23 Jul '17  — a new activity
I don't do much listening. Whenever anyone speaks, I cannot wait for them to finish. I get excited and impatient as I wait to contribute my input.
Similarly, writing a blog, posting pictures, commenting... it's all talking. I haven't had a healthy balance of listening and talking...surprisingly that's been the case since I left school. Many years ago.
Luckily listening opportunities are abundant.
13 Jul '17  — Questioning my bias
The first thought I had this morning was 'why do I think people who are mean to me are bad?'.
Yesterday, I read multiple chapters of The Brothers Karamozov. There were so many interactions where a person was liked or disliked based on how favorably the person who's judging was treated.
In one scene there was a lady who invited a young woman to her house. The lady enjoyed the woman's company, called her a sweet angel until the woman insulted her. How does one go from being an angel to being a slut in the span of a few minutes?
It's a flaw to determine someone's character based on the few interactions I've had with them. Although I can rationalize how irrational my perception is, I cannot help but be biased. Is there a way to overcome this?
Also, am I so self interested that I lose my ability think?
I can see where this biased behavior comes from. I am afraid of being taken advantage of. I'm a afraid of being a pushover, I'm afraid of getting hurt.
All the things I'm afraid of have happened. Most of the time, they've happened with people I judged were 'good'. Those who persuade me that they've got my interest in mind allow me to let my guard down. A 'mean' person has less of a chance in achieving advantage over me.
Following the logic of my fear, shouldn't be more worried about the 'good' people in my life? Why don't I give the 'bad' at least an equal chance?
10 Jul '17  — Fake liking something for over a decade
The best thing about getting older is figuring myself out. Particularly finding out who I am. In the past, I've determined the answer based on what I like or dislike. But then it becomes hard to tell the difference: do I like something because it infers that I'm a type of person? Or do I really like that thing?
Last night, while driving back to the city, we rode through tree lined country roads that ran across rolling fields of grains. I was taking in the colors at dusk, tree silhouettes, the open sky, when I realized that my most favorite works of art are similar in the way they make me feel.
The works I have in mind are timeless to me. I realized yesterday they're timeless because of their ability to mimic nature. Not many artists can. Everyone has their reasons for enjoying art, and I hadn't know why specifically I find art worthwhile.
Agnes Martin with her colors, simple geometry and spacing remind me of the expanse I feel when I'm out in farmland. The skies turn pink and yellow, warm shades similar to the ones in her paintings.
Michelangelo's pieta is fascinating because he can make human flesh from something as hard as marble. What I'm marveling are essences that exist naturally. I enjoy them inside or outside the confines of a gallery, but in a gallery, amongst so many things that are varying degrees of closeness to nature, it's amazing to come across a work that makes me feel like I'm standing in the midst of a fresh summer breeze.
For over a decade, I thought I was into art. I thought there was merit to the 'intellectual debate', especially the topics and feelings represented in contemporary art. I felt smart talking to people about my impressions, but little did I realize, my thoughts were confined to topics that were heavily promoted. My first exposure to these discussions was when The Holy Virgin Mary was exhibited. A painting of the virgin Mary is made from elephant dung and scraps of porn. There was much discussion about religion and a ton of outrage towards the painting--which was what probably contributed to it's value of over two million pounds. Another famous contemporary artist I've come across is Anselm Kiefer. He never stops reflecting on his 'German heritage', the conflict of being part of people who were responsible for what happened in WWII and how that tendency might be living within him.
Is it that intellectual? In both cases, there are two concepts that are artificial. The idea of a Virgin Mary and the idea of a 'German heritage'. No animals in nature are conflicted by these two ideas. No species other than humans are affected.
I don't like to divide humans from nature, because we are part of it. Everything we do is natural, part of the behavior of our species. But I do believe in the idea of work driven by ego and work driven by a less restricted force, something more innate and natural. One strives and is constantly seeking to be relevant in a very specific way, and it's implications are very narrow minded while the other, goes with the flow.
The most famous contemporary artworks all make a strong point. Damien Hirst's shocking works are made to provoke just as Jeff Koons works provoke in different ways.
Ego is a force that naturally exists in the world. The desire to make a mark has does have a place. However, I feel that a too much of my world has been driven by ego. I haven't been able to step back from promoting my significance to have 'who I am' naturally revealed.
Spending all my time to figure out what I like has been a lot of work. It's constantly about making a note to everyone: stereotype me "this way".
In liking art, particularly contemporary art, I mark my place in the world. I represent someone who is into the creative field, open to ideas that are abstract and thought provoking. By performing outward behaviors that show I like art, going to gallery openings and talking about popular artworks, I am trying to get credit for being open to ideas, intellectual, without doing much work. I don't actually have to be open to new ideas, I don't have to think as long as I represent myself as one who likes art, an encompassing topic that gives me credit for both these traits.
I can now say "I am not an art enthusiast". I like certain pieces, but overall, there are more things in life that I enjoy. Hiking, being in nature, cooking and writing enthrall me in ways I don't need others to know. I don't need anyone to know I'm involved in these activities for me to feel fulfilled with them.
On a trip to Venice a few years back, I vowed I'd return for the art biennial. I'd gone during an off year but I thought it would be important as an art enthusiast to attend such an event. As time moved forward, I realized I couldn't care less. It feels good to have less to do.
05 Jul '17  — Tips from a dream
I had a few bites left on my dish. I was full but I felt it was my duty to finish the plate. It was a beautiful salad full of fresh veggies and the remaining bites were of chopped tomatoes and corn. The laborious meal was finally coming to an end!
My friend walked into the room after she arrived from the airport.
"Hey! Can I have some of that?"
"You want this? I mean I only have a few bites left." They weren't the most appetizing bites, but hearing how she was hungry and interested in the salad, I felt my efforts were slightly wasted. Someone else would have joyfully finished the dish.
She grabbed the plate. I was ecstatic. "Take it all! I was just eating because I didn't want it to go to waste."
My jaw relaxed for a moment. It was tired of munching.
I looked down at the table. What? Another enormous plate? A beautiful arrangement of small tasty bites laid before me. A bite of curry flavored rice sat on a green leaf. An assortment of fruits and vegetables were arranged by color. It was a beautiful dish.
"Ahhh" I groaned. "I cannot wait until this is over." I started to shove bites into my mouth. "The dish is so pretty, it shouldn't go to waste!" I thought.
As I took my third bite, I woke up. "It's just a dream?" I was happy the burden disappeared.
Why did I need to finish the plates? I could have spent dream time having fun, but instead, I chained myself to plates of food.
I experience this burden in real life. Over breakfast, if we have cut veggies left over, I feel it's my duty to finish them all, even if I'm super full.
Perhaps I haven't gotten over the trauma of my parents telling me to finish my food because 'children in Africa are starving'. I'm surprised that across the world, my husband, living in Communist Poland, was told the same.
There's a sense of unworthiness in not taking advantage of everything you're given. You've wasted food. You're such a waste to this planet if you waste food other people 'could' have had. It's a guilt that I haven't worked through.
Maybe my existence can go to 'waste'. Maybe I don't have to take advantage of every single circumstance given to me. Maybe I become enslaved to the advantages I have as I use my life up in making use of them. Maybe the advantages need to be let go.
The plate of food never needs to be finished.
Whether I eat it or not, whether the food is left to rot, whether my friend eats it or not, the food will disappear. It all goes to 'waste'. Just as I'll disappear and with that, all 'advantages'.
28 Jun '17  — Found my nosy self
Nicole Kidman on her porch featured on a Youtube video. After watching Big little Lies, I couldn't help but take interest in the actress.
I know she was married to Tom Cruise for a while, and then they got divorced...wait, how do I know all this? It's crazy how I remember important facts about other people's life but not my own!.
The more headspace I give to others, the less I have myself. How much can I focus on my life if I'm thinking about others? Could you imagine how much collective headspace is thinking about celebrities?
I want to start winning my headspace back. I want to be as attentive in my life as much as I've been attentive to others.
Recently I've been exploring what I'm being influenced by. What foods influence my body and mood, what media makes me think a certain way. Today I realized I don't actively choose the media I consume. There's always something next, something suggested. I hardly have the space to consciously make a choice on what I want to read, hear, or watch.
Since there are so many influencers, celebrity has extended to a enormous number of people. Just by empathizing with a person on youtube, I find myself interested in their personal life. Getting info on another's personal life, I get excited, similar to hearing about Brangelina, and similar to indulging in junk food. Am I that nosy? I love knowing what others are up to. However, the consequences linger and come later. The thoughts of who did what and who is dating who and who feels what take up so much of my attention when I'm going about my day. Whenever the thoughts show up, I loose focus on what's happening in front of me.
Maybe others are not as sensitive to this. I don't know why I get derailed so easily. It uses up a lot of energy and I need more energy so I'm looking to limit stories I follow. Perhaps it's a symptom of something else. Why am I interested in other people's lives? Maybe I'm bored with my own? If I'm too busy enjoying my life, doing things I'm interested in, I wouldn't have time to learn about others.
I guess I need to do more things that interest me.
28 Jun '17  — Curing myself
Tired of waking up and having my eyes red and inflamed, I took a coarse piece of Himalayan sea salt this morning, mixed it in a water puddle I formed in my palm and washed my eye. It worked better than the eye drops I'd been using. It was faster at relieving me than my allergy medication.
Why did I bother with the eye drops and pills? I really don't know what's in them. But salt and water? It's so simple. They're honest materials that I understand.
The only reason I tried this was because I ran out of eye drops.
Are there ways to use home ingredients to make myself better? That sounds crazy but exciting. Maybe there's a way to take care of myself without having to wait hours in line for the doctor, without visiting the pharmacy.
I wasn't sure if putting sea salt into my eye was healthy so I googled it. There was even a 'recipe' for Himalayan eye wash. I made a bottle of it this morning.
What else can I make at home that might drastically improve my life?
27 Jun '17  — Fantastically irregular ceramics
Today I visited Christine Roland's studio. I've been obsessed with her ceramics for a couple years since I spotted a cup she made.
At the time, my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary at a restaurant on the other side of town. We were exploring the area before our reservation when we came across a tea shop.
The pottery in the tea shop caught my eye and we stepped in. On display was a thick white cup. Chunky in shape, the cup was glazed inside and on the sides. The bottom, however, remained unglazed.
When the shop lady placed it in my hands, my palms caved to the weight. I remember thinking 'this feels primordial'. The variance in surface was also startling. Unglazed clay looks smooth but it's chalky dry, a contrast to the smooth wet feeling of gloss.
My husband wanted me to choose a cup. He wanted to go all out for our anniversary. Although I wanted Christine's cup, I felt more comfortable choosing lower priced pottery. I reasoned that Christine's cup was too luxurious for day-to-day. I considered it a piece of art.
I ended up with a wheel thrown cup made in Japan. Although I enjoy the cup, I regret not taking the 'primordial' cup. The cup I have isn't as special. While the edges have slight artisanal imperfection, it's not intentionally imperfect. To capture a celebratory day, an anniversary, I should have commemorated it with something original. Whenever I see my wheel thrown cup, I'm reminded of Christine's.
Our current apartment is in a neighborhood where Christine's shop/studio is located. She works at her own space elsewhere but the window at the nearby studio displays her works. I pass by frequently and often peer in.
Christine invited me to visit and today I got the chance to browse and touch everything inside. It was exhilarating to feel the textures, examine the shapes, sense the weight. Some pieces were lighter than expected, some heavier. I couldn't tell by looking.
Sharing her works, Christine mentioned how she draws from her Nordic background and the Vikings. Growing up in Denmark, she remembers cold grey skies. I admire the cold aesthetic that shows up in her works. The black pottery looks slightly metallic, like ironwork. Some of the shapes even resemble iconography related to the Vikings.
Christine mentions how the black glaze reminds her of cast iron. I hadn't realized, but I also find myself fascinated by cast iron while cooking. Sometimes it's matte, sometimes glossy, often fluctuating in various states in between. It resembles the soft sheen found on her black ceramics.
I felt revitalized after my visit. By being around objects, ideas, and creations I'm in tune with, perhaps I receive a sense of well-being.
25 Jun '17  — manufacturing reality vs living reality
There's always an element of aspiration when capturing life. Taking an image or video, I want the lighting to look right, the colors to pop, the mood to feel a certain way.
I'm involved in the manufacturing of reality. Making images a little more fantastic, I want others to take notice. It's not only made for others to notice, it's done in a style that I prefer--yes, that light looks nicer tinted, yes, that shade of yellow needs to be desaturated. I'm creating a version of life that is ideal.
The more I manufacture, the more I'm disconnected. From my own world. From reality.
I hadn't realized this, but my content tells me what I aspire for. I want to live a healthy life where I eat and cook delicious healthy meals at home. I want to do meditation and yoga regularly and live in a home that feels like a home.
These are the values I capture when I document my life. I select parts I appreciate and forget the rest. The few moments when I'm cooking, I got it on camera. Browsing my youtube channel, it seems like I'm always cooking. Unfortunately, these moments become less as I take time to document. While it may take little time to capture moments, it takes much more to present the same moments in easy-to-digest chunks.
Last week I lost myself. At first, I wasn't sure what was wrong. I was overwhelmed and dissatisfied. Perhaps I had watched too many youtube videos? Or maybe I listened to too many podcasts. There were so many thoughts swimming in my head... none of the thoughts came from me.
I've picked up a habit of tuning into others' realities. Listen to a podcast/video while doing something simple, I enjoy multitasking because it gives me the feeling that I'm not wasting time. The drawback is that I waste a lot of time thinking. I've become provoked in ways others' are provoked. I feel sad, elated, happy in context to others' beliefs. As I started to realize what was happening, I knew I had to intervene.
On Friday, I decided to take a break. I didn't go on social media, didn't visit youtube, didn't listen to words spewing out of any podcasts. Unexpectedly, I found myself cooking healthy meals, going for walks, doing yoga and meditation.
Only now, 48 hours later, I realized I'm living the life I aspired to live, the one I'd been manufacturing. During this weekend, there were so many moments where I didn't know how I was going to find myself again. I didn't know how long it'd take for me to get back to myself but I knew the only way was to stop everything I'd been doing.
I became more relaxed. My home unexpectedly felt more homey and I was in the mood to cook. There was no effort involved in cooking, yoga or meditation. These are activities I yearn to effortlessly do. Perhaps I had been out of energy. While I'd been documenting 'reality' so much, I didn't have time to live my own life. Surprisingly, my life happened to be the life I'd been trying to get close to, by manufacturing.
22 Jun '17  — I've never seen anything like this
"I don't want to see it again. They move like ghosts."
My mom expressed how unenthused she was to watch a Japanese dance. Butoh was something I'd never heard of until she told me yesterday.
My sister wants to take her to see a live performance. I told my mom she should tell my sister how freaked out she is by the dance. Perhaps she can get out of going.
But after watching a few videos of the dance, I encouraged my mom to see it. I was surprised to find the dance so beautiful. I don't like dances in general, but Butoh exemplifies a unique type of beauty. My mom is really into specific forms of beauty: flowers, pleasant looking things that most people like...I feel that if she embraces other forms, especially disturbing and distressful forms, she might find more beauty in her own life.
Whether that happens is up to her. My encouragement is just a way for me to enforce my values upon her. I also didn't think my sister had much to offer, but in this case, she really opened me up to a new form of art.
21 Jun '17  — An old dream
I watched Class Divide, a documentary about the community in West Chelsea. While the show mostly featured a $40k/year private school located across from public housing, it also gave insight on the changing neighborhood.
I worked in the neighborhood in a Frank Gehry building. On my lunch breaks, I'd walk for an hour. Visiting the same streets over and over, I became acquainted with the neighborhood. Before heading home, I'd work out at a gym located at the ground level of the first condo building in the area. Then I'd pick up produce from Chelsea Market.
The documentary goes over the development of the High Line. Repurposed from elevated rails, the park is unique in that you could see the city from an elevated perspective. Enjoy outdoors without traffic. Walking to and from work, I'd see the construction and think 'oh, it's going to be so nice to take a lunch break when it opens. I'll be able to have really nice walks.' By the time the grand opening took place, I'd secured another job uptown. Ironically, the park opened on my last day there.
On a summer day, I met a friend from elementary school. We went to school in the western suburbs of Chicago and hadn't seen each other since graduation. While wandering the city, we caught up. The day was super humid, the air was stagnant and we couldn't get a break from the heat. As we approached West Chelsea, a breeze from the river provided relief. In that moment, I thought: if I ever make it in New York, this is where I'm going to live. It's the most bearable.
This happened before dozens of condos popped up. There was a reason for that breeze--there were less skyscrapers, the area was less dense.
Based on the documentary, living in West Chelsea has become ultra-cliche. It's now a place for foreigners to park their wealth. I wonder which dreams I have today will become obsolete tomorrow.