Xoterica 27: The Exit

Artemis Sere Xoterica 27: The Exit

“Do not run away; let go. Do not seek, for it will come when least expected.” (Lee)

Closing one door opens another, or so the trendy wisdom claims, mostly from pseudo-therapists making too much money selling wisdom to broken people. They’re junkies, just like the rest of us.
 
For most of my adult existence and recent memory, I have had social media tubes tightly connected to my veins. When times were chill and more innocent, digital media was an addiction, fun and blissfully necessary, like the first puffs of great ganja where the high is endlessly vertiginous.
 
Now, I’m pushing the poison out of my pores, like the bile that once flowed from broken organs out of my skin, jaundicing my whole existence. Walking away from attention to social media is the ultimate antithesis of what I built SERE to be – an outward-facing creative organism created to show, to share and to breathe life into a dull digital world
 
Attention to that addiction brought me much success, allowed me to exemplify the best of my creative talents and demonstrate that my artistic voice is worthy in a world of shouts and tweets. While it didn’t get me rich, it allowed me to be comfortable. 
 
For a while. Stability was great while the world was stable. And then elections. Tariffs. Viruses. Deaths. Regression and recession. 
 
Everything tumbled down. Dreams. Reality. Fantasy. Stability. It’s still tumbling down. It’s amazing how doorways of our lives can remain standing in the face of raging tornados or other disasters, raging or otherwise. 
 
It would seem the union of storms I once spoke of has returned, minus the red windows and pockets of bloody pain. A life once again in crisis. This time, I have enough success under my belt that I should qualify a specific level of compensation. Call my shot better than before.
 
But I’m not the same as before. Skilled, but not thrilled by the machine or my need to return to solve my life crisis. Talented, but jaded by the reality of pandering to an audience. Healthy, but broken in more ways than I can possibly repair with current resources. 
 
The hours of wealth wasted on social media resulted in a constant reminder of how broke, imperfect and unhip I am. The failing metrics of dreams that were supposed to work with the right tactics ended empty, walletdrained and heartbroken. A cacophony of past mistakes and communities of hate trumpet my walking away.
 
The exit reflects my present paradox: I am not who I want to be, but do not know who I am beyond this voice. Education bought me intelligence. Trauma delivered me dexterity. Persistence offered me charisma. But I lack the strength and wisdom to be a fully effective character in this campaign.
 
Always looking for the exit door, not a new entryway to an adventure with better treasure. The dungeon was manufactured, just like the gilded compensation upon which the dragon sits. Slay one dragon and empty one cave, and find that the wizard has a machine that generates dragons like popcorn. Always more caves, and dragons lurking in the shadows.
 
Right now, a dragon called “novel coronavirus” is bringing countries around the world to its knees. It is a shadow of grimmer things to come, destabilizing global economies and dragging mighty corporations into contraction and fear of the dragon’s ultimate roar. 
 
Stability is the new illusion. We live in a world built on dragon hordes that don’t really exist, erected with the tinder and matchsticks of combustible countries that are a strike away from catastrophe. Social media sells us fantasy, tells us that we’re worthy, and aligns us with consumer thinking that keeps the machine spinning. And spinning. And spinning.
 
As if our front door is an ever-flipping revolving door of a bankrupt mini-mall filled with the ghosts of Blockbuster Videos stores, Pier 1s and arcades. Keep smiling. Keep watching. Keep buying.
 
The bullshit. The fake tanner and cheetospit. The lies from the pulpit. 
 
We love our social media and social hipness to death, but despise socialism and sacrifice for the better good. We pound our fists on tomes, and the dust that rises from those strikes is often racist, woeful and inhumane. We scream “Love thy neighbor”, then shut ourselves away in perfect pixelated bubbles.
 
Every bubble bursts, just like every star can only grow so large before it explodes and shrivels away into a dwarfed anti-self. That dark dwarf drifts in space, a shadow of its former self and seething with sublime power. I grew my social media audience to over 50,000 “fans, followers and friends” over 14 years across MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and DeviantArt. I paid thousands of dollars to promote my pages to peeps who would like or follow my pages and profiles. For all of that effort, I walk out of primary social media profiles with roughly the same number of personal connections I went into it with.
 
As of this weekend, I will have exited Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace and Tumblr. I’m still deciding on Twitter.
 
My email list is my true dwarf star; it is the true measure of how many people have went outside of easy social media connections to follow who I am and what I have to say. Even my email widget overcompensates for how many people have subscribed to my email list (sorry – I can’t seem to figure out how to shut off that flawed function of my website using the recommended methods; I’m trying). At current count, my email list is .25% the size of my social media audience.
 
That period isn’t a typo. 
 
My metrics for engagement per post are even worse, even with my discipline and focus.
 
So, I asked myself “why the actual fuck am I doing this?” I imagine myself as hulked-up Russell Crowe, standing tall bloody and battered in the gladiator ring, extending out scarred arms, and saying
 
“Are you not entertained?”
 
After having spent 14 years in social media and netting as many true followers as I could fit into a bus, the illusions fell away: I discovered that I was spending too much time sharing, and not enough time creating.
 
Too much time selfie’ing, too little time living below the surface. 
 
Too much time posting, and not enough time learning.
 
Too much time being manipulated by the machine, and not enough time appreciating the life of the luddite.
 
Too much time plugged in, too little time tuned out.
 
These days, the hours I once spent scrolling walls and trolling halls of thought are devoted to building new horizons, new visions and new dreams. The time I spent arguing with lurkers in my world is focused on returning to the discipline of production, of an artist focused on goals, rather than audience enragement, engagement and entertainment. The only metrics I plan to meet are the ones that are aligned to my production targets for upcoming releases. The shares and cares that I once dumped into vaporous social media conversations are channeled into print and works that always should’ve been my platforms.
 
I suppose it’s a bit of a function of growing older, the changes that flow from turning of seasons. “Less is more” is now good enough for me. As a vegetarian, minimalist and frugal human, excess and “greater” are no longer impressive to me. No life or ecosystem can survive constant growth; every life explodes someday, like a frail piñata of memories, fantasies and intestines that spews innards everywhere. Death of every system, structure and lifestyle is inevitable.
 
The exit is always messy, but so is the entrance.
 
#xoterica #artrovert #sereticstudios
Artemis Sere Xoterica 27: The Exit

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 20: The Ripple

Artemis Sere Xoterica The Ripple

“Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Small fish in a big pond again. Waters unfamiliar. Temperatures unfavorable. I splashed through the tough tides to a new stillness, but not without consequences. Every turn seems to have dangerous destinations these days.

All previous identities have been stripped by the swim to the new world. The past is relatively irrelevant now, all awards and accomplishments and accoutrements are great stories in other schools and pools, but mostly useless when you’re starting over altogether.

I am legend in my own mind, a legacy before its time.

Arrogance and ego led me to leave the confines of a safe, comfortable and familiar shore for a spark in the deep. A hunt for the sunken embers of passions lost. A curious dive into the abyss called

Me.

I’ve reached the peaks of what’s possible, and from that height I dove without a secure chute. Wingless. Cableless. Clueless.

But confident.
Cautious and careful not to take this turn for granted. I sit drawing a religious institution in two-point perspective during the middle of the weekday under aqua skies, in the chambers of Art, as opposed to the confines of a Power Point.
 
This is a place and person that I’ve never been before, and I remind myself to breathe and be patient.
 
With respect to success, they say you should visualize your destination. Sometimes, it’s not sight that ensures your survival, but bliss and blindness. No seer can see everything, even if our myths and superheroes have omniscient characters. Nobody knows (see Leonard Cohen). Not really. Not Horoscope, fortune cookie, nor prophet.
 
Certainly not Paula White.
 
We all play the odds of the lies, tied to rise and fall of our life source. Today, my inner sun is dim as I plunge further below the known depths. I hold my breath, and woe the ripples that I’ve caused by my descent.
 
Previous projects now off course, communicated targets no longer in sight, comfort off kilter. A life in the throes of a different kind of chaos, a submersion in self so complete that oxygen is scarce.
 
The light is different at the base of yourself. Obscurious. Xenoviolet. Prismed by the echoes of older times and trials, alien rays refracting back through the jagged plane above.
 
A return to the surface would signal acquiescence to the reality that I left. The endless, concentric waves of change repeating from the epicenter of my choice ensure an unfamiliar return to surface. The dry world above is different now, dissimilar to this spelunker.
 
Every fish is faced with need to sink or swim regularly, regardless of size, 401k, market stability or temperature of the water during their daze of drowning. In the depths of the abyss, the spark calls to me. This descent is different than the rest, its flow is growing on me.
 
Time to learn to swim, again. There’s no sink left in these gills.
 
#metalmorphosis #xoterica
 
Artemis Sere Xoterica The Ripple