Friday, April 27, 2012

Sand and Time

From one log to the other, as the peeking sun is revealing the choices I have to grab and pack the bits and pieces of this Iona Beach into my memory card. And my brain. It's a long path over the lose sand between the river and the ocean. Hard to walk on, but worth it. I'm giving my devoted attention to this piece of quiet land. We all need attention. Praise. Like. We need to feel special, meaningful, different from the rest of the water in this social ocean we live in. I wish I could be as these chunks of washed over logs. They don't care. They simply are. As God. And they are effortlessly beautiful.

In all the pressure the media and social establishments are imposing, we forget the purpose why we do what we do, why we live the way we live. My gut feeling is telling me the system is created to keep us on the edge, just comfortable enough to not complain much, but far from success and fulfillment the top elite is milking from us. Most people feel something is utterly wrong and going the rotten way, but are kept too busy and too drained to focus on questioning. There is discomfort and general irritation felt in the air, on the streets, pretty much everywhere. You can hear it in most talks around. But we are far from the real revolution. We are not suffering enough, we are not on the verge of existence, we are still not desperate.

The great people who changed history came mostly from periods of extreme social suffering. That is the reason why I don't believe the next one this globe needs today will come from these areas. I hope I'm wrong. This global dissatisfaction we all feel in recent years and months will have to get ripe. It's still green, a bit sour, little lost, wondering blob of unclear form. I know one day, sooner than we might think, it will take the shape of a rock, and will be thrown. Hard.

We all have our own ways to cope with it. We focus on kids, focus on jobs and advancement, focus on money, and often on completely wrong causes. I do this, I make music, I live nature. It bugs me a bit that of 208 people on my mailing list only 2 have checked my last blog page. I justify it by posting it around the Easter. Both Catholic and Orthodox. Ultimately though, I do it because I have to. For the sake of putting it on this virtual wall. For the sake of creating those images, compose these sentences. For the sake of believing. Some will get it, hopefully, or not. It shouldn't matter. Certainly feels good being able to share it with a few.

With age I must admit I developed a dose of (healthy) bitterness. As many of you over 40, I often question where my life has gone and if I made all the right choices. Certainly not all of them, but what I'm most thankful about is retaining the ability to understand and admire the beauty around me. Especially in nature, but otherwise too. And the need to create. Those two things alone are weighing enough to balance all the rest. I wish however that my dreams have not been dented, especially with the most recent social awakenings happening all over the world. They might be dented, but I'm more than thrilled that I still dare to dream. And I dream of a future that will be more just, and more creative.

As much wiser people then me said, it's not about being happy. Happiness is impossible to achieve. Content with what we have, and the choices we have made along the path we follow is what matters. For the most part I believe I'm content. The things that I could be more satisfied with are mainly out of my control. So not worth dwelling about.

I notice I'm writing about the same thing over and over again. We need the purpose, a deeper meaning to all of this that is going further and further from making us belong. I'm noticing every day a dissatisfaction of the general public. Everybody is feeling that something is just not quite right, but we need to provide for our families, we need to pay off our mortgages, cars, lines of credit. We are all chained, weather we want to admit it or not. Today they said on the news for every dollar we make, we spend 1.5. We make our purpose in spending. We often try to heal momentarily by buying stuff, overfilling our places, while our hearts are left more and more empty.

There is three main parties in Canada. The Liberals are losing in BC. In three municipalities in Greater Vancouver there is extraordinary elections. They need a change. Every year however, I'm wondering what real difference does it make? Sooner or later, the changes each of these Parties bring is superficial, and more or less everything stays the same. I feel the people will one day get so fed up with it and will require a profound change of the whole System. I just hope I will be around to take part in it.

With all this technology around our lives should become simpler. We should have more time for ourselves and our families, to do what we really love and what makes us fulfilled. Instead, the abundance of this technological gadgets we are bombarded every day with is making us so busy that we don't have time to communicate in real time with our closest! Paradoxically, we are more than ever virtually connected with thousands of people screaming for attention. And we all more or less feel desperately alone. So alone that we make choices and tolerate the weirdest personalities around us. We justify, we forgive, we are frightened of losing.

More and more people are becoming aware of their relentless competition for achieving more, earning more, acquiring more, yet becoming more and more stressed and depressed. At the end, nothing of that will make us happy. Sooner or later we have to face it, stop, and ask ourselves what we are doing and where we are really going. And the answer is often that we don't really know. We are lost. How to really live a content life when the system is established in such a way that creates frustration in most ways we turn? And what do we do? We give up, we run away from it all, we get defeated by setting for less. And we rarely consider devoting our lives to change the system. Somebody else will do it...

It gets overwhelming for sure, there is so many things that need to be changed, corrected, or simply extinguished. I remember a lecture I saw here at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, by Paul Hawken. At the beginning he started showing a list of global organizations that work on all those issues. The list was rolling from bottom to top of the large screen. He said it would continue to roll for a day, two days, three, a whole week, and still wouldn't reach the end. Two weeks, maybe even three! The sheer number should be making us ask ourselves how come there is so many things that need to be fixed? How come we let those things go the wrong way? Because we are too busy with our gadgets.

The Occupy Movement gave me a big hope for a day, a week even. But than it became clear that the movement is confused, lost, undefined and disorganized. The opposition took that to their big advantage and the movement almost ceased to exist. I hope only for a while. I can't wait to see it rise again stronger and more organized than ever. Why should ordinary people in Greece have to pay for the mistakes their irresponsible and greedy government was committing in their name? They did the best they could: they worked, they were paying their taxes and  mortgages, they were taking care of their families. Most ordinary people don't need much more. Now, they need to tighten their belts, get their salaries reduced or worse yet lose their jobs altogether. We get our banks bailed out by billions and billions of dollars taken from ordinary people that struggle already. They will not take that forever.

If someone makes 173 times higher salary than the average is simply not right. They are not that many times more skillful or better as people. The only thing they might know better is how to play and use the System. People will not tolerate it, I can feel it in my guts. If everybody else gets taxed more but the Corporations, people will not tolerate it forever. If the prices of gas rise without slowing down, people will not tolerate it forever. I hope the society at large is realizing this and feeling it too. There is abundant amount of wealth around there, and only needs to be redistributed more evenly and justly.

Talking about the justice system, that one needs much work! Sometimes I feel it might be out of control already. If I had a child I would be terrified of what is awaiting them in the future. The rulings are not making sense more and more, the criminals are negotiating with the law, the system is basically teaching them what to do and how to act in order to get away with their crimes. I feel it's slapping me personally in the face every time I hear a decision that does not make sense. And it's happening too often. There is four realities out there: this one, unionized one, virtual one, and the justice system one. Who needs any other parallel one?

In a way, the System looks kind of a freshly cut log of an old growth. Rough, half eaten by bugs. It needs this water to be washed away, softened, rounded, refined. It takes lots of time, but sooner or later it will happen. Before that, we all need to face each other, our own values, our own worth. How much are we worth? Some think the measure of our value is our salary, some think it is where we live, what we own, our career, how much we traveled. Not many people actually think about our talents, highest quality of skills.  Perhaps, the reason for this is that it does not seem important enough.

Our advancement in life and career is only dependent on how high people and superiors around us are allowing us to go. It's surprising how often it does not depend on high quality, skills, competence, efficiency. Most often it depends on personal liking, company politics, profit. It is very easy to convince an honest person that he or she is not good enough. We all have our insecurities that can be easily played with. Before I moved to Canada I had a perception of The West as the world where only truly the best and highest quality is what matters. Sooner than I wanted, I realized that it's far from that. It's a very average combination of good enough talents, skills, personality and character that fits the company, the politics, the community or any area of involvement. And does not stir up things too much.

Change, originality, and different opinions are highly valued and promoted, but only if they stay within the boundaries set by the top structure of any establishment.  Personal preferences, liking, subjective opinions, personal gains are too often the driving force behind decisions, be it on the highest governing level, or personal. It's extremely hard, if not impossible, and rare that a true individuality breaks through. In many ways this reminds on regimes like Communist for example, only under a different propaganda - about "freedom" and "democracy" only to realize that both are in a very gray area of relativity, and hardly even exist!

These logs still don't care. They lay along our path half dug in the send between a river and an ocean. They are washed by the waves, the stream, and the rain. There are all those different waters that we must endure to reach the end. The secret is how we manage to use them, while maintaining our integrity, values, confidence, growth. Do we embrace it or hate it? In any case, walking on the sand is quite hard. The river, and the tides can get you before you blink. We must learn to live with it, to use it to our advantage. Otherwise, reaching the end is pointless.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Realistic Abstractions

Walking Iona... There is so many musicians in this city, so much good music. Alas, most of it will never make it. It will never reach the wider audience. The American Idol is great, educational even for older people who are still trying to give voice. The top five are close to marvelous. The top one is simply spectacular, most of the time. But what about all those very good ones, great ones, extremely unique, truly different, but less than spectacular? TV and the big music labels make it look like nothing less is going to cut it. Should we all give up and stop creating?

There is this teenage sensation movie out "The Hunger Games". On the day of release a news cast said: "The movie industry has become corporate. In the past, the movies are made for the Oscars. Today it's all about what makes money". At about the same time I was told by a friend who worked in the industry for 20 years,  that it started collapsing when the labels became corporate. In the past it was more about the music. The labels would take an artist under their wings and prepare it to fly.

Today, they expect the artist to do all the promo work, to build an audience, to have a perfect product, and be spectacular. Somebody on the news said they are saving tones of money that way. They come and scoop the rest. Not only the labels, but the promo companies, the licencing companies, everybody else.

Internet is revolutionizing our lives. In many ways is great. However, it appears it's creating this mentality that everything can be acquired for free. The book publishing companies are disappearing, the DVDs are not selling, the video stores are gone,  the CD manufacturing is in a huge decline. The bits of music are equal to nothing. You get it, you listen, you forget. You get the next ones. Free.

All the talent, inspiration, skill, time for creating, crafting, refining, producing, coming up with the money to record it is nobodies concern anymore. I want it, and I get it, and I don't give a shit. The albums are chopped off in pieces, nobody cares about it as a whole anymore, as a complete art piece. The internet is butchering the art of music creation. It helps in many ways too, but the question is HOW and when this all is going to end?

Everybody is a photographer today. A video producer. A promoter. Before the internet you had to deal with only your immediate surrounding. You had an illusion that there is bigger chances to make it in any creative artistic area, and this was pushing you to do something. It was still extremely hard though. Now it seems even harder. We are all competing on a global level. Sure, here and there we see these talents going viral. Many are giving up before they even consider whether they have something to offer or not.  I wonder what final culprit this virus will bring?

We expose every detail of our lives for a few likes. We need to feel unique, special, worth living. We will give everything for free for one listen, one share. It's kinda sad isn't it? On the other side, if it wasn't for this internet social revolution, most of our lives would be even more miserable. Where is the trade off line?

Walking Iona still... The steel garden means nothing from the distance. When you walk over and through it, it reveals a quiet beauty that needs to be captured, framed, memorized. There is this enormous blob of indie music boiling and screaming to be heard. It means mostly nothing to the giants of the music industry. They are too high above.

Nature is a refuge from all of it. The colourful details of beauty. I walk and pay attention. Observe, respect, love. It gives me peace of mind. It balances my frustrations. It makes sense. No matter what, it's all about creating. Whether somebody decides to do something with it, likes it or not, appreciates it, ultimately it should not matter. The process is what counts, if it makes us happy.

A Hollywood actress once said on Jay Leno:"We are chosen by God to do this". I couldn't believe my ears, so I replayed it over and over again. What arrogance. No wonder the kids are killing themselves for not seeing the purpose of being alive and living average, seemingly meaningless lives. The success is measured by how much money one makes. It's not that she is the best actress ever, there is many more talented ones that will never get a chance to make it Hollywood big. Yet, the pool of average everyday people is craving to give their own sweaty pennies to the ones that were heavily promoted on the most powerful manipulation tool - TV.

The overlaid paints are calming me down. Make me wonder what could the passing time say about this bunch of trailers that look abandoned. I always feel the past was slower pace, less stressful, more meaningful. It definitely wasn't as much about profit as today. Long ago, when I was a way bigger dreamer than today, my sister would tell me how evil Profit is as a concept. I could not understand, nor I really cared much. Now I feel terrified for the new generations. What will the world they are going to live in look like?

In many ways I don't feel I belong here, in this system. It took me a long time to build this small circle of trusting and understanding friends. With others I often get in conflict for my different ideas, for voicing them, for not auto correcting myself to please everybody, as this I find impossible. What I feel connected with is this metal, the rust, the details of passing time, and the very send and grass they are planted in. That's why I walk...

Now I'm not sure I would feel I belong back in Serbia either. That is the nature of leaving your roots and starting all over again. The system  itself, local and global,  is faulty in most ways. The nature and some of the built environment, the beauty of it is what makes me happy and content. And my very precious circle of friends and family. I hope the rust will some day take over me and plant me to this land...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Abstract Realism

Walking along Iona Beach in Richmond... There is a thin ribbon of sand between a branch of Fraser River and the ocean, starting at about 100 feet wide, ending at 10 or less... One can straddle it from one side to the other. You can dip your feet in the salty and rinse it in fresh water without lifting your bum from the sand! It's a very long sand formation filled with washed over logs and rocks. Several kilometers long. In two attempts we couldn't reach the end after a couple hours of walking.

The ocean plays this love and hate game with the river. On a high tide it's so tantalizingly close to the river, yet never touches it. It's probably better that way. Sometimes the taste is better by just imagining it. Sometimes craving is sweeter than the possession. They would probably spoil each other...

We keep walking. The sun is behind the clouds, but every once in a while it uncovers some curious detail in the sand. We grab it by our eyes, store it in the memory cards, we steal bits and peaces of reality. We digitize it.

A band was brought to my attention, becoming popular, named "First Aid Kit". They are coming to Vancouver. Two young girls trying to revamp the hippie movement. They play their songs and covers in very basic ways - acoustic guitar, piano, exotic acoustic instruments, and two angelic voices. They record it raw in the woods. They understand that digitalization of reality is not the best.

They need to reach for the roots. I feel good listening their sound on line. This is what I always believed, and was doing since the 80's through the 90's - the essence of music, the very roots. They are confirming to me that it will never fade away. The essential need  of humans to evoke emotion by very basic music means will never cease. 

I walk... Step on washed over branches, logs, rocks. It feels like exploring new countries, new worlds. Travelling is great, but way over rated. Mostly. Many just go there to pose in front of the important sites so that they can import those proofs and wave it in front of their so called friends. A week or two is nothing to understand a culture. One has to live there for a while. The best part of travelling is not working.

I see worlds under my feet, surrounded by golden sand being washed over by lazy movement of the river, and persistent rocking of the ocean. I keep stealing feverishly. I want it to remain after I'm gone. The unexpected uncovers. A steel wreckage laying around in this pristine spit of nature.Colours faded, rust taking over. Time passing. Is this an abandoned work post? Perhaps still used? The reality becomes abstract. Nature paints masterpieces that will never be discovered. I steal. Grab and stuff my sleeves with it. I want it to remain warm, safe in stolen creativity.

Where are we in all of this? Where are we still going? Looking still for some deeper purpose of our existence quietly and disappointingly admitting that we just might be a part of the critical mass of no ones... We desperately keep robbing the beach of it's beauty. We talk about mediocre art and photography that is selling for thousands and thousands of dollars just because a good sales person can sell the lies to ever so unrefined lovers of the price of art. He questions his photography, he is scared to dare to say it's worth being seen.

We console each other, we boost each others confidence. That's what friends do. It's who you know, the least is about quality today. It's how you wrap it; it's not about the content, but the package. You say it as it is and people run away. They don't like the truth. They will rather hear a sweet lie than face the reality that keeps rusting.

The world is becoming a gray blur. Some things should remain black and white, as right and wrong are. Grayness will bite us in the ass. Our liberation will get out of control. The criminals will ask for the right to commit crime, and one day we will have to let them be, with our hands tied by our own laws.

I prefer colours, with black and white being equal part of it. I take my shots with my iPhone, nothing fancy. He is taking it with a small commercial camera. We agree that it's not about the equipment but the eye and the moment. And the sun comes out peeling off layers of paint over a tin container. I wish I didn't have to add the sharpness to the stolen artifacts afterwards. The tap thing is cool, but does not keep the camera still. It's only a couple clicks though. I wish I could use those to modify my own reality. I also desperately need the Undo feature. Delete too...

Not many people are there today. A naked guy is running after the receding waters of the ocean, he looks terrified jumping around the remaining puddles. His ocean is running away. A Pannonian sailor lost in the sands of the Pacific. The scene is both surreal and unsettling. Beautiful in its unexpectedness though. I could put it in a song...

We broke a sweat. Our talk lasted twice as long as our walk. The sand spit has won as we didn't reach the end again. We left the barges shimmering under the setting sun. The sunset is spectacular. No digitized version can do it justice. We leave the steel garden behind and sit to breath the last rays in. It's a spiritual spot. We feel connected to the sand, to the logs, to all the details of the unassuming refuge. Our friendship just swelled with the returning tide. It's good to be here...