It's hard for me to describe well this situation and give it the resonance it requires. It has taken me two years since my Father's death to address the full telling of this tale, far longer than it reasonably should.
In fact, as I write this, his death and the connection to my branding seems like a lucid dream that I had while he was dead next to me. The puzzles remain to this day.
My synchronicity didn't really happen, did it? The indigo pamphlet. The kind pastor. The final goodbye.
Everyone has a different experience with the death of their elders. I imagine some find peace quickly and move on easily. I imagine some dwell deeply for the rest of their days, the anger and angst of the end becoming their existence. I float somewhere in between; I have days where the death of my Father hits me very hard, especially when I go through my albums of photography and his face is everywhere. Pictures that I took that I never shared. Pictures that I never fully appreciated. Pictures forgot while a gulf grew.
I still hear his dismissive "Yes, Son" in my head, still feel him around me sometimes, his presence looming and judging my days and ways. I suspect he wouldn't be proud of the man I am now; he couldn't understand the decisions I've made since his death.
But, truth be told, he didn't really know the artist in me, and never really tried to. He never read a book of mine, and I suspect he never really understood my art, even though he appreciated that I involved myself in it. He was the soccer, Packers and Boy Scouts Dad; my Mom was the artist that truly influenced the creative I am now. My Dad was proud of my accomplishments, but he had an old-world approach to success and development. He was a responsible, dedicated, stubborn man, but one that was loved dearly.
I miss him to this day, two years removed from the painful events that took his life. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the years that led up to that fateful hospital bed, what we could've done differently, what I would've done differently. Haunted by the roads not taken, chaos seems to be my guide now. The echoes of recent failures seem to be my cacophony. Confidence is in question, and paths once clear and comfortable are now obscured and unsure. The ripple effect of his death shook everything that I have been and currently am. And in the face of the storm, I did what I thought was right and called for:
I clung tighter to herald of Artemis, embraced the creative in me, and focused my energy on growth and legacy of the shadow self.
I created Artemis Sere on 7/7/2007 in the face of major personal struggle, and aligned a sigil to my pseudonym soon after as a beacon of evolution. My Dad knew none of these things, didn't know about this artistic history, didn't know much about Artemis Sere, and didn't have a clue what the Seremark was.
Even though the symbol graced his deathbed, from two very different, vastly disconnected sources.
Mark of the Artist
It was always important for me to have a symbol, a central mark that represented and defined me. I'm not a religious person, and my need for a visual cue comes from branding and marketing, mostly in the music scene. Growing up, all of my favorite bands and products had visible and unique branding, usually had some sort of script or sigil that signified their brand. Converse. Powell & Peralta. Bullhead. Ocean Pacific.
Everything that is legit has unifying brand identity. After I created the Artemis Sere concept and pseudonym, and wrote my SERE Commandments, I began experimenting with different logos and visual designs to represent the Artemis Sere brand. This followed years of working with bands and developing branding for entertainment artists.
I had enough experience to be dangerous, and enough passion to be clever. I created my own style mostly by using apps that others didn't or wouldn't. It wasn't until I took up photography and publishing that I started using Adobe products. I still don't use Apple products to this day.
But I did use Microsoft, and from 2005 - 2010, Microsoft PhotoDraw was my application of choice for graphic design. While others were using Illustrator and Photoshop, I was using a clunky program that I was comfortable with. I created lots of great art in PhotoDraw due to its simplicity with layering of images and effects. This was long before I started painting or doing any sort of tangible art again; for the longest time, I used digital apps to express my creativity. While I've been an artist since my youngest days (I was advanced from kindergarten for being an expressive kid, and voted "Most Artistic (Dude) of my Senior Class"). I have always been connected to art, though my attention to it has varied based on my life.
However, I soon discovered the limitations of the graphic design programs I was using, and turned my focus toward creating reflective acrylic or watercolor art from my photos developed in PhotoDraw, which eventually turned into grand acrylic painting and experimenting with resins and other mediums.
In 2008, while playing with branding styles in Microsoft Photo Draw clip art, I discovered the following symbol:
It mesmerized me, and I could themes of evolution wound within its majestic loops. I fell in love with it and immediately adopted it into my branding.
The image I have come to call the "Seremark" is nothing more than clip art I found in Microsoft PhotoDraw in 2008. I've been using it as my main brand logo for 14 years, and don't intend to trademark it, don't believe it should be trademarked and owned.
It should be appreciated, celebrated, and shared by all, given definition by dreamers and visionaries, and embraced for its amazing eloquence. I've come to understand that its discovery is greater than me.
Eleven years after adopting it, I ran into someone who adopted it too.
The Great Synchronicity
Here's where I wish I would've written this two years ago.
The passion and clarity of the event have passed me, and I'm left with the whispers of what happened on that dark day. I have a pretty vivid and healthy memory for a 47-year-old, and my recollection of past events is relatively sound. I still remember the journey my bus would take from Waldenbuch to school at Panzer Kaserne in 6th grade. I remember what it was like to be in deep pain from a chronic health condition for 13 years. I remember my Dad's contorted, yawning gasp as he lay still on his hospital bed.
Maybe having blurred vision of that day is better now. Maybe forgetting the details are part of healing. Perhaps that event, like the loops of my Seremark, took more time and life experience to unwind than expected.
No matter how much my memory strays from the lines, I always come back to the synchronicity I encountered in that hospital room in 2019. Most people appreciate "serendipities" in their lives; I look for "synchronicities", where time and event coincide to produce profound outcomes.
Author Gregg Lavoy captured it well in this excerpt:
"I came to understand that this rather profound administering of chance was directing me toward something both my writing and my life needed at that time: more heart, less head. More intuition, less intellect. More of the inner life, the emotional life, the life of the senses. More listening. More of what Carl Jung referred to as the anima, the force of the feminine in a man’s life. And the Queen, of course, is the archetype of powerful feminine energy, which I felt myself being compelled toward by the kind of meaningful coincidence Jung called synchronicity.
Synchronicities are events connected to one another not by strict cause-and-effect, but by what in classical times were known as sympathies, by the belief that an acausal relationship exists between events on the inside and the outside of ourselves, crosstalk between mind and matter—which is governed by a certain species of attraction.
Jung believed that synchronicities mirror deep psychological processes, carry messages the way dreams do, and take on meaning and provide guidance to the degree they correspond to emotional states and inner experiences."
Truth be told, I came to the same understanding as Mr. Lavoy after facing the greatest synchronicity I have ever encountered in my life. While it didn't make me turn to religion, it did suggest what path I should be on.
We'll come back to that. First, we need to examine…
The Laminated Pamphlet
(From Xoterica 14, March 2019)
"Overwhelmed with grief, my Mom asked for a religious observance. The late-duty Chaplain was a kind lady named Laura, who offered to help in our grieving process and read some scripture and other holy guidance. She produced a purple laminated pamphlet from which she read. Even though she couldn't offer Catholic prayer, and she was in the presence of an atheist (me), she soldiered through a short service for my Father.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't provide these details. Alas, with most events in my life, this event did not occur without a strange connection:
On the cover of the purple-ish pamphlet beneath the haphazardly-centered document title, my Seremark was centered in black ink.
The exact same symbol.
In a matter of tragic moments, a new paradox of perplexing synchronicities was discovered, unraveling the fabric of my mythos and introducing a brave new catharsis."
I wrote that passage in the days following my Dad's death. They're the best details I have of the event that still echoes in my world to this day. Upon learning about Jung's insight on synchronicity, my embracement of Artemis as my "anima" years ago became clear. And universal equilibrium through my existential approach became apparent:
My Dad's death drove a synchronicity that profoundly changed my life, and validated creative decisions I've made since 2007.
Seeing that image on the front cover of the religious pamphlet didn't send me racing to the pews and searching through scripture.
No, it had a vastly different effect on me: it had me dig deeper into the meaning of who I am and what I'm doing with my time on this planet.
Even the coincidental indigo color of the pamphlet resonated deeply with me. Purple is one of my favorite colors, and I have an affinity for the indigo spectrum. It was as if my Father was exiting this place with expressive royalty, acknowledging who I was all along with a tip of his cap, and suggesting the road that should be my focus.
But there's also a great nullification here, and why I'm driven to maintain a secular, trademarkless connection to the symbol I found in Microsoft PhotoDraw: used by both religious representatives and secular representatives, the spiritual nature of the symbol was completely canceled out. The symbol captured by both elements and printed on paper heralds nothing more than a beautiful mystery. Throughout the remaining pages of the laminated pamphlet there was scripture soothing to those that follow the Biblical fantasies. I don't remember anything the Chaplain said or read from the pamphlet that day.
The message was communicated through the symbol that I adopted in 2008 to guide my anima, Artemis Sere. The path was clear.
The Ripple Effect
The death of my Father, Robert Edward Lee Zuege, on January 30, 2019 set off a chain of events that still affect me to this day.
At the time, I was a very successful, comfortable marketer with an amazing job at an amazing company. I had a large network of engaged professional friends and an upward trajectory that was undeniable. I worked hard, stressed hard, lived hard, but my art suffered. Not the production of it, but the management and direction of it. I dedicated as much time as I could to Art, but working 40-50 hours a week didn't allow for much more than offering an outlet for my angst.
For years, the artist had been screaming for attention. Books planned that I never had time to work on. Art that I created that I didn't have time to catalog. Blogs that I wrote that were imperfect and disjointed. A website that served my basic needs, but didn't tell my story well. I'm great at digital stories, but the focus and resources for my Art were mostly siphoned elsewhere.
My life was greatly imbalanced, and had been for years. Deep inside, I knew it. I told my coworkers that I was thinking about a life change as early as 2018, but didn't execute that change until the death of my Father inspired me to do so.
In March of 2019, I exited every comfortable structure I had come to know for a brave new future as an artist-first person. It felt a lot like how I would imagine "coming out of the closet" flows. There were cheers of excitement, shakes of frustration, considerations of insanity.
To jump before knowing the scope your possible fall is dangerous. But only if you miss the rope, reach the bottom, break yourself into pieces, and still manage to survive. The pieces never reassemble correctly, and life rarely feels familiar. I've lived through rock bottom now, continue to pick up the pieces of my broken life, and wonder if I was ever really making the leap towards a new universe in the name of my father.
And as I recollect the time, the decision to power forward wasn't so much in the memory of him, but the synchronicity of that strange time, the symbol that reinforced that my path ahead was emblazoned on the indigo paper that connected all of us in the room that day,
what I call "The Seremark", for lack of a better known term.
Like Gotham calling to Batman with a symbol spotlight in the sky, the Seremark called to me for attention, direction, and passion. Some are called to religion through symbols of faith. Some are called to union through consumerism. Some are called to guidance through symbols in the stars.
I was called to Art through random clip art found on a Saturday afternoon that became the symbol for a brand that has been evolving for 14 years. It has defined me, represented me, composed me. It has served as a beacon of truth, and an expression of creative freedom. I have created existential mapping for its loops and twirls, as if it has some sort of metaphysical makeup. I tattooed it onto my body as if it's a glyph.
And while I may call it the logo for my brand, I know it isn't. Like any religious icon or emblem, it is only given power by the people that celebrate it. I know the symbol is shared beauty, created as throwaway clip art by a talented person who never expected their creation to be embraced.
To be shared.
To be elevated.
To be believed in.
Things that every artist - and father or mother, son or daughter - strives for.