That's how I'm starting this blog post. With a simple, profound, "fuck." which is a little less than what I said when I came home a week ago.
I have a list of fears. I would say about 60% are survival based, 30% work based and the remaining 10% being the product of a mind that find joy in tormenting it's owner with fancy little horrors that can't ever possibly come true. And to satisfy the curious amongst you readers, I will release one of my absolute worst fears, which is completely and undeniably preposterous at the end of this blog post (You could also just skip to the end if you don't want to read this shit).
One of my more rational fears is indeed, losing everything in a fire. Which is exactly what happened December 9th of this year. This event quickly made it onto a list of the five most horrifying things I've ever experienced, and it's slowly been climbing to the top of that list. It's a very odd thing, to come home after spending the night out with good friends, laughing, drinking, and talking about all of your childhood trauma in the sort of comedic way we do to find relief, only to see your street lined with over a dozen fire trucks and countless firefighters. No one knew what had happened, nor thought it was our house that the trucks concerned. But I knew the second I saw, and I wont forget the 20 seconds I had to take to drive around the block to get to our home, being the only one who was absolutely sure it had to be our house. I don't know how I knew, but I did. I needed that 20 seconds, because it was only going to get worse. Turning the corner to see the back half of your house, a massive black obelisk, with dozens of lights peering through is a surreal feeling. Within seconds of pulling up to the house, so much had happened. I felt empty, helpless, and most of all, scared. Firefighters were keeping us away from the house, but lead us to the back yard so we could at least see what was going on. Everything was gone. We couldn't make out a single detail in the pile of ashes and debris. I didn't know what to say and I was just beginning to process what was happening when a firefighter handed me the charred remains of my pet. Within 5 minutes of being home, I was burying Margo behind the Japanese Maple tree and holding my wife as family and friends rushed to the backyard to comfort us. It was all happening so quick and with such potency that I didn't really feel nor comprehend what all was happening. We were swept up with such grace and swiftness, that it almost felt like we weren't allowed to feel or comprehend what was happening. Not yet at least.
We had friends come and go that night, while we stood in the freezing cold til’ 4am waiting on someone to board our house up from looters.
The next morning things started to dawn on us. Everything we lost. We lost all of our work, furniture, pictures, everything. Things that could ever be replaced. Gone. We realized what this meant, and over the next couple of days more things began to spring up. Old childhood objects we'd never see again, the only object I had from my grandmother (a card she wrote me when I was 10 simply hoping I was "ok".) before she passed away. Every major project I was working on and years and years of work. Gone in 10 minutes. This was of course mixed in with every day battles, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. When I have these battles, my home, my greenhouse, my work was my outlet and my remedy. People that should've been there, should've checked on me that night, didn't show up. I had family members personally offended at me because I didn't call them first, and proceeded to let me know how shitty and selfish that was of me. In your worst moments, your worst experiences and components to your life don't go away or halt. They actually seem to charge at you full force, as if they've been waiting for the perfect moment. A true sign of weakness and desperation. A few more days pass, and the temporary power we had to the greenhouse shut off during the coldest night we've had so far, essentially killing most of my plants. The only things to survive the fire. For some reason that hurt more than anything else.
But here's the thing. The stuff above isn't what I want to dive in to. The stuff I want to dive in to is far more profound and indescribable than the stuff above. But for you or I to truly appreciate what is profound and indescribable, we have to detail that things that are profound in ways we don't want to describe.
Here are the facts, quick and dirty.
I posted about the house fire that night, mainly to let people know that there would obviously be a delay in orders (I was protecting future me by stomping out any potential emails from impatient clients, which I did not and would not need during all of this.)
- Within one single hour, over 2,500 people reached out to Molly and I. Hundreds telling us to make a Gofundme so they could help us.
- Our best friends came flocking immediately to us up until 4 AM.
- Every. Single. Artist I look up to jumped to my aid.
- Our friends started a gofundme that raised over 20,000 dollars in less than 8 hours.
- I received countless emails from people sending me amazon gift cards to replace essentials immediately
- Over 600 people helped us financially
- Dozens of people offered us a place to stay immediately
- Dozens of people flocked to us with extra clothes they wanted to donate.
- Food upon food was sent to us
- So far nearly 100 people have sent or plan on sending artwork to replace what was lost in the fire.
- And so so much more than I have the energy to detail. All of it done with such vast and potent love, that I still don't fully know how to comprehend it all.
There are two reasons for it I believe.
1.) People are good. They just are. And if given the opportunity, they will show goodness
2.) This was a fact I was ignorant towards, and everything around me would make sure I had undeniable evidence that I was entirely wrong in my mentality regarding the general population.
I'm no saying this happened to teach us a lesson, no. I think that type of thinking is bullshit. I have received countless remarks, mostly from family that simply has never been there for me, stating "God must have something in store for you, something he wants you to learn," My only response is, there are more subtle and less fucked up ways of teaching.
While I think there are lessons and wonderful things to be learned from God, the Universe, Mother Nature, etc. I think those things are shown through the respective qualities in people, and the undeniable goodness of the general population.
I'm learning it's simply not ok to say "people suck" anymore. I don't have a whole lot evidence for that. Our proof for why people suck is a very simple and 2-dimensional one. When we say people suck, we are participating in one of the most empty minded, and easiest to process activities. People suck because badness makes itself known, and those blatant displays require no mental energy to process or acknowledge. But true goodness is a bit trickier to recognize and that's mostly because it's so common. Undeniable goodness doesn't shoot an ambassador in the back to make a statement, nor does it drive a 19 ton truck into a crowd of people, killing dozens to make it’s presence known. Undeniable goodness is the web that connects humanity. When a section of humanity is damaged, undeniable goodness will always come together to repair humanity. It happens all of the time, and so easily that we mistake it for an exaggerated desperate plea for help, when undeniable goodness is the thing that hears the plea every single time. Our house, while only being one tiny structure in the vast and massive web of humanity, was swept up and taken care of immediately. A GoFundMe crops up regarding someone's fight with cancer, and if someone can spare it, they will always help, and if not, it's usually because they're helping someone else with their battle. I've learned that undeniable goodness can also be the quiet ear that will patiently wait for you to stop proclaiming the world and all of it's inhabitants suck, because that goodness knows that the second it stops lending you it's ear, you're most likely gone. Goodness can be very tricky to spot sometimes, and sometimes it congregates so quickly and so potently that it knocks you off your feet and leaves you in your warm bed with lent blankets and pillows, crying, not being able to comprehend how you could possibly be so so loved.
But it can be even trickier than that! Goodness comes from all corners, facets, and dwellings. People who we've come to know as incredibly hateful, cruel, or downright manipulative have shown goodness. People I've come to know as genuinely mean spirited have shown us love, and that's so so challenging, and so so necessary. Wen you've lost everything, you almost have to accept help from those mean spirited people, because that may be the only time you'll witness such compassion from them. It's an odd thing for sure.
[I know this is coming off a little bit as rambling, but it's 4 AM and I haven't been able to process a solid thought for very long this past week. I'm just laying down what I'm learning.]
I'm learning what I tell so many people, but from the other perspective and that is, "Not MUCH is guaranteed". It really isn't. So much so that we fabricate reasons for why the unreasonable happens, such as "It's in god's plan" when someone loses a child or family loses their home, etc. But you are guaranteed love. You can find it somewhere. Always. I do believe that, and now more than ever. We've waken up every morning to a mountain of packages and care packages containing artwork and clothing from incredible people. We've been so overwhelmed with love and compassion in a way we've never really experienced. I'm spending so much time trying to make sense of it, trying to see why and where this all started. A lot of people have been telling us, "It's because people know what you put into the world". But I'm pretty certain I have not put THIS much goodness into the world. I try my best, and do good whenever it is needed or wanted, but I can't claim I've done something like THIS. Leaving Molly and I in a state of "debt". We've spent this last week trying to help other families as well, paying it forward. While our house fire happened, so did 3 others in Tulsa, all of which while people were actually in the home, resulting in one death. It's horrible, so so so horrible. We had to be apart of the goodness, because we were still alive to do so. We received love on a scale unknown to us, and the only thing that made sense and still does is to act on that. To be a catalyst and funnel for our surplus.
While what we experienced was horrible. Things have risen from the ashes that would’ve remained forever dormant had we not had this experience. Valuable things we've learned that we needed and things we can also share and add to the web of humanity that was ever so gracious with us.
I lost all of the work for my first ever art book "The Wisdom of the Furnace" who's name has revealed itself to me, and who's predetermined destiny is now known. It's weird how art and ideas can work themselves out like that. It almost makes me feel like I'm not the only thing behind what I create or the ideas I generate...
Anyways, that's just a very long and detailed list of things I've been processing and digesting since the fire, and one of the many ways I can show my gratitude towards the web of humanity and the undeniable goodness that exists all around us. Someone sent me a message that simply said "Man, those are some big ass lemons you got". And I loved that. There was a simple implication that we would squeeze the fuck out of them, and make a shit ton of lemonade. Which we did and are. So to start, here's a series of pictures I captured in the charred remains of our home, because how often do you get to shoot in a burnt down building? Pretty cool if you ask me. Also pics NSFW
EDIT: Also my completely preposterous fear is this: When I was a kid I used to love going down tube slides, except I always had the weird thought that "what if when I get to the bottom, there is not exit?" like someone just covered it up or something, and I would just hit it and stop, and I wouldn't know there wasn't an exit because its just a big closed tube. It gets worse. I used to think, "what if I went down head first and hit the bottom, but I can't push myself back up or turn around because there's not enough room and I just sit there upside down in a tube until I die!?" Like I'm literally having a tiny panic attack just thinking about it. Jesus Christ.