And Sometimes... / by Louis Holstein

At the end of every year, I make three lists: the good, the bad, and what I learned from it all. It's my year-in-review, and I love doing it. For that brief moment, it feels as though I can actually put my life into perfectly neat little lists. The messiness of reality doesn't affect my lists. The mess is organized by bullet points and complete sentences. This year will be a little different because I want to start my "what I learned" list, here. I have been using this blog thus far as an outlet for my artistic interests, but I also want it to have touches of my raw thoughts as well. So here we go.... Things I Have Learned in 2017.

- I don't have to share my opinion. This is easily the hardest thing I have learned this year. In the world we live, Social Media reigns as king. One of the rules of the land: share everything! Share pictures, share gossip, share fake news, share your opinion no matter what! I got off Facebook about 7 years ago, and have only been on recently because I am the administrator of the City's Facebook account, and boy has Facebook changed! I simply mean the overall interface, because we all know Facebook has not changed in the way people overshare. Regardless, this year I have learned it is okay that I don't comment. I struggled with this for two reasons, firstly, I felt that my not commenting on something I disagreed with, I was indirectly spreading injustice. However, this is not true (as if commenting on Social Media on behalf of justice is going to change anyone's opinion on a certain matter or bring some kind of wholesome change). Secondly, (beyond Social Media) I felt that if I didn't comment it would make people think I didn't have an opinion at all! (insert theatrical voice) This is my greatest fear!!!! This is also not true. When I'm in conversation with those I don't see eye to eye with, I have learned to take a step back and just listen. If I feel my comment and opinion is going to be constructive to the conversation then perhaps I share. Most importantly is the freedom that I don't have to. Talk is cheap. I want my opinion on life and love and justice to be said through the way I live my life. I'm done talking.

- Art is relative. I'm rather embarrassed that I am just now learning this lesson, but there is no such thing as "good" art or "bad" art, there is just art. I've grown so much as an artist this year and one huge liberation has been this idea that art is relative, just like opinions, and can't be argued. Therefore I'm not going to try. With that said, art can have good or bad technique, there is a scale it can be measured against. It can also be helpful or unhelpful to society as a whole. So in those respects, art is not relative, but overall, I'm done arguing for certain pieces against others. I'm happy to say that I enjoy art that is honest, smart, and helpful. I'm done arguing. 

- Gossip is destructive and counterproductive. If I was embarrassed about the last lesson taking so long for me to learn, I'm really embarrassed about this one. Perhaps it takes the threat of drowning that makes me learn to swim. At any rate, gossip is corrosive and will destroy an organization's moral in the blink of an eye. There is nothing worse than overhearing someone quoting something you said about someone else! I have played with the fire and I'm unwilling to play anymore. I'm only responsible for myself and I have made my decision. I'm done gossiping.

- Inspiration comes from education. This lesson may not be a universal lesson, but something I found this year was the more I learned, the more inspired I became. Art education is such a daunting thing that I really stayed away from it, but this year was different. As I began to read, (and download amazing apps like Daily Art), the more interested I got. That interest inspired more research and that research led to new creations and journal entry ideas of new creations. Museums became starting points, not end points. Inspiration was now no longer found on Instagram and google searches, it was found in the alleyways of new (to me) cities, and the pages of books. This was my renaissance year. I'm not done learning. 

- Love starts with me. For all my folks who are a part of The Way, we know love doesn't start with me, technically. (yeah yeah). However, by that statement, I mean that I cannot expect others to always show love toward me. If I want to be loved, it is my responsibility to love. All love is merely a response to someone else's love, and this year I learned that (most specifically) if I am to expect love from my wife, I should love her first. I should love her in the most self-abandoned way that love requires. Because this is love, I should not be bitter toward her or others, this is just my role: to love. This means there is no room for me to complain about who does what for me in my life. Love keeps no record of wrong. I'm done complaining. 

And sometimes this list doesn't leave me feeling complete or fulfilled. Perhaps that is what makes it a "things I have learned this year" list. It's a reminder that I have a whole bunch more to learn. Here's to 2018!