Today, I watched the wonderful 2002 documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.
A quick history: Dr. Mengele was a doctor in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Eva Mozes Kor and her sister, Miriam, were children that survived Dr. Mengele's experiments on twin children. The documentary focuses on Eva and her journey in mentally processing what happened to her in Auschwitz, forgiving the perpetrators of the crimes against her and the effects that her forgiveness has had on other survivors and the world, at large. The documentary is, as of this writing, available for viewing on Netflix streaming.
Of all the documentaries I've watched, I deem this one to be the most profound and important.
None of us comes through this life unscathed. As a victim of rape, violence and abuse, I have come through much in this life. Others have come through much worse. We come through unloving parents, teasing and ostracizing by our peers, rape, violence, abusive relationships, gaslighting, poverty, racism, sexism and intolerance. But, no matter what we have come through, for the most part, none of it comes close to the horrors and pain that Eva, her sister and all the survivors of the Holocaust came through. I found this documentary inspiring. Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, survived atrocities and pain that most of us could never even dream of experiencing. Even after the death of her sister (which was a direct result of Dr. Mengele's experiments), Eva still manages to look past the pain and toward a brighter horizon. This horizon is one that few of us could imagine getting to after such an ordeal. Eva's horizon is the forgiving of her tormentors and the building of hope for a better and more understanding future. This begs the question, for me, "If Eva can forgive something so great, why can't we all forgive the things in our lives that seem so small by comparison?"
I would have thought there would be support for Eva for such courageous acts - even going so far as to visit the house of a Nazi doctor who worked in Auschwitz in order to gain some clarity and closure. But it seems that this is not the case. Arguments fly of "Who are we to forgive them? We are not God!" and "If I forgive, I would be dishonoring the memory of my family who died." to "We demand acts of atonement for what was done to us!"
I can not say that I would blame those who are still hurting over their experiences. Maybe, if I were in their shoes, I would feel the same way, hard pressed to let the past go. But Eva's response is simple and pure. "Getting even has never healed a single person."
Eva is not about forgetting. And, in fact, world should never forget the horrors that happened, lest we lose the lesson found therein and allow something like the Holocaust to happen, again. "I don't want to be a victim all my life, " says Eva. "That is why I forgive."
And Eva is right. Our forgiveness does not change the nature of the acts committed against us as wrong. It doesn't even matter if the people who hurt us deserve to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, our own hearts, our own spirits. We have things we want to do and people (hopefully free from pain) that we want to be. We forgive because we want to move on.
What was done to Eva, her sister and millions of others was wrong. Nothing will change that fact. But holding on to the pain, to the trauma, to the hatred of the perpetrators does nothing for the healing of the wounds in the human soul. Everyone is entitled to feel whatever they wish regarding this issue, to forgive or not. All I am saying is that Eva and her perspective inspire me.
Eva inspires me to think that, if she can forgive such a huge encroachment on her being, why can we all not forgive the little (by comparison) violations in our own lives. Eva and her story give me hope for a more forgiving world.
And I come to find out that Eva and I live in the same state. How amazing and cool is that?!? Maybe, one day soon, I'll get to meet with her and thank her for all the work she's done.
Me? I've forgiven most of those who have harmed me. As I said in my first vlog, amnesty is granted to all. (And please, make no mistake, there is a big difference between forgiving people and allowing them back into your life so they can hurt you, again.) I do not want to live out my days in fear, in pain, in keeping the negative things in my life in the forefront of my brain. I prefer hope, joy, reason, compassion, empathy and oneness.
Until next time, my lovelies. Please remember that we are all visionaries.We just have to figure out where we excel.
I'm not sure why mandalas and line work have been coming out so much in my art, as of late. Still, I know enough to go with what I'm being "drawn" to create. My visual work is becoming more about enlightenment, earth connection, and the divine feminine with a tribal feel. I love where my visual art is taking me.
Also, since some of my readers have expressed interest in owning some of my visual art, I'll be including PayPal buttons where you can order a framed print of whatever piece you like, to have and be your very own. All prints will be $15 plus a little bit for shipping. All prints are framed when they're send to you!
Back around Thanksgiving, I started a project on a different blog called AWYA (Art Wherever You Are). It was incredibly ambitious in that I was going to create 1 new piece of art a day for 365 days.
What I didn't plan on was this Visionary Bri project being so large and growing as quickly as it did. In order to keep up, something had to go by the wayside. Sadly, AWYA is what had to go. Maybe, at some point in the future, things will be more stable and I can complete such a project.
However, when I posed my poll and asked you, my loyal readers, what you'd like to see more of, you spoke back and said you'd like to see original art. That, I can do!
AWYA didn't get much traffic and was consuming a lot of time. So, instead of doing it as a separate project, I can deliver to you what you'd like as far as more of my art from time to time.
So, here you go! Pieces from AWYA and artwork on Visionary Bri that will continue.
Medicine Mask Reversal
8 1/2" by 11"
paper, colored pencil, ink
Until next time, my lovelies, please remember that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.
My lovelies, I want to share this video with you. This man survived a plane crash. That, in and of itself, is amazing. What's more amazing is what he said that it taught him that we can all learn from.
Dearest ones, in my hometown bar a couple of months ago, I sat across from a man and had a beer with him. This sounds mundane, but it was far from that. This man, I graduated high school with and, in a town with only 3 stoplights, that's big. It means that we grew up our entire lives together. We saw each other grow and change.
In high school, I was very aware of social strata. I was a band geek. This man, he was a jock. In our high school, those two cliques don't talk to each other. They keep their distance because, most of the time, it was bullies vs. bullied.
This man, he'd never done anything to me, personally, but in our entire school lives of knowing each other, I don't think I said more than 3 sentences to him. In the interest of forging a new connection, I greeted him with a smile. We each bought our beers and we sat down to talk.
Conversations like this always come down to, "What are you doing, now?" That question is so hard for me to answer. It's not cut and dry. It's not short and sweet. The answer is long and I never feel like I fully describe what I do and what occupies my days.
"Well, I'm disabled." I tell him. And I tell him all about Systemic Lupus and chronic pain and what all of that entails. I tell him about the days I can't get out of bed. I tell him about all the doctors and how, at 31 years old, they're using phrases like, "the quality of life we can give you." I tell him that there is no fix and my prognosis is uncertain. I tell him about my strokes and all the tests that still need to be done.
Then, I tell him what being sick has taught me.
Life is not all bad. In fact, it's simple and miraculous. It's taught me that I want to spend every single day playing with and reading to my daughter Pookie as much as I can. I want to smell the top of her head and kiss Hubby and help my stepson with his math homework.
I tell him that I see getting and being sick, of having strokes and coming through them, as one of the best things that's ever happened to me because it put me in touch with what really matters.
When a stroke happens, there's no warning. All of a sudden your ordinary Tuesday gets derailed. Your entire week (and sometimes life) is derailed. Strokes don't care that you have to be at work. They don't care if your job might fire you because you can no longer do the work or can't show up because you're on a heart monitor in the hospital.
In an instant, everything that you've worked towards, everything that you think is so important, suddenly isn't anymore. When you can't speak or understand the language you've spoken since birth, when you don't know who your family and friends are, if you're lucky to come out the other side with most of your faculties intact, your entire life is re-prioritized.
In an instant, your life has changed forever and there's no going back.
Then, I tell him about this project. Visionary Bri. I tell him, "I write and do art. I run giveaways and write reviews, I promote and
encourage artists (focusing on women) both locally and worldwide. I am a life coach and a creativity specialist. My
followers and readers include cosplayers, LARPers, rennies, fashionistas, dancers, artists, mamas and gamers as well as other passionate, creative individuals from all walks of life. My audience reach is nearing 7,000 unique viewers each week
with viewership in 79 countries (and counting). My mailing list
subscribers are in the 800-900 range at last count."
"But mostly," I say, "I help people live the kind of life they've always wanted to live. I give them the encouragement and the connections to do so. I want to help people, so that's what I do."
The more I spoke, the more his jaw dropped. And the more his jaw dropped, the more I just wanted to pour out what I'd learned by facing my own mortality. I wanted to wake him up. I wanted to wake everyone in the bar up. I wanted to take everyone's shoulders and shake them a bit and wake the world up.
This is it! This life is short! Plan for tomorrow, but bask in what's important, today! You will never know when tomorrow won't come, for you.
I wanted to throw away all the economic statuses and demographics and ideologies and political views that separate us, as people, and show each of you how we are so alike. So much more alike than we are different.
I guess a simpler idea would be, "I try to wake the world up to the beauty and wonder of today. I try to empower people to chase 'their always wanted to's and 'why didn't I's. And I try to remind them that what's really important is the impact you've made on those that will survive you and carry on in the world after you're gone."
That is the short version of what I do.
I have so much to tell you, my lovelies, about what this life has taught me and I want to share it with you. And it's too long, too much, and too beautiful to give you in little blog post snippets. This is what I want to do, my precious ones. I want to write a book for you.
I'm in the middle of it, now, and it's coming along nicely.
It will be a book filled with love and lessons from my heart and life.
Do you remember when I said that I was going to ask you for help? Well, my dears, this is it. I need funding to put out this book and I'm asking you, my wonderful fans and readers to help me.
On the left, at the top of this blog, I've put a "donate" button from PayPal. If you like my writing and would like it to continue, if you can spare even $5, it would help.
I'm saving up to purchase my own domain and to start my own press and I can't do it alone. Being disabled and on a severely limited income with a family, I can't really get a loan to start projects.
From one soul to another and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping me. I adore each and every one of you and look forward to hearing from you.
There are a lot of TED talks I see where my
brain is engaged. The internal brain-wheels spin and I'm given a new idea. I recommend watching every single one of their videos. These cerebrally engaging talks are great, but this talk that I am about to share with you engaged my heart.
"Yes," my heart whispers. I long for this kind of connection between myself and you, my fans and readers.
Brava, Amanda Palmer and brava, Neil Gaiman for supporting her while
she wrote the speech. Enjoy, my lovelies.
This reminds me of my father's sage advice to me. "Ask," he said. "Always ask. The worst that they can say is 'no.'" Because of his advice, I ask. I ask to be on television. I ask businesses, "Would you like me to help promote you?" I ask, "Hubby, do you think you could bathe the Pookie, tonight? My back is really hurting."
But, sometimes, it's hard to get up the gumption to ask.
Within the next week, I'm going to take a big
leap. I'm going to ask you, my fans and my audience, for help. I am
scared to do this. I feel like I should be able to write and to create
and exist in this life and to just do it all . . . without help.
I feel like I should
be strong enough to do it alone, but I can't. I don't exist inside a
vacuum. I don't write in a pocket of space-time where I am not effected by the world. I must live in the world and be a part of it. I drink coffee. I play with my daughter. I am a person, just like you and I have bills to pay.
So, from one human being to another, I see you, my lovelies. I hear you. And I trust you. All I will ask is for some help to keep me creating the work you like to see. And
thank you, in advance, for this help that is so hard for me to ask for that I know you will come through on.
Blessings to each one of you in all that you do and don't forget that we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.
An opportunity has landed itself in my lap and, being the loyal readers you are, I wanted to ask if you'd be okay with it.
A company has contacted me to do some marketing for them. This would be a year long marketing plan using an ethical, creative product that I know all of my lady and lady-boy readers out there would just love.
As you know, I'm disabled with Systemic Lupus. I have a daughter and a stepson and I'm on a very limited income. If successful, this marketing campaign could make me some much needed money for my family. But if you, my readers, don't want to see that kind of content on this site, please let me know.
The only thing it would be is 2 - 3 sponsored posts a month with me showing you how to do some really cool artsy-stuff tutorials. (Possibly via video with a giveaway thrown in there for good measure!) The product is vegan and does no animal testing, so I'm okay with them on that level. So I've put together this little survey. Please take a moment to fill it out for me to let me know what you think.
If you feel inspired to leave a comment, too, please feel free to do so. I love you, my gentle readers, and don't want to offend you.
Sir Ken Robinson, author, TED speaker and advocate for creatives, told a story of a six year-old girl in school.
The girl was sitting in the back of the classroom drawing when the
teacher walked back to her and asked “What are you drawing?” “I’m drawing a picture of God," she said. The teacher laughed said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the
little girl said “They will in a minute.”
With this tale, Sir Robinson is explaining to us that children aren’t
afraid to take chances. If they don’t know something, they’ll risk
failing or being wrong. Creativity, in and of itself, isn’t about being wrong,
but to quote Sir Robinson: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll
never come up with anything original.”
Children who are still okay with being wrong are the most creative,
you can see it by giving them crayons or blocks or paint. Without having much knowledge of the world, kids pour their creativity out in the form of play.
What can we big people learn from this?
My children have always been my best teachers. Through my time with my daughter, Pookie, I've reclaimed the joy of banging on pots with a wooden spoon and I've picked up blocks to build towers with.
Most often, we use our knowledge and life experiences to draw from in creating. Robert Epstein says, “Creativity, in short, is not something
mystical; it’s an extension of what you already know. To be more
specific, new behaviors (or ideas) emerge as old behaviors interact.”
I used my art and writing as therapy for a long time. I processed my life experiences and let it all flow down onto the paper because I was denied access to actual therapy for various reasons.
Was everything that came out good? Oh, hell no! But Jack Smith said it best, "You have to be willing to be bad for 20 years in order to be great and, even then, there is no guarantee."
In my younger years, my writing was trite and shallow, but I did have moments of insight and profound wordsmithing. I did have art that was well-received enough to get me a solo gallery showing during my first semester of art school. I was okay with being horrible. I was okay with working for years without success, even though success did come. In this way, I was able to find my authentic voice and deepen my artistic vision. These things only come with time.
But what is the secret to being creative?
Steve Jobs, before his death, explained that “creativity is just connecting things.”
It’s a promoted idea that the best ideas flow from what we already know, like the river that originates from one spring. But what if we don’t know very much? What if we've never been creative in our life, yet have that deep urge to paint or sew or dance or act?
My advice is to watch children. What
do children do if they don’t know something? They think about it and
give it a whirl. They try. And they try without huge clouds of doubt and fear above their head.
If you go into a kindergarten classroom and ask, "Who can draw me a air plane?" Every single child raises their hand. Somewhere along the line, we are taught that not everyone can draw. Not everyone can write. Not everyone can run well or catch a ball. So, we sit on the sidelines while the star athlete catches the ball. We read and read and read, but never pick up the pen to write our own story.
I've never figured out why or how this process happens. All I know is that, somewhere, we learn that if you do something badly, you shouldn't do it at all. We're taught that making a mistake leads to mocking, to torment and to ostracism. It opens us up to hurtful criticism and social pitfalls. We think that being wrong makes us look like a newbie (which we often are at new things, but no one wants to be called that).
In Buddhism, they talk about approaching things with a beginner's mind. That means a fresh perspective. To approach something as if you've never done it before. From this mindset, new ideas emerge and innovations are spawned.
If you wanted to make yourself an outfit, but had no idea about what society says you should wear, how would you dress? I think fashion designers (especially the couture ones) think like this a lot. And it's awesome! It's new and exciting and spins our eyes and our thoughts in a whole new way.
My lovelies, this weekend, I want to encourage you to risk being wrong. I want you to do something you think you're bad at and try to be okay with it. If you're not "the best" at something, it's okay! It just means that you're learning and that is a very precious time.
My beautiful souls, I believe that we can release all these negative ideas about ourselves. So what if I can't shoot a three-pointer in basketball if my life depended on it. So what if, when I try to draw a shoe, it kinda looks like a space craft? Who says that there can't be a race of little alien toe people who just love flying around in their loafer-ship?
Reach, my darlings. Stretch! Go beyond what you think you can do and be willing to be bad at it. It's only through being "bad" that we learn how to do the best that we can. No one expects you to come into this life, rip roaring and ready to paint The Sistine Chapel at 8 months old. We've all got to work at it and that's completely okay.
And please remember, my precious loves, we are all visionaries. We just have to figure out where we excel.