Wheelwork of the Universe

“Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe.”          -Nikola Tesla, Inventor

I seem to have mislaid my purpose.  Stay with me here.  I am not having a crisis moment.  This is not a cry for help.  It is a serious question about my place in the cosmos and the work that I am doing.  You may have felt this way yourself…. that you are doing work, creative or other, that no longer satisfies you in any way, shape or form.  It is a restlessness that cannot be described in words.  It is a need for change that the social, religious, and political constructs cannot help you work through.  You just know that things are not right for you and you have to change.

I am not alone in this feeling.  Recently, a friend of mine who has worked tirelessly along the lines of law enforcement for the past fifteen years shared that he is dealing with this exact same thing.  He has been questioning the career path he has been pursuing (pun intended) and his life trajectory.  He worries that he cannot change the course he has been going down for so long.

While taking cultural anthropology classes in college there was a great quote used by my professor.  He would often state that for human beings to make changes “the pain of change had to be less than the pain of staying the same.”  I have reached my threshold of pain and staying the same and am actively pursing change.

I have noticed in myself that when I have reached this threshold, I feel very rebellious of the things that I am “supposed” to do.  Things that you are “supposed” to do often come with the word “should.”  Should is a guilt implying word and we use it when we want people to conform.  When I hear the word should, I shudder.  “You should have gotten a degree in education.”  “You should give up on/not get involved with that person.”  “You should have saved and/or used your money wisely.”  “You shouldn’t have bought that car, house, etc.”  “You shouldn’t have trusted that mechanic, invest banker, person, etc.”  “You should go to the doctor/dentist even if you feel fine.”  And the shoulds go on and on to infinity.  I just want to shout “Stop shoulding on me!”

Human beings, for the most part, want things to go along smoothly.  We want everyone to do their part and get along.  And as humans we have come up with social contracts, religious and political ideologies telling one exactly where and how they fit and what they are supposed to do.  These ideologies tell you that your life has meaning and you have a purpose….. What happens when none of these things are working for you?

My advice is to look inside yourself.  Who are you?  What kind of person do you want to be?  What do you do to have purpose?  I have used the following quote from Steve Jobs in a previous post but feel that it works here as well.

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most import, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary” -Steve Jobs

For me the re-examination of purpose is leading me to make a major life change.  I have turned in my notice to my day job and am in the process of preparing to move to a new city in a different state.  I am daring to imagine a different life for myself.

When you have that moment that you have mislaid your purpose, remember the shape that change takes in your life is entirely up to you.

Writing Challenges – July

I have noticed a pattern in writing posts for my blog….. I get little to no writing done in the month of July.  With the exception of the year I started writing my blog, I am very lackadaisical in my writing during the month of July.  In fact, when I am not at my day job, I rarely turn on my computer at home.

As I am known to do, I began to ponder about what happens during the month of July that hinders my creative writing.  I have many theories about this.  I keep coming back to the thought that there is a lot going on during July: National celebrations, family celebrations, vacations, good weather, gardening, hiking, camping and much more.  The time truly gets away from me during this month.

As a goal oriented individual this causes me angst.  I like to reach my goals.  And because I set a goal for myself to have a new post on my blog once a week the month of July causes me stress.  I am also not reading or commenting on other blogs posted by my blog friends.  (I literally did not turn on my personal computer when I was at home for the entire month.)  I have a lot of catching up to do.

My solution for the future is to not pressure myself to write during the month of July.  Instead I will continue to follow the blogs of my friends and commenting on their writing.  If I get something written and posted, that is wonderful, but I will not put so much pressure on myself.

So please bear with me as I catch up reading posts, making and answering comments. And I hope to have several new posts in the up coming weeks.  Thanks for your patience and continued support.

And the Fat Lady Sang

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is a colloquialism that is often used as a proverb.  It means that one should not assume that they know the outcome of events as they are still happening.  The phrase is most commonly used in association with organized competitions, particularly sports.  This proverb is cautionary.  It warns against assumptions that the current state of an event is irreversible and that the end of the event has been determined.  Watching World Cup Soccer these past weeks, I can state with much exuberance that this tends to be true.  It’s not over till it’s over.

“The phrase is generally understood to be referencing the stereotypically overweight sopranos of the opera.  The imagery of Richard Wagner‘s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and its last part, Götterdämmerung, is typically the one used in depictions accompanying reference to the phrase.  The “fat lady” is the valkyrie Brünnhilde, who is traditionally presented as a very buxom lady with horned helmetspear and round shield (although Amalie Materna played Brünnhilde during Wagner’s lifetime (1876) with a winged helmet).  Her farewell scene lasts almost twenty minutes and leads directly to the finale of the whole Ring Cycle.  As Götterdämmerung is about the end of the world (or at least the world of the Norse gods), in a very significant way ‘it is [all] over when the fat lady sings.'” -Wikipedia

interesting-fact-about-opera

There is a time, place and season for everything.  After winter comes spring.  There is even a time for things to end.  Graduation marks the end of high school or university.  Just as there is a time for things to end there is a time and a purpose for letting things go.  There is a purpose for the aria at the end of the Wagner’s opera, it provides the diva an opportunity to sing.

Recently, a friend had posted on her blog a message about strength.  She encourages the reader to be strong and how showing strength in challenges makes us stronger.  She is absolutely correct.  But I also think that at other times, in order to be strong, we must let go.  You can hold onto something so tightly that you lose yourself.  It is important to remember the immortal words of Sting, “If you love somebody, If you love someone, set them free.”  What we need to realize when you set someone or something free, it frees you as well.

The challenge is to recognize the ending.  We don’t always get a clear picture that this is the end.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a diva sing for you each time that something has ended as a signal that it is time to move on?

This is where the strength to let go comes in.  It is at this ending that you need to be able to say good-bye.  The ending and/or the reason for it is not important.  We all have them and they happen in a myriad of ways.  I just hope that I have the strength to recognize them and in turn am able let go so I may move forward.

So here I am at an ending.  The fat lady has sung a magnificent aria and is taking a bow.  I would not have missed the experience I gained or the memories I have built.  But it is time to go.  And just as importantly, it is time to let go.  I am clapping, putting on my coat and leaving the theater…… out into sunlight and new adventures.

Third Anniversary of Cats Out of the Box

Yes, it is that time again.  My blog “Cats Out of the Box” turns three today.  Time to thank everyone who has helped make it another memorable and successful year.

Angus for blog

Angus, my Cat Out of the Box

  • A extra special thank you to my friend Kate in Japan.  She provides me with origami paper, green tea treats, and a valuable perspective of Japanese culture which helps expand many of the topics I write about.  Thank you!
  • To Joe, if not for your gentle push, this blog would not exist.  Again a gentle thank you in return.
  • My friend the poet, D. Eric Hanson for letting me use his poetry in my blog (see the attached link Poetry to My Eyes and Ears).  His poetry touches my heart and enhances my life.
  • To my family, you know who you are, I love you all more than you could ever know.  Thank you for your assistance, positive feedback and support as I continue to explore my art and creativity.  You inspire me to be the best artist and creative person I can be.
  • To my friends, thank you for conversations that end up being the sparks that inspire blog posts.  Thank you for going hiking with me in all kinds of weather.  And thank you for being there for me.  I appreciate you.  Yes you.  All of you.
  • My Readers/blog friends, who follow my blog, I am grateful for your support and that of the blog community.  I am continually inspired by all of you.  No matter where you are in the world or what your blog is about….. your creativity, bravery in sharing feelings and ideas, and support make me proud to be a part of the blogging community.
  • Thank you to those that like my posts.  I appreciate you taking time to support my creative work.  You motivate me to keep writing.
  • Thank you to those that post comments and provide feedback.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts about my work.  And I am so proud when something I write inspires others.  Your words mean the world to me.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Depth – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

Today is the third and final day of the 3 Day Quote Challenge.  I would like to thank Living What You Love for nominating me.  I do enjoy the challenge of finding the quotes, writing what my perspective of them is and then sharing them with others.  So again thank you Living What You Love for providing me this opportunity once again.  If you get a chance please check out the Living What You Love blog.  It inspires personal growth and exploration.

Instead of nominating 3 people to do the challenge every day, I invite everyone to try the  3 Day Quote Challenge or create a quote challenge of their own.  Meditating on a quote is a great way to get creative juices flowing.  This is my chance to invite everyone to try it.

Pick a quote.  Write down why you chose it and what it says to you.  Share this with others if you feel comfortable doing so.  If not, that’s okay too.  If it is comfortable to do this three days in a row, do it.  If it is comfortable to do this project as a quote a week for three weeks in a row, do that.  Maybe choosing a quote once a month speaks to you, then do that.  Just go out there and find a saying that speaks to your heart and soul.  Let me know what quote you found, how the process worked for you, your thoughts and comments.  Most important, did you enjoyed it.

“Stories lie deep in our souls.  Stories lie so deep at the bottom of our hearts that they can bring people together on the deepest level.  When I write a novel, I go into such depths.” Haruki Murakami

I love this quote by Haruki Murakami.  I have read a couple of his books and I do think that he does go to that deep place in his heart and soul to write his books.  I also think that this deep place in our hearts and souls is the place that great creative work comes from.

As an artist, when I am working on a project, I can tell when I am in the deep place of my heart and soul.  The work seems to have a life of its own.  It speaks in such a way that it feels authentic.  I am proud of this work.  I feel that if this work is from my heart, that it will speak to others and that this type of work allows for soul to soul conversations.

That is the other part of the quote.  Bringing people together on at this level, having a soul to soul conversation through the creative work.  It is not enough to just create.  We have to share our creative vision with others.

Do the work!  Dig deep!  Create things that you can be proud of!  Create work that starts soul to soul conversations!

Clarity

According to Miriam Websters Dictionary, the definition of the word clarity is “the quality or state of being clear.”

Montana is the source of many rivers.  A lot of the lakes and rivers run clear.  One can see the bottom of the lake or even watch fish swimming through the depths.  But the further the river gets from its source, the more sediments it picks up, making the water less clear.  One could even say muddy.

So much of life is like that.

You start with an idea in your head.  And it feels very clear to you what you want and where you are going with this idea.  But as you try to bring this idea into fruition, what seemed so sharp and clear has become nebulous and foggy.

I have an idea for a pagoda box.  I have tried several times to take this idea from my head and the sketch book and bring it to life.  None of the samples turned out quite right.  Each attempt, however, is a chance to work on my skills.  Some of the things that didn’t turn out quite right in the pagoda box, worked for other projects.

This also happens to me sometimes in my writing.  I have an idea for a short story.  I know what I want to happen.  The beginning is good and the end is good.  The middle is a muddled mess.  There are blog posts that I have worked on that I have to save and come back to at another time to revise them.  To me some feel too personal or not personal enough or I just didn’t like the way it is turning out.  I struggled and struggled with a haiku poem I was writing. I wanted to use a particular word but it didn’t work in the constraints of the haiku poetry.  Around and around I went.  Even though my writing goes through these murky moments, the more I write, the better I get.

This lack of clarity can happen with beliefs, ideas, platonic relationships, pretty much anything.  For example, you meet someone.  It is very apparent that there is mutual respect, caring and interest.  The relationship develops and you feel that you are sharing everything with this person.  When you have an idea, question, just want to hear his voice, you share with this person first.  Then communication from this person begins to get less regular.  They ignore your calls and texts.  This person who you had shared everything with is now a ghost.  What you thought was a very clear progression in a relationship is now an unclear memory.  And you ask yourself, did I ever really know this person at all?

Life isn’t clear.  You could say that it is muddy, messy, and down right dirty at times.

The question is how do we get through these less than clear situations?  There is no easy answer to this question.  What I try to do, is be true to myself.

And for me, the most important thing to do is to keep on creating and doing the creative work.  The clearest voice is my creative voice.  It is always there telling me to get to work and providing me with an abundance of ideas to work on.  That much is clear.

What is clear in your life?

Secret of Invention – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 2

I have been invited to participate in a 3 Day Quote Challenge by my friend who writes the blog The Moonlight Reverie.  If you haven’t checked out her blog, I highly recommend that you do.  It is filled with heart-felt poetry and prose.  Today is day two and I was very surprised how easy it was to write my post for day one.  I am really enjoying participating in this challenge.  I want to thank my friend once again for including me.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”          -Nikola Tesla

I think Nikola Tesla was a man before his time.  His mind was filled with amazing, creative ideas.  Our modern society uses many of the ideas and inventions that came from him every day.  Own a cell phone?  You wouldn’t have it without the genius mind of Nikola Tesla.  Hydroelectric power?  Tesla.  Remote control?  Tesla.  We could play this game all day.

Who doesn’t enjoy learning a secret that will help them succeed?  Nikola Tesla was not silent in his stance that in order to get things done, to think and to be, one needed to be alone.  The reason I chose this quote is I like being alone to do my creative work.

Whether it is working on a post for my blog, the latest short story or haiku poem, painting or creating a new collage or changing the construction of my boxes, I like to be alone and totally engrossed in my work.  I have been known to turn of my cell phone and tell people that I am working and not to be disturbed.

The creative process is different for everyone.  I know of another blogger who has said that she prefers to write in coffee shops.  She likes the feeling of people around her and listening to conversations gives her ideas for blogs.  A friend who is a painter has a studio with two other artists.  She likes working and having them around in the background.  She said that they don’t even necessarily talk to each other except to say hello, do you have some blue paint I could borrow or I am heading out for the day.  It is just nice to know they are there.

However you work best in creating, inventing, writing, or just doing the work, whether it is alone (like Tesla and I) or surrounded by other people, I just encourage you to keep doing the creative work you are called to do!

I invite the following bloggers to participate in this challenge.  I hope that they will enjoy participating in it as much as I am and  bring new perspectives on the words of others in the spirit of creativity!

 

Anything Can Happen – 3 Day Quote Challenge – Day 1

I have been invited to participate in a 3 Day Quote Challenge by my friend who writes the blog The Moonlight Reverie.  She has an amazing blog filled with poetry and prose that anyone and everyone can relate to.  I was very surprised to be invited to participate in this challenge; but, it is one that I think I can handle.  Thank you for including me.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

“To succeed, planning alone is insufficient.  One must improvise as well.” -Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Isaac Asimov was an amazing creative writer.  He had written a book for every section of the Dewey decimal system of the library.  Yep, every section: fiction, non-fiction, children’s, mystery, biography, autobiography, etc.  Asimov was an incredible inspiration to many writers and science fiction writers.  And he inspires me.

As you can imagine, trying to choose a quote to write about was excruciatingly hard.  Asimov left so many wonderful quotes to choose from and there are his books too.  But in the end I chose the one listed above.

The reason it speaks to me is I hear all the time from friends, family and society in general about how you have to plan and prepare and be ready.  Yet, how often when we hear success stories that it was something unplanned where the person had to make a quick decision and improvise that changed their life and caused them to succeed.  Yes the planning was good but the fact that they could think on their feet was what made the difference.

I have written repeatedly in my blog that anything can happen.  And anything can happen!  Good and bad things will and can happen.  As much as we plan and prepare, we do not know the outcome of today’s events or what tomorrow brings.  Do not stop planning.  Planning helps you succeed.  But be prepared to improvise as well.

As a good friend of mine has often said, “Plan for the worst.  Hope for the best. And everything comes out somewhere in between.”

I invite the following bloggers to participate in this challenge, hoping that they will bring new perspectives on the words of others in the spirit of creativity!

A Round of Eureka’s on the House!

I sometimes get some pretty strange ideas.  Sometimes I get amazing ideas.  Sometimes some of my ideas just don’t pan out.  The thing is that I have ideas, get ideas, and do things because of ideas.

Have you ever asked, sarcastically or otherwise, “Who’s idea was this?”  And no one was willing to claim it.  Even if it was a good idea, people just stand around with glazed looks in their eyes.  I am known to react, as one would, by asking “Well, someone must of thought this was a good idea at one time?” or “Seriously.  This is a great idea and none of you are willing to say it is mine?”

Then there are the occasions when you would give anything to have an idea.  A way to solve a problem, fix an error, help others or just something new and interesting.  Where is the idea when you really need it?

So I had this idea…. what if you could order ideas… for everyone?  Like ordering a round of drinks at a bar and these ideas would be free or on the house, so to speak.  One could just stand up and shout to the idea keeper, “A round of Eureka’s on the house!”

According to Wikipedia a “round of drinks” is a set of beverages, generally alcoholic, that is purchased by one person of a group for a group.  It is generally purchased as a single order and it is often customary for the people of the group to take turns buying the group rounds.

The phrase “on the house” simply means that something is paid for by or courtesy of the owner or the establishment.  Usually this is done if you are unhappy with your service.  For example, while eating in a restaurant the order has been messed up, you never received your order or something disgusting was found in your mashed potatoes.  The owner or manager of said restaurant could say that they are sorry and your meal is “on the house.”

Ever wonder why we say “Eureka!” when we get an idea or solve a problem?  No, the answer is not the amazing (in my humble opinion) television show by the name of “Eureka” that aired on the Syfy Channel from July 2006 to July 2012.   The answer is tied to a Greek scholar, inventor and mathematician by the name of  Archimedes.

So the story of Archimedes and the Eureka Effect goes like this…. Archimedes had been hired by a guy named Hiero of Syracuse to assess the purity of an irregularly shaped golden crown.  You see, Hiero had given his goldsmith pure gold to be used to fashion the crown; but he wasn’t sure that his blacksmith had been honest.  So Heiro takes the crown to Archimedes and asks him to determine if the crown is pure gold.  Archimedes is a really smart guy and if anyone could find a solution, it would be him.

At this time in history, Archimedes has the equipment for weighing objects with a fair amount of precision but he couldn’t verify volume which is important in determining density.  Why is density so important you ask?  Pay attention because this fact will be important later in our story…. gold is twice as dense as silver.

Archimedes has been struggling trying to find the answer for Heiro.  I can’t remember how long he had been working on the problem.  Finally, he decides he needs a break and he goes to the bath house.  He gets undressed and sits down into the water.  He notices that the water level rose after he got in.  He sees the solution to his problem.  Archimedes jumps up and shouts “Eureka!  Eureka!” and runs back to his study, through the streets of Syracuse, completely naked.  The Eureka effect.

Archimedes understood that the amount of water displaced must equal the volume of the part of his body that he had submerged.  He realized that the volume of irregularly shaped objects, like Hiero’s crown, could be measured by their volume, thus indicating density.  Archimedes measured the crown using volume and found that the blacksmith had cheated Hiero by removing some of the gold and adding the same amount by weight of silver in place of the gold.

How do we hold onto these ideas once we get them?  There are many ways of capturing ideas.  I know artists who carry small sketchbooks with them everywhere to capture moments, do a quick sketch, capture a color scheme or take notes.  Another friend of mine, who is an author, carries a small lined notebook where he jots down notes about character development or a description that he can use in a story later.  A filmmaker friend of mine carries around a mini tape recorder in his car.  He says that he always gets the best ideas while driving.  When the idea comes, he is prepared.  He records it and reviews it later.

Another friend of mine who is a poet, says that it doesn’t matter where he is or what he is doing, when he gets an idea for a poem, he stops what he is doing and quick writes it down.  He told me that he has had to get out of the shower to write down a poems and decided to keep a notebook in the bathroom just for this purpose.  He also said that he has many bits of napkin and envelopes with poems on them.

When I am doing my creative work and I am really in the moment, I can feel the ideas coming to me.  It is like each step is perfectly laid out, one right after the other.  It is in these times that I know I am doing the creative work that I am meant to do.  My own personal Eureka Effect.

I wish that everyone could have the Eureka Effect.  That people would feel like they could admit to their ideas, good or the ones that don’t work out.  That in those occasions when an idea is desperately needed and would make a huge difference, we would have one.  That everyone would have ideas that would help them grow.  We would have ideas that helped make daily lives easier for ourselves, the people we love or just people in general.  That these ideas would inspire us to be kinder and make the world a better place.

Keeper of Ideas lets have a round of Eureka’s on the house!!!!