Abortion, Abuse, Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Dance, Don, Erotic Dance, Free Spirit, Fun, People, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Wisdom

Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night

(About a 10 minute read)

The first thing I noticed about Elle was that she seemed mysteriously out of place.  She was sitting alone at a table in Shotgun Willies’, watching a young woman dance on one of the stages, and smoking a cigarette.

Because Elle was fully dressed in street clothes, I wasn’t sure what she was doing there?  Was she an erotic dancer?  Then why the clothes?  But if she wasn’t a dancer, what was she doing in an erotic dance club? I spent no little time wondering about her like that before she rose, crossed over to the other side of the room, and strolled through the dressing room door.

Continue reading “Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night”

Abuse, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation, Art, Artist, Attached Love, Attachment, Celibacy, Competence, Erotic Love, Ethics, Free Spirit, Horniness, Human Nature, Lovers, People, Political Issues, Quality of Life, Relationships, Self, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Values, Wisdom

I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love

(About a 6 minute read)

Ask nearly anyone to sum up adolescence in a few words and most likely one of those words will be “confusing”.  Whatever else it is, that word is just as focused on a key truth as a teenage boy is focused on his friend’s suddenly perky nipples the very first time he espies them by the light of the werewolf moon.

What is often not mentioned, however, is how frequently adolescent confusions turn all manner of relationships into cruel ropes that jerk their victims back when they try to run from a bad situation.  Even blind or unintended abuse is magnified by the fact kids bond so quickly and firmly to each other.

Continue reading “I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love”

Art, Artist, Critiques, From Around the Net, Outstanding Bloggers, People, Poetry

Blog Critique: “Lunarpoet”

(About a 1 minute read)

The Lunarpoet Blog, by Matthias

You cannot help but wish this young man well.  Matthias sees himself as a poet who is, “..searching for the magic sparks in the interspaces, between the cracks of reality”, and it is easy to prove that he is a talented conjurer of that magic.

This is no ordinary poetry blog.  Make no mistake about that.  Matthias has dedicated himself to the lifelong pursuit of pushing his talents and skills with words as far as they can go — and he might just one day be a voyager to the stars.

Most of his poetry is blank verse of moderate length and can be read in about a minute each.  But you might want to spend more time than that, savoring his works.  They are good quality poems even when compared to the great, traditional poets of history.  Someday, he might be up there among them himself.

This is solely a matter of personal taste, but I think Matthais and Jane Basil are the two best poets that I’ve come across in my surfing of up to 20 blogs a day.

The Lunarpoet blog is dedicated to poetry and publishes no other material than that.  Though Matthias’ native language is German, all the poems are in English, and all of them are written in accessible language.

 


FULL DISCLOSURE: This review was part of an arrangement between Matthias and I to review each other’s blogs.  His review of my blog can be found here.

Art, Artist, Conservative, Creativity, Cultural Change, Culture, Emotions, Free Spirit, Happiness, Life, Passion, Quality of Life, Religion, Science, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Values

Are You the Artist of Your Own Life?

(About a 7 minute read)

Before you become unnecessarily more alarmed than is usual for folks to be when reading the posts on Café Philos, this post will not be one of those millions of insufferable pieces that are published daily by people hellbent on telling everyone else what they need to be.  I do not aim to give self-important advice here.

No, almost my only goal here is to entertain those of us who — like me — enjoy thinking, and just about anything that gets us thinking.  My other goal, of course, is to get laid by the heiress to a substantial fortune, preferably from her family’s involvement in running a chain of upscale bordellos known for the naughty creativity of their staff.

A boy can dream.

Continue reading “Are You the Artist of Your Own Life?”

Artist, Humor, Poetry

Our Days Were Light as Mouse Farts

(About a 3 minute read)

She was raised up in a family of New World craftsmen
Whose trade of hand-rolling paper towels taught her
Early in life the importance of conscientious precision
And attention to such details as making certain
The rolls were tight but the perforations untorn.
She had shown such a fine sense of duty even as a child
That she’d still been young when the family
Entrusted her with ensuring the towel labels
Ran parallel to each roll’s edges. But a fire
Struck their shop, and within a single winter’s night,
All was lost. Too poor to recover from their tragedy,
The entire family was thrown to the streets
Where they soon shattered into individuals,
Each one homeless and alone.

I met her on the corner of Lincoln and Booth,
An unfortunate intersection if ever there was one,
But somehow suited to her frame of mind and misfortune.
She was dressed in the garb of an organ grinder’s monkey,
For she was street-wise to the fact cops
Never look too close at such innocuous sights.
And since cops are the natural enemies of homeless vagrants,
She wished to be as invisible to them as possible.

As I chatted her up, I felt as if her distressed soul
Was pouring into me from her blue-grey eyes.
I begged her tell me what remaining ghosts of dreams
For herself she still harbored somewhere
Beneath her ridiculous red vest. She was reluctant at first
But under my persistent making faces
She gradually bared her heart and confessed
She wished to become a cosmic dancer with two feet
That walked in beauty on the earth and a spirit that touched the stars.

She refused to believe me at first when I told her
I wanted to help make it all happen if only she would consent
To bear me cross-eyed children, for I have always desired
To be seen by someone as twice the man I really am.
At last she agreed it was a sensible plan, and we married
That very day. Soon, our hearts entwined and kindled,
Our love came roaring to life with a passion uncommon
To folks who are not the artists of their own lives.

At nights she would come to me dressed only in olive oil
Bearing rubber sheets and her free-spirited attitude to life.
We were like teens on prom night inseparable
Because our braces had become generously entangled;
Where she went my heart went too, and the converse as well.
The days passed as lightly as mouse farts, for nothing could burden
Or trouble the towering flames of our hearts.

In the end of course,
We grew old, but we stayed ever young to each other
By refusing the deadly sin of believing we owned one another,
And thus we were never tempted to take for granted each other,
Or see ourselves as anything less than we were on the day that we met.

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation From Self, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Ethics, Free Spirit, Happiness, Life, Love, Meaning, Morality, Morals, Neil, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Sarah, Self, Sexuality, Spirituality, Values, Wisdom

Neil and the Soul of an Artist

(About a 5 minute read)

Neil was raised in a tiny settlement in the San Luis Valley by artists.  The San Luis — over a mile above sea level, and the largest alpine valley in the world — is Colorado’s poorest region.

Because it’s so poor, the cost of living is moderate, and maybe it’s the cost of living that attracts the artists.  More than 500 working artists make their homes in the Valley.

Yet, because artists are quirky people, it might be more than the cost of living that attracts so many of them to the San Luis.  It could be the miles of open space, for instance.  Or the huge elk herd, the bald eagles and the sandhill cranes.  Or perhaps even the stars — for at night, the sky above the San Luis explodes with the music of light.

Neil’s parents were not religious people but they sent their son to church each Sunday.  When he was 13 or 14, he rebelled.  He told his parents he hated church, didn’t believe a word of anything he heard there, and was a confirmed agnostic.  “Good”, said his mother and father, “You’ve learned everything a church can teach you about life: Nothing.  We could have told you that ourselves about churches, but we wanted you to figure it out.  You can stop going now.”

When Neil turned old enough for high school, his parents decided he needed a better school than the one in the settlement.  So they packed Neil off to live with his grandmother in Colorado Springs and to attend Palmer High.  There, in his first art class, he met Sarah and Beth.  The three shared an intense interest in art and quickly became best friends.

It was Sarah who introduced me to Neil.  Sarah was regular at the Coffee Shop, and the two of us now and then shared each other’s company.  At 16, she was poised, sophisticated, and self-confident.  She liked to flirt with older men, even though she knew, as she put it, that she “couldn’t let it go anywhere”, and she once told me how much I disappointed her because I wouldn’t flirt.  I felt like a killjoy, and wrote a poem about her to make amends.

Sarah, Beth, and Neil spent hours together each day.  They seemed more mature than many kids their age.  For one thing, both Neil and Sarah held themselves much like adults, and all three of them would look you right in the eye when listening or speaking to you.  For another thing, there were seldom conflicts between them, and the three friends were remarkably free from adolescent dramas.

Back in those days, I heard enough adolescent dramas to fill a social calendar.  I had somehow stumbled into the role of confident for many of the kids who hung out at the Coffee Shop.  Sometimes, up to a half-dozen kids a day would confess their woes to me — pretty much one kid after the other.  Yet, I understood their need to talk and never rejected them.

Most of their stories were about sex and relationships, and some of the stories were painful to hear, because there were kids who kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Yet, even the kids who didn’t repeat their mistakes — kids like Sarah, for instance — still seemed determined to make an allotted number of foolish mistakes, for how else do people learn?  I quickly discovered the role of confident was often more depressing than rewarding.

Through-out high school, Sarah, Beth and Neil remained as best friends, but when it was time for college, they parted ways.  Each went to a different university, and while Sarah and Beth stayed in contact with each other, Neil dropped out of the group.

I recall Neil was 22 and back from college when I ran across him one evening at the Coffee Shop.  We chatted for a while and I suggested we go to a restaurant for something to eat.

We ordered beer with our food, and were soon rambling along from one topic to the next.  A few beers into the evening, Neil decided to tell me how he lost his virginity.  “Was it Sarah?”, I asked.  I knew she’d been sexually active from the age of 16, and given their close friendship, it seemed logical to suspect her of having been his first partner.

“Not at all”, Neil said, “I wasn’t ready for sex back then, and I knew it.”

“I’m curious how you knew that about yourself.”

“I don’t make really important decisions up here”, he said, pointing to his forehead, “Instead, I go with what my soul tells me.”  He looked at me quizzically.  “Do you believe we have a soul, Paul?”

I didn’t want to sidetrack us into metaphysics, so I said, “I believe I can understand what you’re getting at.  Do you mean something like your sense of yourself…of who you are…of what’s right for you?”

“Yes!  That’s close!  I knew I wasn’t ready for sex because the opportunities never felt right to me.  None of them passed the soul test.  I didn’t want my first time to feel wrong in any way.”

“Was it ever hard waiting?”

“Sometimes.  Everyone else was having sex, and I wanted to have sex.  I was always horny.  It’s not like I wasn’t.”

“So what happened?” At that point, I wanted him to cut to the chase.

“Last year, I finally met the person I knew was right for me.  We met in a bar, but we weren’t drunk, and everything just clicked.  I knew she was the one.”

“Did you have sex that night?”

“No.  I called her on Thursday, a few days later, and we got together that Saturday.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  I knew it was going to happen.  I took her to dinner, and we went to her place afterwards.  That’s when I lost my virginity.  And I was right to wait. I was vindicated.  It was beautiful, Paul.  It felt perfect and it was beautiful.”

“Was it her first time too?”

“Oh no!  She was 26 last year — an older woman, and experienced.”

“Are you two still together?”

“No”, he said, “We never got together as a couple.  That wasn’t something she wanted or I wanted, and we understood that about each other from the start.  We’re friends now, but we’ve only had sex that one time.”

“I’m very proud,” he went on, “that I waited until everything felt right…until I knew it was right.”

“Not many people do that, Neil.”, I remarked, “Did your parents raise you to consult your soul?”  I had a strong suspicion at this point that Neil’s parents, both artists, raised him to pay careful attention to his “soul”.  It seemed like something artists would do naturally — perhaps even do necessarily.

“Very much so.”, Neil said, and he went on about that for a while.  But I wasn’t really following him at that point.

I’d begun to feel the beer and my mind was wandering back to the days when Neil was in high school and I was something of the neighborhood confident for a third of the kids at the Coffee Shop.  Neil had made the decision that was right for him and come out shining.  All in all, his story was one of the best I’d heard then or now, and I felt grateful to him for sharing it with me.


This post was originally published July 7, 2008, and was last updated April 23, 2017 for clarity.

Alienation, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Authoritarianism, Dance, Emotions, Guest Authors, Life, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Oppression, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Political and Social Alienation, Political Issues, Politics, Quality of Life, Sculpture, Serafia Alho, Society, Talents and Skills, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Creativity and the Artist

a-guest-post-by-serafia-alhoNote to Readers from Paul Sunstone: 

Serafia Alho is an amazing Finnish author and blogger who I have for some time wished would do a guest post for Café Philos.  Today, she has made my wish come true.  I am excited to post here a piece she’s written exclusively for this blog, and which explores in moving, almost poetic prose both the creative process as experienced by an artist, and the challenge to that creativity posed by the darkening clouds of our times. Please welcome her!

What does it mean to create?

To create is to experience pain: it’s a deep discontent with the world in its current state. To the artist, the only way to relieve that pain is to put everything aside and to focus all their skill and energy on mending it, either succeeding in their task or continuing to try until the magnitude of the task kills them. This is why many artists drink.

To them, every day is another wrestling match against the giant known as imperfection, and they’re constantly troubled by their inability to realize their vision — tormented by the feeling of muteness that comes with seeing something, but being unable to translate it to any other living being. Sometimes what they’re trying to achieve presents itself to them like a mirage in the middle of a desert — possibly attainable, but so intangible that only the foolhardy set out to seek it. Yet they do, because they have no other choice than to do so.

Art is fueled by emotion, and a member of the audience can catch a glimpse of that, however fleetingly, when being faced by an artwork. It is what we look forward to in art, and though the receiver only rarely gets to experience the full force of what the artist had to endure for the work to get completed, we always wait for it and when it happens, we call it Great Art and celebrate it long after the artist is already dead — often consequentially marring it in the process of doing so. True art does not rely on historians or tour guides to explain itself to us: it imposes itself on you, grabs hold of you, and speaks for itself. That ability to bypass our defenses is exactly where some of the struggle of the artist stems from. How can a single human expel all that emotion? What sort of exorcism is required to drive the artist’s passion into a form that fittingly represents the thing itself, in a similar fashion an idol represents the divine manifestation of a being — not becoming the spirit, but being of the spirit, inextricably linked yet completely separate?

Some artists are born with the genius of being able to capture the essence of a thing simply by looking at it. However, most artists are forced to spend years training their hands, their eyes, their mind to bend to the task of shaping the unwilling materials they work with: partly reality itself, partly the human psyche, partly their chosen mediums like clay and paper. One single brush stroke holds within a thousand hours; one book carries a lifetime. The craft allows no cutting corners: there is no deity handing down ready-made artworks, and the effortlessness we associate with inspiration is nothing but a lie, designed to cloak the ugly mundanity of the time the artist spent unskilled, unnoticed, and mocked. We prefer to see the divinity, and take joy in perceiving the artist as something of a mystic: not quite human — and somehow not quite deserving of being one.

We think of art as cheap, perhaps because emotion is a renewable resource, and so are artists. We’ve become so desensitized to the thought of creation as an act of destruction that we think nothing of it when an artist breaks. Neither does the act of creation have any inherent value to us — only a completed artwork has meaning. The artist him- or herself naturally never thinks like this, nor would it be possible for him or her to. They know that most of the emotion, the underlying value of experiencing art, the emotion that elevates great art to true art, is burned up in the very kiln that makes the artist. The audience only ever sees what comes out from the oven, and they have no interest in the shards and pieces making up the bulk of what’s needed to create single artwork.

What then is an artist to do when their source of creative fuel is suddenly overtaken by an even greater emotion, one that chokes or even cripples them with such a force that even creation itself suddenly loses all its meaning? It does happen — it has happened — it’s currently happening all over the world when millions of people have had to face the looming sense of doom that is the US presidential election.

Best-selling authors have had to ask their publishers to move their deadlines. Projects are stalled, professional creators drink themselves to sleep. All their motivations suddenly in ashes, the small insignificancies in life they’ve set out to express suddenly uprooted by the very real, and very visible, wrongs going on right under all our noses. To some, it’s felt like the destruction of the world as they’ve known it.

Art grows best at the edges of life, not in the rocky ugliness of unbending realism, and so it’s no wonder so many creators are grinding to a standstill. The conventional advice given to artists in times of hardship is to integrate it into their creation: to ingest it, stem and all, and to keep creating whatever happens. In that sense, artists are the shamans of the modern day: they take upon themselves the poison that others are unable or unwilling to face, and through doing so they bring order out of chaos, good out of evil, and share it with the world.

But it’s a risky business, being a shaman. Although they alone are said to have the skills to travel to the Underworld, not all of them come back from there. It is a terrifying feeling when your work suddenly loses its meaning, especially if that work is only half complete. The feeling of importance is not a voluntary act, and it leaves us artists with only one of two options: to toss out the artwork out completely, or to change, to drink the poison despite knowing some of us are never coming back. Time and again the birth of new art movements have been in parallel with the turning points of history, and maybe this time will later be remembered as the starting point of a yet to be explored form of human expression, one that better reflects the sense of alarming immediacy now coursing through our social media.

Pain will always flow with and from creation. May some day, when time has passed, only the beauty be remembered.