What about me?
What can I tell you about “me” that would be helpful? What’s my story, perhaps?
That’s the thing – there are so many ways to tell this story, all with specific interpretations of reality and therefore totally different meanings. I believe there is no “objectivity,” only various truthing-processes and selfing-processes, which means that every “truth” and every “self” is a constructed process rather than an objective thing “out there.” For instance, here are three completely different stories that perfectly fit “me,” each producing different results:
- “Eternally flowing presence continues to be eternally present with itself.”
- “An organ in the body of Nature gained consciousness and mistakenly thought it was separate from itself, and therefore spent its whole life trying to be reunited with what it always already was.”
- “A living creature ate and pooped until it died.”
It’s important that we never lose sight of the specific reality of each of these stories, and their respective relativity. For instance, we could also write a story about the ego-desire machine named “Paul Wallace” seeped in our culture’s values of scarcity and comparison, such as: where did I go to school, what types of companies have paid me to do what types of work, etc.
But that’s the thing – the circular chase of the ego bent on conquering everything, including death, also doesn’t seem like the right story to tell. In fact, it’s the exact story I’d like to stop telling myself, and the story I’d like to help the world stop telling itself. There is an outside to that story. There is, in fact, an outside to Story (but that’s a spiritual question for another day).
When it comes down to it, on the human level, what is “our story” but the enacting of our values?
One of my dearest friends and spiritual companions David Lassiter once said to me, “We do the best we can with the information we have.” This means: our values are our map of the world. Our values are thus the best expression of what we feel is true, given the experiences we’ve had. Naturally, as our data changes, our map will need to be re-drawn to accommodate this new information. Our values change as we change.
So, on the one hand we have our values: what we hold most true given the current data of experience we’re working with. Then, on the other hand, we have “what we do” in the world. Thus, our goal becomes: to harmonize our actions with our values. This is a recursive process, as we must continually be revising our map of reality (our values) as we continue to grow and change, and then redirecting our actions so that our values and our actions continue to be in ever-changing harmony. It’s an exhausting process, but that’s why we have love. Love is our battery. This is what it means to live whole-heartedly.
In this spirit, here are my core values as I can articulate them now:
- Introspective Spirituality
- Creative Communication
- Learning through Wonder
- Queer Vision
- Nearness to Things
- Whole-Hearted Living
- Playful Joy
- Athletic Embodiment
Some of these may feel a bit abstract, so I’m happy to elaborate on them in the comments section if anyone is curious.
Now, the question must follow, what are my actions in the world? Since the writing of this internet-book comes at an important juncture in my life, I feel it will be helpful for readers to know some of the more traditional “facts” of my life, such as how I’ve spent my time. Here’s that story:
Thirty years ago the void decohered into a locality doctors pronounced “born” and parents named “Paul” with intentions of outlining said territory. There was a lot of poop and a lot of crying for a lot of the time.
“Paul” ate and slept and learned and grew in Baltimore, Maryland, primarily thanks to the compassionate love of his incredible parents, Chris and David. Within the system of language and culture, Paul’s ego began to develop interests and opinions that he called “my own.”
From an early age I engaged with art, specifically video and performance art. Much of my early work dealt with dark yet transcendent experiences of spiritual introspection. My brother Morgan and I were very close growing up, and Morgan taught me both western and eastern philosophy during high school. I then took a gap year before college to work on “The Euphoria Project” for local artist Lee Boot, which turned me onto neuroscience and questions of “meaning.” During this time I created a series of performance art videos entitled “Yggdrasil,” which explored the individual’s relationship to the infinite via the creative process.
At Brown University I studied art-semiotics, a combination of structural theory with art production. My work expanded from video art, to installation art, to sculpture. My senior thesis sculpture show, “Lifting the Lack,” explored psychological experiences of emptiness within language, desire, and faith. During my senior year I teamed up with actor Nick Clifford to write, produce, and direct “THE FACE,” a feature science fiction film about mortality and hope. Also at this time, I worked with my mentor and professor Mark Tribe on the final five iterations of the “Port Huron Project,” which were site-specific restagings of Vietnam-era protest speeches.
Once in Los Angeles, Nick and I, by that point close friends, teamed up again to write and direct a web-series pilot entitled “AION,” about memory and control. For the next five years I climbed the ladder to producer at advertising agency the Ant Farm, leading trailer campaigns for such video games as “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag,” “Watch_Dogs,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Angry Birds: Trilogy,” and many others. My most recent work for Ant Farm consisted of producing the projection-mapped content for “Marvel Universe Live,” an experimental theater show combining live actors and stunts with virtual worlds.
However, what I got paid to do did not define me. During this time I kept up my art practice, tutored and led lectures, and wrote occasionally for my old blog “Evental Space;” but my primary focus was writing my first manuscript, Thousand Shadow, a science fiction novel about a young professor exploring the dark parts of the world while diving deep into the voids of her innermost self.
This leads me to today. I am currently on sabbatical from the Ant Farm, applying to PhD programs, looking around at experimental education companies, all while investigating my core values and how I can better enact them in the world. That’s the whole question: how do I enact my values best? The answer to this question may take my entire life to live. For now I dedicate my days to writing Being & Death, which you are currently reading.
So happy to be on this journey with you, Paul! Magnificent introduction, and I can’t wait to read more!
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None of this would have been possible without your love and support, Jake!
Seriously – the decision to make this book into a website project came from our conversations and your advice!
Also – love that photo of you!
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wonderful! May this fantastic journey keep you fantastically undefined and searching, because isn’t that the constant state of art?
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Thank you! And I completely agree – art is the capacity to see all things with new eyes. Here’s to exploring the space between things!
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