Saturday, May 20, 2017

I am an artist

Please forgive me, this post may be a bit rambling. I have indulged in my weakness for my favorite beverage tonight and that will probably effect my writing. But here goes, I hope you can make this journey with me.

I am an artist. This is a statement that may seem to be of great importance or it may just seem pretentious and self serving, both views are equally valid. The thing is that it took me a long time to be willing to say this, to admit this, to put this label on myself.

I have been fascinated by photography for a long time. It fits me. I am not a painter, I can't put what my mind sees down on a piece of paper or a canvas with a paint brush, I can't reproduce my thoughts with a pencil. But with a camera I can take what is in my mind and what my eyes find themselves drawn to and reproduce it in a form that others can see. This is wonderful and frightening because I have no idea how my thoughts and visions will be received. In the images I produce I am turning myself inside out and putting myself on display. You see all my talents and all my faults, all my insanity and all my rationality printed out on a piece of paper or presented on a screen. I am laid bare, I am naked in a way that taking all of my clothes off does not expose. I put myself out there as vulnerable and open as it is possible, at that moment, for me to be.

My images come from serious thought about science and rationality and how to represent these concepts in a digestible way. Most of the time I fail, not because I am wrong but because I am distracted. Distracted by the world, both inside and outside of my mind. I am a victim of my own perception and my inability to fully understand how the rest of the world perceives the world. When I see the color red I have no way of knowing if it is the same way that you see the color red. That prevents me from succeeding and gives me the drive and reason to keep trying. We do not live in a world, we live in a mass of interconnected worlds. All related but none identical.

This is why I hate being an artist, because I will always fail to achieve the goals I set for myself. It is also why I have no choice in what I am. I am an artist and I can't be anything else. My mind is only concerned with your mind, even if I have no idea who you are, my eyes only exist to explore what your eyes see, even if I will never know what that is.

I am currently working on an exhibit of my photographs that will be on display for just a few hours. I like that. What we all see is very temporary, it only seems fitting that my images will be on display for just a few hours. After this they will vanish, at least they will vanish for most people. A few will make my visions a permanent part of their world by purchasing my images or by searching them out on the internet. My images will become zombies, they will be neither dead nor alive. They will be undead and they will exist on paper, as digital files, and in a few people's minds, maybe feeding on them.

Art is not easy, this is why we aren't all successful artists. I remember being in an art museum and hearing someone say "I could do that" as they looked at a painting. They probably could, but many would say their ability doesn't matter, what matters is that they didn't do it. I disagree, the difference is that they weren't courageous enough to do it. They weren't willing to be critiqued, to hear the disparaging remarks. Or maybe they weren't willing to hear the compliments? Maybe they weren't willing to take the risk to try and feed their souls and stomachs by producing something that has no intrinsic value. Art can't protect you from the weather, it normally won't feed you, art rarely will put a roof over your head, but artists have no other choice, they have to do what they do, damn the consequences.

I am an artist, I finally had to admit it to myself. I didn't choose it, I am not sure that I want it, my value as a person is linked to how others perceive me and my work. I just hope that I don't waste who I am, I hope at least a few see value in what I do. I hope I am not a waste of oxygen. I am an artist. I hope I survive it.

If you are in the Nashville area I invite you to come see my work, to see me that I can't express any other way. Beautiful and Banal; Exploring the How and What of seeing

Friday, May 12, 2017

Impeachable offenses

Every day I see a new story from one of the major media outlets asking if what ever it was that Trump did that day is an "impeachable offense". So far, the answer, no matter what the issue, has to be no.

This is not to say that Trump hasn't and isn't committing acts that would fall under the definition of a high crime or misdemeanor. It just takes more than the commission of a high crime or misdemeanor to get impeached.

The first step in impeachment is for the House of Representatives to pass articles of impeachment. Currently we have a Republican controlled House and nothing that Trump has done, so far, has been bad enough to get articles of impeachment passed in the House and so for all practical purposes Trump has yet to do anything impeachable.

This of course doesn't mean it is impossible for Trump to be impeached, he could do something so terrible that the Republicans in the House would decide that not voting for impeachment would be worse for their political careers than voting for impeachment, but I hope that doesn't happen. If Trump were to do something that destructive we would all be suffering and so I consider this a really horrible possibility.

There is also the possibility of Democrats winning a majority in the house, or at least a large enough minority that impeachment could be a possibility. This means,of course, waiting until after the mid-term elections in 2018. It also means that Democratic candidates will have to over come the effect of the gerrymandered districts that are designed to prevent them from winning. There is a tremendous amount of backlash against Trump currently and the party in the Oval Office tends to not fare very well during mid-term elections so it isn't impossible, but it won't be easy.

The only other option for impeachment is staying so informed and so involved that enough Republican House members feel the pressure to a point that they would stand against their party's leader. This won't be easy but it may be the best possibility. We have to remember though that this won't be about any particular action Trump takes, it is going to be about holding him accountable for all of his actions. We may be stuck with Trump for a while, so that is something we need to be doing no matter what.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A few things about conservatives us liberals just don't get.

Liberals don't understand conservatives, this is pretty easy to grasp. We often times see liberals asking why poor conservatives vote against their own best interests, why religious conservatives vote for someone who is as far from Christian values as you can get (like Trump has shown he is), or why they are constantly attacking the poor in America. The reason we don't understand them is because we neglect to see the real source of their beliefs. We keep going after the things we see on the surface, but if we are interested in having a conversation with conservatives and getting them to think about things differently we have to go deep. This election brought up a term we hadn't heard in the media very much prior to the elections, "authoritarianism". We learned that Trump supporters tended to score quite highly on psychological tests that looked for authoritarian tendencies. Sadly too many of us didn't delve deeply enough into this to realize what authoritarianism really means. Someone with authoritarians tendencies is not necessarily a person who wants our country run by a dictator or who identifies with Nazis. Normally these are people who see appeal in a political candidate who talks about issues of law and order. They are people who see a great deal of value in the social and cultural norms of the places thy live. They are people who place, to some extent, a higher value on the society than on the individual. The average authoritarian is more correctly called a collectivist and the opposite of a collectivist is an individualist. Liberals tend more to the individualist side of things. We are proponents of individual rights, pro-choice, pro- marriage equality, pro freedom of expression. We support social welfare programs because they make a poor individual's life better. We support universal health care because it helps individuals. We wrap these ideas up in a society wide wrapper sometimes but the core reason for our support is individual rights. A collectivist takes a different view of things. Free expression is wonderful as it brings new and beneficial ideas into a society, but it must be tempered so these new ideas do not become so varied and widespread that they dissolve the foundational ideas the society is based on. Anything that threatens to upset the social norms is suspect. Women's rights, civil rights, gay rights, legal abortion, new technologies are suspect, the list goes on and on. Collectivists see society as a thing they owe their rights and existence to and they want to protect it. Individualists see social and cultural norms as something that can prohibit the development of the individual and societal progress.

Let's take marriage equality for an example. Liberals often have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to stand in the way of two men or two women getting married since it doesn't affect anyone else's life. Conservatives, because of their collectivist principles see it quite differently. They look at our society and see that heterosexual marriage has been the norm for a very long time. They see that families are an important facet of our society. A change to this structure could lead to unforeseen consequences and they therefor see that change as threatening. Many will say that their arguments against same sex marriage are based on religious principles, but when confronted with Biblical arguments that disagree with them their opinion doesn't change at all. This is because their feelings about same sex marriage aren't based in religion, they are based in collectivist ideals. This is why we have heard so many people refer to heterosexual marriage as "traditional marriage", this is why they say they believe that same sex marriage will destroy the institution of marriage. They aren't concerned with religion, they really aren't even concerned with marriage. They are concerned that any change to an institution like marriage, which has such great importance to our society, will cause the downfall of our society.

We see this in all sorts of issues. Why would anyone care about having to press a one or a two to select a language when they place a phone call? It isn't that they feel inconvenienced, it is because they feel that our society is an English speaking society and to accept another language could disrupt our society. They may love to go to Mexico and have formed friendships there on vacation, but be in an uproar about Latino immigrants coming to the USA. They don't hate Mexicans but they see increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants as a threat to our social norms.

We see social welfare programs as a way to help individuals move forward. They may not hate low income people but they see our society as a meritocracy and see our society helping someone who isn't working as a threat to us all. This doesn't mean they wouldn't be willing to help that same person individually but for our government to do it is a threat to our way of life.

When we think of collectivist societies we tend to think about places like India and China, but after living in the Netherlands for a few years I found that Northern European societies were much more collectivist than the US. The problem isn't that conservatives tend to be more collectivist and liberals tend to be more individualistic, the problem is that both sides think their way should be the only way. This causes them to create false narratives for why the other side does what it does. We are one of the most individualistic societies in the world, even our collectivist tendencies are quite mild compared to some other places. We can get past this, without having to change who we are. But first we have to realize that people are allowed to think about different things in different ways. We have to stop looking for the simple explanations. We have to be willing to try, that is the only way we can protect the rights of the individual while also protecting our society.