Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Is that what I seek? Quite possibly, but not for the usual reasons — or so I tell myself. On most days, I’m content with my relative anonymity — and would, in fact, be content if it were as complete and silent as a grave, as it will likely one day be. I would sooner be a bird on a thistle, or a shock of windblown grain.

Recognition? The same.

Understanding? — maybe, in the way we understand a tree or an ocean.

What must be understood, and which in its very simplicity is even harder for many to grasp, especially in this superficial, commercial, and economically tough day and age, is that I really do write and make art for a living. Every so often, I’m asked privately what I “do” for a living. Well, this is it. This is my labor. This is my contribution. And yet I’m always stung by the assumption, and the painful, logical reality behind the question, the practicality, the blunt reason, as if the words had been uttered by my father, who long ago advised against pursuing such a course. Financially speaking, he was right — so far. And now he’s gone and I’m a grandfather.

And so, if there is any reason I would wish for fame, it would be to put food on the table consistently and reliably, and to make life easier for those who love me and believe in me.

I have done many things to survive, suffered the same fear, drudgery, boredom, and doubt that drives many of us insane. I have laughed through it, joked through it, wept through it, and cursed through it. And yet I’m fully aware that I’ve only scratched the surface of human suffering. The older family members on my father’s side survived the Armenian Genocide. Those who didn’t escape, perished — were slaughtered, or driven out to the desert to die. This is the source of my humor. I say this because I was taught how to laugh, how to hold up my head, and how to recognize hypocrisy by those very same survivors.

We need, in these our daily lives, to be much larger. We need to be great. Our fear of greatness, our misunderstanding of what it is and isn’t, and our mistaken idea that it’s out of reach keeps us small and thinking puny thoughts. Rich or poor, if we’re not defiant, if we’re too ashamed or embarrassed or self-centered to stand up and see and tell the truth, then why are we here? To reproduce? To be consumers and die in some arrogant damn fool’s war? To get ahead? To have more? Of what?

“Fame” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

In the Forum: “The Data-Reduced Loaf.”


ALeks said...

William, Im humbled and grateful to you as ever, very much,in absence of the closeness with my parents, what they are standing for and what my ancestors passed over to me, the same kind of humour,same kind of pride to walk this Earth with strait back,I thank you for this warm reminder of those important values,I needed that much!
Thank you for being who you are,Artist and the craftsman in your bones and I do hope you will stay famous and great as long as we live and as long as life and memory lives in those who are coming after us!!

William Michaelian said...

Aleksandra, the feeling goes both ways. I will try to live up to your kind words, and let the future take care of itself.

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

William this one is a beautifull post, leve me totally thinking about, you are right in so much things but the needing to create to express better yourself and all that you are carring inside you is the reason, the principaly reason, I put my hand on fire that, if someone gave you a high reward if you wrote something that you don't feel inside, you would this not ever done, I'm sure

oh god I have wrote so bad english now.. sorry I hope you understand....

William Michaelian said...

Dear Laura, I do understand, and you’re right, I would never do that, I wouldn’t even know how. Thank you.

Zaina Anwar said...

Thank you for sharing this post, William. From my own experiences with people and the kind of reactions I get when I tell them 'I am an artist', I have come to realize that being an artist is the same as being unemployed. Currently, as I write this, I can't help but laugh, because in situations like that, I really do feel as if I'm part of an absurdist universe, lol. I can relate to a lot of things you have said here. Thanks again.

Momo Luna said...

What a great post William. I know exactly how it feels if people ask you what you do for a living. Nowadays i've also my job as a therapist, but before that i had the same struggles. Or that people say about your work: a nice hobby, not taking it seriously. :-S My love has the same struggles for being a musician. His father don't think that's a job although he've made records and doing performances. But not in the commercial scene. First of all i am an artist, second a therapist.
I think i seek recognition for my work. I think that's what means the most for me, but i'm not sure.

.....that i've only scratched the surface of human suffering... Maybe you're right, but i think to suffer is to suffer, there's no gradation in it. Hmmm difficult to explain because i know if you survived a terrible war, or you are being humiliated by your father that there sure is a difference in graduation. But is there a difference in the suffering? As i said difficult to explain, i don't want to insult someone. But there's no difference in suffering just because of this: I have done many things to survive, suffered the same fear, drudgery, boredom, and doubt that drives many of us insane. Hmmm i hope you understand a bit what i mean? I don't want to be harsh or something.
Good questions at the end of this post. Indeed; of what?

And today is my lucky day William. I just ordered your book: One hand clapping. I can't wait to receive it. :-)

Sweet greetz and a hug for you!

donnafleischer said...

Hello, dear William. You write "Rich or poor, if we’re not defiant, if we’re too ashamed or embarrassed or self-centered to stand up and see and tell the truth, then why are we here?" Thank you for reminding us. We always need that truth and truthsaying.

William Michaelian said...

Zaina, thank you. “Absurdist universe” is a great way to put it. Most of all, though, I’m just glad we have a part in the play....

Momo Luna, this is another cosmic coincidence — your new book, Silent echoes, just arrived. So after we’re done babysitting our grandson today, I can start to enjoy it. Thank you.

My father, of course, had suffered through some hunger and hard times, and always wanted the best for us kids. The beautiful, ironic thing about it is, he approached his life’s work, which was farming, in the same way I approach mine. I learned from him. He could have done something else more “practical,” but he never did. And he did understand me.

Suffering.... yes. Suffering is suffering, and we can’t measure it with a ruler. Psychological, physical. What I mean to say is that there is always someone whose life and struggle to survive is more difficult.

I’ve said before, I think living itself, and being human, is the one true art. Everything we do springs from that.

Thanks again for your beautiful thoughts.

Donna, thank you too. As always, you go straight to the heart of things.

RUDHI - Chance said...

You're hammering with words so true, it sound's for all that struggling souls - between arts 'nd needs of flowing life; I have to go to kiss my wife! You're Blog 'nd Books are treasure-houses to dive for unexpected waves of depths... Fame is good for money; but money often is the whip for fame I think. So we do our freestyle-fame or so... Time will choose what have been true 'nd worth to keep it sure for future minds to find there heart of Life... (STOP ME, William; because you're inspirations are heavy driving rocket-gas!)

Anthony Duce said...

Your post today deals with questions I have tried to answer for many years. Your answers are similar, or at least as good as mine, or where the stand at least, at this moment in time. Thank you

Janice said...

William you have to write and be true to who you are. Your talent lies in the arts. You have the love and support of your family and you need not answer to anyone but your family and yourself. You are one of the few who can do what he loves for a living and I might add...damn good at it!!! I for one hope that you will continue to be the great writer and artist that you are because if you stopped it would be a great loss of talent. I am in need of your words and your drawings and I am not alone...

William Michaelian said...

Rocket gas, Rudhi? I don’t want to stop you — I want you to go on and on.....

Thanks, Anthony. The answers are simple enough, but living with them can sure be complicated.

Janice, your words of affirmation, encouragement, and support are music to my ears — including your “damn,” which flew all the way to Salem on silver wings. Thank you.

RUDHI - Chance said...

A big *Homerian laughter* (to us) I hear, William!

William Michaelian said...

I hear it too, Rudhi. In fact, I always do....

Momo Luna said...

That's exactly how i feel it too Janice: i am in need of the words of William. Since i've found his beautiful words i can't stop reading them. :-)

Wine and Words said...

My Pops is an oil painter...a grandfather now, and still, an oil painter. He can exist on $10,000 a year, so that what he is, he also does. I find it admirable really. And I admire the reality, of making a living doing what you love to matter how meager.

William Michaelian said...

Monica, here comes one of those words now: “smile”

Thanks, Annie. It’s great to hear that about your dad. Sometime, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll read Kahlil Gibran’s passage about Work from his great book, The Prophet. Truly inspiring, whatever our calling, whatever our current situation.

Caio Fernandes said...

what to say?
perfect post.

William Michaelian said...

And now I ask the same question.

Thank you, Caio.

Nazia Mallick said...

William, I am not huge fan of Barack Obama, but this man said something very valuable that I happen to read somewhere.Here it is: "Focusing your life solely on making money shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."
I liked the phrase "poverty of ambition" and I think this what all the creative souls have "Richness of ambition"

I was reading the comments and realized that every body had found something in your post to relate to. It was like you managed to sluice the deeply held secrets out...but then you have that talent.To move people.
I had some tears held back rigidly and few tiny sobs -'Oh I could relate to this and this...'

I send you all my love!

While reading

William Michaelian said...

Love accepted, Nazia, and gratefully returned. Thanks for your beautiful comment. The pursuit of money for money’s sake is a hollow one. From childhood, our natural gifts and talents need to be cultivated and brought into the light. Too many of us are strangers to ourselves, angry, bitter, confused, and not sure why. And then the cycle is repeated. People desperately need a release, but they seek it in all the wrong places. Even in these hard times, the entertainment industry rakes in billions. Athletes are paid millions. Television propogates shallow filth and uniformity, and a price tag is hung on every emotion. Gurus are businessmen and businessmen are gurus. And then, suddenly, out of it all, we are struck through and moved by the beauty of a rainbow, the sound of a waterfall, or the light in a child’s eyes. For just a moment, we hear the music that’s been playing all along....

ALeks said...

I am very sure why Im confused,angry,exhausted by being a stranger to this world around me and slowly but surely to myself in my fight to survive! I can name the reasons,make a saga out of them, (not that anyone would be interested in it) on the first place of my list is dishonesty and Im sure I was looking in the right places in search for good communication with humans by all known languages, as I learned there were other ways to communicate but the spoken language,what ever they might sound and look like,hungry from anger of not being protected as a child,cared for enough to build my own,strong and Independent little persona,not being thought about anything else but good and evil,all of it in human shapes,makes a child totally lost in the world which becomes a huge disappointment. Bottom line for me, after all of these years turning my other cheek, I say,no more!! Yes you are right when you say that we need to be much larger(although,in my case maybe not such a good idea),to be much greater take some guts!! Who ever has guts that I knew of,had not many friends so that might be the reason I feel alone in a mass of people.Only when I go to the hospital and see very young children fighting cancer,all kind of dreadful diseases,having their limbs amputated and looking with those shiny eyes I am humbled by their greatness and they give me a reason to go on and never forget what is it all about!
I have no idea why Im here and why I wrote this! There must be a reason,at least to resonate like a small resonance chamber in a midst of an classical guitar .....

Harry Kent said...

a wise and wonderful post, William. A post filled with courage and plain good sense. Not only Keats, but all our lives are writ on water. So what can we live by? What can explain why we get out of bed in the morning? Shopping at Walmart somehow isn't enough.

Your call to greatness rings out with the voice of a Throeau. To paint and to write is to strive to shed truth and beauty on a world too often lost and dark. You call us to a heroic mission.

What else can we do? A sky-lark must sing even when no one is listening.

William Michaelian said...

Aleksandra, the very fact that you are here, that you feel free to say what you’re thinking and feeling, is an honor, and is inspiring to me. So don’t stop — you are a giver and bringer of light. That’s enough for me.

William Michaelian said...

Must, Harry, and will, and that knowledge alone sustains.

I feel quite lucky about our new acquaintance. Your art and outlook arrive at a good time.

Woman in a Window said...


What to address?

Was there anger? Perhaps. Frustration? Yes. Passion? Most definitely. It is good to read you so determined.

The other day I asked one of the summer students a real question. I told her I was so tired of small talk and bullshit. She said, Ok, go ahead. I asked her what she believed has value in life and how she finds value. Mostly she answered in terms of people, which was sweet, and I believed her, and too, at 18 socializing is so important. Family was listed, too. And good conversation. I laughed. And then she turned the question back at me and I was shocked. Most people when asked a real question, in my experience, like to answer, but forget to ask. My answer was the important people in my life are both valuable and grant me value, time to think on life, learning, and the time to create thereby reflecting back (hopefully) some learning and the beauty all around us. We both denounced stuff and the distraction of stuff (that too often leads to war). We live on an odd page in North America - within a system of false constructs. It was a good start to a good day.

If we stand tall enough and speak honestly enough, will we be heard?

Where do you find value, William? I do believe you tell us every day within every poem, but perhaps it would feel good to answer?


William Michaelian said...

Erin, I think the daily poems, the drawings, and the conversation and exchange that springs from them continue because the question is implicit, and the answer is subject to change as long as we live — because we live and change, physically and psychologically.

In short, we are here to see where it leads.

I also think the answer I give you must vary from the answer I give others, because in answering each I am responding within the context of a particular friendship or acquaintance, however brief or long, a relationship with its own history, needs, hopes, and expectations.

At the same time, I’m aware that by answering here in a public forum, that I’m also speaking to everyone present, and to those, even, who may join us later on. Just as you’re aware of the same things when you ask.

I find the dynamics most appealing.

In terms of value, not knowing is the first thing that comes to mind. As useful as knowledge is, I think it’s a relatively small part of why we’re here. We’re here as explorers, pushing into strange territory. The fact the others may have covered the same or similar ground doesn’t matter; we must observe and experience it for ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll live a life that’s once removed.

As for standing tall and speaking honestly, yes, we will be heard. We will be heard from across the supper table and in the grocery aisle. We will be heard in bed, from the pulpit, and in the school room. And we will be heard if we speak dishonestly. And that is why we must go on speaking.

ALeks said...

In terms of not speaking all the time....
Is my silence also good enough? Do you get offended by it? Is silence dishonest on any level ? Most of my life I spent silenced and when I finally spoke, I wished to use as little words possible! Less is more!! How can that be interpreted as offensive by anybody? Maybe in a case when one holds a secret agenda but that does not mean every body is plotting against humanity in silence!Paranoia ? Cheep provocation? I dont know,do you?
I was broth up by wisdom of few wonderful writers, Ivo Andric (Nobel Prize winner) and Mesa Selimovic and from there,beside a marvelous way to interpret this world leaving enough space for free choice in ones believes or disbelieves, the saying, "In silence is the Gold" and I think that's wise!
Warm greetings from

William Michaelian said...

Greetings! Just feeling my way here...

It seems to me that we don’t understand silence, that we fear it, even, until we’re unable to find it within. And when we do find it, that is our best motivation to speak. It’s possible to speak and remain silent at the same time — to speak from silence without violating it.


With so many of us talking at once,
I wonder how there can be silence at all.
Or is silence the sum total of sound,
An infinite roar, a vessel rimmed with stars?

ALeks said...

"Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, 'Only let the moving waters
calm down, and the sun and moon will be reflected on the surface of your being."
Deepak Chopra
I would love to watch the reflection of the sun and moon on my being enjoying the silence together with those who are not afraid! Pity for fear as
fear is a strong feeling, responsible for lots of unnecessary misjudgments and is in general not so constructive emotion. Wasn't one of the characteristics of great people not being afraid? We supposed to become larger and greater,this afternoon we spoke of high and noble heights and beings!!
Beautiful poem at the end of my night,lovely! Silence!!

Woman in a Window said...

Thank you, William.

(I have a great deal to learn from silence.)