Creating a World of Change
three days ago would have signaled my 12th anniversary of moving to NYC. today i found this draft from September 16th, 2012 (written just a month shy of my 9th anniversary of moving to NYC). in a month, i will be back in NYC, briefly, after having expanded out into the world and living in all kinds of places and spaces.
in celebration of all these anniversaries, of a great love and struggle with numbers and time, and of breaking down the very notion of time itself, herein contains the post. it comes from the future, about the past, and, i don’t know about you, but somehow all this time travel puts me right here in the present.
just in time, before i blast out into space. again.
:: is there such a thing as free will? or is there no question of it? ::
relationships are ending all around me. it seems like these partnerings and decouplings come in waves.
do you know what i mean?
at one point in my life, seven of my friends got married within months of each other. then a few years later, the phenomenon happened again. likewise, there are periods where everyone is breaking up all at once. i am in one of these phases now. and in the next two months, two of my friends from college are getting married. (not to each other, to other people.)
so what is it that causes these cycles to ebb and flow? is it something in the cosmic waves? is it that our energy is somehow connected and inspires each other to make change? even if we don’t initiate change ourselves, can our partners feel an energy shift and sense that someone has to make a break in that moment? is it because some planet or another is in Libra and we collectively point our foci toward relationship? how much agency do we actually have in any of this?
change seems to come with decades. it can maybe even be divided into two or five-year periods. or maybe if we add those together, we get seven years and we start to itch. we scratch off the remaining layers of our skin, revealing the final molt and the new being underneath.
i find this phenomenon fascinating: nuclear physics led to the revelation that every 7 -10 years virtually all of our cells in our bodies will have completely replaced themselves. the implication here is that we are basically a new version of our selves on a cellular level. because i believe in the somatopsychic connection (the notion that our bodies influence our psyche in profound ways), i believe this cellular regeneration has something to do with those cycles of change.
one major change that has happened inside my self has occurred over the past year or so. it started in Spring 2009 when i was working on ATOMIC, a deconstructed theater adaptation of Atomic Jaya, with my collaborator Jimena Duca. i met Jimena while training in Suzuki and Viewpoints with Anne Bogart and SITI Company. ATOMIC would become the very first in a series of artscience projects, which would eventually shine in the forefront of my life. however, during this dawning time i began to yearn for something that i didn’t quite have. i was looking to expand my self in ways that i never considered possible.
while we were building our piece, i had so many ideas—
wouldn’t it be amazing to use live video feed here?
what if i could trigger different locations somehow from onstage?
what if we could multiply my image to represent the different characters, since i am playing all eleven and there is only one me?
Jimena had a slew of her own ideas and i whined about the fact that i knew we could do them, that the piece was calling for it, and i just didn’t have the tools and skills to figure out how.
so Jimena sent me to PIMA. originally, i was, for myself, anti-grad school. why would i go into debt for art school when i could go into debt making my own art? but then Jimena said, “I know you are anti-grad school, but will you just look at the website for the program? I wished I had known about it when I was getting my MFA at Brooklyn College and it is everything that you are saying you need.”
begrudgingly, i opened the link on my computer. and my own obstinance couldn’t begrudge the fact that it was, if not verbatim, everything that i was looking for and never knew existed.
Jimena had met Jared Mezzochi through the Brooklyn College connection. Jared is a brilliant video designer/creator/performer/educator who went through the program and was, at the time, teaching in it. so i said “yes” to her offer to connect us. on one particularly rainy afternoon, Jared and i met at the Good Stuff Diner on 14th Street to discuss PIMA. after that meeting, my fate was sealed.
for more details on this destined choice to go to grad school, see: Hanging Out Amongst the Shadows
i can’t help but note that this change started happening seven years after i moved to NYC. and that series of events sparked another change as well.
over the past year or so, i have (for the first time in my life), considered the notion that i need a home. i have always been a bit of a nomad—sleeping over friends’ houses all the time growing up, studying abroad in Italy, taking off to do research for ATOMIC in Southeast Asia, moving to three out of five boroughs in NYC, and finally planning to go live in Japan on my 10 year anniversary of moving to New York.
all of this, i now realize, was an attempt to find home. maybe that home is halfway across the world. or maybe it is right here. i believe that it is likely both.
i am very conscious these days of the home that i am looking to create. because shouldn’t we all be the designers of our own space? shouldn’t we be responsible for creating the kind of home where we can thrive as individuals? shouldn’t we have our own personal space where we can be exactly who we need to be, away from all the demands of who we should be, the images of our selves that society feeds us every time we open the door or turn on the tv or log onto the internet. our homes are where we can just be—in all of our idiosyncratic glory.
i have thrived living alone for many a year in NYC. i almost thought that was the only way that i could have this sacred space. however, through many new relationships that have entered my life, i find that possibility exists to share this space. and by allowing the total and complete freedom for all parties to be exactly as they are, this space is no longer an isolated bubble. it has become a bubble bath that we can all play in; the space which contains these different bubbles can be whatever kinds of rooms we make our own. that room could be in a house where we get to paint the walls and draw trees on them and hang stars on the ceiling and project the cosmos through the windows. it becomes our own world and our own universe and we get to create it—if we choose to let ourselves.
in letting others into my life, into my home, and into my artmaking process, i have found myself in the midst of this new corner of the Universe. instead of resisting change, i have said yes. thus, the world has naturally expanded. by allowing others to do exactly what they need to do and by allowing my self to do the same, i am finding a certain kind of freedom—a freedom to love, to be loved, to share, to dream, to be.
is this what we call free will? it sure does feel free. and if i feel free, then i must be.
it’s about time.
what are your observed time signatures? do you notice significant periods of change in your life?
if we are only able to see time by observing change (for example, when we look at a clock, we know time has changed by the movement of the hands or the shifting of the numbers), what movements and transitions allow you to sense time?
i would love to know how you experience time. please leave any thoughts in the comments section below!
finally, some notes from my future self (posted 5 days after i went back in my experience of time): when i look back on this old blog post, there’s so much in these investigations that i like, yet naturally, so much has changed.
i think it’s fun to observe change, whether it is the kind that comes in big chunky cycles or noticing how one sensation can so quickly change to another. however, i am now understanding how time itself is actually a construct that humans have brought to their experience, to keep order and maintain control of their surroundings. it is something that we made up in order to feel like we have free will.
one thing i learned from Viewpoints training with SITI Company is that we must understand the constructs of time and space so that we can deconstruct them, play with them, and relate to each other and the environment with a sense of spontaneity and creative freedom. you could theoretically practice Viewpoints alone in a room and have all you need. however, there is something about relating to other bodies in the room, with their own conscious choices, movements, and ways that they change, that creates improvisational magic.
The Suzuki Method and Viewpoints as taught by Anne Bogart and the SITI Company are two of the most essential components of my creative toolkit. They afford the artist control in order to make conscious, deliberate choices; they encourage flexibility and freedom in the exploration of one’s instincts; they demand presence and moment-to-moment living in space; and they promote a range of versatility beyond the constraints of one’s habitual nature. Essentially, they continually awaken the fact that my mind, body, and spirit are tools for expression, with as many possibilities as are present in the human experience. Not a bad tool, I think.
~ Adrian Rieder, theatre artist/playwright ~
- Impermanence: everything is always changing, therefore nothing is intrinsic to our nature. (this is actually good news for free will because it means we are never stuck or doomed fatalistically.)
- Interdependence: the law of cause and effect has tremendous efficacy, except that (much like time) it doesn’t operate quite as we are led to believe. what this means is that everything is interdependent; everything leans. it’s like the butterfly’s flapping wings in Brazil potentially causing a tornado in Texas—every action has some result, even if we can’t necessarily see what it is or know what it will be. this is totally freeing and yet holds us in complete responsibility: we know we have no control over any thing, but because everything is interdependent, every single thing we do matters.
so what i get from this look back, naively exploring concepts of time, home, and free will, is that the act of looking is of incredible importance. if one looks at reality closely enough, we can see that it is actually all a fantastical mirage. but we have to look. we need to let sensation in, let concepts go, and let change happen. by deconstructing concepts that we believe are true but actually contain no real essence, we can find a glorious sense of emptiness and freedom.
my sister, Alicia, recently sent me this astoundingly beautiful video “Miyako” about a Japanese station attendant who attends to every passenger and stays in each moment as the trains move away. it is a stunning meditation on witnessing change, respecting a different sense of time, and feeling encounters deeply and fully:
from the filmmaker Erez Sitzer:
i was searching for a train station. the kind you rarely see. small. countryside. we found it. and by happenchance, found something else. someone else. miyako. the station master. i watched her smile at each exiting passenger. then, noticed her wave at the departing one-car train. then, surprisingly, she continued waving. she waved until there was no trace left of the distant train. no one witnessed her, except, well, me. in that short span, my love and wonder of life was renewed. when i spoke to her later, she said at first she felt so shy. and hardly waved at all. slowly, over time, she began doing something she neither needed to do, nor imagined she ever would. so, this is miyako, master of a tiny station in the middle of nowhere japan who attends to every train and passenger that passes by.
it is hard to know when the train is really gone, but it is clear that Miyako feels it. her genuine and committed action renewed another human’s faith in the world.
since we do live in this world of infinite contingency, it is impossible to find where one thing ends and another one begins. this does not allow for a bloated ego because it is not really clear where one person ends either. (is it the boundaries of your skin that define you? your thoughts? your electromagnetic field? where do you end?) you also cannot withdraw and be insignificant because you are still a vital part of it all. seeing how no one thing in the universe arises from its own source and acknowledging the constant dance of change helps us figure out who we really are and understand how everything we do truly does matter.
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
~ Carl Sagan, Cosmos ~