Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sand, Sea, and Smugglers - RTÉ Radio 1 - Nicoline Greer

Anas and Ammar Al-Kadry

As is my routine every night, while in my bed, I fading in and out of sleep, I listen to late night radio. In the wee hours of Saturday nights they broadcast from Ireland, through RTÉ Radio 1, documentaries which are usually very compelling, and I am more often wide awake to listen intently, because these programs are so interesting, often very moving, and leave lasting impressions. 

Within Canada we in the beginning stages of accepting 25,000 refugees, and within my own very rural community we are going through the process of getting prepared to accept a family. I've heard bits and pieces of what life has been like for these individuals, and their families fleeing for their lives, but I haven't heard anything really detailed about what has happened to them. These are powerful stories that need to be told, resulting in a real appreciation for who these individuals are, what they have experienced, as Anas and Ammar Al-Kadry, and for the kind of unimaginable, and incredible suffering, dangers they have endured and overcome.

The documentary story by Nicoline Greer, called Sand, Sea, and Smugglers conveys in an in depth way, that enables us to understand the kind of incredible, resilient strength existing within and among these individuals, a strength that many of us can only imagine in a lifetime.

This kind of documentary, and the stories refugees have to tell, might help us to rearrange our values here in our privileged Western world, and what is really important, and perhaps to even see what own purpose in life might be.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Is Clutter Killing Your Creativity?

I've had a bit of a challenging month attempting to unclutter my mind, by ridding my house of things I've been hanging on to. At least I'm getting it organized to place it curb side for garbage pick-up or released into the ether where it belongs. I truly believe this kind of clutter can block or even kill creativity. During this process I have learned that the relationship between creativity and clutter. When clutter increases, creativity decreases, and it's inverse in nature.

I distinctly remember during my art school study, where we were sharing spaces with a fellow students, a cubicle, measuring, oh I'd say about 12'x12', if that. I made an effort to keep our small studio space clean and organized, as did the fellow students I shared the spaces with. It was difficult to work, if not almost impossible. I created much of my work at home.

Students who made a huge mess in their space would inevitably drag their mess out into center of the large room, where you'd accidentally kick something half way across the floor. I think the restricted space  in our cubicles was good for some of us. But for others it wouldn't matter how much space they had, it would be a mess regardless.

Mess is stress, and a big distraction the takes away from my focus and concentration.
Yes there are some artists that work this way and they flourish in their creative and chaotic messiness, but I'm not one of them, because I know it doesn't make me feel good. We all have to decide for ourselves what makes us feel good in our creative environment, and what enables our creativity.

Often I have found I could always measure the psychological state of my well being because it is reflected in the space around me. If I was not in a positive frame of mind because I was exhausted, my house would look like it had blown up. Not a good feeling.

I believe when we hang onto people, places or things, it's based on the hope that one day we'll need it, we don't want to let go, or we are creating some kind of drama in our lives. Instead of being motivated, we can end up with feelings of guilt and shame because we can't move forward unburdened and we can't let go.

I can only speak for what works and what doesn't work for me. Some think that creative people are messy and this is conducive to the creative process and all part of being creative. It worked for Einstein. This has not been my own experience as an artist. Clutter does block, and can threaten to kill my creativity.

I'm looking forward to feeling more unfettered and creative.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ron Hynes Man of a Thousand Songs

Ron Hynes - Photo Justin Hall

Two days ago, Thursday November 19th 2015, Canada lost a great singer song writer/musician, and human being, Ron Hynes. It's hard to know how to express the sadness that pervades the Maritimes and especially in Newfoundland/Labrador at the loss of a such an individual.

There are certain people in this world that grab your heart and soul. Ron Hynes is definitely one of those. He did this through his artistry as a lyricist and song writer, but also I think most people recognized his rigorous honesty with himself and with others and he touched people deeply.

It makes me happy and grateful  to know he found his own recovery in life, and all the gifts that he left behind will never be forgotten. Recovering people everywhere like Ron, who learned how to save themselves from themselves one day at a time, understanding what he lost, but more importantly understand what he gained in recovery, and the legacy he has left behind, that will live on forever, and will continue to touch hearts and souls alike.

This documentary, I found on CBC Absolutely Canadian, Man of a Thousand Songs, I think you'll agree, says it all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Poet Laurette of Youth Now

As an artist, and in my past as a Youth Care Worker for 20 years, I’ve seen first hand how art and creativity changes lives for the better. I have also volunteered in correctional facilities. Many adult offenders started out as young offenders.

When youth are in Open Custody there is next to no help or support for them or for their families, once they serve their sentence in open or closed custody as young offenders, many of them go right back into dysfunctional familial environments.

If youth are in therapeutic group homes it’s different, they have more support. They’ll have a social worker, psychologist, family counseling etc.

The way the correctional system is set up, particularly closed custody for young offender, is like the adult penal system and they are simply being preened for prison.These facilities are even referred to as jails, particularly by the youth themselves.

80% of adult offenders inside prison have been sexually assaulted, a good majority are First Nations, many have been in long term foster care, in the system for years, and suffer with mental health or addiction issues etc.

Anything creative IS healthy healing, and therapeutic. They sure as heck don’t have much of a hope of “rehabilitation” the way most prisons are set up presently. So yes bring on the creative opportunity!
I say start trying to understand people, especially youth instead of trying to control them!

Here's a informative article by Sarah Poko who works for The Signal in Halifax Nova Scotia, about Youth Now Radio started by Sobaz Benjamin.

Jackie Torrens tells the compelling story on Atlantic Voice about the Poet Laureate of Youth Now .

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Conversation Versus Connection - ``I`d Rather Text Than Talk``

Over the past few months, I`d written a blog post on the subject of what has been coined as being a new word in the zeitgeist, called "phubbing". I don't know who came up with that one, but I rather liked it, because it adequately described what I`d been experiencing. Phubbing describes that thing that happens when someone ignores you, tunes you out and focuses nothing else but their cell phone. It really annoy`s me, and I find it insulting in that it`s as if the person you are trying to talk with, couldn`t care less about you. It`s all about their relationship with their phone.

 I don`t have a cell phone. There have been times I wished I had one, but the more I learn about the negative affects from this form of connection with our devices, the more convinced I am that I don`t want one, nor do I need one.

I have always had an interest in language, social interaction, philosophy, and psychology. Our contemporary digital age has changed everything, which has got some great advantages, but I`ve noted that the most concerning negative repercussionit has also changed our relationships and social interactions that has begun to disturb me.

I heard Sherry Turkle interviewed about her book entitled Reclaiming Conversation on a radio interview yesterday. She clarified for me why I should be disturbed and explained what this obsession with our devices is doing to our relationships and our ability to be empathetic human beings.

 I also found this talk she gave about this today and have posted the youtube video below. I think it`s a real opener.
 I do believe we need to make face to face, real eye ball to eyeball conversation our focus, not connection if you want to be empathetic human beings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

 Something strange happened today. I spent four hours cleaning out my basement. It might not sound strange to many, but believe me this is something I've long procrastinated on doing for years, and it's become like an albatross around my neck.

A cluttered house, is a cluttered mind and it can directly affect creativity I believe. It certainly does mine, because my messes, mess with my mind, leaving me feeling waves of depression and unmotivated.

 This is the second time something like this has happened in the past two weeks. I cleaned out a back storage/laundry room last week, which also took me hours. I'm not sure how this happened. I can only attribute it to writing it down in my journal in the form of prayer, and trusted that God would help me.
Then the notion to get it done struck, I put the time and energy into it, until it was done. I'm sure it isn't that simple, and believe me I worked my arse off this afternoon, and the time before that, but maybe it is just that simple. I just know I can't sit around waiting for inspiration. Like Chuck Close says, inspiration is for amateurs.

  I'm tried as hell with an aching back, but I'm feeling lighter and encouraged to know that I got this big job accomplished.

 When it comes to big cleaning jobs, I am the queen of procrastination. Perhaps I am finally making progress in overcoming this character defect, that I've been working at now for a long time.

I have one major project left to accomplish, cleaning out the garage. It always feels good to do Spring cleaning just before Winter begins.

 Getting these big cleaning jobs done I think is a good metaphor for life, and in comes down to my recovery tools like the slogan, trust god, clean house, help others.

The lesson affirmed for me today, is once again about motivation, and how this relates to procrastination. The longer I procrastinate the less motivated I am to get things done. Once I stop procrastinating and do what needs doing, my motivation increases and I can keep going.

 Procrastination like alcoholism is a similar kind of illness. I needed to trust God, take a personal inventory and to help others in order to keep what was so freely given to me. I continue to do these things, living my life clean, sober and motivated one day at a time, for almost 22 years now come January 2nd 2016.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Peace Call

This forgotten song, written by Woody Guthrie resounds now more than ever in light of the recent events that has taken place in Paris, France yesterday. May the world hear deep within our hearts, this peace call now.

Peace Call
Words and music by Woody Guthrie

Open your hearts to the paradise,
To the peace of the heavenly angels,
Takes away that woeful shadow dancing on your wall;
Take to the skies of peace, oh friends,
Of peace of the heavenly Father;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

Thick war clouds will throw its shadows,
Darkening the world around you,
But in my life of peace your dark illusions fall;
Think and pray my union way,
Kiss everybody around you;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

If these war storms fill your heart
With a thousand kinds of worry,
Keep to my road of peace, you’ll never have to fear;
Keep in the sun and look around
In the face of peace and plenty;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

I’ll clear my house of the weeds of fear
And turn to the friends around me,
With my smile of peace, I’ll greet you one and all;
I’ll work, I’ll fight, I’ll sing and dance,
Of peace of the youthful spirit;
Get ready for my bugle call of peace.

Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the bugle sounding,
Roaming around my land, my city and my town;
Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace.
I can hear the horn and voices ring louder,
While my bugle calls for peace.

© Copyright 1963 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

Mother's Prayers Are Carried To The Grandmother - Catherine Meyers

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

When Remembrance Day Comes Around

My dad North Nova Highlander 1941 Springhill Nova Scotia

When Remembrance Day comes round every year I always feel conflicted. I think about my father and his family who escaped Germany during WW11. My father changed his family name in hopes that people would not call him a German Jew.

Though I am not what I would call a pacifist, I hate war, and all it entails, because of it's negative affects on soldiers, their families and civilians alike.

After reading Chris Hedges book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, I have an even deeper negative feeling about war. On  Remembrance Day I can't help acknowledge my sadness and my conflicted feelings. So I am re-posting a blog post for a second time called Home Town Battlefield

This song written and performed by J.P. Cormier brings this message of the toll that war and other traumatic experiences, takes on individuals. I recently heard J.P talk about how when he wrote this song, he then had to face and come to terms with his own PTSD, not so much from war, but from his life. I was happy to hear him talk about this openly, and candidly.

If we can't seem to end war in the world, it does give me hope to know that there are individuals being candid and honest about how PTSD has affected them, to break down the walls of stigma that surrounds mental illness, whether it be through war, or other traumatic events in life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Allen Toussaint - The Music Man

When I heard of Allen Toussaint's death this morning I was shocked and saddened. He's the kind of person you think will always be around, but this of course is magical thinking, the way we often think about those we love.

My brother was a devoted fan of Allen Toussaint and the music that came out of  New Orleans. I attribute my music education to my brother who first introduced me to the music of Allen Toussaint's and all that it was. Allen Toussaint was The Music Man, and may he rest in peace.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Creativity Is Not A Talent

I've heard it said that the longest road is the one between the head and heart. This can be the situation for all of us. When I reflect on that in relation to art, and being an artist, I immediately think art is all about the heart. For many artists it can be difficult to have a balance between the head and heart. Often being creative, means you feel your way around through intuition and emotion, and the so called irrational part of our brain.

There are a lot of destructive myths and misconceptions about art and artists, surrounding the personality, and the character of the artist, which more often than not, only impedes understanding and perception.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artist Way made a list of these myths that I found spot on. She talks about some of these myths being ideas such as, “artists are broke,” “artists are crazy,” “artists are drug-addicted” and “artists are drunk.”

I don't concern myself too much with these myths these days, because I think the more I continue to be myself as a creative person these myths drop away. We learn more from others by watching how they live their lives, as opposed to what they say. Creativity for me is a way of living, regardless if I am an artist or not.

I strive to live my life as a creative person, and as an artist I live by the basic principles listed below, that I knew existed deep within my psyche, before I read Julia Cameron's book 20 years ago. Her book affirmed and clarified these principles, and this made all the difference for me, and changed my life.

BASIC PRINCIPLES - from the book, The Artist's Way a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity - Julia Cameron

1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy:pure creative energy.

2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life-including ourselves.

3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity
within us and our lives.

4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being
creative ourselves.

5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good
orderly direction.

8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be

9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our
dreams, we move toward our divinity.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What Does The Science Say About Art?

There's nothing that surprises me about these scientific findings concluding that art makes for better thinkers and nicer people. I think artists understand this intrinsically, especially those who work with youth.

To artists it's much more than a hunch, but more of a fact understood, that students exposed to art, learn about culture in a way that fosters intellectual and emotional intelligence in a holistic way. It's not news or rocket science, that scientific studies indicate that students gain a " greater tolerance, historical empathy, as well as better educational memory and critical thinking skills" when they are exposed to art education. Unfortunately it seems scientific study is listened to more so, as opposed to art educators and what they know about creativity.

It's a sad commentary really on society, and on a educational system that depends on science to prove what art educators have long known, that art and creativity should be considered one of the very basics, and creativity should be at the very foundation of the educational system, and reflected in the curriculum.