Tag Archives: blue morpho

Dragon Comics 66

You can't always get what you want. Sometimes you can't even get what you need.

You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you can’t even get what you need.

This metaphor lends itself to oversimplification. In real life, you can have both hope and despair at the same time, to a degree, but in my experience one is usually going to be louder. The balance can shift back and forth, adding a fun element of manic depression to all the other mental noise of an imperfect creative life, but you don’t feel equal parts optimistic and pessimistic. Either you’re a superstar who produces an endless tide of flawless gems, or you’re a hack who should give up and go into medical transcription or some other field that doesn’t require imagination. Even some of the most successful people I know seem to bounce back and forth between basking in their success and questioning when it will all come crashing down around their heads when the truth regarding their lack of talent is revealed.

So it really does end up being a series of endless circles, a spiritual wheel of fortune that can rise and fall multiple times in a single day. In an hour. In a minute.

The mandala in which Dragon is tangled today is based on a sacred geometry design. Saturday The Man and I went over to the Bear’s cave for the first time in forever (he said, “That snake just gets me.) and spent a couple hours talking, about art, in theory, practice, and business, as well as the subject of these ancient forms. When you just look at them they seem orderly and easy to understand, but when you try to draw one, the intricacies of symmetry and proportion really pop out at you. I had the same experience drawing and cutting the Man in the Maze, except that one was about 500 times more complicated than this.

Dragon Comics 63

Don't enjoy the sound of silence.

Don’t enjoy the sound of silence.

A long time ago, a lot of years ago, I visited a Mayan shaman. I had been the victim of a violent crime and sought treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and my therapist suggested I see this practitioner, who was a colleague of hers, for some more traditional healing.

This shaman presented an intriguing mix of esoteric wisdom and childlike wonder. Before I even opened my mouth upon meeting him, he diagnosed me with an unrelated medical condition, which he then proceeded to fix. I’m not even making this up. I came to him for psychological help and somehow he intuitively knew about this other issue, and after the session, I did not have this problem anymore.

At the same time, his treatment method involved copious quantities of tequila, some of which he ingested himself, and after our session, we fell to to talking, in the process of which he locked himself out of the house. Then he passed out on the porch.

I relate this part of the story to highlight that place where brilliance and innocence overlap, where what can be great and astonishing can, at the same time, be small and ordinary. This guy was a metaphor for everything real in the world.

We also took a spirit journey together, or, more accurately, he took a spirit journey and I sort of followed along. There were 4 main points of interest along the way, 2 of which made immediate sense to me, and 2 of which took many years to resonate into clarity. In fact, 1 of them really only started to take on meaning as I began writing this blog post. But the other one (and yes, here comes the point) regarded the butterfly, a symbol of transformation, but also a symbol of inspiration.

Why does it mean to follow the butterfly, I wondered. It is to pursue that which is beautiful, but also elusive, but also metamorphic, meaning that the butterfly can initiate change. While slow human eyes might see a caterpillar as a separate creature, apart from the dazzling winged creature it will become, they are one and the same. The caterpillar is the butterfly; the butterfly is the caterpillar. The caterpillar may be an ugly little creature chomping all the leaves off your citrus trees one day, but after a brief period of transition, it’s a flying jewel. Everything is transitional, and everything has the potential for great harm, or great good.

The tao of art isn’t some kind of garden party; it’s a trek through the jungle. Your guide is this ephemeral, elusive wisp: a butterfly, a muse, a feeling. An interior faith that an invisible compass points true; that the exterior magnetic compulsion is trustworthy.

For me, this is the way of the butterfly. There’s the belief that the butterfly exists, that it is a real thing even though you can’t capture or contain it, and there’s the belief that the butterfly represents what you feel it should represent. In other words, there are 2 voices: the snake says “stop,” the butterfly says “go.” The snake crushes; the butterfly expands. The snake prevents; the butterfly compels. The artist has to own these creatures, and decide which one to privilege. One most likely yells rude epithets constantly, but most often when it’s likely to trip you up. The other whispers all the truths and secrets you long to hear, but only when you are listening.

Dragon Comics 62

Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

I’m not saying that every successful artist and writer I know suffers from Impostor Syndrome. Obviously, some creatives have massive egos. Then again, some of them evince massive egos to hide from the world the fact that they don’t think they deserve their success. However, I do know quite a few people who have received and continue to receive recognition (positive reviews, regular sales, prestigious awards) and also live in fear that someday the world will figure out that they’re not really that good, and they will lose it all.

One problem is that success can be so fickle. After Robin Williams’s death, most of us probably thought first, “But he was so great, so funny.” But some of us probably thought, a little bit later, and with a little bit of guilt, that The Crazy Ones wasn’t great or funny. I had to Google just to remember the name of his last sitcom, of which, like many people, I watched a single episode before making the choice not to follow. And Robin Williams was great. He was funny. But art doesn’t work like that. The emotions Williams made us feel in Dead Poets Society don’t keep The Crazy Ones from getting cancelled. So there is a sense that no success is real success in the arts. You’re only as good as your last performance, and if you’re hesitant to schedule the next one, you’re a has been resting on your laurels. You have to keep producing, and each production has to be better than the last.

Every little success is a boost to the creative mind, but the next day is a blank slate. If you don’t sell as many books, if your webpage doesn’t get as much traffic, if your critics are a little bit less congratulatory today than they were yesterday, you only feel the negative.

Most of us (the less insane ones, anyway) did not go into the arts for the accolades. Most of us went into the arts because our weird artistic brains literally did not give us any other choice, which makes success, or lack thereof, that much more difficult to process. Even if you’re great, even if you know you’re great, our society doesn’t look kindly on those who go around explaining how great they are. You might feel bad about your success because you want your art to transcend the need for positive feedback, or because there’s something illegitimate about becoming popular. You might feel bad about wanting or enjoying success.

Many of us simply believe we don’t deserve to succeed: because we don’t think we’re good enough, because we think others are better, because we feel that we haven’t suffered sufficiently, because we feel like there could be shame is being successful. And then there are those who are afraid to succeed, because to attempt success is to risk failure, and if we don’t believe we deserve to shine, we inevitably keep ourselves in the dark.

Dragon Comics 61

Seriously, read M'naghten. It's the only way to successfully plead the insanity defense. And read the DSM-V, so you can discuss antisocial personality disorder without resorting to false binaries.

Seriously, read M’naghten. It’s the only way to successfully plead the insanity defense. And read the DSM-V, so you can discuss antisocial personality disorder without resorting to false binaries.

I really like that butterfly, visually as well as psychologically. It’s based off one in the butterfly house at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and there will be a more detailed version on a T-shirt, most definitely. The way Dragon creeps after it in panel 4 is pretty adorable as well. In real life, you can’t really follow a butterfly. You’re better off sitting very still and giving it the chance to to come to you. It helps if you wear bright colors.

That always reminds me of a coyote story, which explains why butterflies fly in such unpredictable zig zag patters. It’s because once, the butterflies played the same trick on coyote 3 times in a row without his noticing, and they can’t stop laughing about it to this day.

This butterfly could be on a mission though. It might have a purpose.