Art is not easy. So many people think they are doing it every day. I’m not saying I know the difference between who are and who aren’t; to paraphrase John Cleese’s Pope Julius II, “I may not know a lot about art, but I know what I like.” In today’s anti-normative world, it’s truly impossible to say which one of a so-called pop artiste dressing herself up in bubble wrap, a rapping idiot-savant calling himself Jesus Christ, and a sixteen year old girl clothed in a tube top and little else singing “Sweet Child ‘o Mine” is art, and which isn’t (do any of them have to be?, is to me the obvious question).
Having this kind of discernment has, on the surface, very little use in today’s surface world. But I believe there is a purpose to being able to tell the difference between those in it for vainglory—Bruce Lee would refer to their journey as the Art of Self-Image Aggrandizement—and those who are in it for true excellence, and the truth that comes with it, for the sake of not merely making an impact on the world, but making a positive one, at least so far as their beliefs and conscience can guide them. I think what makes it easier to tell who’s doing what is to consider the concept of *effective art*.
What is this thing that I propose exists: effective art? I believe what makes effective art effective is that it touches us in a way that is significant. But what does this mean? Effective art (think of a song that still makes you cry even after you’ve heard a thousand times) creates a process through which the audience member not only passes but is also changed in a way that is both indelible and irreversible. Aristotle speaks of mimesis in the Poetics. Mimesis is a large part of this process. By employing the mimetic aspect of art, the artist may create a work that is somehow both broad-reaching enough to apply to all persons yet specific enough that one person will feel as though the work of art has been created just for them.
Because of this personal connection, the viewer will come to see themselves in the protagonist, and will share in their failures and their success. This brings us to the second part of the process, which is catharsis. Via the experience of the protagonist’s highs and lows, the viewer (or listener) experiences the artistic journey not only as the trials and tribulations of another person, but as part of one’s own story, and at the point of conclusion, the viewer (or listener) feels a very real sense of having been transfigured, cleansed, or else having experienced epiphany on a deep level. This is one of the ways the artist can employ their skill and acumen for the good, by creating and layering positive change (which, note, does not assume a “happy ending”) in the conclusions of their art.
I find I can often tell between art that is created by the artists for themselves and art that is effective by locating where I experience what I often refer to as “the tingles.” When a work of art is high intensity, our autonomic reaction is to feel that intensity somewhere in our physical body. I’d wager that all of us have cried during certain movies, songs, theatrical performances, and many other expressions of art based on our preferences (visual art, dance, performance art). In my experience, art that truly touches the soul can be felt in (of all places) the sides of the arms, and the shoulders. Almost without fail, when I notice a tingling sensation there in my body, emotional catharsis is nearby, whether it manifests in the form of a deep cleansing breath, laughter, or crying.
In contrast, art created to serve the artist’s ego can be felt almost anywhere else. I’ve been confounded by this in the past, watching films or theatrical performances and feeling stirred yet also feeling a sense of emptiness and not knowing why (I’m looking at you, “Hancock” (2008)). I’ve felt my head swell in agony over a protagonist’s dramatic fall from grace. My heart has bled over a main character’s crippling anxiety. I’ve even cried watching a community be destroyed for hypocrisy and lack of oversight. But one common factor insists itself upon these three scenarios: I never felt anything in my shoulders, nor did I feel something in the sides of my arms. It seems so odd that this—the precise location of “the tingles”—be the determining factor. But, sure enough, when the dust of high emotion settled in each of these (and, certainly, many other) cases, I was left with a feeling of having witnessed something created not for the benefit of my edification, but instead for its own thirst and need for attention.
And herein lies the danger, and is why art can so easily by hijacked and turned from an activity that is intrinsically benevolent to one whose sole purpose is to fulfill a narcissistic personality’s need for self-image aggrandizement. I disagree with the (relatively recent) adage that “the head can be persuaded, but the heart is not so easily changed” (I think it’s from “Frozen” (2013) (he says, having seen it seven times)); it’s actually fairly easy to manipulate the heart, just look at how many toxic relationships remain unexamined due to family loyalty. There’s not really anything that can be done about this. As we perfect the expression of form e.g. the play, the song, the novel, the movie etc., it becomes easier for art pirates (to coin a phrase) to plunder these forms and mine them for their own selfish needs (see “United Passions” (2014)—actually, don’t.)
I would humbly put forward that awareness is the best weapon under these modern day circumstances. For me, a key component to a better life as an art consumer has been to be relentlessly conscious of the art I was consuming. I found when I was willing to question what was placed in front of me, I became far less willing to leap into the jaws of the predatory pseudo-art that found it way into my purview simply because its creators owned all the distribution outlets (now who might I be talking about? … I still like Frozen.) It’s certainly made me less hip—to this day I have never heard the radio offering known to many as “Uptown Funk,” in fact I’m not sure I’ve heard a new song since 2012, except for that Mendez/Cabello duet from a few years ago (to be fair I was just out of inpatient and was trying to find my roots among free humans by listening to *anything* that came on the radio) and something by Taylor Swift about how some people need to calm down—I actually like that one.
No, I’m not a doom and gloom, everything after 1986 sucks, kind of guy. There are always new, wonderful discoveries to be made as a consumer of art (the jewel that is “Ted Lasso” to name one.) I wonder if we’re not on the precipice of a new *slow art* movement, perhaps similar as to what happened at the transition from the 80s into the 90s, except, hopefully, a little wiser, and this time truly shedding the skin of artifice for a new kind of authenticity, where artistry and artisanship find their place again among the pantheon values of self-expression. For better or for worse I think the “influencer” is here to stay, at least for awhile, and it might be that all you need to do is film yourself eating cereal with hot sauce to be called a “creator” but to quote Keith Carradine: it don’t worry me. (Nashville (1975))
I do what I do the way I do it (this is a surely a quote). No amount of sanitized prefabricated mindless cookie-cutter entertainment can take away my love of creating art to help others. I was told at a young age by an uncle who would turn out to be one of the strongest influences of my early creative life that I should always remember to give back to society. At the time I was busy getting the crap kicked out of me by racist mobs in a Dickensian all-boys boarding school, but, thankfully, the words stuck with me. Art is the greatest blessing (shared; my wife, obviously) that I’ve received in my already pretty blessed life. It seems a natural choice to pass it along.
Some might still call me unsuccessful, and in some ways they’d be right. I have no community of crazed fans (yet/who cares, my wife would say), I have no mantelpiece full of trophies or awards (again, yet/who cares, she’d say, because she’s amazing). But in the past seventeen years, I’ve had the time and space, away from the joneses, away from the restless throng, to gruelingly put myself through the ropes; I’ve gained mastery over the fundamentals of harmony, counterpoint, lyricism, rhyme, wordplay, music production, storywriting, MIDI programming, arrangement, transcription, voice, performance, and many more areas of study that, in my opinion, form only the very basics of what it means to be an artist, a real creator. At least that’s what I think. And sure, maybe all of this is not a route to success. But I believe it to be a path to self-mastery, and, with that, a means to unlock the secret to wellbeing and abundance, in a world that truly needs it.
Travel safe. Talk soon. -AF
I’m starting to think the adage might be true, that, as we grow older, our sphere of give-a-damn starts to tighten. A gabillion zillion things happened this year, and I’m not sure I caught any of them because they weren’t in my direct purview. Also, I tend not to be of the “like, subscribe, switch on notifications” persuasion, so, when all is said and done, and for better or worse, I imagine myself a little less “influenced” than your average small-town bear. There’s a flip-side to this, of course, being that I easily made over a thousand *important* decisions this year, that no one gave a shit about. No harm, no foul.
A lack of abatement from COVID meant that, once again, the musician’s primary source of reception and feedback—the live gig—was not an option. However, knowing that the AFO once again could not come to as a performing band freed us to focus on finishing the project that we started in the murky waters of early 2020: Ray of Sunshine, specifically an AFO concept album featuring songs from the rock opera Ray of Sunshine.
More generally, though, we (being BlueDorian Media Entertainment’s 2021 squad, including the AFO, guest vocalists and instrumentalists, designers and artists, producers and engineers, and the organization’s core team) started to see this year as one in which we would be focusing on content, setting ourselves the underlying goal of not just producing but producing our socks off, committing to going above and beyond what we thought ourselves capable of doing, both in terms of quality as well as quantity, all the while retaining our focus and, more importantly, staying sane.
That we succeeded at all was a surprise, that we were able to achieve what we did, a wonder, and to all involved in the past two years worth of curriculum I feel a sense of gratitude and pride—it’s one thing to pump out great material in your *prime* (such an arbitrary assessment) when everyone is cheering you on and you have the will of the fans on your side, it’s entirely another to do in the silent cave that is modern COVID-based life. The work is there, for anyone who wants to check it out (shop.bluedorian.com). It was a thrill and a delight to work, soup to nuts, with such a talented crew of artists—I look forward to working with them again in the upcoming years.
I took part in a QnA session focused around the music of Ray of Sunshine, and I was posed the question, “How can you allow your music to stream for free? How do you get people to pay for your music so you can make a living?” These are good questions, ones that I do not have the answer to. Now, granted, we at BlueDorian have yet to apply a marketing plan to our template. Our first step, still in process now, is to populate the commercial web presence (the store) with content. Anything outside of that goal, I’m not interested in, for the simple reason as to create good product requires focus, and if I’m trying to figure out how to sell my goods before I’ve built my goods, I’m not focusing.
Still, I’ve often self-reflected that music and visual arts, despite being in the same taxonomic “class” of activity, are such polar opposites, in terms of the logistics that their practitioners are required to go through to succeed. Visual artists more or less obey the commercial maxim, that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients, so really, you just need to secure the 20%. Music has no such luxury. Predetermined market values are placed on our commodity in such a way as if I spent two minutes throwing together a selection of pre-written beats, versus if I spend two years composing a piece that painstakingly fuses the sounds of a symphony orchestra, renaissance vocal group, and gamelan ensemble (all of whom I had to hire), both products costs about a dollar in the marketplace of ideas.
Anyway, like I said, that’s outside of my purview, at least for now. We’ll come up with a plan at some point, when it does seem relevant. In the meantime, 2021: cheers! It feels like we hardly knew ye, but I know that’s a lie. We live in formidable times. It’s time to step on the gas, and ride off into the sunset. To that end, here's this awesome fellow:
Travel safe and talk soon!
Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR 2022 :)
The year draws to a close, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure I have the energy to go twelve rounds with another one. Between the mental health diagnoses and their ongoing, and in many cases worsening, symptoms, and several emerging physiological issues as well, next year I would hardly be surprised if I were to find myself on the receiving end of something fatal, and, I have to say, some days I’m not sure I wouldn’t welcome it.
I’ve always been honest with these watershed posts. I’ve never sugar-coated my feelings. I’m really thankful for all the support I received upon reentry to the world after my hospital stabilizations this year. I can say for certain that I would not have made it through with quite as much of what little remains of my sanity intact without the calm, kind, and caring strength shown to me by friends and family, who in the face of these circumstances rallied to become the support network I never knew I had. I am deeply touched by this collective gesture, and will hold it near and dear to my heart for always.
The weeks and months following reentry were a difficult period, and continue to be so, with symptoms showing no sign of abating—in fact, they seem only to strengthen with time. No one seems to know exactly what’s going on with me, exactly what is the matter with me, let alone how to present any coherent plan to try and heal me. I am told that the work takes time; what I experience is that with each day the symptoms become further entrenched, and increasingly more difficult to face. I spend most of my time—I may have mentioned this before—with my eyes closed, to try and escape the symptoms and the turmoil they convey.
I’ll keep this short, meaning to say that I’m winding up. I’m often loathe to make life-suggestions, believing a person’s right to choose the content of their experience to be paramount. But in going through what has been beyond the hardest year of my humble existense, I feel, for once, a sense of responsibility: that to hold my tongue in this instance might be to miss out on an opportunity to do some good, or at the very least to share some perspective that, who knows, might be worthwhile to someone out there.
So, to any and all who might find this relevant: a recommendation. Look around you, and admire all the beauty that you see, including, perhaps especially, the beauty that is yourself. Devour all there is that brings you joy to see. Watch the world. Observe it, mindfully, with curiosity, and wonder. Speaking as a person who may never be able to take the simple act of looking at the world for granted ever again, I cannot emphasize this more. The world is a beautiful place, absolutely stunning, and I miss it so much. Take in the best of the world, and leave the rest. Allow its beauty to bring you satisfaction, happiness, and joy.
You deserve it.
Travel safe, and talk soon. -AF
My Dearest Mack and Tosh,
This year, on April 30th, I had what’s commonly referred to nowadays as a mental health crisis. This sterilized, sanitary term has—in true Carlin-esque fashion—sounded at once more dramatic and more serious in days past, with the phrase “nervous breakdown” warranting (and justifiably so, I can now attest, have been through one) the terrifying vision of a mental *snap*, followed by a period of complete inability to keep up with normal day-to-day activities: work, family care, relationships, and so forth. The brain is fried, or deep-friend, rather, and no amount of coaxing can get it to see itself as otherwise, at least at first.
(This first paragraph took me two weeks to write, thirteen days of which were preparation, and failed attempts.)
Because I am human and prone to distorted thinking (not saying those are necessarily linked… necessarily) my initial thought was that of: Why? (Truthfully there are days when I still think this.) Why did this happen? Was I being punished for something? Was there something I had forgotten that I had done wrong, that I still needed to atone for? And for that matter, did my life still work that way—pinned, inexorable, to the wheel of karma? Where were grace and compassion? Where was enlightened equanimity?
Thankfully this “control fallacy,” when it lasts, doesn’t last long. *Phew*—as it were. The bottom line is that it happened because, well, it happened. At least, so far as goes the philosophy of it all. As for the logistics, bridgestorecovery.com speaks of a nervous breakdown occuring: “when a person is no longer able to cope with stress or pressure. Stressful like events may trigger a breakdown, but underlying mental illness may also cause it.”
(Again, I can attest to this. I’ll spare you in detail as to all of what the stress was; notwithstanding, it was a combination of work and personal factors.)
I spent a little over a week in an inpatient unit, under close watch for safety as well as diagnosis. I graduated to what is known as a “partial program,” living out in the “real world” while attending a bevvy of a groups and classes, on tools and information generally designed to help the subject remain both in the real world and living. Now, it’s more or less back to reality.
Except, the way I remember it, reality was once a collaborative adventure, not a cruel exercise in smackdown economics, featuring humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat, as I struggle merely to remember vocabulary and simple items on a to-do list. I’ve been told that the real recovery, the one that begins well after the groups, well after the classes, can take months, if not months upon months, a grueling Everestian climb, which, if these first weeks are to be judged by, I can once again attest to.
But enough about that. What concerns me now is recovery. How do I get better, so that I can cease being a burden on my lovely wife, a true dedicated superhero if ever there was one, and start getting out there back to the world of creative badassery and cosmic avenging that so much more suits me than passive victimhood ever could.
I am forcing myself to write this blog. The mental strain is near unbearable. With each word search the side of my brain feels like it’s being seared on a skillet. But I will persevere, and I will complete it. Because if there is any sense of give-uppery in me, lingering, lurking, what better way to find it, and show it exactly how it can go fuck itself, whenceforth will I move myself into a space—bulldozing my way there if I have to—where things are the way they should be: where my creativity is back in charge.
AF Thoughts from May 5th 2019.
We discuss guilt and shame. Rich, the facilitator (real name altered), wears casual jeans and an open flannel shirt, wearing his grey head of hardly receding hair neither short nor unkempt. He has one of those faces where when he is gone you are unsure whether or not he has a mustache and beard, or rather, you are absolutely certain he does, but would hate to have to stake your life on it. He is friendly, but more to the point in this case he embodies a state of gentle authority: knowledgable, and firm in his understanding of how to convey said knowledge. We begin:
Guilt and shame are established as two forms of conscience, developed specifically to determine scope of behavior, or, in other words, to limit it. Don’t go outside the cave after dark! is the rule and you are to follow it. Whereas in reality, the reason for this rule is both sound and based in logic i.e. you will in all likelihood be eaten by a large, long-toothed prehistoric feline if you do (go outside the cave), the forces of peril employed in teaching this lesson are far more immediate, and, in many respects, far more threatening i.e. because I, your parent, told you so, and if you disobey me I will become angry!
Shame can be understood as the fear of disconnection. It develops at a relatively young age. Children are conditioned to join the herd, and to do so no matter what it takes—it is often said that children will take bad attention over no attention at all, such is the pull of the herd. Shame intersects with a fear of abandonment, or exile, two of the most basic disconnection-based consequences a tribe can put on individuals.
Guilt is slightly different. Guilt develops at a later stage, when the mind can abstract, particularly when it can create for itself its own set of personal rules—its personal code. When an individual violates their own personal code, a feeling of guilt may be the result.
3) The Brain(s)
We can consider the various “brains” i.e. the various stages of human cognitive development, and how they relate to guilt and shame.
First, the “reptile” brain. This part of the human brain deal with the basic functions: eating, sleeping, defacating, etc.
Next, we can observe the “mammal” brain. Via the mammal brain, babies learn to label their emotions. They learn how to express, and how to connect. Also, it is worth noting, shame lives here.
FInally, there is the “human” brain. The human brain begins to come into play at around 3 years of age, developing from 3 years until about 6 years old. The human brain, a marvel, can share information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions. It can read Aristotle and Shakespeare. It is worth noting that most herd animals will, at most, join three (3) herds, whereas humans will join hundreds of "herds" in one lifetime (i.e. social circles, professional circles, and so forth).
It is this—the human—part of the brain that learns to navigate all of these different rules. Often times, rules which apply in one place, do not apply in another. Humans can navigate this, humans can modify the rules at will. Rules, for humans, are what we create, and rules are negotiable.
Rich now leans back in his chair. We are given space to wander and explore.
It is easy to see in the world how children who are treated differently can become children who are wired differently. The question is asked: why do some children have such a large shame conscience? We ponder. Nature? Nurture? Excess punishment... child neglect... bad treatment? If a child is aggressively punished every time they are taught a "lesson," do they learn the underlying lesson, or is the lesson they learn that their parents will get mad and will yell at them?
To the group, it stands to reason that any and all of these factors would have an impact on the developing mind, teaching it how to move through the world.
The discussion segues briefly onto the subject of depression. Depression: it is different from sadness, it is a pane of glass between you and your life, that get thicker and darker as its power grows. You know they're out there (your supports, your *tribe*) but you just don't feel them.
After a few more minutes of discussion, Rich interjects, with some grist for the mill. A too-high shame-o-meter can, he proposed, can elicit the feeling of “I am pretending” in children: “I feel like I am pretending all the time.”
He goes on to say: We accept the love we think we deserve.
For those with too high shame-o-meter, the beliefs are often:
They WILL remember the criticisms.
And they will disconnect from the good things.
As the session winds down, Rich offers us some some final impressions to mull over.
There is a watchtower, he says, in the upper mind, whose purpose is to ask: “What do I think about my feelings?” Guilt lives up here. It's a rational place.
As for shame? Just because a feeling is real, he says, doesn't mean it is true.
He leaves us, as the minute-hand on the clock passes ten signifying the end of the period, with the following, on the off chance, he says, that it is useful. It is a set of questions that one might ask oneself during the guilt/shame response process, as follows:
We all carry around guilt, as well as shame, he concludes. Hopefully this mode of inquiry during periods of distress might free us from some of the toxic effects of our unprocessed shame, and allow us a greater sense freedom, to know that we are writing our own rules, and charting our own course.
Travel safe. Talk soon. -AF
This has been one of the toughest years I have experienced to date. And also, somehow, it has been one of the most fulfilling, and one of the happiest. It is possible this is all part and parcel of the process of retaking my life. January was a month-long wakeup from a decades-long stupor, realizing that all the things I thought I was were actually lies, that I had concocted to keep myself trapped in a system of thought wherein I could never gain enough momentum to find my potential, let alone shoot for it, let alone achieve it.
For so long I thought I was wrong. Simply put together badly, incorrectly. And somehow, in this light, the best recourse seemed to start again, just press the reset button, and, if you believe in that sort of thing, hope the chips fall better next time. Hey, it works in video games. Sometimes. But this sort of thinking was, again, against social codes of conduct, no matter where in the world you are. You don't feel depressed. You don't feel suicidal. You certainly don't feel depressed, suicidal, and murderously rageful at the same time, not unless you're a comic book character with a big clown-smile on your chalk-white face. If you're not that guy, then what you do is you suppress whatever you feel with witty banter and clever comments, and hope to fit in. You get a friend, or a girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe a string of them, heck maybe a string of them at the same time, and you hope to fit in. You do what they--whoever they are--tell you to do, and you hope to fit in. But in the end, all this stuff isn't you, so you end up feeling, and probably acting, like a fucking moron, and you hate yourself more for it.
The tricky situation here is that it is often difficult to spot who is and who is not going through this, exactly because of the above situation described. I, for example, was peppy and outwardly positive enough that, on occasion, I had folks leaning on me for strength and direction, which, I should add, I was happy to attempt to give (it made me feel validated), but that I had absolutely zero capacity to provide in any way that was healthy for anyone in that situation, least of all me. Luckily I never figured out exactly how to press that reset button, or maybe I just never decided on the method in time, and thankfully, the keen eyes of an attuned, empathic, and self-aware human being got to me before I could do anything idiotic.
Meds have been an interesting kettle of fish. I stopped writing blogs mid-year, for a number of reasons, some creative and happy (more on that later), but the other was for time spent just needing to keep track of how things were progressing medically. After a near scare with lithium toxicity towards the end of the year ("So, my hands aren't supposed to be numb all the time, then?"), which incidentally, is nasty if and when it happens, things have leveled off to a good equilibrium. I'm still getting used to the ongoing periodic blood tests. You know, if I'm being honest, I always thought myself above the healthcare system, so this is perhaps a good ego check (you can't yoga or exercise your way through everything), and I can't but feel blessed and thankful, for so much. The weird thing, though, about all this is that, well, lithium toxicity is, as mentioned, nasty. In fact, with a large enough dose, lithium is fatal. My medication, it seems, that which facilitates my reemergence into the world with a greater sense of capability and self-command, is also a poison. It is chilling to me that that which would, in the past, have been a means to the reset button that I longed for, has become a different sort of liberator, one of the gift of healing, rather than harm; light, rather than darkness.
Well, enough about that. The past and present are moving further apart for me, and that is a blessing. The one thing that still plagues is what apparently are called "intrusive thoughts." Now, this makes it seem pretty harmless. Unfortunately, as always... For me it's been visions, uncontrollable, of violent and painful self-harm. That's about as far as I'll go in terms of detail, so don't worry. The challenge is that these thoughts can be triggered by anything. I'm making toast, I'm driving down a one-way street. Then all of a sudden, bang, one such thought-stream occurs. It's unpleasant, yeah, and, if driving, dangerous, but it is especially difficult when the imagery is so strong as to become debilitating. I tell you: not fun. If someone had told me this year I'd find myself doubled over on a daily basis, head in hands, unable to get up, practice, get any work done, because of incapacitating day-mares, I would have been very skeptical (I realize I'm paraphrasing here, for all you Mass Effect fans out there). Anyway, very interesting. It's basically taken months of what feels like Jedi-style mental practice to create effective firewalls, shields, and a capable arsenal of tools and counter-images to allow me to basically just get up in the mornings and get shit done. But, the shit, as it's said, is getting done, so, and you'll hear me say this a bunch: I am thankful.
So, if you see me twitch randomly in the middle of a conversation, now you'll know why :)
Now, for those of you still here lol, onto the fun stuff.
This year had seen something of a boom, creatively speaking. It makes sense. I haven't been spending all my time trying to keep rogue emotions and thoughts in check. It stands to reason it would allow for more time to be spent, I don't know, actually doing my job. Yay, doing my job. Anyway, so the major thing of awesomeness was the development of AFO (the Adam Farouk Orchestra, if we must). Those who were around last year will remember its re-debut after a few years of dormancy, with a roster comprised of some fantastic local musicians: Tim Reppert, Jeff Berlin, Raleigh Green, and Kelly Riley. This year, I reconceptualized a little but to emphasize guitars and voices, and moved to an ensemble that I haven't really seen much of around (no idea why, it's an awesome combo!), of three guitars, one bass, all musicians being vocalists, and no drums (which incidentally, is more of a challenge than I had anticipated, especially with rhythmically demanding music, and while everyone is singing in counterpoint, yeah seriously, wtf is wrong with me?!)
But, as mentioned, this is a super fun concept, that warrants some developing, so we'll likely be building on this in the coming year. I'm tempted to add keyboards and drums, just because I love the big sound, but there's a lovely purity about this setup; we'll see. We were fortunate enough to be able to video and record our last rehearsal of 2014 (December 6th), and so far initial soundbites sound great, and we're looking forward to checking out footage next. Keep an eye out for clips of this on youtube (and elsewhere) sometime this year!
The AFO 2014 roster included at various points: Elizabeth Lorrey, Tom Appleman, Nate Leavitt, Tim Reppert, and Raleigh Green. Live-jam credits: Tim Reppert (sound); Chris DeSanty, Seth Wood (video), Elizabeth Geuss, Andrew Goldin (production), The Inner Space, Brookline MA (location).
Finally, last but not least, I got back into the writing chair big time this past year. Really, it was like I caught a fever, and the only cure was more cow-bell. Except I couldn't find a cow-bell, so I started writing, and that worked pretty good. The first half of the year was spent redelving (#mymadeupword.com) into Heart, Music, Rhythm, Soul, specifically, repurposing it as a series, fleshing out the characters, and finding a new sense of purpose in a story that's been near to my heart for over a decade, since the original States of Matter went into production for the very first time, all those years ago. Look out for more news on this project next year (2015). But the biggest news has to be the genesis of an entirely new project line. It's spanking new, so there's not that much to share, and in any case I'll be sparing, given just how mutable details tend to be at this stage of the game. What I do know is that it will be a Faerworld story (i.e. fantasy); its working title is Daughters of Time; and it will follow the adventures of a team of four super-powered heroes, as they journey down that treacherous path that is self-discovery, while fighting against incalculable odds to stop unstoppable foes from destroying the world. I'm looking forward to this one. My Joss Whedon-roots are showing here as well lol. I've been feeling moved to do a story with a strong all-female team for a while, and I am definitely buoyed up, even at this early stage, by working on this project. Definitely keep a look out for news on this one! And if you don't see or hear anything, feel free to bug me :)
So. We made it. This has been a year to survive, but also a year in which to thrive, and to celebrate, whether in joy or defiance; but either way, to stand up, or leap in the air, or simply raise your arms, and declare, I am the light. No darkness shall stand in my way. I will shine all that I am, across the universe, over and throughout this world where I dwell, and I will be me, and I will be heard, and together we will sing the song of victory. Happy 2015.
Thanks for sticking with me. Travel safe, and talk soon.
Darned if I know. Perhaps I am simply too dumb to quit.
A few years ago, I came up with a vision to create an independent creative arts company. Sounds impressive? Hardly. Back then, all I had was a name for a company; as for what it did, I had no idea. In fact, even today I still struggle with exactly what to call BlueDorian, because I’m still not exactly sure what it is, or more appropriately, where its edge lies. What today is BlueDorian Media Entertainment was for a long time the record label BlueDorian Music, and before that, BlueDorian Productions, the producer of live concert events. Things keep shifting, alighting for a brief moment, then taking flight again. And for some reason that I cannot rationalize, I listen to those muses: I follow the sun.
Well, perhaps there is a fear-trigger in the air right now, because I am remembering, with painful clarity, how this is exactly the sort of behavior that I was admonished for for most of my young creative life: “Oh, Adam, you always over-think things!” “What’s wrong with you? You’re always shifting around!” I learned to resent my fluidity, and to feel as though there were something inherently wrong with my process.
In some ways as a result of all of this, I spent a good deal of time in my youth desperately trying to fit in, to belong to institutions, to be part of “it” clubs, believing that in order for me to survive, succeed, and—so I believed—find creative fulfillment, I would need their seal of approval, their commendation. My early attempts were mostly unsuccessful. But eventually I started to understand what I needed to do, what I needed to believe, to make it in the system.
I came across a number of different institutions. In all cases, what they asked of me was that I buy into their method, their tried and true approach, forsaking my own. In a general sense they all seemed to imply that to succeed I needed to boxcar myself, to compartmentalize, that I was to consider myself: “musician;” or perhaps, “composer;” or, at a stretch, “recording artist,” but whatever I was classed as, there was no switching, leaving the boxcar, and I should always know my place. If I absolutely must, I could write lyrics and call myself a “singer-songwriter,” but really, it’s preferable to leave that job to the “real” lyricists. And don’t write stories, that’s for people called playwrights and novelists, bookwriters, and screenwriters. And don’t even think about anything further than that. Yeah, all those video games and comic book concepts that you have swimming around your noggin? Forget those. Know your limits. Know your place.
And so I bought into that way of thinking, hoping it would get me in with the cool kids. And funnily enough, eventually, this behavior was validated. I put myself in a box for enough time, and was finally rewarded for it. And the system, having finally accepted me, took me to swirling heights of achievement. It was a thrilling, swashbuckling—if brief—tale of excitement and rockstardom that padded my ego and wrecked havoc on my mental and physical wellbeing. I was able to wake up, fortunately, before things got too out of hand.
Which brings me back to BlueDorian. Being capable of choosing the full expression of my Creative Self—weird, nerdy, epic, cross-platform, out-of-the-box, take your pick—over the expedience of what is expected of me has required that I become aware not so much of my limits or my place, but of my experience. And in each moment, my experience is that both my limits and my place are extremely mutable. They shift constantly. Every time I think I know the scope of what I can do, it changes. Sometimes it increases, sometimes it decreases. I never know where it is I am, other than right here.
So how am I supposed to know my place, at least in the way dictated by those institutions and their criteria? Know my limits? Sorry, I can’t. Not anymore. Or perhaps I lack to capacity to. So then I think to myself, heck, maybe that’s the reason I don’t quit. No, not because I’m so courageous, so visionary, so belief-filled, but because I’m just too oblivious to do otherwise. What is it? What is it that keeps me going? Foolhardiness? Persistence? I’m reminded of the comic book character Hal Jordan (a.k.a. Green Lantern), who in one particular story is asked: Why don’t you ever give up?
To which he replies, with characteristic defiance: I don’t know how!
Yes, it would be glamorous to adopt that as my own raison de faire. But that too would be a lie. I’ll be honest with you. I know how to give up. There are many days I want to give up. I want to give up right now. I’m tired as hell and my allergies are acting up and it’s one of those days when the meds aren’t really taking hold. I see so many obstacles, so many reasons I can think of not to carry on. Add to that many people I see around me, who themselves seem to believe as fact all the fears I do my best to face and work through every day: that there are no true empowered people—that the only way to succeed is to ally yourself with someone who has a “position of power,” hang onto their coat-tails and hope that they bestow some of that “power” upon you; that independents are destined for struggle or failure because the system will always beat you down; that, sure, people start off with emboldened vision, but always end up cynical cogs in the machine of acquisition.
So much of this way of thinking still exists, both in me and out there, and yet, still, I am here, be it for stupidity or stubbornness, for some reason convinced that there is some other way, some other means for me to create what I envision, some other path through which I can manifest the beautiful world I see in my heart’s eye, some other method via which I may succeed on my own terms.
Why? Nothing outside confirms this. Nothing outside ever has. In fact, all the validation I have ever gotten from the outside world has come when I have chosen expedience over alignment, myth and image over truth.
So what the heck do I do?
I’ll tell you. I keep going. Somehow. Day by day. Moment by moment. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
There she lies a-waitin'...
I found myself in a pickle, having written a poem, posted it as a blog, only to start having this negative script running through my head. Piece of shit, it says, you piece of shit. That kind of thing. Where does it come from? Now, on one level, I have had some issues with my medication lately, but that’s another story. I’m actually finding myself rapid-cycling in this moment, but in a relatively minor way, so I’m going to see if I can hold together enough lucidity to put some thoughts on paper. As some point I will get back to talking about music and creative projects, but while here--in the guts of figuring out how to deal with this bipolarism--let’s see if I can recount some experiences, for, who knows, perhaps in some way it might be helpful to somebody.
Okay, let’s do this and try to stay calm and not break things. This post might be a little manic, literally.
Think. Where does it come from? Yes, there is experience from the past that says something like: when you do your best to express yourself, people take advantage of that, make fun of you, and hurt you, emotionally and physically. This took place throughout my young life. So the self-berating is a maladaptive self-defense mechanism. The idea being if this self-berating voice speaks loud enough, then it will snuff out self-expression, and in that there will be safety from the dangers of being hurt.
But this is the past. I step away from the past, I forgive it, and I move into the present.
But perhaps, I suppose, there is this fear: that the past exists still, today.
A fear body that feels that I might still say something embarrassing. No, that’s not right. More that I will say something, whether embarrassing or not, that will be used as a weapon against me, and that I will be harmed by that.
Something like that.
First, a realization: I have taken responsibility for other people’s actions, you see. I have said unto myself, and internalized, that the reason the people in the past were cruel was not because they made a choice to be a certain way, was not because perhaps they had low self-esteem and made choices reflecting a feeling of inadequacy, but instead I took responsibility, saying that, it must have been something I said, that was terribly offensive, that was terribly inappropriate, why else would someone act so cruelly?
On the subject of saying dumb things: I cannot say that my record is flawless. I have said some idiotic, ignorant, mean, and even (alas) bigoted things, and also some manipulative things just to get my way, in the past. But what I am considering here is those moments where I express myself honestly, from the heart, and then I fault myself and berate myself and say truly harmful and destructive and traumatic things to myself immediately after, for the shame I feel. Is it shame? Or perhaps embarrassment, or more so: fear. I feel embarrassed because I am scared I may have said something that someone might in some way use against me, or that someone might laugh on the inside about.
I am doing my best to be as coherent as I can.
What I believe I am looking at is a paradox. It states: "I fear others using my words to hurt me, and so I want to be sure that anything and everything I say will never, in any way, from now to eternity, offend, upset, discomfort, or in any other way adversely affect anyone, and moreover, that no one will find anything I say anything other than positive, constructive, pleasant, etc."
The paradox really ought to have a name. Perhaps the Perfection Paradox? Because it extends not only to words and speech, but to behavior and general being-ness as well.
Now, it is one thing to want to have one’s speech be impeccable. For me this is a worthwhile goal: to ensure that my words are honest, that I mean what I say, and that I choose my words carefully and do the best I can to have them have a positive and constructive effect on whomever hears or reads them. Sounds good. Why not? It’s a commitment, the idea being to create a habit. There’s no perfection involved and thus the goals are quite achievable. If you want to try and speak well, then by all means, do it. If you’re having fun, keep doing it. Quite simple.
But what I am describing is different. By placing an imperative not to allow others to find anything I say discomforting, offensive, etc., this creates the impossible situation. Honesty, for example, is sometimes discomforting. Sometimes simply being oneself offends others. People are offended by things not because of rational processes, but because of emotional, and often knee-jerk, biases. Anti-muslim, anti-west, anti-gay, anti-semite, none of these are rational. So, sure, I can do what I can to make my speech impeccable, because it interests me to do so, but requiring myself to make my speech perfect, so that nothing I say would ever cause anyone to be offended or discomforted or want to use these words against me, is where the problems creep in.
And, besides, the whole thing is incredibly counterproductive. Because I can hear them now, the repeating negative mantras I hear when I violate this ridiculous requirement. You are a piece of shit Adam... you deserve to die... These are the sorts of things that run through my head if I find myself in such a place, sometimes all because, for example, I wrote the words “Best regards” in my email, as opposed to “Very best”. Oh, you stupid piece of shit! What the fuck was that?! Who the fuck ever says “Best regards”!!! You piece of shit! Someone will use this against you! They’re going to judge and mock you! You just wait! You should just kill yourself! You can’t do anything right!
So, as we can see, counterproductive. What I recounted is a true experience, no joke, and probably an extreme version of what I imagine many others experience, in a more mild state, all the time. Our shared suffering may be part of our shared humanity: this sense of shame at saying what we mean; the second guessing it endlessly along the perfection paradox; the fear of reprisal for our honest expression. There is something fundamental about this, and herein lies an area that, at least for me, within myself, I not only intend to alter, but believe I have the power to, despite the fear I feel even right now.
Perhaps one key is to establish and/or clarify, internally, a sense of something I’ve mentioned before: meaning what we are. This is sort of my chief goal in my life right now: to mean what I am. I know I have not attained this. Perhaps it is a lifetimes-long journey. But what I find I can do is commit to it, which is what I have done. I have committed to meaning what I am and meaning what I say. This doesn’t mean that I am constantly vigilant; I have days when I am tired and things will slip out that I didn’t exactly intend, and I have to correct myself, and it’s not a big deal, it happens. Currently for me, there are worse days, when my medication gives out, and I am in the deep vortex of rapid-cycling, and truly truly hurtful things come out. Yes, sometimes it’s stuff that needed to be said, maybe, but rarely if ever in the way it comes out. Anyone who thinks my wife is a softy hasn’t a fucking clue what they’re talking about.
So anyway, again, perfection must go. We all know this. But back to this specific instance. The intention: to mean who I am, and, specifically in this case, what I say. When this is applied, one key component of the perfection paradox, and more importantly, its negative-script aftermath, is significantly reduced if not eliminated: second guessing. I find, if I can somehow remember and say to myself, Hey, it’s all good, you said what you felt honestly, you expressed yourself and meant what you said, then I can rest a little easier knowing that even if what I said was completely asinine, at least it was authentically so.
But really how is this comforting? So great, I’m an authentic moron and everyone knows it. But here’s the catch, and perhaps why I’m writing this at this time. Trust and compassion. These are words I hear a lot and sometimes I love them and sometimes they piss me off. Right now, it’s a bit of both. Because, wtf, once again all you have to do is throw trust and compassion and you’ll “be fine”. Sometimes it starts to feel a little like chicken and cheese and a Rachael Ray cooking show... sure, you know that delicious meal; it’s only thirty minutes away, but really, a cheesy chicken dish again?
But go with me here. I’m not saying this is right for everyone. Heck, I’m not even saying this is correct at all. But I’m just wondering. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for. Somehow to find a way to be okay with what I say, to be alright with who I am. To alter not only my chemistry, but perhaps even genetics, so that the harmonic underpinning of my soul going through the universe goes from blame and shame to trust and compassion. So perhaps it’s not about just throwing trust and compassion at it. It wouldn’t make sense. I’m not merely looking to use trust and compassion; I’m looking to Be trust and compassion.
But it’s that acceptance, that being alright with yourself, with what you mean to be and say, that first, tiny step along the road of compassion, that eliminates what to me is the biggest component of what makes the perfection paradox so pernicious: the fear element. The fear that someone will judge. The fear that someone will mock you. That someone will hurt you with something you said. If I am truly, honestly, okay with who I am, you cannot mock me. Judgment is irrelevant, as I do not grant you or anyone else such authority. You cannot use my words against me. And not because of any status I possess or extrinstic quality, but because I am alright, truly, with who I am, within. You can call me a stupid fuckwad. You can call me hopeless. You can call me a brown-boy piece of cowshit. I am okay with who I am.
One small step. Dare I take it. I so want to. And I have, many times. But other times, the fear shows up. But I cannot and do not give up... what’s the word? Hope? I don’t do hope much. I prefer action. Faith, then. Perhaps. If I keep going, if I can just find a way to be okay with the fact that I wrote a poem, or a story, or a song, the way I felt it in my heart, whether or not anyone likes it or even cares, or that I chose to write “Hi David” instead of “Hey Dave” in an email to a friend, if I can start to be okay with even that tiny part of me, then maybe I can change my heading by one tenth of a degree. Away from judgment, fear, shame, and towards love, compassion, and trust. And maybe that’s the tenth of a degree that will make all the difference in the world. I don’t know. But I know it’s worth trying.
Thank you for joining me on this.
I release the past, forgive it, and myself, and take steps to creating a more beautiful future...
by Adam Farouk
a plea to all demons, within and without...
open to your heart and see the light being within you
find a way to resolve your inner turmoil other than inflicting it on others
find a way to deal with your fears rather than acting them out
step away if you must and allow things to unfold
rather than pushing your agenda time and again
we are all in this together
we are all healing
be one with this process
surrender to it
your ego versus the will of the universe
there is only one way
and you are part of it
not against it
the power of the universe lies within your fingertips
if you possess the will to let go of your need to control
your feelings, the will of others, the flow of resources
let yourself swell in the fullness of the light
and free yourself from the prison you have created for yourself
where good is only when the world obeys your command
love yourself instead
be willing to see yourself as both loveable and loved
then may you start to explore the wonders of existence.
then will the magic of the universe open up to you.
i challenge you.
come, join us. be part of what is now.
at a glance
Adam Farouk (born April 6, 1978) is a Malaysian musician, producer, writer, and entrepreneur, currently based in the United States. He is known for his integrative approach to the creative arts, and frequently infuses his works with unlikely combinations of style, influence, and genre.
Learn more about Adam's other creative projects at bluedorian.com!
adamfaroukblog.com © 2018-2022 Adam Ismail Farouk / BlueDorian® Media Entertainment. BYIP Creative Media. All Rights Reserved.