Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bull Fighting

My friend Lewis tells me I could stand to fight less. Supposedly we were warriors on the same battlefield in a past life so I trust his advice, particularly on this topic. I have trouble distinguishing between situations in which I should rail against something that feels wrong, unfair, dishonest, fake, false or otherwise unpalatable, and when to simply accept ‘what-is’ and move on with life. All ill situations elicit the same response in me, which is usually some degree/combination of righteous indignation, sardonic humor, and ass-handing when applicable. I am aware that this fundamental weakness in my ability to choose my battles – not always knowing when to walk away -- has led me down many interesting, painful, fascinating and fruitless paths. I have sometimes only narrowly avoided bar brawls, misguided alliances of various genres, professional conflicts, and scuffles with all kinds of authority figures because of this aspect of my personality. I often wonder if and how I could reshape myself as someone more demure – and whether or not I should engage in such a pursuit. I’m sure there have been times in history where I would have been a candidate for some more brain-numbing, foot-binding, electro-shock therapy or other forms of obvious restraint imposed from without. . . a type of restraint we usually find a way of imposing on ourselves voluntarily. When the noise in our heads becomes intolerable, we find our refuge in some kind of anesthetizing agent. In any case, being true to what feels like ‘truth’ to me continues to be an expensive habit.

I’ve spent the last five days in London with my brother Gile, his girlfriend Sibylle, and my nephews, Owen and Rhys. Sibylle and I do similar kinds of work so we did some shop talking – which, among other things, led me to contemplate how our different temperaments and ways of getting things done might serve and work against each of us. She is generally more German, more practical, more easy-going and less trigger happy than I am. Owen, who is eight, shared one of his journals with me – which he had just completed with drawings and writing of words and thoughts with brilliantly creative spellings. One of the things that stuck with me was one page where he had written ‘different people have different thoughts.’ It was a humbling reminder -- along with some other conversations I had -- that each of us is mostly stuck in our own subjectivity, our own set of needs and fears and limitations and desires. It’s senseless to be angry at an apple for not being an orange. If you want an orange, you have to shop in the orange department – or at least in the citrus department. And furthermore, a work of Brutalist architecture might represent a point of pride of the Queens Park neighborhood to Sibylle, where to me it is a stark echo of the cold characterless architecture of Soviet Russia or Hampshire College. A Bikram yoga class – one of which I attended for the first time in about ten years in London -- feels at this point to me more than a little ridiculous, unjustifiably didactic and limited – but for others it is religious, or a gateway into the body, the breath and the comfort of a warm albeit fetid room, reeking of vitamin sweat. Different people need different things at different points in their lives. Different people have different thoughts.

Another piece of Owen’s artwork that Gile showed me is this intriguing representation of a ‘ninga slaying god,’ whereby ‘god’ is represented as a rabbit wearing a bustier and a fox tail. I think it’s a little early for Owen to have come to such serious conclusions about what-is, but I appreciate that he is grappling with such important questions as the nature and existence of god. Rhys, on the other hand, is pretty much all about hugging and cuddling, which is also totally fine by me.

We went to Camden on Sunday to see Ron Arad’s “Curtain Call,” an installation at the Round House. It was a series of short films – some animated, some live action -- projected onto a silicon curtain comprised of thousands of panels arranged in a cylinder. People were invited and encouraged to walk in, penetrate, cross, traverse – to watch the projection from within and without. . . which is kind of what I’m doing myself: watching the projections from within and without.

Rome is already opening its arms to me and my Spatalian language skillz -- I was approached tonight to star in a video that some 25 year-old Italian boys were making in the street. Nupu and I told them I was famous and they got really nervous. It was funny.