Funny, how life imitates art. A few years ago I painted this picture featuring a big old tree missing one of its main branches as the focal point. Who knew that I would have a tree that looks just like this in my yard after a storm on July 13th , 2016? Even better, who knew the missing 30 inch diameter, 55 foot long, branch would crash on to the roof of my house?
Eighty-Five mile per hour winds will do things like that to a fine old tree.
The tree removal company gave us the option of removing the remaining tree, or leaving it as is…
Guess what we decided to do?
Yup, it is still there. I respect the tenacity of life, of living. The remaining half of the tree will either live – or it will not. Not my call.
Here is the original essay for “Damaged Goods”.
I frequently hear people saying that life is a struggle. At one time, I dismissed these people as being pessimistic “glass half empty” people. As time passed and I gained more life experience I realized that the “life is a struggle” comment is really just a statement of fact and has no inherent negative or positive connotation. This started me thinking about struggles in general. I began to wonder if the things I have learned from over 34 years as a street cop about prevailing in a physical struggle might have some value when applied to the struggle of life.
One of the first things I learned many years ago as a rookie cop is – if you go into a physical struggle with the intention of not even getting your uniform dirty, you are going to lose. You will be focused on keeping your uniform clean and avoiding injury, rather than on winning. I am not recommending that you go into a situation, or life, intending to get hurt. My point is that you should not be focused on avoiding injury because when you get hurt (and you will get hurt) you give up. Why wouldn’t you? Your goal was to avoid getting hurt. You got hurt. Game over.
In a physical struggle, as in the struggle of life, you should be focused on achieving your goals rather than on avoiding pain. If you take a little damage along the way, don’t be surprised; keep moving.
I certainly hope you never find yourself involved in a physical confrontation. I mention it here because the same rules apply to the struggles of life. If your goal in life is to avoid getting hurt you will not be happy with the results. If you focus on avoiding pain rather than on finding joy, you will miss most of what life has to offer.
In this painting, I have used a fine old tree and a passing storm to express this concept. When you look at the painting, you will quickly notice that the tree has lost one of its major branches at some time in the past to a lightning strike or high winds, but it still embraces life and reaches for the sky with the branches that remain.
If you are actively involved in life, you are going to take some damage along the way. As long as you survive and thrive, there is nothing wrong with being “Damaged Goods”.
© 2016 James Golaszewski
I painted this in the middle of a long cold winter several years ago. I imagined a place of warmth and peace as I painted. I had to immerse myself in the illusion, and in the process I went a little crazy(er). As I painted I imagined myself in the world I was creating, walking down the road on the Fourth of July. The whole scene existed only in my imagination at first, and each element in the painting ended up with a back story (kind of like Bob Ross and his “happy little trees”).
To celebrate the 4th of July, lets take a walk together down this idyllic country road. You can’t see it in this tiny little image, but there is a dog in the yard of the house at the bottom of the hill. His name is Max, we can say high to him as we walk past.
A beautiful moment on a beautiful day in a beautiful place in the middle of summer…you are invited to stroll down the road and bask in the peace and beauty.
Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski
“I guess my feet know where they want me to go…
Walking on a country road.”
James Taylor “Country Road”
I struggle with feeling the need to warn the world about all the nasty people hiding behind masks of decency.
There are people in this world that are abusive and dangerous, but only to a select few chosen victims. These monsters have neither the strength or skills to dominate everyone, so they carefully select their victims. Sadly, the victim most often is someone that initially trusted the offender. To the rest of the world they present a carefully constructed act that hides their true nature.
These people fall along a spectrum from bad to worse. The scale ranges from gossips, to bully’s, to child abusers and those that engage in domestic violence, and on the extreme fringe to those that kill and commit sexual assaults.
Quite often there will be extensive news coverage about someone who was caught doing some horrific act. As the story unfolds over a few days a predictable pattern seems to be followed. After the initial story, people that think they know the offender make proclamations about how they can not, or worse, will not, believe the allegations because the offender has shown only a carefully constructed false face of decency to them. The evildoer has been acting like the “perfect” friend/neighbor/coworker in the presence of those they are fooling. You hear statements such as, “That can’t be true, he (or she) always waves when he sees me/brings in my elderly mothers’ mail/shoveled my snow/helped me change my flat tire/is always nice to ME…”
This serves two purposes. First, by doing so the offender is able to avoid detection. The second, and more sinister, reason is so those who know the villain’s true nature are not believed and find no support in their struggle with and against the villain. The villains also proactively take steps to discredit those that know their true nature so, should the victim gather the strength and courage to speak out, they will not be believed.
Then, as the story unfolds, more victims emerge. Others that the offender has chosen to victimize see an opportunity to be believed so they come out of the darkness to call out the true nature of the offender.
Still, those that have bought in to the offender’s act of presenting a false face of decency line up and defend the evildoer by pointing out all the wonderful features of the offenders carefully constructed false persona. They invariably note that the offender is a pillar of the community, and declare that the accusers are all self-serving liars. Then, time passes. Facts are revealed that make it impossible to believe the lies any longer. The truth becomes clear.
Then comes the really sad part. The defenders, who now know the true nature of the villain, remain silent. They offer no comfort or support to the victims who, by their silence and earlier support of the offender, helped victimize further.
I have a problem deciding how to deal with people like this. I feel the irresistible need to call them out, to point out their true nature for all to see. This most often ends in frustration because the believers are unwilling to let go of their illusions.
During my lengthy career in Law Enforcement I have known more than a few people on the middle and top end of this scale of villany. I have had the satisfaction of placing many of these individuals in the back seat of my squad car … the seat with the cage. In my personal life I have been victimized by these people and, even worse, people I love have been victimized. Because of these experiences I am a bit more adept at spotting these individuals “in the wild” as they try to move undetected among us.
Day to day, my main problem is with the monsters on the lower and middle end of the scale, the gossips and abusers. We all have people like this in our worlds; people that have revealed themselves to us to be monsters; abusive, petty, mean-spirited, gossips, and child/wife/husband abusers. Yet, any attempt you make to reveal the true nature of the villain is met by disbelief. In the age of Facebook this is even harder to deal with. You will see posts about these villains – those that have revealed their dark nature to you – where those among the fooled describe the monster as being “fantastic”, “amazing”, and “wonderful” (oops, I forgot the exclamation marks. Here are a few: !!!!!!!!).
What to do about this? Like I said in the beginning, I struggle with this question.
Like a lot of seemingly unsolvable problems, I think the best solution is to do what you can, when you can, where you can.
I have chosen to visualize these thoughts by using my old friend, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. Through the hours of darkness, the lighthouse tries to warn boaters about hidden dangers and guide them to a place of safety. Some heed the warning and take the advice, finding safe harbor. Others continue to wander in the darkness. Like the lighthouse, all you can do is give warning. The rest is out of your control.
I have set the scene at sunrise, that moment when the sun rises and reveals the truth to all. A time of “Awakening”.
Image and Text © 2016 James Golaszewski
Life is full of uncertainty. This can be very stressful for those of us who like to have things “nailed down”. As my life has unfolded I have come to feel like a roofer in a hurricane – every time I get one loose shingle nailed down another one begins to flap in the wind. When it gets really bad I have had to give up on nailing shingles for a while and concentrate on not getting blown off the roof.
But I am still here.
What a lifetime of these experiences has taught me is that all you have to do to survive is hang on tight and have faith that no storm lasts forever.
To express these thoughts, I painted “Hope In The Fog”. It is about having faith that things will turn out well, even when you are lost in the fog and have no idea what lies ahead. In the original composition, there was to be a country church barely visible through the fog in the background. The church symbolized stability, safety, and security. As I painted, I used a translucent glaze to create the fog effect. With each layer of glaze, the church became less and less visible. Things were going well until… I added one too many layers of glaze and the church disappeared completely. With some painting techniques you get only one crack at getting it right, and this was one of those situations. If I repainted the church the thickness of the additional paint would have created a subtle change in the surface texture that would have ruined the illusion.
Isn’t it always that “one last thing” that gets us in trouble? As I thought about it I decided that I liked it better with the church not being visible. If the painting was about having faith even when you could see no way out, having the church be invisible was a better concept. It is not hard to have faith in something you can see, faith comes in when you have to believe in something you cannot see.
In this painting, we see a horse named Hope on a cold foggy morning.
Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski
Many philosophers and pop psychologists have attempted to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” However, what has really puzzled me is the opposite question; “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
Casual observation seems to indicate that being rude, inconsiderate, unfeeling, self-centered, manipulative, and mean-spirited pays off. These people seem to get what they want more often than not, and the fates do not seem to heap an extra portion of misfortune upon them as punishment.
I now know that I was looking in the wrong place for my answer. I was looking at the results of the bad behavior, rather than looking at those who were behaving badly. Once I began to look at them more closely I noticed one important detail I had previously overlooked… they did not seem to be happy. They were angry and miserable. I realized the universe was like a mirror, it reflects whatever you are projecting at others back towards you. If you are discourteous, selfish, ruthless, self-centered, manipulative, and cruel, that is what you will be confronted with. That is what will always surround you.
While I can try to avoid these types of people, they can never get away from themselves. “The Chickens Always Come Home To Roost”.
Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski
In “Penthouse Blues”, you view the scene through the eyes of the resident of the penthouse apartment that is just below the rooftop. Normally, the resident is content viewing the stylized painting of the city rather than venturing onto the roof to experience the city firsthand. On this night, however, the resident has temporarily put down the book they were reading and come up to the rooftop to get some fresh air and enjoy the view.
Unseen by the resident, an alley cat sits on the ledge nearby – surveying its kingdom. The cat pauses, the better to remain undetected. The alley cat is indifferent to the momentary intrusion into its world because the cat knows its kingdom is safe. The cat is confident that the resident is not enlightened enough to realize the true value of the cat’s kingdom, and so the resident is unlikely to contest the cat’s supremacy.
Soon, the intruder will tire of the night air and go back inside to their comfortable chair, leaving the cat to rule the night in peace. The cat can wait. Let the rats in the alley below think they have won for a moment longer. They will find out the truth soon enough.
Image and text © 2016 James Golaszewski