Truly Timeless Art

Often, I hear the word “timeless” as a positive review of a piece of art. Most of the time, I think the meaning of this phrase is used incorrectly. For instance, let’s say we are talking about a recording of a song. Generally, by issuing the phrase “timeless” the reviewer is inferring that the recording itself could be played at any period in time and would have the same relevance – sonically, emotionally, politically, etc. “That Creedence song sounds as good today as it did 30 years ago! It’s timeless!”

That’s not what the phrase means to me. A truly “timeless” piece of art is one that puts YOU, the “experiencer”, in a space without time. There is nothing else but the moment you are in right now. It actually removes past and present and envelopes you in the moment of the piece as it unfolds.

Of course, time is taking place while you experience the art present itself, but the duration is at the mercy of the piece.

Those are the pieces of art that I’m drawn to. There’s nothing to intellectualize about the creation. Is it a good piece? Is it a bad piece? Do I like the singer? Is the protagonist brave enough? Is there too much red?

I am IN the work or I’m not. And I FEEL it. I EXPERIENCE it. There are no judgments during, if the piece is capturing me.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you watch a film and as soon as you leave the theater, or perhaps the next day, you have so many questions? Well, why did he leave her? I wonder where the butler went? How did she know he would be there?

That’s because that silly, part of our mind that thinks it has all the answers, the part that is so insecure without it’s meddling, the part that can be so interruptive, has been quelled. Your deeper self’s thorough enjoyment of the piece has issued an involuntary “sshhhhhh…..”

I can tell that a piece of art is timeless by the reaction of my body. It actually slows down and is quieted. The belly relaxes, and creates a softness to absorb what’s surrounding me. I might be inspired and the creative part of me is spinning, but there is nothing hesitant or judgmental about the thought patterns. Only forward “yes”es. I’m immersed in the moment.

The next time you are listening to your favorite song, or reading a book, or watching a film, or standing with tired legs in front of the Raft of the Medusa after running around Paris all day – take a moment to feel into your body and notice how immersed you are.

Hopefully, if the art is for you, your experience will be similar to my friend T.D. Lind’s hopes, as he sings these encouraging words to his lover: “Let’s get lost.”

The Extraordinary Non-Event

Nothing happened. Really. And yet…
No, really. Nothing happened.

I always considered the possibility that I would write a book. It could happen, I thought. If some compelling event transpired, such as a survived catastrophe, a fantastic metamorphosis, or even a tragedy – yes, especially a tragedy. Because that’s what people want to read about – a meaningful experience that concludes with a significant result. Emotional, transcendent.

Most would consider their own existence, both inaccurately and accurately, as mundane. Of course “Lord of the Rings” is so popular – nothing like that is EVER going to happen to me. Right? Maybe it could?! Well, in the mean time, I’ll sublimate experience and growth through another protagonist. Besides, I have things to do in the morning. If we start the movie now, I can still get 8 hours of sleep. That will certainly help with all the things I need to do tomorrow.

What’s that? You wrote a story about a guy that lives a life of “relative” insignificance? No tragedy? No winning the gold, preventing mass destruction, no saving the world? Sounds like one of those shoe-gazing “Slacker” films. Sounds boring. Those always have a limited life span.

Well then, we agree. I’m inspired by depth, power, and radical transformations in consciousness too! And of course, those processes mostly occur in finite, gradual steps taking years. Way to long and seemingly innocuous for your typical blockbuster. So, what’s the story look like?

Let’s take a tangent first.

Significant.

That’s the key word for me. It’s the oasis, the cloud, and the handcuffs. I want to BE significant. I want to leave something meaningful. Do something meaningful. Be remembered. Respected. Revered.

And it’s ALL external.

Even as I write these words. A blog of absolution. Fundamental, egoic absolution. This tiny, auto-transformative blog, one among billions of other voices, I fantasize of being found. Recognized. A simple typing meditation that I perceive and judge as heroic and pathetic, suddenly feels so foreign-

No responsibility to be Significant.

…Ahhh…. That feels so liberating. No longer bound by this personal responsibility to matter, my options just became infinite. I can live a life of anonymity, beauty, and clarity. Nice…

Hmmm… 60 seconds of freedom and it’s starting to feel empty. As if there’s no purpose, no goal, no reason – REASON! A ha! Just as I typed that dreadfully heady word, and it snapped! What’s a reason!? Blah! Where’s does that motivation coming from?! Whose reason?

All right, I think we’re getting somewhere. Let’s differentiate.

When I think of significance as an external motivator, the vision becomes cloudy. When I embody significance as an internal signifier, I become aligned. It doesn’t even matter what I “do” at that point. If I’m connected, I’m clear. The Latin word significantia is defined as “meaning, force, energy”. Working from that momentousness feels much cleaner to me.

It’s not that I don’t want to be significant, it’s that I want to be significant as a matter of force and energy. Sustainable and direct.

Ok, what’s the story look like now?

Better, but it still needs work. Freeing myself of external attachments doesn’t relieve me of my “duty” to tell an interesting story!

Sincere Saturday

My fiancée and I are continuing a thread we started last year. Once a week, we attempt to go an entire day without using sarcasm. Seems innocuous at first, possibly a bit silly, and certainly not hard. Well, it turns out only one of those things is true, it is silly, but definitely not easy.

I realize how much of the way we (as a generation) communicate via sarcasm. For the first half of the day, I have to be so careful to speak truthfully, I end up sounding like English is my 2nd language.
“Honey? These… eggs are… a little on the cold side for me. I prefer to eat eggs… when they are still… hot.”
Or
“I think it’s time for me to take a shower. I do not smell good. I smell bad.”

As the day goes on, several things start to happen. First of all, the words start to flow more smoothly, style moves in, and complete conversations happen without too much self-checking. Ahhhh…

Second, another level of trust exposes itself. I’m not talking about the deep heart-felt sense of trust that hopefully is present in any committed relationship. I’m speaking of a subtle layer of trust that escorts every conversation you have during any day of the week with anyone. Sarcasm is the gentle form of protection we use in each engagement to insure that we aren’t to exposed or vulnerable during the conversation. After all, THE LAST thing we want is to look stupid. Even in a trusting relationship there can sometimes be a veil of protection up during the playful, teasing moments. Saturday is a prime candidate for those moments. In a nutshell, we’ve noticed that we trust each other a “little” more throughout the day.

Third, and this one I can only speak for myself, is that I notice how many things I say during the day that ARE truthful, but I use the tone of sarcasm. Effectively, the tone will almost always overrule the meaning. What do they say? “90% of communication is non-verbal.”

For instance, my girl was leaving for this fancy coffee shop down the street. I noticed she had a hole in her jeans and was wearing a cute little t-shirt. As she was walking out, I (almost) said in a playful voice, “YOU look HIP.” Of course, she both laughed it off and said “hey!” thinking that my sarcastic tone implied that she in fact, didn’t look hip – the last thing she wanted to hear before she walked into the trendy coffee shop. Ironically, I REALLY did think she looked “hip”. I wasn’t making fun of her at all, but I was using a playful/ironic voice to tell her I was attracted to her without exposing myself too greatly in that moment.

I’m gonna get off track here for a second, but why would I do that? I mean, I have no problem at all telling her straight to her face that I think she is fantastically gorgeous and I’m overwhelmingly attracted her. In fact, I do it all the time – and she believes me. So why the sarcasm?

Well, I’m slowly getting back to the beginning here, but I think it’s as simple as sarcasm is deeply engrained in our generations’ communication, and it takes a conscious effort to speak without it and still feel “cool”.
The other side of the coin is the obvious, simple fact that sarcasm is one of the oldest forms of HUMOR. “Why” it is such an effective kind of humor is for another conversation, but the simple answer is that it’s funny. And while we like to BE in trusting relationships (deep and subtle,) we also enjoy laughter.

So where does that leave this conversation? The short answer is that most deeply trusting relationships can endure and enjoy sarcasm as a source of humor and not feel threatened. Most surface engagements between friends and colleagues can do the same, as there’s not much at stake, and after all, humor IS a prime spark for joy. But, sarcasm is also a form of defensiveness and that barrier prevents true connection, both on the surface and at the core.

Funny how I just wanted to try the no-sarcasm game just to see if I could do it, and it led to all this. Maybe try the game for a day and see what it opens for you.

Follow @alexgibson on twitter.

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