Saturday, 4 May 2013

C'est dans la joie

Hey, I'd like to thank the creator for giving me this gift, and I'd like to thank you for being reflections of this gift, because sometimes you feel like you're by yourself a little.." - Erica Badu, Yeyo.

This week, spring has come to Amsterdam! at long last! and it allows me to see pockets of life where Amsterdam reveals the warmth and fun behind it. after school finishes, families round the amstel collect around picnic tables, benches I've cycled past unnoticed are filled with every kind of people. the warmth brings out the warmth, and i quite like it.

I was given a ticket to go see the Van Gogh museum. It had been sort of a reward for rebelling against organised group activities.. I really couldn't find the enthusiasm to take part in the easteregg hunt. So i went to the toilet, and when i came back, i was given an egg anyway. fair enough thought i.

I'd had a slight awareness of Van Gogh living in the south, my home was two villages away from his birthplace of Zundert, i didn't work this out until about a year or so into grocery trips. driving past vogh's self portrait on the welcome to zundert sign suddenly had meaning. well, better late than never. In visiting his exhibition in the Hermitage, Amsterdam., there were three things that struck me overall where his ethos was concerned, firstly was his absolute obsessive painting in the moment. to grab every possible feeling of the in that "now". Secondly was his interest in Japanese art and religious attention to nature and its affect.  He wrote letters to his brother marvelling at Japanese way of living with respect to their environment.


"..isn't it almost a new religion that these Japanese teach us. Who are so simple and live in nature as though they themselves are flowers. And wouldn't we be able to study Japanese art it seems to me without becoming much happier and more cheerful. and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention." - Van Gogh's thoughts in a letter to his brother Theo.

I was then very drawn to a second painting, and i really wasn't sure why at first. I preferred some others to it, others had sometimes more intricate brushwork, sometimes colours that i found more touching. but the energy that came off this one painting, brought that buzz to my hands. I have this buzz if i am around crystal stones, or more recently i found it also in spoken word with heart felt intention. Its just funny sometimes if you feel a good energy from something, but you have absolutely no rationale as to why. Reading the side posting, it described Van Gogh's hope in building an artistic community. Can all this good energy come from the mere hope of something? if so, how fantastic would it be. The Yellow House.

La Maison et son entourage, La Rue. courtesy of

I found some more information about Van Gogh, and gradually about his flatmate, and co-learner in art, Gauguin. Van Gogh wanted to have impact on people. and viewed painting as a constant path of learning to create art, he painted in the "now" but was also eager to learn from his peers. 
So I decided to look a bit further into Van Gogh, it niggles me though if I look at something I've written and it doesn’t really  fulfil what I want it to say. Which means extra enquiry, a little more that what I'd actually intended! Lazy student - moi? Well yes, my history teacher would have you believe something on this line, for some reason we didn’t click. I wasn’t too bad as a student, but a second to top for attainment in history class, and second to bottom for attitude and effort in history class, meant really I shouldn’t have written on that desk, shouldn't have.. ? really? why not write on the desk..?

.So it was a surprise module in university that made history interesting again.   An spirited study session with my one of my flatmates a thought provoking textbook, and fairly substantial measures of Baileys and ice. our new study method and discussion saved us from summer resits.  Our text book made history thought provoking and interesting, it was Landscape and memory by Simon Schama. 

 Simon Schama's suggestion is that the landscape around us is not just the physical, but is layered with connections that we make with it from past memories, emotions and future hopes. Through discussing war, ancient culture, and modernisation, he looks at  how we continually shape and are shaped by the land, our national character defined by what is around us, a deep and ancient connection with our environment.  He suggests,
It is in vain to dream of a wilderness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigour of nature in us, that inspires that dream.''

 And if its really taken down to organic root levels, then it also ties to what  Van Gogh is trying to honour in his painting of the potato eaters, where its suggested that the browns of the earth connect full circle, the eating of what they have cultivated from the earth is now celebrated.  Van Gogh showing the most pure and organic connection with habitat around us was to be celebrated.  In conveying these thoughts, I'm not suggesting that we should throw away the lives that we like living, but just suggesting that we take time to evaluate the life that's built around us. Which parts of our environment do we connect to? which parts connect to us? which parts rejuvenate and inspire? which parts are organic, and which parts are synthetic? which bits are healthy, and which bits are not?

 Schama described that van gogh's mental health problems were both the catalyst and downfall to his art, and it was between those moments where a creative explosion would capture beauty. Van Gogh in his letters described awareness of his increasing bouts of illness. And in those moments of health, would summon confidence and courage to capture moments of nature.

 "If you work with love and intelligence, you develop a kind of armour against people's opinions, just because of the sincerity of your love for nature and art. Nature is also severe and, to put it that way, hard, but never deceives and always helps you to move forward.” - Van Gogh

 In expecting Gauguin to come and stay, he then anticipated a strength of creative force in combining two such different artistic styles. And who knows in the end which frictions, personal rivalry, difference in lifestyle, difference in artistic process… led to increasingly difficult mood swings from Van Gogh, and perhaps also escalating power struggles with Gauguin.. But what is true, is that in those nine weeks, over forty masterpieces were created between both Van Gogh and Gauguin which is a remarkable accomplishment.

 "I feel such a creative force in me: I am convinced that there will be a time when, let us say, I will make something good every day , on a regular basis....I am doing my very best to make every effort because I am longing so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance.”  - Van Gogh.


In walking around the van Gogh museum, his wish to connect peoples emotion with the moment, and with his portrayal of real life beauty, his legacy really is fulfilled.   And whilst being an example of inspiration for future expressionists to follow, his strength of character in living through his own struggles and pressure can surely also be an inspiration in its own affect.  To look at a painting, and see the life in a ladies eyes. A real lady with concerns, sadness and frustration, through Van Gogh's portrayal, i can connect with her emotions captured hundred of years before.  and in a time where mental illness could not be fully understood or supported, I'm in awe of the mental strength and resilience he had to weather such stormy cycles, its fascinating to think of outbursts of creativity between storms clouds of mental illness. on one hand a pilgrimage of struggle, on the other hand mastery of colour, movement and foundation in which many could be inspired through expressionism. 
What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.” 

In the past, during more difficult situations i have wondered if strength of heart has indeed been strengthened. when the heart pain and anxiety is so great you have to literally strap it with a belt to relieve the pressure, i did wonder at times if it all this emotional stuff was worth it in a practical sense. I would love to say that this is steeped in melodrama, melodrama would be simple. but when emotions overload to impede physical living life, you really have to question it a bit. on some of the lighter occasion, heavier occasions i kept to being a private affair, but those lighter times where i was able to process it further, i would seek Davids advice.

And the wisdom that sticks to mind, was over a distressful unfathomable outburst I'd had from someone. And whilst he could also could not reason for it, sometimes he said, there are just situations that we cannot explain, but that they are there to bring us maturity. Some of the most beautiful things, are created through struggle and pressure, favourite examples of his being diamonds, and salmon.

feeling slightly weathered and not really eager to mature, or be honed.

"Thank you David, I'm quite happy not to be challenged, in fact at the moment I really wouldn't mind just being a Tuna".

But sometimes life doesn't really give you a luxury of choosing. And in hindsight, I am glad that it doesn't. One day, I am sure that there will be a little book of reflections on a Salmon.  so really keeping things salmon, Van Gogh is a hero, mastering his life struggles in balance with his art and leaving a legacy of colour, and emotional connection in which he as affect on peoples lives. And when looking at the colours and textures of his works, we are really reminded of his own emotional depths, and that's awesome to be affected by someones soul.

courtesy of the BBC.

two years ago, i decided to retire from buying Walkmans (mp3 players, I'm not that retro) and in losing my second Walkman charger, and first Walkman actually. i went with Zussie to buy a new one on sale, for being considerably younger than me, she was remarkably good at reminding me it was just for something to listen to this time. money mattered, and not quality of sound. three weeks ago, it came to be that i lost my cheap mp3, and in a moment of irony, on my table sat the charger from cheapo, and Walkman no.2. if there are moments that i cannot find my mp3 for the commute to Amsterdam, i take it as an opportunity to practise listening and coping with the world around. every sound seemed to be filtrating the same frequency for the duration. the sound of footsteps was the same intensity as the sound of a ticket being checked, as the sound of a bird singing, and as the buzzing sound of electricity cables above the tracks. all at the same time, it left me ridiculously tired, but i thought it was maybe better to practise.

on reorganising my final bag of belongings from breda, i found not only a charger for Walkman no.2 but i also found Walkman no.1 - wonderful! so wonderful to hear intricacies in music again. to hear chemistry in music, instead of a simple buffer to city living. and it brought me to remembering how refreshing life could feel before the events of last summer (see "Abide in Me"). and it awoke my yearning to just dance. the ability to "just dance" has also had its challenges. but i was reminded that it was the feeling of simply "being" in music. Home is where the heart is, well quite a few times, that's been in a mix, a blend of music that just lets me be. this is my respite from the struggle, my peace in the storm.

In an Antwerp club, there were always a variety of girls at that point. and a variety of dance styles. I stood with Timmy Jones, a brother figure at the time. i would introduce him to you as simply Timmy, but if he was here now, he would auto-correct me, shake your hand and re-introduce himself as Timmy.. Timmy Jones. leaving in no doubt that James Bond is his hero. we looked out for each other in the club, and had a wonderful ability of spotting each others potential pulling prey. I had a fashion at the time to challenge the boys to dancing the running man. purely for amusement. Timmy Jones.. with flare, took it to his level.

".. that was great Timmy Jones.. very suave, very very cool, But I was kind of looking for something a bit more "eighties".
He gave me the biggest compliment once, Nic, its a fine day when you out shadow a black man dancing. i told him my theory, that its really black woman that dance good, and black men do a good two step alongside them. i don't know if he every fully agreed to that, but I'm sure he enjoyed testing the theory out. but that evening, i hadn't planning to overshadow anyone, this inspiration had come from one of a group of girls, who would come to the club in the final hours. when the partiers had faded out, grabbed their coats, and pulled. and instead of the ass shaking, that some girls in the early evening would do.. Timmy Jones would judge it in his way.

" know by some girls dancing.. you can tell that they're just not..."Educated"

Iwould leave Timmy to make his own judgements with an ammount of humour..but this girl would come in time for the slow jams and in simple relaxed way, the music channelled her to make golden energy that a jazz diva would hold. and so i would rather try find to be that grace than shake butt. shake butt i could do, but I'd rather then have taken the time for a level of connection beyond that.

Kaysha  - love de toi.

Reacquainting with my two lovely Walkmans, neither of who shall be sold or tampered with. new resolution. God has my faith, music is my religion, so be it, that mp3 players are the apostles of Antwerp, Breda and Rotterdam..... it inspired me to go dance. Friends were unable to, either with prior commitments, or lack of enthusiasm. in these cases, its the story of staying at home naemates, looking forward to another time that may not come. or just going with it, and seeing what life plans.

It turned out that life sewed everything together as it was most needed. sometimes its disappointing that friends aren't able to give the desired outcome, but its not worth becoming tiresome and frustrated about. of course there is justification to feel disappointment, and I'm not condoning that feelings should not be expressed to resolve those issues with friends. but at the end of the day, it takes our own efforts to overstep those heavy feelings, and don't we owe it to ourselves to enjoy life? is our feeling of disappointment really so important to fester upon? I hear this quote a lot, and it must be fashionable for a reason.

"life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, its about dancing in the rain"

and concept wise, if the "rain" is friends being unable to support you in something in the way that you had hoped. well overstep the heavy feelings, and dance anyway, from my experience, even if you have to take that opportunity to fly solo, breaking the mould or rut in how you see life as confining you, and you leave open to new possibility and connection. in my experience, life will provide the best or needed outcome for perhaps not just you, but also including those around you, and in that step of flying solo, and learning that you are already provided for, when are you ever actually really alone? i am nurtured, i am encouraged, and i am ready to dance again. C'est dans la joie. Its in the joy.

Mokobe - C'est dans la joie.



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