FOR THE FIRST TIME, probably in a long time, instead of a long ramble, I’m going to tell you a story. About the time I met L.
The reason I want to bring this up is manyfold, but begins and ends, I think, in Kuala Lumpur. Which is where I have just returned to, and where I keep popping in, it seems, for two- or three-month blocks. Looking for the story, is what I had said, before. But it’s more than that. It’s looking for the life.
‘It’s not that I want to make a living from these zines,’ I had said, at that tea place with many shelves of carefully arranged books on feminism, cooking, and LGBTQ features. ‘I want to make these zines live. And you need to have great stories for that to work. To really work, I mean.’ What was I talking about? The dream quality was there, that day. You know that one, right? When time slows, almost stops. You notice this kind of thing, especially when you are alone, on the road, waiting for tea, waiting for the rain. Looking at the bookshelves, but only kind of. Most jacket spines were writ in Chinese.
So in the end, I was reading nothing at all, for once, instead writing in my head, writing blank columns into the aetherspace of just-zoning-out. Same like the moment I chose to amble up those stairs (unmarked, curious, vaguely intriguing), and into the cafe-cum-bookshop’s front atelier. But I peeked over the edges of uncomfortable-looking but perfectly-colored red sofas. Of course I did. Was there a backroom?
It had a large window that looked out onto a balcony. Floor to ceiling windows. I love those. I followed the sightline.
That’s when I saw her. L.
Her things arranged meticulously around her, but I could tell, for a long time, she wasn’t paying attention to those bits. Paper, a laptop, some cords, some phone stuff, maybe a few more electronic things that I couldn’t identify, really, because I’m out of touch with that kind of thing. I stick to paper, still, believe it or not. Pencil, paper, scissors, glue.
She was elsewhere. In the just-beyond, in a way, at least, that’s how it seemed, to me, on that afternoon with a soft rain, not the monsoon, but the lighter kind, about to fall.
‘Ever since I met you,’ she would say in not that much time, ‘which was ten minutes ago, I feel like I could really… connect.’
Enter the heart of S P A C E.
AS IT IS WITH BEGINNINGS, it is, too, with the middles, I think, of the space that is shaped when we go around the bend, see what might be there, and begin to go quiet into the space of just-being. Maybe a couple of minutes passed, maybe a few hours. I can’t be sure. I’ll never be sure. She was there, and I was there, and we talked at length about many, many things related to, hey, feminism, and showing up, and real life, and circumstances, and how things change, and where we are, and, of course, uncertainty. My beat. I write about this, I talk about this, I calculate nothing really, anymore. The second law of thermodynamics was how it all began, in a summer classroom half a world away, sitting there, Mann Hall, N. C. State. Was that where? It was. A summer of learning how things flow, where turbulence arises, how entropy works (or how we think it does), what professors can do with a constricted schedule that blocks classes into longer hour-periods, instead of longer weekly semesters. Summer and then. But… I’m getting nostalgic for another time; that won’t do. That is a distraction. That takes away from here, hijacking the moment. This moment. Now. (Not to get distracted further, but um. The future. Ask me sometime about an upcoming salon, ‘Kandinsky’s Window,’ which is about the viewfinder of the street window, and the life that’s just beyond… ask me sometime about the book Point and Line to Plane, too. I’m always more than happy to talk non-Euclidean or multidimensional bric-a-brac in the forum-space, ‘Strange Geometries.’) But first, let me quickly recount the short, real conversation that happened when I met someone who reminded me in every way of the people I love discovering, on the road, in the moment, away from everything, because they have that expressiveness in the eye that says, ‘Well, hello, who are you?’ But she said—
And I said–
(Things start so simply, don’t they?)
Geometries and strangenesses, the ever-changing shape of space. Is L. in Kuala Lumpur? Will we meet again? I don’t know. I can’t know. Nothing is for sure. (Remember, uncertainty is my beat.)
‘There is so much bad art in the world.’
‘Yes. Yes there is.’
What’s good? What’s quality? Where can we go to find it? We can seek theories in books, or write essays that philosophize about these big questions. But we can also go into the quiet space. The in-betweens—where, I’m finding, at least for me, things like ‘good’ and ‘quality’ and ‘beauty’ and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘magic,’ exist and co-exist. Here in the edge-finding rooms where we go, now, me and the people I write and talk deeply with, at length, in conversation salons or put-together-in-this-now gatherings that may be impromptu, spontaneous, planned or unplanned, well, here is where we are headed. The magic moment. I know, I know. You want me to spell things out. ‘Make it clear, DK, what this is and why it will make my life better.’ Well, truth is, I can’t do that. I can only show you what I feel when I feel the magic moment happening to begin. It’s really… um. It’s… well. It’s personal. I can’t share that kind of thing in the public blog space, which is why I resort to protected-page forums.
In which there is… well. Sharing. Conversation. Connection and interconnection. One designful moment at a time. I can’t really begin to describe all the magical things that happened when people connected across S P A C E here and there, like in The Mirror in the early part of the year, and currently, we’re going to be finishing something soon called Slow Moment. I’m humbled and grateful for the chance connections that have led to new thinking, new input, new… feelings. It’s where the world of imagination and heart can take us: it’s where we can begin to slow down, let go of our inhibitions, disclose things that might feel very hard to open up about, and, in this way, build new shoots and germinate anew.
On the bus on the way from Helsinki city center to Vantaa for the airport, I met someone from my part of the world. With my very accent. My style of speech. My idioms, my cultural references, my diction, my slang. But: we did not relate. I couldn’t. There wasn’t the same quality of space there that there had been elsewhere. Just because we share the same passport doesn’t make us familiar. What makes us familiar is the intricate and curious longing to go somewhere else, to seek, to quest, to discover. And not make it into a big deal: to just go.
The magic of now
LATELY, I’ve revised my thoughts about what ‘art’ is. Dislcaimer: I spent like ten minutes in art school, this was in Brooklyn, this was a zillion years ago, and I’ve been pushing around in the world, ever since, I think, trying to feel it instead of think about it. In moments, it arrives: that feeling. The one that says, ‘This. This is art.’ I’ll tell you more about that in a second. But first, what is not. (To me. Everything is relative, after all.)
It’s not a book or a novel or a painting or a YouTube video. It’s not a song or a worked-over collage that no one will ever see. It’s not the words in the diaries that someone who wrote them wonders if their great-grandchildren will read and somehow recall them, or at least, know a hint of a whisper of their having-been. No. Art is closer to us than any of those things. Art happens, to me, in the quiet stillness, in the noticing of: being here now.
Which happens at a specific kind of moment.
The moment of something that has turned, somehow, into a kind of novelty. A real life meeting, eye to eye.
These days, to me, the making of art isn’t the accruing of ‘stuff.’
These days, to me, art is simpler.
Art is showing up.
The good stuff follows, thence.
This is a part of the series, ‘100 conversations,’ inspired by real encounters with real people, and is supported by members of S P A C E.
This post is for L.