I’ve been doing deep contemplative work all my life. During the CPTSD program I went to last year, I turned toward exploring what I realize is going to be a life-long journey of considering what being an “artist” means, and all the connotations thereof. Questions like: What is the artist? What roles does the artist hold? What can the artist teach us? What does it mean to be seen as an artist? What is it like to LIKE being seen? And what might a life of being witnessed, and of witnessing, look like for me as an artist rather than me as a mental health/trauma worker like in my old life?
One of the greatest joys of my life is listening to people talk about what makes them come alive. And also, to discover what is the thing beneath the thing. There are few core fears—we’re all just variations of them, and we’re all just variations of them. Maybe there’s nothing new under the sun, but you are.
In preschool I thought a lot about the edge of the universe. In third grade I started studying human evolution on my own. I was bored. I was intrigued by everything and not being challenged at school and my teachers wouldn’t give me extra work when I asked. In middle school I started studying neuroscience. In high school, quantum mechanics, poetry, transcendentalism, genetics, trauma, and mental health. I lost touch with some of those parts. Even my curiosity became suspect in the life I was living in my 20s. I’m finding those roads again. Those insatiable curiosities. And I’m figuring out how to weave them all together into this creative life.
Some of the most important work I’ve ever done is when I bear witness to another, whether silent or in words. When I get to pull out fears and truths they’ve buried. When I get to answer the question we all ask, “Am I alone?” with a resounding, “No,” in a moment of connection, whether with a friend in our deep belly laughs or by sitting with a person in one of the most traumatic moments of their life. The Spock side of my brain wants to say: what an incredibly illogical question when there’s 8 billion of us. How could you ever be alone? And yet, it’s one of our core fears. But it’s not being alone that is the problem.
It’s being cut off. From ourselves. From each other. It’s not knowing how to cross the divides—less the political and more the vulnerable emotional realities we inhabit, whether from chasms real and imagined, manufactured or natural. And being cut off is the point of oppressive systems because it’s how you keep the machine going. Separated. Fearful. Not together. Which is political.
And yes, these are questions that have been asked throughout the ages, that can be found in historic writings. We’ve always wondered if we’re alone—alone in the universe, alone in our lives, alone in our minds. And we are always forgetting to do the most transcendent, bizarrely plain machination of movement through vertebra and synapses and spinal fluid—we are always forgetting to look up.
These things are both more complicated than this and as simple. I’ve written pages and pages about these ideas the past several months. I imagine I’ll write many more over the years. All the things I’ve learned in my life have always been in pursuit of living a richer life, one with deeper meaning, of more profound connection. Of refuting the darkness and feeding it tea and sandwiches because we all get cranky when we’re hungry. And it’s been in pursuit of helping people remember. And of helping myself remember.
I look forward to how much more there is to learn, and of seeing the ways in which I’m going to combine all my lived experience, all my education and training, all my creative pursuits into a life that keeps asking these questions, and keeps bearing witness to the innumerable answers people are living. And maybe, when I’m very lucky, I’ll get to point people back to the truth: the disconnect is the lie. Connection is your birthright.