Tag Archives: artist

Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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My Boss …

The following was posted on Facebook by Randy Baker, who is my boss/ client/ friend/ leader along with Kelli Willoughby for the USO of North Carolina. I have been super11899758_10103428198369907_2915072052119474779_n privileged to be a part of the Warrior Reset program for the past couple of years. Kelli and Randy have several extraordinary programs they created for the USO.

Her words moved me, so I’m sharing them (with her permission) with You.

“This will probably be the longest post I ever make but I have had something heavy weighing on my heart for the past few days and I felt compelled to share.

On Sunday morning I was having breakfast at the Waffle House off Western Blvd. in Jacksonville. As I sat there with my friends, recovering after a night out, I started to sit quietly and observe the very young Marines interacting all around us without a care in the world, almost like boys pretending to be men. Even with vulgar sense of humors, they still had innocence about them.

I started to feel really emotional as I compared them to my Marines and couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that it was because I had never seen my Marines so care free and it actually broke my heart. Of course I have seen them be silly and they are some of the funniest people I know but I have known them all through war, which stole their innocence and that thought caused me physical pain. These are men and women who I love dearly and they don’t get to have that innocence back. They are warriors and they are scarred. Then seeing these young Marines who have no idea that the places they go will change them and I wanted to protect them.

I remembered the infantry Soldiers I met when they first arrived at KAF before they went to their FOB in Afghanistan. So excited and full of life and motivation and so innocent and how their eyes and souls changed when they came back to our base on their way home from R&R. I wish I could give that innocence back to them.

I was then comforted by a song from one of my lost Marines and immediately felt a call to action. No doubt from Jimmy who made me promise to never forget his friends and to always of his Marines.

This week, I have spent my days with 40 service members, some career soldiers but most of them young Marines.Through these thoughts that side swiped me on Sunday morning and through my involvement in our Warrior Reset program, I find an even more renewed passion for caring for our troops. I want to continue honoring the amazing Warriors who have turned into family for me and the sacrifices they’ve made on my behalf and to give new skills to our military’s future leaders so that they can cope with the inevitable challenges they will face. Maybe just maybe, I can help them preserve a little bit of their innocence just a little bit longer than they would have.

Thank you for everyone’s support of my love and passion for caring for our military and for the military itself. I consider myself so blessed to be a part of this amazing family and even more fortunate to be able to support my peers through my work with USO of North Carolina. This is my life. This is why I was put on this planet.”

Courage, Heart, Determination, Action.
She speaks and  on it so beautifully.

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In the Details

Ya know what grinds my gears? Hearing a magician (I could expand this to other craftspeople, but it’s magicians that really get up under my skin with this) say about their mediocre routine or act: “Well, it plays.” … and they genuinely believe that “It plays” is good enough to put it in front of an audience. Never mind if the audience pays or not, to settle for mediocrity in your craft is (to me) unacceptable.

Excellence and the road toward it are worth the effort. Worth the pain, worth the struggle, worth the sweat equity put into it. Please … my brothers and sisters in the craft of magic: stop settling for mediocrity. Raise the bar for the sake of your own craft, your own heart.

My act “LIAR!” is a beautiful, moving piece of my heart that I crafted over many years. I’m very proud of it and I continue to hone it. I want to perform it in semi-permanent venues. Two weeks in one city, a month in another …
It’s not the best it can be. It’s quite a ways away, and I’ve been pushing back on the improving of it by telling myself: “It plays.” I could do it for the rest of my life as is and my audience would be enthralled and moved and i could legitimately call it art, but in my heart, I’m unsatisfied. It says all the things I want it to say. It has drama and comedy and nostalgia in just the right amounts (almost, still tweaking). It could say it more clearly, if I’m honest with myself.

There’s a routine that needs to be cut. It simply and honestly does not fit with the rest of the texture and path of the rest. It’s one of the oldest routines, I love performing it, it gets requested often, and it’s a sure thing. I could close with it and get a standing ovation every night.

It has to go.

I’ve created something I like better, and it isn’t jarring and off filter like the other routine. I’m sorry to those of you who love it: “Roadhouse” (“My Favorite Trick”, “That Thing with the Boobs”) is gone. And so I continue to strive toward excellence and pull away from the mediocre.

I need a director. I need to put my script into the hands of someone with great directing talent and see what they interpret. Someone who will get what I’m trying to do, and direct me, improving the experience for those who watch.

I need either original music or someone to ‘score’ the act. Add to the impact, add depth to the feeling.

I need a lighting designer. I have and idea for a window … but there needs to be subtle light changes as the show evolves.

And so on. The road stretches out and I will continue to polish and display my heart to the best of my ability. Meantime, I am loving the process and the souls I meet.

Happiness is the Road.

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Always a Reason

It was a slow night at the usual busking spot. Foot traffic was way below normal. The air was hot, wet, and still. Miserable conditions. After two hours I was ready to call it, but I kept thinking, “10 more minutes. I here for some reason.” The feeling was just insistent. Kinda woo? Okay, but I trust my instincts. I even considered moving to a new locale, seeking out a crowd … but no. I’m needed here.

My reason stepped up unexpectedly. He was tall, well dressed, and a little stout. He seemed nervous and hesitant, which didn’t fit his frame or body language. He walked and stood with confidence, but spoke quietly and shy. We were essentially alone in the courtyard. He spoke:

“Look man, I don’t have any money to tip, but my girl just left me and I’m having the saddest day. Can you show me something and maybe make me laugh or … I dunno, forget for a minute?”

Oh. Yes, brother: I can.

So I called on my skill, and presented my heart’s own joy. I woke up with a bunch of it, I guess I knew it would be needed. I did a few tricks that had more humor than astonishment, I amazed. I amused. 

He laughed. Spontaneous and genuine and hard. I didn’t let up; I relenessly plied my craft and gave him a good act. Yeah, here’s my reason for being here. 

When I finished he grinned, big and goofy. Then he opened up.and emptied his thoughts like pouring out a garbage can.

“I was addicted to heroin and Chrystal Meth. So was my girl. I went and got cleaned up, then I helped her. Got her into rehab, gave her encouragement, all that I could. She met someone else while she was inside, and a couple of days ago she told me she was leaving me for him. I mean .. I’m glad she’s clean, and I hope he makes her happy, but …

Look, man: you gave me the first really good feeling I’ve had in a long time. I don’t have any money, but you’re really magic, man. You just .. you’re love. Thank you. I know it’s gonna be okay.”

We hugged. Like old friends. He walked on, down his road.

And here I sit, my back against the elevator shafts, typing this with my thumbs. Foot traffic is picking up. There’s a little breeze, now. The night looks promising, now.

I have a reason for being here. So do You.

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Another Mr. h

There’s this guy I know … met him once or twice, but I know deep feelings and events of his life because of the transparency he exercises in his art.

In 1988 he was trying to make it in the music industry, and had just decided to give up for the sake of stability in his family. He was literally putting a ‘for sale’ sign in his front yard when he received the first of two calls.

The first call came from one of the coolest bands in the world. Socially relevant, trendy, college based sound. Cooler (at the time quite a feat) than REM and U2 combined. The were heading out on a world tour and wanted him to play keyboard and percussion. He would be featured on the next album and, if things worked out, become a permanent fixture.

The second call came from perhaps the least cool band in the world. A band that had a minor hit four years prior, and had a small but hardcore, rabid group of fans. The lead singer (and sole lyricist) had abruptly left and the band was looking to fill his shoes in order to fulfill a contract. They wanted Mr. h’s heart and his brain in their sudden new path.

So … what do you do? Guaranteed money and a world tour with a hot band, or artistic control and uncertainty in a band that had assuredly passed its golden years?

Mr. Hogarth chose the lead singer gig with Marillion. Nearly 30 years later, they are releasing their 17th album in September. The music has saved and inspired my life for decades. They aren’t mega rockstars, and they prefer that. They make a comfortable living outside the conventional music industry, and still maintain a small, hardcore group of fans. He’s found bliss and love.

The band he turned down? “The The”. Also still around, the leader/ songwriter Matt Johnson is the only consistent member.

Why am I telling you this? My life has come to a similar crossroads, and I’ve choices to make. My personal life has been altered in a major fashion and one of the few upsides of the upheaval is a new freedom. I can choose my next path without having to consider the consequences for anyone else. It’s my call, my choice. There’s comfort and terror in that, but it’s much less scary that having to decide for six people.

I can do … anything. The determining factor is my will and tenacity. What do I want?

You know what’s great? I don’t know! That is fantastic and exciting. At the moment I am adrift, and waiting. Watching. I’m not leaving my craft, but I am looking for different, challenging venues to display it. 

Soon, it will present itself, and I’ll choose. I will stay true to my heart and my art … and I’ll shine. Fame and money are the least of the considerations, though they play a role.

I have been given this gift, and can’t wait to share it. Stay tuned …

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Kite

My best friend saw a dragon kite in a thrift store today. Texted me a picture and said: “I don’t know why this reminds me of you.”

I do … if you don’t mind me getting a little ‘woo’.

All my life – the simplicity and beauty of kites have fascinated me. In the same form as others love planes or birds … my flying machine of choice is a kite.

Emerald diamonds as pinpoints in the sky, over the ocean. My father’s hands: his engineer’s hands making them dance and dive, swoop and soar with the tiniest of movements. His feet planted in the sand, his beer in one hand and the string in the other. His grin dancing with his eyes, dancing with the kite. Good Lord, I haven’t thought of that in years.

The pull of the strings in my own hands. Bumblebees and mighty dragons and Asian box kites. Pulling my heart up into the sky. Soaring and leaving my trivial pain on the ground.

Putting the taught line into the hands of my own children. Long ago … really long ago. Running and lifting and enticing the stubborn kite to fly. Feeling the wind take it … my children meeting my boyhood heart up there, up there.

“Over the lights, under the moon.” ~ Kate Bush

Thank You for soothing my troubled heart for awhile. The kite found You, so You could unlock these memories.

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On Honor

The thought of honor and what makes one honorable has been on my mind all day. A friend brought up the concept of honorable people living in a dishonorable world and … the seed was planted.

There’s lots to go over, and when I’m not exhausted and blogging from my phone in the parking lot of the Epicentre, I’d like to explore it more.

In brief, here’s the way I see myself in this (largely) dishonorable world:

I am not an honorable man. I’m not dishonorable, exactly, but honor and myself are not good friends. I’m self serving and gluttonous. I am prone to jealousy and anger; jealousy happens quickly and burns out over time, anger builds in me slowly and extinguishes without a trace within minutes. I didn’t fight hard enough to save my marriage. I didn’t fulfill the needs of my children, wasn’t there for them as much as i could have been. I was building this art … but these excuses are not the main reason I can’t declare honor.

If given the choice between honor and kindness: I’ll choose kindness. I’ll break rules to help someone in need. I’ll befriend sex workers, junkies, liars and thieves. I won’t put my pride before someone’s need. (I’ve done it in the past, and it sucks for everyone.)
I choose love and kindness over my honor. Yes, they aren’t mutually exclusive, but the fact is there will come a time when you must chose between doing the proper, accepted, morally comfortable thing and doing the kind, human thing.

I admire those that have found a balance and wear their honor like a badge. I’m glad you found your high ground and have made a home there. Sarcasm free, I totally do.

But I don’t want to be like you. I want to display compassion and genuine love for my fellow humans, no matter who they are, who they hang with and where they are from. No matter if it breaks the rules. (Full disclosure: I fail more often at this than I’d like, but it’s my primary drive.)

I want to be a bandit for kindness. A love ninja.
(Hoo-boy. Yeah, I’m tired. “Love Ninja”? Seriously?? Let me wrap this up.)

It IS a largely corrupt, dishonorable world. I want to embrace it with genuine, forgiving love and possibly change it a little.
I want to love them.

I want to be kind.
It’s my honor to do so.

More later. Much more.

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