If you haven’t heard the news, the tail end of 2022 has taken a surprising turn for me. A little over two weeks ago, I went skiing for the first time in 12 years, and tore my ACL, MCL, and both menisci in my left knee. I had surgery last week, and am just at the very beginning of what will be a months-long recovery. #thatswhatigetfortryingtoexercise

I’m not sure yet how this will affect the plans I have for 2023, but what I know at this moment is that my November Deep Dive is now *quite* late. 😬

A whale, a frame, a window, a mess...

It feels a little strange to record some normal thoughts at such an abnormal time in my life, but I really don’t want to miss the opportunity to reflect on the end of this pod season, and the end of the year.

Here’s one thing…

I feel increasingly confused about what you are here for. Are you here for music? Are you here for words and ideas? Are you here for old times? (if you feel like sharing, I’d love to know)

On the other hand, I feel increasingly quite clear about what I am doing here.

What I’m doing is making art in whatever forms I feel are best suited for the ideas I am curious about, and invested in.

And while the rivulets of my ideas and endeavors are ever-reaching, the main channel has been full of the same stuff for as long as I can remember.

I am interested in understanding people. I’m interested in exploring the potential for connection, mystery, and vibrance within the human condition. As individuals, as a whole.

I hope it’s abundantly clear that The Hallowed Wide, Artifice Podcast, and this very sort of prose are all important parts of the larger art project I’m working on. And I really, heartfully hope that you are here because you’re interested in that larger question, as I am.

With all that said, I can’t imagine a better collection of conversations to put a bow on this year’s art endeavors.

The Hallowed Wide is a mixed-media narrative about braving unknown spaces in search of deeper connection. And Artifice Season 6 has been a workshop for these principles, featuring curious conversations with as wide a variety of individuals as I could find.

I’ve loved every episode this season, and I feel so moved by the willingness of all of my guests to join me in this tender pursuit. Each episode is an improvised work on the theme of connection. I wish I could express how beautiful and powerful this feels to me.

Looking specifically at November’s guests, I’m struck by the sheer variety – in every sense of the word. Still, all four of us are aligned in these core connection values.

Stephen started off by sharing his fundamental views on creativity, shaped by his experience growing up with dwarfism. Creativity was and is a survival strategy for him – “the world isn’t created for you, so what are you gonna do about it?”

This early use of creativity seems to have shaped Stephen’s entire worldview. It starts with a powerful idea, some version of “eat the whale one bite at a time.” 🐋 Where is there an action to be taken? Where is there a little wiggle room, the smallest avenue?

And then, Stephen takes this “can do” idea to my absolute favorite place.

It’s PEOPLE, of course.

Just like problems can feel insurmountable, impossible, unknown…people can seem too difficult, too different, not worth even that first effort. But there is ALWAYS somewhere to begin, even in our own minds.

If we can stay curious, stay a little bit open, we can allow people to evolve, or allow the situation to evolve. We can offer people an update if/when they are able to change. We can maintain a sense of fluidity. I find this so powerful, and so true. (boundaries, notwithstanding)

But again – there isn’t a recipe or a clear answer. This is CREATIVE work.

From another lens, Corvus gets at the exact same principle.

As a leatherwork artisan specializing in kink/bondage gear, Corvus has a wonderfully underrepresented view of the human condition. I loved hearing his perspective on how all humans “are trying to do the exact same thing, which is get a feeling out of the human body.” This makes so much sense to me.

And a taboo example is a perfect example, in my opinion. We ARE all trying to get a feeling out of the human body. Art of any kind, athleticism of any kind, self-care and soothing, kink…this framing feels so absolutely clear to me. It’s evidence of our sameness, as much as it’s evidence of our far-reaching variety, as a species. All it takes is a vaguely creative framing to see humanity all over all of it.🪞

All it takes is – like Stephen said – a little curiosity, a little openness, the asking of the question, the receipt of the answer.

And again, it takes some creativity to think of which questions to ask! It takes creativity to translate an answer (earnestly) into a language your own mind can understand. And…I think it also takes creativity to find a person to “go there” with. (for more on this, The Hallowed Wide…)

Now, OF COURSE I understand how complicated this all gets when we involve opinions of “right and wrong” in any sort of way. This is all very complicated in the face of systemic oppression, geo-political tension, economic duress, environmental collapse…

And maybe I haven’t been clear enough on this point, but THIS is why I think art is so special. Art gives us a place to hone our skills, to practice asking, answering, listening, reframing, reconsidering. Again – this feels so clear to me. The longer I do this work (all of it – all of the art things), the more I believe this is what art ultimately is…and why it is, as well.

My conversation with Sonali brought to mind a life-changing lesson I learned in college.

During my master’s degree, I took an ethnomusicology class. In one unit, we did a little survey of Bollywood, within the greater context of Indian culture and music.

Sometime in my late teens, I’d seen one Bollywood film at a friend’s house, and I found it fairly intolerable. It just made absolutely no sense to me, and felt off-putting. It made me uneasy.

But, all it took was a few sentences from that ethnomusicology textbook to absolutely flip my understanding. The smallest sprinkle of cultural context showed me that I was taking in the genre in entirely the wrong context. I was using the wrong rubric.

Now, I don’t need to dedicate my life to watching every Bollywood film ever made, but I have at least a small set of tools with which to understand the mastery of these works, given the context, goals, and values of their creators. This BLEW my 22-year-old mind, completely. And I committed myself not to make such a self-centered mistake ever again.

Sonali has seen this kind of “lightbulb” repeatedly in her students and audiences. Kathak is a complex and ancient artform whose poignant narratives can very easily be missed when a viewer hasn’t the tools to see them.

Sonali has dedicated much of her current efforts to “translating” this incredible medium to her largely-American audiences—she teaches people how to see the depth of beauty and meaning they’d certainly miss without guidance.

What a labor of love, compassion, creativity. It takes my breath away.

Kathak is dance…but it’s also mythology, culture, religion, nationality, ethnicity, even geography! It’s a window or a conduit to something much deeper (again, as all art may be). 🪟 It’s empathy in creative practice.

As Sonali wisely summarizes, “art makes you more human.” Through art, we know ourselves better, we understand each other better.

I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling quite annoyed at the ways my knee injury is impeding my creative freedom. But in the past days, I’ve had some clarity about a few things…

First, I’m headed full speed into an exploratory phase. Research. Some of my plans and ideas will have to wait a few months for increased mobility, but I have plenty to explore and report on, in the meantime.

Second…the truth is, most of my ideas are chaos. I don’t mean the ideas are chaotic, I mean the themes are chaos. I’ve been mulling over and musing on some very chaotic notions in the past few months. And I’m thinking today that my fucking knee might be just the study material I need in order to get a few fresh angles on this new art beastie.

So. With that said. Please do ask yourself why you are here, and whether some artful and earnest chaos sounds appealing to you. Cause…I think that’s where I’m headed.😅

It would be a privilege to have you with me.

Annnnnndddddd HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hit me with your resolutions, if you so desire. I love this custom, wholly.