On Seeing

I went on a Mormon mission in my early 20s for a couple years to England. (This is another story, with lots of interesting nooks & crannies for another time.)

I got stationed with this quiet, lanky, freckle-faced, razor-sharp, hilarious, but supremely humble artist dude for six or so months, which was a massive amount of time in that context. He was battling some complicated immune deficiency illness, and one of our other buddies, who’d landed behind a desk in the central administrative office rather than office rather than pounding pavement with the rest of us, had paired the two of us up intentionally for some reason, unclear at the time. It sucked at first because it meant that we couldn’t really do anything, and it was confusing trying to figure out how to balance this sense of guilt we had about it — and it ended up being absolutely amazing — because we couldn’t really do anything. We were forced to go at planning our days from a whole different angle, and make the most of what we could do, which was essentially: play a shitty toy guitar we had, paint, read, draw, think, talk about music/art/philosophy/science/girls/sports/culture, go to galleries, sleep, and that’s really about it.

He remains one of the most brilliant and beautiful people I have ever met, and he taught me to see.

I was primed for it, no question. I’d been wandering around my own life, seeing in my own way, but he taught me to be okay with the conscious act of acknowledging, giving me a place to put my funny, strange, small, private observations I’d been passively conscious of all my life. A caste of light. A bed of radioactive green clover busting through a crack in the pavement. That particular color of sea foam green that seemed so alien, but that felt almost overwhelming on the side of that faded warehouse across the street which was the pitch perfect mathematical complement to the sky right at the moment. Constantly processing and mapping, deciphering the graspable ratios of life and space, and how it all felt, and why it all mattered so so much that it was so beautiful or jarring, or weird, or sometimes there at all.

In many ways I think an urge to share these observations in some primal way might be built into us. To have a place to put them.

Which came first: the habit of the sharing of the trivial snapshot of the Americano + sugar spoon arranged just so? Or is the Americano revealing something more about ourselves, where we come from, what we love, what we seek, about beauty, or fear, and life?

Thanks a lot, Jeffy.

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