We’ve reached another year end. A time to reflect, celebrate, or hide from the fading holiday mania. Lunatics and fringe groups of the mass media claim it is the year of the apocalypse – I’d say with the experiences of this year we’ve already passed that line – tear gas, tsunamis, and Tim Tebow proselytizing in the end-zone, surely we’ve gone beyond what is good for us.
It’s likely we haven’t, though, and times will get worse before they improve. Tonight, I had the faintest image of myself smoking a cigarette in the coming year. I don’t think I believe in fate, but I sure have believed in the pragmatism of momentary escape before. I do hope that the horizon holds for us a more optimistically engaged reality, one with less economic despair, corporate-sponsored class warfare, clear civil rights, and women and men who stand up as unadulterated leaders for the world. I hope that we hear the word “peace” more than the word “war.” I hope that we begin to accept that education is the only true way to stave off terrorism. I hope that planet Earth continues to sustain us, even as we foolhardily plunder and pillage it under superficial pretenses.
For myself, I’m going to keep on keeping on. There really seems to be nothing else to do at this point. A hard year was just fought, one complete with old challenges revisited and new goals pursued, yet I take satisfaction into the new year that my choices were good and my accomplishments earned.
Life is strange, and hard, and illusory. I often wake up from intense dreams and feel as if I’ve fallen back into a daily slumber. Disappointment acknowledges me as I brew my morning caffeine and soon fades away after the first few sips. I have begun to satiate again and by now any remnants of fantasy from the night before have sublimated back into my id.
My artist’s practice examined many ideas this year: dream theory & analysis, the origins of consciousness, Joan Mitchell’s use of color as a synesthete, the #Occupy movement, and the injustice of sentencing in the criminal justice system. I also did some reading on existential psychology and it directly influenced a small set of collage panels I did titled Bricks.
There are four basic elements to existential psychology that all humans must face: freedom, meaninglessness, isolation, and death. While the theories and clinical studies concerning each element are quite interesting, the raw fact is that each is unavoidable and we are, in life, endowed with their pain.
However, it is this pain that makes our lives rich. We blindly act to avoid it, whether by seeking others to make our decisions, talking to ourselves as we move through morning rituals, or snapping our hand from the hot handle of a saucepan, spilling dinner across the floor. It is these experiences that we compare against those which make us happy and elated, fulfilled and warm, loved and surrounded by those we care for.
In acknowledging my fear of the future, fear of the unknown – ultimately an existential fear of death – there is little one can do to close up the wound and escape from the darkness that lies ahead. It is hope that many hold on to, whether it be of an infinite or finite variety, to assuage themselves and carry forward. And, hope works.
Hope does not have a color, hope does not have a sound.
Hope is not a political movement.
Hope is not a reason for you to get up every morning.
Hope is not a reason for you to die.
Hope is the darkness that you have conquered.
Top: Ad Reinhardt in his studio, New York, July 1966. Photo by John Loengard
Bottom: “Painting 1953” oil on canvas, Joan Mitchell 1953