As I write, I realize I want to explain more about why I have this goal, not only for my art but for my life.
I want to be part of a movement to wake people up from the zombie-like state that technology can trap us in. We are near people every day without connecting to them. We reach more people than ever before in history through technology, sometimes without a single thought of making a positive interaction. We tend to over-correct in response to this over-stimulated, over-busy, over-stressed society we live in by shutting out true connections and replacing them with artificial ones. We walk into people on the street absentmindedly, or crash our cars into other cars because we are too busy “connecting” to people through our smart phones.
Technological development has paved the way for invention, innovation and improvement in almost every aspect of our modern lives, yet this constant hum of synthetic reality has become a replacement for genuine human connection.
We are in close proximity 24/7 to other humans around the globe, mostly through artificial devices: smart phones, computers, automobiles, head phones, televisions, Apple Watches, iPads, gaming consoles, video surveillance, virtual reality, and many more. Technology is swirling around us all the time through apps, social media, websites, email, radio, texts, pod casts, news casts, movies, gaming, programming, and the list goes on and on. We can stand feet or even inches away from people without acknowledging them. We can sit with loved ones to share a meal without even talking to them, looking down at the technology in front of us instead. I see each of these advancements as a possible brick in a larger wall of isolation around our souls if we aren't careful to find balance. The way technology fosters multi-tasking and hyper productivity in our daily life is also a major cause of stress, overwhelming us with a sense of being too busy for honest, heart-felt connection to one another.
We, as the human race, have morphed into human doings, not human beings. I find it interesting that the Oxford dictionary definition of human being is this: “a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.” Think about this for a moment. Has our superior mental development (as it relates to our constant use of technology) hindered our power to articulate speech with our actual vocal cords? Has it even cut into our ability and opportunity for upright stance on a regular basis? Has our artificial, constant closeness to people mindlessly changed our ability to really “plug in” to a human connection on a soulful and healthy level?
Has technology changed how we human? (Yes, I’m changing “human” to a verb for a second.)
Human connection isn’t just about those closest to us. It doesn’t stop at our family and friends or our co-workers and classmates – those souls that we have put more effort into, or those people that we have just spent more time around. Human connection to me also happens as we walk on the sidewalk, as we drive down the road, as we take up space in a room of a building, as we stand on our earth, under the sun or moon, and of course as we use our various technological devices. But, we have literally thousands of opportunities for human connection every single day to the people that are right next to us, physically not just virtually.
I’ve been selling my artwork at art shows and festivals for nine years, and I’ve had conversations with literally tens of thousands of people. For the last two years of my journey, I changed my focus when I’m at a show meeting new people. I very purposely set a new intention for that part of my life, which ends up being over 50 full days a year. I actively talk to strangers that end up walking out as friends. I didn’t want my focus to be solely on selling my art (to make a living) but my purpose shifted to really, genuinely connect with people in the here and now. I want to hear their stories of connection to the land and nature, and also to each other. I want to listen to their memories that my paintings may bring to the surface. Over the last two years especially, I’ve paid attention. I see the human spirit in beautiful new and surprising ways. I see people struggle with the same things I struggle with, while at the same time seeing how unique and special and different they all are. My empathy and compassion has increased, and my judgement has slowed. I want to learn from others, even if we only cross paths for a few moments in this lifetime. I can’t tell you how much this has changed by artwork, and my perspective on life. I was scared to be that present, to make it my goal to really connect because I really thought it would be draining at first. I’ve been blown away by how much this focus has filled me up, in direct contrast to my fears. I literally find myself some days trying to figure out why other artists are starting tear down so early, only to discover that the day has flown by because it was filled with so many great conversations.
That said, I screw up this goal all. the. time. I forget to focus on my intention to connect. I get tired and hot, or worried about that big dark cloud, or the fact that I have to use the restroom and I don’t know how to sneak away for a second to take care of me. I get annoyed at thoughtless comments by others. I forget to turn off my inner monologue to focus on listening to the person in front of me. I can give so much to new people during the day, that I may forget to give that same attention and 10 times more to my own family and friends. But, I know I’m making progress. I know I can turn that mindful, present-moment focus on quicker and more often when I practice it regularly. I know there’s always room for improvement.
I know that my life is richer and more colorful and inspired and full, not because of the technology that makes my life easier, but by the human beings that cross my path each day and their openness to connect to me, especially if they see the door is open. This is what I want people to take home with them in my artwork too: Genuine human connection and true closeness to nature (and the divine) while focusing on the present moment.
I share this long manifesto with you today because I’ve also made it a goal of mine to define my mission as an artist (as it turns out) on virtual paper, not just in my head alone. I hope this is the beginning of many new experiences I can open myself up to as a business owner, dreamer, artist, and of course, human being.