Right now, friends, I’m a little concerned with the direction my country’s politics are headed, and because of that I can’t help but make this inaugural blog post a loosely political one. I feel a kind of dread at what the next four years might hold for the people and the land of my country. Sometimes it feels like a humid summer day where the air is so heavy that it hangs on you like a weighted coat. Right now I could use bit of release, but when I think of “release” I think of prisoners, or waivers and some kind of corporate liability.
When I think of moments of personal pleasure, of release, I can’t help but ask myself if those are appropriate right now. Is it an extravagant use of my privilege to lose myself in a drawing, or sit down to write a poem about the creek behind my childhood home? When C.S. Lewis first wrote the Chronicles of Narnia they were poorly regarded as “escapist” books, allowing people to flee their lives for a land of fantasy, and many mocked that desire to find a space outside of the dreary reality of postwar Europe. At any time, but especially when the future could be grim and there’s much to be done, how is release a responsible use of our time?
I suppose it depends on what we deem responsible. Is resistance of the negatives forces in our world valuable? If we find a moment of personal release, isn’t that a liberation from any larger problem that could be sucking you in? Cathartic release doesn’t have to be separate from the release of a prisoner if it builds a bubble outside of the prison. And if we can start to envision a world outside our “prison," whatever it may be, what better place to start? If we want to make a change we have to start with the things around us.
Calligraphy is Shane’s release. He takes a pen and creates something beautiful right in front of him. Is that escapist? If thousands of people from around the world spend 50 seconds watching an instagram video of the graceful, intricate process of calligraphy, does that have no larger impact?
Shane told me “when I sit down and do calligraphy, there’s so much attention to detail, I literally can’t think about anything else while it’s happening, I'm too focused on each stroke. It reminds me of meditation practices where they give you just enough to focus on that you can’t focus on anything else.” Even if nobody ever saw his work would feeling that way, letting everything else go to focus on every last stroke of the pen, not carry into the rest of Shane’s life, and then into the lives of whoever he saw that day, sending out ripple effect like the butterfly who flaps its wings in Brazil and causes a hurricane in Florida? A man with a pen in his hands can change the world, even if at first it just changes his mood.
But release is only half of what this is all about. Addiction and adultery can come from release and a desire for it that rules out everything else. That’s why it’s Mindful Release. When you’re mindful you focus entirely on what it is that you’re doing. You stop running on autopilot so that every action is deliberate. And so, in a way, Mindful Release is not separate from prisoners and it’s not separate from liability either, the deliberate nature of creation is an assumption of personal liability.
Some weeks, I carry a lot of baggage into the weekend. Or maybe I get to Sunday and find I’m already fretting about the week ahead. Perhaps I want to think about an unfinished project, or I fret about what a friend who I haven’t spoken to in a while thinks about me. But my mindful release is baking, so when I feel this way I realize I need to make something. I take responsibility for the world inside my head and when I roll balls of cookie dough for the baking sheet or knead a big lump of bread I work everything out, just as I work the flour in. I am taken aback by the beauty of the soap bubbles swirled over the mixing bowl as I wash the dishes and when everything is done, I feel refreshed. I go into the next week with renewed energy and enthusiasm. How could that release not be essential to any role I want to take in making change?
So as you ask yourself how you can fight against the forces of hate or set others free, ask also: what is it that sets you free? Where do you find happiness? That is your mindful release. And if you act on it you are creating peace in yourself that will spill over into the world.
I asked Shane what the unifying theme for his first line of apparel was, and he told me “Mindful, and Release. Also, all the prints are going to be in walnut.” Eventually the white long sleeve with the black print came to be, but the original plan was to do all walnut-colored printing. I’m often amused at the words that people use to describe colors, but walnut actually seems quite fitting. Even more fitting that the items that feature walnut do so on a black background. When times are dark we must plant seeds for good things.