What happens when we don’t take responsibility for healing our own lives, and instead project our buried trauma out onto other people – our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues?
What happens when we use all our energy in criticism and complaint, when we use charity and judgement as a way of maintaining privilege and superiority over ‘weaker-thans’? When we use power like a gun and intelligence only to manipulate? Is this not a way of describing blight? Does this not weaken the entire system of life? Weinstein. Ghomeshi. Trump. Any person of any gender who identifies with embitterment, any person who inflicts their own still-festering injuries on others.
So, at any point in our lives, each and every one of us, until we choose to do the work and grow up.
What happens instead when we don’t accept diminishment, and instead use our considerable strength to knit together, to hold space for change, to join, to empower and build.What happens to us.What happens to the world.
Harriet Tubman. Georgia O’Keefe. Emily Carr. Gord Downey. Elizabeth Warren, who persists.
What happens when a small, any or multi gendered group gathers in the kitchen to wash, dry, put away dishes from the meal they made for 30 people? What happens when they gather to weed a garden, repair or build a quilt, build a house, make music, block out a play, collaborate on a project, get something done together… the conversation knits and weaves, joins and clarifies, connects and strengthens.
It’s about the doing, but the doing isn’t the point. The weaving, the connecting, the building, the sharing and comparing is the point. The anchor of hearth, the rhythm of ritual, the resources of valued difference.
In this contemporary culture, many-gendered, magnificent embroiderers, quilters, designers and fabric artists have taken the diminuitive notion of ‘women’s work’ and transformed it into empowerment – an actual, functional, powerful approach to healing our homes and our bodies and building the world anew. Artists and musicians, actors and writers are more and more equally represented by all cultures, all genders, who have empowered themselves to speak from their own power, to openly share their hard-won strength and dignity with us. Does this not strengthen us all? Is this not another way to describe nourishment?
Endurance, independence, perception, wisdom. Strong opinions, well informed by context and shared with humility. To do something valuable with one’s anger.
Not the pursuit of virtuosity as an identity, but for joy. Not to claim then fight nasty to maintain one’s trumped-up value .
Instead, always to include, to hold space for. Powerfully.
The We, the Us, without the Them. We, the ecosystem from which no living being is excluded.
This wire is familiar – the one I’m down to. Six paintings, eleven days – I’m now working on two at the same time.
(also workshop and rehearse the Performance Piece for Opening night, compile the Book for #Selfie and make at least two. Then my breaks: three rehearsals, two concerts, teaching cello lessons and art class, sleep, exercise, eat….)
This past weekend the most difficult task was to hold my own in recurring conversations with self doubt. I managed it, I think, by utilizing every trick in the book – bull-headedness, steel-jawed determination, nonchalance, distraction, humour, tears, goading….
This morning and late yesterday as I worked on the content of the next two I began to think differently. It’s as though each piece is a school. When I graduate, I get a few hours off (though this will undoubtedly change as the days pass), and then I start a new series of courses in the examination of #Selfie and … me.
As I wrote to Kristan this morning (he and I are in workshop mode with tandem and solo spoken word for the opening performance), School Rules are:
1. go consciously and directly at whatever chafes and disturbs you, or makes you squirm in discomfort.
2. find imagery that resonates with that.
3. draw, paint, sing, write – quickly, to manifest it as clearly as possible.
4. Do NOT succumb to melodrama, self-pity, cynicism, terror or denial.
5. Remain open to shock.
6. Don’t forget to breathe, sleep and eat.
I want to say something about the myth of Narcissus, which has come up in conversation as a way to describe #Selfie behavior. Ovid’s telling of the story has been most resonant in western culture (book III of Metamorphoses.) though it’s interesting to see what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say:
Narcissus, in Greek mythology, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was distinguished for his beauty. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book III, Narcissus’s mother was told by the blind seer Tiresias that he would have a long life, provided he never recognized himself. His rejection, however, of the love of the nymph Echo or (in an earlier version) of the young man Ameinias drew upon him the vengeance of the gods. He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died. The Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias, in Description of Greece, Book IX, said it was more likely that Narcissus, to console himself for the death of his beloved twin sister, his exact counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall her features.
The story may have derived from the ancient Greek superstition that it was unlucky or even fatal to see one’s own reflection. Narcissus was a very popular subject in Roman art.
Narcissism has long since become a psychiatric term used to describe extreme self-centredness – often so pathological that it prevents any meaningful engagement with anything not self-referenced. A Narcissist will project himself and his needs onto anyone and everyone he/she meets, and then become confused when that ‘other’ has needs of their own. We all do that, to some extent, myself definitely included. It’s conditioned into us.
I actually do believe that our outer selves belong more to those people we relate to than to us, and that we need to recognize this. What if our fascination with our own face is more about a longing for relationship? I would propose that taking a #Selfie and posting it online is the action that follows that longing.
Do we do this because we believe that someone out there will actually be able to ‘see’ what’s inside us (as in Avatar’s “I see you”)? It’s interesting then that instead of this ‘recognition’ what often happens is that the anonymous viewer projects his or her self-image onto your Selfie, and then writes hateful, destructive messages in response. Artist Lindsay Bottos has published a compelling piece that illustrates this perfectly, called Anonymous. It’s worth taking a look at.
I need to get back to painting very soon, and I’m struggling to articulate the crux of this idea. Here goes:
If we all search for meaning through relationships, but find that meaning only when we stop projecting our internal needs onto ‘the other’, then really what we long for is a good, honest, trusting relationship with our own Self. My needs are my own; I am responsible to and for them, and I respect that you are different from me.
Certainly Narcissus’ beauty was legendary in the myth – so many pursued him, gazed at him, idolized him for it. What if he died because he got caught in the idea that his outer beauty was so great that it completely overshadowed who he actually was? What if he died out of starvation for himself?
That’s happened to a few people in this culture that makes gods out of movie and pop stars. How terrible.
So, back to it.
Wish me luck and speed and clarity, if you would. It’s all corners on two wheels time…
Here’s the actual invitation, no longer a work-in progress. Please come if you can.