The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Expand Empathy; Erase Exceptionalism

Attacks in Paris happened today—terrible, hateful attacks that took many lives. It is very sad and unfortunate. I am crying. I am crying and I find it hard to stop. But it is not for Paris. I am crying for the silence—for the silence that fills the air and the internet day after day; the silence that proves to me whose lives are valued and whose lives might as well be dirt on the floor we sweep away into a garbage bin never to be seen again.

I’m so tired. Every day, the life of my people (broad usage here: all brown people, all Muslim people, etc.) does not matter. No one cares. Every day, they face violence, hatred. Every day. Some days they are able to escape, but those days seem few. Do you know what it is like to see family after family from non-Western countries die in terrorist attacks, whether it’s from groups like ISIS or countries like the U.S.A., and hear silence; then later, you witness an outpouring of sadness and an abundance of opinions and outrage when an attack hits a Western city, a city that you were told was worth seeing, that had some value?

Why do you believe that people living in your favorite tourist destination are more important than those living in the city you know nothing about? What makes you think that the other city isn’t worth seeing, that the culture is not important, or the people have no value? What exactly makes you think that it is okay if people die in other countries because you have nothing to do with it? Why do you not care about the people your own country murders? Why do you not care about the global terrorism committed by your own country?

Perhaps you think that violence in the middle east and elsewhere has been going on for so long that it doesn’t matter any more. Perhaps you think that there is nothing you can do about violence “over there” and amongst “those people.” Do you not think violence has roots? Do you think the average brown person wakes up and says, “Hey, I think today is a great day to kill some people”? You are mind-boggling. If you are American, you can do something to stop violence. The U.S. is the biggest perpetrator of violence; and this violence breeds violence from others. You can do something; you just have to care first.

violence needs no translation

violence needs no translation

When violent attacks in a western place occur, I log on to social media and see two things: 1. a barrage of prayers and solidarity hashtags and 2. racism, hatred, and threats of violence. When violent attacks in a non-western place occur, I log on to social media and see two things: 1. some of my friends expressing sadness and outrage and 2. silence from most.

Dear social media friends, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whathaveyou:

My life does not matter to you. If my life does matter to you, does it matter to you because you know me? If I lived in another country, on the other side of the world, my life would not matter to you. I believe my life would not matter to you. I would be dead in a terrorist attack and you would be okay with that. If somehow I left my home from that side of the world to find a safer, and more promising place in the West, you would still not care about me. I would be dead in a terrorist attack, and oh look, suddenly I matter to you. Oh wait, I probably live in a refugee camp because I cannot afford a place to live, so you would still not care about me. In fact, you would harm me. You would blame me for the violence I, myself, fled. You would blame me and then you would burn me. You would burn me. And you would burn me every single day after that. You would also burn my family, my friends, and anyone who looks like me. And then you would go back to not caring about me, my family, my friends, or anyone who looks like me. Or believes like me.

That hurts.

It hurts to know that a majority of people don’t give a crap about your life because you’re not the type of person people want to care about. They don’t even know you, so why should they?

When we cannot find empathy—when we refuse to listen, see, or understand anything outside of our own lives, there will never be justice and there will never be peace. Ever.

Expand your empathy and erase your exceptionalism.

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eternity

I’ve got a lot of goals
and no will to complete them,
a lot of ambition
with no roots to grow a stem,
a future of greatness
but no desire for any gem,
success with no boundaries
just time filled with phlegm,
a life of no meaning
for this bored and angry femme,
fatigue so damn long
but much too weary to hem,
to eternal dark and silence
this, I will not condemn.

Amen,

Amen,

Amen.

 

eternity

Flat Lines and Waves

Some poetry writing:

After life there comes death.
Death, like a sweet fruit—
firm with a light crunch, wet, unsubtle taste,
activating.

After death begins life.
Life like a hand abruptly removing the quiet—
forceful and loud, dry, soured awakening.

Digging feet into the ground,
Clawing for the moments before.
Before life,
before death,
before life.

Tightly composed.
Weighing down into the light of darkness.
The light of darkness before life,
before death,
before life.

The light of non conceived masses of being,
of blood that’s blood
and eggs that are eggs,
of truth that doesn’t exist
and breath that is not needed,
of a non-existing existence of nonexistence.

The light of darkness confirms the dark is lightness.
It’s a light of flat-lines in a place of chaos,
of mobility in a space of confinement,
of flame cleansing structure,
and water drowning faith,
of blinding power over-shining within,
of a knowledge over-consumed,
of a whiteness too impure,
of fire consuming all.

We are here.

Monogram

I decided to create a monogram for myself. I wanted something simple, just my initials nested within each other nicely. A-S. This is what I came up with.

 

AS pencil

pencil

 

AS digital

digital

 

AS-monogram_blue

I use the blue (teal-ish) monogram on my portfolio and website without a circle, but since it is standing alone here, I’ve included that. My website has finally been updated, sort of, but all of the kinks haven’t been fixed yet. It’s not the most responsive site yet and @font-face doesn’t seem to be my friend right now. I will fix all of that soon.

—AS
(or VR… I’ll make one of those soon, too.)

Rise Up! Don’t Shoot!

Too much has been going on in the world. Too much. I am so angry. Too angry to even put the feelings into words. I am sick and tired of arguing that institutional racism actually exists; I am tired of trying to convince others that black people are human beings, especially to other people of color. It’s nauseating and tiresome. I can’t imagine what it is like for black people walking about this life every day knowing there is someone out there who fears them simply because they are black. How much time must they spend proving that their lives matter? Why do they even need to spend time proving such a thing? Black lives matter. Really! I don’t even understand how anyone can see it any other way. I supposed it must be similar to how I have to try and convince others that Palestinian lives matter—that we are not terrorists and that we have feelings and desires similar to everyone else.

Stop blaming the victims. When a group of people is segregated into an area, denied resources and opportunities, is harassed, has violence committed against them, is portrayed as uncivilized human beings unworthy of life, and is oppressed for decades upon decades, or centuries upon centuries, resistance is justified. The oppressed are not to blame because they rise up, become full of rage, and at times, snap into violence. I am tired of people ignoring the systematic racism that is the root of all of these issues. From Ferguson to Gaza, USA to Palestine, Native Americans to Black South Africans, and on and on. The issues are not completely the same, but are they oh so similar and quite connected.

It’s not enough to be angry. Time and time again we are angry. We rise up angry. We demand human rights. We demand civil rights. And then we are placated. We are pacified and soothed by our temporary stint of outrage and perhaps our lack of hope in any change and time to make it happen. It seems that in this country, the good old USA, change will only occur once every last person is in the street, when even the most well off person has become touched by the horrid nature of this world, has personally become affected by the oppressions running through the streets.

We do not need to wait for the day, however. We all must act now and act every day. Enough is enough. How many Mike Browns or Oscar Grants or Renisha McBrides or Trayvon Martins have to perish before we realize something is incredibly wrong? What has changed since the Civil Rights Movement? It seems like nothing has changed except for the blinds that have been put over people’s eyes to make them believe in the guise of a “post-racial society.” Well, wake up! That world does not exist.

So many images coming out of Ferguson are scary and depressing, yet they are also inspiring. These protestors are standing their ground in the face of a heavily militarized police force, one that calls these brave black souls “animals.” What is happening—and has been happening for decades—is disgusting. It needs to stop. We need justice for all lives. All life matters. I hope the rage coming out of Ferguson spreads to the entire country. It it way past due. Let this rage consume us all.

_____

Inspired by the events in Ferguson, the courageous people in that community, and the last moments of Michael Brown, I sketched “Don’t Shoot” in a way that contrasts the terrible elements of those moments yet flows with hope. 

IMAG3654

dontshoot

To Love You, Oh Gaza

Oh Gaza,

I have nothing to say. No words can speak the reality you live; no adjectives can comprehend the bombs that fall on you every day; no nouns are effective enough to label the terror inflicted upon you. Too many destructive verbs are assaulting you, yet you survive. You persevere. You are the epitome of resilience. You are pain and sorrow; yet, you are beauty and joy.

I am addicted to the news. No matter how awful, I must see. I must watch. I must read. I must listen. I cannot peel my eyes or ears away. I even listen to poor news sources telling lies just so that I can hear something about you, to be with you. I am consumed by you. The stories, the images, the videos are never enough. This is how I know you. I read the names of those who have been murdered and I stare at the smiles of the children in photographs during happier times before they were ripped from this earth. I see the video clips of young boys looking for their toys in the rubble of their destroyed homes, a teddy bear to grasp on to in the midst of their worldly chaos.

Gaza. I cry for you; I pray for you; I rally for you. I can never stop thinking of you.

Gaza. You are always on my mind.

I go to sleep hoping for hope. I wake up and see that you have been through so much more than the day before. More dead families, more burned children. Flattened houses and obliterated neighborhoods. I move throughout the day, angry for you, depressed, hoping for hope. I want to see an end to your suffering. I want your siege to be lifted. I want hope for you. Oh Gaza. Inside your small strip of land you hold a population so strong and steadfast. Unafraid children, the bravest mothers you can find, reside within your concrete walls and militarized borders. Oh Gaza. You are hope. To see hope is to see the resistance of Palestinians. No matter what heinous crimes you live through, you stand tall. You live. You are tenacious. Your struggle stops at nothing. Your power against injustice is immense. You teach the world that it is possible to fill a prison with beauty. Oh Gaza. You will never fall.

From thousands of miles away, this is what it is to love you. Even when I close my eyes and my ears, it is as though they are open, seeing images in the dark of the night and hearing my mind unable to stop the pandemonium. This is about you, oh Gaza. You, who did not begin on July 8th. You, who has been besieged since 2006. You, who has been occupied since 1948. This is about you, Oh Gaza. This is about every Palestinian slaughtered since An Nakba. This is about every Palestinian—from your sea-coast, Oh Gaza, to the Galilee and the Negev, to the West Bank. This is about every Palestinian refugee scattered across the globe. This is about those who have never seen their homeland. This is about you, and them, and me.

Oh Gaza, I feel a part of you, yet I am not you. I feel a part of Palestine, yet I am not Palestine. I am a fragmented version, like static billowing over the land, split into different frequencies, half there and half here, in this country that aids your destruction. Like a never-ending hum, perpetual white noise, I carry you with me. I carry them with me. I carry my father’s childhood. My father, who in 1967, walked miles after miles for refuge until his shoes had holes; his shoes, imprinted with loss and longing. That loss and longing never gone. Until return.

Oh Gaza, you did not begin on July 8th, but we are able to witness your struggle immediately. A constant barrage of information has poured through since July 8th and I cannot turn away. I watch as your homes decrease in number, the concrete forming piles in the street; I watch as your children are brutally murdered while playing and living a childhood; I watch as your hospitals fill with death and the injured barely surviving; I watch as your water becomes unfit for consumption and your medical supplies deplete; I watch as families scream for their missing loved ones, for those found buried in the rubble.

Oh Gaza, we are also able to witness your strength and resilience immediately. I watch as you continue to pray, knowing your oppressor’s time will soon come; I watch as the children refuse to be afraid, continuing to play soccer and live the lives of children; I watch as you refuse to be afraid, refuse to give in to a life besieged and unworthy of living; I watch as you insist for your voice to be heard, for the global community to hear you and do something; I watch as you demand justice.

The time will come when every person must answer for your tragedy. When that future arrives, only you will be able to answer for your steadfastness, for your ability to live in the face of all that tries to kill you.

The future arrives every moment and your future is bright, Oh Gaza.

And when the future you deserve arrives, we will celebrate together.

 

غزة

The Middle of Nowhere Speaks and it is Beautiful

I don’t really believe that adventures can be life-changing. I don’t think a life changes within the moment of experience. Doesn’t life change only until after we process our experience, when we begin thinking about the effect it has had on us and we make conscious steps to change our present way of life? These are not life-changing moments, but moments of self-realization and self-awareness.

About two and a half months ago I traveled to the southwestern part of the U.S. for the first time—the Grand Canyon being the central focus of the trip. I had qualms about contributing money to the racist state of Arizona; in fact, even though I have always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, I told myself that until things were different I would not give money to that state. An opportunity presented itself and it was too seductive at that point in my life, I couldn’t pass it up. We were only staying for a few days, but our plans were to check out Sedona, AZ and then stay overnight in Flagstaff before heading to the Grand Canyon, where we would spend two days before driving to Albuquerque, NM to spend our final night and day. We arrived in Phoenix, spent way too much time retrieving our rental car, and finally drove north to Sedona. We arrived there much later than we expected—I was feeling famished and sick so we made a detour for food—but we walked around for a bit, soaking in what we could of the bold colors of the Red Rocks. Other than its nature, Sedona was not impressive. It is a very uppity town with large and pretty homes, fancy boutiques, and psychic reading shops; a place to go and meditate and then forget about that peace you just experienced connecting with the world to go make an expensive purchase on a consumer item that you don’t actually need. After a couple hours, we were ready to head to Flagstaff.

Recommended by various travel sites for the view, we drove the Oak Creek Canyon path to Flagstaff. We were not disappointed! The view was unbelievably beautiful and slightly treacherous compared to what our flat, midwestern roads had provided us with for our whole lives. I was driving during this stretch and it seemed like I was going up and around, winding and winding for at least half the drive on this one-lane road. No railings on the edges of the road. Looking down, you only see jagged edges of yellow and red rocks, the ground nowhere in the vicinity. My ears were constantly plugging up from the rising elevation, the pressure in my head pounding, swirling around from left to right. Sitting in the passenger seat looking right over the edges of the cliffs, fear caused my friend to constantly berate me for driving too fast. I could have driven through the Oak Creek Canyon path all day, gawking at the picturesque scenery, such a contrast from the billboard-heavy, industrialized, and gray skies of a March day in Chicago.

We arrived in Flagstaff, ate an okay dinner, and since everything was closed for the night, we went to bed. We woke up early, too excited to see the Grand Canyon. We got our morning coffee from a local shop that sells fair trade and organic coffee (Flagstaff has a lot of local coffee shops!), with a very strange woman ringing us up who thought it was more important to spend a few minutes taping up a tear in a dollar bill than making our coffee. Most of the people in Arizona seem a little odd, and do every task as if it is not important. Everything seems to move slower, including the people. No one ever seems in a hurry. I suppose that isn’t really odd, but it’s definitely something we were not used to. I mean, who cares if the cash has a rip?

On our way to the Grand Canyon we came upon “Bedrock”! We obviously needed to pull over and snap a few pictures with Dino, Fred, and Wilma. Yabba Dabba Doooo! After we stopped forgetting we were grown adults, we hopped back into the car and drove through the deserted, open road to our main destination. I was surprised that we didn’t see any segments of the Grand Canyon while approaching the park entrance. We parked the car and since it was too early to check in to our lodge we got our bags of food and drink ready and walked to the park.

As we walked towards the Canyon, we could faintly see the rock formations in the distance. It did not prepare me for what I would see once we approached. The sight was indescribable. My eyes were filled with Mother Nature, the monstrosity of the canyons and the surprising color spectrum, from light yellow to orange to deep reds and light purples. I could not believe my eyes. I had never seen anything close to it in my whole twenty-seven years of life. I don’t think there is anything like it. No picture, I don’t care how magnificent, could do that place justice. It must be seen. I was instantly emotional, something I did not expect. My eyes grew misty, and then more than misty. I could do nothing but stand there and take it all in for several minutes. It was completely arresting. I think the site of this environment, this wondrous landscape, was just so beautiful it touched me; it was extraordinarily engaging with it’s large size and the variety of formations and indentations and color; it made me feel very small yet privileged to be looking at something so stunning, something created from natural occurrences, from God, and not a human being. It’s as though I was looking directly at a dream that I was about to step into, astounded.

Finally getting over our initial shock and wonderment, we hiked the South Rim trail to the right. Every view of the Grand Canyon was different. The location of the sun shifted, along with the colors and the rock formations. The shear size of the Grand Canyon never ceased to amaze us. “Oh my God” and “Wow” started becoming quite repetitive phrases. When we made it to the end and back of that part of the trail, a few hours later, we left the park to have some mediocre dinner. When we reentered the park we decided to drive over to “Desert View,” which is supposed to hold one of the most amazing views of the canyon and the Colorado River, and you can visit an old watchtower. When we reached the crossroads, the sign stated 25 miles to Desert View. We somehow mistakenly calculated that it would only take us 25 to 30 minutes to get there so we would make it before sundown. Why we calculated that we could drive a mile a minute escapes me, but maybe it was the elevation getting to our head. I drove and drove and drove and we passed many viewpoints, saw some animals whose species we argued about because we are not nature people and don’t know anything about wild animals, but it seemed like we would never reach Desert View.  I must have driven for at least forty-five minutes until we decided that by the time we would arrive it would be too dark. At the behest of my friend, we decided to stop at the next viewpoint instead and take in the dusk view of the Grand Canyon; it was more night-time than dusk at that point so the view wasn’t amazing. We drove back to our lodge and spent the rest of the night relaxing and thinking about the day. I looked at the lodge’s guidebook and discovered that we were only two miles away from Desert View. I was quite disappointed and when my friend suggested we go back the following day, I almost got into one of those moods of, “No, I am not driving all the way back there when we were so close and you made me turn around!” Thankfully, the next morning was a different story.

Our second and final day in the Grand Canyon, I woke up feeling horrible. I had a terrible migraine accompanied by its sensitivities to light and sound and worst of all, nausea. I blamed the heavily dry air and high elevation; the pressure was excessive and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t really eat much, but we decided to have breakfast and then go for a drive to Desert View. My friend would drive, while I relaxed and tried to feel better. It was a really wonderful plan and while I still had a headache, I was feeling much better when we arrived at the viewpoint. I was immediately thankful that we decided to go back in the day-time because the view was spectacular. The light tan stoned watchtower was remarkable with its native paintings on the inside and crafted furniture. Seeing the deep blue-green of the Colorado River snaking its way through the Canyon was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe how the earth could so naturally produce such a complimentary color palette or that the river carved the splendor out of the Canyon. The Canyon wouldn’t exist in its current form without the Colorado River making its mark, carving its way through the hard earth, eroding whatever pieces it deemed unfit to stay intact with the rest of the rock. The river left only grandeur and grace.

We spent quite a bit of time allured by the exquisite sights of Desert View, but we finally left and had lunch and then parted ways for the next hour. I wanted to hike down into the Canyon, even just for a little bit, but my friend was too scared. They recommend to not hike alone, especially if you are not an experienced hiker, but even though I probably have only ever hiked once in my life and had a worthless phone, I didn’t want to let my friend’s fear stop me from exploring something new. I was all the way in the Grand Canyon! I needed to explore! I hiked the Bright Angel Trail for a couple miles. To reach the bottom of the Canyon on that trail would require the whole day, so I didn’t go as far as I would have liked, but it was still amazing. To look up and see the massive rock extending into the air, where you originally started, people looking so small above you and below you; I was delighted while descending and walking around through some curves, down some dirt steps, through a short tunnel, constantly stopping to take it all in. The way back up was a little bit sad because I knew I wouldn’t be going back into the canyon again. I enjoyed every minute too much.

After the hike, I met up with my friend and we decided to take the shuttle bus and head to the left part of the South Rim trail, the part we had not hiked the day before. We overheard one of the employees of the park tell another visitor that Hopi and Mojave viewpoints were the best, especially at sunset. We hopped off the shuttle bus at Hopi and quickly discovered that the employee was telling the truth.  We couldn’t imagine that the view of the canyon could get any better, but it did! The composition formed by the rocks, the variation of color, and the Colorado River swishing its way through formed the most exquisite portrait of nature I had ever seen. We decided to hike to Mojave point instead of hopping back on the shuttle. Again, we kept stopping because the views kept changing and we were awestruck by its beauty. We both agreed that these were definitely the best views of the canyon. It was really hard to pull our eyes away and actually pay attention to the hiking path. Yep, I walked into a little cactus plant and it was quite pokey.

After soaking in the view at Mojave, we hopped on the next shuttle bus, getting off at one more stop, the stop that has the best view of the Colorado River. An informational post instructed us to close our eyes and listen to the sounds of the river roaring below us. It said that if we closed our eyes and focused on nothing but the river, we would hear it even though it was at least a full mile below us. We closed our eyes, but could not hear the river. We could only hear the wind roaring around us. Perhaps we did not have the ability to clear our thoughts and isolate the sounds around us, or perhaps it really was too windy that day.

We took the shuttle bus back to the lodge, ate our leftover lunch for dinner and then went to the Shrine of Ages for a talk about preserving the Native American heritage of the area and incorporating it into the park’s events. It was unsurprising to hear that they had just started to work with the actual Natives indigenous to the land; I was surprised they were consulting with them at all. The Grand Canyon is Native land, sacred land to all of the tribes indigenous to that area. Their reparations are free entrance into the park, the land they once needed no permission to enter, no permission to pray on, no permission to stop and reflect on their relationship between themselves and the nature. So kind! I left that talk quite depressed. I suppose it was a fitting end to the joys we spent in the canyon. A snap back to reality of the historic and yet very present struggles of people, especially indigenous peoples.

The next day we spent six hours driving from the Grand Canyon to Albuquerque. We drove through the very large Navajo reservation, the desert, saw some houses here and there, some unopened market booths, some random signs placed into the hills, and drove and drove on the deserted open road. It was the first time I saw a dust storm, pink and red dust flying before me, concealing the view for a small stretch of road. It was the first time I saw tumbleweeds. Driving 90­–95 mph, one hit my windshield pretty hard because of the 75mph winds. I always thought tumbleweeds were funny; when I saw them in the desert my mind always went to the tumbleweed icon on Skype, probably because it is the only tumbleweed I ever see. I then thought of a middle of nowhere country place in Nebraska, a strange, quirky town, the first place I always imagine tumbleweeds to exist. I never imagined I would be driving through a funny little town in Nebraska so I never imagined I would be driving through a place with tumbleweeds flying about.

The drive from the canyon to Albuquerque was a long one, but it was the best drive of my life. We took a few turns, but I sat for a couple hours and never felt so relaxed while driving. The way people drive there makes more sense; they are patient and less petty. They understand that they use the left lane on a two-lane highway to pass people and once they do they go back to the right lane. Everything is stress-free. What a life! Not only is it relaxing and stress-free, but the view is intense: miles and miles of desert and beautiful rock formations with some greenery in the distance. I could drive through there all day, speeding without a worry in the world, allowing the landscape to embrace me.

Albuquerque was quite the opposite of the Grand Canyon. We arrived there much later than we expected, an hour and a half or so before dusk, shops almost closed for the day since it was Sunday. We weren’t there very long, but for the time we were there, we seemed to see a lot of drug addicts (Breaking Bad rings a bit true), and the downtown is very small, not built up at all, and slightly run down in some areas. We happened to be there on an odd and eventful day, when there were protests against police brutality happening with SWAT and Riot police throwing tear gas at innocent, unarmed youth. I felt quite sad for the city and for the state of New Mexico in general. The police presence was too apparent; it seemed much too militarized, and the problems with drugs and alcohol amongst young people and people of color, especially the indigenous community was heartbreaking. We didn’t do much that night besides have dinner—thankfully, New Mexican cuisine is pretty good, unlike most of our meals in Arizona—and witness the last stretch of the protest go by from our hotel window. The next day we went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which was extremely educational, and once again, maddening to hear about the injustice committed against the natives by the U.S. government. It was highly informative and the personal stories were powerful. We ended our trip there, driving to the airport and heading back to Chicago.

When I arrived in Chicago, I couldn’t stop thinking about our vacation. I wanted so desperately to go back. I always get that “Home Sweet Home” feel upon my return from vacations, but not this time. I desired to go back. As I am writing this, I still feel that desire. A desire for a slower life, a life with less “work” and more usefulness, a life with less people, less technology, and more nature, a life with more stillness. While we were in the canyon, we consciously had to tell ourselves to stop taking pictures and soak it all in. We wanted to feel the experience, not recall our experience from the pictures we snapped. Technology can be the ultimate destroyer of live experience and we did not want succumb to it. Thankfully, my phone had absolutely no service the couple days we were at the Grand Canyon. It was fantastic. I shared nothing with the outside world. I focused on myself in the moments I was in that beautiful place; my workplace in Chicago did not exist. My home did not exist. The CTA did not exist. Nothing from my life existed. I can’t remember a time where I had as much fun, relaxation, and peace as I did while on this trip.

Nature is no cliché; it existed before us and it exists with us. Too often we neglect it instead of embracing it. Nature is a part of us, internally and externally. My time in the Grand Canyon, driving in the open desert, few souls around, was not exactly life-changing. My actual life did not change while I was there, experiencing all it had to offer me. It did however, make me realize the kind of life I do not want to have. It is the one I have now. The one where I wake up for work Monday through Friday, commute over an hour to sit at a desk for eight hours or more each day; the one where I get frustrated with people so easily because they always seem to be inconsiderate or do something stupid and selfish; the one where I log onto Facebook to see that people constantly share every moment of their lives, where they went to the gym, where they had breakfast, lunch and dinner, who they are dating and who they broke up with; the one where no one does something for the benefit of others but only for the benefit of oneself; the one that has too many people, too many buildings, too much business, too much McDonalds and Starbucks and less trees and rivers. I want to be able to do something for the sake of enjoyment; do work not because it’s work, but because I like it and it provides some benefit to someone who will see it; I want to live in the woods, in a tree house, nothing but the still air and chirping birds around me, perhaps a small stream. I am no nature girl. I have never considered myself to be one anyway. I actually know very little about nature. For the past several years, I have never cared to spend time outdoors in the grass, hiking, getting dirty like that. I have preferred to stay inside, read a book, chill on my bed, watch a little TV, drink a cup of tea—you get the idea. A homebody.

Now? Being outside in nature is what I desire. I don’t know how much longer I can take sitting at a desk all day. One of these days I will probably snap like a tree branch, fall in the grass, and perhaps then I will find my way to this life that seems non-existent, a tumbleweed rolling through the open land, no specific destination in mind, wherever the wind takes me. For now, all I have are the memories of my vacation and the distant thoughts to provide me with comfort. To those reading: go outside, get dirty. See something that you’ve never seen before. Get in tune with all of your five senses and soul and truly look for beauty in places that you never have before. You will never regret it.

 

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“Surrealism and War” on Veteran’s Day

The National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago had an exhibition opening a few weeks ago on Veteran’s Day entitled “Surrealism and War,” which features the artwork of nine veterans depicting their experiences of war in somewhat surrealist ways. The exhibition really portrayed the horrors of war for both the innocent people caught in between and those who were drafted or even enlisted to fight. War is senseless, barbaric. War is sad and the poor suffer the most. The U.S. military creates a host of atrocities across the world, and then when the troops come back to their country they are met with no assistance, only the dark thoughts of their experiences, taunting them with bad memories and thoughts of death and suicide. Why?

You can read more about the exhibition here, but I will leave you with some (crappy phone camera) images of artwork that I found most intriguing and moving.

image

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I got a bit teary staring at this wall. This is the artwork of veteran Jim Leedy.

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Jim Leedy talking about his artwork behind him. He fought in the Korean War and when he returned he had nightmares every day. It was only until he created this large, ominous wall that his nightmares ended. It was his therapy. It begins on the left with images of a few animal bones here and there to depict that killing was done for survival, then moves on to show the horrors and destruction of the manmade invention of war, and then ends with something hopeful, wings, birds taking flight to show that maybe one day war won’t be so rampant, maybe there will be some semblance of peace.

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a section of an Exquisite Corpse

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Exquisite Corpses, each one depicting or symbolizing a specific veteran whether dead or alive

 

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