thx thầy

Sending super gratitude to Thích Nhất Hạnh who passed at 95 on Jan 22, 2022.

I learned of Thích from my wife, who showed me his book Peace Is Every Step. He was my introduction to any of this stuff. This type of writing. This way of looking at the world. This ability to see beauty in everything. To look at things that are hard and things of traditional beauty like nature with the same energy and intention. To honor our brief time in relationship to these bodies and this world.

Thích finally got me meditating. I realized at one point after reading a few of his books that I was going through the motions a bit. Reading and thinking yes meditation is great and important… finally admitting it’s not something I practiced. Around 5 years or so later I’m still a very amateur, sporadic meditator, but I practice.

Thích also absolutely changed what walking looks like for me too. Mindful walking, walking meditation, taking the time to notice things a bit deeper, with the awesome benefit of forgetting about work ish and to-do lists for a sec too.

Thinking about him today, I realized one of the gifts I learned from Thích was to not really refute. I just can’t picture him arguing with people—it even sounds ridiculous to write. He so confidently repped what he believed there wasn’t much need for anything else. He has a tragic story he tells of a rapist pirate, and how he realized he could be that rapist pirate if he was born and raised the same way as them. I wonder what this level of openness and egolessness could look like in terms of our political and religious discourse and beyond. To understand behind immediate differences. To sit with them calmly, to realize our interbeing.

At the same time—Thích was a massive activist! Such a trip to think of how these two seemingly opposing ideas can coexist. He famous helped Martin Luther King Jr. see a way beyond war, causing MLK to publicly oppose the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. MLK later nominated Thích for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

I guess this is a thank you note and a way for me to practice re-re-re-remembering Thích’s influence, and dive back into the books (all of which I highly recommend). To practicing looking at a tree and seeing the rain, the clouds, the sun, the earth, the birds, the pollinators, and ourselves.

LOVE

Mid-range elders

The other day I got to drive some footage for a couple of docs we’re shooting from Tucson to Phoenix. It felt like a spy mission because the tiny memory card in my pocket can make or break days of shooting and thousands of dollars (no pressure!).

We always keep 2 copies of the footage in 2 different spaces, so if one is lost, stolen, or melts in the sun we still have the footage. It’s a trip how often this actually happens and films are lost. Apparently, Julia Cameron went through this in the ’80s when all of the sound from her film was totally lost.

On the way home from Phoenix (after buying out the vegan pastry case at The Cornado and getting a sammy from Green), I listened to the Emergent Strategy episode featuring MawuLisa Thomas Adeyemo. She focuses her work on the body, asking us to start with our personal temple. What are we putting in our bodies and minds?

A convo about eating what’s right for us moved to gardening and eventually aging. MawuLisa talked about being 45, realizing they’re becoming an elder, and are thinking about what that means. They’re trying to embrace this important stage, preparing by asking themselves who they are and what are they teaching the youth?

In a society that tells us we should figure out a way to be young forever I love folks who openly embrace aging—my friend Jacob being the first in my life I ever heard talk about being excited to get older.

When I think of my own aging body and mind, part of my brain (inner-hater McGee) loves to diss. “Oh cool, you’re happy with being old? Guess you’re done living, striving, and questioning.” My practice is noticing this unconscious BS synonymous with aging in my head and doing the work I need to do to live my current truth and possibility.

Age, time, and experience help us get used to being comfy being us. This doesn’t need to mean complacency, but more owning and sharing who we are. I love MawuLisa’s perspective. it’s ok to be like, I’m older than these folks, and to make that cause to be a leader. Feels like ridiculously dope and necessary motivation for growth!

There is SO MUCH LEFT TO LEARN. We’re never done. Forever intimidating amounts but we just have to continue growing and honoring our hype selves and capabilities—whatever that looks like for us.

A friend of mine is 47 and recently shared a bit about how they were missing their prime. I tried to gracefully notice they seem to be doing pretty amazing stuff right now. Had their life really peaked 20 years ago? I loved their response. They talked about missing the energy they had back then and being OK with recognizing the era as a magic time in their life. Not better, just very different.

I shared MawuLisa’s Emergent Strategy episode with her and after classicly overthinking it for a bit. She thanked me and I thanked her for sharing her perspective. She has a perspective I’m still on my way to realizing. My job is at least in part to listen and learn, while of course staying on whatever this path looks like for me.

Full love to thinking about those times when we knew we were crushing. My hope is to learn from these experiences. What does that vibe look like today, knowing what I know now, and realizing I’m still everything I was, just with even more knowledge and experience on top? That things will never be what they were, and how this is not only OK but so dope to get to build something new, here, today.

Being Humble i.e. Productive

Being humble
i.e. productive
—From “The Blue Stairs” by Barbara Guest

When I first read this line I yell-thought YES! JUST DO YOUR WORK! Humility will happen as you’re too busy creating to worry about it. Head down at the desk or studio or wherever you do your thing.

But where is the humility in creating alone or with our artist friends?

I feel best when I’m deep into a couple of projects and they’re moving along one way or another (I had written “going well” and that felt less humble).

What if humility is the productivity?

Maybe it’s the results of being humble that equals productivity—the drive we need to create.

Humility is, at its core, peace. Much of this so-called productivity surrounding us just a mess of capitalism. Buy this one more thing and you’ll get so much done! Productive—limitlessly?

At the end of “The Blue Stairs” there’s a note: “The Modern Museum in Amsterdam has blue stairs.”

Being surrounded by incredible art can feel pretty fucking humbling.

We can even feel like we’re accomplishing a lot by just looking at this art. By participating in its greatness, by just being near it.

I remember going to The Centre Pompidou in Paris on a whim. After a day of biking around eating the best macarons in the city we found ourselves staring at this giant museum across its long, open, paved square. I remember saying to my friends, “I’m going in there if y’all want to come.”

My wife joined and we were floored for the 2-3 hours we spent walking around.

We felt humbled by all the great art (though going to The Centre Pompidou and writing about it can definitely feel like a brag and not super humble).

Is participating in art is essential to humility as artists?

It’s tricky to think of making your art as somehow less-than-humble. I write endlessly about how important it is for you to do you. That you doing you rubs off on me. That’s it’s your only true choice for progress—your gift to this lifetime. Your work is important and needed and it ripples out.

This way of interpreting Barbara Guest’s line might look like making our art and doing us—realizing it’s for the better of the crew at-large. More than just for us in our studios, or for money, or both. Searching for humility in our space of feeling the joy of working and completed work.

“Being humble
i.e. productive”

LOVE

Not journaling

I joined an online Q&A with the author Nadia Owosu for her new book Aftershocks a few months ago. It was one of those events where you wonder how there aren’t more folks there, like when I saw Edan and Justin from Chances with Wolves DJ in Manhattan and I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a line around the block. Or when I chaperoned a coworker’s kid to see his fav DJ, Deadmau5, and he assumed everyone on the train was probably going to the show too.

I asked in the chat if Nadia felt like she was journaling while documenting the breakdown/breakthrough she weaves throughout the book, or if she had a sense she was onto something more. She very confidently responded that she considered it research. She was documenting was happening to her. All this long before realizing it would turn into a book one day.

She distanced herself from the word journaling and maybe that’s what’s important. Owning her stuff as something deeper, even if it’s just a name.

Patrick Rhone shares a metaphor with folks who write online to get them thinking about their work in a new way. He asks us to imagine what is it like to drink a Coke from a wine glass. The same taste in a different package. He wants us to look at our writing online or blogging as something more. As essays written online. Shed the idea of a ‘blog’ for a sec and look at what your writing looks like in this different container.

In Nadia’s case, the container of a journal for sure didn’t fit the depth of what she was documenting and creating.

Later in the interview, she shared that she had no intention to write this book until her professor noticed some of her research. They immediately asked her to scrap what she was working on and dive into this!

I think about how we can learn from Nadia and own our work a bit more too.

Humility is most lovely. But what about when it’s used to a level of self-deprecation? Such a balance for us as the speaker and the listener in these conversations with our art.

Once my friend Captain told me about how he just started talking about his art more. When people ask what he’s been up to, instead of saying, “chilling,” he pulls out his phone and shares a couple of examples of new work. He’s able to do this—and even tell me about doing it—in a way that doesn’t feel braggy at all. It feels natural and right.

In my notes for this essay, I wrote—ex. friends being overly humble. why not be overly confident too?

Guess that’s why Edan named himself “The Humble Magnificent.”

Confident & open love.

n

PS: Speaking of humble, confident, and inspiring humans—have you heard my interview with Nisey Shanks? 💜

Continue

Dâm-Funk reshaped the word “continue” from a task to an artful and unquestionable push towards the mystery of what’s next. He might write about something difficult happening in the world on Twitter (where he is legit the most positive human), and cap it off with a “Continue.”

This in mind as I drove around West Tucson bumping Architecture III a couple of months ago, riding the heaviness of another inevitable wave of overwhelm, grateful for his lead, positivity, and gravity.

Continuing feels very Buddhist. It’s repping for the hard times and good times equally—everything combining and we stay on our path towards whatever is happening. The forever easier-said-than-done practice.

It’s hustling for what we’re capable of. Our inner-David Goggins continuing to crush, one foot in front of the other. Goggins talks about the mind stopping before the body, something that came to him while running laps for 24hrs straight to qualify for an ultra-marathon. We can witness our minds getting in the way of our ability to create and live fully too. Trying so f’n hard to distract us from our path.

Lately, I’ve learned to listen more intently to elders, and especially elders of color. DUH, you might think—but this isn’t something that I was taught to value explicitly growing up as a white kid from the burbs. I’m lucky that part of my work puts me in touch with many of these wise women.

Innesse is probably 75 or so and part of a faith-based anti-racist group I worked with. She passed down this quote from her grandma, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… yard by yard, it’s hard.” What’s incredible is she shared this in reference to a defensive reaction to our film and partnership from a high-ranking white leader in her community. Unfazed in her badass self, she guided us to continue.

Continuing is also quite anti-capitalistic (so is chilling), as it’s going at our pace. Continuing, not because of made-up rules created by capitalism and social media, but because we’re doing what we want to do at our core.

It helps me feel less daunting and overwhelmed. I don’t need to do something extraordinary today. Continuing on this path is extraordinary. Its work and growth and effort and lounging all wrapped up into one. Breathing.

It’s acknowledging the work we’ve been doing. It’s good. It matters. Keep doing this stuff! I like to catch myself feeling my art and make a little note (7/22/21 — digging this!). These end up being super helpful weeks later when I’m feeling less confident.

Continuing allows us to make mistakes and grow, judgment-free. “Fucking up on my own terms,” as my bud Nisey so honestly put it in a conversation we recorded. Cruising with change and learning how to do more of what drives us. Here, to continue is recognizing the real us. It forces us to see where we put our energy and reveals what this looks like behind the curtain. We can discover more deeply where our intention and attention are landing.

Following our path, our heart, our hype. Learning about one artist from another. Taking a rabbit hole towards more of what we love and inspires us. Pausing for a sec to see what’s unfolding in front of us and trusting ourselves to move forward towards these paths opening up every day.

^Maya <3

I hope this is helpful for you too. I hope it empowers the choices you have to live this life and keep going. To continue listening, learning, and doing.

CREWLOVE!
n

Originally shared via my newsletter