Saturday, August 18, 2012
It feels like I've been waiting my whole life for a sense that my being leaves a wake in the ether, a ripple in the universe. I have always watched certain people who seemed more real then others, who carried a seismic force of character, the virility of their atoms leaving a residue on the world around them and a tremble of tectonic plates beneath their footsteps. The groove of a wrinkle declaring its owner's history, ancient cowboy boots worn smooth by chain motor grease, the unapologetic expression of one's self, they all make my heart stutter a bit, drawing myself as if around a fire to glean warmth, only what I hunger for is the essence of realness, of deep and true knowledge, the ability to mold one's reality... in the hopes it will somehow rub off onto my physical presence. Typically I have associated these elements with men far older than me, adding strange kinks to my romantic and professional history, but recently have found people possessed of this sense of weight in knowledge and fearlessness that are close enough to my age that it has completely redefined my sense of reality and how much easier it is to manipulate then I had ever realized, that I am having to unlearn everything I ever knew to be true.
From a young age I put myself in the category of survivor, of rising above the negative elements of my childhood, but when I came across an article about child psychology and being raised in different circumstances, how it affects us as we mature, I found that I fit an entire description of lacking major survival skills. In the article I found myself, the difficulty expressing needs, a stunted emotional vocabulary, inherent fear of authority, lack of feeling validated in my judgments, all the things I wrestle with every day in my professional life, that wracked at my adolescent spirit in grade school. This article touched a nerve I never knew was raw. My younger sister had experienced a vehemently painful senior year in high school, but being away at college, I had a hard time resonating with her trauma, and it wasn't until almost 5 years later, meeting her in her adult incarnation that we spoke as peers and I could finally grasp what had happened that awful year for her. She too fit the description of this article, and trailblazer that I suspect she has always been, she had become aware of our reality and its circumstances before she had the emotional vocabulary to explain it. She was choking on the truth.
My mother lied. Like Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, parents lie about what is real. Children believe because they respect authority, and we trust our parents to have our best interests at heart. What if you suddenly woke up and realized your mother was not so different from the mother who sits at the subway threshold with a baby to further elicit your sympathy and guarantee the silver change right of your pocket? Having been raised by con artists, I feel like a child of the court of miracles, having never witnessed capable adults, moral adults, real adults it was a shock to find a bright fierce world, instead of perpetual semi darkness and living at the edge of survival on purpose, because it is easier to elicit pity change. Hearing the infantilizing way in which my mother spoke to my adult sister, and her vague attempts to force me into an emotional stranglehold, I suddenly realized that we had all grown up, so she no longer had purchase on other people's emotions, she couldn't be the single mother raising four children to beg and borrow money for milk and pot, and now desperately attempted to invert our relationship with guilt. No, you did not give everything you had to us. How dare you say that to me. You chose to live a substandard life and are trying to blame your laziness in developing individuality and respect ON us. How dare you call yourself a 'child advocate' and teach child development courses, or talk about the survival skills you gave us when you raised your children to consider it NORMAL to live with a crack addict and convict. Remember how you paid for tickets to Germany for you and my little brother? What do you think that teaches your daughters about how much or how little their bodies are worth? If actions speak louder than words, any values you have ever claimed are null and void the face of your actions, and the supreme selfishness in which you have not only lived your life, but subjected your children to have taught us that you believe in nothing but instant gratification and superficial desires. Like a child of the circus, it's no wonder that I am constantly striving for nuances of what is real, having spent my life in a grand charade, where my young eyes witnessed the adults around me with sagging and cracked faces act out the kind of immature pantomime I was born too old and responsible to ever partake in.
Suddenly I know what my sister saw years ago, and I only regret that she had to swallow the truth, that it writhed inside her, alone and misunderstood for so long.
So I have moved like a ghost through my own life, in a desperate search for gravity. With lovers, friends and work, I have evaporated, cheshire catlike, leaving nothing but an echo of laughter, and no true knowledge of who I am, nothing and no one rooting me to this time and this place. Without a discerning eye, and having developed no clear concept of truth from my childhood, often it has been too easy for people to take what they want from me, without my voice rising convincingly to declare boundaries for itself, so I have been poised for desperate flight for what feels like an eternity. But somewhere in the rush, I have found moments of blinding truth and values that have risen fully formed from the core of my being. The deeper and farther I go in eradicating the blood ties and emotional strangleholds that claw at me, the more I know what I truly believe, what I am derived of, people can SEE me, instead of through me, or project upon me.
Now it begins. For the first time in almost a decade, I unpacked all the boxes. I threw the cardboard away. I claimed the walls, I made a space, and it is mine. Not pieces of other people. I have a family, and while it includes my siblings, it is not one of relatives, but one of my choosing, consisting of people I respect, because to me, love and respect are indivisible. I cannot love what I don't respect. I am finally ready to build an identity, to be something tangible, definable. To be real.
“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
Beach bound on a Sunday, Church day, for baptism by salt water and I was trepidatious. After three intense years of growth and focus on a very urban landscape, and very urban realities, I had fearfully avoided making the trek to NYC's beaches alone, unwilling to dispel the illusions of my childhood in perfect water and soft white sand. That coastline is ever in my thoughts, so contrasted by my daily life, even a recent vicious hurricane couldn't permeate the concrete membrane that separates the city from the earth, and left us practically unscathed while entire mountain towns around us melted and washed away. I never really understood homesickness, but have often felt the pull of far distant tides and the kind of release of total trust that I would never allow myself in my daily war for respect and knowledge from the people stacked up in this city with me. Closing the car door, I had to actively reconstruct my atrophied beach sensibilities, insecurities of surrendering the white of my flesh to exposure from the elements and the eyes of the person on the blanket next to me, and once in the water, about rolling with the swells instead of fighting them, the pressing nature of reality pulling and choking and breathing around me, like being inside a much larger organism. And in the smack and flow, I had to re-find the rhythm, the pulse that beats through my own veins, that I had been to busy to pay attention to, the cacophony of other people's needs was lost in the white noise of the waves and gull cries, and quite possibly, for the first time in three years... I could feel myself breathe.
My partner in crime dragged out a body board, and I found myself attempting to navigate the waves from above, something I had never bothered with, and giggling and screeching with the seven-year-olds around me on their boards, I became acquainted with a nuance I had never before paid much mind to - how different it is to be on top of the waves, rather than immersed in them. The strength of the pull up into a budding wave, and the force that carries you on top and then crashing solidly and swiftly into the sand is so different than the rolling punching surge in the underbelly of the wave, that catches you unaware and senseless, unable to avoid the body parts or sea life caught in the motion with you. Later, as the tide crept back in, pulling with it decaying crab bodies and seaweed, a helicopter circled overhead, and a police boat chased shadows in the waves. When I asked a passing vehicle with a couple of nonchalant beach cops what was up, I was informed they were searching for a body. A quiet malevolence seemed to surface, reality rushing in with the tide, wrapping itself around me like the sting of the sunburn spreading down my thighs, a painful reminder that even the sun will do us harm, as it nourishes and sustains us.
After my first pilgrimage to the ocean, I decided to try a more urban accessible path to a closer beach, taking my roommate and the subway, in the hopes that I might find a place I could run to on a whim. I had heard the Rockaways were beautiful, but with a belligerent wind and painfully strict swimming boundaries from insistent lifeguards, it was ominous at best. Stealing myself to the water's edge, by the time it was licking and pushing at my calves I was frozen in place, almost unable to bring myself any further in. Late as it was in the day, I found myself once again greeted by the tide, and all the human and oceanic refuse slapping and sticking to my thighs, being drawn shoreward on a sour sweet smelling wind, with only a hint of brine in its odor. Reality and horror filled me down to the core of my being, I could feel my body stutter in its motion towards the pounding surf and come to a panic-filled stop. Chunks of wrappers and bizarre flat paperlike plant matter swirled around me, and my mind was flooded with images of the ganges river, the masses that bathed themselves and their clothing and animals in the polluted waters, other abused and corrupted natural sources of water that were slightly unreal images in history classes from grade school, of the sea life that breathed and lived in this, how only damaged and mutated genes could survive in the monumental funk, that toxicity would only beget more defensive toxicity in a desperate attempt to survive...
And the the shame I felt was quite possibly the deepest I have ever experienced, my revulsion so intense it felt like a rejection of my roots, of the deepest truths at the core of my being. I was bearing witness to the desecration of the womb from which we all clamored out of, it was no longer far past my peripherals, it is here, and it is real. With a childhood that was comprised of watery memories woven and fed to me by deceitful adults, the disappearing of a weak and lazy father figure, tarot cards on my mother's bed and conch shells and coral in the corners of the bathroom and nooks and crannies of windows, I had always sought a sense of the psuedo mother figure in the shores of my childhood, since I could touch and define its truth, its pervasive sense of reality. Abrasive and temperamental, it burned and bruised without apology, scrubbed me clean of impurities and connected me to something larger, almost omnipresent and rooted me to my sense of self.
Now, in what seems to be a perpetual coming of age, as all my deepest beliefs are being tested and redefined, the ocean continues the shattering of my deepest childlike perceptions. Circumstance like a tidal wave is battering everything I have ever used to define myself and my reality, and when the floodwaters drain away, I only wonder what will be left after the deluge, what will still be rooted, who it will be standing in my place, and whether or not she will still have my sassy grin.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Action vs reaction. Inertia and momentum are fixed states in a vacuum. Chaos theory is a way of defining probability and patterns in everything around us. We have found the god particle, the higgs-boson, but did we find it because it was waiting to be discovered or because we created a concept to explain reality and manifested our own limitations of existence? Are theology and science really so different?
I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to be 30 years old, to have laugh lines and a defining wrinkle or two, and suddenly, I can feel the momentum building, and the fear of inertia dropping away as I read and work, converse and watch, as the world continues to fold in on itself. Globalization is creating a fantastic new landscape for human interaction and social development, but depending on what industry you fall into, you witness such differing notes of a grandiose symphony, and we are all so busy trying to master our individual melodies and personal instruments, that it can be difficult to truly experience the powerful pattern we are all so deeply a part of. Running away from the separation between artist and reality, I found myself stumbling into an entire network of powerful young adults who FEARLESSLY navigate the entertainment industry in its technical aspects, rolling and riding the rising waves of our needs for constant entertainment as a way of dealing with a monumental economic shift happening. Such shifts have happened before, and to spare you the history lesson, I'll just touch on a few key moments in the development of the human race.
Cultivating/controlling nature to reap its reward in a time frame, agriculture stopped us in our tracks as roving bands of nomads and quite literally rooted us to locales, giving us the permanence to establish communities of wildly different values, beliefs, and personal and spiritual histories. The printing press gave every individual the power to choose how they interpret and share ideas, which gave us access to translations and notions that broke us free from kings and church heads and inspired revolutions worldwide over the next century. The industrial revolution brought materials things into plentiful reach, redefining comfort and luxury as accessible in a completely new way, changing our labor force completely, as machines could seamlessly start to fill laborer's roles, freeing up large amounts of society to cultivate new invention and greater intellectual pursuits. In the past two decades, the development of the internet and the software boom has continued to accelerate our ability to outsource jobs so they get done faster and cheaper, freeing up even more of the workforce to delve even deeper into the virtual landscape that has manifested, in which we all act and react to with the most powerful ability the individual has ever been able to have, and be guaranteed an audience. We are in a time where there is no excuse, there is only lack of drive to explain one's inability to carve out whatever riches they desire from the global community.
For those of you who have been incubating the same job for 10+ years may need an attitude adjustment, or else the world may provide one for you.
Having just taken part in NATEAC, a conference on theatrical elements of engineering, architecture and other key elements to physical productions, I noticed some specific and interesting blips on my radar of where there are starting to develop very strong overlaps across a number of previously almost unrelated aspects of entertainment as an industry. As I attended one of the top animation schools in the country, and watched the animators get snapped up by the top animation companies worldwide, I've been considering the basis of needs in society that are being filled by these individuals, mirrored in the world of gaming, the development of interactive greeting cards, gaming graphics, 3 dimensional movies (since we have all but given up on the 2 dimensional disney landscape of my childhood) in animated characters and environment, as well as live action movies shot in 3D, the comeback of letterpress as an art form profound for the high key of emotional experience of truly handmade items brings us that much closer to other individuals and realistic interpretations of existence. So listening to IATSE union crew's presentation during this conference, I heard a lot of unasked questions trying to surface about the next big development in the world of larger than life theatre. Automation has been developing for some time now, and has succeeded in cutting backstage technicians to a slight few, further dissipating the needs of the labor force. Slowly, patterns are emerging where the industries that I straddle seem to collide, and noticing on my facebook, some of the animators I went to school with were talking about an international tour of an arena show that was based on an animated movie made by a major animation studio. More frequently now we are seeing theatre and literature derivative of movies, just as the comic industry has had to shift their entire story structures to fit the huge movie market for their characters that only previously lived and breathed in the pages of a comic book. At the same time, I found out someone I have been taking notes on in a more technical world, involving some of the foundation structures of the entertainment industry was touring with the same animated movie turned theatre show. Suddenly the degrees of separation have shrunk to olympic standards of hundredths rather than whole numbers. So whilst everyone writing about globalization talk about the software boom and the power of the internet as a force for collaboration, I have just witnessed what seems to be much more all encompassing than that, as expressed through how society either seeks out or is simply given an entire new way of experiencing the world around them.
After some quick research, I was stricken by a number of implications of our changing expectations of experiences. The automated dragons are massive. Massive. I can't even imagine, with only a slight awareness of weight displacement and the intricacies of rigging myself, the kind of preparation that goes into most shows, let alone multiple characters moving as the CRUX of the magic show that we provide for our patrons, sometimes 3 times a day for a week, before dragging the whole thing to another city, and another, and another. During my sessions at NATEAC, I remember specifically hearing an engineer mention that we as an industry have more frequently completely overloaded the venues we load in and out of beyond their capacities, and this show seems a prime example of a work of art coming into a different venue every week with completely different circumstances in each building, but very set and specific needs for the magic of the show. There are only so many flexible aspects of any show, and one focused almost solely on flying dragons doesn't have much in the way of weight related changes that can be made. But if this is a reoccurring scenario, our shows as a whole have gotten larger in flash, higher in audience expectation and much more intense in its engineering needs to manifest all of these elements. So here we have an interesting connection between Art and Engineering. What makes this even more emphatically important to me, is that in the world of animation, with the 3D programs that have become industry standard, from conceptual development to final movie, you have to take almost the SAME considerations of characters as the automated puppets we see on stage. In Maya, you build the frame/skeleton/rigging of a creature, test out its movements, model in incredible detail the outside surface, from a sculptural and textural standpoint, it has to be lit in a space, all the same kinds of processes that go into the creation of any kind of show. And if companies like Dreamworks know they are planning to create physical representations of their movies, character development then begins to take on a whole entire need for engineering awareness, to more adequately prepare for when their characters come to life in any type of theatre near you.
In a more philosophical vein, I wonder, with the highly interactive experiences being developed by the entertainment industry at large, especially as they have to collaborate across boundaries that are falling away as you read this what that is unveiling about our own inner nature. Just like the Higgs-Boson, the 'god particle' that has been found and will most likely define this scientific slice of my age group, this prevailing idea that there is some invisible glue holding the atoms in the universe together, this powerful collision of various industries seems to be rooting out the same thing, some underlying connection between all things, a blurring of the boundaries, a freedom to manifest whatever one truly desires, if you know how to ride the waves, whether they are sound waves, or brain waves, microwaves or ocean waves.
The power to see through the differences to the root, where all things are the same.