More about Process

I’m talking about artistic process, here. Maybe this is a mis-characterization of my ‘brother project’, but I don’t really think so. In art, like science, the artist/scientist is trying to understand something. I am trying to understand my autistic brother.

Actions speak louder than words, but words [1] are necessary

My mother always told me that it is ok to think as many bad thoughts as I had, as long as I did not do bad things. Thank you, Mom, that is very good advice and has been helpful to me as a mechanism for refining my ideas. By definition, a self-imposed gag on a portion of one’s thoughts closes an avenue of thinking. If something makes a person angry, the person should let angry thoughts flow. This is an honest, perhaps reflex, reaction. If one doesn’t admit to an angry feeling, and ‘short circuits’ such a feeling into a ‘more acceptable’ thought, some honesty is lost. Taking action on a feeling is another matter. Certain actions are not acceptable.

Thoughts of a sibling

Thinking bad thoughts about a loved one can be particularly troubling. Especially, bad thoughts about a sibling who is beyond understanding. As honest as it may be, the sentimental among us would say, “But he’s your brother, how could you?” To that I say, “I’m a human being as well, and that is honestly what I think.”

The saying that liars must have excellent memories comes to mind here: If I’m faced with being told how I should feel, when I don’t feel that way, I would be lying to myself if I forced myself to feel differently. I’d have to have a good memory for what I should feel in different situations. Since I have a poor memory, or more likely, since I am too lazy to expend the effort in subverting my feelings, I acknowledge whatever bad feelings I have. I think this is a very important lesson to learn.

Problems with this approach

I’ve perfected the approach of being able to think whatever I like, while continuing to do good deeds. Long ago, I rejected the idea that negative energy is some kind of karma that radiates into the universe as a wave radiates away from a stone thrown into a lake. On the other hand, there is something to be said for trying to attain a positive mindset. My self-protective, ever-vigilant stance I assumed while growing up did protect me very well; it also insulated and isolated me. I think I neglected to allow myself to acknowledge many of the good feelings I had.

For me, good feelings come from figuring something out; by expressing something to the world that accurately portrays my inner state; by discovering how something works; by helping another person with his or her problem; by successfully explaining something to someone, thereby contributing to their ‘AHA!’ moment.

Below is a ‘thought sheet’ I put together, with many different ideas about my brother. Sketches like this are the underpinnings of my process.

thoughts on paper strips pasted to notebook page

[1] I would modify this by saying ‘language’ is necessary for communication; perhaps images, sounds or other components that embody ideas that can be strung together, in place of words, with some kind of syntax, is equivalent to language.

2 thoughts on “More about Process

  1. This is a profound task you have set yourself. The challenge of exploring your own reactions to your brother alone – in the face of society’s assumptions that you have to feel only love – is quite remarkable. I love the way you are using pieces of writing, imagery, and other material as part of the exploration.

    • Thank you again for your kind words, W.U.. For me, juxtaposition of images, words, drawings, and anything else I can think of, is a way to process. Sometimes, what I see provides visual feedback to my ‘language mind’, and sometimes it’s the other way around. It is really a trip re-visiting old writings. Some things change and some don’t. Interesting to investigate which is which, and ponder why.



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