“Omg.. unbelievable waste of time! & such (Amherst) arrogance … no matter what label is used, it’s one of your most beautiful photos of beautiful Maria. A rose by any other name…..glad you’re a happy ass😘.” – Veronica G.
“We live in a world saturated with false glamour. In truth, the problem lies not with glamour itself but with the things we have collectively agreed to regard as glamorous. Progress wouldn’t be found in eradicating the whole idea of glamour from our lives.” – Johannes Vermeer.
Thanks, Veronica; you are much more intelligent and wiser than I am. And you are right.
I apologize to my readers for getting sucked into the great label and cultural wars that are plaguing our country. Even the best colleges do it.
We are a sick nation now; we are struggling for some psychological vaccination in a society that no longer trusts doctors, scientists, politicians, journalists, doctors, or vaccinations. We only trust people who are peddling hatred, fear, greed, and division. Even art gets sucked into the rudeness and cruelty and plain old bad manners sweeping the country.
But flaps like this are about nothing and mean nothing. They are a waste of everybody’s time. They please no one and make no one happy.
(Note: The above photo of Maria is not a portrait or a still life. It’s a photograph. Enough said.)
Veronica G., the author of that beautiful post above, woke me up this morning. She realized what I momentarily forgot: it doesn’t matter what label one puts on a photograph (sorry, professor). It matters if I took a good photo, and it matters that I am happy a happy ass (one of the Amherst culture warriors said I was an ass.This is an insult to donkeys).
This morning, Maria and I were still discussing how art has changed and its traditional labels and definitions. Art is quite debatable and always has been.
Maria and I have many good discussions like that, and she has taught me a lot about art as I begin creating some. My Amherst friends say what Maria says doesn’t matter because she only has a master’s degree, not a PhD. Maria has produced more good art in a month than I imagine Amherst College has in years).
Therefore, I was sold; her opinions don’t count, and she needs to be more educated. If you want to talk with me about art, it would be wiser to be less arrogant and elitist than to say something other than this to me. I now realize I learn more from a breakfast chat with Maria than I would guess in a decade studying art at Amherst College. Maria loves it when I think about something rather than rush ahead and do it.
It matters that I took a beautiful picture of beautiful Maria. Thanks, Veronica; I sometimes feel like an alcoholic who takes one or two drinks and justifies it as okay.
This is why I will never be a saint. But I can do better. I am better and will do more to be better. But I see that this work is never done.
I like the photo above; it’s also of Maria, but it captures (hopefully) the feeling of our living room on a suddenly bitter cold day. It isn’t a still life or a portrait but a picture. That’s good enough, although I’m sure someone will find some reason to question it.
Noah, yet another of my many amateur shrinks on social media, wrote me and said I was a narcissist who hates to be criticized or disagreed with. This could be true, although I’m afraid I have to disagree. I am challenged loudly and publicly every day. It’s not on my list of serious problems.
I learn something from everything. I trust Maria and my shrink more than Noah; she is trained and experienced in basket cases like me. And Maria knows me, unlike the untrained shrinks of social media. She likes where I am going these days, and so do I. Maria thinks I’m getting to a good place, and Maria never lies or says what people want to hear.
Amateur diagnoses for people and animals are increasingly common on social media, and I should be flattered that I am considered important enough to be diagnosed by people who know absolutely nothing about me and who are wrong just about every time. I find this strange. They should be kicked offline; I imagine they do a lot of harm to people who don’t know what actual therapy is about. I bet they kill a lot of dogs and other animals.
I can’t imagine sending my Ph.D. art professor or her devoted students the kinds of messages they send me.
My grandmother told me to mind my business, and her advice stuck. But she never got to tell the rest of the world to mind theirs.
Veronica’s message (which my grandmother might have sent if she spoke English) stuck in my consciousness. I thought about it when I woke up this morning.
I’m in a strange position here.
I never write intrusive, unsolicited, or nasty messages to people I don’t know or even those I know. And I don’t care whether everyone in our vast universe likes me or what I do. I’m sharing my life, not running for public office. Thank God I’m free of the need for other people’s approval.
I’ll never quite understand why people feast on other people’s life and work like digital vampires, but I’m not taking the bait much any more. This is a good sign. My therapist and I will continue to work on this. I’m really very close.
Noah says I’m narcissistic. It might be accurate, but Noah doesn’t know what he is talking about. I am better than that and worse than that sometimes; that’s the thing about analyzing someone else’s consciousness. You do have to think about it.
I know only two people who know me well enough to diagnose me – Maria and my long-time therapist, Peggy. Both of them approve of me, especially these days; my big ego is swelling again. I’m taking lovely photos and writing some nice things on my blog. I don’t know about narcissism, but I do have a big ego. You can only write as many books as I have with one. And with perspective, it’s a good thing to have, not bad.
After all of my progress ignoring or backing away from the conflicts raging outside my world, I slipped into one of those social media traps this week: needlessly defending myself from arrogant and rude strangers, stepping into the fray, defending myself as I have always had to do, but also wasting time and energy in the process. I spent most of my early life defending myself; it’s a tough habit to break. But I am very close to doing it. The still-life bullshit was a step back; I got suckered. Back to work.
I moved up here to the country to be free. I gave up book writing to be free. I got divorced to be free. I gave away all my money because I was stupid, but it did also help me to be free.
I am happy, and happiness is not possible without freedom. I fled upstate to escape people telling me what to write and think. I came here to be satisfied and find nature, quiet, and love, and I now have all those things. Maybe narcissism pays off.
For me, happiness is all about freedom. If I am free, I can be happy with the snap of my figures. Enslaved people can never be satisfied, and right now, many of us, including me, have fallen into the slavery of trying to defend ourselves in a sometimes hostile world filled with anger and selfishness.
Does it matter if something is called a still life or a portrait? Does it matter when mannerless strangers – even those with a Ph.D.- assume they can intrude in my life and judge me for my feelings or thoughts? It this worth a minute of my time or anyone else’s?
Honestly, I don’t care about labels. I refuse to label myself red or blue or progressive or conservative. Labels are a kind of slavery; I don’t know anyone who lives in labels who is happy. I like to toss ideas around in my head and see what survives. The Ph.D. professor who started all this foolishness says her opinions are not debatable. They are facts, not opinions.
I don’t want to be a student there or anywhere else; there is no chance of that anyway. My ideas are feelings and opinions; I don’t believe I have a lock on truth or “facts” or delusions about my wisdom.
If I were a slave to liberalism or conservatism, that means I am no longer free to think freely; it is a kind of slavery to be caught in the threads of someone else’s beliefs. To be happy, I need to be free of thought, even from my assumptions, conceptions, and ideas. It’s okay to change. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to think.
Sometimes, I must let go of my ideas, even when abandoning them isn’t simple or easy. One idea I must shed is the need to defend myself from people telling me what to say, write, and think. I’ll never give in to that. They’ll never stop trying—it’s time for radical acceptance.
Veronica G is a longtime reader of the blog and someone whose views and challenges I respect and pay attention to. She has the gift of saying essential things clearly. Her direct message got me back on track.
She is so right about the foolish flap I fell into and joined the other day when a college professor criticized me for questioning whether a photo I took was a portrait or a still life. I was told it was not debatable. Silly me, I took it seriously and answered her, explaining myself or trying.
She fled. She probably did have better things to do. I sure did.