Xoterica 33: The Edge

Artemis Sere Xoterica 33 The Edge

““Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. — To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up.““ (Bruce Lee)

I’m not typically one that pushes life to the brink. I lived a charmed life for a long time, and forgot what the edge looked like.

Until recently.

I went from six figure lifestyle with stability and upward mobility, to a skin of my teeth scrape for survival, bouncing off social programs and onto roads I never expected to traverse again.

This blog is a thank you to those people in my orbit that have kept me from sliding over the edge over the course of the last year and into an abyss. For privacy purposes, I won’t reveal names, and since these amazing, gracious, selfless humans aided the human behind this artistic mask, I will keep the specifics of individual help secret.

But you know who you are. The empowering comments, cards, and messages of belief and encouragement as I struggled to stand. Reaching out when I seemed to have drifted away for too long. The active displays of genuine concern, like long distance hugs, offering me work or a loan to get by during this difficult time, or checking in on how I’m doing. The compassion. The trust. The love.

Love keeps us from reaching the cliff; care keeps our lives from careening out of control into a freefall with an inevitable crash.

All around me, I see the survivors of such a fall. Broken, irreparable lives. Doomed finances and futures.

Diminished and regressed existence.

Squalor and compromise.

The decay of the present day is palpable. Millions of people have been pushed to the edge by circumstances beyond their control, by choices that had catastrophic outcomes, and by breaks and fractures that don’t heal without focused help, support and patience. Millions go to work every day while sick in order to maintain financial survival – not just stability, but income that keeps their lives from sliding into tragic decisions. Millions have put survival over proper health discipline due to lack of insurance, stability options, and/or healthy opportunities (including me). Millions sacrifice more than we can ever truly understand, and stress more than we can comprehend.

2020 has brought me as close to the edge as I have in the last two decades.

At the end of June, I suffered an accident while on the job that brought me centimeters away from tragedy. While using a table saw to rip trim for a new flooring job, the glove of my right thumb got pulled into a spinning saw blade. Before I knew it, the teeth ripped through my right glove and into my flesh, almost severing the tip of my primary thumb. The cut was deep enough that I could see the tip of my right thumb bone, though the angle of the cut kept the tip of my thumb from coming off completely.

See the photos at the end of this blog for graphic detail. I apologize for the quality of some of the images; it was difficult to do anything with my right hand for a few months, including take photos with my left hand. One-handed phone use proved difficult. 

Given that it was my first major injury since I was a kid, I think I handled it as well as someone could without health insurance. I was calm, cool, collected, and focused to heal my own wound, even though my co-worker said what followed from my injury “looked like a murder scene“. I took a dive from champion for worker safety into the bloody pool of those injured on the job.

Accidents happen, and my injury was truly an accident. I was watching what I was doing, and I wasn’t distracted. I just happened to miss when the blade caught my glove and pulled it into the blade. Life is like that – you feel safe until that quick second that chaos pulls you into the saw. My quick reaction saved the tip of my thumb from being completely severed off.

It was not the first time I cut wood with a saw, and it won’t be the last. I don’t fear the edge of the blade, but I am more respectful of the power of chaos, of the possibility of doing everything you can to protect yourself from the edge of the cliff or the apex of the spinning blade and still falling victim to the unexpected. Precaution and focus are always necessary when dancing with danger, and any slip can lead you faltering off the precipice and into tragedy. 

Today’s danger will bleed you dry faster than you can properly transfuse. I suppose my previous experience with the edge gave me the confidence and patience to live through my present turbulence while maintaining my sanity.

I can only hope the rest of those helpless people on the edge right now have a chance at and the strength for stability like I have.

Four months later, my chopped thumb is mostly healed (by my own attention to healing), and the bloody event served as a pivot in my professional direction and artistic legacy. Instead of focusing on finding a vocation where I can use my hands and stay active, I’ve returned to my Marketer roots and am exploring what can grow out of those dismissed skills. Instead of working in an industry that varies based on the season and on your ability to survive the elements, I’m working from home and with my head. Instead of facing a future as an artist (and human) without an operable right thumb, I have a second chance to breathe life into my art.

Instead of disabled, I have become refreshingly enabled.

But I was lucky.

In order to survive over the last few months, I took jobs that put me out in the public and into the thick of the decay. Out of social distance and isolation and into the faces of people that couldn’t be bothered with masks. Out of protective spaces and into covid-possible crowds. As an Uber and Domino’s driver, I’ve visited abandoned houses, destitute families, places strained by lack of resources, and burned husks of buildings trashed by riots and protesters. I’ve smiled through hundreds of rides and deliveries that resulted in zero tips. I have seen the diversity of the urban landscape around me like no time in my life before.

I exchanged a charmed life for a complex, complicated road. I swapped upward mobility and unshakeable stability for struggle and wisdom. I traded an existence of suburban, closed comfort for brutal reality and recognition of the edge.

Backing away from the brink is a constant work in progress. It has taken me swallowing my pride and asking for help in ways that I’ve never done in my past. It has been humbling and tear-jerking. It has been difficult and stressful. It has been inspirational and empowering.

But most of all, it has been renewing.  What doesn’t kill you truly does makes you stronger.

As long as you don’t tumble completely off the edge. To those of you who have helped me from discovering what that fall looks like,

thank you.

#xoterica

Artemis Sere Xoterica 33 The Edge
Artemis Sere “Dissecting Halos” Original 16 x 20 Acrylic + Art Resin

NEW Xoterica Blog Series Page Released

Xoterica Blog Series

A few years ago I created the “Xoterica” Blog Series to channel my craziness into a specific outlet. The series features some of my most aggressive, contemplative, and edgy content.

Each Xoterica blog echoes my raw truth, and questions much of our current reality, culture, and humanity.

The full series is now available on a new Series page that I recently built. You can find the full Xoterica Blog Series by clicking here, or on the image below.

I will create Series pages for a few other common strings that are woven throughout the Artrovert Blog, such as annual “Best of” album lists and my “Xposed” blog series (which I didn’t release fully in 2017, but will be working on over the next year). More to come.

As the blogs were created at different times over the last few years, and in different Wordpress themes across iterations of this website, some of the formatting may be a bit wonky. I’m working on cleaning up the Series formatting as well so it has a consistent experience. 

Thanks for reading the Artrovert blog!

Art

#artemissere #artrovert #xoterica #sereticstudios #seretic

Xoterica Blog Series

Xoterica 32: The Mask

Artemis Sere Xoterica 32 The Mask

““Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.““

People act as if wearing a mask is inhumane torture.

People complain about its uncomfortablity in the covid age.

People yearn to return to normal, simpler times, a time when public health, sanitary existence, and social distance were less important, or at least didn’t lead to possible exposure to a deadly illness that even our fat, fearless leaders diminish.

Truth is, we’re all very used to wearing masks. We’re very used to plastic smiles and personal distance. Disharmony is our human tune playing behind the identity we present to each other in person, in public, or on our social media platforms.

I appreciate the primary protagonist from “V for Vendetta” for many reasons, but most of all, because the mask is V’s identity. Disfigured beyond recognition in a fire, he could use his twisted visage as a weapon against his foes. He could shrink away from vengeance and responsibility to his passion.

But he doesn’t.

Poignant how I come back to the “Ideas are bulletproof” quote, which I featured in my first Xoterica blog. The wisdom resonates loudly in this day and age, a time when science is denied by swaths of Trump-following public and misinformation erodes the integrity of our ideas and ideals on a daily basis.

We each know that the masks we wear are not who we truly are. The paper and filter we use to veil from viruses is disposable, tangible. We don N95 or loop masks to interact with each other now, allowing us to relax the intangible identities we created for social survival. If anything, we’re now forced to operate and exist and connect between many layers of disparate masking – one to protect our health, some to protect our secrets, and some to hide the truth.

The masks provide barriers between humans that can’t honestly and honorably see eye to eye. They filter out dangerous vapors, and guard against engagement.

In an age when viruses rule the planet, we don’t need walls to define a country’s borders; we need shields that stand between each of us (ironically, I wrote this blog before the plexiglass reality at the Vice President debate), and new rules of connectivity that keep us healthy while enabling our connective tendencies. Until our public health nightmare is stabilized and under control, masks will be our regular reality. Not a fashion statement. Not a political statement.

A survival statement.

Artemis Sere Masked

In some global cultures wearing masks in public spaces or in crowded areas has been a regular part of human life for a long time. 

Donning masks as protection has been a part of China’s society for as long as I can remember. With the size of their population, and some of the other global civilizations that involve close human-to-human contact, protecting oneself from the vapors and viruses that family, friends, neighbors and others pass through the populous is not just safety practice, it’s a grave necessity.

Eventually, the detractors and deniers will come around. Influenza will compound with coronavirus to make fall and winter seasons seem like harvest events for humans. Not just this year, but repeated in future years. Bugs will mutate, antibiotics will become less reliable, and desperate races to find some kind of vaccination or treatment for novel attacks on our body will become more frequent.

Even the vaccines will be available depending on what kind of political mask you wear; Kamala Harris has said that she won’t take a vaccine that is pushed by the President, unless it has been approved by the CDC or other health-governing bodies. Trump will take anything so long as it makes him seem strong to his base, despite what science tells him.

“Don’t be afraid of covid”, said the obese, unhealthy man who was admitted to one of the best hospitals in America and pumped with so many drugs that Herbert West would be impressed.

Once, epidemics and pandemics were rare, notable events, killing scores but ultimately conquerable. The frequency of novel viruses will increase, while mutations and adaptations will become more frequent in the coming generations, with some more fierce and more novel than the current coronavirus that we’ve encountered.

Between overpopulation, indigenous practices, melting permafrost from climate change, deforestation, and other human activities that are collapsing the natural world, it’s just a matter of time. Much like our approach to asteroids or other natural events, such as the Yellowstone caldera, we live blissfully day-to-day in the shadow of catastrophe, hoping that we continue to dodge the bullets and heal the flesh wounds that Mother Nature and the Universe attack us with.

Like Mr. Creedy in “V for Vendetta”, Donald Trump is overconfident to the point of arrogance, numb to the real struggles of the people that look to him for protection, purpose, or presidency.

The simple days are simply over. There’s no returning to social practices that don’t involve masks. Now, the masks don’t just hide our ideas and identities; they help us dodge the bullets of our undoing, our human catastrophe in the form of a bug.

#maskup #vote2020 #xoterica

Artemis Sere Xoterica 32 The Mask