Artwork celebrating joy, peace, goodness, light, life, and hope.

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Pursue Your Goals -- YOUR Way

October 13th, 2021

Pursue Your Goals -- YOUR Way

If you're on this site, it's probably because you paint or take photos, with the idea of selling your artistic creativity to others. I would imagine that a potential goal in your life is to increase these sales, so that what is a pleasurable hobby can turn into a business worth investing time in.

And if you're like me, you've probably received reams of advice from well meaning friends, family members and straight up strangers. I could make a list of some of this advice, entitled something like "10 Top Pieces of Advice People Who Are Not Artists Trying to Sell Their Work Give to Artists Trying to Sell Their Work." Somewhere in that list would be, "Reach out to family members and friends with your art -- show them what you do, and they'll buy it!" As if Mom doesn't know, already, that you do art.

It doesn't take long to move past this well meaning advice. You find that you get very adept at a quick warm smile, a nod, and a "thank you." The "advice" that is more difficult to move past, the type that taps into our insecurities, is from those "business experts" out there -- think of the articles on Linked In with 100k views, entitled along the lines of, "Top Selling Strategies for Small Businesses." (I get regular emails from UPS these days, telling me how a former pro-tennis star turned her dreams into a Big Successful Business, without bothering to mention the financial assets, as well as a household name, that she had to start with. And then there's the former president turned "artist" -- more money and name recognition.)

You can drop down a rabbit hole with these "advice" articles, programs, and books, but before you do so, here's something that has worked for me:

Follow your instincts. Walk on a narrow trail that no one else is on. Give things a try, even if they seem crazy. And this is the big one: Allow yourself to think in a completely, radically different way than you normally do. If an idea seems outlandish, but it intrigues you, try the Just One Week technique: for one week, allow yourself to go there. When you want to say, "That's nuts. That can't possibly work," stop, and don't think that. You don't have to actually DO anything, invest money or change you're schedule -- all you're doing is, for one week, allowing yourself to consider the possibility, follow where it could go, let the pursuit of thought open up more options and ideas.

At the end of the week, you're free to give up the new, radical idea and go back to the old way of thinking. But I'm willing to bet that, after a week of allowing yourself freedom of wild thought, you won't go back to where you started. Somehow, in some way, you'll have taken another step along the narrow path.

And . . . in that week while you allow yourself to think a radically different thought, you probably don't want to tell anyone about what you're thinking, because the last thing you need is a piece of Advice from Someone Who Doesn't Sell Art telling you something like, "You're nuts! Try this instead: Ask your friends and family to share the Facebook posts of your art!"

Reality versus Propaganda

September 30th, 2021

Reality versus Propaganda

The world of propaganda is one of repetition, whether the product being sold is a new car or a lifestyle change. The essential thing is to keep hammering at the message, in varying formats, until you wear down the listener and viewer's psyche. As people who are inundated with political, medical, and corporate propaganda, we are wise to be aware of this primary means of getting us to believe the advertisers' message.

(Fear is another tool of propaganda -- unsettling us so that we can't reason effectively. Combine fear with constant repetition and you have a populace that reacts, as opposes to rationalizes. Think back over the "news" you've heard in the last 25 years, and ask yourself, "How much of the message is fear? And how much of that fear message is constantly repeated?")

It's important to recognize that, regardless of how many times a message is repeated, this does not increase its validity or truth. Indeed, the more we hear a message, the more we should question its veracity, since obvious facts, such as, "The grass is green," or, "Cookies are sweet," don't have to be thrown at us in political speeches and documentaries and scientific pronouncements and Twitter blurbs. And they most certainly don't require carrot or stick.

One subtle, and not-so-subtle, message we receive is that the digital world is a wonderful, completely equal alternative to face to face, physical interaction. We've heard this a lot over the last 18 months and counting as we're told that we need to shut ourselves in our dark rooms, where it's safe, and interact with our friends and families via Zoom, or face time on the phone, or text, or email. "Hold up the Christmas present as you're opening it, honey, so I can see it!"

It's not the same. And putting a smile on it and insisting that it is doesn't belie the lie -- there is no substitute, no replacement, no digital equivalent to hugging someone, shaking hands, being in the same room and looking at one another's faces as we talk, physically interacting. Anyone who has lived far from a loved one for a long time would, in a heartbeat, drop the phone for the real thing.

The artwork, Out Sailing, celebrates this reality of reality -- this friendship and interaction of real people with one another. At the end of the day, when each man thinks over the experience, he will remember the talking, the laughing, the teasing and joking, the being together on a warm sunny day, out in the water where the air feels free.

The digital world has its place, and we as people who wish to live free must keep it in its place. It's fast, convenient, and enables us to keep in touch with people who are physically distanced from us. But it is not a substitute for real, genuine, NORMAL, face to face physical interaction, and any message that it is so is . . . propaganda.

The Benefits of Thinking Can't Be Overrated

September 9th, 2021

The Benefits of Thinking Can

Every so often I meet someone who tells me, "I don't watch TV. I don't even own a TV," and I think, "Hurray! Another member of the Thinking Club."

And then they add, "But I LOVE the new series from Netflix/Amazon/StreamOfUnconciousness. I watch it on my phone every week."

Oh. Okay, so it's not a TV per se, the big metal and glass box (it used to be called an Idiot Box) that monopolized a large corner of the living room, eclipsing other furniture, like bookshelves. Now, it's a big screen taking up a section of the wall, eclipsing other items, like artwork. Or it's the phone, streaming, when it isn't listening. Or a notebook (which, incidentally, used to be a pad of paper, upon which people wrote their thoughts, made lists, or drafted plans of something they were making).

Regardless of the screen of choice, the end result looks the same: digital matter, purportedly representing reality of some sort, that captures our time, glazed eyes, fractured attention, and spirit. While we're watching, we're not thinking, and if you don't believe me, try it some time. The next time the "news" is on, or a favorite show, see how actively you are interacting with it. Do you stop, as when you're reading a book, and say, "Wait a minute! That's not what you said before"? Of course not; the content keeps streaming, and it takes you along with the current.

Okay, so after the show is over, and the 8 o'clock noose update, and the series of commercials, and the beginning of the next show which you'll just catch a couple minutes of, and a break for some public service announcement, and the 9 o'clock update -- do you turn it off, sit back on the sofa, close your eyes, and deeply, deeply think about what you've just heard, the images you've seen, the barrage of messages aimed at you? Do you say, "What was it the newscaster said -- those numbers . . . how did they get those numbers? And who was the expert they were interviewing? Why, if this is supposed to be a balanced, factual show, don't they bring in someone who disagrees with the expert? Are there no dissenting voices?" And that's just if you watched the news, which is supposed to contain more intellectual content than a reality show.

Thinking, unlike mentally ingesting images and dialogue from a screen, is a highly creative, highly concentrating process: you can't passively do it. You must actively engage your mind, ask questions, poke around for answers the same way your tongue prods at a chipped tooth. Of all people who should be seriously, intensely, constantly thinking, it is artists -- because we are the ones who are supposed to be looking at the world around us, exploring it, interpreting it through our brushes and canvas.

The benefits of thinking cannot be overrated, in the same way the benefits of watching TV cannot be underrated enough. The one is energizing. The other drains the heart, mind, and soul of all vitality.

It's Okay -- Normal, and Healthy -- to Escape

September 8th, 2021

It

A major focus of what I paint is peace -- calm, tranquility, stillness, quiet, and serenity. One of my goals is to invite people into such places so that they can think, breathe, rest, slow down, and find goodness and joy.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to walk outside their door and step onto actual ground, be surrounded by trees, "listen" to the silence -- but we all need this. We all need escape from the noise and ugliness of what we call modern civilization: phones that track our every move; TV announcers who drone into our psyche; crowded parking lots without a space for our car; sirens; nosy neighbors who gleefully and anonymously report what they consider to be our infractions; inane YouTube videos; traffic; the unending pressure from Corporate Culture and political propaganda to be "original" by copying someone else, to fit in, to subordinate who we actually are to what they say we should be.

We need time and space to think -- and think deeply. To question everything we've ever been told and are constantly being told. To figure out who we really are, what kind of person we'd like to be, and how to get there without excessive interference from The Authorities.

In places like Mountain Refuge, there is in this silence, this space, this sky that isn't falling but staying up in the heavens (free from the latest billionaire thrusting through it, please God) where it belongs, the calmness and quiet that our hearts and minds need to do this serious thinking. If you can find a place like this, away from "modern" civilization, then do whatever you can to get out in it. If you can't -- if you're stuck in the city and surrounded by noise -- turn off as much of that noise as you can. Brew a cup of tea. Sit in a chair. Find a painting that has an image of peaceful tranquility on it and just let yourself go there.

It is right, and normal, and healthy, and good to get away from the noise, to a place where fear isn't promoted -- marketed, actually -- as a normal thing. Escape the Abnormal.

Quit Putting Your Life on Hold

September 7th, 2021

Quit Putting Your Life on Hold

I don't know if you've noticed a pattern here, but it's been going on long enough that it's time to point it out.

In the state where I live, where the governor took over emergency powers some 90 weeks ago and has been running the Union of Social-Mediasized Citizens' Republic to his satisfaction without any interference from legislators, or more importantly, ordinary people, we're constantly told to wait. It started with, "Two weeks to flatten the curve!" and progressed to, "Two more weeks to flatten the curve!" then, "A few months to get a hold on this deadly threat," to "More months to completely obliterate 'cases,'" to, "Everybody needs to do whatever I say however I say it because I'm tremendously important and I believe in SCIENCE and I trust it and you should too and the best way to do that is Follow My Orders!"

Well, perhaps he didn't say it precisely like that, but the tone is spot on.

The essential thing, though, is this: we are to put our lives on hold. Indefinitely. Remember, "No Christmas!" last year? That wasn't so bad; why not give it another skip this year? And birthdays -- they're not that essential, really. Neither is your job, essential that is. Come to think of it, neither are friends, family, human interaction -- guys, it's just too dangerous. Better to stay inside; lower the shades; dim the lights to save electricity, because there's plenty of light coming from the TV screen. And that's what we need to be doing: watching TV. Staying up on the "news." Scrolling through our phones. Listening to the authorities. Following the advice of the experts. And not, ever, ever, asking questions.

And waiting. Inside, in the dark. Until they tell us it's safe to come outside again. Masked, of course, because it's never really safe.

That's not living. That's not even surviving. That's allowing not only our bodies, but our minds to be locked up in a prison of fear.

I don't know if you own a boat. I don't, but that doesn't stop me from painting them. And it doesn't stop me from floating my boat, in the water, as I sail through the journey of life as a free thinking, free living person who has family to love (and hold, and hug), paintings to create, and dreams to fulfill.

You Don't Have to Be an Expert to Think

September 3rd, 2021

You Don

One of my daughters (I hesitate to say, "the middle child," because she dislikes that appellation) mentioned a mainstream media statement she ran into the other day:

"They said that ordinary people shouldn't do their own research, but just leave this up to the experts. It went so far as to imply that it's dangerous to ask questions."

This would be laughable if it weren't unfortunately serious, and one wonders why sensible people don't rise up and say, "Who ARE these androids pontificating this verbal fecal matter?" Well, they're the same disengaged specimens of humanity telling us not to dare even converse with one another, because the spittle and mucus and droplets emitting from our faces -- plastered over by three or four or five layers of manufactured paper product -- will contaminate others with some viral pestilence of frightening, and apparently never ending, proportions. (When you get a chance, look up the Greek alphabet; there are a lot of letters yet to go through.)

If we stop and think for a moment -- something we should do on a regular basis -- commonsense tells us that conversing with one another, rather than passing on germs, passes on thoughts and questions, doubts and ideas, observations and the encouragement to investigate. And these are not good things in a society that is Trickle Down Ruled, with the voices from above -- "The Experts" -- informing the people trickled upon what to believe, how to behave, what to wear, where to go, what to think. It's bad enough when they're advertising some cheap plastic product that no one needs, but when they delve into our spirituality, health, human dignity, lifestyle, private thoughts, and, well, next breath, then the repercussions of not asking questions become very serious, very quickly.

You don't have to be an expert to ask questions. After all, in the timelessly apt Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Emperor's New Clothes, it was a child who saw through the facade. The adults were so concerned about what those around them thought, that they were afraid to question anything at all.

Freedom of Choice, or Freedom to Obey?

September 2nd, 2021

Freedom of Choice, or Freedom to Obey?

I love the ocean because it is untameable. That's not to say that someday, some billionaire financier won't look for a way to box it in, gate it off, drain the resources for profit, all for the loudly proclaimed sake of improving people's lives and building the planet back better.

But for now, the ocean, for the most part, takes up a huge portion of the planet, and has absolutely no need or compulsion to ask permission of the billionaires, the world governments, and the many many agencies of two to four (generally three) letters in their names to flow over the globe, to exist, to be. It has freedom of choice to be the ocean, act like the ocean, and exist as the ocean.

But what about us? What about each human being on the planet, all supposedly equal and deserving of dignity, humanity, compassion, the right to earn a living, the right to eat, to stay warm and clothed and safe from marauders? What freedom of choice do we actually have? (And by the way, do we need a piece of paper to inform us that we are equals, to bestow that equality upon us as governmental decree, or are we really, truly, intrinsically BORN as equals of each other? If the latter, then why do we suffer kings?)

Due to the aggressive and harassing voice of the mainstream media, the word choice has become solely associated with abortion, or not. As recent and disturbing coercive governmental edicts show these days, My Body My Choice does not mean you have a general and all encompassing choice to refuse "medical" "treatment" "options," but rather, may choose one of two or three concoctions hastily put together by profit-making pharmaceutical companies, or, if you're disobedient, uncaring, selfish, and stupid, may "choose" to do what you're told or lose your job. Or be locked in your home. Or escorted to a re-education camp. The "choices" for choosing to say No to Drugs get increasingly draconian, and one wonders, how far will people -- normally good, decent people who would never kick a stray dog -- let this travesty of illogic, meanness, unscientific and irrational non-thought, and totalitarianism go on?

We do have a choice, one that supersedes government, emperors, and kings: We can choose to do good. We can choose to treat others with dignity. We can choose to question what we're told. We can choose to NOT call an idiot someone with whom we disagree. We can choose to put the TV in the garbage can. We can choose to listen to dissenting voices. We can choose to say, "What are you Rulers doing? How is it you are separating a section of people from another, and saying it is fine to treat them as sub-humans? And what right do you have to make these decisions?"

We can choose to live free.

A Simple Way to Protect Your Privacy

September 1st, 2021

A Simple Way to Protect Your Privacy

Years ago, someone who was not a friend and whom we had no interest in inviting into our home stood outside the gate while our dog -- who apparently knew our feelings -- kept them there. Hearing the ruckus, we went outside, quickly addressed the matter at hand, and sent the person on his way. Everything was done politely, but the point was made: our home is a refuge, and we do not open it to strangers who are not interested in being friends.

Even in today's strange society, this way of thinking makes sense to most. I mean, who wants their boss borrowing their hair brush, or some government official poking through the bookshelves, commenting upon our reading tastes?

And yet, people invite strangers into their homes all the time. If you own a TV and watch the news, or if you scroll through the phone and follow the latest, greatest updates on what experts say about your health, or if you willingly answer all the fun fun quizzes on social media, you're letting strangers into your home. And they dominate the conversation: when you comment to the face on the screen that they're lying, do they stop in surprise and say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Tell me your side of the story"?

Didn't think so.

Our personal choice is to not own a TV and to spend more time reading books than scrolling through our phones. That sounds radical to many. But here's the thing to think about: if, at the end of the day of watching shows and listening to the news and checking up on our Influencer of choice and reading the latest mandate from our various emperors we feel tired, discouraged, helpless, hopeless, overwhelmed, inert, fearful, and anxious, what have we gained by these digital relationships?

When their words and attitudes exert a strong influence on how we think, feel, and believe, then they have invaded our privacy. And we have invited them to do so.

So, one simple way to protect your privacy is to let the dog out, and keep the strangers at the gate. Don't invite them in.

Go Ahead -- Bother People by Asking Questions

August 31st, 2021

Go Ahead -- Bother People by Asking Questions

Too many of us have the idea that truth is something you're TOLD -- either by the preacher in the pulpit, the politician behind the podium, the doctor in the white coat, or the handsome/beautiful face floating above the important looking news desk on the TV or phone screen. Charts and graphs and dramatic video in the background add to the illusion that truth is something only the experts have a handle on.

But truth is something you find. Anyone who has ever seriously looked for something -- be it the phone you put down in the living room (you think), your sunglasses, the car keys -- knows that an essential process to finding what you're looking for is asking questions: "Has anyone seen my black shoes?" "WHERE is my wallet?" Even if there is no one around to ask, we run a silent conversation within ourselves: "I know I had it when I got out of the car. What did I do then?"

So, if we ask questions on matters as mild as our missing car keys or who ate the last piece of cake, surely we should ask questions about the really, really significant elements of our lives: "Are all people equal? If this is so, then why do some people command and rule over the lives of others?" or, "Is my power as a 'citizen" truly limited to casting a vote every few years and writing letters to the rulers?"

Or this one: "Why am I put down when I ask questions?"

Truth remains hidden when our eyes, our minds, and our mouths, remain closed. Ask questions, lots of them, and when you are scolded for doing so, ask, "Why?"

Be the Person Everyone Else Wants to Emulate

August 27th, 2021

Be the Person Everyone Else Wants to Emulate

If you're lucky, you've met a person like this -- someone so confident in themselves that they are impervious to peer pressure which, today, includes public shaming by mainstream media, politicians, medicos, "experts," and the many, many trolls -- and their human acolytes -- on social media.

The strong person's confidence isn't the false substitute propounded by business and leadership seminars. You know what I mean -- the pep talks that encourage us to act like we know what we're doing when we don't, to project a pseudo-competence in place of real knowledge, skill, and ability. Anyone who has worked under an insecure middle manager knows what this looks like.

No, the person confident in themselves is one who questions everything, especially authority, and does not accept "facts" simply because they are streamed on a screen by someone wearing a tailored suit or a white lab coat. The confident person knows that he or she has been given an intellect and is expected to use it, and he or she is wary when there is pressure to accept a universal theory encompassing one dogma, one belief, one way of looking at things, one acceptable means of behaving. They are especially wary when people are attacked for thinking differently. Their inner cynic tells them that this is not good.

These people stand out, because they don't fit in. If you're lucky, you know someone like this. If you're truly looking for truth, you'll strive to BE someone like this.

 

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