All of these are labels I have worn at some point in my life or other. Some of them may very well be attached to me right now. Honestly these labels are the most that some people may know about me. At times in my life I have embraced them as the core of my identity, while at others I sought to distance myself from them for one reason or another. Some were taken and others I willingly surrendered, some came back and some have stayed gone. Still, they remain constant in what they are.
Single word descriptors.
I suppose you could start any description of myself or Frank Martinez, Connection 45, with the word "creative," but then how much of my friend would you miss in that one word? Does that one word tell you about Frank's inquisitive mind? The way that his eyes light up when a new question turns a new corner for the conversation? Does being a creative capture the good natured laugh of my friend, the way his large hands delicately hold the small red coffee cups we are using this morning?
Does a single word capture a smile, a gesture or the presence of someone's being?
No, of course it doesn't, but what it does do is provide us with, as The Breakfast Club taught us, "the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions." Frank and I sip our coffee talking about the box we all seem to inherit when a label is applied to us. As artists we have one set of preconceived notions to carry, our religions may give us another, our political beliefs, entertainment preferences and so on. It's so easy to assign people their tribes. You don't have to think more deeply, don't have to ask questions, don't have to take those difficult and overwhelmingly satisfying journeys that Frank loves, that sits at the core of our friendship.
We like things easy, with immediate gratification. Frank talks about getting back in the darkroom this year, about learning to fall in love with the process of photography as opposed to the glamorous end image. There has always been a certain peace about Frank in the time I have known him, as though he is open to wisdom and receiving it directly from the world. I know he learns the same way as all of us, but his presence is that of a man who has not only accepted failure and learning as part of the cycle of life, but has given his heart lovingly to them.
Both of us talk about the simple things, about taking an actual photo, working in a dark room, feeling a pen tip grip the paper and glide along with the words. We talk of our processes and of eliminating what we find to be nonessential, to be who we are and see the value in that instead of seeking value in who we are or how we are labeled.
Frank and I have a shared outcome for this year. This is the year, to borrow from Steven Pressfield, that we are both turning pro.
I tell Frank about how many years it took me to get to this place, how much I loved my label more than my work, how the immediate gratification of performing became a drug and how I broke that addiction. Frank tells me his story, about the ups and downs, the smiles and cries. We share our mutual curiosity at how we turn our creative processes into something we take deep joy in because of all of the parts of a process.
It can be easy to love the exciting things, but we have to learn to love even the most mundane parts of our process, to live in those moments and appreciate that every little thing in our lives builds up to something bigger; the quality of which is reflected in how we do those simple things. Simple is a word we seem to mock, not realizing that are most difficult tasks are so often the simplest. Frank works with pictures, his medium, taking the time to appreciate the individual moments, not the sexy after thought. I feel the same way pounding out words every single day.
We talk about movements, about new opinions and thoughts in the world. Frank puts forth an interesting question; do these movements create, by their very existence, their own opposition? He asks the question and I talk about how we seem to delight more in the argument and its victory these days than in actually learning or shifting our thoughts. We cling to our dogma without flexibility and are then surprised when the other side does the same. Frank talks about figures in the news, about their scandals and the outrage, but also about the other side.
At the very heart of my friend is a person who seeks more than to be right, he seeks to understand.
My friend Frank defies single word definitions. In truth we all do. None of us can be summed up in a single word, nor can we be in multiple. Sipping the last remnants of our coffee, I search my mind for a single word to describe either of us and can only come to our names. There is power in names. Frank and Matt, even then it seems to be missing something, as though the magic can't be contained in that single word.
We all know this. It's not the knowledge that is difficult, it's the execution of such a simple truth.
After leaving our meeting, I run into the store for a moment and have a thought looking at a package. You could never contain all that is Frank or me, or any of us for that matter, in a simple box with a label of contents. There's just not enough room.