Sunday Meditation

 

“I am forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive. But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace the stranger whom they maligned so long. ” 
— James Baldwin

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The Pivot

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make room for chance

PROFESSIONALLY, I’VE been traipsing after artists for quite some time. Not just shadowing them, but listening,  watching and chronicling.

 

Over time, I’ve found myself most drawn to those who seem to make unexpected leaps; pivots that might look like unimaginable next-stops in the artist’s evolution.

It’s a part of the creative process that artists don’t always talk about aloud — the “it’s just the way I work”-reflex of seeking or problem solving.

Sometimes a resolution can be happened upon quickly. Sometimes a fix might leave the seeker at some vague a fork in the road. Other times, that path chosen might lead to what might appear to be a brick wall or disaster — but really it’s a beginning. And they must keep going.

Those who master this art of feeling comfortable in uncertainty and begin trust the process of traveling through the dark can unlock places inside themselves that they never knew existed. Breakthroughs often mean just that — a shattering of the old on the way to the new — and it’s trusting that the road to those new territories will come, but they may come with bumps and ruts and consternating switchbacks.

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trust the dark and your dopeness

A month or so ago the editor of LMU Magazine approached with a question about “success”

What are we supposed to do in life and how do we figure out how to do it? 

We had a great talk which had me circling back to some artists that  I have kept in close touch with over the years, and about how much of their “success” has been shaped by chance — more specifically the serendipitous moments that have been the gift of those encounters.

As well, I revisited an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with a  writer freind about how much of our ability to live a fully open creative life is about learning that when adversity  happens — and it always does — that learning to how to mindfully pivot is essential  How to land and roll is the key not just to the next creative pursit  but survival.

From my piece:

We want to map a plan — a life — that’s what both our conscience and the culture tells us; a life/plan that nudges us toward “success” and ultimately a precisely articulated and fully realized you. The trouble with this premise is that what we already know too often obstructs what we might come to know — if we’re open to it. That’s the juncture where chance lies — and where serendipity — and often the greatest possibility can step in.

We think we can outline a foolproof strategy, one that keeps us on track, moving forward, but things break, sever, snap and shatter all of the time. Plans fizzle, promises are broken, things fall apart. Both life and the language we use to describe our derailments and defeats tell us that.

Planning, however, doesn’t stave off the inevitable detours that present themselves: There are moments when patterns are broken for us, and moments when we choose to break them. What happens when we walk into that void, that open question, is the first step toward the unknown and where faith and chance can take us.

As a journalist who writes about people who make elegant, jaw-dropping leaps — creatives who ultimately conceive beyond-category art, music and food, or design vibrant community landscapes or networks — I see many who seem to share a key trait: the ability to pivot, to “see in the dark.” The darkness in this case is uncertainty: blind turns and difficult passages that we all must navigate at some point to find our way to the next phase, chapter, summit. Why, I wondered, are some better at the pivot than others? That facility begins with feeling comfortable in the space of the unknown.

What I’ve been learning as I dig deeper into the project is that all this shadowing, listening, chronicling is finally adding up to learning.

To be continued…

You can read the rest of the essay  here. 

Power, Persistence and Bearing Witness

I SPENT a  little time a few weeks ago interviewing photographer Warren Hill for show he was preparing for featuring his work celebrating community organizing and the power of collective voices.

Though it is visual representation of community building, Hill’s work is at its core about listening:  Getting to know a place is about getting to know the people who inhabit it, who have shaped and tended it when others have looked away. 

To really see Los Angeles — its many working parts, its vivid tapestry —  starts with listening.IMG_2816

As I mentioned in my remarks on Saturday afternoon: “His lens asks open-ended,  ‘how-and-why’ questions that allow his subjects  the space to fill in the frame. He’s not imposing a narrative but allowing his subject’s the space to articulate delicate shadings and implications  of their own situation.”

Hill will be at the Central Library Wednesday afternoon talking about his work for Photographer’s Eye: “Power and Persistence: Grassroots Activists and Musicians in L.A.” Click here for more information.

You can see the photographs in person until June 26th Venice Arts.

 

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Memory, Memorial & Ghosts

“Sometimes at home, after someone dies, people will ask the closest relatives, ‘How is Joe?’ It’s kind of an accident, one they will correct if they notice what they’ve said. But it’s also an actual question, acknowledging that a man does not die all at once, even when a corpse takes the place of the man. The question means, ‘How is Joe in you? How is Joe’s death going with you?’ And even, ‘Have you heard from Joe, and what does he say?’ Acknowledging the permeable borders between the living and the dead, the transmigration of souls. Dreams.”
— “Brooklyn Journals” from The Public Gardens by Linda Norton

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