Finally got around to making a personal project I’ve been wanting to do since October: to flush out the cycle of themes from the Emze series The Magical Unseen. It just so happened to work out to match the months of the year, so I made a little 2015 desk calendar and pulled together some of my favorite quotes to accompany each theme. It took longer than expected, to be honest, from selecting the type to determining the layout and figuring out the spacing. But I’m happy with how it turned out, it is what I imagined it to feel like. A little packet of my thoughts. Figured I’d share a little more of the thinking behind each one and what it means to me. This is not meant to be communicated as “right” or “the truth,” just my personal thoughts at this time. And while I’m late to the calendar game, NYE is a good time for this type of reflective post (read: overly-long and overly-divulging).
As some of you know, I draw mostly based on my feelings at the time. It may be extrapolated/exaggerated, so don’t be alarmed or concerned if it seems anything less than happy 🙂 I started drawing these evanescent images of Emze over some photographs I took over the last few years. In some ways it was to be able to place my thoughts where I physically could not be (yes I want to be perched on roofs and airplane wings!). In another way it was to set the tone the scene gave me in the moment.
I didn’t intend for it to be a cycle but it ended up being that way, at least to me. I see it as starting in April and ending in March. Here are the themes and the accompanying quotes. I realize I could probably split this into 12 blog posts haha, but here you are!
APRIL | Introspection
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – C.G. Jung
A sort of hibernative mental state to me, introspection is something I am ultimately grateful to be unable to get away from. To take the time to look inside and figure out what meaning you want to take away from external and internal events, where things have come from and where things are going, has helped me a lot. Just need to be careful not to get paralyzed in overthinking 🙂
MAY | Courage
“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” -Tagore
Knock on wood, but I’ve never broken a bone in my life. I feel like that’s a metaphor for something, along with the fear of now breaking a bone in my adulthood 🙂 I experienced childhood difficulties and family drama like anyone else, but I would have to say my life was largely smooth and without much pain. I worked hard, followed a safe path, and things tended to end up how I expected. I thought that was a blessing. In some ways, it obviously is. However, facing fears and being challenged in the past couple years has evolved my outlook on a lot of things, and (hopefully) has made me a better, more humble and more empathetic person. I still have a lot to face and learn from. And that’s frightening and exhilarating. Like this girl, preparing to step out from the safety of the petals into the field of thorns.
JUNE | Faith
“Be like the bird who, pausing on her flight awhile on boughs to slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.” – Victor Hugo
First off, I just want to say this line is so poetically wonderful. Anyway. Faith is believing what you do not yet know, and perhaps never will know. In a religious sense, it brings people hope and certainty in an often inexplicable world. I’ve learned to appreciate that. For me personally, faith is a general quality to complement courage. “Everything will be ok” is a cliche line you tell yourself/others when things are not going well. Honestly, it might not be true, depending on what you think “ok” is. But outlook is everything, so I choose to have faith.
JULY | Contemplation
“The ultimate value of life depends on awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle
This picture was shot in a great little store in DTLA that had a single, hanging LED swing in the middle of a kitchen display. I like that touch of modern whimsical impracticality. Anyway, something about sitting solo on a swing always feels very contemplative, like you are swaying between your thoughts. I find this different from introspection and reflection as for me it is more looking at something external and giving it careful thought. To contemplate its worth and value. To be aware of its meaning or lack thereof.
AUGUST | Self-Reflection
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s easy to point to other people, outside events and uncontrollable forces as the source of any unhappiness or dissatisfaction you experience. It’s harder to constantly reflect on yourself and be sure that you are being the best version of yourself you can be. While I am all for self-confidence and inner strength, I’m wary of anything too “I love me!” “I’m a unicorn princess!” “I don’t care what anyone thinks!” kind of one-dimensional thinking. There’s always room to improve on your weaknesses and further your strengths.
SEPTEMBER | Release
To be grateful yet always seek to grow, to understand things change and the art of letting go, and to realize after all there is still so much to know. It is liberating.
My proofreader friend wryly noted that I’d slipped one of my own thoughts in amongst the greats. I know, it’s kind of awful. But this specific line and thought goes with this image, and I couldn’t find something that expressed exactly what I wanted it to say, even if there were much more poetic and intelligent-sounding quotes haha. So yeah, after the Introspection to Self-Reflection journey, to me it reaches a milestone of Release. Once you’ve come to peace with what is important and what is not, or what you can change and what you cannot change, to let the latter of each go. And I say the “art” of letting go because there is a way to leave things behind such that you still take away the good. Experiences never have to be of waste. Regarding the picture, I love that idea of letting it out from some fantastical mountaintop (this is literally where Mordor scenes were shot). Haven’t ever actually done it 😉
OCTOBER | Observation
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass
This quote was made in the context of much heavier issues of course, but is widely applicable. After the Release theme, I feel there’s this second phase or arc that encompasses the next six themes. I added a travel satchel to Emze here because it felt like she was setting out again—but starting at the skeleton structure of an old little house (it’s this really amazing find along the freeway to Mammoth in CA), which may seem counterintuitive. But I think moving forward requires observing the past with fresh eyes. It’s common to hear ‘don’t dwell on the past,’ or ‘forget about the past.’ I agree on not dwelling, but I disagree with forgetting. We can make it useful to the present and the future, and I think we should.
NOVEMBER | Bravery
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde
Love Oscar Wilde lines. To be honest, I think we’re conditioned into just existing, rather than living. Our parents understandably want to protect us from harm and danger, so they train us to do what is safe. Our society understandably wants us to be obedient and controlled, so it sedates us with superficial noise and entertainment. Small-minded people are judgmental of those who do not act like them, so people who want to think bigger are often discouraged or ridiculed. It’s easier to go through life merely existing, each day blending into the last. It takes some bravery to lead a life really lived.
DECEMBER | Awakening
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steven Jobs
Sometimes I think about how if Steve Jobs had died of his illness when he got fired from Apple and before he completely came back and transformed it into the respected brand and innovator it is today, no one would care what he thinks. He would be the same person, but it would just be a matter of timing. Anyway. People will give you advice based on their own lives and experiences and their own prejudices and beliefs. They’re worth considering, especially if it’s someone you respect. Of course we can learn from others who are more wise than us. But so often we do things to impress other people, or because society told us it’s prestigious, without even considering whether we agree. Side note: I personally feel this way about diamond engagement rings. End side note. I feel like the moment you can really act on this quote is an awakening.
JANUARY | Strength
“I love the man who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” – Thomas Paine
Amazing line from history. Don’t really feel like I have more to say in this theme, just read and internalize again and again. For the image, I thought the the fresh green on cold stone lent to the vigor and determination of her running through.
FEBRUARY | Clarity
“The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.” – Conan O’Brien
Nearing the end of the arc. Most of us seek clarity, understanding. I think we can achieve a form of it through figuring out what is not right, what is wrong, what doesn’t work. Perhaps we need to get lost in the thicket to come out into the clearing (which is what this image is referring to). But hopefully our understanding of things will always be evolving, our opinions will mature, our minds will become more open, and so clarity is relative and dynamic. Maybe that is the clarity we need. Clarity on clarity.
Side note—good ol’ Conan 🙂 Studied at Harvard, pursued comedy against the odds, faced rejection and failure again and again, achieved incredible success by most people’s standards, suffered even at the height of his popularity, stays humble and self-deprecating. Should you ever grow conceited, cynical, apathetic, here’s another quote I really like, particularly the last bit:
“Every comedian, every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and—for seven months—I got to do it. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second [of it]…. All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism; for the record it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
MARCH | Exploration
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot
So we end with the beginnings of the next journey. This quote reminds me of The Alchemist, which is one of the most impactful stories I’ve read. If you haven’t read it, you should (it’s short and very simple). If you’ve read it and thought it wasn’t very good, try it again when you’re more humbled and looking for meaning in your life. But yes, let’s keep exploring. Onward and forward 🙂
Happy new year, here’s to 2015 and all our past lives and future years.