Cold morning showers after staying up all night depressed and anxious are quite an experience. I hop into the icy stream every morning. Shivering, my bloodshot eyes staring at the square patterns on the bathroom tiles, I go through a playlist of Argentine tango tunes. Everything is so angular; responsible and ready to take on life. I’m not. I’m a coward shivering in the darkness, showering with an open door because I like light without the source. My mind is racing at a speed I’ve probably tried to figure out five times just in the last ten seconds. I’m confused, divided, in a bathroom that’s got its shit together.
Every pain is a new day. It washes itself in Lethe and comes to me in twilight wearing the clothes of yesterday. Like a baby, it falls into my arms, wraps its hand around my finger and squeezes it until white starts to show. And I…ah…I squirm like a boy because I can’t father it. And yet, peace is with me; in the way it drools, twitches and turns, in how its eyes never look at the same things I do because it has no notion of betrayal or death. It will never question my arms. It looks at me and for a vicarious moment, the world becomes my oyster. I sigh, reassured.
This piece is about how pain feels new every time. It’s so easy for me to find security in this self-destructive low that I’m going through by devaluing life and finding peace in not caring about my existence here.
This is so because it brings me down to a place where all the lights go out and I’m allowed to be truly myself, or rather forced to be so. My pain gives me the luxury of not caring about anything else. I don’t have to worry about what people are going to think of me if I am who I really am because life’s not that great anyway. And in facilitating this perspective, the dark thoughts become my greatest ally as an artist.
This piece is basically about how I’m like the father before I allow myself to feel the pain and how I turn into the baby after I do. And I always choose to feel. Because just like a baby inspires a father through an effortless expression of near-perfect isolation from all that is so wrong about this world, my painful self like a babe in “yesterday’s clothes” reminds me that if I allow myself to feel pain, I can get to a place where I only need to be seen and not complimented, where I can be myself without worrying about what other people are going to think. It enhances the need to express and brings out the artist in me. It gives me purpose and peace. That’s why I never hold back. I feel it all.
Pain/ my painful self will torture me, make me create things that are honest to my experience, and then it bathes in Lethe and forgets all about what it did to me. The creation of art is where that baptism takes place. That’s what puts the face of a babe on pain. I’ve always said that the art I make does not necessarily heal me, that it solely arises out of a necessity to express. Maybe it does heal. Maybe it’s just that I go through the cycle way too fast. This could be because of many reasons. Like how little rational thought is involved in these escapades down rabbit holes that lead straight into hell or the abundance of new associations and pathways that I create every day, new ways to get to the same bottomless pit. Same liver, new eagles.
When I was a child, I always wanted clothes twice my size. I wanted clothes that were big enough for my parents, my heroes, for that person I was going to become in ten years. I never felt at home with peers. Me tugging on the shoulder of my XL shirt trying to pull the sleeve back up my arm was an expression of how hard it was to fit in with people my size. It wasn’t about wearing a blanket but about wearing the future, being part of a group that I understood. Now that I’ve grown into those shirts and grown taller and stronger than my parents, I stop and ask myself if I still want clothes twice my size. Yes, I do. Time has taught me that parents are much bigger than their clothes make them out to be, that heroes live in the smallest spaces, and that the future is more accessible today than it ever will be.
I live on the first floor of a giant apartment. But if I go stand outside the gate and look at it, I feel like I live at the very top. I like that. I like that my apartment does not end where I live. I like that the idea of where I live is full of rooms and spaces that I have never been in. I’ve never felt that way about the city I live in. I see it spread out like a soggy blanket from the terrace of my giant apartment and I know I hate it with a passion. Maybe it’s because I hate this city that I like my apartment so much. It looks like a hoe that a farmer stuck into a piece of stubborn land that he’s fucking done trying to till. It’s a giant block of concrete that’s trying to reach for the sky and get as far away as it can from this lukewarm city. Just like me. So, I sit in my room on the first floor of my giant apartment, press my face against the window grill, and look out. WE LOOK OUT, DAMMIT. We feel it, the fire burning our atriums to a crisp. We feel the wind swirling around in our basements, pushing against our doors and making our bodies shake. It’s like the lightning that hits before the thunder, the crack in our walls. We are together in this.
If I ever make a lot of money I plan to make a beautiful house that doesn’t exist outside of me but exists with me. This will be so because it will be a reflection of who I am. Given above is one of the rooms in the house. It’s got a giant opening facing the east. The room will have virtually no corners, making it look like the inside of a sphere. It will very like be a light beige, white or cement-like colour. There will be very little furniture except for a few ingenious mounds of clay or cement rising from the floor which can be used for sitting, lying down, storing things etc. There won’t be a piano like in the drawing. I just put it there to create a balance between subjects in the drawing. I plan to sit here in the morning, contemplating and reflecting on all that intrigues me.
If you’re not a musician or familiar with music production, you probably won’t know what I mean when I say ‘reverb’ or ‘delay’. But if I ask you if you’ve walked into a church or a giant cathedral and felt like the sounds were bigger, lusher or “spacey”, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Reverb and delay are effects that are used in music production to simulate and manipulate the reflection of sound (links at the end of this post if you want a short history). You don’t sound the same in all the rooms of your house. Even if you might not notice it, you do. Certain instruments and vocals sound right or fit into a mix well when they are recorded in certain rooms. This is why the studios that bands like the Beatles used to record their music are often talked about as having the potential for the creation of a certain kind of sound.
But as technology has developed over the years, people have tried to make it possible for you to infuse the songs that you make in your bedroom with the magic of spaces far far away.
I can put a certain reverb/delay effect on my song and make it sound like it’s being played in a cathedral on a Sunday morning. But that’s not the only mind-blowing thing here. You can listen to my song as if it was being performed in a certain space without actually being in that space. This was not possible a little more than a century ago.
I can sit in my small bedroom and listen to the latest Contemporary Christian Music release, which is usually full of lush reverbs and delays, and I can hear what I’d only hear in a much bigger space naturally.
What does that mean for the experience of music?
Well, there’s a reason why Cathedrals are the way they are. You walk into one hosting a choir or a morning service and you feel like you’re walking right into God’s chest. You feel small and insignificant but you also feel like you’re part of something larger than life. Concrete branches arch and meet above you as if you were walking in a forest encrusted in cement. Like the sun breaks into a thousand lines at the tip of leaves covered in morning dew and seems to displace itself to your arm’s length, light breaks in through the coloured glass and brings God right to you. And as you stand within reach of what seems like the great intersection of life and light, the sound of angels wash over you like a wave. The air feels wet and the ground grabs hold of your feet.
Part of me feels like reverb and delay belong where I can not only hear them but also see them. But sitting here at home, isolated from the rest of the world with walls that seem to close in, I feel like my favorite shoegaze albums are the only way to push back against them.
I think the difference, for me at least, is that when I can see the sound I am aware of where my skin ends but when I can’t see it, it feels like it comes from within. In the latter case, it is a force to be reckoned with; one that can push back the walls of my room.
On that note, here’s a song from one of my favorite bands that does some pretty cool stuff with reverb and delay:
Today was yet another miserable day. However, there was a bit of comfort in the evening. I had run out of things to distract myself with so I picked up my guitar for the second time today and tried to come up with a few ideas. I did come up with a few but they were nothing special, nothing that could captivate me and keep me distracted long enough. So, they broke through, all those horrible thoughts. Then, out of nowhere, I found myself playing an old hymn that I’d listened to so many times at church. It’s a hymn written in my mother tongue so you probably wouldn’t know it. I was playing the tune on the D string of my guitar, just the D string. My fingers moved very slow, adding a delicate vibrato as if they lay heavy on the string. A peace washed over me, something I had not felt in such a long time. I kept going for another 30 minutes or so, playing this effortless tune again and again on my guitar. Somewhere along the way, my fingers had taken a life of their own. I was no longer thinking about what I was playing. There was no commanding. The rest of the world opened before me; time split and dispersed into a million moments of rain-like seeds that hung in the air and grazed against me. I could hear the low incessant hum of my amplifier, the gloss of my guitar straining against the cotton of my shorts. The cars on the street were parked on the windows of my room and all the light that was left in twilight sneaked in just for me. I felt it all.
For the past few years, a significant portion of my depression and anxiety can be attributed to my crisis of faith. I’d grown up loving all that was spiritual. I did more than the average kid to find God. Having all of that taken right from under me left me falling into a bright abyss. I don’t know if what I felt today was God in my room or the glimpse of a simpler time. Whatever it was, I’m grateful.
I know this is a very depressing blog. Very few people even read it these days. But right now, in this moment, I am able to comfort you too, even though I know that this moment will not last long.
About the artwork:
I drew this listening to the hymn and thinking about what that moment was like. By the time I was drawing it, the feeling had sort of watered down to a memory of perspective. So the colours ended up being the usual ones which I use. Something cool about it is how if you look just the lines, you can make out an eye, a nose, and ear of a face. But if you look at the colours also, you start to see how they divide the lines into two faces.
I’m sure most people like to read poetry and derive their own meaning from it. However, since this blog is a way for me to record my journey, I will add the inspiration behind these lines.
Today was extremely hard. I felt such hate for myself that I hit myself pretty hard quite a few times. Somewhere in the middle of it all, there was a pause when my eyes and mouth were open in a similar fashion. I was crying and tears were welling up and making their way down. My mouth was also filled with saliva because when you’re crying with your mouth as well, you don’t really get time to swallow. The sudden realization that my eyes and mouth were associated in the way they were open and filled with bodily fluid amused me. I paused and for a moment it felt like my entire body and the world itself was open and filled with bodily fluid. In feeling this overwhelming sense of oneness, the pause became a photograph of sorts. Anyway, in that pause, I felt a beautiful calm. For a moment, I was not myself but some other person who was able to see all 21 years of my life on this planet. It was okay. Everything was going to be alright. I went back to beating myself up after the pause but it was powerful enough for me to sit down and draw what I felt out on paper between sobs.
I’ve noticed that for a few months now, the future doesn’t exist and the past keeps blurring into the background. They are unable to provide me with a reason to hope or to try. The present is all there is and it is filled with self-hate and gloom. These moments where the artist in me breaks out and draws over my body and soul are the only moments where this anomaly in the perception of the temporal isn’t pronounced.
In the poem, I’m asking myself if my work as an artist and a student of life (sweat) will ever flow along with the pain I’m going through. I’m asking this because I’m afraid that if I don’t learn to do that well enough, it will destroy me (wrinkles) physically and mentally.
Hi again. I drew something today and I thought it’d be interesting to spend some time and gather my thoughts on a couple of things.
I won’t waste your time or mine by telling you how shitty my perspective on life is right now. There’s not much you can say that is going to help me or anything I can say that will do this post any good. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad at the moment.
If you’re one of the few people who read my posts, you’ve probably come across me using words like “the void” or phrases like “lonely barren land” in a lot of posts to talk about the space in which I create or think about creation. These spaces radiate an uncertainty of sorts. Words like uncharted, preserved, dangerous, etc. come to mind. But the artwork above is an abstract representation of the contrary. It is a representation of the known, which is made so through the consumption and creation of art.
I’ve often talked about how art, for me, is a way to dig deep into myself and find parts that would not surface on their own. While I don’t quite like phrases like “you are the universe”, especially since they’re used by people for the most ridiculous of reasons, I do believe that it is possible through deep reflection to use all sensation as a way to develop a powerful sense of self and to address that which often eludes basic observation.
I started creating artwork like the one above because their creation was driven by impulse more than anything else. I’d go in with the least amount of preparation possible. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want to say. I give in to every impulse. Contrary to what should result from something like that, which is something that would make absolutely no sense, I found that I was able to find the reason why I chose a certain colour or made a brushstroke after the fact. It was a very exciting discovery. Not only was I able to do this for individual pieces of artwork but I also found that there were consistencies across different pieces. I felt like I was very much in tune with myself to have tapped into something like this. I thought I was the first person in the world to have done it but then I found out about Abstract Expressionism and lots of other cool traditions that have theorized artistic creation as a similar exercise.
After creating every piece, I find more and more about this other person inside me, one who will only reveal himself to me in these brief moments of creation. Bit by bit, I am piecing together a reflection of myself in the quiet hours of the night when I’m alone and there is no need for conversation. I cast my net into the void and retrieve pieces of the broken mirror. It is quite a stimulating experience.
While creation of art is fulfilling in a way, it has not had any particular effect on how happy I am. As the days go by, I find myself stitching together a beautiful blanket from all that I consider human, things that I have found within myself, perspectives on the human condition that I have used to create a map of meaning and life. All I want to do is wrap it around me when the storms pass me by. But I can’t.
Why isn’t this beautiful journey enough for me? Can only people comfort me, keep me warm, and lend an ear?
I have come to hate people. They are cruel and I have found none who truly understand me. I am utterly alone here. Why isn’t art enough for me? It’s all I have. Maybe I still have God. But I don’t have the words to make that bring forth any sense. Maybe I will one day but right now I don’t.
Meaningful art has made my life beautiful. It has been the strongest force in the dark, in the bitter moments of loneliness when people have failed me without fail. It has given me context when people confused me. You see, art can take two things that are virtually unrelated, put them together in a certain way, and help you find safe haven in what might otherwise seem like a corrupt blend. This is why art can uncover the most elusive parts of human nature. That’s what makes it meaningful. It turns artists into cartographers of the human soul. And for this very reason, it hurts that I am not comfortable in my isolation. I need people who understand me and this need, I think, is not fitting for what I want to do in life. My struggle to get to a place where I don’t need people anymore, where I can be at peace in isolation, is slowly killing me. It has become so to the extent where I quite dislike waking up.
I will stop now. Abruptly. But I think this is enough for now.