The News from the Workbench: December 10, 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

Today began as so many mornings do, with the blaring noise of the alarm breaking the cool serenity of slumber. Once the hopes of further excursions in the dream-world subsided, I was able to rise from my bed and look out on the world in all its glory, lit by the soft morning rays of sun cutting through the icy winter chill. After my morning run, somewhat longer today at around five miles, I was sufficiently awake, present, and chipper to begin working once more. But this morning was different, because when I walked out the door this morning, I was eager to get going and start working on my writing and my musical work for the day. I haven’t felt this ambitious or motivated in six to eight months.

Today, I thought I would touch on some of what has made me return to the basics, the fundamentals of my art and also what has allowed me to keep going after all the struggle and pain of this year. Only recently have I been able to return to the process of my art, my writing, and my music after months of strife, lack of motivation, and insecurity with where my career path has been leading me. Though it is hard for me to admit, I think that my personal life and the circumstances of my life have affected my work and artistic life over the course of this year, something I will always be ashamed of.

The last months have been filled with a sort of longing for the piece of me that makes me unique, what makes me essentially me. Every hour of every day has been spent in search of something that can’t be found, unsure of the road forward or of how to create the life I want to live and the art I want to make. It has taken me months to realize that this is a journey that for all of us is uncertain and never-ending. Upon reflection, I have been able to find new comfort both in the doubt and unease and in the small daily routines that center my mind and push the days onward.

It has been through reading the works of great authors, listening to the music of great musicians, and admiring the artwork of the masters that I have been able to find my voice again. What I have realized is that this voice I have found within myself can only truly be found in the tireless awareness of myself and of my actions. True, my path is deeply intertwined with the stories and paths of many others, but only in self-knowledge and personal discovery may I find the stories which must be told, the ideas that have yet to hatch, and the memories that are so crucial in my psyche.

In the last week I have had a much needed reprieve from the day-to-day busy work and lists of tasks and appointments. Time spent alone—thinking, observing, and remembering—has reawakened my soul. I no longer search for the unique energy of my actions and thoughts or for where my path should lead; I now search within my own mind and body for that true self that we must all find inside. My true self drives me towards my passions and I have now found the motivation to work once more. Motivation comes not from how I think I am perceived, but in what really matters to me.

So I read, I write, I play music, and I think. My voice has returned for now and I must remember how I got here. I must recognize that when one gets past the petty, menial, daily slog, inner truth may emerge and the drive for love, storytelling, and immersive beauty will return.

That’s the news from the workbench this week…

-Ethan Brown Jones

Lost Words, Empty Promises

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Source: topwalls.net

I didn’t think I would care this much, that the words of my life would be so significant. When it comes to words, I always used to believe in a sort of unalterable importance. There was this sort of mystical, unravished honesty to all words. I guess my beliefs go back to a time where words still meant something, a time still remembered in the trivial ideals of modern novels. Once, despite the corruption and dishonesty that plague our society, words had meaning, had weight and consequences. No longer is this true. As an entire country has been rearranged in the modern, technological age, the once-assumed significance of language has been forgotten. And so, as words lose more and more of their influence, I have realized I care about this loss of verbal and linguistic sincerity on a much deeper level than I once thought.

Take the phrase “I love you” for instance. At one time in my life, I believed these the most consequential and truthful words a being could utter. But as so much else in the world has changed, so has the depth of this phrase. Where once these words meant a depth of love so intense that it almost pained an individual, now they are used passively and unthinkingly.

This is not to say that certain virtues don’t exist in the lack of sincerity our words now hold. Far fewer of us are hurt by a nasty insult or a fight among friends. They didn’t mean it we tell ourselves; what does it matter anyway? We are probably right in some sense, what’s the use in getting overly emotional over a couple of words thrown without thought? Especially with the speed of life today and the growing number of responsibilities placed upon us, what’s the point in placing meaning behind words, our own or otherwise?

However there is an aspect that seems to be overlooked in all this: the unique emotional experience words once opened us up to. Where once we read books for the beauty of the language they contained, we now seem content with the same storyline regurgitated over and over. I pity the writers of today too though. How can today’s writers compete in the career marketplace when they actually take the time to write something decent and meaningful? They have to produce quantity to make a living, and inevitably, quality falls through the cracks.

As I write this draft I realize how I dramatize this subject. I’m still writing for emotion and meaning, others must be too. Yet it is hard not to feel like a lone ranger on the final frontier when I look at the new best sellers list and wonder where quality writing died and when meaningless stories became perfectly acceptable. I just hope there are others out there on this night that are working equally as intensely on this same craft of writing.

Good writing to me isn’t even so much about the writing itself. Good writing is about passion, emotional experience, and simply taking the time to sit and think before thoughts are even put into words. Half the struggle of writing, at least for me, is just finding the motivation to sit alone for a while, contemplating experience, life, knowledge, and everything in between.

Writing can even be as simple as writing a letter once and a while (assuming I’m not the only one still writing those!). Journaling has so much to do with the practice of writing too. If we just had a few more people in this world sit down and think about their life, actions, and words I guarantee we could fix so many of today’s ailments. Maybe it is simply naïve optimism, but I truly believe that with a little more writing and a few less empty words, we could become a better people.

I once believed in that indescribable power of language, but it seems now to be just and empty promise, words lost in the space between reality and utopia. One day, hopefully that promise can regain its prowess. Just a few thoughts from a writer on a dark night…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Musical Love Affair

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Lights blare; the crowd hushes to silence; only my footsteps crack harshly in the deafening emptiness. Thousands of beady eyes focus intently on each and every square inch of my body. Somewhere out in the dark theatre, a cough echoes, seeming inexcusable and out-of-place. I am alone on the stage, the only center for the room’s attention. I raise my eyes to the loge and a roar explodes from the crowd. My arms are raised above me head as I smile lovingly at the audience. Sitting on the deep-black leather piano bench, the room hushes in an uncomfortable, anticipative silence. My fingers delicately rest on the keys, my eyes scanning the magnificent nine feet of strings constituting the Steinway, stretched out before me. Taking a deep breathe in through my nose, I begin to play, the sound filling the monstrous theatre, my mind becoming intoxicated with sonorous music. I feel comfortable in the song for a while; then it changes; I am no longer at home where I am; the music transitions to a place very far from where I began. Emotion drives expression onward into the cavernous abyss. I am focused intently on the music; yet when one is accustomed to playing music, one knows that sounds bring back memories wrapped in the silken gauze of emotions, rushing out through musical expression. The end approaches, I feel. A sense of longing for it to never end engulfs me and I am reminded of so many other nights just like this one, equally as perfect. And then the song is over. I’m sure the crowd is clapping; their hands are moving; but the roar of music in my head deafens me to the sounds of the outside world.

A group of musicians comes out on stage with me and I’m sure that I make some gracious speech to the audience, however subconscious my words seem to be. The next song is counted off; I play once more. But the music has no real beginning or end, only ephemeral constancy. The heavy black Steinway is resplendent in the purple hue of the stage lights and I am suddenly unaware of all tangible things in this world. The music is all. In the air surrounding the other musicians and me, a creative energy flows, water-like, torrential, and imperious.

Just as soon as it began, the concert ends. I bow and leave the stage, waving royally as I exit. Alone in my dressing room, the energy fades, the lights burn out, the world comes rushing back and the dressing room feels cold and isolated. Thoughts are turned to reality: I should get some more gas; I think I’m out of lettuce; I should really head to the office and finish up some work. The stage is gone. The concert fades away.

I am alone on the stage. Dim radiance glows from the work lights throughout the theatre. The air lies dormant, thick around me. I am nothing; I am nobody; I have no talent; I have no worth; it is all a lie, a repugnant untruth; my life, my dreams, and my reality are all inchoate, prone, strewn across the wretchedness of the stage; doubt turns to despair which in turn turns to self-loathing. I try to play, but the feeling is gone, the emotions- all snuffed out. In the dim glow, the piano seems decrepit, deterrent, disdainful even. Tears stream down my cheeks onto the keys that once passionately embraced my fingertips.

But the clouds lift; the lights return.

The theatre is quiet but alive. Breathing deeply, I step gingerly onto the stage I know so well. And the roar begins again. Beloved once more, I am weightless, significant, and unaware of the despair that lies just beneath the surface, at least for a little while.

The crowd hushes once more and I scan those nine feet of strings. A musical love affair begins anew.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Skyline Destiny

Flying in, I could feel the electricity in the air, the constant state of unrest, and the love of productivity balanced with longing for the life of the party. Outside the small plane window, buildings so tall that they could scrape the underbelly of the plane were lit up, bright and perpetually awake. Everyone was out on the town from the paupers, to the wealthy, to the college kids, to the happy families from Brooklyn and Queens. New York City looked alive, as it did almost every night. From the moment we disembarked, the air was muggy and warm, even at that late hour.

The city of love welcomed us with open arms. That night, I too fell in love, not with a person, but rather, with New York City itself. It was that night when I finally felt everything that I had worked for truly come to fruition. All my work and long hours had led up to this trip, to this city.

You know how people say that they saw this one person, they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight? That’s exactly what I experienced that night. The moment I laid eyes on New York City, I fell instantly, completely, and hopelessly in love. I felt like I belonged there- like it was meant to be- like I was already at home in that beautifully-foreign oasis.

One of the best things about New York City is the incredible diversity of people, lives, landscapes, and personalities. Each street is a new neighborhood, each area full of a very different set of people. Every street is more glamourous and lovely than the last. But it is also as historic as any museum and as modern as the empire it represents. Everyone is so unique in New York, but many of them remind me of myself- dreaming always, working constantly, staying up late every single night, bitchy as ever on a regular basis, and opinionated about everything.

Maybe one day I’ll call New York home. And maybe one day I’ll get tired of all the hustle and bustle. But for today, that’s all still in the future. Today, all I can do is dream, work, and wait to see what my future holds. For now, I hope it’s a skyline destiny, and I think it will be. The city is as diverse as I am, and love is love. I made a promise to myself and the city that night that one day I would make it there and I will find it hard to renege on that. I belong in New York and I always have. One day at a time, one little step at a time, one day closer to my skyline destiny.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Feelings of Music

Sitting up there, you feel as though everything just falls away, as though there’s nothing left, as if it’s only you, you and the light, the music, and the emotions. Nothing really matters when you’re up there; you can just express yourself and your feelings, free from fear of persecution. Each moment is different from each of the others. And each one in turn slips away into the past, never to be expressed, felt, cherished, or loved again.

Copper-colored strings stretch out under a heavy, black sky of dark wood which dissolves into the repetitive two-tone rows of keys. The bench stands firm and attentive beneath me, waiting for something monumental to occur. The connection from my fingertips to the keyboard is electrically tangible. Only the piano and I have ever spoken like this before; it’s a conversation so intimate and deep that it will never be heard or spoken the same way again. Only we have danced like this before, felt like this before, expressed this deep, intricate, passionate, mysterious love for each other before. We are singly committed to each other and to the creation of music, an art form as emotional as it is deeply meaningful.

I have never laughed with, loved, enjoyed, and harmonized with another person in the same way as when playing music with them. The instruments, the people, and the sounds all come together in an unbreakable, intense bond. Love is produced in many ways, but only through music is it as intimate and deep.

It’s that connection that gives me hope that one day the world will be a better place and that we will all realize the similarities between all of us through the power of music. We are all deeply intertwined whether it’s immediately visible or not. Music removes the veils of ignorant hate, unearthing the complex connections beneath.

Never have I listened, talked, and conversed better than when sitting before a piano. The ecstasy can never be felt any other way. Only through the piano can I fully live and express the way I must to live on another day. The piano and I will never be apart. We are connected physically, emotionally, and most importantly, intimately.

I feel more emotions and feelings through music than I have ever felt any other way. Music changes us and it makes us feel things differently. We will never be the same people again, but the music will always be with us.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Masterpiece Composition: a Life of Words

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Words flow; they define; they articulate; words alleviate and reminisce; they sprout and flourish and simmer; words swell, protrude, decipher, transcend, and inspire; words are the pulchritude of life.

But what really makes words uniquely glorious is that they express everything that can be expressed and go beyond and beneath reality into the consummate realms of knowledge, perception, and thought. Writing is the sole art form that has the power to inform and evoke in the exact same piece. Writing makes us remember, ache, aspire, and imagine. It makes us analyze our lives in ways that no other art can.

A single word can induce cerebration on an incogitably variable range of subjects. The word “home,” for example, may cause us to think about our own house, and then possibly the unending, unmanageable list of chores we have to do. We may think about our childhood house, the friends we knew then, and the person we were. The word may compel us to consider the very subjective definition of home that we ourselves possess as well as the scientifically factual definitions of what a home or habitat looks like.

It is in this way that we discuss language and its potential for greatness and spiritual simplicity. Language is deeply connected with our comprehension of the world around us. Each and every analysis we make is linguistically based. We observe the world through the lens of language.

Words take us to places we can only dream about. Those words grant us access to the inner sanctum of or own mind where our deepest, most complex thoughts come from. They elicit our most potent and intoxicating emotions, carrying us to places we remember and places we are yet to go.

But, most importantly, words are what we crave, what we devour, what we’re stimulated by, and what defines the fabric of our lives. Words write the script of our lives, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Love,  Ethan Brown Jones

A Perceived Reality

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Sitting, watching, rolling along in the world, people go by, places disappear, and we never wake up.

Lounging, observing, living life to its fullest, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

A tree can be many things. A tree can be a botanical oasis, a deciduous wonder, or a sculpture of nature. A tree can be a companion, a goldenrod firework, or simply just that which it is, eternally a tree.

Driving along a highway, one’s eyes dart from the roadway sporadically, leering at a passerby, observing a provocation of mild interest. But do we really reminisce or even simply ponder what we are actually observing?

Being an artist, a musician, a designer, or a writer, one learns early on that perception is paramount to one’s own art in addition to one’s reception and comprehension of others’ art. For an artist, it eclipses purely the art world and so perception and observation become the rawest essence of daily life.

Perception is fundamentally applicable for all though, not simply the artist. From the way we perceive sounds and lights and noises and colors, to the way we observe the more subtle and inconspicuous world of emotions, personalities, ideals, and aspirations, the observations we collect and the assessed perceptions we feed off of fuel our minds and our lives more than we can begin to cognize.

And so for some the tree may be just a tree, a biological organism complete with cells, molecules, and a carbon-based composite we call wood. But to the lucky few among us, that tree is something more, something existentially greater than originally assumed. That tree is a manifestation of beauty, courage, joy, transcendentality, and most of all, vivacious, unabashed life. That tree may be gold or green or even red, but that tree is a pictorialization of life and death, pain and resilience, and most importantly, love and loss.

So perceive life how you will, but comprehend and discourse with it each day. For each day is uniquely divergent from the last; lessons are learned, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

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When looking at self-sufficiency, one must first look at the definition of its very core value, independence. And when I say independence, I am referring not to a perpetual state of solemn loneliness, but rather to an ability to find content and serenity in life’s silent, solitary moments. Self-sufficiency derives from the same foundational level as independence in that it too relies upon an innate ability to see merit in solitude. Self-sufficiency is much more than that though. It is a life-skill that will continue to develop as individuality and work ethic do as well.

But more than anything, self-sufficiency stems from an uncanny ability to remain poised, independent, strong-willed, and motivated throughout the multitude of experiences one undergoes daily.

There is a magnificent correlation between self-sufficiency and the ability to remain calm, collected, and eloquent in public. Likewise, to be self-sufficient, one must also be able to manipulate and finesse each interaction of life with great elegance and efficaciousness.

Self-sufficiency is additionally reliant on a skill set that aids in sustaining oneself independently. Primarily, organization is incontrovertibly necessary, utilized throughout each and every era of one’s life. But even more imperative to self-sufficiency is the ability not only to be tolerant of one’s seclusion, but to embrace and relish in that state of isolation. For some, being alone is an interval for writing, and for others it’s a time to watch TV or even cook, but a healthy adoration of solitary occasions is more than expected and accepted.

In the end, self-sufficiency has so much to do with contemplation, with independence, and with a deeply-rooted confidence in one’s own advantageous abilities. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate perfection of life, and we must embrace it for the sake of our own contentment and sustainability.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Confusion of the Individual

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Yearning for uniqueness, we travel onward in this world. We strive for a futile individualism that seems unreachable in our age of growing monochromatism. But we somehow lose sight along our way; we forget whom we are just as everyone else seems to do. On day, we wake up in the morning and don’t recognize the visage staring back at us in the mirror. And we stop and wonder- when did we lose track?

When did we ever really know exactly who we were?

There are moments in each of our pasts that illustrate at least a small portrait of who we were, but do those moments exist in our present lives as they delicately used to do? If we ever really had and clarity about who we are or who we were, it was futilely ephemeral as most things in life truly are. We remember temporary states of unambiguity, but if we were really sure of our path at any point in life, why would there even be a purpose to keep on going.

Life is as much about finding oneself as it is about the confusion we all face each and every day. Although we won’t admit it, we are all a little bit lost, continually tangled in webs of memories, hopes, dreams, and emotions.

If any of the journey of life were genuinely easy, it would be meaningless, another pedestrian, pointless experience. But the fact is, it’s not simple; it’s not without adversity or plight; it’s not free of heartbreak and failed aspirations.

The confusion we all experience at some point along the winding, fickle path of life only assists in our growth and maturing process. For to grow is to have been lost and to have realized a new enlightenment. Without losing sight of whom we are, we will never truly gain insight into the person we are today, the person we have left in the past, and the person we aspire to metamorphose into.

Our confusion helps us to learn and grow as individuals, professionals, and unique personalities. When we lose ourselves completely, we finally see the person we have never known, the person we have always hoped to discourse with but have never had the courage. When we lose ourselves in the confusion, we find out what lies within, and that is what’s truly transcendental.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Life of the Designer

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I wake up, looking towards the deep blackness above me, my alarm blasting away in the night. It’s 5:35 AM which I state not as a malign reality, but simply as an assertion of fact. The arresting cold of the air outside the warm cocoon of my blankets is abrasive on my skin. But it is morning, and if nothing else, we can be sure of this. The day has begun, if not gracefully, at least assuredly. I turn on the desk light with a clack and boot up my computer, ready for whatever work the day has in store.

After a quick glance at my calendar and my inbox, I slip into the frosty dark of the hallway and scurry quickly into the bathroom where an encompassing, massaging, warm shower awaits. I dress in the clothes that have been so cautiously, delicately laid out the night before, style my hair, and apply the makeup that has been so neatly displayed beneath the big the big wood-frame mirror above my dresser.

Breakfast comes with toasty, cheddary, steaming eggs, a crispy piece of toast, and dark, rich, creamy coffee with sweet orange juice on the side.

It’s still dark outside as I sit down expectantly at my desk. I check the news briskly and then start the processes of work I know all too well. I sketch a little and then play a little and work on each minute task that is yet to be completed. Designing and sketching gives way to playing piano and arranging music and before I know it, it’s lunch time.

Lunch is spent on the couch of my studio answering emails and updating my calendar with a warm burrito and a chilling smoothie for comfort. I check Facebook and twitter while I’m at it, seeing if anything is new with the vast and diverse world outside of the luxuries of my office and studio.

Lunch passes on quickly and my afternoon is spent researching, reading, and writing away furiously. Hours upon hours of time wander by while my pen glides swiftly across the paper and my fingers race agilely around the keyboard. Words become sentences which in turn become pages upon pages of drafts in my notebook.

The sun has gone down by the time I emerge from my office to start cooking dinner.  Cooking a creamy pesto pasta with fresh herbs, tomato, mushrooms, and garlic chicken sounds like just the thing to take my mind off of work for a while; and the glass of merlot help too. I spend dinner watching TV and going through more emails and contacting clients before heading back to my studio to journal and read until it’s late in the night.

When one day turns to another, I move to my office where I finish up going through paperwork and typing and editing publication drafts. And when the clock lazily flips to 1 AM, finally my work is done and my restful night sleep can commence. My dreams are of designs and stories and music, that which is my greatest comfort and contentment in life. For tomorrow, the rollercoaster will begin anew, another day in the life of a designer.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones