of my favorite band. This fb message was ignored. Perplexed, I found a reason, she'd been in Nepal for the gig.. but not sure if I should risk the harassment of a second ask I ran it by my friend Shona in one of my favorite phone conversations of all time.

I explained the situation and read out the message I'd sent asking her to the Canary gig, Shona concurred that it just sounded like a music enthusiast asking a musician to check out some music. I asked her what I should say to ask her out on a date, given that my only available communication channel was facebook. Shona told me the perfect thing to say. I said 'that's perfect! now what did you just say?' and I got her to dictate to me how to ask her out in a manner that was clear and not creepy.

A week passed and facebook told me she hadn't seen the message. Shona was optimistic. She said it was a good sign, it meant that she would have got an email about the message and she wasn't going to open it on facebook until she was ready for the date.

Then a few days later, the message clicked over to 'seen' and I was ushered into the new world of social media sexual politics by Yolanda.

And so I did the only thing a person not wanting to harass a woman they like can do. I gave up.

6 months passed, and then one day I got a bog-standard invitation to Yolanda's farewell party, on the same night as I had another friends birthday party on the other side of town and I was dogsitting a very high maintenance dog. I resolved that I had to go. First to my friends birthday party, then to Yoli's farewell, as was right and just. I was just too curious.

From there I pulled up my bicycle and locked it to a pole in a very dark street somewhere in Essendon or Moonee Ponds or something but a side of town I rarely visit and a place I'd never been before. I had no idea whether my invitation had been an oversight, and I am aware that from a different perspective having a man who had expressed romantic interest that was not reciprocated turn up at your house is an objectively terrifying prospect for a woman. I know statistically the danger suggested by this situation and I was very self conscious of how potentially unwelcome I could be. I walked up to the front door of the house, my face burning with embarassment and my feet moved by a self-aware determination that at the very least this would make for a great anecdote.

Unfortunately when I arrived the entire party was crammed into the living room, right on the other side of the front door watching video performances of Yolanda's group. I had to step into a space directly next to the TV interrupting absolutely everyone as I entered. I stood there for 5-10 minutes asking myself what I was doing and if I could do this. I just knew it would be more embarassing to chicken out and walk away. So I picked the closest moment to a pause in action to enter the door.

As I was saying 'no habla espaniol' Yolanda from the back of the room cried out 'Welcome!' and my mind plummeted into confusion. I could do nothing but find a place to sit and watch like everyone else. Easy enough to do. Then the video ended and the party broke up into various rooms. Here I became extremely self conscious, it was just like the family-picnic gig except that now there wasn't even a gig to focus my attention on. I was simply standing in her kitchen. Yolanda's friends were and are incredibly caring people. One of them told me I looked really serious and offered me a joint.

This highlights another problem I have in terms of meeting women. I don't do any drugs, whether they be illicit or legal, unless a hospital emergency ward administers them to me. This includes caffeine and alcohol, so at a party I am generally blind stinking sober. For quite some time in my sbriety, I felt that I was more or less screwed romantically by this choice, as I consider it poor form to hook up with someone who is much much drunker than you, particularly when you are completely sober - this I believe is called 'taking advantage' and at any given party dependent on my arrival time I have somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes before someone is too drunk for me to hit on.

It's an aside but what I have learned since though is that I can be confident a woman is interested in me if after finding out I don't do any drugs period, they start talking aloud about how they need to quit, especially sugar, caffeine etc. This is the subconscious process of mapping where a person tries to figure out how to map their life onto the person's they are interested in.

But Yoli eventually spoke to me that night, and I could do nothing but stare at her as we talked briefly wondering what the hell was going on with this girl and why she ignored my message yet was so engaged in our conversation now like it had never happened.

Then she was dragged away to perform. And I simply sat in in the living room listening to her sing to nothing but guitar accompaniment, and that the clock was ticking and I had a high maintenance dog at home that I needed to return to. I was going to have to Cinderella out of there. It was extremely hard, I just wanted to listen to one more song. Knowing that she was getting on a plane the next morning and that was it.

For the second time in 6 months I was just extremely angry with myself that I wasn't who I needed to be to get a woman's attention. I sat there listening to this beautiful music and all I could articulate was 'damn'. Then I had to go. Just accept the failure.

I wrote her the next morning to tell her that she reminded me of the strongest person I know (my ex girlfriend Misaki) and that I'm sure she was going to be fine returning to Spain. It seemed like a nice thing to do that I would appreciate in the reverse.

Perplexingly this was the message she finally chose to reply to, and we had a brief exchange which resulted in her asking me to draw a picture for her, which I offered to send to Spain.

And that was it. Exit Yolanda. My last attempt to find and secure a relationship with 'the one'. I had to come back to that therapeutic question of honestly assessing 'how is it working for you?' from there on, I was resolved to find a new approach to meeting and falling in love with people. The world of women I naturally fall in love with is just too small.

It is hard to imagine though, what it is you are not doing. So I decided it was simply a matter of faith. If I lead the kind of life I wanted, I would meet the kind of people I wanted to be with and they would want to be with me.

That was the theory anyway, but I can't testify as to it working yet. What really changed was taking stock of what I didn't have. I woke up one day and realized that I had no financial obligations, no relationship obligations and no tennancy obligations. I could pack up and leave.

It was the time in my life where I could be completely irresponsible, quit my job and go off to Italy to live in my city, the only city outside of Melbourne I have ever truly loved.

The moment I made this decision, much changed for me. I was no longer interested in 'the one' as suddenly, forming a long term relationship would be a real spanner in the works for my dreams of that city. It was a dream I didn't want to share with anybody.

But suddenly my eyes were open to casual relationships and hook ups with women I was not particularly interested in. Particularly women that I had no long term prospects with, or was not romantically interested in but physically attracted to, and in one case I was happy to oblige someone I wasn't physically attracted to either.

Thus began and quickly ended my experiments with casual sex, something I'd never done before. My brain is too geard towards pattern recognition to recognize that having multiple novel sexual partners was insufficient to make my friends that did so happy. There was significant evidence that it did the opposite. For myself I have had sex without attachment twice, and found them both to be ultimately hollow experiences that I can happily forego for the rest of my life.

None the less, I enjoyed my new open mindedness to short term relationships. I was looking forward to Italy and maybe having a summer fling with a belladonna.

I cannot describe to you how otherworldy living in Italy was to me. Beautiful women were simply everywhere once I learned to venture out of the historic center populated by much less attractive tourists. Where the Italians live and play, one only had to wait minutes if not seconds to see the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.

I developed crushes, particularly retail crushes, but I was also living in the kind of town where if you saw a person you liked enough to notice one day, you would inevitably see them again a few days later. It was much like my hometown Ballarat in that regard, where the thoroughfares were shared.

I was finally at peace with the Good life, I left the confines of that city far less than I expected. I was at the halfway point of my time there before I took my first train down the coast to catch up with my brother and his partner and my nephew. I had expected to become bored of the city I was in before that. Instead I resented having to leave it, even for a day.

I took a trip to Sicily with my sister that will always be a cherished memory we share. She was also the only person I got to share my city with and one of the only people I'm willing to.

I decided though, to get out of town and revisit Barcelona, mostly because the last time I'd been there I'd had kidney stones that prevented me from seeing much of the city, but also because there was Yolanda.

Although I'd been on a few dates, I hadn't actually hooked up with anybody in Italy. I had only just gotten enough of a social life to start meeting the kind of women I could be interested in. But I had a theory.

Yolanda had only started to communicate with me after she left Australia. I was sure I wasn't so deluded in thinking she liked me that I had completely misfired by asking her out. So to reconcile the two facts, I felt that Yolanda was simply not interested in a committed relationship. Therefore it was possible that if I saw her during a brief visit, she might be up for some fun given no threat of a relationship to follow.

I reached out to see if she was around, and she invited me to a catch up. We managed somehow to coordinate a time and day, and on my trip to Spain I managed to get to her town.

She says I was almost unbearably stressed when I arrived. Completely insensitive as to how her own ambiguous behavior might have contributed to my stress.

It is hard for me to talk about that day, because it is so precious to me. I decided it was ours, and that I wasn't going to share it with anyone else. Just that while I had come thinking I was on the same page as her finally, interested in casual relationships and not serious ones, I discovered I was way off the mark.

At some point sitting in her room listening to her talk, I realized with some frustration that this was the woman I would marry. It sounds crazy, and later I would take to refer to her as my 'imaginary wife' but in my first hand experience, I felt I was understanding what old timers say when they say 'when you know you know'.

It was like this one person had swept all the belladonnas of Italy off the face of the earth absent mindedly. In a panic I returned to Italy feeling both incredibly great and incredibly worried that I basically had lost my ability to see all the characters of my Italian adoptive home as I had wanted to portray them in an exhibition prior to leaving for Spain. I felt deep within myself that I had met my wife, in what that means to me, yet couldn't perceive how it would work.

Thus I tried my hardest to force myself back into the headspace of someone who wasn't interested in settling down. The person very happy with single life. I just couldn't do it, despite the best efforts of the beautiful women of Italy.

I wasn't sure what had happened to me or my life, eventually I found a video by Zizek who I generally find interesting but vacuous, but on this point he managed to describe exactly what had happened to me



So I returned to my home town, both full and empty. A piece of knowledge that this person I'd been looking for existed and no idea how to be with her.

here's what I will divulge about our day together. I knew what she was to me, I had no idea if this day, this afternoon even was all I would ever get. Consider that the love of your life is on his/her deathbed, what would you give to have one last day with her? Four more hours even?

This was salient for me. My dog had been put down the prior year (one of the things that left me responsibility free to leave for Italy) and I knew how much the efforts of the vet to let me walk her one more time in a park meant to me. The knowledge that I got just one more walk with her.

It meant everything. And as I walked behind Yolanda, it was very salient - 'Okay, this is her. Who you've been looking for exists, and this might be it so make the most of it. No regrets, just enjoy her company for this afternoon.'

She would later tell me that when we said goodbye, my hug was really intense. I feel she understands that of the two of us, I understood what was at stake. That it might be our last embrace. That afternoon may have been our whole relationship.

The question as to whether all the relationships I'd foregone, the dead ends I'd pursued, the time and money spent to get to that one day in Gelida was worth it, is laughable to me. You cannot possibly underestimate the value of the knowledge that someone like that, for you, exists.

People who manage to climb Everest get to sit on top of the world for a couple of minutes if they are lucky. Take a photograph maybe. Then they have to make the life-threatening descent. It's completely logical. If you are truly present, a moment is a life time.

Upon returning to Australia, I followed my intuition and decided to write Yolanda a love letter. Surprisingly, nothing I've ever done has attracted more voyeuristic interest than this exercise. People I would have assumed would have told me it was a stupid idea wanted to hear daily updates. With some advice from my dear friend Q, I eventually managed to write the kind of letter I felt reflected me. I wrote it and sent it. It took me 2 months of daily efforts, something like 48 drafts.

I sent it and almost on the day she recieved it she contacted me and told me about it. And that was it.

Then my birthday rolled by, and just as at the beginning, she remembered. It was the only birthday wish I cared about, but when I received it, I was struck by just how much that meant to me.

Currently, in part this blog post is procrastination from a process I have been through 9 times. That process is writing personalized invitations to people for my exhibition. I have at least 70 more to write, and I have already written 80. It's an exhausting, draining process that sends me into the depths of depression. Part of what makes it so hard is the asymmetrical relationship I am forced to accept. Of the 80 invitations I have written, 30 people have accepted the invitation and committed themselves, at least nominally to going to my exhibition. Even so, only about 50% have responded in any manner at all.

I am asking people to do me a favor, so I don't believe anybody can create an obligation on the part of another by reaching out to them for help. What i am aware of is that I generally run a large 'caring' deficit in terms of the thought I allocate to my friends versus what I receive back from them. For the most part, my inner circle more than compensates for the negligence of others, and this is more or less how life works - some people do the work of many and most people are passengers in one context or another through their lives.

Thus, it seems like the most simple and insignificant thing, to wish somebody happy birthday. And many people do, even without the assistance of facebook reminders. But Yoli wrote 'happy birthday dear' something not even my favorite ex Misaki has managed for 10 years.

It is hard to describe what literally happens and at the same time not want to paint myself, or accept that I am a tragic figure. At any rate, through her simple action Yolanda relieved the tragedy. It was the best birthday I'd had in a decade, because the woman I love had acknowledged it. Turns out, that is a big deal to me.

Yolanda was slow to acknowledge her attraction or even love of me. I knew you she did, when she spent her New Years Eve on the phone talking to me, had dressed up for me, in a room alone. I know who you spend your New Years with.

Weekly conversations turned to daily, soon I was being carried through the streets of Spain as my Yoli walked to work or ate her lunch. I would wake up to her and go to sleep with her. Somehow in a long distance relationship I'd always been skeptical of. This lasted 4 months, until Yolanda gave up.

Contrary to what you might expect at a time like this, I can only testify that long distance relationships are easy. Particularly if the relationship commences as one, but I've enjoyed talking to Yolanda on a daily basis more than any other aspect of my life of the last 10 years. Perhaps because distance strips a relationship bare of all but what couples spend the most time doing together - conversing, it allows you to focus on the most essential part.

What is hard to the point of impossible to have a relationship with, is anxiety. Self-defeating anxiety. Allow it into a relationship and in my experience, physical distance plays no role in appeasing it's destructive urge to take control of what you fear to lose.

So this is a sad post, maybe, about precisely what it is I live for. And I got it, enjoyed it, had it and am grateful. Getting dumped changes no facts, simply leaves me with a bunch of emotions that for what its worth, I shall honor by experiencing them. I plan to channel it into my forthcoming exhibition to, in my experience enhance the works themselves with the authenticity with which I feel my subject matter, and seize a pretext to re-enter psychotherapy to process my grief.

While daunting to think that statistics suggest I have another 10 years to wait for my next relationship, I nevertheless have faith in my intuition that Yolanda is the one. I'm left with the same mystery as to what this intuition means as when I left Spain and Italy and returned to Australia. The deep sense of knowing she is the one, with a complete lack of understanding as to how that can be, compounded by her desire not to participate in the relationship anymore - which of course means I can't also.

Thus I have nothing to do but live my life as I would live it. With a complete disinterest to the romantic pursuits for now. Until such a time as my feeling is either validated by some reconciliation with Yolanda, or by some heretofore inconceivable person that may prove to evoke an even stronger sense that they are the one. Given that I was completely blindsided by how quickly and deeply I fell in love with Yolanda that afternoon, I have to allow the possibility that even stronger versions of the experience may exist. But that means it may take 20 years to discover somebody able to evoke such feelings in me.

Good thing I wasn't planning on dying anytime soon.