Beauty In Flesh, Beauty In Art (Tortured By The Craving To See)

Does being fit make a person better?
Are they happier than someone unfit?
Does being with a fit person make you love them more? And if so, is this love a genuine, deep love, or is it just a surface love?
If they are fit, will you allow them more mistakes? Can they get away with more?
Why does it disgust me when an overweight person eats candy or cookies or other fatty food? Is it concern for their well being, or is it something more selfish?

What is it about weight?
About needing to be fit to be attractive? Is it just bred into us because of the media?
X-large men and women, pear-shaped men and women, saggy men and women, all of these people, why don’t they seem attractive? Is this one of those things that can be blamed on “The Media In Western Society?”
We like to blame the faults or the hangups of society on the modern age. For example, that people are convinced to aspire to an ideal, to an Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt existence, when these two people are probably far from perfect.

But I want to look further than this excuse. I can’t just blame The Media In Western Society and call it a day.
So I’m going to flesh out my questions about beauty in flesh and beauty in art over the following paragraphs. I am going to be blunt, I’m going to be honest.

I am not as fit as I’ve been in the past. I am just naturally thin.
Does my thinness make me better than heavier people? Can we bring this to a natural selection type analysis? Would I survive in a hunter gatherer society because I am naturally slim and strong? Does this makes me better, more successful, more worthy of life and love, than my twin, who is overweight?

Is it wrong of me to worry about my choices for a romantic partner, when her body’s shape deteriorates? Isn’t it all about what’s inside? If a person is a good person, a wonderfully giving and caring person, isn’t this enough to love? Even if she were slim, wouldn’t there still be characteristics that would be undesirable? Like flatulence? Burping? Bitchy spoiled bad attitude?
Slimness doesn’t equal a perfectly matched partner. Or does it?

I am not perfect, physically nor mentally. Why do I expect perfection in my partner? Is it because, despite my imperfection, I strive for perfection?

But my current image – quite thin, bearded, sloppy hair, pale skin, wearing fairly ordinary clothes, a left upper sleeve tattoo, average 6 foot height, these are not the qualities of every woman’s dream. My door is not being knocked down by throngs of women.
So why is my view of the physical body torturing me?

It must be because I am so heavily (pun intended) visual.
It is the arts that I love more than anything. Music, yes, but also photography, drawing, painting, video, writing, and while I can love all portrayals of art – the ugly, the challenging, the odd – I love the beautiful.

I am unceasingly in love with natural light in photography, how it creates a pleasant peaceful otherworldly mood.

I love balanced text that encourages me to reader further – when headers are a nice large bold size, I can see without actually reading, that I am coming to or just finishing a section. When the text’s line height is just so, so that I needn’t strain to differentiate lines.

And the female form – I can not, will not ever be able to get enough of a curved, wonderfully proportioned body.

My earliest memories of being attracted to a woman are of a woman with full breasts and hips. I adore the hourglass figure.
I can not understand modern man’s obsession with stick figures, those runway models, those flesh hangers. Or what I like to call preteen boys. No boobs, no hips, just a straight stick body. There is nothing there to admire, to view as artistic beauty.

But the trouble is that no actual body exists that is in perfect proportion. Thick ankles, double chin, spare tire waist, they exist in different amounts and different proportions and it upsets my eyes.
I look at magazines online, knowing full well the power of Photoshop, yet that is what I crave. Reality disappoints me.

Am I a terrible man? Expecting perfection in reality? Or am I just a gullible man who, despite being intelligent and strong, has been conned by marketing’s ploy to convince me to adore the unreal?
Sometimes I think not. I believe I have seen the hint of perfection, perfection so beautiful I accept her flaws. When most of the pieces are there, the hourglass figure, the bright eyes, the full smile, the smooth glowing skin, I can accept the blemishes, the thick ankles, as though they are the painter’s buildup of layered paint, the natural flaws in the marble.

I crave a living art piece, nay, I crave art.
I accept now, by writing this, that perfection does not and cannot exist in human flesh. For we are always changing.
This is the problem. Whereas painting is and always will remain the same (barring water damage or breakdown from greasy hands), a human body is in constant flux. We are, after all, living creatures made up of breathing cells, living, dying, repairing constantly, and that means that we will look different day to day, and especially so year to year.
I could, for example, look “better” (more fit, stronger, fresher skin, brighter eyes) at 40 than I do now at 34, if at 40 I am exercising regularly, getting good amounts of sun, stress is minimal, and am feeling satisfied sexually and artistically.

Another negative aspect of change is this: even if a painting remains the same forever, I do not. So, if I, as classifier of that painting as beautiful, change, I may change to see that painting as less beautiful.
Being a constant listener to music, this has happened to me. For example, I discovered Four Tet years ago. I adored his music immediately.  But, due to a disappointing live performance (in which he literally pressed play on his iPod then proceeded to twiddle knobs) I like him much less now.
He was once one of my favourite musicians. I thought he could do no wrong. His original work AND his remixes filled me with a joy. But now, I delete him from my playlist to make room for other artists. I delete these songs even though they have not changed. The exact songs that I’d turn up loud to fill my air with sweet sounds to breathe, I now want no longer.

Are we (am I) destined for disappointment?

I believe the last thing I will ever do is lower my expectations. It’s not in my nature.

As well, I will always be looking as long as my eyes continue to reflect the world into my mind, into my body.
My eyes crave beauty. This is not something I can change.
What I must do, though, in my own expectations, is be more willing to express my opinion when a piece of art no longer fulfills me. For there are so many more to view.


Has Anything Changed In 7 Years? (Or, learning from the past)

I discovered a container full of my old writing, drawings, and a variety of other things!

I found a few things I really liked, but a lot of the discoveries made me worried. I began to wonder:
Have I changed?
Have I grown?
Have I learned anything?

I’ll get to that. First, the backstory:

I’ve been wanting to own an amp
so that I could run my speakers through it.
I know, funny, right? Speakers but no stereo.
And it’s a crime, really, because I LOVE music,
I can’t even begin to describe how much I love music, how important it is to me, to my happiness, to my survival, to my inspiration.

Well, today, as I was cycling home, I noticed a neighbour having a yard sale.
I bought a big ‘ol amp for a few bucks,
and returned home all smiles.

Now the work to be done!
Connect my speakers – I have 6 total, thanks to donations from friends,
including a switcher, so I can have speakers in my kitchen only, or my bedroom only (which in itself is hilarious – I live in a bachelor apartment, so I’ll hear the music no matter what “room” I’m in)

I decided to place the amp under my desk, to be close to my surge-protected power bar. In order to make room for it, I pulled out a shallow rubbermaid bin. I thought it’d be a good size to set the amp on.
But before I placed it there, I wanted to know what was inside that bin. I believe I may have put it under my desk when I moved in here almost 2 years ago.
And I don’t think I’ve touched it since.

Wonderfully, it is full of all sorts of things that are whizzing me through recent-memory lanes:
My divorce certificate,
my proposal to SFU’s writing program (which was rejected),
a few forgotten drawings (which I’ll scan and throw on my Flickr page tonight),
my University transcripts,
magazine clippings of cute girls or cool graphic design.
And writing that just makes me chuckle and shiver at the same time.

I chuckle because when I find these writings, I realize how little I’ve changed.
I shiver because, goddamn it, these writings remind me how little I’ve changed.

For example,
something written about 7 years ago
(with my present-day comments following in brackets):

Remember these as inspirations in life:

  • continue to write down dreams, everyday, even if nothing but a glimmer, a whisper, a glance is lingering

(I truly feel the benefits of emptying my head first thing in the morning, yet I haven’t devoted myself to this practice since I was in my early 20’s)

  • exercise everyday, wrestle w/ Lucy, a game of frisbee, dribble football – anything to pump fresh blood through my body & free the way for improvement on all levels (yoga…!)

(exercise comes and goes.
I’ve tried boxing, weights, running. Currently, I’ve found great satisfaction from yoga, and am trying to practice it as often as possible.
Plus I love swimming. I swam length for the 1st time in months today. I plan on getting back into the swim of things now)

  • exercise the body, exercise the mind. Continue to write, to think, to question, to read, to progress. A balance must be met & at this moment the body is more fit than the mind

(right now, my mind is more fit than my body, but still the same quest for balance, and same knowledge that mental stimulation, mental challenges are critical to my happiness & growth)

  • meditate. Ask Lucy for help & take time to slow time down. Give myself a chance to sigh  – relax. release. refresh

(I’ve always struggled with my incessantly active mind. I constantly feel under pressure to be doing something important. Rest isn’t an option. But I have been (inconsistently) meditating)

  • buying music is never a waste of money

(Hallelujah! This has not changed, and thank god.
Truer words were never written, but this may have been the 1st time in my life, at the exact moment that I wrote those words, when I truly understood the priceless importance of music)

  • learn to type faster, w/ more confidence. This will help me not only w/ emailing & school, but always and forever in all aspects of life

(how true! Well, I can actually say that I accomplished this one!
Through school, both SFU and Langara, as well as working full time for ShowMakers for almost 4 years, I’ve been on a computer nearly every waking moment of my days.
I challenged myself in the early stages, to type with my fingers in the correct positions (rather than chicken peck).
Then I increased the challenge by forcing myself to not look at the keyboard. My type was an indecipherable mess for many months, but it improved, and I’m pretty damn good now)

  • take time to myself everyday – not just every few days & not just for a few minutes – get in touch brother

(ah yes, here is where I shiver a little – because I haven’t been respecting this knowledge like I should be.
The days I take time out for myself, I am happier, calmer, more focused. I know this, but I forget it so easily. There are always things to be done! My ideas! My art! So much to be done!
But when all I do is do, I burn out. Or lose focus. Or get depressed.
7 years later, I say again, “Get in touch, brother.”)

  • learn something new everyday – pursue my quest for French (& Polish) bilingualism

(okay, yes, this is lofty, to learn something new everyday.
Yet maybe it isn’t, because aren’t we learning everyday? Each day is never exactly the same as the last, even if it feels that way.
I must say: I tried Polish, took some night classes shortly after writing this, and it was really really tough. Even the instructor, a nice Poland-born lady, admitted to us that Polish is a very difficult language to learn.
Do you know that every noun has 7 different ways to say it? That even your name has 7 variations, depending on the circumstances in which it is said? And that one of those is when your name is being shouted?
Ha ha – that one killed me)

That’s one thing I found.
Maybe I’ll write about others.

It’s fascinating stuff to me.
And hell, writing this entry has truly accomplished what this blog is all about:
keeping me in THE MOMENT.

I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I started going through that rubbermaid bin.
Feeling full of emotions, good, bad, and confusing.
Well, those emotions have every right to be inside me, but at least now I’ve written them down and I feel free. And grounded, somehow, at the same time.

Can we be grounded and free? Is being grounded also being free?


Boxing For Art

I’ve joined a boxing club.

BOXING?!?!? you might shriek.
Ashley, you normally write about art, music, graphic design… those sorts of things. What does boxing have to do with that?

Actually, a helluvalot.

I write about the arts because the arts have always been my source of life. I’ve been saved from many dark places by hearing the right song at the right time, or by watching a film that takes me someplace new, or by reading a book that opens my mind.

I also write about the arts because I am an artist.
As much as my hyperactive, responsibility-obsessed mind has tried to deny it, I am an artist. I need to create.

But I’ve also learned that I need to move. I’ve learned that too much stagnant living leads to an uninspired soul, no matter how much I read, watch, and listen.

It’s as though by moving my body, stretching and sweating, I am breaking up the psychic buildup that creeps into my soul. Like plaque attacking unclean teeth, my negative, self-abusive, destructive mind grows and spreads when I sit still. I can’t simply brush it away, though. I need to take myself to a place of no-mind (meditation can be brilliant for this, but it affects me quite differently than exercise).

See, I don’t know if everyone is afflicted with a non-stop barrage of panicked thoughts, but as much as I can handle them, some times they just need to have the Emergency get-the-fuck-out-of-the-burning-building Switch pulled on ’em. There’s no way to do that quite like hitting a heavy bag as hard as possible.

Alright, it’s true, I love yoga, swimming, and cycling.
But my interest in boxing hasn’t gone away since I learned some basics as a staff member at The Arts Factory Lodge in Australia around 2000/2001. There is a side of my pacifist nature that was giddy with discovering an explosive way to express myself.

Wanting to box is not the same as wanting to fight (In fact, at my club, we can’t spar until we’ve trained for 3 months). I’m still and always will be a pacifist. But like yoga, boxing says, “Here. This is your body. You live in it everyday. You think you know your body. Now it’s time to FEEL yourself in your body.”

We live in an intellectual world, so we think think think think think think think our way through every single day, and sometimes throughout the night, tossing and turning. We exist in this ignored vessel, expecting it to continue to function satisfactorily while we think about what’s coming next or what just happened. Yet learning to be in our bodies is quite possibly the nicest thing we can do for our minds.

I do not expect us to stop thinking altogether, but stopping once and awhile is dreamy. It not only recharges our bodies, but our minds, too.
Which means when I put pencil to paper, I can approach it with a fresh hand, heart, mind, AND soul.

So now I box.
For art.