Emperor Moth

When I was a child, I collected dead things. Like beetles and crickets and butterfly wings. I put them in jars, and studied them close: it never occurred to me that they were gross.

This one is not quite finished, but just a whimsical little piece as an homage to my childhood. I rather enjoyed it.

2,996

2,996 lives were lost on September 11, 2001 as a result of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. This painting seeks to provide a visual representation of those lives lost, as the human mind is notoriously bad at visualizing large numbers. Each of the figures was painted individually, each represents a life. It is hard to imagine still the sum of the grief experienced by those left behind. 2,996 individuals tied to dozens of friends and family members, many of whom I am sure suffer to this day.

I tried to capture the idea of the clear blue sky that was marred by clouds of smoke and billowing dust as the buildings collapsed. The images of rebar and fragments of building stand out in my mind as crews searched the rubble for survivors. The figure in the center deliberately resembles a superhero…I think the idea of a superhero coming to save the day died for a lot of people back then. Yet at the same time, many heroes arose as a result of these tragic events.

Death to the self

Happiness is an elusive notion that is frequently chased and rarely achieved. You think if you made more money or had more time things would be better. If you had the body you wanted or the partner you wanted or whatever it is your heart desires, things would be different. Some people spend their time dreaming about these things. Other people spend their lives working for these things. And in the end what do they get?

You have goals you want to achieve. This is not one of those motivational posts that is going to tell you to get off your butt, work hard, and you can do anything. While this is true to an extent, it is not the whole picture.

The truth is, there is no such thing as happiness when happiness is the goal. If you spend your days trying to please yourself, you will only increase the emptiness that is inside you. But if you choose to live a life that is driven by personal values, you might fare better.

To truly be happy, first you must die to yourself. Give up your own selfish wants and desires. Stop doing things that please yourself and do what is right. Live in the moment not for the moment. Put others’ needs before your own and just see what happens.

Inherent Value

It’s hard not to feel like a failure sometimes, when life doesn’t go the way you want it to. Like you’re worth less as a person and people have a right to look down on you. You spend your days wondering what went wrong, why you’re this way when other people are so successful. I think we’ve all felt this at least once or twice and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

And then when things go your way suddenly you’re a hot-shot. You get that feeling like you can’t wait to run into so-and-so from high school just so you can rub it in their face–in a totally subtle, non-obvious way of course. Suddenly you’re a worthy human being, and you know it, and you want other people to know it too.

The thing is that’s not really how it works. We are all worthy human beings no matter what our current situation is. We all have our ups and downs, but situational ups and downs cannot touch our inherent value as a human being that we are all born with. There is no such thing as an “important” person any more than there is a “worthless” person.

This is a lesson I taught myself as I fought off the depression that often comes with failure. However I did not anticipate the way it would impact my outlook on life when things got better. Just as I beat myself up less when things go wrong, I also find less cause for celebration when things go right.

Maybe this does not sound like such a great thing, but I’m telling you, it is. When you succeed at something, don’t spend all day patting yourself on the back and thinking about how awesome you are. This image will only shatter at the next setback. Rather, acknowledge that you have value that is separate from this success, be grateful for the success, and be willing to embrace the next failure.

Scared of the dark

When I was a kid I was scared of the dark. Not like I couldn’t sleep with the lights off, but I didn’t like to walk into or out of a dark room. I felt like I was about to get ambushed, or like there was someone sneaking behind me. I especially hated walking up the basement stairs in my childhood home. The light at the top of the stairs was hardly comforting compared to the massive darkness that was threatening to swallow me from behind.

Sometimes I still get that feeling. That even though I’m moving forward and I’m moving up and I’m moving toward the light, I might still get swallowed up from behind by that massive darkness. I’m not even entirely sure what the darkness consists of…old memories? Old emotions? Subconscious fears and insecurities? That’s the funny thing about being afraid of the dark. You aren’t afraid of something you know is there.

You’re simply afraid of the uncertainty.

Holiday Crap

This is my mandatory holiday post. Yes, the holidays are upon us. But as a minimalist (have I mentioned I’m a minimalist?) they don’t bring me the joy that most people experience this time of year. I believe in celebrating the underlying cause for the holidays, having been raised a Christian I’m not trying to take away from the importance of celebrating the birth of our Lord. However, I can’t help but feel nauseous at the level of commercialization that has taken place during this time of year. It’s amazing how people seem to believe their lives will be made somehow better or they will become happier if they own this or that gadget…and yet everyone falls for it.

But think about it…the unopened box is almost always more exciting than the gift that it contains. Why is that? Because the idea of something is almost always better than the reality. As long as the box is unopened, it might be something better than just another hat and scarf. It might be a million dollars! It probably isn’t. But your brain doesn’t know any better. And even if the thing inside is something you really wanted and something that brings you a momentary source of joy, what’s the next thing you do? Look for another unopened box.

I guess this is just the way our brains are wired, though. It’s similar to what’s going on in your brain when you see you have 12 new notifications on social media. That immediate surge of dopamine occurs before you even know what the notifications are for. But I’m getting sidetracked.

I guess what I’m saying is I don’t like the holidays because I don’t like to waste my money on things I think people shouldn’t even have. I don’t like getting a ton of gifts that I’m going to slowly give away because they’re cluttering up my house or contain toxic chemicals that I refuse to rub into my skin. I also don’t like the holidays because in the past I’ve had the intention of giving artwork to family members as gifts, only to realize that 1) my family always considered my artwork too dark; and 2) I never could finish it on time.

So that’s my mandatory holiday post.