Monday, January 28, 2013

The Onion

"People need people, Josh..."

Honesty time, ok?

So, that tiny little quote was from a convo that I had with a friend, quite awhile ago. When she said this particular little tidbit to me, I actually cringed a bit. Yeah, I write about connection and all that crap on this space a bunch. I get that.

Honesty time.

Ready?

I'm really crappy at connecting with people. I mean...I can say hello, and how are you. I can maintain the appearance of social connection, but at the end of the day, I'll only let you get so deep. Like in Shrek, where they say "Ogres are like onions, they have layers."?

I'm like an onion I guess.

Or maybe a clam.

Point is, I have an exterior. The one I let everyone see. And then I have, well, me. I know everyone has an outer shell. Some are thicker than others. It works, to a degree. I can insulate myself, and avoid common injuries that being open will inflict. I can evaluate others from a safe distance. I can see others make mistakes that I'm protected from.

But then there's the other side. 

Because when you're locked inside yourself, safe and sound, you begin to discover just how empty being alone with yourself can be. At first, it's the best feeling in the world. You've go no one to cater to but yourself. You don't have any potential threats inside your self-coma. But, at some point, those little things won't be enough. You start to realize that life, isn't worth living when you can't share yourself with others.

Everyone has gifts, talents, and beauty in their soul. Each person is different in what they offer. But the soul isn't meant to be kept to oneself. It just isn't fulfilling. Something in our wiring requires us to need others, and that requires trust...

Isn't trust what we're all looking for?

We want to be able to place our faith in something. Something outside our self. And, sadly, people don't always live up to the bill. People leave. People let you down. They cause you pain.

If you're like me, that cuts real deep. Your natural reaction will be to push away. Everything. Everyone who's ever been close to you. To install that barrier.

Well, what I've found, is that this still brings pain with it. My shell has become empty, and I'm left with my mind, and thoughts about what things could've been. It's a special kind of hell. The barrier that you place up becomes a prison to keep you in. It isn't supposed to be like this.

That's why, though I cringed and recoiled at my friend's statement, I know it to be true.

As much as it can hurt, we have to learn how to pull ourselves up, pick up the pieces, let go, and move forward. We aren't meant to be alone. We need to connect, or life won't be full. Life won't be worth living.

If you can't share yourself with people, you will leave behind a life of little significance.

Prying open the clamshell will be painful. It will bring with it let down, and disappointment. Failure, and brokenness. Peeling back the layers is a painful endeavor. But...

It also brings fullness that you cannot achieve on your own, no matter how you try.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Eleventh Commandment

There is an eleventh commandment. 

And since I'm so nice, I'll share it with you.

It all started when I had roommates. A period that I fondly refer to as...hell. Don't misunderstand, my roommates were nice enough, decent people. I wouldn't mind hanging out with them, I'd just never want to live with them. I don't live with people. Not my thing.

This particular roommate worked all the time. It was great. I normally had the place to myself, and didn't have to worry about factoring another person's schedule into the shower rotation. But he still lived with me, and we still shared common areas of the house. One day, I ran in from work, and alarms started going off in my head... I knew I had to, you know...use the facilities.

So I booked it inside, swiftly entered the old water closet, and it wasn't until I shut the door that I realized...there was no TP.

Well what the crap?

Ugh, he probably just forgot to replace it. No big deal. It kind of annoyed me, if I'm honest, but I didn't want to be that ridiculously picky roommate. So, I just let it slide.

A few weeks down the road, it happened again.

Now I'm feeling quite bothered by the whole situation. Seriously, how hard  can it be to replace the roll when you're done with the first one? This isn't brain science, or rocket surgery people.

This time around, I made sure to leave an extra roll on the back of the toilet. Just in case it was too terribly hard to, you know, make it to the closet right next to our bathroom for the replacement.

You can guess what happened, right?

Yeah, it ran out again, and he DIDN'T REPLACE IT!!!!

All this time I'm thinking...'Dude, what is this guy's glitch? I did virtually all the work here!'

So, I just placed the new roll on TOP of the old empty one, thinking, 'Maybe he'll get the hint this time.'

That TP sat there for, I kid you not, a week.

By this time, I've definitely got my rage face on, hardcore. My roommate moved out shortly after. Not 'cuz I blew my top on him, but for other reasons.

But, let me tell you, if I ever live with someone again, and they try to pull that crap on me, someone's going to get seriously jacked up!!

The Eleventh Commandment: He who useth the last of the bath tissue, shalt replace it, or thou wilt be smote down by thine roommate.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tortured Soul

DISCLAIMER: This post will contain the contents of my previous shoot. If you don't like disturbing subject matter, I suggest you refrain from reading. This is intended to provoke thought, and perhaps spur action... You've been warned.

I want to tell a story about a girl I knew...



Beautiful, soft-spoken, hopeful. She was full of dreams once.


But the girl I knew, began to grow up. Soon she discovered that dreams and hope weren't enough. The world is demanding. Expectant. She was given masks, in order to play the part. She didn't want to be a disappointment...







For awhile, she loved it. Wearing her masks around, shoving down the uneasiness she felt behind it. We all wear masks, after all. She got all kinds of compliments, and attention, but soon she became hauntingly aware that these were all directed to her masks. She began to lose herself, her identity. And the masks required a lot of work. They consumed more, and more of her time. She became desperate to keep them exactly as she thought others wanted to see, all the while hating herself. Hating who she'd become. Looking desperately for salvation...


Our masks are only as substantial as we allow them to be. Sometimes the truth can escape. And here, the truth escaped. My friend found salvation on the edge of a jagged blade. Suddenly, it was the only thing that she could feel. The only thing that reminded her, behind the thin, shallow veil that had become her identity, her  now-ragged soul endured.


When she was alone, her moments became consumed with the task of deciding which mask she'd don next.


Is this really life? Is this everything we've been promised? Or has it all been a lie?


I never knew about the masks until, in a brief moment of weakness, she confided in me. I was horrified; I realized for the first time that I never knew her. The true her. All this time I thought I had...

As she reluctantly told me more, I began to see the cuts I hadn't seen before. small angry incisions. How had I missed them? How had I never seen this?


I'll never forget the first time I saw her. Not a mask. Just her. Worn, tired, spent. As the world moved onto its next unsuspecting victim, the masks fell away. I saw the beautiful girl, beaten down. Looking from behind such sad eyes...




To this day, I'm still haunted by those eyes, and the truth I discovered in that fateful moment. The truth that keeps me awake at night, which is, that I was the one who painted those masks. It was I who put them on this girl. This innocent, beautiful, tortured soul.

I am the problem...

Honesty in Horror

I may have a bit of an affinity for the genre known as horror. By this, I mean that I'm a horror junkie. I love horror movies, and gothic, dark, creepy art.

I know some may find this slightly strange.

Some may find it immensely strange.

Yet others will find it perfectly normal.

I want to write, today, about why I find this particular genre so alluring. You may disagree, and if so, I understand. But, I feel, that some of my friends (and even family) may wonder about what goes on in my sarcastic, dark little brain sometimes.

Well, if that's you, prepare to be enlightened.

I'll start by noting that the art of horror has, as most art does, two basic forms. There's the goofy, ridiculous, "purely-for-entertainment's-sake" kind. There's also the kind that demands a bit more sombre of an audience. Both have their merits. I will not be addressing the former in this post; I'll, instead, talk about the latter.

Sunday, I participated in my first horror photography shoot. I chose a darker theme. Why?

I'm so glad you asked.

Expressionist Horror, can be an immensely powerful tool, when used correctly. It can communicate disturbing truths, it can give people a pause, it can make people actually think... That is what I hoped to accomplish with the shoot.

Horror, to me, is kind of an "anti" genre. What I mean by that, is that it takes conventional understandings about common themes, and it tips them on their head. It's a morbid kind of satire. Take, for instance, a typical glamour shoot, with models and all. There are specific qualifications these models must meet. They must be so tall, they have to have great skin, they need to  be a certain weight, etc. Then the creators of the shoot go on to create airbrushed goddeses that shape our perceptions of beauty.

Horror shoots may take that concept and twist it. They may take a beautiful face, and warp, distort or otherise create a picture that is entirely unexpected. In doing this, it creates it's own kind of macabre art and beauty, All the king fun of the norm (even though the norm was a facade in the first place).

Another reason I enjoy this particular genre is due to, what I call, the 'Contrast Effect.'

Chances are, if you've ever edited any sort of picture on the computer, you've no doubt used the "contrast" feature that comes with very many, if not all kinds of software. It can turn a picture from something mediocre, and unremarkable, into an image that really stands out.

The interesting thing about contrast is, that, to make an image "pop" and really catch the eye of the passerby, it brings out the extremes of the color spectrum. In black and white images, in particular, contrast boosts the darks, and the highlights.

When this happens, there's very little grey left. The image is a product of two extremes.

Why do I bring this up?

Because, I believe, that a universal truth is this: When you amplify darkness, you're also (if inadvertently) amplifying light as well.

This is why something like Expressionist Horror can be such an effective, powerful form of art, if done correctly. Just look around at the world we inhabit, and you can see clear examples of this.

The horror of natural disasters are contrasted by communities putting aside their needs, to help others who've lost everything.

Cancer afflicts loved ones, and whole communities and support groups form, walking to raise funds for treatment, and honoring hope.

There are those who enslave others and those who, upon hearing the stories of slavery, dedicate their lives to setting others free.

In a strange way, the things that bring us to action about the things that matter are, in fact, tragic things. In some strange, crazy way, humanity is designed to respond at its most altruistic state in the face of darkness. Isn't that odd?

What's interesting to me though, is how the horror genre is often received by the public.

Friends who share this interest can probably relate.

It's labeled "alternative," and is brushed aside dismissively, almost apprehensively. It's horribly ironic, though, given that people digest horror stories every single day. Think about it. Have you ever watched the news? Murder, suicide, shootings, abductions, natural disasters...hell, even politics contain their own brand of horror.

Yet, when an artist attempts to put horror to canvas, it's labeled "alternative," and is even unwelcome in some venues.

Here's what I like most about this genre though. It resonates with me. It's relatable. At the shoot last night, I was talking to a couple of the models, and one said that it was 'the most awful moments of her life' that made her into the person she was today. She said she wouldn't trade it.

It happened. It was horrible. It made her into the person she is today, and she wouldn't trade it.

I would be so bold as to speculate that, without experiencing hell, we can never find heaven. I'd also be so bold as to bet that you've experienced your own special kind of hell. Perhaps you're going through it at this very moment. Perhaps it's a moment of the past. But sooner or later it catches us.

It's in those moments that we're forced to get honest with ourselves. It's those moments which largely define the course of our lives...
That's the honesty I find in horror.