Index / Fieldnotes

Zaid's three questions
November 12, 2023

My friend Zaid recently asked me three questions:

  1. What do you strive for?
  2. What do you aim to avoid?
  3. If we are aware that we can be/have been wrong – if we aware of our past shortcomings and the seeming pattern of repetition, how do you continue to attempt to be a good person?

This came after a conversation about my hesitancy to write and share it publicly, so it’s only fitting I make this public on my website.

Here are my answers to you, Zaid ︎☺

What do I strive for?

I don’t know if I currently have any specific material aspirations – no dream job, dream house, or anything of the sort. I think that I’ve had a lot of ideas but funnily enough the older I get the less clear a lot of that becomes to me. What I do know drives and motivates me is:

  1. A desire to help create infrastructure and community for artists and people in general,
  2. To be empathetic and kind to everyone I engage with, within reason (not tolerating certain hateful ideas, not being a pushover, etc.),
  3. To continue making art myself.

One thing I found throughout the two-year-long bout of artistic burnout I had around 2017 was that I loved being able to be helpful to other people making art. Acting as someone with whom my friends could ideate was a very cathartic experience for me in a time where I didn’t feel capable of putting pen to paper myself. And while I’ve gotten back into the rhythm of creating my own artwork, largely in private, the idea of being able to support others who have a greater drive than I currently do to share their creations with the world is a beautiful thing to me. When I say infrastructure, I don’t necessarily mean it in the traditional sense of the word (although I can imagine it would be very cool to own/co-own/share physical infrastructure in an art gallery or community space or education/resource centre), but more so as a metaphor to describe knowledge, approaches to practice, ideas; mental infrastructure, so to speak. To this end, creating a curriculum for a class would be a fun exercise. Similarly, being in a position to research and explore new fun and creative applications of technology in the arts is also an interesting idea to me.

From a community perspective I just love seeing people get together, even as someone who can have an admittedly short social battery life. Especially during COVID, this is easier to facilitate online, which is why I spent time working on things such as my fridge or the library. These kinds of projects resonate with me because they provide opportunity for little ephemeral water-cooler-level communication, but without the expectation that you are to buy something or be advertised to (this is why in the offline world I like libraries and parks – I think community is often best in spaces where participation in such a community isn’t muddied with financial barriers of access or advertisement). Especially a project like the library, where friends and strangers can have their writing or art on display, are the kinds of projects that excite me.

I think the desire to be kind and empathetic speaks for itself. I think for so many people life can be tough, and the last thing they need is one more person to be needlessly rude towards them. It also speaks to a belief in a social karma of sorts, treat others how you want to be treated, and all that. Of course, I don’t want to be kind to the point of having no spine, and of course, I don’t have patience for people that are motivated in part or in full by their hatred of others, especially when that hate falls along the lines of discrimination on the basis of identity.

And to the point of making art for myself: art has been one of the most signifigant constants in my life since I was a kid. I’ve always liked creating, and no matter what I do and where I go I never want to stop that, nor do I want to box myself in to just a one or two mediums. I truly love being involved in the arts, both directly and indrectly, and for me personally, creating art allows me to explore the self, my interests, my relationship with others, my belief systems, and the world at large. As mentioned above, I burnt out and hit an artistic slump around 2017 – this was, reflecting back, tough for me considering how integral creating art is to how I construct myself. It really shed light on how much I personally value my ability to be creative, something I had taken for granted then but never will in the future, due largely to that experience. I normally have one or two larger artistic passion projects on the go, and beyond this strive to excercise artistic creativity day to day. Sometimes creating serious pieces that are introspective or that serve as commentary on something, sometimes taking five minutes out of my day to create a really dumb edit of myself or my friends that pertains to an ongoing conversation we're having – all acts of creating and all personally fulfilling, in their own right.

What do I aim to avoid?

The foremost thing I generally try to avoid is instability, without compromising opportunity for new experiences and the ability to be spontaneous. I’ve found over the years I’m a person who values stability a lot – there was a time where a younger Greg dreamed of a more nomadic lifestyle as a photographer (or something in that vein), but I’ve quickly learned over the last half decade that that is not a life that would make me happy (I know there’s some irony in me saying this shortly after uprooting my life and moving to a new continent, country and city, but I do feel a sense of stability in Lisbon, as I plan to be here for the foreseeable future).

One thing that’s been at the forefront of my brain for a while now is the desire to avoid commanding respect simply by reifying or improving my position in any given hierarchy. This isn't to say don't strive to be better in my work or career, or anything of the sort – rather, I want to be liked and respected not for my successes, but for who I am, what I do/the effort I excert in doing it, and how I treat others. I think from a young age we are implicitly (sometimes explicitly) taught to associate the degree to which one must be respected with primarily their status, income, and/or the amount of power or control they have over others. The one that always sticks with me is how frequently phrases like "You don't want to grow up to be a janitor/garbageman" were invoked by some teachers (positioning janitorial and sanitation work as lesser than within a society). A lot of people hear the term “respect is earned not given” and it seems they feel as if it is earned solely through hard work that puts them in a position of authority where they can reasonably demand respect. But I disagree. I do not want to fall into the trap of believing that the amount of respect owed to me should be tied predominantly to where I land in a work/social/financial/etc. hierarchy.

How do I continue to attempt to be a good person given the knowledge that one is always changing?

I think this is actually a really comforting fact – knowing that there is always more to learn and to become.

When I reflect back on the development of my belief systems, politics, and general approach to engaging with people and the world at large, I think an overwhelming majority of the opinions I’ve held that I’m now embarrassed to have held, or things I’ve done that I’m ashamed of, come down (largely) to a lack of perspective and knowledge on my part.

With this in mind, as I navigate through life day to day, I try to give the benefit of the doubt, try to listen to others and hear them out. I try to keep an openness to learn with me at all times, and I am mindful and attentive to the information and content I consume.

Above all of this, I just do my best to be nice and understanding, since I think that’s the least you can do ︎☺