Saturday, December 18, 2010

Touched By Many Lives

occasionally, in some romantic way, I'd like to say that I had one great teacher, one mentor who showed me the secrets of expressing myself and sharing my ideas, but I can't. No one person was my teacher. No one person showed me my gifts. My teachers came in many forms - school teachers, family members, friends, and those whom I may never meet, yet who nonetheless have touched me. Perhaps I didn't need a single teacher, like so often happens to artists in stories and films. Perhaps I never allowed myself such a teacher. Perhaps I never leaped at the opportunity. Sometimes I wish I had a storybook tale to tell of how I found my love of writing, some person other than myself, a master, whom I could credit with my inspiration. But I can think of no one. For me, teachers have appeared in many forms and through many different people. And you know what, that's just fine with me, being touched by many lives.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seduced by the Muse

I fell in love with the world of books, not because I wanted to be smarter than others, nor because I wanted to conquer the great halls of literature, but because the muse of literature herself lured me in, seduced my imagination, and showed me a forgotten part of myself.

I’m twenty-seven years old right now; and I didn’t read for the first twenty-three years of my life. That’s my confession. It’s not that I couldn’t read, just like I didn’t do well in school not because I wasn’t capable of doing well. I didn’t read because I didn’t see why I should; I didn’t have a reason or desire to. Yes, of course, I did know books as a young child, even occasionally read one – I remember reading a few of “The Boxcar Children,” several of the “Goosebumps,” and one particular children’s story called, “A Castle in the Attic,” which had a profound and lasting impact on me. But all these were mere remedies to childhood boredom, or acts of behaving properly in front of adults, or following an accepted social/cultural norm. Truthfully, I would have much rather been outside playing, or inside playing, in fact, anywhere playing if the choice was up to me.

I remember playing with my action figures, or those little plastic soldiers and cowboys-n-Indians you find (well at least you used to find) in the super market. When I had no Lego’s, no action figures (GI Joes, etc), and no plastic super market figures I improvised. I would turn things, random objects and such, into the figures I wanted to use in my plots and scenes. Sticks, leaves, bark, rocks, grass, household figurines, Christmas decorations, chess pieces, even a stack of playing cards could act as a great substitute for a vast army (The ranks are already drawn out for you!) These dramas would be enacted with complete casts – royalty, aristocracy, peasants, military, rebels, tribes, even wizards witches and the like – and the dramas were unpredictable and varied greatly. Sometimes I would reenact a movie or show I’d recently watched, other times I would just wing it, coming up with my own plots. That’s what I did to entertain myself as child. I’m even a little embarrassed though not ashamed to say that this hobby continued on until around the fourth or fifth grade, a time I remember when it was no longer cool or ‘normal’ to still be playing with action figures, and especially playing army with a deck of cards – If ever that was even normal! I would sweep away my armies, like Zeus in “The Iliad” if I became alerted to someone barging in on my play world – my brother, my sisters, anyone. I suppose any of us who can remember being a child playing silly games can relate with that. I was shy and embarrassed about this kind of hobby, yes, but I was also satisfying a part of myself that needed some form of expression, that needed to be recognized.

That is what I mean when I say I would have rather been playing than reading books as a child. And if I was not in the midsts of one of these fantasies, I would be acting out similar ones with my friends. Not that I had much else to do, as we were very poor, and I often needed to escape from the dysfunctional home I lived in. My father was an abusive drug attic, dealer, and alcoholic. My brother and two sisters often sided with one another, leaving me feeling indifferent and outcast; we fought a lot. My mother was busy, young, overwhelmed, helpless, and poor; but she was also loving, accepting, wonderful, and always there for me no matter what. She is an incredible person and mother. (Despite this early conflict, my family and I are on excellent terms today, though my father has long not been in the picture.)

Like most children eventually do, I grew out of those childhood fantasies. I was a catcher in baseball for over a decade. I was a linebacker in football. Throughout my youth I got into a lot of trouble in and out of school, and was in general (or more accurately in image) a tough guy. Sort of like the heroes of my childhood fantasies, I always found my way into conflicts and fought my way through them. I became burnt out with life fairly early on. I’d say I was spiritually burnt out by sixteen not having anything in life that intrigued me; and mentally burnt out by twenty and physically burnt out by twenty-three. And that’s when I perhaps began to listen to that child within me once again. Perhaps that’s when the muse of literature, whom upon reflection seems to have watched over me in my childhood, once again came to watch over me. For the most part I withdrew from the life I had created in my first twenty-three years. I became pretty reclusive, depressed, well absorbed in my guitar playing, fairly antisocial, and I was ambitious to get back into school – to do something positive and productive with my life.

The muse lured my in via my mother’s book shelf. Occasionally I’d glance through it, but on one occasion, I picked up a book that changed my life, “The Hobbit.” This story captured my imagination, fulfilled some forgotten longing I had, and gave me a breath of fresh air in a life I had been suffocating in. It only took me a couple days to finish the book, but its affect had been unleashed in me. I’m not really sure what happened to me during this time of my life. Perhaps some lost or forgotten part in me had awoken or re-awoken; maybe I was taken away from my turbulent life for awhile, as though I fell into Middle Earth and found that for a time the problems of my life seized to exist. Whatever it was, I can never be wholly certain what the actual impact reading this story had on me. But at that point, I began to realize that there was much more to life than what I’d known and experienced so far – sort of like Bilbo Baggins did.

Within two weeks I had finished both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. With the assurance that I could actually read and set myself to something and see it through till the end, did wonders for my low self-esteem. I moved on to other fantasy books and the enchantment continued. Tad Williams, Julian May, and a few other’s works found their way into my imagination. Apart from Tolkien’s epic saga, one other author had an epiphany-like impact on me: Christopher Paolini’s, “Inheritance Cycle” – the most popular book being Eragon, named after one of the last dragon rider’s in Alagaesia, Paolini’s fantasy world. It wasn't the greatness of his story, or his writing that had such a profound impact on me. It was the fact that he was only nineteen years old when it was published! I was reading a book that was published by someone five years younger than me. This struck me right in the heart; if he could do something that great at that age I could definitely do something great too!

Though it would still take me a couple years to find out that I really was a writer, the seed was planted, and I was inspired to do something with my life. I got into school shortly after reading Eragon. Determination can take you a long way when other things fail you; I was determined to find out what I wanted to do in school, in life.

Being a pretty good musician and comfortable playing for others, I began college enthusiastic about following a musical path. Had I played any instrument other than the guitar I might have found a place in the school’s orchestra. But the academic musical culture being what it is, the guitar is somewhat in its own category. Most instruments in the field follow musical notation – this allows everyone to know what the musical notes are, what the time signature of the piece is, and, in general, the who what where and when of how it’s all meant to be played. Guitarist read tabs, a different kind of musical notation, unique to the guitar, but nonetheless does all the same kind of stuff. This fact alone does not alienate the guitar from the rest of the instruments, there are other factors too – like the guitar not being a part of the classical music world through much of classical music’s history, and thus it was not included in the scores written by the early composers. In short, the landscapes of the academic and professional classical music worlds are kind of already set against guitar players, especially self-taught players life myself who learned by memorizing classic and alternative rock songs like the Beatles and Tom Petty. This still did not deter me; I was determined to mastering my instrument.

As I continued on in other classes, however, having to write essays and others assignments, I began to get in touch with my writing voice. I had no clue that I could write, and definitely never allowed myself the possibility of actually becoming a writer. I began college with around a high school sophomore level of reading and writing, so I had some catch-up classes to complete before I could move on to college level classes. I took the same teacher for all of these English classes. She was a young professor, very kind, very empathetic, and great at connecting with students. Her feedback and encouragement helped me to appreciate my ability to write and inspired me to want to write more. After two years of taking her classes I had switched from pursuing a musical career to a writing one. I knew then that writing was what I wanted to do.

In the last few years I’ve expanded in my writing and am currently working on my first novel, Sparrow Ridge. It has evolved from a short story, written for a fiction writing class. I’m three quarters of the way done with it and it will likely undergo one final revision before I send it off to be published next summer. Like when I was younger making my actions figures perform and creating imagined civilizations out of playing cards, I still have a need to express this part of me that loves to create dramas - that writer has always lived within me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

As I Dream

As long as I dream
Life never seizes to enchant me
Rays of light shine through clouds of dark
Storms come and go
And life continues its great show

As long as I dream
Never will time ravage me
Rains wash away leaving flora new each day
Flowers open and close
And life continues its great show

As long as I dream
No hope is lost to me
Winter snows melt away from all they kept at bay
Muses laugh and dance and sing with trees
While I pursue these dreams in me

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Obstacle Course of Life

What is more important: How we overcome obstacles? Or, that we overcome obstacles?

The latter seems definitely important, for without overcoming the obstacles in our way we could not continue on with our lives for long. Indeed, one of the earliest obstacles we face is that of birth. Then comes the obstacles of nourishment, love, shelter, and safety. In order to live we must struggle sometimes. Overcoming these struggles is a great deal of what life is all about; and what stories are all about.

However, in the outcome of some obstacles it is not so much important that we succeeded as it is that we tried our best. A fantastic creative writing teacher of mine used a simple aphorism to express this notion: "If I failed, did I try my best?" Makes you think, huh?

For example, I think we can all agree that starting a story and failing to either finish it or get it published is not necessarily a failure. Yes, we may have failed in completing the task we set out for and we may have failed in our ultimate goal of sharing our writing with the world, but if we gave it our best, really tried, and, thus, likely learned a great deal, than these failures pale in comparison to what we probably achieved – whether we consciously feel we achieved anything or not.

The stories of literature and of life are full of such examples. Atticus Finch failed to save Boo Radley’s life, but we know he tried his best; and though we may feel saddened, we also may feel strangely uplifted. Martin Luther King Jr. failed to end segregation and racial injustice in America, but we know he died trying; and though we may feel sad even outraged, we may also feel a great sense of admiration and inspiration. On and on through history and in the present we can recall and find stories of struggles fought but never won; and we can see in those stories that overcoming the struggle was not ultimately nor historically what was important, what was was that the struggle was courageously undertaken.

Overcoming obstacles is wonderful and worthy of pride and admiration. But these achievements last only so long before the waves of change, of life, bring new obstacles to overcome. Though the more experienced will be better suited to face further obstacles than those not so, this does not mean they are invulnerable to the struggles of life. As long as we are human, our health is threatened, our loved ones are at risk, and that we will have a home tomorrow is never certain. Our lives are what are constantly at stake in life. Yet we are evolved enough, at least many of us are, to accept this reality with a certain serenity and grace, a shared dignity to the extent that we don’t constantly act like wild beats who are always fighting for our lives – even though we are.

Nature designed us to face the obstacle course of life, and usually even rewards us when we succeed. How we proceed – whether we try our best and fail or barely try yet still prevail – is what colors and shapes the fabric of our lives; that the fabric merely exists is not as important to us as how it is designed. The struggles faced by the characters in stories and in history are the enactments of the struggles we all still face today. How they proceeded is what makes their stories great or not. The color or shape of these many struggles may change with the times, but the fabric, the reality that the obstacle course exists, always remains.

So what is more important: That we overcome obstacles? Or how we overcome obstacles? Perhaps neither is more important. Perhaps what is important is that, like the characters of the stories we love and write, we courageously face the obstacles life places in our way, that we learn and grow through them to be better suited to face more challenges, that if we fall down we struggle to get back up or help another to get back up. But perhaps what is the most important is that we try, that we try our best to continue to tread through the obstacles of life.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Learning Life’s Lessons through Characters

What do all (at least most) stories need to have to be ‘good’?

Well, one answer could be conflict. Our stories need conflict because that’s how our characters show who they really are, and that’s how our story moves towards its ending. Unlike life, where conflicts never completely seize to exist, the conflicts in our stories need a strong enough sense of resolution that we can call it ‘the end’. Is this not one major reason why we enjoy stories so much – that we can experience a sense of resolution that is usually beyond our reach in real life?

What characters are the ones we love the best? Are they the ones that we feel did the right thing when others would not? Are they the ones that are the most ‘like us’ or the ‘us’ we want to be? Are they the ones who remind of someone we love?

Obviously, we all have different favorite characters, but we each see something in that character that is meaningful to us. The characters I really loved, like Atticus Finch, Frodo Baggins, and Harry Potter – to name a few – represented much more to me than simple fiction characters; sometime in the course of reading their story, we (the character and I) became intertwined with each other:

Frodo’s daunting struggle to destroy the One Ring grew into my desire to see it destroyed; Harry Potter’s terrorizing struggle to defeat Lord Voldamort grew into my desire to see him defeated; Atticus Finch’s struggle to stand up for social justice grew into my desire to see it prevail.

Story characters can become role models, teachers, and companions for us; they can go places, do things, and face things that perhaps we’d be too afraid to do ourselves, and they can share that wisdom with us through their story. Through facing tough challenges, making difficult decisions, or learning how to stand for something, these characters represent important elements of the human struggle. By eavesdropping on their challenges, these characters can show us how to better face our own. Life’s lessons, though in large part can only be learned through experience, can also be understood in part through others experiences.

The songs of life sing just as true in fiction as they do in life for you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why I Write (A Poem?)

Why do I write?

I write because I must
Because there is a part of me which yearns to be free
A voice – If I can call it that – that seeks formation from deep within me
Writing is where I feel at one with this voice
It’s ancient yet fresh, wise yet childish, real yet mysterious.

I write because I feel alive when I do
When sounds seize to beseech me and silence envelops the world around me
Only then do I taste the fruit of my own muse.

I write because I love to
Because if I don’t I will never know this part of me that yearns to be free
Never live through this child within me.

As a small child I sought its elusive melody
Always venturing out of sight as soon as I caught glance of its rays
I sought it when life couldn’t bring me joy, when family couldn’t bring me love, and when friends couldn’t bring me understanding.
I sought it when I was alone in a world that didn’t seem right for me, in a society that didn’t seem to work for me, and in a culture that seemed totally different than me.

Writing is where I fit in
It’s where the melodies of my life find harmony
Where my frustrations with the world find understanding and acceptance.

Writing is where I connect with the world, with society, and with my culture
It’s where I find solace, purpose, and possibility.
It’s where everything seems right, despite all the tragedies of life.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Solitude and Writing

Writer's have long cherished solitude, whether in the city or in the wilderness. Personally, I enjoy a bit of both.

Many of us need solitude, especially writers, readers, artists, thinkers, and the like. In fact, I might argue that some degree of solitude is necessary for a well balanced life. Regardless, I am someone who needs solitude and a social life. I find comfort in solitude, muse in solitude, and inspiration in solitude; but there is also a lot I can’t find in solitude, like all that comes with relationships and families.

In the city (or town) we are connected again to the ebb and flow of civilized life - and the society of which we seek to influence through our writing. It's important to maintain this connection, despite how annoying, chaotic, and distractive it can be at times. Through marinating this connection, we give ourselves the opportunity to touch others' lives and others' the opportunity to touch our own. This is an important part of life, an essential part of life. We need human connection and interaction; we need each other.

In solitude we are driven to examine ourselves, be more contemplative about life, and become more centered in our own being. Solitude allows us the peace and quiet to think deeply, wonder about things, and explore our passions and imagination. In solitude we can, like watering a plant, nourish our roots with the nectar of our dreams and passions, so that we may blossom when the season is right. Writing is a very solitary activity, and being a writer is a very solitary way of being. We dig into ourselves, glancing around the corners of our imagination, positioning the stones of our dreams, and tasting the fruits of our passions – and with each new discovery, we further shape and sculpt the character we play in life. In solitude, perhaps we make peace with a chaotic world for a while; perhaps we find comfort in simple things once again; perhaps we are reminded why we really love life, despite its chaos, and want to share it with others. So we write.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tis the Season

Apples dangling on trees
Caterpillars munching through leaves
Eagles souring with the breeze

Sunlight beaming through the trees
Crickets chirping among the leaves
Flower peddles taking flight with the breeze

Birds of each color nesting the trees
Rain drops dripping down the leaves
Gray clouds blowing in with the breeze

Squirrels borrowing in the trees
Snowflakes resting on the leaves
Dark clouds creeping in on the breeze

Wintertime has come I see!

Can you see it in the trees?
Or how about in the leaves?
Can you feel in the breeze?

Christmas time is here you see!

With lights shining on the trees
Wreathes made of all kinds of leaves
And Santa Clause, up there, flying in with the breeze!

Art is Just as Important Today as it has Been Throughout History

Art is Just as Important Today as it has Been Throughout History

Bringing forth artistic creations into the world such as music and dance, stories and poems, sculptures and paintings is one of the greatest human accomplishments. Few things could be more righteous, more humane, or more wonderful then people creating meaningful things. In a world that too often times turns chaotic in one place or another, art can bring light into even the darkest of times.

Is art the creation of things? Is it the expression of a person or of a people? Or is it something more elusive than these? Art is not something concrete; it is extremely vague and abstract, even mysterious. Ernst H. Gombrich in his book “The Story of Art” says that “[t]here is really no such thing as art, [t]here are only artists” (15). I agree with this statement in the sense that art is impossible to pin down to one word or idea, such as “Art”. It transcends concepts, thoughts, and languages. How does somebody describe something which language fails to articulate, or express something they perhaps don’t really understand themselves? One way is through what we call art. The paradoxes arrived at so early in attempting to explain what art actually is—like trying to distinguish rules, borders, and styles to its many faces—is mystery enough for me to accept that it is beyond simply understanding, at least conceptually. Nonetheless, its constant presence in all cultures dating back to more than twelve thousand years—in a 2009 documentary film called “Music Instinct: Science and Song” they examine thirty-five thousand year old flutes—is evidence enough for me to assume that it has some important function in culture and community, indeed, in the lives of human beings (Gombrich 40).

Artists in our society, range from the very rich and famous to the very poor and unknown, from the inspiring and dazzling to the demoralizing and sometimes sickening. Art is deeply engrained throughout our culture and serves more functions in it today than ever before. It is used politically, economically, and religiously; and it is used for entertainment, inspiration, and aesthetics, among others. As a result, we constantly encounter art. We see it, we listen to it, we read it, we make meaning of it, we imagine it, and we seek it. Whether or not we ever pause to appreciate it, we are greatly influenced by art. But what is the future of our art? In these times of change and innovation is our art in danger of becoming something we no longer value or view as worthy of perusing? I don’t believe so. However, I do believe that art’s role in our society is expanding into new, uncharted territories.

Art now has a role in TV and film, in marketing and campaigning, in technological development and science; art plays an important role in architecture and engineering, in government and education, and it still thrives within its traditional roles. Perhaps art is not in danger of falling out of our culture as much as it is in danger of becoming absorbed by it. In fact, our appreciation of art seems to be what may be in the most danger. Art’s unprecedented and so often times subtle presence in nearly everything we encounter in our culture today leaves less room for the attention and appreciation of it. For example, a film may have beautiful music accompanying it, but our attention is not kept on every note of the orchestra, nor is it supposed to be. It is intended, by the film’s makers, to be focused on what is happening on the screen and in the story. Music serves to accompany and enhance the overall work; it is not intended to be the centerpiece of it, as has so often been music’s role in the past. This example illustrates the change that nearly all art is facing in our culture and why I consider this change an absorption of art, rather than an abandonment of it. Is this a bad thing? No, I don’t believe so. I believe art by its very nature is good for both people and societies. Perhaps our society and culture could be better—possibly more beautiful and harmonious—if art was integrated into more aspects of it. I do have concerns, however, that if our appreciation of art deteriorates we will stop appreciating and respecting something very precious to our lives and culture. Regardless, the direction our society has advanced has surely changed our art’s functions. But has our art’s purpose changed as well?

Aristotle once stated that “[t]he aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” I believe this “inward significance” is referring to how the outward appearances of things can have a deeper and more significant meaning to us than just the appearance: such as a butterfly can signify the arrival of spring, the unfolding of beauty, the wonder of nature, even the path of enlightenment; or how a teddy bear can be a child’s best friend and closet companion. In a slightly different tone, Pope John Paul II stated that “[t]he purpose of art is nothing less than the upliftment of the human spirit.” I think the Pope is referring to how art has often served as a source of joy, beauty, hope, celebration, comfort, and inspiration for many people in all kinds of situations. In a similar sense, Bob Dylan said that “the highest purpose of art is to inspire” (qtd. in “Purpose Art Quotations”). The numerous quotes I read from artists and philosophers about the purpose of art all have some similarities. Most artists it appears, as many philosophers seem to agree, seek to influence and contribute to society in a positive way, simply be expressing themselves into the outer world. Of course there are artists who create for other purposes, but in general this seems to be a big part of art’s purpose. If making positive contributions and influences to society is one of art’s big purposes, then it seems like we should continue to value it. I believe when art is celebrated and appreciated, so too is something great and wonderful about human beings, and about life. The purpose and functions of art in our culture are no doubt changing, but perhaps the artists’ purposes, who still seek to inspire, uplift, and apply significance to things, are not changing so much.

Art has contributed many great benefits to our society. Besides being a great field for people to pursue fulfilling careers in, art is also a source of joy, beauty, and satisfaction, for many non-professional artists: the weekend painter who is also a secretary, the night owl writer who is also a store clerk, the unknown musician who is also a waiter. These kinds of part-time artists are plentiful in our society. My father works at a daily job, but paints in his spare time. My grandpa worked as an inventor, but created small elephant sculptures and other similar things in his spare time. I learned how to play the guitar from someone who worked in a hospital. The list could go on, and I’m pretty sure we each can come up with one. I know for these three people that having an artistic hobby really made life more enjoyable.

Art also has therapeutic benefits for people. In his book, “Musicophillia” Oliver Sacks, a well known physician and author, tells how music has helped patients he has worked with and studied. At a Bronx hospital he worked in there were “[nearly eighty] . . . strangely immobile, sometimes entranced looking patients . . . [but a few of them] rather than being frozen, were in the opposite state. . .” They suffered from a Parkinson like disorder called encephalitis lethargica, an epidemic “that swept the globe just after WWI.” Sacks wrote more extensively on them in his most popular book “Awakenings” which is now a popular film. There was no cure or treatment for these patients and some had been in this state for more than forty years by the time Sacks visited them. On occasion, however, Sacks says the patients could move: “with an ease and grace that seemed to belie their Parkinsonism—and that the most potent occasioner of such movement was, in fact, music. . .Some of them could not initiate a single step but could be drawn into dancing and dance fluidly. . .Some could scarcely utter a syllable. . . [b]ut these patients were able to sing on occasion, loudly and clearly . . . Others could walk and talk but only in a jerky, broken way . . . with such patients music could . . .[give] them the steadiness and control they so lacked” (Sacks 248-249).

In Musicophillia, Sacks goes on to write about a number of his patients with varying conditions and how music helped them in some significant way. With his patients suffering from dementia (Alzheimer’s), music therapy “. . . seeks to address the emotions, cognitive powers, thoughts, and memories, the surviving “self” of the patient, to stimulate [all of] these and bring them to the fore. It aims to enrich and enlarge existence, to give freedom, stability, organization, and focus [to the patient]” (Sacks 336-337). Music also has benefits in learning and cognitive development and functioning (as is closely examined by in Daniel J. Levitin’s book “This is your Brain on Music,” and the documentary film he was a big part of called “Music Instinct: Science and Song”). Music is also known to aid in exercise, relaxation, stress relief, and let’s not omit that it is a fine source of entertainment and joy for many. The benefits of art could not all be illustrated here, and music is only one form, but it is clear that art plays an important role in the wellbeing of our culture.

What will be the future of art in our society? That is hard to say. I think that art’s role in our society will continue to be a very important one, even if it continues to be harder and harder to understand what exactly that role is. Painting and drawing continue to be appealing and lucrative mediums in our culture, with painters from around the world creating and staging their work here. Sculpture remains an important arena with a presence in architecture, film and TV, education, and private practices across the country.
Music appears to be expanding in composition and consumption. More musical genres and opportunities exist now than ever before. The development of digital media has changed the way music is listened to and marketed. For thousands of years music was heard only through being in the presence of its performers. This changed with the development of recording devices. The musical-expansion era we are now in is unprecedented in history. Streaming radio stations from around the world can now be heard anytime for as long as desired and without interruption. Personal musical libraries today easily range from the thousands to tens of thousands of songs. Music can be heard from some of the most remote and indigenous places on the earth—thanks to the work of musicologists, the music from these remote places often reaches the modern world before its people do. Musical instruments are more widely available than ever before, allowing for more people to potentially play a musical instrument.

Writing also continues to be an important medium in our culture. Books now are printed by the millions, and languages around the world can readily be translated into one another. Magazines, newspapers, journals, books, comics, and the Internet provide many forums for writers to reach audiences and for audiences to discover writers. A large variety of publishers, writers, and genera’s creates a vast and diverse medium that greatly contributes to the wellbeing and development of our culture.

Perhaps the greatest change in the arts is in the development of film, TV, and the Internet. All three of these forums reach their audiences through the audience’s viewing of a screen which uses more characteristics of art than any other medium. The video screen is the most significant medium of all forms of transferring ideas because of the way it combines the use of auditory and visual stimulation in extraordinary ways—it’s becoming greatly effective at mimicking and/or distorting reality. Where painters have sought to share their stand-still images with the world, film and TV turns stand-still images into rolling films. Where musicians have tried to express and evoke emotions and ideas through an auditory (and sometimes visual) medium, film and TV use music only to enhance an already stimulating work of sounds and images. Where fiction writers attempt to recreate the real or a fantasized world in the imagination of their readers through words, film and TV do this through much more stimulating means, leaving almost no space for the viewers own imagination. Film and TV use images, words, music, sounds, and special effects to communicate with audiences in extraordinary and not-so-long-ago unimaginable ways. The impact of film and TV on art, indeed on the modern world, is so significant that its effects are still yet to be made clear. No doubt there are pros and cons with this relatively young medium, but, regardless, it has brought communication into a whole new realm.

With the development of the Internet, film and TV are both evolving into another medium: one that, through a computer, instantly brings films, TV episodes, and personal videos to anyone anywhere at any time. Not only does the Internet provide the ultimate forum for video, it also functions as a major forum for writing, music, paintings, and other art. It serves as a worldwide, indeed the world’s largest, retail store. It has brought instant communication between people and systems to new levels. It serves as an open database to much of the world’s information and, likely very soon, an open library for the world’s music, literature, videos, published research, and so much more. Perhaps it is safe to say that the Internet is becoming the medium of all mediums. It takes so much of our world and places it into an easily accessible and always available digital world. The Internet definitely has a large role in the future of art.

It appears to me that the change art is facing in our culture is not so much a deprecation or an abandonment of it, as it is a movement away from the celebration and appreciation of art. In this regard, I am concerned that art is losing something special. However, the continued presence of art through all of these innovations tells us that it still has an important role today. That role in our society is changing, perhaps evolving into something entirely new, but I believe art is still just as meaningful, significant, and important as it has been throughout history.

Art can uplift people from the suffering of mental disorders, from sickness and sorrow. It can bring fulfillment and joy to healthy peoples’ lives. Art can inspire an idea, a person, a nation, and perhaps even the world. It can communicate the unexplainable and incomprehensible. It can bring light into the darkness of tyranny and war, disaster and chaos. Art can heal broken hearts, broken souls, and broken civilizations. It can bring into the world what is the very best in the human spirit: inspiration, hope, humility, compassion, harmony, beauty, celebration, peace, and love. In its mysterious and omniscient way, art will continue to be a place where we seek, create, and find all of these things. If we continue to create art, appreciate art, and celebrate art, we can be assured that it will not fade away into something we no longer cherish and benefit from.

Works Cited

Gombrich, E.H. “The Story of Art.” London: Phaidon, 2006.

"Purpose Art Quotations - The Painter's Keys Resource of Art Quotations." Resource of Art Quotations - The Painter's Keys. Ed. Robert Genn. The Painter's Keys. Web. 11 Nov. 2009. .

Sacks, Oliver. “Musicophillia: Tales of Music and the Brain.” New York: Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Through the mythical lens - Fantasy

Fantasy speaks to a part of us, the child and mystic in us, that other forms of media oftentimes fail to reach. The child in us - the innocent, curious, wondering, wandering, dreaming, untainted, pure, energized. The mystic in us - the spiritual being, the self driven warrior of high ideals wether right or wrong, the sage, the disciplined teacher, the charismatic leader, the hero.

What does fantasy fulfill or awake in us when we find ourselves lost within its realms, walking through ancient woods with its characters, riding across vast majestic plains on its horses, seeking out its magical and mysterious creatures? Perhaps the old, uncivilized native-of-the-earth that lies within each of us; perhaps the chivalric warrior, the hunter-gatherer, the nomad, the wise old hermit in us; perhaps it’s the adventurer, the explorer, or the hero in us. For in those moments when we walk down the halls of great castles, feast with mighty kings and measly servants, graceful elves and stout hungry dwarves, when we fly in the clinging talons of great eagles, on the scaly backs of ancient dragons, or through rabbit holes and portal keys, when we fight alongside proud centaurs, honest fawns, wise wizards, enchantful witches, and friends, when we live through the great journeys of hobbits and hero’s, scullions and legends, orphans and princes, when we become one of the story's fellowship, something deep within us sings songs pure and beautiful, old and true, mysterious and powerful. Perhaps these songs help remind us that we are the hero of our own journey and that all we must do is choose to be that hero. Fantasy, like spirituality, seeks the caverns of virtue, curage, and immortality that lie within us. To be but only mortal, only normal, is to not see the immortality, the richness, and the possibility that exists in the world and in ourselves.

George R. R. Martin speaks about fantasy, “There is something old and true in fantasy, something that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night and feast beneath the hollow hills and find a love to last forever somewhere south of OZ and north of Shangri-La.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Experiences & Writing

The writer’s journey does not start when the first book is written, nor when the first inspiration is recognized, but when the writer is a child. Still viewing the world through mythical lenses, the child writer takes in all, leaving the subconscious mind to weave together the fabric of future stories. For some writers the path of the journey appears sooner than for others; and still for others the path is never found though it was always there.

If I had found the path early on my life would have been very different. I lived a full life by age 25. In that first quarter I went through many fazes and personalities, from the extreme to the mundane. But since I survived, and went through these fazes rather than got stuck in them, my writing will likely benefit from these many experiences - for experience is the greatest teacher in life and the nectar of the Gods of literature. It is through our experiences that we learn the songs of life. Whether through the real world or through the imagined world, our experiences build the colors of our character, the threads of our ideals, and the patterns of our actions. Like us, the characters in fiction must struggle and grow through experiences or falter and shrivel.

What experiences will my characters live through? What lessons will they learn? What fazes and personalities will they go through? Will they struggle and grow or will they falter and shrivel? What will be the color of their character, the threads of their ideals, and the patterns of their actions? I will only learn the answers to these questions as I live through these experiences with them.