Peak Moments for Liberation

There are moments in our lives when we experience peak moments of happiness. It’s those moments when we are thrust so forcefully into the present that all we see and feel is love in the grand sense. It’s the closest life gets to art and we are the lucky ones to be its main subject. Тhese moments unravel around us while simultaneously emerging from within but through the euphoric maelstrom they have a curious way of veiling themselves. We become blind to the experience out of proximity, proverbially missing the forest for the trees. But they do happen.  My question is whether or not these sublime moments can unlock a latent freedom of possibility, meaning, since we’ve already seen the top, why not just try anything and everything else to explore the full palette of existence? It’s a liberating experience. 

Artistic collaboration with Pavel Shatu (visual artist)

Artistic collaboration with Pavel Shatu (visual artist)

I’ve had this «peak happiness» experience a few years ago and nothing in recent memory has come close. After deciding to run away from NYC for a brief summer, I found myself in Copenhagen with which I fell in love immediately, with the most kind and giving person I’ve ever met, also with whom I was deeply in love. My daily schedule went from struggle and grind to play and relax. Every day I was going to arguably the coolest library in the world (The Black Diamond - google it), writing for the majority of the day and afterwards meeting up with the lady as she would get off work. We would then wrap our day by exploring the city and enjoying each other’s company. If I got a taste of what a dream was, not the nocturnal kind but the kind we fantasize about when we think of an idyllic future, this was it. Given my immaturity and naivety, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate all of the abundance and gifts around me and had silly financial problems on my mind, so I recall being stressed a fair portion of the time. But as distance allowed all the inconsequential chaff to fall away, all that’s left is a beautiful and singular memory of a reality that was my own.  

Recently I’ve had comparable instances which I was able to appreciate in real-time, but nothing quite holds up to this episode of a few years ago. I’ll also admit that it doesn’t take long for the mind the idealize things and there is no way for me to a-b test my present existence with one of the past. But with the wistful reverie of a time no longer, I can recognize that I might not ever get to that point of youthful freedom again as there were then no responsibilities except to feel and to love. I mean, that’s a lesson in itself if we were to deconstruct «a perfect moment». Yet as I start to let go of this desire to live in a dream world and submit to the possibility that that could have been my existential peak, the entire world opens up to me. If that was that, then fuck it, I can now do quite possibly anything else because I have nothing to lose. Perhaps this may connote nothing to live for, but if we are to talk in absolutes then one can say I have everything to live for. So why not explore? Why not move to Paris? Why not write the book? Why not smoke the occasional cigar and have a little too much wine? 

I believe this type of abandon is what many of us ultimately seek. It’s freedom. It’s liberation. We stop stressing and start opening up our creative centers. We open up our hearts. And if you truly allow all of that to happen, then you open yourself up to the possibility of having peak experiences every day. You become the kid that’s always within. You stop worrying start living and that’s fucking beautiful. 



I hate to end on a morose note, but I’d also like to mention the concept of «memento mori», which has been a guiding star and a most effective tool for me. It’s the concept of «remembering that you will die». Reflecting on mortality has been the biggest gift I’ve periodically given myself and it first happened ignorantly as I was standing on a bridge over a set of train tracks thinking whether or not I should jump. I stood there with nobody in sight. Looked over the edge and got dangerously close. 10 minutes must have passed as my entire life’s movie started playing before me. At some moment there was a shift in perspective which was that if I took a step back I would have the chance to do anything I could have ever wanted. Literally anything else. If one choice is death, the alternative becomes infinite possibility. Since then I’ve used this tool in more safe environments and mostly in the confines of my mind. Yet «memento mori» and other toolsets have given me immense mobility and put decisions and life choices in most sober perspectives. 


This is the first essay in collaboration with artist Pavel Shatu - www.artpavelshatu.com

When Self-Reliance Fails You, an Actor's Story

When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group of harmony if you keep on going back to it
— Marcus Aurelius

I can’t say that I have reverted to myself in these last moments. I ended up taking a drive and screaming in the car at the most resonant frequency my vocal chords could allow. Why?  Why did I crumble into an outrage I couldn’t even share with a family member? Well, actors heed; the mental circus we endure with all of its bull whips and caged freedoms is something few others will ever understand. 

Ne te quaesiveris extra - (Do not seek things outside of yourself)

I broke for the negation of the above. I have allowed myself the decadent reverie of a future that was not yet endowed. I have sought, and illusorily found, a thing, a mode of life, outside of myself that I very much wanted, and then as things go, I was awoken from the dream. 

A few weeks ago I was sent on a theatrical audition. Run of the mill audition for a series regular role on a new network TV show. I seldom talk about acting because it’s commonplace in my life. I enjoy it dearly, but the fruits of the pursuit have been thin and without too much promise, so I roll with the flow and keep quiet for the most part. Days after the audition I get the call-back. Fine. I’ll go back and read for the folks - It was fun the first time ‘round, why not? Well… another success; I was present, alive, reactive, listening. It felt good. Days pass and then another call to perform; a producer’s session. (This is when the majority of the people who make the final decision sit in a room and ogle at your performance) Now, as of late, I have been meditating with relative frequency, but I still get a little in my head when the pressure is on. It’s basically when you get past the general conceptual understanding of you as an actor playing a part in a fictional piece, and start scoping the larger picture with its needless details involving networks, budgets, bigwigs, career launches, etc. Even though the pressure isn’t supposed to be on and you are doing LITERALLY the EXACT SAME thing as all the other auditions, your root chakra tickles a little and synapses do a funny thing of fabricating a hologram you in front of you that watches you and judges you harder than any producer could. But I still rock it. This rarely happens for me at this stage. It’s a beautiful thing for Pasha when Pasha doesn’t trip over himself. Moments tick and another call tolls, late in the evening of that day; caller ID reads the number of management. 

“They want you to go in tomorrow for a chemistry read with the character that plays your brother. Producers and director will be watching via Skype.”

This is the first time I have ever gotten this far for a role so prospective. In my entire 10 year career as an actor, after all of my close calls and co-star/guest-star bookings, I have never been wheedled down to one of the final picks for a lead recurring role on a tv-series. 

I prep. Drink my coffee. Write in my morning journal. Meditate. Commute to Manhattan. Arrive at the Warner Brothers office. Meet my already “booked” brother. Skype is fired up. We’re called into the room. We vibe. We read. We improvise. We take critique. We are complimented on our performance. I leave. 

It’s a fun mental game to play trying to wave away passing thoughts as if they are clouds one intends to dissipate.  Did you get the part? Did you not? What did they really think of your read? You could have read that part better etc etc… But when you are thinking about the future you could possibly have if these clouds materialize into guiding wind currents, it is very difficult to just let them pass without giving them any thought. In my particular case, it would be akin to winning the lottery. I even joked with my girlfriend who is located at an unfortunately long distance away, “Hey, if I could relocate you, if you didn’t have to work any longer, and we could live together, and we would thrive and write, would you say yes?” She hummed in affirmation. It is impossible not to think about these things. 

Hours pass and I finally get the text from my manager, “They loved your read, but they decided to go in another direction with your part.” 

Are these the men that judge me?

Are these the men that judge me?

Blow to the lower intestine. 

Now…I signed up for this game after reading its rulebook. I knew the clauses, the fine print, the foreboding script of likely alcoholism and bouts of depression. I agreed to it all. But let me swing back to a time demarcation in the text; 10 years, perhaps 12 at this point, I’ve been going through these emotional tumults, honing my craft, hardening my psyche, remaining woefully and naively optimistic.

The truth of the matter is that I could write this very passage on my deathbed with only one thing altered for continuity; time spent in this race. 10 years? Could be 70.

 Actors, musicians, writers, thinkers, performers, entrepreneurs, innovators are given no guarantee of success, of posterity, of recompense. If you are in pursuit, my fellow man, I give you my energy and good-will! Know that in solidarity you have a place in my heart. I cry for you as I clench my fist and bleed for you. I understand. 

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When a fire courses within you, there is nothing you can do but heed its velocity. It urges to be fanned by whatever means necessary, and only you can decide how to facilitate its fickle desires. For me, it was/is theatrical arts, but ever more frequently I am coming to realize that the existence of my personal fire no longer wishes to be privy to exogenous whims; to producers, casting directors, to directors. 

Many of you have been following the development of my alternate inferno “Glass Hamlet”. Although I still can’t say when the first comprehensive project will be released (the album) due to uncertainty and constraints of audio-engineers, I can at least say that an entire album + 2 separate EP projects have been RECORDED. I may not be strong enough to continue down the path of the actor. Or perhaps, I have found myself another mountain; my mountain. 

And to my fellow actors - keep fucking trucking on! The psychological olympics to which you are subject are of a superhuman level. As queens and kings of uncertainty, know that you are capable of transplanting yourself into any other environment in the world with adroit ability to still make it work… And with a smile no less! 

But as Cory Allen would say, “We are all just souls in these meat taxis of our bodies on the ride of life. So enjoy it.”

PS: those of you who haven't heard my latest collaboration with a cat from Dublin, check it out below! 

The Paradox of Choice

Choice is a beautifully gilded piece of architecture. To a person glancing the menu of western luxuries, choice holds a fortified position as being the most frequently enjoyed. And so we bask in it and demand more until an unnerving anxiety sinks in. But it's not that choice satiates to a point of discomfort, it's that its overwhelming presence debilitates and often confuses. With choice, we enter onto a stage where immediately we start sifting through the sea of variety to try to pick out what's the ideal; what's best for us, how does our decision compare to other's, how does it weigh on our social projection, and finally, is this all there is?

I distinctly recall a summer evening when I was sitting in a restaurant among friends and a few new acquaintances. I am by no means a sommelier, but I was somehow delegated the task of choosing the wine. I looked at the menu and scanned the prices. Too expensive and I seem pompous. Too cheap and I'll look stingy. I had to not only defer to the absolute median price, but also insisted on paying so as to relieve myself of any true social judgement. The vast menu exhausted my decision making reserves and the perception of myself in this environment filled my gut with unease. I could have just as easily been pacified into declining to make the choice altogether. Looking back, I think I may have actually preferred to drink anything that the waiter himself recommended, as long as it wasn't my decision to make.

"The problem is actually that today’s ideology of choice-led capitalism, the idea that everyone is a maker of his or her life, which goes very much the reality of the social situation, actually pacifies people and makes us constantly turning criticism towards ourselves instead of organizing ourselves and making a critique of the society we live in.” ~ Renata Salecl

Under the facade of "the entire world is yours" lies an insidious subjectivity that suggestively insists on more consumption. This "pacification" into indecisiveness due to the plethora of choice cozens our questioning mechanisms into being turned off, thus allowing passivity to continue. The gilded architecture mentioned earlier is that of a belief that "you are the master" with submission actually being the underlying principle. Who knew that all those commercials we are being bombarded with are just tranquilizer darts!

The ideology of choice melts into something that isn't so optimistic and subsequently prevents social change. Choice almost starts looking like loss. If I pick this, I am missing out on that. If I help this person, I am in turn not helping another person. We hold on to what little we have, relatively speaking, and become afraid to take chances on what we really want. This also holds true with sticking one's neck out and helping to provoke any sort of social change and being strong with critiquing the environment in which we live.

Just as with any sort of psychological bias or mechanical habit that doesn't serve the user, sometimes it's enough to just be aware of it to catalyze change. Our society, which promotes more options and more products and more choices, won't decelerate anytime soon. But we can definitely go with the flow and mitigate the negative side effects of something that inherently should be beneficial, or at the very least benign. 

 

Creative Lassitudes and Agony

 

Is it naive to say that I am naive to assume that all people are capable of some sort of art or greater calling and thus by mere probability I should be finding these individuals on every turn of my path? I have become rather curious and now am torn by two sides of a delicate coin that may either label me as an optimist or a sanctimonious pseudo-esthete, for I haven’t been meeting as many of these "doers" as I have liked, and the ones that I have met, have been lackluster in soul at best. Is an impression of deficiency one to be cast, or that of a zeitgeist of sloth? 

Let me clarify to say that I speak not only of artists in the general sense, but also of anyone who aims to serve a higher purpose; entrepreneurs, philanthropists, thinkers, benefactors of loftier virtues etc. 

What can be the cause of this creative lassitude? Why aren’t more people embracing the possible freedom and purpose our current day western society allows? Don’t we have limitless resources the presumed information utopia (the internet) has provided? I believe the flowerbed of creature comforts has stricken more than one person with a malaise of inaction, and in addition, there are overwhelming factors that accumulate to further deter people from following their goals and desires. 

-Rokni Haerizadeh

-Rokni Haerizadeh

Lethargy

Let’s get the most insidious reason out of the way; lethargy. An individual who can’t muster the strength to get up out of bed can’t be expected to create anything of value. Lack of motivation follows lack of creativity follows lack of action with the result being a horse that won’t be led to water. But do we care much for this horse? Likely not. They are an uninspiring triviality without much more to add to this abstract other than to be passively noted. I have met countless legions of this folk and prolonged exposure has caused me to assume their traits. Their torpor is alluring and relaxing and regardless of the benefit of the doubt you may give them, their most successful quality will always stay that of a Sisyphean weight on your shoulders. This mental modality is contagious and one of which to be well aware. 

Agony

Creation takes agony; a viciously misinterpreted word and ubiquitously experienced state. This agony is twofold primarily and infinite secondarily. E.E. Cummings stated that "the agony lies in the fact that we stand no chance of being appreciated". The first obstacle out of the gate is doubt looming over the first inkling of a creative thought, doubt of anyone recognizing and validating one’s ideas. Unless you are of Kierkegaardian or Kanye’en confidence, which can be governed neither by words nor by magic, even the developmental stages of your creativity float in treacherous waters kicking your mental vigor to exhaustion. To be on the receiving end of "I don’t think my ideas are good enough" is that of frail apathy due to tiresome boredom of hearing that helpless anthem for the umpteenth time. But to our own cries we are oblivious! This is because they are feelings and not logical thoughts. We incubate doubt and strangle our children before they can become those darlings we will have to eventually kill. Consider moments of vacillation, as Virginia Woolf put it,  when you consider yourself both "the divinest genius or the greatest fool", to be completely natural.

After the success of conquering this initial vanguard, next the artist is faced with throwing on the vestments of every predecessor; consistency. Ye olde adage "Rome wasn’t built in a day" hails the countless works that stand as the foundation of modern thought and society. All of these achievements took time. They took time because consistency takes time and the terrors of consistency lie in the incurable side-effect of sacrifice: sacrifice of socializing, sacrifice of excessive leisure, sacrifice of vices, sacrifice of even intimate relationships. A weighty exchange, no? Marina Abramović said "great artists result from the sacrifices that you make to your personal life" and this trade-off rests only in the deep love and faith one has for their work. This phrase also grounds and gives hope to those who don’t believe they are of Newtonian capacity of mind because Abramović describes her potential hard-working individual as "great" only because of their sweat equity. 

The infinite agony of the artist is the infinite loop of the two mentioned ingredients. Only belief as a state of being will overcome, or at least allow one to become accustomed to, the constant trials. 

Perhaps my chance interlocutors haven’t yet found their cause. Why should I expect everyone to tolerate this agony of doubt and sacrifice when something worth that suffering isn’t just casually checked out at the library? Who am I to look upon others as lazy or incapable? Have I myself found this cause or am I only starting to realizing how naive it is to assume that every bathtub will have its gin? 

Regardless of the hoops and turns and storms and spurs of inconvenient hardships mourned, when the sun sets down beyond tomorrow only a select few can hope to harbour the immortal rhythm of the sages, and one I esteem particularly says this;

Look into yourself, reader; for you must find Art there, if at all. At this you protest vigorously: but suppose I follow your curious advice, suppose I look into myself and suppose I do not find Art? What then? Do you mean to tell me that I must forever abandon my hope of becoming an Artist? Absolutely! Art is not something which may or may not be acquired, it is something which you are not or which you are.
— E.E. Cummings

 

But I, as you, must remember only one thing - without folly there would be no wisdom. Now I will gather my things and try to figure out what folly I can fathom for the ends of wisdom attained.