Xoterica 34: The Forty-Seven

Artemis Sere Xoterica 34 The Forty-Seven

“Maturity does not mean to become a captive of conceptualization. It is the realization of what lies in our innermost selves.” (Bruce Lee)

In 2002, soon after my divorce, I got my first tattoo. I had only been suffering with my chronic condition for a year, and within the year of its onset, I lost everything in my world – home, marriage, stability, a vision of the future, faith, hope, life.

Every day was an adventure in physical pain from my severe ulcerative colitis and emotional anguish from being cheated on by the one I cherished then thrown away like used trash. Every day, sustenance passed through me like my system didn’t work at all. Every day, I was forced to redefine my reality. Every day, I felt closer to death. Every day, I became a shadow of the man I once was.

I became something different, and that called for something different.

After failing at my one serious suicide attempt, I decided to get a tattoo. This was before the era of Artemis, before I had spent focused time on re-teaching myself art to help heal, before I designed tattoos for others. I didn’t have an idea about the concept, and didn’t really have a location in mind for the inking. I’m not sure what guided me to choose oriental kanji for my design, but I did feel synchronicity with the character: ghost.

I Am Ghost

On that day, my “ghost” era began. I decided on the oriental kanji for ghost as my first tattoo with black and red as the colors. I chose my upper right shoulder for the tattoo location. I hired a popular La Crosse tattoo artist to imprint the sigil.

I drew the kanji myself, though I literally traced the kanji printout instead of inking one myself like a talented calligrapher. By going that path, I fattened up the lines and angles of the character, and when the tattoo artist was done with his work on my shoulder, the kanji looked less like an oriental script for “ghost” and more like the numbers “47”.

I talk about this strange occurrence in my second book “Xenomorphine” (2013) in the passage “Ghost 47”.

The start of the darker road, the schism between who I was and who I was becoming. Diagnosed with two chronic health conditions only one year earlier, my life had completely unraveled. First it was my health, then my job, then my love, my marriage, my condo, my friends… and everything I knew as familiar. In one year following my prognosis, I was single, broke and living alone in a new, cursed world.

I felt like a ghost–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And, thus, I adopted the nickname. It seemed to fit. Typically, people don’t assign themselves their own monikers. Friends or family bequeath such labels upon you. But, in this case, I felt like the incorporeal dead. Non-present. Translucent and disconnected.

The wires couldn’t be reconnected to life, not in the common means. In that darkness, someone else awoke. It was necessary to face the disassociation and make it part of me.

Now, here I am on the first day of my 47th year, and I feel like a ghost, more than I have at any point since getting the tattoo almost 20 years ago. With covid, silence is everywhere now. Solitary living is the norm for safety reasons. Since leaving social media, the distance from my friends and loved ones has grown.

Cloak of Fog

All roads have been clouded by the fog of my father’s death. The pall of the end times is ever-present. Failure is common and structural breakdown the way of this day.

Is it possible that a tattoo that I got two decades ago foretold the present? In years following, I haven’t been able to find and replicate the kanji I found in the inker’s shop. At this point, I’m not even sure if the kanji is legit, and if someone with understanding of the language could even decipher it now.

Now, it just looks like the number “47” encircled on my arm.

It’s grim business talking about death on the day of your birth. These matters are better left for stronger times, not days that make you realize how fast you’re slipping into spectre. However, the “ghost” moniker stuck with me in years following. It was my primary handle in Myspace, became a nickname that reflected me well when I was sick and everything of substance passed right through me. Since then, I have added a couple more “ghost tattoos”, including braille of the word “ghost” on the digits of my right hand (palm-side).

If anything, the ghosts are still haunting me. The ghosts of tragedy, of failure, and of paths not taken. Once, I didn’t believe that I would heal from the conditions that sapped the life from me. The future was limited and bleak, a roadmap of painful surgeries, uncomfortable living, and embarrassing situations.

Echoes in Ink

Through tenacity, persistence, and patience, I won hope back. But now it all feels like a dishonest exchange, a pyrrhic present offered by wicked giver. My fading and unfamiliar kanji feels like an ironic marker, a cryptic clock frozen in time.

Or maybe the hands of progress are being held back by the ghosts. Maybe the events of the last two years of my life were necessary to exorcise the demons and clear away the lingering haunts and guilt from my past. Maybe fading away offers resurrection.

Maybe year 47 is tabula rasa, the renewal, the calm after these storms of life.

I sure could use the respite. While I’m waiting for fate to offer that sort of grace, I spent my birthday much like I spent the rest of my year – distant, chill, and reflective. I painted/finished seven pieces today, and shots of the following are provided below. These haven’t yet been formally added to my Serenity Gallery, but they will appear in “Echoprism Volume 2”.

“Barely Alive” – multilayer acrylic-resin-acrylic on canvas, 16×20
“Ever Adrift” – acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16
“Twenty-Twenty Vision” – multilayer acrylic-resin-acrylic on canvas, 12x 16
“Death’s Caress” – multilayer acrylic-resin-acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20
“Freedom” – acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20
“Mystereons” – multilayer acrylic-resin-acrylic on canvas, 12x 18
“House of the Harvester” – acrylic on triangle-shaped canvas, 16 x 16 x 16

Happy birthday to me.  Happy Saturday to you. I hope you enjoy my birthday song of the day by a new favorite artist of mine, appropriately named Ghostemane.

May the next year not be so venomous.

#xoterica

Xoterica 23: The Forty-Six

Artemis Sere Xoterica 23: The Forty-Six

“Attain stillness while moving, like thy moon beneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking.” (Lee)

 
After 365 days of rising and falling during my 45th year, I awoke to a headache and incessant snow on my 46th birthday. Slick roads and chilling temps forced me to reschedule lunch with my Mom, who now lives 20 minutes away from me for the first time in my adult life. Instead of finding some way to enjoy my day with warmth, love and excitement, I’m repeating the recluse state that has become my comfortable existence. Birthdays should be far more vibrant than mine today, but we don’t get to choose the weather of our day – we only get to choose our attitude and activities.
 
So, since I’m stuck inside working on “Echoprism” on my birthday, I’m going to take advantage of the serendipity and assess the past.
 
Things lost in my 45th year:
 
 

1. My Hair.

I’ll start with something terribly frivolous before I dive into the deep stuff. On 1/1, I chopped off my shoulder-length hair in exchange for a distinctly-artistic look. Thinning and graying robbed my locks of health and consistency, and I found that I was constantly putting up my hair in a pony tail at work instead of letting the mane flow. And even as I did so, I was constantly reminded of how I didn’t fit into a professional mold. I was once told by a senior sales person at my previous company that “I’d never get anywhere in the company because of my look”. I’m proud to note that I exited on top – with a Global Marketing Excellence award and a trajectory that had me locked into a executive development program. Despite my artistic flair. In year 45, I cut off my shoulder length hair and created my own hairstyle.

2. My Dad. 

I’ve blogged about and talked about my Dad quite a bit over the course of the last year since his death on January 31st. My relationship with him wasn’t always perfect, and over the last decade of my life he became more of a stoic observer than participant in my life. He never understood my artistic side, never read one of my books, never made it to one of my gallery shows, nor made it to my St. Paul home where I have hundreds of my paintings hung and stored. There is a vast side of me that he never got to know. This subject is covered in a couple of my blogs in greater detail – Cryptographer’s Epitaph and Fog of Death – so I won’t drone on about it here. But, for the first time in my life, I don’t have a call or message from my (joined) parents doing their best at singing “Happy Birthday” to me. My Dad’s nickname for me was “Kitt”. Evidentially, a nickname for  American historical figure Christopher Carson, who was a pathfinder of his own in the 1800s and was celebrated for killing Native Americans as America expanded west.  I’m sure he would’ve denounced my dismissal of Thanksgiving and my celebration of the National Day of Mourning for Native Americans, if he was still alive this year. He and I seldom agreed on subjects, even though he was a smart man who spent most of his time reading books. The nickname was updated in the 80s with my love of Knight Rider (K.I.T.T.), and my Dad was the only person to consistently call me that nickname throughout my life. On my birthday, I miss that nickname and his voice, which I took for granted for many years. He no longer is gifted with birthdays, and my birthday today feels like more of a mourning than a celebration. In year 45, I lost my Father — flawed mirror and misunderstood friend.

3. My Career.

If you could call it that. With some experience in Marketing via temporary jobs and my art brand, I used my raw intelligence, intuition and talent to excel within a global company in a professional job that many would “die for” (or at least spend six-figures on an education that didn’t guarantee the trajectory I was gifted). But constant stress, an always-on existence and a meeting slate that had me running from dawn to dusk made me question my chosen path in the wake of my father’s death. The money and benefits were generous and enviable, and the friends I made at the company were reason enough to stay as long as I did, but death opened new doors for me. It opened my eyes to a life that was swiftly drifting away. It awakened me to a landscape of creations and expressions that I had left a chaotic mess as the years drained away my energy and time. It convinced me that I needed change, to follow my heart and gut into brave new worlds and adventures. It tempted me to find a new path, one that would allow synchronicity with happiness and my creative goals. My ex-wife once talked about the necessity to have a “career”, and she’s lived that one completely – even to the point of following me to the company I left, in a cube one floor above me.  However, I’m more interested in a “life” than a “career”. The career I chose has been wrapped up in hollow propaganda, inhumane metrics and shallow experiences for years now, including helping manipulate the 2016 election through fake content and social media campaigns aimed at redirecting the populous and confusing facts around candidates. As marketing drifts into automated experiences, programmed audiences, deep fakes, and AI mouthpieces, I am further repulsed and alienated by the direction of the career I chose. As a genuine creator and transhumanist, I understand the role of machines in our future, but our digital gods reflect all of our human flaws, and luddites have the ultimate trumpeter. In year 45, I sacrificed all that I was.

4. My Metalmorphosis.

My determined direction out of the gates of my Marketing “career” was as a Welding expert. I’ve covered my thinking around the “why” of that decision in my Metalmorphosis blog. I followed my gut, but things haven’t gone as planned or expected. Ultimately, I was a victim of my own success over the last decade – both positively and negatively. I rushed into the decision to follow the path to Dunwoody for welding, and made the choice before I had all of my information figured out. I expected that “the Universe would help me with the path”, as it had so many times over the last decade when I was living a charmed life. Well, it turns out that ‘the Universe will come to your aid” is a nice bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan, but bullshit when it comes to reality. In order to complete my schooling at Dunwoody, I would’ve had to come up with at least $50,000 out of pocket for a two-year degree that would’ve guaranteed me a decent salary on the other side of training. It was an investment in life that I decided I had to figure out. However, I failed to research the scenario completely and, when reality struck with how much I was going to have to fund to make the degree happen, I was forced to make the tough decision. There was simply no way for me to get enough funding to help with school without getting a full-time job again, and there was no option for financial aid without either a full-time job or a cosigner who was willing to take a financial risk on my future. Ten years ago, my government and family may have been able to assist me with my decision to go back to school; if I had stuck with my company of the last ten years, I could’ve pursued a Business Administration Masters and had school paid for. Turns out no bank or social program wants to help a 46-year-old white man with few family members, a successful professional history and a desire to find a new path in life. For the first time in my life, all decisions that I made led me to being stuck without a path at all. My metalmorphosis certainly isn’t dead, but as I face a $9,000 bill from Dunwoody for completing one month of school and then dropping out, my path is being decided by the bad luck of year 45.

5. My Path.

I speak a lot about “pathing”. I was once so sure I knew where my path was going. When I got my “professional job” a decade ago, I did so because I discovered that I’d never evolve as a man in this society and attract a life partner (eg. “get a date”) if I was delivering pizzas and hopping from temporary job to temporary job. My English degree hadn’t led me to much success, and I was frustrated constantly. Prior to my professional job, I worked multiple low-paying jobs for 70 hours a week for a couple years straight. I couldn’t afford my life, much less the wooing of the opposite sex, if I was constantly struggling. It was bad enough that I was challenged daily with my chronic condition, but I couldn’t seem  to win at any angle of the game at that point. So, I dedicated myself to getting my priorities straight, working hard and focusing on evolution — putting S.E.R.E. into practice. I exchanged time and personal progress for a paycheck and a pat on the back. I wore the suits. I presented in front of audiences of hundreds. I won awards. I traveled the world. The path exposed me to boundless opportunities, but offered me little time to explore them. My professional life became like window shopping at X-mas with an empty wallet and Salvation Army bugging you for change – I experienced a lot of amazing places through the window of a conference room, was constantly disengaged from the real problems of the time because of my affluent salary, and lost connection to the things that really mattered… because I didn’t have the time to fully care. In year 45, I lost all of my known paths.

 

Things gained in my 45th year:

 

1. Unification.

A big focus of mine since my exit from the professional path has been stabilization of my art business and brand. I founded Seretic Studios LLC in March and applied for a SERE trademark in April. I recreated my Sereticstudios.com website to reflect the various business lines – Artrovert (my blog), Antithesis Press (my publication arm), SereFire Candles (my candlemaking efforts), and Serenity Gallery (my fine art gallery). Before this year, my story and storylines were a scattered mess. I’ve spent hundreds of hours redoing the inventory of all of my products and creations, making logical sense of all that I’ve created and shared. I’ve fixed content that was inherited from older blogs and spent time bettering the overall experience of my content. My Serenity Gallery inventory currently includes around 550 pieces and I have many more to include. The Gallery stretches throughout time and across my lifespan; it will include comics from my K. Dorian Krowe phase when I produced a weekly for my college paper, digital creations that I created for Instagram but never took time to track, and pieces that I’ve rescued from Secondhand stores and inherited from various people throughout my life. In year 45, I came to appreciate the weight and direction of my legacy, as well as the flaws in my previous approach. It needed far better attention and unification if it were to be taken seriously. In year 45, I took my time and freedom of direction back.

2. Freedom.

Sure, I gave up a six-figure salary. Yes, I gave up a crazy amount of benefits and upward mobility. I surrendered a comfortable life for a dream and the yearning for a different existence. I’m no martyr, just a human trying to live a humble, honest and harmonious life. I became more vocal about the things I want to fight for, even if it resulted in driving a wedge between certain friends (I lost a lot of “friends” during year 45) and exposing myself to scrutiny and dangerous positions. I became the person that I hid under the mask for a decade. I came to realize that I’m a Globalist, which has put me at odds with most Americans. I’ve surrendered my “American identity” as a response to the Cult of Drumpf and all of his crooked, corrupt tribe. With complete freedom also comes complete chaos. In the wake of questioning everything, I’m still searching for truth. But now have the complete freedom to understand and embrace the truth without having to wear a daily mask, put on regular airs, be someone that I’m not for someone that would rather make me into their image. In year 45, I made freedom of thought and expression my priority.

3. Priorities.

The air and the view are very different at the top of the mountain compared to the bottom. Once you reach of pinnacle of position, where you are celebrated and embraced for the person you became, you are allowed clarity of direction. You can unapologetically claim that you did what you aimed to do, and no one can question your resolve. But that gregarious glow only lasts for a short while, before “what’s next?” begins to consume your conscious thought. In scaling the peak, you gained wisdom, strength and experience you never had before, and are ready to help the world in more authentic and genuine ways. Most will reach the top of the mountain and look for another mountain. I reached the top of the mountain and realized how bad the sherpas and climber’s support staff have it at base camp. What’s the point of enjoying the apex alone while the world suffers and schisms beneath you? You only have one shot at getting life right – if you spend it scaling the mountain in some selfish egostroke, you become less human and more separated from the simple folk that will never know what the ascent is like. Those who are addicted to the climb are the descendants of Sisyphus, destined to have their boulder roll down to the depths at some point in their short lives. In year 45, I realigned my priorities to my purpose.

4. Purpose.

The word “purpose” is a variant of Middle English “to propose”. To live a life of purpose is to live a life of proposition, often a setting forth onto an unbeaten, unpopular path. I’m not talking religious or mythological or heroic purpose. Human purpose. A life dedicated to helping others evolve without pious reasoning. A life proselyting the dangers of being an alpinist. A life of striving to find harmony with the planet and its people, knowing that continuous maturity is necessary for each of us, even though upward mobility is only guaranteed for a select few. A life of fighting for balance, of trying to equalize the major resource imbalances that plague or creature and cultures. A life of advocacy and activism, in pushing for better, even if it pushes us out of control and out of comfort zones. A life of answering the question of “why I’m here” and “what’s next” at the same time. A life of antislavery and antithesis. In year 45, I entered a life of movement, of anti-stillness, of evolution through the prism of this artist.

5. Prism.

Specifically, “Echoprism”, a poem for Chris. The synthesis of a year of creative work, the most powerful, pulled-together and poignant thing I’ve ever created. While “Obscurious” was my dark start and “Xenomorphine” was my drug of change, “Echoprism” is an assessment of 20 years of visual work with all of its variants and vibrancies. Over the course of my “career” as a visual artist, I’ve created a lot and shown very little. People really don’t know the artist, and it’s time to change that fact. My gallery shows have been sparsely attended. I make very little money off of the creative works that I’ve produced. And even though I push my art over social media regularly, my audience, followers and fanbase continues to decline. I “bought” the expanse of my current audience through clever marketing tactics (I didn’t buy followers, but I did promote my page in order to gain them). Beyond the splashy marketing metrics, the bottom line is a difficult one to digest: there are very few people that actually know my art, and I need to change that, if I truly believe in who I am and what I do. In year 45, through pain and death, I found my voice again; through the void, I found my light again; and through this Sereverse, in year 46, I will find my orientation again.

If you’re reading this, I thank you for your time. It is a valuable thing that I don’t take for granted. I appreciate your attention, and your interest in my art. I’m in this for the legacy, and am proud that you’re along with me on this ride. Here’s to year 46, with much hope and heartiness.

Be well.

 
#xoterica
 
Artemis Sere Xoterica 23: The Forty-Six

Xoterica 11: The Fade

I celebrated my 44th birthday this week on December 12th. Since you’re wondering, yes, I did have a great day off. I was showered love and best wishes from friends, family and coworkers.

It was not filled with cake, drinks or balloons. No party. No presents.

While my day of celebration was atypical and devoid much of the common fanfare, it was filled with one thing:

Presence.

 

The Birthday Blur

It feels impossible to slow down time these days. The more I fill up the schedule, the faster I reach sundown. The more commitments I make, the less time I have to live. Once, years ago, when I was sick and unable to sleep more than two hours at a time and pain was the constant, time seemed to plod at a Sisyphusian pace. I wished for time to speed by, even if I didn’t really expect to enjoy my future.

I just needed to get through the pain. Now, it seems like every day is a harried race to the top of the clock.

Punch. Reset. Start over. Everything between eyes open and closed is a busy blur of important stuff to do. For work. For life maintenance. For survival. For socialization. 

The boulder barrels down the mountain, beyond the grasp of the damned man. 

We control what happens in our lives, but we can’t stop the acceleration and velocity of time. The end comes fast, regardless. I’m trying to make a more conscious effort to be present and productive, use my time lively — including on my own birthday, which was filled with art and warmth, not my typical activities, such as dining out, getting a massage, grabbing a drink with friends or seeing a show of some sort. 

This year, I owned my Birthday Blur.

 

Your Own(ed) Personal Holiday

We each should own our Birthday blur. It is my belief that an individual’s birthday should be the biggest thing we celebrate every year in the United States and around the globe.

Above Easter. Independence Day. Valentine’s Day. President’ s Day. Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Christmas.

Blasphemy? Probably.

But as a #humanfirst thinker and secular transhumanism supporter, I tend to put the needs of the individual first. That kind of free thinking and positioning could get me killed in some countries.

But I will not bow. This Humanist believes that we should pay foward through connection, kindness, empathy and recognition as a function of our humanity, not due to duty to an overlord or deity. 

A birthday is a personal holiday we all share through human biology. Sure, other creatures are born, but there’s only one species I know that proactively tracks and celebrates their day of origin. Until we have no more birth anniversaries, we are all bound by that bloodline. What happens after our last breath is a debate for our society and culture; what happens before we are dead matters. There is no denying the delicate days we persevere through and deserve a day to be recognized for the heroes were are.

Consider this: what if we all celebrated and acknowledged the days of birth of the people in our orbit with the same fervor we observe Thanksgiving or Christmas? Dare I offer, what if we put our Birthday above every other date we have on the calendar, a holiday for the human hero that lived to see another year?

 

The Fade Becomes Us

Religion aside, our birth, growth and evolution as human monsters is a miraculous thing. Every year, the beast inside dies a little bit more, our locks streak silver and wither and our days are cut shorter. The weight of life sinks down upon us, counterproductive to momentum of evolution.

To be human is to be broken.

These days, my art feels like shards of a fractured me, shattered and splattered out onto canvas and pixel. If birthdays are the pick axe and our lives are stone, each year is another fracture lost and chipped away off the boulder.

This year, I poured my Birthday time into finishing 11 pieces of art that I had been working on. These eleven pieces should exist long after my talent — and my presence — is gone. Memories of my Birthday will disintegrate in time, but these fractures of me should remain.

Watch this blog and my adjoining social spaces for shots of these pieces!

And Sisyphus grins as the fade

becomes us.

#xoterica