Art, in all its genuineness, is the most despised talent. Conformists have always attempted to censor or obliterate it all together. Men tend to despise what they cannot control and make subservient to their needs and agendas and so they will attempt, in every manner psychological, physical, or political, to suppress it. The art form at its purest is the antithesis of rigidity and the sheep-minded. Art stands alone, its origins stem from beyond human awareness and only manifests itself in the act of creation of the artist. The art form defies all logic and presupposed manners of rational thought, and yet communicates in unexplainable ways our deepest yearnings and curiosities. It transcends worlds and reminds us of a universal state of being we have somehow been severed from. Art is freedom. Raw, independent, unconscious, deep, pure, unrestrained, stoic, and childlike. Art is the barefooted mistress, unveiling, slinging her hijab towards her oppressors. It is the baby, breaking free from the bottle, taking the militant crawl towards the kitchen for a handful of ham, toothless and all. Art is the free-minded man that questions the herd-imposed beliefs of his peers, at the expense of being ostracized. Except art, in all its omnipotence and truth, unfazed and certain, will part its victims unscathed. While poems may burn and statues fall, art laughs, dances away, and takes its residence elsewhere.
Art is the epitome of freedom. It seeks artists. It’s not reserved for a selected few, but to the daring and courageous who will set out to explore the realm of the infinite. We often resonate with its various forms because it is a part of who we are, our native universal language. Suppressing art out of conformity, rigidity, and fear creates diseased individuals and societies where the imprisoned idea transforms into untamed monsters. More on this next time…
Anger is the emotion by which all life depends. Everything we create has its source in the emotions of passion and rage. The great artists of history never abandoned feelings of anger in their work. Instead, they used it as fuel-an indication that something of great importance had be created. The intensity of anger keeps the fire burning when we set out on a particulate project and, if properly embraced, ensures it is carried out to its finish. It’s common today for many of us to take on a negative view of anger, that it is something to be avoided and indicates something may be inherently wrong with us if we experience it. It is exactly this belief, of a need to suppress anger, that creates disorder and violence. Many young men I’ve worked with tend to be emotionally-repressed. They are afraid of their own anger and as a result behave in passive aggressive ways, showing their anger in subtle but destructive tendencies. They find that their avoidance of anger has deadened their quality of life and halted the creative process. Once the emotion of anger has been reintegrated, the person is able to create, to formulate, to take on the daring task of leaving one’s mark in the world.
Anger is a dualistic power. It can be used to destroy or create. For this reason, it is a primary emotion, not something underlining another emotion. An emotional state of frustration can well be telling us something must be created and you are the one chosen to do it, and it will tug at you endlessly until it its demands are obliged. We cannot afford to overlook something so natural and evident in everyday life.
Shuffling papers, meeting with clients, crisis interventions, meetings, family contacts, documentation…Getting busy, staying busy, feeling productive. And then a shadow emerges out of a corridor, a half-broken figure, contorted, confused and healing- to thank you but you can’t remember for what… a smile and then you remember you only placed your hand on his shoulder and uttered four words. The smile is reciprocated and you realize that this whole time you’ve been busy with nothing and the most productive thing you’ll ever do is tell someone “I’m here for you.”
It’s surreal to think of how a thing, a substance, sometimes so small, sometimes invisible or pleasantly deceptive to the human eye can utterly destroy a life. Sometimes, these things appear to be beautiful in their rawest form. A swaying cocoa plant or a vibrant poppy add beauty to the fields they inhabit. It’s astonishing and at the same time unfathomable to accept the reality that these beautiful ornaments of nature-once they are separated from their original form and ingested-have the capacity to enslave and obliterate a person on every conceivable level.
I think of these beautiful intricacies of nature in their true essence…I think of the lives that were once whole and later became separated from themselves and the world because of addiction. This helps me understand that there is an objective and guiding principle pervading all living things: Nature and people thrive and are at their most beautiful in their wholeness, and this should never be tampered with…
When we want to express our most profound sentiments, our rawest emotions, dreams, fears, or opinions in any given moment on any given circumstance, but fail to do so, we commit the greatest offense to the self. When we’re filled with a passionate idea but bite the tongue out of fear of being criticized or oppressed, it is the equivalency of self-mutilation-a denial of our unique creativity. In attempting to gain acceptance we lose the part of ourselves that earnestly seeks authenticity, the part of ourselves that yearns to find its place in the world. In turn, our vibrancy is diminished and our confidence withers. It is better to be daring and speak one’s mind risking ridicule and ostracism than to keep silent to appease the masses. The former you can quickly recover from, but the latter creates irreparable damage to the soul.
We fall into trances…asking what seems to be broad existential questions regarding meaning and purpose. A man in dire straits who engages in self reflection may at some point ask himself “why is this happening to me?” If he would just remain still he would discover that he need not go far externally or into his mental faculties to find the answer. Most times he snaps out of his contemplation due to desperation and attempts to find the answer from the outside, missing the chance of finding the answer right there in front of him. The answer he seeks can most times be found within his question. So if he asks “why is this happening to me?”, the correct answer will likely be “why, this is happening to me!” Though we may find it unlikely or even quite a strange response, it is one of the few answers that will prompt him to action. Another matter to take note of is if the one asking the question already possesses the answer during or prior to asking, it is essentIal to ponder who is it that does the asking. Surely, it is the same one who answers. This points to the strong likelihood that divine guidance resides inside man.
Darkness shines the greatest light. It is the ultraviolet lamp that exposes what we’re really made of within. It reveals our “guts” and weighs our values, faith, and spirit on the scale of reality. Difficulties bring out our presuppositions and biases, it is the tested method by which our true nature is brought to our attention- to ignore or change. To seize the opportunity of changing or denying what is revealed makes the difference between spiritual freedom and captivity.
I often emphasize the present moment as a way to get clients away from the worries of tomorrow and the misfortunes of yesterday. However, sometimes there’s too much pain in the present to tell anyone to be mindful of the “now.” Sometimes, there’s too much pain to paint anyone a pretty picture… it invalidates the experience and you render yourself useless no matter how good your intentions may be. Any variation of getting people to look on the bright side of their circumstances can broaden the gap of what stands between their surrounding darkness and hope.
A person who has lost the will to live cannot be coerced to reframe or alter the narrative of the crisis. The crisis, be it the loss of freedom, a child, an illness, or abuse, is remedied through a rigorous validation and honesty. Both the sufferer and helper must bring forth an honesty of the situation that conveys the present reality for what it is- painful and seemingly intolerable. Yet, the future must always be accounted for with just as much honesty and responsibility as the present. While the moment may prove harsh, the future provides an infinite amount of possibilities-hope reigns abundantly in the future- hope of less pain and more peace, hope of reconciling the worst acts, the healing of deep wounds, the regaining of freedom, and the refining of one’s character made possible by difficult times.
“I know you won’t understand but in my lifetime I’ve seen the most beautiful thing life has to offer. I’ve seen the priceless battle of broken people creatively changing and overcoming toxic patterns. So beautiful and it’s costs me nothing” -Unknown
They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I believe everyone we encounter is our greatest teacher. The world serves as a mirror in which through experiences and interactions we learn more about the undesirable parts of ourselves we tend to overlook. The people we dislike or disagree with often reveal the characteristics within us we need to change. I’ve often become easily hurt at the indifference and aloofness of others, later taking an honest inventory of my own indifferences, that fearful part that would rather avoid social responsibility. There are people who just won’t change, a world that just won’t relent, and many breaks we just can’t catch… and yet they are all so charitable in giving us the knowledge of what needs to change within us. The world is a vast educational platform and its people are the mentors by which we discover who we want or don’t want to be. Most of us have been hurt beyond reconciliation by the people we love most. But if there’s any good that comes of it, may it be discovering parts of ourselves in others that we vow to change and never repeat.
I have to admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller. But there was something about his recent passing that impacted me. I guess, in some way, Mac Miller was a semblance, a representation of all the young men and women I had come to know over the past 13 years who had also fallen to the grips of addiction and as result went spiraling down to the harrowing end of an overdose. Like the young rapper, many of the people I came across had artistic dispositions, possessed a unique way of looking at the world, and always expressed themselves via creative means of music and art. Sometimes, they sang songs, poems, or played musical instruments in between therapeutic sessions. Sometimes, I’d watch in amazement as the words rhythmically escaped their mouths, cigarette hanging out of the side of their lips, their tattooed arms bearing the faded healing needle marks flaying about with the sounds of the music. These souls who I had come to know were soon gone, victims of drug dependency. I could still remember the songs, the poems, the debates, the drawings many of them left behind. It is this art, somehow clearly unfinished, that leaves behind a sense of bitterness and sorrow. I can remember rationalizing their deaths as “a part of the disease” in the many community vigils… later, having to pull my car over succumbed by the crushing reality: Addiction is powerful…indiscriminate, and it takes the lives of young men and women who possess great potential.
It has been through these individuals that I’ve confirmed there is something creative and divine about the addict. The addict lives an expressive life, in a state of constant desperation to reunite with a greater reality- unfortunately, many times, the connection is an erroneous one, sought artificially through a substance. Many addicts die in their relentless pursuit to be whole again, to be reunified with their source and relieved of their separateness. Mac Miller and the 350 souls that die daily from drug related deaths in the US alone should remind us all that money, fame, and achievement alone does not grant us wholeness and that the ultimate source of fulfillment must be sought after to make recovery possible.