I have been wanting to write about the recent killings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas. Or about San Bernardino, Orlando and Paris. But I couldn't quite find the right words to describe how I feel or what I think about it all.
My mind keeps going back go the Detroit riots of 1967 and how I thought the end times were upon us. I remember as a teenager I thought they were coming right up from Grand River Avenue 12th Street to my house in the first of the northwest suburbs. I remember my grandmother lamenting that the riots were most intense was where had grown up fifty years before.
I start thinking about the Kennedys, MLK, Vietnam, drugs, sex and rock &roll. All the signs were there. The 60s were a violent decade. The Tate-LoBianca murders. All the signs were their.
Yet all that led to new affirmations if civil rights. The Age of Aquarius. Peaceniks. Desegregation, Voting rights for all. On and on. I remember thinking how very progressive our country was, how democratic and filled with equal opportunity for all. It seems to have been a mirage.
We seem to be right where we were 50 years ago. Only now we have semi-automatic weapons, social-media, (that is proving to be as anti-social as it is social), and constant instant replay. We had the dirty tricks of the right and the moral fluidity of the left. Then there was outrage. Now it is part of the norm They say everything is relative.
I remember seeing the actual killing of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV. I remember seeing the horrific assassinations of JDK and RFK played over and over on TV. No one had a cell phone in '68, so no pix of MLK. But now people do have Instagram and Facebook Live. Now we see young black men hunted in public parks, shot down like dogs and police officers running from sniper bullets, not getting out of harm's way. We see people, as it happens, running from a madman in a crowded nightclub on what was just a moment before the scene of celebration and camaraderie.
As I am writing this, I can hear a police helicopter hovering nearby and think about the video on Facebook I saw just a while ago of protesters marching through our little neighborhood shopping plaza chanting "hands jup, don't shoot". Later I hear on the news that it was the end of yet another car chase that began in San Diego and ended a few blocks from my home.
As I get up, get dressed, and get ready to walk the dogs, I feel the fear, the anger, the despair all around. I soldier on. I keep my hands folded, sometime physically, sometimes figuratively. And now nothing seems routine or normal. Nothing can be taken for granted.
Have the end times returned? Did they ever go away? Could there really be a Satan? Is God dead? I don’t know.
Seems like the same questions are still waiting to be answered. All I know is we as humans don't seem to be going about finding the way forward in a very effective manner. Some say their is a conspiracy. It is to keep us distracted from what is really going on. I have to wonder though: if this is how they distract us, what the heck are they really up to?
Hands folded. Breath held. Deep sigh. Move on.
This morning I went to an art book study group at the Riverside Art Museum. Good thing I did. The subject was recovering your sense of compassion...mostly compassion for yourself as an artist. The book being studied is Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. And, yes, this is the third time through the book for me. Sometimes I'm a slow learner.
Anyway, one thing that I am reminded of is how often over the years it has been easy for me to be judgmental, even cruel, to myself as an artist. Lazy, procrastinator, unmotivated...whatever. All of these things can be translated into a fear of actually doing those things that my inner artist yearns to be free to be doing.
And of course there is only one person keeping me from doing those things. Two guesses who that might be and the first one doesn't count.
So during the discussion it became increasingly clear to me that I once again have taken a creative u-turn. "Creative u-turns are always born from fear -- fear of success or fear of failure," says Cameron. Yes, indeed. It shows up as procrastination, avoidance, busywork and other things that keep one from doing what one knows he/she is meant to do. There you go. Once again, I have made a creative u-turn.
After the workshop, I toured the Riverside Art Museum galleries. There was a special exhibit of the work done by participants in Project 52*, a yearlong art project of the museum of which I was a part of only the last few months. I saw what can be accomplished when we get out of our own ways and paint, draw, write, photograph, sew, quilt...whatever our individual artistic proclivities call us to do.
And then it hit me. I experienced a revival of the way I look around me. Upon leaving the museum, I saw the sculpture pictured here which is located on the front lawn. I realized there and then it was time to get back into what brings me joy, what feeds my soul, to what I call my artistic self.
It's funny how I know what to do, what I need to do, and find ways not to do them. Fear? Perhaps. Sometimes a dry spell is necessary to appreciate the times of inspiration's flow. So now for a little "revival" music in the form of that old musical standard, That Old Black Magic, that is an earworm in my head:
"And so down and down I go,
round and round I go
n a spin,
loving the spin that I'm in
under that old black magic called [art]."
"* *The 52 Project", a part of RAM's Riverside Art Make, is about getting a group of creative people together to find inspiration and motivation from one another while working on a 52-week, self-directed art journaling project. The goal is to help you develop the habit of capturing your ideas and being more artful on a regular basis.
Below is a recording of Frank Sinatra singing That Old Black Magic
A good placebo can work miracles if the mind is inspired itself to do the work.
I truly believe that as we believe, so we receive. I mean, we tend to attract that which we need and sometimes want, into our lives. I believe God created us so that we can learn, evolve and maybe someday be the beings He meant us to be. It's not God who keeps us from being who we are meant to be, but ourselves. If we believe we cannot do something, well, voila, we cannot do it. For several weeks now I have believed I couldn't write this blog, that I just couldn't face the page as it were, and, well, blog it out.
Sometimes we just have to take our medicine, whatever medicine we may be prescribed. That may be a genuine anti-biotic or a pill that helps lower our blood pressure. It might be something that alleviates pain. Or it might be something that promises to lift our spirits. Of late, I think I have used or needed to use all of the above. It's been a rough period. But what I find is that none of these things truly work unless I believe they will. Faith. Just having faith sometimes leads to the cure.
Now I am not saying that cure is what we think it might be. It might be the release from all pain that comes from making that final transition. Truly, that can be interpreted as a "cure". It certainly ends all pain, all suffering for the one moving on. The ones left behind have to sort it out, but again, as you believe, so you receive.
And so getting back to this idea of a placebo, well, I remember years ago listening to a lecture by a well-known spiritual guru. Most of what he said really did make sense. He talked about "magic bullets". He was talking about simple things like aspirin or antacids. We attach healing properties to such things. But there is also scientific research that proves those things work. But why? I think the jury is still out. Given a placebo and told that it is a pain-reliever can produce the same results. Its a very individual thing.
I guess what I am wanting these days is a placebo to comfort aching hearts. I think if we had something that people could believe in just enough it would help them find their own inner strength. Myself included. It does work. God as I see it, wants us to be the vessel of His energy and inspirations. To inspire is to take in. That's all we need to do. Believe. Move through it and be still and know that even a placebo can relieve some of the pain allowing some healing to occur.
And so there you have it. Give me a good placebo any time.