New birds have already found us at our new home. These cardinals are different, as I knew they’d be. When I was sad about leaving our “old” cardinal friends, my family was amused because they thought that any cardinal is the same as another, and surely there will be other cardinals. But I was right, these birds are different.
Our old friends were kind of chubby, which may have been our fault by overfeeding them. They were also quirky and would look into the patio doors, interacting with me. The new cardinals are much smaller, leaner, and athletic. They soar straight up like a rocket when they are done at the feeder. They are curious about me, but skittish. It will take a while to win them over.
I take this as a metaphor for any life changes we go through. It’s the “same but different”. New adventures (especially the kind that are forced on us unexpectedly) are a chance for re-inventing ourselves, expanding who we are, and making new choices. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the things that make us who we are- the things we don’t want to change, but are open to doing better.
A fresh perspective can elevate us to better people if we accept this challenge. Yet, we are the same as when we were born. We don’t “lose” ourselves. We simply fly a little differently, perhaps higher and better.
I decided to give YouTube another try. My videos weren’t been seen on there anymore so I gave up on it. My subscribers weren’t getting notified and it seemed as if my account had been (secretly?) turned off. Many of my painting videos had ZERO views on them. None at all. That’s a bit hard to believe because surely someone would have at least accidentally clicked on one of them! Anyway, the platform seems to be different from what it was a couple of years ago so I thought maybe I could start putting my videos there again. Indeed, it seems as though my videos are seen now.
Well, today I put this painting of Jesus on YouTube and it triggered a copyright notice. No problem, I have permission to use the song, but it meant that the copyright holder could monetize my video and therefore profit from my art of Jesus through ads. I didn’t like that idea. I am not monetized and I’m not sure how I feel about ever doing it with particular subjects. I was inspired to paint this and the purpose may be cheapened by ads and the tacky nature of it.
But also, it bothered me that the copyright holder is a big record label, so there was an element of big corp involved too- once again exploiting those of us who actually CREATE things and don’t have the visibility or power that they do to turn our work into wealth. The music was on a site that advertised royalty free music that creators could freely download and use however we wish. What wasn’t understood is that the minute we publish our videos on a site that allows monetization, the copyright holder will claim our videos.
This means we can’t monetize our work now or in the future, and will never get paid for it. So, the music is NOT “free” then. Our work is the payment. It feels like stealing when big business profits from clever tricks like monetization, while the creators don’t earn income from the work that is monetized. I can understand sharing the monetization, that would be fair, but only one copyright is allowed per video. That’s convenient for big business, isn’t it?
So, in the end I quickly deleted the video I’d just uploaded. I removed the copyrighted song and replaced it with a copyright free one. The result is that the new song choice is a better fit for my painting. I’m glad that I listened to my intuition and didn’t give in to the unwanted 3rd party profiteering from my art.
So, there’s that… but it’s not hate. It’s just the cold side of big business. They grow rich from the work of others, and that’s infuriating, but if I let that get under my skin it would only make me bitter. Usually I put it out of my mind and don’t think about it. Today I was pushed to think about it because I had to make that decision about my painting of Jesus.
Now I want to talk about the hate part of what happened. The “syncing” or “mirroring” feature (copying the video to another 3rd party video platform) was still active, so this Jesus painting video was also simultaneously published somewhere else- where it was nearly instantly downvoted. I figured it was downvoted by someone who had an issue with Jesus, and not with me or my art, but I didn’t know. Maybe someone didn’t like my painting. I tried to set it out of my mind. A few minutes later a comment appeared and the downvote mystery was quickly resolved.
The person had an issue with the ethnicity of Jesus. I depicted him to be of historically noted Middle Eastern and Jewish heritage. The comment claimed that Jesus was white and not an “Arab”. I am very suspicious of this exchange because it seemed that this person was trying to bait me into an argument that would make me appear to be racist in some way. I’ve had trouble before with trolls trying to get me cancelled in a setup argument. I did not fall for it then, and I did not fall for it now. I replied simply with a link to an article by historical experts who discuss what Jesus likely looked like. If this harassment continues, I’ll block future contact. This incident was not a big problem, and it’s not why I bring it up.
My point is not this specific incident, but the pattern and cycle of hate. When we pour out love, we will- to a certain degree- receive hate in return (along with love, thankfully!). We must be willing to be hated if we want to do big things. Big things attract hate. That is the price we must pay to be a shining Light of creative energy. No matter what new ideas you may contribute, someone will counter your creation with destruction. There is a yin for every yang.
We cannot avoid hate or control everyone’s actions around us. What I find peace in, is the acceptance that hate exists and I am strong enough to face it. My response is not to uselessly try to eradicate it, or force others to give me a safe space. There are no safe spaces when we choose to expand ourselves. Instead of controlling others, I give power to myself. I can see hate as it presents itself, calmly observe the probable motive for it based on the words or behavior displayed, do a risk assessment of how dangerous the incident is, and carefully consider my response.
My rules of engagement are these:
I do not respond if the attack is stupid, silly, pointless, off track, etc. If it’s simply provocative and meant to get a reaction from me, I do not give that person the attention that they are seeking. I don’t reward abusive behavior or encourage more of it by engaging. So, NO engagement for this type of incident.
However, if the attack can harm my brand, my work, my reputation, my character, or my family, then I will respond. I keep the reply very short, just a simple short explanation in logical defense of myself, or my choices, or my work. I will reply in a way that would hold up well in a court of law if any of these attacks should ever escalate. I am never rude, emotional, or on the offensive. I respond specifically and directly to the accusation or insult.
If the attack involves a criminal offense (slander/libel, character defamation, hacking into secured areas of my site, putting me on a target list for harassment and harm, mob/group targeting, threats upon my life or my family, etc.), then I issue a public legal warning statement that they must cease immediately or the authorities will be involved and I will bring a legal suit against them. Know your rights and defend yourself.
I don’t know if any of you may find those rules of engagement useful, but those are just the practical literal ways to respond. What’s a bit murkier is the emotional, mental, and spiritual response- the private response that the hater will never see, and that we may not even fully realize has happened. Hate is powerful. Its destructive force may settle into our soul, causing us to doubt ourselves, our purpose, and whether or not we are worthy. We may wonder if what we do is worth it. We may crave solitude to hide from how much it hurts to be hated.
When I feel this way, as I did today, I remind myself of how positive, confident, and cautiously hopeful I was before someone burst my bubble. There are two well known stories that come to mind to illustrate how I can mentally/emotionally/spiritually choose to respond to hate. One of them is from the long running Peanuts comic.
Lucy invites Charlie Brown to kick the football while she holds it. Time and time again, good old Charlie Brown gets his hopes up and runs with his full heart to kick that ball high, high, high to the sky! But of course Lucy yanks it away from him every time. He’s never going to kick that ball because Lucy (life) is hateful, and Charlie is a loser. He is stupid to trust her and stupid to get his hopes up. What a fool he is. What a fool I am when I put my heart out there time and time again, only to have life yank the ball away from me!
But the second story is quite different. It’s called “The Little Engine who Could”. In it, a little engine has an impossible challenge that other bigger and more capable engines refuse to accept. A stranded engine needs help and the little engine helps him, never giving up even though the mountain is steep and the burden is heavy. He continuously tells himself “I think I can, I think I can!” When others don’t even try, he not only tries, but he refuses to give up when the journey is difficult. He thought he could, and he did. I am unsinkable! I will take on worthy challenges and never give up!
So, I can choose which story is my response to being hated. Do I respond with, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Brown-iest!”, and tell myself that I’m a fool to get my hopes up? Why even try anymore! That ball isn’t that big of a deal anyway. I’ll stop trying to kick it. I’ll stop wanting to kick it. I’ll avoid that horrible Lucy forever.
Or, do I respond with the little engine’s attitude? No matter how hard the journey, how impossible the task, how negative others are, or how heavy the burden, “I think I can, I think I can!” And I will.
I will achieve my lifetime goal of 1k finished oil paintings. I will continue to paint whatever inspires me, and share it freely. No matter how negative the forces around me are, I will persevere with the right perspective and unsinkable optimism.
The inspiration for this art came after I saw real life videos taken by someone who owns a ranch where wild mustangs freely roam. The footage was breathtaking! He then challenged me to paint wild horses.
I’d never drawn or painted a horse before, but why not? I was teaching an online art class at the time so I assigned “wild horses” to myself as one of the class projects. I’ll show you these lessons now, as you can see step by step how I painted this art.
Your self-reflection challenge: Are you a wild horse or a roped pony? As most things in life, moderation and balance are key. You might have noticed that I used a painting reference (a photo to look at for guidance on shapes, proportions and perspective to achieve the likeness of the animals and structured composition), but later I stopped using the reference and painted from the heart.
Structure and following an established lead is akin to being roped like a pony. Painting (living) from the heart, led by emotion, intuition, and spontaneity is to experience the freedom of a wild mustang. Are you a wild horse or a roped pony?
In what areas of your life could you use more rope to reign yourself in, a gentle guide helping you stay in line, and a friendly pat on the head when you’ve stayed on course? In what areas of your life do you need to cut that rope and run free- following no one and nothing but your wildest dreams? Take a moment to ponder this, but don’t wait too long to act. Today, be a wild horse.
Want more lessons? Take the full lesson for “Wild Horses” online. Or, start at the beginning of my free distance learning art course. You do not not need to paint- other art mediums work with these lessons also. If you prefer to draw, use watercolors, etc., you’ll still benefit from working through the suggestions and project prompts. Or, if you simply enjoy watching art in the making and prefer not to do the projects, feel free to watch these lessons as shows for entertainment/information only.