Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hopes and dreams

So, about the future...

Y'all know that the cancer business has led me to seriously re-assess my life and work. The conclusions I've come to are pretty positive. For the first time in my life I have no questions at all about whether I am doing the right things or going in the right direction. The question that cancer really raises though, is what next. The answer seems to be not a change, but more. More work. More art. More learning. More getting to know people and the world and understanding them. And doing this through art and writing.

Even before cancer, just having moved to Italy raised many of these kinds of questions. Every morning I still wake up and spend a minute or so remembering where I am and being amazed. A place this beautiful and important just makes it imperative that you live a life worthy of being here.

Just last night we said farewell to my lovely friend Vicky who came here in October to look after me (we thought the surgery would be way sooner) and is on her way home now to Vancouver to start a fabulous career as a film maker. I have more or less achieved basic physical functioning, can get in and out of bed by myself, dress, make tea and walk around the apartment. I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than the tea pot for the first two months and can't do my own shopping at all. But I can take little walks down to the seaside and can certainly sit up at the computer and at the easel for a few hours at a time, so I think the time is near, barring further bad news from the oncologists, to get back into a regular pattern of work, at least a bit.

I am going to get the staples (!!) taken out this week, and they will tell me the results of the histological examination of the tissue some time in the next ten days or so. If the news is not what we hope for, I suppose we will have to carry on with more chemotherapy or something. I asked a couple of times "what if" and each time the answer was ambiguous. "I don't know" was the clearest I got, but someone did mention possible chemo.

I think the next histology report is going to be the crucial thing. If it shows no sign of cancer in the margins, the supposedly "clean" area around the tainted organs, then I'll probably be OK.

But if there are more cancer cells in the place where there shouldn't be then I think the long-term prognosis won't be very good. Individual cells eventually form tumours but until they do you can't detect them with scans. Right now they have already taken out more or less all the organs that I can survive without, so after this there won't be any more surgery possible. The cancer has already shown itself to be "chemo-resistant" so I think the idea is that more chemo will only stave it off for a while. How long is anyone's guess.

For myself, I am still hopeful, but there is still the issue of my intuition. I just can't shake the feeling, that seems to be turning into a certainty in my mind, that I will die of this disease. So, though I know that I will be utterly crushed if the news is bad, I will not be at all surprised, as I was not surprised at all by the initial diagnosis all the way back in March.

With all this Doom n' Gloom worst-case-scenario in mind, however, I wanted to run an idea past y'all. Vicky told me about this website that people use to raise funds for their various arty-farty projects and ideas called Kickstarter. You do a sort of pitch video and tell people what your brilliant idea is and you just plainly ask for money. You give a target goal and there is a time limit for people to donate. People have asked for start-up funds to do everything from making traditional tomato chutney to building a giant animatronic snake. One project that impressed me was this one to create a rolling photostudio to revive the use of traditional film photography.

And you can really get a lot of dosh out of it. This guy, for example, was one of the big lotto winners. He asked for 500 bucks and ended up with over $77,000. Though of course, there is no telling which project will strike the fancy of readers.

I've been all over the site and it seems that there is very little there about doing anything remotely "traditional" in art in the sense that I mean it. In fact, it seems geared towards more of the "innovative" modernist stuff that I've spent my life fighting. But there is certainly a sense in which a return to Classical Realism in art is at the very cutting edge of avant garde these days, as being interested in the Trditional Mass is in the Church. So long-lost and forgotten is the skill of realist drawing that it seems like a rediscovery of ancient alchemy or magic. Besides, nearly anything goes in our weird times, and I think perhaps if it were pitched that way my idea would get some attention.

My idea simply is, as soon as my health will allow, to start studying as close to full time as I can manage, which, given work commitments, probably means a 3-hour class a day, five days a week. This will cost about $10,000 (Cn) per year. I hope to divide my time evenly between the studio and work. That's the first part anyway. In the long run, like a couple of years from now, stage two is to teach and help Andrea expand the Rome school. In the long-long-long run, the third stage, should I ever get there, is to buy a place in the country in Umbria and open a live-in school. If I were to die having done all or most of this, I'll be pretty content.

Studying art for me is part and parcel of the work I've been doing for the last decade or more: to rescue Western Civilisation from the barbarians who have nearly destroyed it. To be a traditionalist painter, to start saying in painting what I've been saying in words, is a goal I think I can achieve (assuming there's time) and will, I hope, be the "other half" of the work I've been doing to advance the cause of The Real in the face of a universal capitulation to an evil and disordered Fantasy. I have said before that I greatly value the chance to do the work I do and to get better at it, but that it seems incomplete to me. (It could be worse, I could have a bee in my bonnet about studying poetry! I shudder.)

In the second phase, my hope is to teach other people what I've learned. I can't tell you how annoying it is when someone says, "Wow, that's amazing! I can't draw a straight line. You must have natural talent." The idea that drawing is some kind of magic trick that only people with the special Harry-Potter drawing gene can do is as widespread as it is irritating. (I can't draw a straight line either. No one can because there is no such thing in nature. In fact, I'm hereby banning the expression from the blog.) Back before they abolished education drawing was a normal part of everyone's upbringing. It is about as magical as learning to read Latin and was tossed out of the curriculum for more or less the same reasons.

When Andrea was studying at the Florence Academy she was recruited as a drawing instructor while still studying. She also worked at normal joe-jobs most of her time in training. She really does embody the kind of discipline to which I aspire.

I have no desire whatever to pick up stakes and move to Florence, mostly because I'm not interested in tearing apart my happy little life. I intend to keep doing what I am doing, but to do a lot more of it all. To continue to write out against the evils of our times on LSN. For those who worry that I am thinking of quitting, it is very far from my mind. The thing that cancer has taught me is that I really want to live, completely and fully, and for me, life simply can't be lived without writing. But it is like trying to live on only one kind of food. Eventually the craving for more protein or potassium or vitamin C becomes overwhelming.

If the cancer news is good, we are nearing the end of the ordeal. I think the time has come to make some plans for the possible future.



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