Monday, May 10, 2010

I, the Universe

I can’t explain it — and indeed I feel no need to — but I would like to note that there are times when the urge in me to write is so strong that it’s simply a matter of sitting down and yielding to the spirit. And then there are times when the urge is not to write, but to draw, and so I draw. I suppose it seems obvious on the surface of things: oh, he wrote today, or oh, here’s another of his ridiculous drawings. But it used to be that writing was all I really wanted to do, and my little drawings played a complementary, secondary role. I was, in effect, drawing and reemphasizing what I wrote. Now when I draw, I am drawing instead of writing. I am yielding to that mode because what needs or wants to be expressed is best expressed in that mode. Or so it seems. Because what I do is, and has never been, a static thing. I’ve said all along that I’m a writer, but I have never been afraid of not being a writer. I’ve said that I’m a poet, and I am. I call myself an artist, using the word in a general sense, and I am. But I have no fear of not being those things, or of not being thought of by others in that way. And I have no fear of finding myself someday doing something completely different than what I’m doing now. In fact, I expect it. I expect it, and yet at the same time, I’m fully aware that I might also continue just the way I am, writing, drawing, maybe learning to paint eventually, gradually improving, and then losing ground as my faculties begin to wane, if they haven’t already. And I’m not afraid of that, either — of being the father and grandfather who was, the artist who was, of being the tired, worn out, doddering one that is, a hairy caricature with a twinkle in his eye at the oddest of moments, the one who can no longer sip his coffee without spilling a little, the one who fascinates little children by his mere presence, and who frightens already frightened adults. Why not? Why should I fear such a thing? Haven’t I already been granted an obscene amount of time in which to do the things I want and feel I need to do? Or I could be dead tomorrow — hence the daily sense of urgency, as well as the comedy — yes, the comedy, of being an animated speck in a universe also quite possibly in search of itself — an animated speck in an animated universe itself within, or parallel to, multiple speck-like universes. Or is it the other way around? I, the universe. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust — I, a universe that is and was, all dressed up, and every place to go.

“I, the Universe” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: a leaky puzzle in the basement.


nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

Hi William, dear, I think always the same about me... dann i think: simply to be what I'm without to think about what the other expect from us.. I know that is not simple, but the pression to produce (always) and to be what others expect of us sometimes is so heavy that the heaviness seems that crushes us, that happend early in a person's life, begann as child when we try to be nice or intelligent for our parents. That is necessary but at the same time sometimes is to much

ambermaida said...

You will forever be something my friend, no matter what title or form it takes.


Elisabeth said...

And I think of your ancestors William, the way you write, the way you draw, the way you share your world with us, and I think of your ancestors and I know - I have heard told - there was once a terrible genocide and many many Armenians were killed.

But you survive. You with your voice that speaks such profound truths, such musical words, such joyous utterances.

I wish that I too could follow in your steps, and enjoy such humility. Simply to be.

Joseph Hutchison said...

This is a fascinating post, William. I've actually had in mind for awhile now to comment on a shift I've seen (or imagined I've seen) in your drawings, but what with one life-event and another (or maybe just laziness) I never got around to what I meant to do--which was to go back through all your drawing posts to see if I could catch the shift in action. Do you know Julio Cortázar's short story "Axolotl"? Instead of a standard short story epiphany, this one contains a shift in consciousness, from a man's as he visits an aquarium to that of the axolotl that has captured his imagination. I fancy the shift in your drawing has been like that: from illustration to art is a shift in consciousness, and it's been a privilege to watch it happen.

all ways 11 o'clock said...


Although the label thing hasn't been mine I have written and taken photographs, sometimes one replacing the other. I was told by the very wonderful women Erin just the other day sitting at the table over supper, when I was frustrated about my writing that I was taking photographs, being creative, exercising the "artist" in me.

I too go back and forth between mediums and like you said something may very well be in the future. We must always remain open.

Good dialogue going here!

Thank you.


all ways 11 o'clock said...

I just read "Axolotl" by Julio Cortazar that Joesph referred.
A wonderful story.

Thank you Joesph.

Gerry Boyd said...

Ironically, only an artist could have written this lovely essay, thereby finding self-referential definition in an expression of doubt.

Wine and Words said...

Oh William, this was so lovely. Your peace in place is comforting...a sign that I too, will arrive. I was walking through an open courtyard the other day looking down. I stopped and began to look up at the rows and rows of windowed buildings...and I saw a woman, at the window, looking down at me and we watched each other for awhile. I felt so small, so small in my own presence, and yet I liked it.

William Michaelian said...

Hello, Laura, it’s always good to hear from you. What you say is so perceptive and true. I think what we “unlearn” is every bit as important, if not more so, than what we learn.

Amber, you’re always so gracious and kind. But you’re right — I will be something, even if the form is appalling and the title is unprintable.

Elisabeth, I have no doubt that the blood of my ancestors on my father’s side is akin to the ink I use, the ink that has stained my fingers and has yet to wash away. I know that the Genocide has taught me to see suffering and tragedy in a different light, and my own petty complaints for what they’re worth — nothing. All the more so since daily there are new reminders, new tragedies, new genocides.

Thank you for your beautiful, inspiring comment.

Joe, what a wonderful story! After reading something that good, I hesitate to write and draw again (he said, his ego laughing). I think the most noticeable shift came when my drawings started drawing me, and when I started writing about them, only to be ignored by both....

Robert, Erin is a wise one. A flower reveals itself according to its nature, and we see it according to ours — which is to say, not all at once. Thank you.

Gerry, thanks — as it takes an artist to understand it.

Annie, you’ve just shown how easy it can be to write a poem when we aren’t trying to write one.

But where from, and where to, when we’re already here? I think the distance is imagined, a crutch we don’t really need to use.

Anthony Duce said...

It's nice when you have lived and experienced enough to know your not afraid at all of most of what is to come eventually anyway. I'm in the same place for most of what you noted, but I'm still afraid of so many things I know I'll not handle as bravely as I make myself believe now. All in all I like your take on the universe today.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Anthony. I’m keenly aware of how easy it is to make myself believe something. Often, proof comes as soon as I walk out the door. And with it comes another challenge: that my work itself does not become a hiding place.

Janice said...

You write so beautifully William. I knew that this post would end shortly but I didn't want it to. I wanted to read more...I wanted chapters more because you have so many interesting things and thoughts to write about that have happened and continue to happen in your life. Your poems, your thoughts, your memories, your stories and your drawings make you a multi-talented artist and I am very grateful that I found your blog and your inspire me to be unafraid to post my corny poems, short stories, thoughts and memories along with my little paintings. Add to your long list of talents "mentor" for such you are~~~

kenflett said...

I enjoyed that William.
it made me think that perhaps your wise, in soul, and in your hands.

William Michaelian said...

Janice, I don’t know what to say. Of course, that’s never stopped me before.... Where would I be without you, and others like you, who are willing to walk this distance together and give of your valuable time? One thing that life and blogging teaches is that we are all mentors, or can be, because we each have something different to offer, a unique talent or perspective, and our own lessons and experiences to draw upon. In short, I am here, and am able to continue, because others have the talent and grace to share.

Ken, thank you. If I am, I am also, to a noticeable degree, ignorant of them as well. Thank goodness for work like yours, which helps light the way.

Paul L. Martin said...

What I find amazing are those, like you, William, who are able to take what is given to them and use it to create. And when the giving shifts, or as you say, the faculties fail, then they take what they have left and continue to create.

If I could not write or read, I would be lost. But like Milton's blindness, the things we are given are transitory and emphemeral. All of life is change, and we must go with the flow, the river in all places at once.

To me, your art will transcend the medium. You could be given a patch of mud and a few rocks and create truth and beauty. That is the kind of artist you are, William. I love the resounding silence of the faces you draw; I love the quiet light of your poems.

You are an artist in the fullest expression of being that the world, in all its splendor demands of you. We, your friends and readers, are never disappointed.

May you continue into infinity.

William Michaelian said...

Well, Paul, I don’t know — I hear it’s lonely out there.... But when you think about it, this is infinity — here, now, and we’re all part of it. The important thing to understand, as you point out, is that life itself is a work in progress; and since that is so, so are we. Our own periods of restlessness and calm are mirrored in nature. We are nature. And yet, because we so often end up doing battle with ourselves, we seek a resting place, a safe place, a place that’s out of the storm. We wear ourselves out physically, mentally, emotionally, in the process driving our creativity into hiding. And without even realizing it, we stifle the spark in our children so that they will become “successful.” And the cycle repeats itself. Really, I think we are all artists, or are meant to be, or can be, in some dimension — indeed, must be if we’re to be happy and in tune with life.

Thank you for generous, beautiful, thought-provoking comment.

Alberto Oliver said...

And the supreme goal for any leaving creature should be to one day be able to say: "finally i got not to be a concept, or a label, but finally i got to be just one thing, to be myself, for whatever that means..!

Best Regards Will friend.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Alberto. And yes, it’s that simple. So why not today?

Best wishes to you, too.

ALeks said...

I hear you oh mighty Universe!!
I see you riding on the big wave now,thats awesome! Ride on friend,Im right behind! :O)

vazambam said...

If this is your newest "Notebook" entry, it's irrefutable proof that the Universe started with a Big Bang! Wow!

William Michaelian said...

Aleksandra, you’ve given away the secret — this universe is all wet!

Actually, Vassilis, this was written with a new online scribbling program called Malarkey. I’m going to try Balderdash next.

Old 333 said...

Just got to here via a set of instructions involving a shovel (kidding - linked thru from Trance-end D-sign there. I'm with ya all the way here, William. Thanks for this.


William Michaelian said...

Well, hello there, Unknown Deep Cascadian poet. And thanks for the scoop. Much appreciated.

Momo Luna said...

That's why i love your words, drawings, ideas, your being so much.
It's always a joy to visit all your universes, and i'm looking forward to every place to go.


William Michaelian said...

Momo Luna, I’m so glad you’re here. I feel the same way about your magical worlds. Your bright spirit is like a lantern lighting the way. Thank you.

Woman in a Window said...

And so then, you are brave.

To be without fear of change is as real a place to be as any - more real perhaps. I see you pushing well back behind the two (aenemic) dimensions of normal society. Ah. Refreshing.

And I wonder on the nature of you fearless men. Is it so real, the lack of fear? Really really not real at all? Or perhaps do you push it further back from you, not giving it voice, and thereby having it die? I think back to making those vignettes that we do as schoolage children in tissue boxes, dioramas. And I see you strong out beyond the background, about real things. And too, I see you in another smaller diorama, your own personal universe, and I see you very strong in the foreground of that one.

I strive to be without that fear by making my shoulders smaller so that it might fall off of me.


William Michaelian said...

Erin, one thing that strikes me now is how far I feel from this piece — not from its meaning, because what I say in it still feels true, but, rather, from the moment I was compelled to write it, and did so, even though there were a dozen other things I could and perhaps even should have been doing instead. Now, this could be construed as an act of bravery. But as I mentioned to Anthony earlier on, I have to be sure that this work I love isn’t also a hiding place. I can meet my fears head on in my writing, but I can also avoid them. Even art can be a crutch.

A personal universe. Maybe we do inhabit, each of us, our own universe, and are subject to its laws. And maybe one of those laws is that we are also subject to the laws of what we perceive to be this universe.

And maybe fear is not a bad thing. Maybe we have to smile at it, acknowledge it, and let it serve its purpose, and be glad, even, that we are afraid.

More thoughts, thanks to yours. And I love tissue box dioramas.

Woman in a Window said...

I am nothing but happy with your response. There are many nuggets here for me to digest.

I like to think on perhaps not completely rejecting fear. In our so-safe society I think I have been fooled to believe I should reject fear, or steadily work against it. Perhaps that's not the case at all, as you say.

I like your honesty as well, how you acknowledge your distance from this piece not long after feeling it so utterly. It does seem to me that truths pass through me. It doesn't make them any less true for their fleetingness, I feel, but it is awfully hard to convince others of this.

I like you and yer mind. :)


William Michaelian said...

I know what you mean. And there’s no use trying to convince anyone — of anything, really. You can’t persuade someone to understand. They have to arrive at the understanding themselves. But you can share your experience.

And without ever realizing it, people can be afraid to live without fear. Even fear, in its monstrous familiarity, can be a safe place.

Even happiness can seem a threat. Without something familiar to bang our heads against, we feel our identity is at risk. Especially if what we bang our heads against is of our own construction.

And that is my experience.