Last week after hosting San Francisco's, The Lives of the Creators, I sat down to write and process my thoughts on the event. The speakers talks spoke deeply to me on the the honest perspective of what it is to be human. As they shared not so much on their incredible accomplishments but on the fear, challenges, insecurity, and vulnerability encountered along they way. They did so with the humble profundity that can only be enveloped in the truth.
Perhaps none more poignantly then when Mark and Lara Menning, the founders of Nucleo Life Sciences, started their talk with his wife and co-founder telling us the words that changed their lives, “It’s back”. His cancer had returned and they wondered how much time they had left together, in the end he is still here today. But it was those words of his doctor, which changed his focus from having co-invented 6 drugs to prevent HIV and prolong the lives of those who are afflicted by it to focusing on creating a breakthrough in our search for a cure to cancer. They told us they will begin testing next month on a drug which is showing great promise from keeping cancer cells from spreading through the body, causing them to stay in one small mass making them infinitely more treatable.
Fernando Briosos told us of growing up in poverty and eating rice three meals a day, making boats out of felled banana trees to avoid flooding and move his family to safety, “but since we didn’t own anything at least we didn’t have to worry about carry things with us,” he told us. And then in moving to America, working as a Janitor to put himself through school, only to find himself unable to get a job. So instead he started his own company and with his successes and through his investments here in America he is now going to bring clean water wells to the Indigenous tribe he was raised alongside as a boy in his native Philippines.
Brett Amory told us of his journey from being told he was a terrible art student and switching his major while taking 10 years to get a four year degree in art school and that this had taught him that talent is not so necessary as is dedication. He had just returned from a show in New York City the day before after opening his recent installation in Indiana at The Museum of Modern Art. He spoke of how connecting with people, places, and communities became his inspiration through watching us pile into trains and sit next to each other in cities but fail to be present with those around us and through that perhaps too failing to be present with ourselves.
Dr. Phil McGillivary shared the idea and importance behind positive teachers and passing knowledge along as he has found his way from very humble beginnings to going on to study and learn from the Indigenous and Traditional Maritime Cultures around the world as well as having collaborated with Nobel Peace Prize winners, Google Oceans, and NASA Ames along the way.
In the end the part that leapt off the page of life for me was when Ansar showed up. Ansar is a musician I had met in the BART subway system more than 4 months ago, I told him about the Lives of the Creators after I bought his CD and when the event was I then told him that I would love for him to play live at the event, but had no postcard or information to give him. Beautifully testament to the content of his character, over all those months from one brief conversation in the subway station he remembered not only the event but the time, date, and location, he showed up and surprised everyone with his golden voice. But no one their knew that I was most surprised of all because I myself had forgotten our one brief conversation in the subway and yet there he was more than 4 months later. Better than the beauty of his golden voice, I told him as the audience applauded, was his golden word.
I truly enjoyed hosting The Lives of the Creators. I find public speaking and storytelling has a way of making me feel alive and connecting not just ideas but people to our own inner potential to share, learn, create, and grow.
I returned from my hometown last month, where the high school and performing arts center organized a 10 year retrospective of my artwork. It was humbling and very touching to be thought of and held highly in their hearts. I gave a lecture series and told stories on the path of my life from my teenage years unto today at The McHale Performing Arts Center. In place of focusing on my art we talked about some of the ideas which have been most influential in my life. From traveling around the world alone for three years, to confronting fear, finding passion, and dealing with the loss of loved ones. It was a cathartic experience and Im happy to have been there as well as to be back here in SF.
One of the most touching parts for me personally was after I spoke, some students came onto the stage to speak with me more and after they had left there was a middle age woman standing there wearing a blue janitorial work shirt. She said “Do you remember me?” I smiled and hugged her, a smile that said my god how long its been and I can’t believe that the memory of her came flooding back so vividly and suddenly after having been gone more than a decade. She said, “I used to work in the lunch room, and you were the one student who spoke with me and joked with me, it made my day, and when you graduated you bought me a little present. I just wanted to come and tell you hello.” It really moved me to a feeling in-between happiness and teary eyes. Above all it made me feel the importance from both her perspective, and suddenly my own, and then of course the overarching perspective we all share, in the value of the sense of being appreciated as a human being.
Being there has inspired me and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for storytelling and sharing new ideas. While I was moved by this and I wanted to share it, I also thought of wanting to hear not just from the world around me but of the world around others.
Often times I have wildly romantic expectations of a place or idea and find within the private conversations of my head that Im reminding myself to tone down the expectation and allow something to be as it will be. This was that, that which was more than I could have expected or hoped for with the incredible addition of what it simply was. Which is to say the dreamy notion of the unexpected. The water was filled with plankton which were biolumencent, so that when I would swim at night my entire body would glow a neon green, I would wear goggles and open my eyes underwater which looked as if you were traveling through time and space, thousands of bead like plankton glowing brilliant green rushing towards the eyes. While in the sky above a meteor shower approached, and as I lay on my back in the glowing waters of the night, shooting stars reminded me just how profound a place this is, and how phenomenal to be alive, to know, to learn, and to find nature as it is.
I must tell you as I write this I am very romanced by the experiences as seen above and the potential that is. The photos have turned out better than I had ever hoped they would and in doing so, they offer me a fresh sense of potential in the world. As if I am learning something new and experiencing an idea, concept, and potential that I had previously been entirely unaware of. The unknown, unknown. I loved taking these photos and felt every bit the profundity of their mysterious depth in color and emotion. The feelings seem surreal even now as I attempt to describe them. It is only my passion for art, creativity , and communication with words and enthusiasm that prevents me from saying that it was indescribable. It only feels that way as it is so far from the realm of what I have come to accept as my reality, through my own patterns and habits. Through the lens unto which I see reality. These hold me in a state of spellbound emotion, one that speaks to all that we can never know and how beautiful that can be. The same way that a sunset is no longer a sunset when we consider just how small we are, as its brilliant colors show us our tiny place amidst a universe that we call our own. To think of time and distance and that we are seeing something so far that its light left 8 minutes before and as it sets, someone, perhaps in Japan, is seeing a different light rise as we see it set. These speak of that light and of something once lived that is both sweet and salty with yet another tone speaking of a place I'd once known, but only as familiar as a fading dream. One that seems to reawaken and as soon as it could be recognized, its tail swims off into that sweet salty distance into which I could never follow.
All of this stirs a romance in me which recalls Shakespeare's words, "Every third thought shall be my grave." It is not to be morbid, but rather motivating, to find the discomfort, examine the fear, for only now we are, Until soon.