Thursday, May 29, 2014

a spirit of decay

My whole life I have been fascinated with decay and isolation. From an early age, I have always been sensitive to and drawn toward things and people that appear lost, forgotten or marginalized. I was the kid who would fish out and take home the lop-sided, smashed stuffed animal from the bottom of the back shelf. Things and places that are old, dilapidated or overgrown have always appealed to me more than their shiny and new counterparts. These things carry stories, history and a certain kind of art that come through the tatters and rust.

As I've grown, so has my taste in the old and broken. From teddy bears with crumpled fur and missing eyes I graduated to used books, old suitcases, graveyards and secondhand clothing. Steadily from there it has progressed and, now, in my thirties, I feel this overwhelming pull towards abandoned buildings. My waking moments are becoming consumed with the idea of capturing the tales of these places through words and photographs. On nearly every drive, no matter how mundane my destination, I stumble across what I am beginning to think of as "bleeding architecture": buildings that are so lonesome and empty they look as if they could weep.

Part of me believes that my intense fascination with these places stems from my own deep sense of loss as I grow older. As I age, I feel like I not only lose people and places who have had meaningful impacts on my life, but I also lose some of the childlike wonder that helps to fuel my creative spirit. As the day-to-day needs of adulthood all but choke out the more creative places in my mind and heart, it feels as if every day I lose a bit more: a bit more time, a bit more freedom, a bit more inspiration, and a bit more hope. It is as if the outside world, this incessant need to grow up and be something, be successful, pushes in at me from the outside. Its weight is crushing and smothering and I find myself too often choking on the have-tos and the musts, without room to breathe in the beauty and mystery of the world around me.

I don't feel as if I am unique in these feelings at all. In fact, the more I open my heart to the world I see around me, the more I notice the same crushed spirit in not only the structures and places around me but also the people. Sad, expressionless eyes greet me in the grocery store or in the teller line at the bank. I see despair and hopelessness regularly both at work and in my neighborhood. Sometimes it seems as if the entirety of the world at once gave up dreaming and stopped trying to notice the beautiful because its mere presence has become an all-too-painful reminder of ways in which each of us has failed to the ideals we once had as children.

I find myself drawn to these places and people clinging to that razor's edge between hope and despair. More than anything I want to communicate with them and capture their stories before the light in them fades entirely and they wither back into nothingness. I want to illuminate that moment where there once was possibility before it fades to black.

I believe my job as a writer and artist is to shine light on these bits of darkness. Doing so, I think, helps us remember what it feels like to be alive and dream. Being faced with the grim and gritty images of decay and loneliness need not be cause for depression and angst. It should instead be a siren song encouraging us to stop shutting down and stop shrinking back from life, even among its more painful and wretched of moments. It is in these exact moments when we are vulnerable that we can really FEEL with the authenticity and wonder of a child. Possibility is reborn and creativity comes to life.

Open your eyes to the beauty that lies in decay.

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