Welcome to September’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine! This month’s theme changed and evolved as contributions arrived, as people created diverse works of writing and visual art exploring the broad questions of the universe and the details of people’s daily lives. Eventually we realized the common thread was the exploration and articulation itself: weaving whatever happens into a narrative or piece of art, making sense of different value systems and sources of meaning through our own interpretive creations.
South Bay artist Landkee creates collage art, a medium which lends itself literally to the juxtaposition and interchange of various styles and representative objects. Landkee’s style, as self-described, focuses on form and color and the principles of aesthetic composition, while specific ‘meanings’ are expressed rather abstractly. However, the process of creating a collage in itself involves beginning at the end of the path viewers’ eyes will naturally follow and arranging objects ‘backwards’ from that point…symbolically what humanity does when making sense of our world, looking at what is in front of our faces and then tracing back to to piece together how and why we arrived at that point.
Poets Thomas Park and Danielle Searby discuss the process of conscious mythmaking and highlight the need for artists and storytellers and people in general not to take the easy way out by reiterating others’ ideas without critically examining these values. Searby critiques modern Americans’ excessive dependence on culturally defined mass media and stereotypical cultural/gender roles through conveying the weary weight such unexamined values leave upon our bodies and minds. Park celebrates writers who look beyond the styles and fashions of their times to create or consciously adopt their own work and value systems as part of a poetic grouping concerning courage and heroism.
Canadian painter Larry Azoth brings together various time periods and worldviews in his composite surrealist work “Fate.” We see a magician/astronomer looking through a circular window at skyscrapers and Saturn, a junction of the modern, post-modern, and pre-modern, of faith and reason, philosophy and poetry, science and nature, Earth and the cosmos. Nothing seems faded or out of place here, everything exists as a part of a comprehensive homage and acknowedgement of the values and ideas which have brought us here. The title “Fate” suggests a destiny not completely under our conscious control…which has a ring of truth when we consider the multilayered influence of past narratives, values, and scientific discoveries. Park and Searby admonish us not to simply repeat our culture’s amalgamate of values without careful consideration, while Azoth reminds us of the rich history and multilayered context of ideas we may think are completely our own. Many people are to an extent products of their times – not necessarily a negative phenomenon in itself, but a reminder to acknowledge and consider the sources of our values and personal narratives.
Cynthia Lamanna praises the beauty of forgiveness in a short piece – linking the decision to move past another’s wrongdoing to a variety of natural processes and identifying the act as one of kindness and morality. Forgiveness can be taken as a way to overcome the cognitive dissonance brought about by our not living up to or perfectly understanding the values we so often advocate. The process allows us to re-integrate people into our communities and create an understandable internal narrative for our own actions without becoming paralyzed by contradictions. For example, we can still value integrity without forever shunning a respected person who once deceived us, and we can find language to make sense of our own vacillations among value systems and types of behavior.
Lamanna also applies this broad, humane approach to human nature and relations to the late Michael Jackson in another of her poems. Jackson is not viewed one-dimensionally as simply a talented singer and performer, a controversial figure, an unusual personality, or someone with medical problems – he becomes all of these at once and a more complete human being. That is one of the strengths of forgiveness (not speaking specifically of Jackson here but of humanity in general) – how the process allows for others to change, to rise above our limited concepts of them, to not have their entire personhood defined by some action of theirs of which we disapprove.
A refusal to forgive is one form of looking at people and events through a limited perspective, and ritualization of past events through celebrations and pageantry can also provide a stilted, inaccurate view of those events if we are not careful. Patsy Ledbetter describes Christmas through the eyes of a professional-level musical performer…with rehearsals beginning in September. She writes of all the work which goes into a theatrical presentation, and all the fear and stress that went into Mary and Joseph’s original journey, which we so often ironically attempt to recreate perfectly and spectacularly. Ledbetter wonders how much the audience will grasp of the cast and crew’s labor and of the significance of the original historical event – but ends her poem on a hopeful, rather than cynical note. The beauty of the narrative and the fact that the story remains told to this day provides a chance to touch audiences with the transcendent message of the tale. Even if they do not literally feel or understand everything which led up to that particular moment, they are still in attendance and still have a chance to learn and celebrate something beyond the everyday. Their experiences thus become part of the larger Christmas narrative, and the cast and crew have the honor of allowing them to transcend time and space to join in the celebration of humility and love.
Didacus Ramos relates a vignette from his family’s history, how he raised the funds to purchase a pet hen, christened Henriettta. The cultural references and details make this piece about much more than a boy and his pet chicken…we learn here about the Portuguese cultural influence on California suburban life, about the ethics of peaceful, quiet family life, hard work, and discipline. From the first paragraph where he references Saint Didacus, the author turns the story into a piece on culture, faith and family, on how brothers and sisters and parents and children learn to relate to each other and on the potential for a friendly, domestic relationship to the natural world.
Reuben Rutledge presents the cultural and religious practices of Indonesian islanders through his academic essays, illustrating the nearly universal human tendency towards myth-making and narrative generation. The indigenous peoples presented developed their own ways of understanding their world and making poetry and meaning from their experiences, as the Dutch colonists developed ways of understanding (and manipulating) the native people. Through his academic focus of study, Rutledge asserts that value systems and beliefs have real value and importance, and can and should be examined along with more tangible aspects of daily life.
These contributions all reflect high levels of thought and consideration, and we at Synchronized Chaos invite readers to approach them with a similar level of curiosity and analysis.