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About Varied / Artist Joe GirardMale/Canada Recent Activity
Deviant for 6 Years
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To begin
with, a thought
brought me doubt--

that I reached,
with a thought
for the end
that I reached.

And the start
for the end
was the end.

And the start
was a fear.

Was the end
the journey?

Was a fear
changing me?

The journey,
for all its
changing me,
was nothing.

For all it's
brought me, doubt
was nothing
to begin.
Internal 360: A Pantoum
A few people I've shown this to have cast their nets wide in attempting to capture the underlying message. In truth, I mean for it to be taken at face value...but I suppose it is somewhat paradoxical.

I've been rereading the Tao Te Ching (translated by Ursula K. LeGuin), cuz I realized I've been adrift and somewhat directionless these past couple years. I was in a similar spot back in 2002 when I first read it, and I quickly saw my life and passion turn around and focus, and I began to accomplish some of my best works in the following five or six years, not to mention achieving a kind of clear-eyed equilibrium in many facets of my life. It delivered me from a bad obsession with the wrong kind of love interest, and into the love that has sustained me these many years since 2005.

I admit I want to blame my retrograde on something else, but if I'm honest, it boils down to this: there are passages of the tao I remember well, but many, many more I let slip, with the faith that since reading it instills a feeling of "oh yeah, that's what I already thought" I must be naturally following it already. The result is shallow thinking and a loss of direction. Many are the times I think to myself, "What did the tao say? Crap, I should really pick it up again...nah." And sure enough, the philosophy features repeated refrains about how the way of things is debility, destruction, detachment...but the purpose of the philosophy is in locating the power one can derive from this awareness. So when I shut down that access, through forgetting the exact wording, and then refusing to revise my understanding, I lose what natural powers I have. (There's also a danger in celebrating debility, if that's how you interpret the tao.)

The worst thing this leads to is arrogance. And as one who feels taught to feel toward their intelligence what I think women often feel toward their beauty (without it you're nothing), the bear-trap of arrogance is one I have to wrench my legs from sometimes daily. 

But therein lies the paradox.

One of the repeated images throughout the poems is that of the "uncut wood." A similar image is "raw silk." Lao Tzu is saying this is the way to be. Be the uncut wood, be the raw silk. Be unaffected, basically. Be who you were when you were born (a modern celebrity who's often called unaffected is Jennifer Lawrence). A person you don't suspect of being someone they aren't (especially impressive in an actor, and perhaps the best proof of acting as a skill worthy of acclaim). Winnie the Pooh is often cited as a great example of a taoist. That's what Lao Tzu is advocating, even if he acknowledges the world is not made up of people who would make great taoists. 

I've written a fair deal about this past year, and how difficult it's been for Simone and I. To be unchanged by it feels unthinkable, yet research shows that people who undergo great life changes (winning the lottery, losing a loved one), often only take a year before returning to their previous routines and feelings. Right now feels like the best proof, even as our struggles continue, of the truth of that. We're almost back to where we were, emotionally, even if my mind feels worn to exhaustion (and ready for a six month vacation; in order to work up the funds to get us back home, I've taken several jobs, and haven't had a day off in months--Vancouver is just as expensive as lore suggests). 

But I think the biggest barrier to coping with everything has been the story element (just look at all these asides and ramblings...I've lost my focus big time). How do I tell myself, and others, the story of where I am in life? Where I'm going? Where I've been? I've been in such a sorry state this year I often feel compelled to tell anyone I meet everything about my struggle so that they don't just think I've always been a depressed, hateful zombie person. And working at the Dollarama and Cineplex by East Hastings--witnessing some of the most shelled-out human beings in Canada--is hardly the cure, believe me. 

So Internal 360 is me sorting out the problem of the "story of my life." Another possible title for it might've been The Problem of Doubt and Trust. Doubt is obviously an indispensable strut in the construct of society. Indeed, it's notable for powering some of the happiest countries on earth. But it's also, if unchecked, a vortex. A mental loop, or worse, sinkhole, that can lead to the oblivion beyond depression. 

So, what can keep doubt in check is trust, or, to a lesser extent, certainty. Another, frequently Judeo-Christian, pitfall of thinking that the best way to be is like uncut wood or raw silk is to get into the notion of innate goodness, or innate badness. If you've ever thought that A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) was an attack on western religion, I would agree, in this way most of all. Sometimes heroes damn you, and villains save you. There is no real certainty but what you keep as certain in your mind. If you trust the universe to be good to you, you're just as likely to be swept away by a tsunami, crushed in an earthquake, or slowly diminished by some horrible disease. Nevertheless, trust sustains. 

I think, "Man, my life sucks so bad, and part of that is because of me. I must suck. I must've been better before all this horrible shit happened to me. I must've been a better person before. What components made me a better person? How do I get those back?"

But if I go far enough back, I think how that always seems true. The younger me always seems the better person. I mean, if I'm hyper-analytical, there do seem to be hills and valleys. But the further back I go, the higher the hills, the lesser the valleys. So it's easy to see there's an inclination to assume goodness in youth, an innate goodness. It's entirely possible that even now, at what feels like one of the worst years of my life, I'm making great strides, building strong friendships, and improving my ways that will only become clear in time. Of course, that feels like an egotistical, narcissistic response, so I want to dispense with it. 

And that, after some other machinations I won't bother describing, leads me to the conclusion that the debate is moot. Innate goodness and innate badness are relative at best and meaningless at worst. A waste of time. 

Does that mean we should never scrutinize our actions, to see if we're having a harmful effect on others, our friends, our family? Of course not. But that's where trust and doubt come in. The most significant part of this poem to me is the second stanza. "That I reached, with a thought for the end that I reached." The reach is the result of doubt. I'm reaching to see if I can find anything to justify my doubt. That involves turning away from my course of action: 360ing. But the end that I reach (perhaps more often than not) is the 360 point. I trust my first instinct. First thought, best thought, as Chogyam Trungpa put it. So, the stanza seems to show a bias toward trust, and I think that's important. It might seem bullheaded or close-minded to stay on whatever course you're on, but isn't that what we worship every day, in almost every way?

Consider the song Same Love, by Macklemore. I go in and out of hating that song because its central premise seems like an idiotic paradox. "I can't change/ Even if I tried/ Even if I wanted to/ My love, my love, my love/ She keeps me warm" a woman sings. The idea is that a lesbian will always be a lesbian and no social convention or dogmatic terrorist will change that. In scientific reality, fluid sexuality research finds that the only group of people who are not at all aroused by a certain type of pornography is gay men by pornography involving women. So, yes, perhaps unfortunately, you can change, even if you don't try, and even if you didn't want to. But what bothers me most of all is that a song about one's inability to change is meant to change the hearts and minds of bigots. However you look at it, it's both ironic and paradoxical. Which wouldn't bother me, if the song wasn't the unofficial pride anthem of the year, and if the album wasn't the album of the year. 

But, you know, we're the smartest species we've ever known, and we've had to get where we are with no comparison, no big brother species (though computers may change that). It's impressive enough that we've invented the idea of more advanced species (angels, elves, aliens, the matrix), but we've really had nothing better to go on beyond what we've collectively dreamt, and at the end of the day, it's up to us to get better.

I suppose the question is, does it matter if we don't? 
the bully wasn't thinking
of the human element
when he beat the childhood
off my child
like dust off a donkey

I should forgive him
his randomness
any parent I could've been
any child my child

something would have extracted it
the faith in ultimately being okay
sooner or later

what good innocence?

should I've beaten the bully to it?
Here's How It Breaks Down
This one's a bit of a trifle, a meditation on the nature of morality in the random narrative fabric of reality. In a way, it's a response to Reality TV, in which I'm throwing stones at man's modern, petty, embarrassing attempt to make sense of randomness. Here I guess I'm asking, when we accept the role of randomness in our lives, can we still respond to events with moral outrage or seek justice, retribution?

I watch a lot of videos where righteous religious thinkers demand that atheistic, scientistic, agnostic, secular individuals account for where their sense of right and wrong originates, if not from an ancient text or supernatural power. I watch them mainly to seek some variable, some new answer from the side I side with. But the answer's usually the same, more or less, across the board: morality is an innate human quality, resulting from a sense that life on earth is precious and finite and must be protected. Dawkins' selfish gene theory kind of says it all.

Another common defense is to point to Scandinavian countries where secularism and atheism are the majority, and where peace and cultural advancement and environmentalism and socialism seem to be both accepted as components of a functioning society, and honoured as paradigms worthy of defense. The sensibility I hear when watching interviews about those countries is kind of a common sense sensibility. Well of course when you see *these* flaws in capitalism you install *these* countermeasures. It's not that big a deal.

Recently, my wife and I had a devastating experience with the avarice and duplicity of banks, resulting in our losing tens of thousands of dollars, and one year where I could've been closer to my mom, who's fighting cancer for the second time. This poem is informed and somewhat constructed from phrases I was told when speaking with bank officials and my wife's school's officials.
makes everything free'
thinks the warden

his ballpoint name
bleeding imperceptibly

two killers
he’s setting back in the world today

one meant it and one did not
but they are hardly the same men

the same moment watched both murders
like a spook behind one-way glass

now as the morning bus back to town
fires its air breaks

they take the prison with them
he knows because he takes the prison with him

it’s his and it’s theirs
and it really isn’t at all

that’s what keeps him awake at night
the fragility of the thoughts

holding him
'Sometimes time
I think prison is near the top of the list of horrifically fascinating human constructions. It really doesn't take much moral abstraction at all before the whole concept goes up in a puff of smoke. Consider this Syzmborska poem, without which my poem wouldn't exist (I love where I found it, too):…

I often think we (non-psychopaths) are moved to murder in the name of outrage at the larger mortality we're contained by. Expiation, execution...we like to blame our urge to kill publicly, or ritualistically, on moral rectitude, or maybe to satisfy some animal urge, some unexpunged-by-social-evolution remnant of our cavebrains. But then I think maybe humans have to be horrific because we're in a horrific conundrum. We have morality in a (potential) moral vacuum. So we say to the universe, "Oh, so those are the rules, are they? Well, fine then, we'll just go ahead and play by them." But it's really just us making up the rules to suit our own experience: a fine survival mechanism. 

You know, I often feel, whenever I'm rambling about my amoral universe, that people will think I'm criticizing things. Sometimes I am, but often I'm not. I just see things that way. And like your teacher giving you a grade, I strive for a similar detachment. You're not a bad person for getting a B-, but that's how the math jigs out. If we're gonna think about the universe in terms of grades on papers, that's what you have to live with. 

Well, I don't see the world as grades, except in the sense that I see the many spectrums of things as relevant, useful tools of perception. In other words, I wouldn't give The Princess Bride an A+, but I would acknowledge that of the near-infinite spectrums a film can be perceived on The Princess Bride is higher on most spectrums than most. 

So, I love to contemplate these prisons. I think they're much more pervasive than we think. A literal prison is a horrific thing, so why isn't a prison of the mind, like my inability to rank The Princess Bride below other films, or a devotee's inability to doubt the holy word? The relief we can take, as the wardens of our own minds, is in knowing that time will, one way or another, in one sense or another, free everything we try to contain. And I think in there we can find what Christian's so often distort about their own book's notion of forgiveness. If time will make dust of everything we experience, why not forgive, release, let go? Why not free our minds?

This started as a poem called Out, a loose, obvious comparison between being a secret gay and an 'out' gay, through the metaphor of a released prisoner. So painfully on the nose. 
The burden is
On the unavoidable

(There’s only one man
For the job?

Atlas’ shoulders shouldn’t ache
He should know the world is fiat)

And proven systems fail
The seen defied belief

(This is what I saw
What I charted is mine

It belongs to no one
But me)

The tyranny of gravity and other laws
Leave any life unterrorized?

(How can you execute
What you can’t hear?

Will you fathom
Thoughts unthought?)

Experience is a fragile chalice
Of experience

(My cup defines your water
My hands twist your bread rightwise

And my atlas endures
A revolution could redraft it)

Can what is
Be redrafted?
Copywritten Atlas (Stick It In the Moon)
After having, like, a two hour conversation with my spouse about all the layers of implication at play in this piece, I post it with only the greatest trepidation. She wasn't crazy about all the abstraction and white space. 

I will invoke Christopher Nolan as my spiritual cousin in the writing of this piece, because I see him as the great intellectual poet of the screen in our day, but he thrives in an unemotional script. He's often cited as being emotionally distant with his characters, and I think it's part a consequence of the sci-fi-noir/noir that he gets into, and part Nolan's love of puzzles and questions. The intellectual artifices of his stories and plots drain our interest in what any character thinks about what's going on around them. It's so much more engrossing to submerge into the artifice. 

Now, I don't think I've necessarily achieved such a feat here. But, again, it's a spiritual cousin of emotionally detached intellectualism. 

I'll let you all make what you will (or can) from the heavy-handed philosophizing at play here, but I will say that what inspired this piece was thinking about the world map, and how it isn't what you see in your geography textbooks and most map stores the world over. There's a Mercator map and a Gall-Peters map. One trumps up first world power centres (America, Europe), to make them feel better about themselves. And one is what the world actually looks like. Guess which one we use in our schools.…

One last thing of note: one weird trend I see in my poetry is this tendency to divide segments into parentheticals and nonparantheticals, when invoking Greco-Roman mythology. I mean, I know I do that a lot. But especially when I get to thinking about man's relationship to gods. As an atheist, I see gods as projections of ourselves, of course. But what does that spell for what happens in and out of the parentheses here?

It's a Freudian ego/superego thing, I think.

Check out betwixtthepages and her new title poem, Tell Me What You've Gone and Done Now, a poem comprised entirely of devART poem titles! Pretty swanky, I think you'll agree. A title of mine is in the mix, is one of yours? I guess you'll just have to go see to find out...!
  • Mood: dA Love
  • Listening to: Kavinsky - Nightcall
  • Reading: Doctor Sleep - Stephen King
  • Watching: Meet the Fokkens (Documentary)
  • Playing: Mario Kart Wii and Dungeon Keeper
  • Eating: Falafel
  • Drinking: Sweet sweet water


Joe Girard
Artist | Varied
Here's my interview with PoeticalCondition, after I was elected Poet of the Month: poeticalcondition.deviantart.c…

And here's my feature from when NicBelroque named me Daily Lit Deviant:…

As an actor, I've performed for the queen of England. As a film-maker, I've participated in several film festivals, placing first in the Toronto Art Festival 2006, in the digital film category. As a zen gardener, my designs have appeared in the Absorb art show.

My poems and short stories have been published in journals and magazines across north America, on and offline. On devART I've received one Daily Literature Deviation commendation for the poems:

Self-Made Men (…)
The 1998 Housefire At 198 Wentworth Street South (…)
Untitled: A Sonnet Told In Titles (…)
Piano Armageddon: An Image Poem (…)

Daily Deviations were awarded for the poems:

Come Home (…)
The Craven (…)

And my music has appeared on radio stations and at concert halls in numerous countries across North America and Europe. I've written music for the bands Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers, Hobo Sapiens, Uvenburd, and my eponymous solo project.

An anthology of short stories, In the Wings: Stories of Forgotten Women, edited by Bernadette Rule, includes my short story The Changeling (unavailable on devART, sorry :3). In the Wings was published by Seraphim Editions and is in its third printing. Other magazines I've been featured by include Switchback, WTF, The Perceptive I,, and In My Bedroom magazine, among others.

Most recently, In My Bedroom magazine published my piece Threesome (…) in their Vol 4 Issue 2 release, Menage a Trois.

These are my websites (so far):

Download my album

My CBC Radio profile

If you've enjoyed reading my popular works featured around devART, may I recommend the following others as highlights that had people talking:

The Horse-Fall: A Villanelle (…)
Spiritual Sex (…)
Big Top (…)
Hyoid (…)
Spacefeint (…)
The River: A Pantoum (…)
16-Bit Haiku: First Half (…)
16-Bit Haiku: Second Half (…)
Watch Your Step (…)
Monster Patient (…)
Anxiety Attack (…)
Weep Western Tears (…)
Hard Like a Star's Iron Heart (…)
Lick (…)

Here's a few more poems that are personal favourites of mine:

Dead Skin Deep (…)
The Werewolf Monologue (…)
Stitches: A Sonnet (…)

Here's a collection of my forty most favourited zen gardens:

The Gates of Moria…
Zenstellation Series: Ursa Major…
Cherry Blossom Modern Art…
Elemental Cycle Pt. 1: Water…
War of the Worlds…
Path Between Two Waterfalls…
8 Colour 4 Bit…
Porch Swing…
Pac Man…
Bag End…
Zenstallaion Series: Taurus…
Year of the Rabbit…
No Face…
Nine Were Given to the Kings…
Totem Pole, Telephone Pole, Tree…

And if you like nature art, here's the one's fans liked best:

Vertical Rath…
Natural Shoji…
PAranoid Schizophrenia…
Big Bang…
Samurai of Slate…
Geodesic Dome…
Origami Mistake…
Satellites Over Toronto…
Born on a Ghost Ship…
Tower of Pebel…
Rock Out…

And here's some highlights from my dabbling in origami:

Eastern Dragon…
Neko Cat…

Current Residence: Ottawa
Favourite genre of music: Percussive
Favourite photographer: Edward Burtynsky, maybe. Gregory Crewdson?
Favourite style of art: Nature Art
Favourite cartoon character: Calvin. Or Homestar Runner.
Personal Quote: Familiarity breeds birth defects.

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Add a Comment:
Pajunen Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Thanks for the +fav
sandzen Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2015   General Artist
Such a sublime concept, and beautifully rendered. Almost an optical illusion, it reminds of Escher. 
Berlin-Steglitz Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014
Thanks for the fave :)
Vielen Dank :)
sandzen Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2014   General Artist
My pleasure. It's an awesome twist on something so many have done. Thanks for the fresh perspective.
SenhArt Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2014
Flowers fella (Love) Thanks a lot for faving!
sandzen Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2014   General Artist
No problem. It was subtle, beautiful and really sparked the imagination.
GrimDreamArt Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks so much for :+fav: on "Fantasy Pond"!
sandzen Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014   General Artist
Not at all. There's a stark, grim chill present in your work that feels almost like Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey and Edgar Allan Poe had a baby. It's all wonderful, really.
JAE462 Featured By Owner May 31, 2014
thanks for the fav
sandzen Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2014   General Artist
No problem. A truly sensuous capture.
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