My friend Derrick told me about these bowls, maybe you’ve heard of them.

Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold so that its breakage is made beautiful and celebrated, not hidden or disguised.

And that’s really what’s been on my mind, lately. We’re all broken, but some choose not to hide or disguise it, and we’re somehow surprised when we find others whom we admire are also broken, as if they were somehow more (or less?) perfectly human than us.

We hide our brokenness, distracting ourselves from it. The faint bit of silence, and we scurry from the cracks of it. That loud silence, it echoes our past, but we don’t let it near.

That is the artists duty, however. To face it recklessly.

I.

Charles Bukowski was a broken man. I’ve alway enjoyed hearing his poetry readings. They’re filled with honest memoir, frank observations, pain and suffering, and a tinge of humor. His outward appearance, and his recklessness with the bottle is enough to keep many folks at a distance, but after watching a documentary on him this weekend, I’ve found a new admiration for him and his work.

He dealt with his brokenness head on, and look what he has given us: novel after novel, poem after poem. I have a lot to catch up on with his writings, but here’s one that really struck me:

The Genius of the Crowd

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average

human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it

and the best at hate are those who preach love

and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god

those who preach peace do not have peace

those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers

beware the knowers

beware those who are always reading books

beware those who either detest poverty

or are proud of it

beware those quick to praise

for they need praise in return

beware those who are quick to censor

they are afraid of what they do not know

beware those who seek constant crowds for

they are nothing alone

beware the average man the average woman

beware their love, their love is average

seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred

there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you

to kill anybody

not wanting solitude

not understanding solitude

they will attempt to destroy anything

that differs from their own

not being able to create art

they will not understand art

they will consider their failure as creators

only as a failure of the world

not being able to love fully

they will believe your love incomplete

and then they will hate you

and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond

like a knife

like a mountain

like a tiger

like hemlock

their finest art

Listen to the poet read it

II.

“Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” is a documentary that follows the Serbian performance artist as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

I was not prepared to be moved by this film, but it was perhaps the first time I really began to understand (or at least appreciate) performance art. Her unshakable desire to face the brokenness in herself, as well as reveal the brokenness she sees in the world is beyond commendable. She has risked her health, her reputation, relationships, and at times her life, to shine a light into the fears and prejudices of the world.

Today, our attention is less than the television advertisement. We’re looking at six or seven problems constantly. We’re living in the disturbed societies of cities. I think modern technology is one of the worst things human beings have invented. —Marina Abramovic

——

Silence (a poem of mine from ~2003)

Silence

Be still this night

Bewildered by light

The moon is high to cast

shadows on your hike

Every time you step

step away from fright

Silence

Be still this night

Bewildered by light

The moon is high to cast

shadows for your sight

Close your eyes and

take a step of might

You are strong when you are weak

You’re not weak when you’re with me

You’re with me on the street

even the street will sing in its…

[repeat]

——

III.

Nikola Tesla once said, “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.” But in 1926, he predicted our modern, connected (AKA distracted) world.

“We shall be able to witness and hear events—the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle—just as though we were present.“ He also predicted drones, but his imagined future was utopian. One where international borders have mostly been done away with, and everyone lives in harmony.

Unfortunately, we’re not in harmony yet, but at least we don’t have to be alone — all of the time. The connected world Tesla predicted, and that I’m writing to you through right now, is one that I am grateful for. I have made a good amount of friends through the internet, and I try to keep optimistic about it’s future, but I sometimes feel like it could all just go away and I’d be OK with it. Can you imagine?

IV.

Roy Ascott, Brian Eno’s foundation art professor at Ipswich Civic College in 1964, was one of the first people who had the opportunity to experiment with the connected computers Tesla predicted. Telematics, his term to describe his practice, used networked computers as a form of art. He was one of the first artists and educators to consider using computers collaboratively with others in different locations. Today, not an hour goes by for us without acting this out.

“The ubiquitous efficacy of the telematic medium,” Ascott wrote, “is not in doubt, but the question in human terms, from the point of view of culture and creativity, is: What is the content?” Jump forward fifty years, and the question is: What is the content worth?

——

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