for most of my life, i had this issue that i thought was a problem: it is really hard for me to focus on one thing at one time.
in school, i had an equal passion for English, Science, Math, History, Photography, and Art classes. they all engaged me in learning. and despite feeling dorky, i liked that.
in sports, i couldn’t just play one thing and excel at it. i had to dance, do gymnastics, play tennis, softball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, run track, and i even played “Powderpuff Football” the year that i found out it existed. when i heard that there was a girl on the wrestling team at Pinelands High School in the neighboring town, i begged my parents to let me try out. it wasn’t very often that they flat-out refused to support my wild interests, so i let them have that one. i started skateboarding instead. i tried out for the bowling team, but didn’t make the cut. woops. so i joined the intramural volleyball and swim clubs in my spare time. (which, given this list, i am wondering how i had any of that.) when i got older and started hanging out with the surfers, i would go out whenever someone would let me use their board. i loved to be in constant movement in its myriad of forms.
in college, i studied psychology and sociology, but took so many film studies classes that i was one class away from being a double minor. i didn’t take that class because it would have impeded my ability to take acting classes. i decided to pursue acting after spending half a year studying Italian language, culture, and film in Florence, Italy.
and in my artwork now, i don’t know if i am capable of making something that is not multidisciplinary, hybrid, and derived from a wealth of different inspirations and sources. i just don’t think i am built that way. i don’t really understand how that is possible. and the supportive environment that i was raised in only helped to nurture those diverse leanings to the point where anything else seems incomplete. while i also believe in simplicity, i love that any one thing can go in a myriad of different directions and be influenced by any number of inspirations. this, to my mind, creates the compelling nature of complexity.
but it didn’t always seem like a good thing to be so diverse. when you can’t boil things down to something simple, people oftentimes don’t understand it or think that you are doing anything worthwhile. it seems unfocused and sometimes impossible to make sense of. i grew up being jealous of my older sister, Alicia, who was so incredibly talented as a writer. how nice to have a clear talent for something! there was not one thing that i could boast being phenomenal at. i was just kind of good at a bunch of stuff.
but i learned to accept that as the thing that i am good at. i am good at being kind of good at a bunch of different things. and so i live with that and strive to be great. i also accept that i very well may always just be good. it took a really long time to accept that. but now as i start to teach more often and experience the different ways in which people learn, i also understand the different ways in which to nurture talents in their variety of forms.
as a student, it may oftentimes seem as if i am not paying attention to what is going on because i am doing something else while simultaneously listening. i only know now, in my adult life, that when i allow myself to do so, i actually have a deeper engagement in what is being taught. if i am stretching or moving, if i am writing (even if not necessarily note-taking), or if i am creating something simultaneously that is loosely related, i am able to process what i am hearing and seeing and experiencing in a more full way than if i struggle to simply listen. i am a big believer in doodling. but it is up to each individual to know when an activity accentuates the possibility of deeper engagement or distracts from it. the line can be a fine one.
one thing that has increased my awareness of this phenomenon is training in the Viewpoints. this method of training, which is primarily used for creating theater, helps create awareness of nine elements of time and space that can be looked at separately (in order to view them as they exist simultaneously). training this type of awareness over the course of six years has finally caused me to realize that this can be applied to all things. it is possible to focus on one thing very specifically at a time, and also to be able to take in many things at once. when my awareness is really open, it seems as if i can do both at the same time. i can focus on one thing while being aware of many things. i can create something while taking something else in. i can read and write and i can juggle many disparate things all at once. this took years of training. and i still have a long way to go. the rest of my life, in fact.
because trying to focus on too many things can actually be quite problematic without awareness. without it, it is easy to become scattered and just constantly jumping to the next thing without ever finishing any one thing. but with it, following one’s interests can be a gift and a total joy, leading to insights, revelations, and new inspirations.
this applies to how we consume information. to know why we are reading something, and what relevance it has to us personally, is of the utmost artistic importance. to be digesting it and then producing something of our own mirrors the processes that our bodies go through for basic physiological nourishment. there is a feedback loop then. it becomes a conversation. it allows us to obtain sustenance, as well as contributing to something to the world. we can get rid of that which we do not need and produce other things that benefit other living beings. and if we let it, this process may even lead to increased focus and awareness, and a deeper knowledge of ourselves and others. practicing this may even be able to lead to a point where it can become a kind of second nature.
so here i am going to detail what i am simultaneously reading and writing in the present moment of time.
what i am reading right now:
- Blink – Malcolm Gladwell has for some reason become my patron saint writer of my travels back and forth from Southeast Asia. last time it was What the Dog Saw purchased in the Hong Kong Airport. this time, i found Blink in a thrift store in my hometown and it just felt right to bring him back to Asia with me.
- 1Q84 – i started the new Murakami novel in hopes that i would finish it before doing Wind-Up Bird in Singapore, but because i can’t just read one thing (and because it was too heavy to carry around), i did not succeed.
- Neverwhere – by Neil Gaiman. i started reading this at Bali Mountain Retreat and couldn’t put it down on the plane from Bali back to Singapore. but then i put it back on Tim’s shelf once i got there because i didn’t think he’d appreciate it traveling to NYC. must find a copy and finish it. so good. i want to make it into a theater piece.
- Dalí & I – i am starting this book by Stan Lauryssens, which was gifted to me from my sweet sister in anticipation of developing and touring my puppet theater extravanganza, The Dalí Project, with Puppet Junction in August!
- Draw it with your eyes closed: the art of the art assignment – the best toilet read ever. and a must-read for anyone into art or teaching, and especially teaching art.
- a plethora of online articles and blogs that friends and collaborators send me based on my many scattered interests, newly including Scott Adams’s Blog: http://www.dilbert.com/blog/, as recommended by fellow writer/artist Laremy Lee while in Singapore.
what i am listening to on audio books:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow – by Daniel Kahneman. i have been working on this since December. i find the content interesting and challenging, and so i look forward to hearing where it is going. but boy, does the reader’s voice bother me! i often wish my dear friend and voice-over artist David Shih was reading it instead. he has an intelligent and trustworthy voice without being condescending.
- Stranger in a Strange Land – by Robert Heinlein. i found myself channeling this story during my time in Southeast Asia and particularly when shooting the Lobster footage in Bali.
- The Pema Chodron Audio Collection – inspired by dialogues with composer Gerald Busby, i am starting this collection, which seems to have some sort of spiritual relevance at this time in my life and with my budding friendship and collaborative relationship with Gerald. (as well as early references in the first semester of PIMA by Will Orzo and ensuing debates on meaning with John Jannone.)
so that’s it. and that doesn’t even begin to address the multitude of TV series and films that i am in the midst of watching via good ol’ Netflix.
- the Cosmos series by Carl Sagan
- Joseph Campbell: Mythos – lecture series
- Battlestar Galactica
- The Quay Brothers’ Phantom Museums
- Chelsea Walls
- this Blog – The Lobsterbird Chronicles, of which i simultaneously tend to have at least three posts going at once, flippering back and forth between whichever one strikes my fancy when i sit down to write.
- the Chelsea Hotel Project blog – a process blog based on art made with residents living in the Chelsea Hotel
- an Application for a Residency in Japan training in Butoh and Suzuki
- my Dream Journal
- my regular Journal
- Letters and Emails to friends and loved ones
- the occasional Poem
- Love Letters to the Universe
and that’s all…for now.
by the way, i didn’t detail all this to say hey, look how much i do! but rather to open up a conversation. i want to know: what are you reading/writing? why are you interested in that? i read and write the things i do because i am inspired by others to do so. i love finding sources in this way because they tend to find their way to me when i need them.
so many people in my life have inspired these current reading/writing lists, and countless other ones. this whole post, in fact, was inspired by the person who created the teachings of Viewpoints as i came to learn them: Anne Bogart. (in short, Anne did not create the original Viewpoints—that was Mary Overlie. but Anne helped adapt them from their use as a dance vocabulary to that of the theater. it was from her company, SITI Company, from which i learned of their wonders.)
Anne’s most recent blog post for June is titled Reading and Writing, which inspired me to start thinking about the individual ways in which i read and write. and how i can read and write with others.
in performance, it is easy for me to understand. Anne says it brilliantly:
“An actor writes upon the stage with his or her body and voice based upon what she or he is reading in the moment. The actor reads the present circumstance, reads the room, takes the temperature of the audience’s listening and makes instantaneous decisions about how to write. The audience reads what the actor writes in the moment of the writing. They collaborate in the creation of the theatrical event.”
but i wonder: how can we do this more in our lives? how can we read and write while learning and teaching? while communicating with others? can we utilize this virtual landscape of communication to collaborate in this way? can every moment and interaction create a kind of theatrical life event?
i make this promise to you: if you write about it, i will read it! i believe that these questions and this dialogue are important ones, especially in the ever-increasing slew of information that we send and receive in our digital, mediatized world. in order to transform ourselves in a way that engages our imagination, it takes a deeper level of consciousness and attention to how we choose to communicate.
“If we engage deeply enough in the experience, reading the writing of others can alter us profoundly. I believe that we can become ‘a different kind of person’ via powerful writing. Whether paintings, mathematical formulas, great literature or events that incorporate issues of time and duration such as music, dance and theater, we are offered opportunities for transformation through our imaginative engagement with art.”
my enthusiastic support and response to reading Anne’s words is to write my own. and what if others responded to this through their writing as well?
and so i welcome any and all responses to this…or anything! naturally, i believe writing comes in a myriad of forms (some that don’t even include actual words). and i hope that this kind of communication can lead to increased understanding and engagement of human collaboration—in our artmaking and in our lives.