Cover to Cover of You

*This was originally a little paper I wrote for class, but I put a little twist on it. Hope you enjoy!

After hearing Sandra Kroupa’s talk with my class, where she said she “never defines the word ‘book,’ I am beginning to rethink how I myself define a book. Kroupa further opened the possibilities by introducing artist books, which completely reshaped the way a “book” is thought of and used. Artist books go beyond the paper and ink of our standard books and re-purpose them to be just as much a part of the story as the text itself. The physical object, then, has just as much to say in the story and actually adds to it. Artist books incorporate the reader, involving them in the unfolding and telling of the tale. I wanted to take this idea even further and create my own definition of what a book is: A book is a vessel for a story.

A book is something that carries the story. Most of us would think of bound paper as the vessel and a collection of words, usually unified and ordered somehow, as the story. But to think this way is very limiting. Vessels are all around us and can be anything. In the same way, stories make up everything and have many forms beyond just writing. Spoken stories flutter from the mouth of someone, unbound, and if impactful enough will make their home in the hearts of whoever listened; a story without a vessel. This approach to defining a book asks you to open your mind to finding tales in odd places, to creatively thinking about the world, and experiencing the power and beauty of stories in a new light. Once you embrace this you will begin to see “books” and “stories” all around you. 

Furthermore, this drastically broadens what can be considered a book. The artist books make things like a pack of cigarettes, a blouse, a board game and so on, all vessels that add to, and play a role in sharing the story. It is imperative that whatever the vessel is, it accepts that it contains a story and becomes part of it or else it does not work as a book. Even the books made of paper and ink do this. The cover usually has a picture, a title, excerpts, and quotes all of which point to the book embracing that it contains a story. 

You might be saying well then, by your definition everything is a book. In some ways I am. However, I am not saying that all these things that can be defined as a book, a vessel for a story, should be read as a book. My definition defines it as a vessel for a story, not a vessel with a story. You see, there needs to be some intentionality behind the vessel, a main purpose to serve the story. I believe that every vessel can have a story, for example a coffee mug with some writing on the front and a chip out of the top lip… is it a book? Well if the definition was a vessel with a story then yes. That chip, the writing across the front, the coloring and stains all point towards a story if you’re willing to let yourself be creative. However, is it a vessel for a story? Well, no. The primary purpose of a coffee mug is for drinking coffee and not telling stories. 

This definition of a book is quite radical. It is asking a lot of a person to think of books in this way. But I truly believe that wrestling with this idea will be interesting and expose you to a much more vivid and interesting world. Stories make up so much of what it means to be human. That’s why my favorite books are people, and the stories of their lives. We are all, as human beings, a vessel with a story. Things like fear and control keep us stuck trying to cross out old parts of our story, or trying to write ahead, go our own way and deny who we’re meant to be. Deep in our souls we feel our identity that has been divinely placed there, giving us purpose. We feel the burning of our story etched in our heart giving us passion for what we were created to do. The people who choose to serve their story, to embrace it, and be a vessel for their story begin to relinquish control of the pen and live in the current unfolding of their beautiful and intriguing life. Truly leaning into our stories has the power to inspire, connecting us to others while highlighting how unique we are. The true gift of embracing our story, however, is the freedom that comes from giving up the burden of control, and the love that is revealed for us in each and every moment from the Writer who is so, so good.

Re-imagining Creativity

We need more creativity in the world. I believe that creativity is dying in a lot of ways. More and more often people are extinguishing the fires in their heart, the burning ideas and passions for life that they have, because society, religion, and family all tell them that it isn’t sustainable. They tell them that they need to make money, they need to be safe, they need to be wise, they need to be educated, they need success and I will admit that sometimes the motives behind these claims are armed with the best intentions for the individual. However, I think that pursing the creative passion that is in everyone is so valuable not only to one’s own self, but to the world. The actual definition of creativity is “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” I think this is great, but the way I see creativity is as an outlet, a mode, to put forth your passions. It is a way to express your passions, who you are, for the world.

Creative works take on many forms, and I have often asked myself what the best way to express an idea is. For me, I have considered video games, drawings, paintings, pictures, film, animations, poetry, prose, and short stories among the many options. What I have found is that through each form I have learned more about this idea in my heart, and through creative experimentation I have found out more about myself and others. I have seen people express this same idea in a different form and felt the powerful connection of two people with the same burnings to understand something in their heart. It is through pursuing creativity of your passions that you begin to see the connection you have with so many others. When people find the perfect creative template to a raging passion it provides a universal message to people. It is real, personal, and vulnerable. We need more of this in the world. It helps us to remember we aren’t alone, but on the same token we are our own unique self.

I know what some of you might be saying, I don’t really have a creative side or art isn’t really my thing. I would beg to differ though. Everyone has creativity in them, and they express it differently. Creativity can be a mindset. Creativity looks like being a problem solver, taking risks and looking at things differently, and being okay with being different. There are limitless forms to creativity and you can implement that mindset right now, where you are. In work, with your family and friends, and in your personal life. However, I would urge you to really listen to your heart for the embers you still have flickering in there that are waiting to be kindled. I urge you to listen, and then act, all while applying a creative mindset to that passion that, with some nurturing and attention, will be erupting into powerful and life changing differences in your life. I believe that you can be very successful and happy in life when you fuel your passion with creative power. We need to continue to invest in creativity, to spend time pursing it in our own hearts, and help to encourage and facilitate it in others.

One Awfully Good Day

So, today was one of the more stressful days in my life. Today challenged me in new ways. It was one awfully good day in fact.  A cold that I thought I had finished fighting off the last 3 weeks decided it wanted to go into the 12th round with me AND has come back with a second wind and vengeance. But I’ve beaten it once before! Partly because I’m trying to cough up my insides, and partly because I am lacking on sleep, I obviously didn’t want to leave my bed, and I definitely didn’t want to see people. However, can’t do that because I had a project in school that I had to be there for. Despite feeling tired and sick, I still found a way to get up. It took everything for me to roll out of bed, leaving me with no time for breakfast and an uncomfortably quick walk to the tube. I started my day with some exercise. For those of you who don’t know, the tube is an underground railway system in London, which is exactly what it sounds like; a tube crammed full of sweaty people all trying to get somewhere. Now, early in the mornings the tube can be crowded. I knew that, BUT I did not expect it to be this crowded. People were so smushed together that we practically all became family or looked like we were trying to start one. I met a lot of new people in one day and we all got to know each other pretty well. At one point I was in the middle of a crowd with no rail to hold on to and I was just bouncing along with everyone like I was in a mosh pit at a concert. Multiple bags, briefcases and purses slapped against my butt from unknown sources and when I finally bobbed my way out of the middle, I found myself in a worse position; my face pressed against the glass window looking like a fool. It was an interesting ride full of lots of experiences that I’ll remember for a while. This was just one tube of 6 that I would ride on this awfully good day. All day it felt like I never left the tube; crammed next to people in a huge city with no space to think or breathe. Even though it felt a little crowded at times, I got to meet a lot of different people exploring London as well. I felt hot and irritable all day. I still wasn’t feeling the best but that wasn’t stopping me. The project that I had to be there for went terribly well, and for my other class we were in a museum, which was essentially just a stationary tube with prettier sights. However, that’s when things peaked for my day as in the middle of class I felt my gut turn over inside me, as if kindly letting me know that it was giving me about 5 minutes before it ejected everything from my stomach. Sticky heat was clung to me. I felt pasty and desperate and knew I had to get out of there. I tried my best to play it cool and let a classmate know I wasn’t feeling well, and as soon as I did, I took off. Sprinting passed confused museum-goers and horrified faces as I held my hand over my mouth forcing myself to keep everything inside. I burst into the bathroom and practically dove into a stall and let it rip. There I sat for a moment, listening to my stomach to see if there was more, and reflecting on my life and how I got there. In my rush I left the stall door open so that other men could see me clung to the toilet looking exasperated and defeated. I got sick and threw up, but the good news is I made it to a toilet and felt a little better afterwards. It could have been a lot worse! Finally, I left there, and the day ended slightly better and how most nights end; with my favorite house guest, Procrastination, leaving and Reality coming back to remind that despite how tired and sick I am, and how awfully good of a day I had, there’s a lot to do. Today was assurance that perspective matters.

Different Perspectives on Consuming London

1

When in London, I can’t help but overindulge, especially in Covent Garden. Before my eyes is a feast of colors, culture, and people. Yes, the people! I love the them the most. I’m fully entranced by the street performers putting on magic shows, executing magnificent acrobatic feats, or making music. I am absorbed by the swelling crowds of tourists who swarm around these performers with their camera phones pointed at the action. An ocean of swirling dialects and diverse colors crash around me like waves. Swimming through them, I am eventually channeled out into open space spotted with the more local folks who are on a mission in the city. They walk with purpose, with determination, with confidence. Lining benches and any free steps are groups of visitors from where I can only imagine to be every corner and crevice of the world. Some groups are shaking in the brisk air, unprepared for the chilly weather, while others gather at coffee shops for some liquid gold to warm them. The people provide the tone and their culture, the flavor, against the grey backdrop of London architecture. Brick roads meet stone buildings and blend effortlessly into a matching sky. There is the occasional splotch of color on a building, usually clay reds but sometimes vibrant blues or pinks. Crisp corners and defined outlines shape the structures, breaking form only by the supporting round pillars that reach up into arches. Flowers in crates like garnishes dot the paths and nature can be seen on doors framed with foliage. But another treasure lies in the heart of the square. It is in the apple market where past and present combine. The market seems to beat with intensity and throb with opportunity. The old style of the outdoor market has found its way inside in a space that produces a feeling of openness as well as crowdedness. It is here where all the smells and sounds seem to gather and present themselves like a main course to me. It is here that I smell fresh cookies mixed with Chanel perfumes and the odor of sleep deprived travelers. It is here where the calls of children and hollers of street performers blend over the low rumble of conversation. Every sound takes on vibrant colors that swirl around me, and every sight I can feel move through me. Each sense tingles inside, overwhelmed after being starved for so long. It is here, among these senses and the people that I feel at the heart of London and finally satisfy my cravings.

2

He often wonders, if it’s obvious that he is not from here. His look, his walk, what will give it away today? Hopefully, he believes, that one day the only foreign sign will be the reflected wonder that flickers in his eyes as he looks in awe at the city of London, trying to comprehend its novelty. The same glinted gaze that only he knows about when reading a book on a park bench in Brenton Cross. When quiet hangs in the open like fog, trapped between emerald green grass and the smoggy ash sky. Or the same senses that tingle through him when he finds himself just enjoying his walk down Oxford street. With no destination, no concerns, absorbing every detail, and feasting on everything the city has to offer. Walking through puffs of cigarette smoke, past pubs bursting with the clamor of conversation and clanks of business, and by the brightly lit signs of theaters, he begins to fade into the people. He acknowledges the beauty and bliss in all these moments. As time goes on the mundane actions of his old life like transportation, shopping, studying, working, all become lively and exciting adventures in his new environment. He begins to wander less. He starts to know his way and walk with a more determined step and confident gait past confused tourists and stride for stride with the locals. Finding his way to his usual coffee shop for a steaming cup of tea or his favorite pub for a cold beer and chips becomes routine. He keeps beat with the city. However, it is not above him to occasionally ride the tube to an uncharted destination and get off. Here, he explores with a naïve composition. He gets lost, resorting back to unsure movements, but along the way passes the fresh smells of restaurants undiscovered by him, extraordinary and breath-taking architecture, and he begins to become over-taken by the feeling, the spark and tingling of his senses, as if he is uncovering the city for the first time.

Re-tuned

 

How I got here, I do not know. Maybe somewhere deep down I knew I needed to be here. Among the aging objects, I glide through them like I’ve been here before. Maybe I have in some way. Thick in the air is a scent that feels so familiar, like what I imagine a soul left out to long in the heat would smell like, after it’s been beat by everyone with their matching, opinion-sized bats. An odor of under-appreciation and I can’t help but breathe it in. It’s comforting as I inhale, exhale until I find the source. It’s the old knobs I notice first. The way their faded white has turned to a worn gray from so many years of being subjected to other’s wills. Somehow as a whole it holds its dignity, fighting back awareness of the inevitability that it could always be vulnerable to the touch of others. The scarred wood paneling holds a slight optimistic glow despite being in the know. Two round speakers like imploring eyes prompt me to question. Why do we love to find the lies that social norms and shameful people tell us? More than that, why do we love to abide in them?  We have an ear tuned to the static of negativity in an always broadcasting world of so many beautiful tunes and lively music all beating to the stomp of possibility. We let our own melodies slip away in the black and white flickering anomalies, folds between space, the blank place where we are everything everyone else tells us we are. Here we sit on a table top, left to gather grime and rot based off the discernments of everything outside us. Looked upon by judging eyes, they staple a price tag to our head, and hope anyone but ourselves will consider the cost. How funny it is we still wear that tag. Why is it the small things that remind us how we can sing and hold the notes, like accumulating Os or more like zeros, to define our own number of digits? It’s the cast asides, the forgottens, with their piling dust and growing rust and their perfect brokenness that remind us who we are.

~

This is a poem I wrote after I stumbled upon a fascinating pawn shop in London. I got very lost and happened to find it hidden away in a side alley. Coming through the doors, the smell of dust was strong, and everything looked dim. It was a small shop and everything inside was very old and looked very much antique. But what blew me away was the beauty I saw in every item. Among the faded gray of tossed out things stood a bright yellow Lily sitting in a simple and clear tiny vase upon the counter. An old cube T.V with flimsy looking dials and a big glass hump for a screen sat off in the corner, tucked away on the bottom half of a shelf. But what stood out to me the most was an old radio sitting on a little table all to itself. A cool washed down mint green made up most off it along with medium roasted brown paneling. Two dusty gray speakers sat beside the middle tuner and a few faded white dials spotted the front. It was gorgeous! However, an old flimsy tag with a red scribble hung off the top and it was in that moment I felt the inspiration to write this poem. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the place or the radio. Like I said, how I got there was kind of mysterious, which I think made the moment even more special for me. This poem was meant to be a reminder that our value, our worth, and our beauty are as good or bad as we decide, not what others decide. I hope you found the poem fun to read and are encouraged to remember that you are amazing.

Thoughts on the Heart Part 2

 

I like to think of the heart as a fabric collage, delicate and messy when you get into it, but when you take a step back and view it as a whole, it’s perfect and beautiful. Each piece is unique and holds its own value. We share pieces of our heart to others, so they can stitch us in to theirs. We’re hurt when we can’t find ourselves in their work. We accept pieces of other’s hearts and add it to our own project, growing it slowly over time, some people’s material dominating the work of art. The collage is a reminder. Sometimes pleasant, and sometimes of things we want to forget. You rip at the thread and dig your nails into the stitching and leave a gapping hole. You find more material, but it never fits right. Sometimes you lock away your work because your disappointed with how your project has turned out. Disgusted in fact. You wanted it done and complete a long time ago so for now it will sit up on the highest shelf collecting dust. Maybe that’s you right now. An artist scrounging for more material, even if it’s cheap and dirty. Maybe you’ve given up looking. Maybe you’re discouraged because of all the great collages out there. Who knows how long it’ll be before you feel the needle and thread between your fingers again. One day maybe, you build up the courage and pull the collage down. The uneven stitching and faded colors a globe in your hands, but you keep working at it. You see someone else just starting their collage and cut out a big chunk of your material for them. You become more open to sharing what you have and accepting what others offer. You find strong, inspiring cloth in your faith, your family, your friends, the small things. You work day in and day out sharing and growing your collage, and fall in love with the process, not the end product. When you step back and look at your work, the uneven stitching and faded material are still there in the mix of new fabric. This time, however, it warms your heart. You look at the beautiful mess and see everyone that has impacted you, loved you, encouraged you, supported you. You reflect on the things that hurt you and are thankful. You can see where you were and how far you’ve come. Most importantly, you see the endless room for more: More material, more cloth, more fabric, more loss, more growth, more people, more love. You understand there will always be more to give and take. With a new-found courage and excitement, you get back to work on your project.

I like to think of the heart as a fabric collage, perfect and beautiful.

The Other Side of Silence

grayscale photo of tree and grass field

I wrote this essay this last year in college. It is my first attempt at a collage essay. For those of you who may not know, a collage essay is formed by bits and pieces of information in a poetic form that answer tough, deep questions. This prompt asked the question who I am and why I write. It is a daunting task trying to put into words who you are. I feel you can never really fully explain who you are. What makes you, you, is always changing and evolving. All the memories and experiences that shape you aren’t always the big events in your live. Sometimes, it is the small ones that impact us the most. In this essay I try to touch on the big things, and the little things.

 

The Other Side of Silence

 

Silence.

I’m afraid of letting people down.

I’m afraid being alone. That’s what I tell myself but I’m actually afraid of losing people.

The emptiness left in people by tragedy.

The depression hidden behind smiles.

The world became hollow and eerie.

The shell of a perfect world formed through youthful and innocent eyes started to crack and reveal all the evil and loss that were scratching at the surface. I found out that everybody, even the people I suspected the least, had horrible things happen to them or had done horrible things themselves.

Growing up.

“He wanted to see his son, but it scared him to think that Charlie would no longer be a boy but had become a man without a father in his life.” ̴ B. Harrison

I want to tell stories about that moment when you realize your parents are just people. They make mistakes too.

I want to tell stories about what it means to be a man.

I remember drinking beer, tattoos, facial hair, fighting, and sex.

What are we not talking about?

Heritage.

I am a white male. I have privileges that I don’t deserve and power I can’t control. I don’t know the extent of my power. I didn’t ask for this. I try to exercise caution with my responsibility.

My relationship to power tastes like cake, like free sweets.

Brothers. Three boys in one room. Depression and anxiety and sexual ambition are out of control. I am the oldest. I must lead and guide. Perfection is my aim; Academically, physically, and more discreetly, emotionally.

I remember sex made you cool.

Family reunions in San Antonio. The sun made my shoulders brown and the humidity made my dad and step mom upset. As kids, my brothers, cousins and I would all play games, swim, talk to distant relatives we didn’t remember, and eat. There was always so much food, and the food was huge. Everything was bigger in Texas. Spanish words mixed with guitar strums, laughter, checker pieces clicking on wood, and forks scraping plates. Everyone was always hungry for more, they just didn’t know what.

Tall fir trees enclosed my grandparents’ house in Littlerock, Washington. Inside their house dusty knick-knacks and family pictures were everywhere. I loved the old smell and how everything was worn-in. I loved the fireplace, the warmth. All along the driveway, the bushes had conquered junk cars my grandpa had scrapped for parts, and the shrubs had taken over the old trails that used to wind through the trunks of trees. A small creek trickled off to the side. I could always faintly hear birds chirping some where high up in the branches and I loved the sweet melody the wind played through the dancing trees. It was a quiet hum that let me know I was home.

Love.

My father wasn’t there but I still learned to love.

I’m afraid of becoming my father.

“A Father to the Fatherless” ̴ Psalm 68:5

My grandma showed me how around campfires in the middle of nowhere, and through jokes at all the wrong times.

My grandpa taught me how to love through greasy fingers working in his shop and playing catch until the mosquitoes became unbearable.

My cousins taught me down by the river in Texas. They showed me how to love through smiles with our toes in the water when the sun sank low and made the whole world orange.

My first girlfriend taught me how to love. She showed me a world I didn’t know existed outside of movies and novels. She also showed me how imperfect and messy it all is.

And when things fell apart with her my friends showed me how to love by getting me out of bed and taking me on adventures.

But my mom, she taught me the most. She showed me how to love simply by being there when no one else was. By caring and loving me when it seemed like no one else did.

It is a strong word if you choose to let it be. Hate is just another four-letter word like love. They only have value when we give them value, and I can’t help myself.

I fell into some bad habits and the wrong crowd for a part of my life. I developed my own silence. But I was rescued by Jesus.

This is me.

The Other Side.

There is value in listening. Whether you’re listening to a family member for the hundredth time, or a stranger for the first, the fact that you are listening and engaged with another person is important. It’s important for learning and growing.

I want to tell stories that change people’s perspective and way of thinking. I want them to know they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Above all else I want to tell stories that get people to find their voice and break their silence.

I remember how it used to be, and I envision how it could be.

My aesthetic is messy and complicated.

My aesthetic is voice.

The path is through listening and revealing our own unique and ugly stories.

The tragedies and loses bloom inside those that keep them in and slowly squeeze out their life and restrict their voice. So, the silence grows. I believe that things could be different.