The following was written by Mario Squillacioti, a friend and one of my favourite bloggers on one of my favourite subjects...watches. Tim John, my ‘Vicarious’ Friend Humanity and cognition are funny things. We base our lives on the understanding and learning of new things - yet we sometimes sacrifice new and unexplained experiences for the time it takes to learn and understand. I'll explain by way of an example, the movie "Until the End of the World" had an interesting subplot whereby people were given the ability to record their dreams and watch them. They became addicted to dreaming. They became SO addicted to dreaming that they stopped experiencing new things for the sake of being able to see the things they imagined while they were asleep. (An interesting notion and a fantastic movie - carve out a huge chunk of time… it's a long film.)
We have only the ability to be here right now and do THIS. I am writing this. You are reading this. I can't undo what I've done and you can't reallocate your time to something else - it's been and gone. For better or for worse we have the 24 hours of each day and that's it. There's no guarantee that we will wake from our sleep and there is no guarantee what we're going to find if and when we do wake.
What then do we do with our time? How do we allocate our mental effort to maximize the richness of the human experience? One way is to say ‘damn it all !’ and go out and DO everything… skydive from a hot-air balloon over the clouds… land in a strange land. Find the things you need to live. Build the things you need to survive. Put yourself in virtual peril from one moment to the next so that you can live on the razor's edge of existence… literally FIGHT for every single second of your life until you are assured that you have maxed out what your body and your mind can do. (Sounds exciting - I know.)
Then fear creeps in. Then doubt. Then you have bills. Then you have responsibilities… you have your end of the social contract to uphold (and there are tax authorities, credit rating agencies and repo men to enforce that social contract (signed in blood on the day you were born).)
How THEN do you expand on what you can do and see to enhance your life? Surround yourself with 'things' - shiny things. Solid things. "Bling-Bling" things. Talismans of places you've been and seen… reminders of the few instances in your life where you had the courage to leave your village and see… Mickey Mouse or Victoria Falls or the World Trade Center (pre or post 9/11). These mementos are great! But then again - they are not. They are sugary drinks; they give you a quick burst of memory and then rob you of your strength to go on….
What then CAN we do to expand on our lives while still living our lives?
The answer is 'simple' - we call it art.
Some folks see 'art' in everything that surrounds them. To those people I say 'Cheers!' I raise my glass to them. Then I press the button on my console that opens the trap door beneath their chairs so that they can fall to meet their fate at the hands of my laser totting crocodiles…
A packet of cigarettes is NOT art. A painting of a packet of cigarettes 'MIGHT' be art. A photograph or a painting of a person who is tinged with the hue of a 4 pack a day habit that makes you ponder what this person has been through and how they carry on from one day to the next… THAT is art.
And then we ask - who is an artist? Is the person who makes the cigarettes an artist? Possibly - but cigarettes are made by huge machines. Is the person who smokes them an artist? Could be. More precisely - the person who can depict the person who smokes those cigarettes is an artist. The person who can show you that this person has lived… has seen all four seasons that life has to offer is an artist. They use their life and their time and their cognition to create things that elucidate the people who look onto them.
I cannot be all the places I want to be. I cannot see all the things that I want to see. I can't sit at my desk and write this and feel the gentle resistance of pushing the instep of my foot into the sand and drawing an arc. For those times when I'm locked in an 8x10 cube with no windows and only one way out I employ an artist.
An artist who I know and love is Timothy John of Adelaide, Australia. Tim lives my alternate reality. He is my surrogate existential soul. When I look at Tim's landscapes I don't think about the time I stood on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway and looked down at the ocean. Tim's eye and insight are much, much deeper than that. Tim collects the images of the world as only he can see them and then distills them through his age and his soul and his paint until you and I can see them.
When I stare at a piece like "Summer Reef" I don't just see a blue ocean and a greenish/brownish bit in the middle that's suppose to be the reef. When I look at Tim's painting I see what it would be like to see the world as it existed BEFORE man touched it and moved it around and put a strip-mall here or another tall building there. Indeed, Tim's sight transcends even what he himself sees - it becomes (pardon the messianic flavoring) THE sight. The "Summer Reef" is not just 'a' reef… it is the Earth. It is not 'in' summer - it IS summer.
As sure as I know that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow I know there are people reading this saying: "that is a load of horse shit! My kid can take his finger paints and do the same thing!" (Where's that button again????) The only people I feel more sorry for than those people are those people's kids. Art has not expectation in its creation other than to be created. What it is. How it is. How it looks are all rolls of the dice for each and every one of us. I do not tell/ask Tim to paint. Tim paints. I never say "oh - it would be great if you could put a deck chair or an umbrella in the sand here…."
Tim spends his life in two parts: seeing the world - all of it - pretty - nasty - surreal - brutally honest. Then he paints. He virtually drinks in all of the experiences of his life - he drinks them in until he's pleasantly amused. He drinks them in until he’s frustrated and annoyed. He drinks them in until he can no longer stand-up and has to rest. Then in the midst of that inebriation he uses his last sentient thought and act to record what he saw. It is a horrifying way to live. I myself cannot do it anymore. I haven't got the constitution for it. And alas, those fears and responsibilities crept into my life and made it impossible for me to throw all caution to the wind and live life with the 'pedal to the metal' 24/7/365 ¼.
… but I still need that type of experience in my life. I still need to have the chance to find myself on the edge of the world and look down at it - or up towards it.
For those moments I thank my personal Jesus for Timothy John. He's given his entire life to doing one thing and one thing only - convey the humanity and cognition of his life through his hands and into my imagination. - Thank you Mario, I am touched and honoured