Xoterica 23: The Forty-Six
"Attain stillness while moving, like thy moon beneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking." (Lee)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Xoterica 20: 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
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.