To Run

In life, there are only two different ways to run: 1. Out of fear, or 2. To run towards a certain goal or target.

For the first, you could run because you’re being chased by a starving lion and you left all your weapons at home, including your phone. Another reason could be you’ve accidentally broken the Family Heirloom that’s been passed down for the last x+5 generations, so you blame your unsuspecting dog (who, though intelligent in some ways, cannot defend himself with human speech). How the reason manifests itself can be extremely diverse and entertaining in hindsight, but they all stem from the root of fear. Fear of the lion. Fear of punishment. Fear of failure or making grave mistakes, and sometimes it’s a good thing, but like medicine, should only be taken in small doses and only when absolutely necessary. It views anything in the negative as something to be afraid of; something to righten only by adding a 1 to a -1 so you can get 0 again. Normal. Safe.

The other style is to run towards a goal. For athletes, this is the finish line, or the bullseye, or jumping a certain height or lifting heavy weights. Limits are pushed, and hopefully exceeded. Another example is running in the pursuit of a dream. Here, the pursuer isn’t running away from the fear of failure (or the idea of failure); instead, they give chase to what they deem worthy or important enough to have. And the chase only ends when the dream has been fulfilled. You can even apply this same principle to the weaponless guy being chased by a lion – instead of thinking “I have to get away or else I’ll be eaten”, the pursuer thinks “Where can I run to that will prevent the lion from following? Or what can I do to discourage it from trying to eat me?” The pursuer is always thinking and looking ahead, not behind.

Of course, this is easier said than done, as oftentimes just looking at how far we have to go can be more intimidating than exciting or encouraging. There will always be obstacles or situations that try to stop us from moving forward, but in a world focused on reactions and the symptoms of greater problems, there is a higher call on self-control and dignity and integrity so that our lives become shaped by how we respond rather than by how we react.

So what type of runner are you? The pursuer? The pursued? It’s a difficult choice to make, and I encourage you to cultivate the attitude of running towards something instead of running away. And while no one can guarantee you’ll reach your goal, the fact that you pursued an ideal means that you envisioned a life that can be better than -1 plus 1.

Not Death

This weary road left,
And amid brothers on high
I am home.

Close the eye dimmed by tears,
And wake in repose to spend
Eternity.

Bear the wrench that frees,
And the chains that breathe
Infinity.

Fling aside the dust,
And rise on wing to live
Righteously.

Prince of life,
The chosen conquer in strife
And reign.

– Adapted from “It Is Not Death To Die”

Nearer

Nearer
Nearer to you
Raise my song
Shall be nearer
Nearer to you

Wanderer
Wandering down
Darkness a stone 
Yet dreams be nearer
Nearer to you

Appear
Appear unto heaven
Send mercy given
And beckon me nearer
Nearer to you

Waker
Waking bright with praise
Griefs I’ll raise
My woes be nearer
Nearer to you

Winger
Cleave the sun and stars
The moon forgot
And I fly nearer
Nearer to you.

– Adapted from “Nearer, My God to Thee”

Unfinished

All artwork is arguably still unfinished. It is this singular aspect that makes art similar to science than either party may care to admit or remember.

Most of the time, you’ll come across so-called “finished” works rather than drafts or prototypes, so this may seem as a revelation, but what you’re actually seeing is more of an “It’s as finished as it can be right now”. It is only the easily-satisfied artist who would consider all their art pieces finished. But most artists I’ve come across, myself included, could literally work a lifetime on a single piece and never be truly and completely satisfied. There’s always more work that can be done. There’s always something that needs to be fixed. There’s always more that can be better, and honestly speaking, if “perfect” is the measure we’re aiming for, then it truly is a paradox in itself, because it implies that there’s a limit to how good something can be.

As a compromise, we lower our intentions and our expectations, because we are not infinite beings, and it’s easy to get tired of fixing or modifying or adding or subtracting from a piece we don’t know what we find wrong with, only that it’s still wrong and not done yet. We compromise, and make ourselves believe “it’s as finished as it will ever be”, because what we’re aiming for is beyond our current capabilities. It’s often true, as many artists can and will return with fresh motivation and insight to a former artwork a few weeks, months, years later in order to complete what they’ve left behind. Sometimes works get modifications here and there. Some stay left behind, lost and desperately forgotten (but not really) until picked up again by an ambitious spirit. Even more are left undone, erroneously labelled as “complete”, and displayed in some gallery or corner or basement or landfill. Science is the same way: facts are written and rewritten as more and more discoveries are being made and previous theories proved or discarded. We may think we’ve reached the end, or fool ourselves into believing so, or risk driving ourselves crazy with parallel universes and roads less travelled and Schrödinger’s cat.

To imply that something is “finished”, is to imply that it is “perfect” and “complete”, and nothing else can be done. In essence, a masterpiece. If we can attain this, then I think most of us will already be quite satisfied. Despite this, there are hardly any works that can be called “masterpieces”, whether by the artist themselves or by those around them. In this way, each work we begin is like a never-ending circle of birth, life, life, life, life, life…perhaps it is only in absolute death that all art is truly finished, even if they may not be masterpieces (and this is the reason why an artist’s death often raises his or her artwork’s value – because the artist is done, whether he or she likes it or not). But as long as there is someone carrying the torch, then the possibilities really do become endless, and without knowing, we become instruments of torture to our art and ourselves.

Even so, through all the struggles, in the pursuit of perfection and of making a finished masterpiece, we aim for the infinite, and that in itself is one of the greatest delights of being an artist.

Fairest

You are my soul’s crown.
The meadows,
Robed in blooms of spring—
The saddest sing.

Fair are children
In all their youth
Yet beauty
Will never fade.

Fair is the light,
Fairer the sun
The sky shines brighter
Than hosts on high.

Beauty is found nearer,
Dearer to me bound—
I vow my feet
Will follow you.

– Adapted from “Fairest Lord Jesus”

The Value of Destruction

As artists, we are always in the business of destroying something in order to make it beautiful. It can range from the physical plane, such as creating wax molds in casting metal, painting over old canvases, sculpting scenes out of sand, to the metaphysical plane, such as challenging preconceived notions of social norms, or sacrificing good opportunities or an old habit to aim for a higher goal. We are no stranger to destruction, or to any associated pain or suffering. Rather, it is our desperation that keeps us moving forward, and the promise of beauty that keeps the knife in our hands.

It is rather the question of how much to carve out that leads to hesitation. And my dear fellow artists, I know exactly how that feels. I know it when I’m sitting at my desk, mind devoid of inspiration when that social media site is just a click away. I know it when I see others take their art and run faster and further away, until giving up seems like a better option than chasing them. Where does the knife start? And where should it end in order to get me that much further with the least amount of hurt? These days, I find it hard to even lift the brush without the pressure of doubt weighing me down. There’s just so much to do. So much that I don’t know, and can’t do. So much that I can know, but there are hardly any guarantees in this world.

So I wait. So we wait, like a star on the verge of becoming a supernova, and hope there’s enough gravity within us to pull the important pieces back together again. And when we reform, we will be more beautiful than ever, at least until the next time we’re not satisfied.

Update!

I’m currently giving my entire website a complete overhaul, so if there were a few error pages displayed here and there don’t worry – I’m just making everything look better.

The process will take another day or so, so please bear with me as I make the changes I need. Meanwhile, enjoy this picture of a duck.

Ducky

Alive

How on earth do people manage to balance a full-time job, a part-time job, AND find time to read/write/draw? If everyone could choose a minor superpower (a minorpower), I would pick never having to sleep as mine.

Well, it’s a new year, new season, and new topics are needed to match this new time of life, so it’s time to wake up from this year-long slumber and venture back to civilization’s blinking lights. Hello again, world! Let me introduce you to the theme: “Letters to the Non-Existent”.

I will also be updating all contents of this website, so look forward to that as well!

Stream

She clicks the last few letters of the story, before stretching out for a sigh (of relief? Of disappointment or happiness? Not sure). It’s been a long few months, but the project’s finally finished – for now at least. She allows a feline yawn to escape, noting the time and day, though for her, the day doesn’t end until she falls asleep.

Endings have always been bittersweet for her, because if she could, she’d write a story that lasts forever. It would transcend its own boundaries, and become something even she has no control over. But for now, she pockets the project in internet space, leaving it to be touched at a later time. (It would most likely have a different form by then, but it’s best when nothing stays the same.)

For her, it’s never been a question of “like” or “dislike”. The writer writes; that’s his job, and if the proper message has been communicated then it becomes the writer’s commendation.

She knows she can be cryptic at times, sometimes overly so (as noted by some friends and family), and she worries that one day even she would lose the original meaning behind all the things she wrote. It’s so easy to bury a treasure too far below the dirt, and she’s not sure if she only has herself to blame if people give up on digging it out.

So she tries her best to draw a better map, but will still count it as a miracle every time someone is willing to pick up a shovel and try.

Thanks for sticking around! The “Grimm Fairytales” project has been completed for now; all holes filled and accounted for. Hope you enjoyed, and thank you for all the views, likes and comments these past few months. I promise there’s more to come, so please stick around while I figure out the next project/series (that’s writer talk for “take a break”; ha!).