Uncle Edward

My uncle Edward was technically my great uncle. He was my grandmother’s brother.

The man was by all accounts an artist. He was a man driven by passion but he also possessed a lethal intellect. He was a man who would tear up in his apartment listening to Beethoven. He was a man who wrote a poem about heaven on earth.

When I was younger, probably nineteen, I sat across from him at a family gathering at my aunt and uncles’ and we conversed about music.

He told me about how he learned Clair de Lune in order to win the attention of someone he loved. We spoke about the depths that music reaches. His words burst with color. I listened with a mind like an open canvas.

Last year he passed away and I was blessed by his immediate family with many of his things. The complete works of Shakespeare. Music. Paintings. Statues of David and a Chimp holding a human skull in the “Thinker’s” pose with “Darwin” written on its side.

He was in a very true sense, a reflection of the man that I know myself to be. And that is why I think I found my learning about his genuine struggles from conversations with my grandma so fruitful.

The downfall of the artist resides in their passions.

Edward loved more deeply than words can convey. His love reached the bottom of the ocean, it broke into the darkest places the mind can touch. He loved like a man who had seen the face of God loves.

But because of this vision, his passions blinded him of the nature of reality. His passions blinded him about how others might feel about certain things. His passions, armed with his intellect, were a battalion of truth seekers ready to slaughter any contradictions regardless of their validity.

That call for perfection, that drive to reach the mountain’s top – the eye seeking beauty and inspiration – it is a burden to a man who has to face disillusionment, isolation, and heartache.

Edward’s funeral cards were dated 2010. He had prepared them years before. His love had died and he had been told by the doctor that his pacemaker battery was going out and that he would die shortly after it did. Instead, he lived for seven more years.

I can imagine the hell of that situation. The hell of losing the one you love, the one who inspires you a sense of divine beauty – the one who reflects love itself to you in their smiling eyes. I can imagine the hell of them going away, and then being promised that you would be soon delivered and the disillusionment of suffering without them every single day for seven years despite what the doctor had promised you.

But without those extra years those behaviors in him, that battalion, it would have gone unchecked; unreconciled.

I think of him every once and awhile. When I’m stuck with a composition, or when I don’t know the right approach to take in a relationship I talk to him. I rest my mugs on his cup holders. I read the lines of the books he purchased and had found beauty in. I drive around listening to Beethoven.

My only regret is that I never had the chance to walk with him as who I am now. That I wasn’t able to convey my respect for his character to him.

I once posted a picture of a tree that I drew onto facebook and he commented, “As an art major this truly is a wonderful tree.”

Uncle Ed, as an artist, a musician, a lover of beauty and a feeler of the deeper things of this life – you really were a wonderful human being.

Here is a recording of my Uncle John reading Edward’s poem about heaven on earth at his funeral: poem.

 

 

holding a beautiful stone, I contemplate what it means to be successful at art

What is success with art?

For the past four weeks I’ve been listening back to different mixes of my upcoming album, “Seafarer” (release date TBA soon). At moments I’ve literally danced in the bathroom brimming with a kind of manic enthusiasm, at other moments I’ve stared out the window calculating the music’s chance in today’s climate with a kind of morose acceptance.

I suppose only one question actually matters – what is success when it comes to art? What is success when it comes to expression?

Society would tell us, with the popularity of attractive individuals on Instagram that success is how beautiful you are and how large your ripple spreads into the environment. How many followers do you have? What’s your reach?

I look at it differently.

Yesterday I paced by a river and threw a stick into the water. The stick floated and went downstream.

I then skipped a rock, and it sank into the depths below.

I like to imagine, and perhaps its only a consequence of my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to self-promotion on social media, that success with music is not about the size of the ripple, but rather it is about how deep below the surface the music goes. Anything can influence the surface of the water. Bugs dart to and fro atop the water all the time. Aye, but what goes below? What sinks to the bottom and rests there beside all of the other things we fail to express? What comforts the deep? And harmonizes with the unseen?

In this crazy world, where information inundates us and pummels our beliefs into ash, where love comes and goes in rapid succession, where societal norms are constantly fluctuating and talent and skill are programmed to succeed perhaps below the surface is where I’d like to stay.

I had a dream once that I was walking in a river and came across an absolutely beautiful stone.

Perhaps this is real success with art: To give what you are and not what you wish to be seen as. To be loved by those who stumble upon you. Not to force your way before them. To be held by those who wish to reach.

Aye, this is success.

Keep creating friends.

Best,

Noah