Xoterica 41: The Equidistant

Picture of Artemis Sere's "Resolution"

“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” (Bruce Lee)

Recently, Israel declared war on Palestine for a brazen wave of bloodshed where hundreds of Israelis were brutally murdered. It has become a fiercely violent and bitter battle between two sides of a Biblical Holy War that is on the verge of creating a firestorm that sucks the world in. President Biden recently visited Israel in a show of support for Israel and their ground war in Gaza against Hamas. Protests from supporters of Palestine have erupted around the world, including from within the United States.

Friends, family, and lovely humans misdirected by ancient tomes are now caught in the crossfire. 260 innocent lives were slaughtered at a rave by callous men with a statement to make. Hamas says it was retaliation for Israel's actions; Israel blames Palestinian terrorists. There's no denying that there's violence happening on both sides and has for the better part of the last century. Hamas slaughtered Israelis and in retaliation, Israel is slaughtering Palestinians.

I'm summarizing and probably missing many details from both sides of the conflict, but the fact remains:

In god they trusted. In god's trust they die(d).

Pawns preening for an afterlife, prawns served cold to careless, callous whisperers.

I'm a Humanist and my heart aches for all involved or affected. But also, as an atheist, it's my job to remain impartial, to mediate from the center without prejudice or denomination. My job is to hold the center while the extremes scream for heads. Our politics have become overwhelmed by Factions that don't stand for a greater good, they stand for selfish designs and partial, inflexible positions directed by organized religion.

One for all, divided we stand. And equally fall.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is the land of the tithe. Pay to survive, in feudal fashion and distant, digital format. A specific evangelical and hypocritical religious culture has started to dominate America, sending progress and evolution backwards and pushing us further apart. Just yesterday I got into a verbal spat with an old friend about "evangelism" over Facebook. He claims that it's "the calling" of Jesus to spread faith, even when the recipient isn't interested.

Like a disease, faith needs hosts to spread, and with all religious tomes taken literally these days, evangelism is an endless infection of mythologies taken as truth. Religion never really could live in equilibrium with humanity; history has shown that over and over again with bloody crusades to push the literal word onto non-believers. It still happens to this day, only without the racks and whips and pikes and Iron Maidens.

I will always defend the liberal side of humanity (and stand against the evil that is Donald Trump), so I align with Democrats. In stating my alignment, I push myself further from the center and into partial territory.

But I really do try my best to keep position in the middle. I recognize that humans need their faith and comfort that there's any answer beyond them (even if many, at their core, live very hypocritical lives incongruent with the teachings of the tomes). Even now as tanks roll across Gaza and rockets and bullets kill innocents caught in the crossfire of the Holy War, "killing in the name of" is acceptable, and collateral damage is approved.

Is it even possible to stand strong in the center when bloodshed flies?

It seems impossible. My heart strings are pulled to the sufferers on both sides. I want blood to stop being the currency of conservative doctrines. I want peace to be achieved between warring parties. I want reason to return and the center to strengthen.

Unfortunately, ghosts and myths supply the center for our holy warriors, while simultaneously pushing each of us further apart. Either you agree with the atrocities as directed by a callous god, or you stand as the enemy. The myths were not captured and shared generation after generation like ancestral propaganda to kill or die for. They're meant to guide us, to connect us, and to develop us into better humans. They are wisdom characterized into deities and demigods, personified as monsters and angels.

Unless I'm missing something, the Bible's Ten Commandments explicitly direct followers not to kill. Literally. As with most passages of our holy books, the words have been turned over time, and murder allowances have been made by most religions that follow the Bible.

They created their own tomes where murder for specific reasons - such as war - is justified.

Leaving the Bible in a massive contradiction, especially when opposing religious forces claim the same holy ground as their own. I can't talk anyone out of their religion, but I can point out that the dusty tomes clearly say that we shouldn't kill each other. If you're of faith and you're killing in the name of, you're a hypocrite, observing a loophole that humanity created after the guidebook was reportedly built.

There's a piece of wisdom that says "stand for something or you'll fall for anything". In other words, "take a side or else". That's not the reason to follow a religion, though I think the quote is used to defend those who hold onto their faith, as if it's "belief or nothing", a binary belief scale where you do or you don't, you are or you aren't. With my stand I believe in science, not mythology built into an organizational body or government.

As of this writing, Israel and the Gaza strip are locked in a brutal battle. Innocents are being slaughtered by the thousands in attempt to "cleanse" the country from perceived threats. Countries are lining up on other side of the war depending on their political, religious, or financial allegiances to Israel or Palestine. All it will take is a simple spark to ignite a firestorm of world war. The world is turning into a binary reflection of its believers - either you're with us, or you're against us. There is no middle ground.

With this blog, I know I'll make some enemies of friends because I won't take a side in the holy war.

When it comes down to it, neither side has the right to murder, regardless of what interpretations have been made of dusty guidebooks. Revenge is also not justification for evil acts against fellow humans; while we disagree, we should do so with respect and patience - two words that seem to have little spiritual root in our creature in modern times.

I did study the Bible in college for a year. I once even considered myself agnostic or "searching". I won't consider myself an expert on religion by any means and have forgotten more about scripture than I once knew. But I recall a passage out of Matthew 5:5 that says "The meek shall inherit the Earth". The statement has a variety of interpretations, and changes based on the identity of the "meek". Taken literally, it offers that those who follow teachings from the book will inherit the world.

Unfortunately, the only meek people that stand to inherit anything are those that stay out of the fray. The best any of us that are not affiliated can do is step away from the fringes and find solace and protection in the middle, do our best to remain equidistant from the extremes that hold violent sway over our society.

I will always advocate for evolution and progress, for human-supported laws and principles of diversity. What I won't do is support a holy war that has been going on for over 2,000 years and has no reasonable resolution in sight.

Picture of Artemis Sere's
Artemis Sere SS-SG-00211 "Resolution"

Xoterica 40: The Secret

Artemis Sere's Xoterica: The Secret

“In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.” (Bruce Lee)

I am what most would call a "pothead". Not your typical one, as I like to call myself a "productive pothead".

But I am one. Have been for thirty years.

I maintain a 40-hour week, well-paying job. I own a house, cars, toys, taxes, and many other luxuries that equilibrium affords. I've published five books and have produced over 600 pieces of art.

I don't have DWIs, or whatever the new acronym is. I have no criminal history, have never been in jail, and manage my use in a way that meets within my definition of "responsibility".

But for thirty years, I have existed in the shadows as a second-class citizen.

Questioned by friends and family members for my choices, and forced to hide in plain sight.

Pushed to purchase pot from dangerous people in rough neighborhoods.

Forced to fake four different drug tests.

Overcharged for sometimes questionable quality based on the limited access of my contacts.

Tied to the tides of a dark market.

The Road

My first foray into marijuana happened with lifelong friends Jason and Melody. I don't remember the first experience vividly, but it was delicious enough to try again. And again. And again.

When I was in college, alcohol was always the junk that was readily and always available. Surprising these days, but during the 90s when D.A.R.E. was still a powerful force, alcohol became my party companion. It was bad for my body, my soul, and my relationships - many of which would've turned out much differently if high was the social lubricant instead of drunk. With issues with my liver and G.I. system, alcohol never should've been my weapon of choice.

But it was accessible, approved of, and even celebrated.

Blackout drunk shouldn't be something we celebrate.

Sugar overload shouldn't be something we celebrate.

And the addictive, dangerous properties of the toxic substance isn't something we should celebrate.

But we do as a culture. And we have since prohibition discriminated one vice over another. Political and moral hypocrites with righteous holds determined what we could and couldn't have, setting the country on the path of diabetes, liver destruction, obesity, and approved benders.

The Gobi

I read an article years ago that reported that a crypt was discovered in the Gobi desert that contained marijuana that was centuries old, preserved for 2700 years for a future graverobber looking for an ancient trip.

Throughout my time and my books, I've hidden my love of pot behind this story and the reference to this mystical bud. Friends of mine have had their own secret terms for it so we can talk about it without giving our relation to it away.

One good friend and former dealer called it "Chicken". I don't know why (can't remember), but that code stuck with me. My current dealer goes by the term "Zip". 

The point? Over the years, I survived through my connection to a hidden subculture that has existed in plain sight. Few of my smoker friends are dysfunctional. They're smart, creative, balanced, responsible people that make the delicate dance happen.

For years, I was worried that my landlord would figure out I smoked pot in the house he was renting to me. I would make cookies when he came over. I would spray air freshener until it fogged out the lingering smell, and burn SereFire candles to compensate. When I grew 7 8' tall kush plants in his backyard in 2017, I kept the whole grow a secret. I ended up with 13 jars of Gobi, enough green glory to last me a full year.

It wasn't until that stash was mostly gone that I discovered he was a pot head too. A professional one, hiding in plain sight, just like me.

The Guts

Pot has been demonized for many reasons, too many to list here. Many myths and lies rise from a certain affliction of refer madness from the prohibition-struck populous. Old programming dies hard. It has taken generations to get respect back to marijuana for the good it does.

My support of and commitment to marijuana as a curative saved my life.

Those who have followed my story know that I came down with severe Ulcerative Colitis in 2001. Severe enough to consider a colostomy. Severe enough to take cancer meds. Severe enough to have to void every two hours, sleep or awake, meeting or walking, driving or bussing. My first cathartic book "Obscurious" covers these sick details.

But in 2014 - weed combined with a juicing diet - pushed my once-chronic condition to remission.

Acknowledging that the system worked, I haven't changed much in my life or lifestyle since the condition went away. I'm almost afraid to change. I haven't had a serious symptom in almost a decade now. I smoke daily and am now a part-time pescetarian, mostly vegetarian.

I'm deathly afraid of returning to the wheel of anemia, overtiredness, pain, and constant uncomfortability.

You'd be right if you pointed out that weed alone didn't fix me. You'd also be right if you pointed out that pot smoke and vape aren't good for lungs. The way I take in the THC isn't perfect, and has caused other problems.

Ultimately, it was a combination of factors that quieted my bloody ulcers. I believe the commitment to intaking gut-friendly juices and foods that encouraged internal healing allowed my gastrointestinal system to make its necessary repairs , while not having to deal with challenging digestion caused by meat and toxic products like alcohol.

I believe the internal calm that pot brings brought me healing. While alcohol numbs the pain and exacerbates existing health problems, THC moderates and pushes meditation. While alcohol forces many questionable choices the drunker you get, THC slows you down and makes you compliant with chill.

The Goodness

Our nation would be a chiller place altogether if weed was broadly legal and accepted, allowed to exist as a viable party alternative to alcohol and appreciated for its healing properties.

Suspecting that marijuana would go legal in 2023, I started a crop in my backyard. I can't give you the specifics of how many plants I have, but they're doing amazing - with some plants as tall as 7 feet! See the picture below for a shot of the top of one. They went into the ground over Memorial Day weekend and will be harvested in late October.

Thank you, State of Minnesota, for making recreational marijuana legal on August 1, 2023.

Our nation needs a calming influence, now more than ever. I'd like to buy the world a toke...

Artemis Sere's Xoterica: The Secret

Xoterica 35: The (Great Good) Talent Show

Artemis Sere Xoterica 35 The Great Good Talent Show

“We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. Yet it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities but its own talents as well.” (Bruce Lee)

I can't tell you how many times I've been told by people I love and respect that I'm talented.

During my job search over the last year, it has become a common descriptor for me. I'm humbled to be considered talented and truly am thankful for such a gracious compliment, but I've discovered that talent really doesn't guarantee anything but madness.

People tell me "not to worry, it'll work out" during my troubled times, shake their head in wonder at my struggle, but most of these people have never truly lived on the edge of the cliff, tip-toed on the border of oblivion. In less poetic terms, they've never had to fight to survive, never had to pick themselves up after multiple tragic falls, never had to rebuild stability. Over and over again.

Talented humans shouldn't have to fight to survive. It's a real tragedy of the human condition that we appreciate celebrity more than talent. A celebrity doesn't need talent to survive, just a pleasing frame or persona or angle.

Like unrequited love, talent seldom leads to what the blessed hope or expect. As with unrequited love, talent "is a one-sided experience that can leave us feeling pain, grief, and shame." Talent may get you to the doorway of success, but luck offers the handshake that brings you through the threshold.  Paradoxically, the more talent a person amasses, the less human they seem to the masses. The more unique an individual is, the less like the flock they are.

The Way of the Wizard

Talent is the energy that separates the mundane from the magical. We celebrate certain magicians for their wizardly ways, but most talent is met with apathy or antipathy. Talent is expressed in many different ways - physical, mental, professional, creative, a mix of all … However, translating talent to measurable momentum and survival resources is easy when you're in the spotlight or limelight, but feels like circular madness when you're not.

In fact, when you're consistently told that you're talented but are unable to use that talent to turn the applause sign on in your life, what good is it?

Talent becomes an exercise in cognitive dissonance: you're told that you're awesome, but not awesome enough to be a person that is embraced, shared, or lifted as a necessary talent. You're told to believe in yourself, believe in your talent, exercise your abilities and expand the limits of yourself, but when you do that you can stretch yourself into someone unfamiliar to the world.

I read a recent article that talked about how important friends are to the success of an Artist. It makes total sense to me, and is validated by the metrics of my life. By follower counts, I have grown a social media following close to 50,000 for my Art and art brand over a decade. By engagement counts, I have a social media following of 50 on good days, mostly made up of people I've met in person.

The Great Good People

Talent is grandly taken for granted in our digital age.

We've lost our great good places and tangible ways to appreciate the creators amongst us in the era of covid. Sensations are created overnight based on trends and tribes. Now, many people are able to oversell their talent and capabilities with social media or digital technologies. The deep-fake, digital evolution has given everyone a platform upon which to fight for attention.

If the cage fight were a balanced match, I'd feel better about my odds, but it's less about the talent now than the stage itself.  Consider,

Elisa Lam spent years on Tumblr and killed herself in a water tank on the top of an L.A. hotel. She's a Tumblr sensation because of her attention to reflective content and "deep thoughts".

Amanda Gorman read a poem full of timely poignant words during the Inauguration of Joe Biden and instantly became an internet star, signed to model agencies, and a feature at the Super Bowl. Evidently, the "Youth Poet Laureate" title was created for her. I don't remember Maya Angleou getting such treatment. I revered Angelou in college, and she deserved her platform.

Is Gorman talented? Sure.

Is Gorman special? No. She is just a creator who was gifted special platforms and audiences. As a Harvard grad, there was no way for her to fail. Her success and celebrity were guaranteed based on her  platforms.

When I was a writer at a state school fighting for attention and dreaming of getting published by a Publishing House, I wasn't offered special platform, title, or treatment. Why is that?

It wasn't for lack of trying, just as it isn't now. It is about the popularity contest, the heart of the great good show, where impressions and clicks matter more than integrity and quality.

I guess this is what it's truly like to be a self-publishing, self-sufficient, self-centered artist in the digital age: I have enough time for a small circle of friends and a content calendar that speaks to a mostly apathetic audience, but since I have to plan, create, and share  experiences outside of the lines of a normal human life, this is the best I get.

Talent for another time, if I make it that long.

The Tightrope

I realize the odds are against me. I don't have children or a large extended family, don't have a protected class or status, don't come from affluence or a place of great stability. I don't hold popular positions in this Christian nation, or in any place where trust is put in God first (and not the talents of humanity). My views are fervently opposed by millions in America. In order to truly gain attention now, I have to be partially vilified.

Be the antagonist. Lurk and snipe. Shout my stands from the tallest platform.

But I have chosen not to walk that tightrope, be that person.

Now, our political lines affect our lives more than ever - what we consume, what we endorse, what we share. What was once boycotting of products and experiences has been rebranded as "cancel culture". My way of canceling people nowadays isn't to get in their face with my opinion; my method is to unfollow. But from this point forward, everyone will have a "blacklist" of cultural creators or experiences that don't align with their personal beliefs or stances.

And they will be chastised by some, celebrated by others. I know I dwell on some lists, and have my own list of artists I don't support due to their personal or political leanings.

Such is the case of Gina Carano, an American actress who was fired from the Disney show "The Mandalorian" for inappropriate and insensitive comments in social media. Depending on which side of the argument you fall, she is either an example or a martyr. Regardless of her level of "talent", the stage has decided her path of success. I'll boycott Carano's future projects because I think her message was deeply divisive and insensitive.

But she'll power forward anyway, and people will follow her, celebrate her "talent".

I don't think she deserves to be an embraced artist. But because she took a stand, the ignorant will line up to support her. Just as the ignorant fell in line in the 80s and fought against certain types of styles of art.

Fuck the PMRC.

And fuck Nazism and white power and privilege.

I think every "American" needs to spend a month in Germany and Poland in some sort of culture exchange. That month would involve touring beautiful Feudal towers called castles that once protected and dominated the populous, and will involve hitting every single site of Nazi atrocity that can be visited - Eagle's Nest, Auschwitz, Dachau, just to name a few. Visit Berlin and see the remnants of a divided time. See what remains of the violence that once cleaved a country in two.

I saw it in person when I was a kid. The walls. The wires. The turrets and bombfields that forcefully separated a country.

Some culture, such as Nazi culture, deserves to be canceled. Visual and written propaganda was the backbone of a successful Nazi run. Very talented people in Germany created amazing works of art to sell the Nazi way of life, and the German people fell prey to the wizardry of Adolf Hitler, the talented artist and creator. In no way is that absolution of Adolf Hitler and his diabolical approach to humanity; it is an observation that before we knew Hitler as we do now, he was a talented, productive, brilliant artist.

Along the way, something triggered his talent in a malevolent direction.

Inside the Electric Circus

These days, the talent show is overwhelmed by automated propaganda machines and feed manipulation engines. No strategy matters if people don't see your content. The reach of my content is limited based on the resources I put into spreading my message. The engagement of my content is restricted based on the political or personal leanings of the beholder. The sharing of my content is abysmal based on the placement of my content in the feeds of my audience, by the sheer chance of attention.

That isn't to say I don't have a core circle of people that appreciate my work. To them, I offer my love and complete gratitude. They are the reason that my artistic focus and brand have survived for 14 years; they are the reason that I continue to communicate my works and share myself with the public. The reality is that my stage is much smaller than I view it to be, and my talent is as obscure as the art I create.

Sometimes good, sometimes great, sometimes forgettable.

This year will not determine what I do with my talent in the future, but it will determine how I move forward with supporting the machines that work against me and if I continue to be an "outward artist" or "artrovert". The expression of my talent seems mostly wasted on the mechanics of marketing and audience engagement. This art is bigger than a couple of clicks to a website, and the metrics only serve to remind me how unpopular I am in the great talent show.

If luck is my only way to a bigger stage and show, then I'd prefer to focus my magic on the works I create than the experience of the audience.

The circus of madness really isn't worth it.

#xoterica

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