jacob alexander figueroa

You, the User

The new age has risen. I am awake in a world where the mention of art or artists makes people cringe, or jump a little. Words stir in their minds; you don’t want to be a starving artist do you?

“Art is a luxury,” they say. Well let me ask you this, if art is a luxury, what do you consider the flat screen television in your room? Or the video games you buy—the candy in your cupboard?

Is Brad Pitt an artist? Let me ask you another question. Do you value entertainment? How much money have you invested into entertainment, endorsing Brad Pitt, or Johnny Depp? How much money have you spent on video rentals, and movie tickets in your lifetime—thereby supporting these actors and their careers?

We complain about celebrity status and the cliché super upper class, or obsess over the luxuries their careers afford them; yet, we are the ones who continue to give them their power, their wealth and overt abundance.

How often do you seek out the local artists in your area? How much have you endorsed the local galleries? Is art truly a luxury?

There is a street in the world, and probably many, where people will walk by a window and flock to it, pointing and observing before entering, they will pause, and for a moment of their life, they will absorb the stories within them, and perhaps dream enhancing or drug influenced images. They will find its hidden gems; they will liken it to moments in their life, or turn away in disgust.

It will spark a conversation, or an argument, it will influence your dreams, your days or perhaps add something unique to your home.

Many years ago, artists dwelled in King & Queens courts. They painted their vases, their portraits; they were the ones to immortalize kingdoms, knowledge, and information. They passed along important rituals, and kept artifacts, creating universal heirlooms that would be an interactive piece, a temple.

Fast forward. The memories of moments can be digitally clammed into your personal computer with high speed internet, combined with a map, language translator, and mail system to access and deliver to anyone in the known World with similar technology…

In a digital era, with coding comes glitches, and there is an excitement that comes with every triumph with progression.

With a translation of all paper books compressed into a hard drive or computer system, who knows for sure whether this information and knowledge will or will not be tampered with? In the news, occasionally someone will hack into a police computer (or some other form of highly secured and protected technology) and key data and information is tampered with.

If the entire history of Earth—at least that which has been documented by mankind over the centuries—could be done away with, made obsolete by an iPad, or a Kindle, are we—as a human race—really comfortable with all of this vital knowledge and information in a system where it could realistically be tampered with, modified, or completely erased? Are we okay with the consequences that in doing so, such information will be diluted? Even the affects of how we experience the intake of knowledge and learning, the way we digest information, is changed forever with such changes among us.

The act of physically writing is nearly a whole new definition of romance, an act of chivalry, almost long forgotten. It is almost a shamanic ritual, really: We take a pencil—a piece of the earth—with graphite lodged into it, we hold it in our hand and apply pressure, through the physical muscle memory and brain waves, to almost paint and decorate that note in our own unique way to our loved one…

Then we take that note, we fold it, and using our lips, we carefully seal it. It is a memory, often times with dreams enclosed inside, or perhaps a note encouraging someone not to give in, give up, and rather, encourage them to keep going…

We have crafted words only after the “invention” of art. Language became a more precise way to script our thoughts and memories, our stories…

But, what of the temples? What of the writings all over the walls? What of the paintings we study, we yearn to find the meaning of, which are depicted in caves? Who invented art, and when did it start? Beyond that, why did we start making art?

It seems, upon careful consideration, that art is as old as the human race itself. The fragments that have been left behind over the years, surviving the floods, fires, the storms—hieroglyphs and images have still survived to tell their stories of what was, and perhaps of what would come…

Are the works of art and artifacts we create today just as important, just as significant as for our predecessors of life?

The stars charted the pathways and made a difference years ago of where to steer a ship. The entire survival of entire civilizations involved careful balance with systems of math, and numbers. Entertainment was also an important element to hierarchy and various cultures, much like it is today.

If all that was left were the decay of modern day living, with no one to furnish or repair, what would our stories tell, and how would they be told? What would people say of our ways of living over the next 10,000 years?

Would we be as Hercules, a man of strength challenging the gods and demons? Would we be compared to Arthur, with leadership that was known around the world? Would we be praised and followed in example for healing, as was Mother Theresa? Would we be known as the Keepers of the Secrets, as with the Egyptians? It is hard to imagine what the future inhabitants of our world would have to say about their ancestors, about us.

With all of the wealth in the world, and information at our fingertips, what are we doing with it? Are we using it for the greatest good, or are we using it with ill intent? Are we caretakers of and for each other and the world around us? Do we even care for ourselves? Are we challenging our everyday morals, our integrity, or physically stepping beyond our known comfort zones? If so, how often are we doing these feats and what are the outcomes, the consequences?

Is there a point to it all, and if not, is it fair to ignore our surroundings and how we affect them? I think not, based alone on the simple law that they will affect the person next to us, as well as the people yet to come…

I do not know many things. I am young, and filled with as many questions as the person next to me. I strive to make the best of my day and my time ahead of me, and to put the negative things to rest as quickly as they arise. The answers to so many questions, and so many mysteries aren’t entirely clear, are often misunderstood, or remain completely unknown; but there are many things that are certain. Still, there are questions that remain, questions that are prompted by such allegations.

If music is a universal language, what does it speak to the world?

If art were the remnants, the traces of what we leave behind for those ahead of us to try and understand the meaning behind our lives, what stories do they tell?

If science is a tool to advance and explore, what are we using it for? Do we take it for granted?

If spirituality is as simple as breathing deeply and having consideration and mindfulness to the life around us, why complicate such simplicity, such purity?

Have I wasted my life, dipping my brush and staining paper, wood, canvas? Have I wasted my pennies and time with brushes and supplies—painting, decorating and glorifying naked bodies?

Regardless of what you may think of the answers to these questions, there is peace that comes with it, and it is not wasted.

If you are someone who creates, someone who walks with a smile, who breathes deeply or smiles after a glass of wine with a pretty girl or a handsome man, and you delight in the subtle things, the lighting around you, the way your shoes bounce off the carpet, the smell of the air as time passes through the seasons, then I encourage you, have courage and be inspired to take those moments and create something beautiful with them, if only in your mind.

Moments of pause, moments to wave to someone staring at you, or to make a goofy face at someone who is frightened or nervous, these moments are ones to treasure. Laugh as often as you can and do not fear the moments of sadness and pain.

When you leave this world, whatever the argument may be of what happens or doesn’t happen, know that you take nothing physical with you, and think of those things that are not physical.

Treasure the unseen. Treasure the feelings, the stillness.

-Jacob Alexander Figueroa