Good Things for Big Questions

Heading towards the release of my new single, Trying To Be Free, I’m thinking more than usual about faith and doubt. As the post-pandemic sun starts peeking over the horizon, we’re all asking big questions. How has a year in lockdown changed me? If this is a chance to start over, what do I want to carry with me into ‘life 2.0’ and what could I leave behind? Do I still believe the things I believed a year ago about God, the world around me and myself?

Big questions, indeed.

Here are a few Good Things to help in the asking.

Thing To Listen To: Carnage and Oblivions

This week’s ear candy comes in a matching pair of 2021 albums reflecting on faith and doubt in their own unique voice.

First I’ll offer up Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s haunting *Carnage.*

“There are some people trying to find out who,
There are some people trying to find out why,
Some people aren’t trying to find anything
But that kingdom in the sky”

from Hand Of God

Those lines from Hand of God bring us into a work full of questions, anger, and loud desperate love.

By the time I get to Albuquerque and Cave laments that “we won’t get to anywhere, darling, anytime this year” I’m done for.

Julien Baker’s *Little Oblivions* is more upbeat work but don’t let that might only make the punches hit harder.

“Faith healer, come put your hands on me
Snake oil dealer, I’ll believe you if you make me feel something”

(from Faith Healer)

I love the Baker’s sonic palette, bringing in distorted and detuned sounds to throw the pop off kilter.

The slow burn of Ziptie brings it all home.

“Oh good god, when you gonna call it off?
Climb down off of the cross and change your mind?”

Not a bad musical start to 2021.

Thing to Read: 75 Artists Reflect on a COVID Year

The New York Times offers up a deep dive asking 75 artists 7 questions about the ways a pandemic year has changed them and their work. The answers are more hopeful than you’d think. I smiled and felt at turns inspired and reflective as I read insights from people like Jenny Holzer (“women should swear more”), Phoebe Bridgers (“I did write the word ‘quarantine’ into a song, which then I’ll probably have to write out because nobody wants to hear it.”) and Sean Scully (“Lately, I have fallen in love with yellow … maybe it offers some protection against the cold, or against the sorrows of Covid”).

This “super-article” is full of great words but it also looks beautiful. There are several visual answers to the questions the Times posed.

This is a good one to curl up with, learning from the experience of others while you pose the same questions to yourself.

Dive into 7 Questions 75 Artists 1 Very Bad Year.

Thanks (as often) to Austin Kleon for making me aware of this in his excellent newsletter.

Thing to See: Household Surrealism

I’m in love with Helga Stentzel’s Instagram account.

She calls her work “household surrealism” and it is as cheeky as it is brilliant. Each image in her feed is created using common objects in uncommon ways and I can think of no better word to describe it all than “delightful”.

Scroll her feed to see a cow made of hanging laundry, a cabbage dog in the trash, a toaster made of bread and Michelangelo’s David dressed in a cauliflower skirt.

As we ponder the big questions let’s not forget the simple joy of little things.

Follower Helga Stentzel on Instagram here.

Thanks to The Art of Noticing for the tip on this one.

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