Monthly Archives: February 2015

On being human amongst human

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A re-view of a journey there and back

16-17. February 2015

Last three days (from 13th till 15th February) have been really interesting for me and I am unsure how to describe their magic in words. I feel like I can only miserably fail in attempting to do so, but I will try anyway. Although I’m not a fan of cheesy motivational quotes, I will use one now, it’s from Bob Proctor and it’s actually a good one (and not too cheesy either):

“If you know what to do to reach your goal, it’s not a big enough goal.”

So, here’s to attempting the impossible…

On Friday, the 13th, on the way home from work, I mind-travelled back to the moment I learned about Zina Nicole Lahr as it would have been her 25th birthday that day and after reading her essay Contrast And Catalyst (Click to download pdf. It’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and as far as I know it has disappeared from internet ) for about tenth time I felt the same connection to her as I felt back then (The only difference was, that this time I had a conscious knowledge of who she was and I was desperately trying to figure out why do I feel connected to her and why she occasionally comes to haunt my day dreams with her fragile, aetheric, otherworldly beauty.)

I wanted to celebrate her birthday, but I didn’t know how. (Not long ago I met a girl who told me to fucking forget about Zina and to concentrate on the real life instead. In a way it felt like an insult, like if she didn’t understand that every thought we think is real and that a person can be dead and still be a catalyst, an agent that provokes changes and actions and we should not be judged if we somehow found ourselves attracted to such being. Because what if each life silently continues after it disappears from this world, where we can witness and measure it? It might go unnoticed, unobserved, unsung, but so what? It might as well be, that it is simply us who don’t pay enough attention to what goes around us, after all who knows? … )

In a painful moment of realization that I will never meet her, I sort of promised myself to remember her through creativity. Through manifestation of myself via any act of creating, whether it’s writing, drawing, photography, or a paper modelling. And it was shortly after all this happened that I found another beautiful American, Jennifer Pastiloff. Once again, my moth like personality felt attracted to her flame immediately. It too happened through her writing. But this time it wasn’t as much about what she has written, or how (although its beauty and power is undisputed and I loved everything she has written). It was the courage with which she has written it. The rawness of her essays. The willingness to look the pain in the eye and the humility which shone through her after she came victorious from what must have been exhaustively tiring staring contest. I just love female warriors. I decided I must meet her. And talk to her, like one human being to another. I wanted to see her, not visually, I wanted to witness the poetry of her being.

And soon she pulled a workshop in London and although the yoga bit and the seemingly feminine character of it all scared me, I booked it immediately. That was in November 2014.

~

“No agenda, no conspiracy, no manipulation. Just work, work, work. The Great Work. It is not a safe place. But it is the safest place that has left for us on Mirrodin.”

~ Shaan, Mirran refugee on The Quiet Furnace

~

During that time I created this blog, The Quiet Furnace. Finally, after years of trying to come up with the idea of the virtual world, where I could create and manifest myself, I got the name for my domain. A name I loved and that I felt describes my deepest beliefs. Once again I had a reason to write.

So I followed Jen and I began to wonder what it tells about me. It appeared that no one from my friends understood what I felt to her and I started to doubt myself in my silent, almost obsessive, observation of her activities. Although I always believed in trying to tell others about the way we see the world and sharing each other’s stories, it seemed that no one listens. But that is when we have to keep going and believing. When we lose the reason to go further. It is then when we discover the truth behind ourselves. And who we are. The motive behind what we do.

During Christmas I got lost. Totally lost. I suffered from insomnia and everything seemed dark. It was then when I felt like a Void Stalker (if I will ever form a band, it will be called The Void Stalkers). But I was reminded, that not all who wander are lost. So I accepted, that I am just a wanderer.

There were hundreds of quotes I read during January and early February, but they didn’t resonate as much as their creators intended to. I got fed up with them, with all the attempts to tell me to be happy. I, as everyone else, want to be happy. We deserve that, sure. But I don’t believe in some sort of switch that you just turn on and voilà, you’re happy. Although it was said in the workshop I attended and I am going to describe it later on, there’s one thing I would like to tell you right now, it is human and perfectly fine to feel sad for a while every day. Even every single day. It is the contrast between the happiness and sadness that moves us forward. It felt so refreshingly liberating to hear this. That the moment of sadness, each and every day is ok, because it fucking is.

~

“I was there when they asked him about the refugees. I have seen his hesitation and the pain the question have caused him. But what he said after three days of thinking about it, didn’t surprise me at all. I believe he already knew his fate and that even if he decided the opposite, it would make no difference. It was then when I witnessed his truest leadership and majesty.”

~ Hezrig, The Furnace Chief Designer on Urabrask’s Decree

~

The day of the workshop finally arrived. Since I am an anti-Valentine and I hate the stereotype that is associated with February the 14th, it felt wonderful to be able to do something random and unrelated on this day. I left Nottingham at 8:50 and the journey to London was nice and peaceful. The event page on Facebook started to fill up with comments from those who were attending and I felt I am becoming a part of the tribe. This might be slightly against me, but I have to confess that I always adored the tribes led by females. Even in Magic The Gathering (the card game I love playing), the only male character I was really able to connect with was Urabrask. It was always the angels and elvish female warriors I felt strongest about. Is that wrong? Well, judge me if you want, I don’t feel bad about it. It seems that when a woman decides to stand up against something with a weapon in her hand, it is a not because she wants to conquer, or enslave, but it is because she wants to protect and preserve. That’s the only fight I believe in. Men and weapons, that’s completely different story if you ask me… And that’s why I love Urabrask, despite his monstrous appearance and terrifying, deadly power he is not an ultimate killing machine. His true task is not to fight and kill, but to work, work, work. Tirelessly and efficiently. I can connect with that.

I arrived to London at 12 o’clock and I managed to find the studio where the workshop was to be held at shortly after 1pm. I decided to spend the time until it starts in a near pub, Hammersmith Ram. Sitting in the comfy leather chair, drinking local ale, I began to feel really alive and on a journey. I forgot how good does that feel! To go out of the door and into the unknown.

This started to feel like a journal entry, rather then an essay (but I am not going to apologize for that dear reader), which is what I was going to write, but I hope you will enjoy it nevertheless. It’s pretty simple story and you might find it boring, but maybe, maybe when you look deep into your own soul you will, same as I did, decide to go somewhere, meet someone and let the life lead you out of your comfort zone. Because it seems, that that’s where the best things are happening.

When I heard Jennifer’s voice walking upstairs into the studio, I had a moment of hesitation. I didn’t want to turn back, but it was then when the reality hit me.

I’m here. It is happening.

And the I saw her and she was every inch as beautiful and charming as she was in her Don’t be an asshole posts. (For those who don’t know me, I have a history of following celebrities and I sort of travel to see them. I think of it as my own little social experiment to prove that underneath all that gold and glitter is the same human fragility as in the rest of us. And when I see that the person, who I admire, or respect, already knows this and shows no superiority over the others, I feel connected and I move on knowing I met a beautiful human being. I guess in a way this is how I train my sense of feeling connected, exposing myself to a situation where I either realize I was following a total idiot, or someone who is truly worth my attention. There seems to be no middle ground.)

It felt good to be able to greet Jennifer as an old friend. I am not saying that that’s what we are, we are friends, at the time of writing this, I feel like I can say we are very good friends, but I fully understand that our lives are different and we won’t be hanging out together frequently. But that’s not the only thing that friends do. They inspire, encourage and motivate each other. Then there’s trust, openness, freedom. And work, work, work. On improving what is. Especially one’s self.

After the greeting with Jen I changed into my shorts and went into the room where whatever it was that we came there for, was going to happen.

It was one thing to greet Jennifer and another thing to meet another forty other women. I surprisingly didn’t panic at all. Although, I was a bit nervous. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. But it felt good. I felt accepted. Although I couldn’t help to feel like a visitor, an observer, rather than the true part of the tribe. I felt like an explorer who discovered a new species of birds and had a rare opportunity to watch them closely, very closely. They danced, they sang, they laughed, they cried. But most of all, they manifested the nature’s strongest message – be who you are and be proud of it.

~

We all know what the F word is, right? But in this workshop I learned that it actually isn’t Fuck, if that’s what you thought. It is…

F E A R…

We all realized that it is fear that is stopping us from being who we truly are. We also discovered, that fear is not going to go away. It is imprinted onto our hearts and souls. The trick isn’t to fight with fear, the trick is in accepting it and doing things despite being afraid. So the fight I was getting ready for all this time isn’t necessary. It’s consuming, tiring and futile. We cannot conquer our fears. (If someone thinks he, or she can, that’s fine. I don’t think I can, or want to.)

I think giving up fighting the fear will give us more power and energy to focus on life and its beauty instead.

I believe in beauty hunting. I truly and passionately do. Beauty will not come to to you and disclose itself. You have to hunt it. Imagine if a game came to a hunter and lied down solemnly to be shot. That’s bullshit, right? It is the hunter who must go and find it. In this sense, I am a beauty hunter. It is a tribe I am proud to belong to.

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~

So what else happened in the workshop?

Well, I guess we were telling stories. We were listening to each other and oh, happy birthday was sang to me with Jennifer sitting right next to me, whole room sang me the happy birthday song. That was pretty awesome. Thank you.

I have seen the beauty in everyone around me. Each one of us trusted the rest. When we were told to write a letter to ourselves from someone who loves us, Jennifer told us, that it will be intense and we might cry. Fuck that, I thought. Boy, I couldn’t be more wrong…

I chose to write this letter as if it was my daughter Anneke who was writing it. Two minutes after my pen touched the paper I was sobbing. So was more than half of the room. I tried do fight it and then gave up. So I cried in front of, or better, amongst forty-fifty other human beings. It felt good. Strange, but good. Relieving.

After the workshop, there was wine. It was all so unconventional. I think Jen’s only rule she politely gave us at the beginning of the workshop was:

“Do what you want, just be human.”

We ended up in the restaurant right next to the studio and we had a little bit of food and some drinks. I made some new friends and with one of them I left and wandered the night streets of London. She accompanied me all the way to the Victoria Coach Station (we managed to get lost, thanks to my ridiculously poor navigation skills and we had to be saved by a Spanish girl to which I am eternally grateful for not missing my coach) and we had a quick beer in the near pub.

I haven’t been capable of understanding the importance of what I have been to, but even in my mildly intoxicated mind I knew I have witnessed beauty. An extraordinary beauty. I normally reserve the word beautiful for children and the fascinating manifestations of nature’s creativity, but I feel like I could actually use it to describe everyone who came to the workshop. It would feel right. Oh yes it would…

~

“Never let your child come this close to me again Mirran! I have no intention of killing any of you, but I also won’t let any of you to halt even the smallest of my works. We work, we don’t fight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t kill.”

~ Urabrask to unknown Mirran refugee

~

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PS: Thank you to all who turned up. I am glad I could have been part of it. Jennifer, I am not sure if I deserved to be called an angel of this tribe by you, but I will resist my urge to prove you wrong. If that’s what you think and feel, I might as well try to live up to your high expectations of me.

 

Here’s to attempting the impossible…

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I am a worrier, not a warrior

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I think one of my weakest (if not the weakest) points is worrying. I worry a lot. In Slovakia we have a beautiful metaphor for worrying (or for thinking negatively) – to paint a devil on the wall. If there would be a competition in painting the devil on the wall I’ll be probably getting the first prize without much of an effort. I’m so natural in this highly unappreciated craft. Oh God, I probably painted a whole hell over the years of worrying!

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse (because we can get used to almost anything, so I got accustomed to my obsession with worrying), it did. I don’t remember that moment precisely, but it felt so unbelievably dreadful when I read that what we think creates our reality in return. I immediately found myself in one huge vicious circle:

I worry >>> it creates negative reality >>> negative reality makes me worry >>> so I worry and it starts again…

Almost every book about improving life I read since then says: “Change the way you think and your whole life will change”. I believe that this is the way to go, to change the thinking. I’m just not sure how exactly. Sometimes I feel like a fish that was told that the only way to enjoy the beauty of the world is from the above. And that fish somehow believed that and instead of focusing on improving its watery life, concentrating on enjoying its beautiful surroundings, it speculates about getting up there so it can make its dull life meaningful, because nothing worth living for hides in the cold depths of the waters it inhabits.

Now of course that’s a bullshit. But just because something is a total bullshit, it doesn’t mean that someone will not fall into believing it. And I don’t think it is about being stupid, naive or uneducated. As I was finishing the last sentence and I wasn’t sure how to continue a picture came into my mind. It was an idea of a parasite infected mind, which after being intruded simply needs some sort of host to survive, it needs some sort of belief that it can hold onto, suck it. I dwould want to hope that symbiotic relationship between mind, body, spirit and the world of ideas does exist and it’s possible to build and maintain, but same as in the outer world, such relationship requires almost ideal conditions. Of which there aren’t many for no species on this planet.

Even now, after reading the draft of this post I feel slightly pessimistic about my writing. I almost wanted to close the file unsaved, asking myself what is the point of all of this? It is as if I was constantly doubting myself and needed to be assured that what I do matters. Somewhere deep, in the place where the roots of whatever parasite my mind was infiltrated by haven’t reached yet, I believe that what I do matters. That this writing matters. I might not know exactly how and I might not be capable of appreciating it fully, but the idea of reaching out to the world of ideas and trying to bring some of them into this world always intrigued me and I always felt truly alive after I have been there and back. So maybe every text anyone has written is a memory of some vaguely remembered travel into the world of ideas and same as with travelling here, what will we discover and what stories will we bring back depends on how well we are looking around us and how far (hight, deep) we dare to wander.

This morning I saw a post on Facebook saying “Overthinking is the biggest cause of our unhappiness.” Well, it seems to be the same thing as worrying. It robs us of the present. And it eventually creates a future we didn’t want. I think I painted more than enough devils already. It probably would be impossible to erase them all, to wash all the walls clean, but I could try to re-paint them with some more positive pictures.

I think it sounds like a plan…

We all are our own canvas

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~ Dedicated to beautiful and aetheric Zina Nicole Lahr, thank you for being here…  (*13/02/1990 †20/11/2013)

It is a couple of months ago since I found out who was Zina Nicole Lahr. After discovering who she was I went through a period of intense exploration of her works and writings and I felt like there is some sort of hidden message, craftily, but delicately encrypted, written just for me. There was something familiar in almost every single word she has written (some sentences made me stop and just breathe for a while), it was as if I recognised the very essence of life so close to mine in each and one of them. It wasn’t about what she was doing, or the way she was doing it, it was why she was doing it. And her self diagnosis of Creative Compulsive Disorder was just hilarious. How many times have you heard about someone making up a new name for his own condition? Now if that’s not great storytelling than I don’t know what is. 

The force behind her creativity seemed to be the same that has been at the beginning of everything. (I am not a religious person, although I respect almost every single religion without a harsh judgment (because who am I to judge anyway?). But I find it difficult to completely follow any of them. What I however firmly believe in, is The Creator. It is simply unimaginable to me that I, a conscious being, would have come here as a mere result of a long chain of unconscious accidents. It is like in Jim Holt’s book, I cannot imagine how something could have come out of nothing. And although this something at the very beginning of everything is not much more imaginable than nothing, I have found the concept of an absolute consciousness and creativity being the reason why the world(s) exists more believable.) And it’s this simple belief through which I immediately felt attracted to Zina. Her way of feeling here, in body, to which she almost always referred to as a vessel, her testimony of absolute necessity to create to escape the heaviness of her body simply mesmerised me.

I avoided calling it love, because it felt confusing, but every other word was falling short of describing it so I decided to accept that what I felt towards her was love. I think that love has got nothing to do with being attracted physically to someone, or something, but instead, it is all about recognising something otherworldly familiar in a person, or an action. It’s like remembering. And it is creative… I think you’re in love when you want to make things (happen)…

We’re all just walking each other home.
~ Ram Dass

Although I think I can be quite creative in a few areas, it was her writing which I immediately fell in love with and without trying to replicate any of it, I somehow felt called to write my soul out in the similar way she did. I think it was the first time in a very long time that I realised how important and sacred it is to be authentic. And that, as it was Zina’s case, we each should be our own canvas. We are here to be our own masterpieces. And we are here to witness beauty, in everything. Because if each of us would become his own canvas, this Earth would become one big gallery. (To some enlightened masters it already is.)

Without art, the Earth is just Eh…
~ unknown

I am fully aware of the fact that there are so many blogs and pages on the internet these days, that the best I can hope for is a few trusty readers, but that’s probably all I need. At this point I am not aiming to achieve anything more. This is my stomping ground. My little empire. My gallery. I don’t want to pathetically copycat Zina, but I almost feel like I want to diagnose myself with Writing Compulsive Disorder. I somehow have to write. It might not be to everyone’s liking, but nothing ever is to everyone’s liking. I would dare to think that no great writer was writing to gain fame, or any perishable riches. It is exactly as an amazing writer Rainer Maria Rilke puts it in his first letter to a young poet:

Paris
February 17, 1903
Dear Sir,

     Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. That is all I can do. I cannot discuss your verses; for any attempt at criticism would be foreign to me. Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsay able than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

     With this note as a preface, may I just tell you that your verses have no style of their own, although they do have silent and hidden beginnings of something personal. I feel this most clearly in the last poem, “My Soul.” There, some thing of your own is trying to become word and melody. And in the lovely poem “To Leopardi” a kind of kinship with that great, solitary figure does perhaps appear. Nevertheless, the poems are not yet anything in themselves, not yet any thing independent, even the last one and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them managed to make clear to me various faults that I felt in reading your verses, though I am not able to name them specifically.

     You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sound – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

     But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn’t write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say.

     What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn’t disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.

     It was a pleasure for me to find in your letter the name of Professor Horacek; I have great reverence for that kind, learned man, and a gratitude that has lasted through the years. Will you please tell him how I feel; it is very good of him to still think of me, and I appreciate it.

     The poem that you entrusted me with, I am sending back to you. And I thank you once more for your questions and sincere trust, of which, by answering as honestly as I can, I have tried to make myself a little worthier than I, as a stranger, really am.

Yours very truly,

Rainer Maria Rilke

PS: I was thinking of inserting links to Zina’s blogs and some other pages at the end of this post, but I decided to let you explore her beautiful personality (if you want to) through your own personal journey like I did. Sometimes (like today), I just type her name in Google and I click on any interesting result that’s brought up, or I just have a look at one of her blogs (sadly I just discovered her normallyodd.com page is awaiting renewal, or deletion and I know which if the two it’s going to be…). I understand that we live in the times when people want to know things about others and I am ok with that (I’m no different), but sometimes I think that the vast majority of those in who’s lives are people interested is not worth half of the publicity they get. And although I am not a fan of any massively popular celebrity, or a public figure (to the content that would classify me as one), I have my favourite people, writers, bloggers, musicians (you probably haven’t heard of them, I try to connect with the lesser tribes). But from all of them, writers are my most favourite. As much as I can appreciate a beautiful painting, or a photograph, I found the pictures, that a great storytelling creates in my mind, much more intriguing. So this post is also a kind of thank you message to any person who’s writing has affected and inspired me. My dream is to say this thank you in person to you. Sadly, I will not be able to say it to Zina… I’m still sad about that…

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