Neuroscientists find (some of them somewhere, according to Jeffrey Martin) that there’s a little squeeze of pleasure drugs in the brain when we solve a problem. We’ve been rewarded with learning to walk, saying words, throwing or catching a ball since infancy. Positive brain chemicals like dopamines flow when a problem is solved. These are the drugs we love.
On those days when the sky is blue, there’s food in the belly and a roof over one’s head, there can be kind of a malaise, or an itchy type feelng: Something seems wrong, like a problem needs to be solved, even if you can't identify anything in particular. This brain-body apparatus we each have says Martin, makes problems, manufactures them, so it can be rewarded with those chemicals and feel good again.
I used to smoke. I recall the day I noticed a mental process going on at the time. I found myself conjuring some stressful scenario prior to reaching for a cigarette. Something about the cortisol (stress hormone) and cigarette combo was truly satisfying. It was a real soother to get some nicotine in the mix when I thought about that thing…How tweaked.
Whatever is going on can be seen in problem terms, or in a different light, the very same scenario can be labeled as: Not a problem. Nothing to be solved.
For example, I get to the check-out line and discover that I’ve forgotten my wallet. Is this a problem? Are there lions? A fire? Yes it is not smooth, but truly, this is the nature of the road itself, not a personal failing. It’s how things go on this planet called Earth, and on planet Me. Feeling irritated then, or slightly growly under the breath is also the course of human response, it is the nature of the thing. Also, it's just what's happening in a parade of stuff happening. More road texture. Not a problem, nothing to be solved.
These problems and the attendant stories that give them dimension, you could see as elaborate plots designed to hold the attention, like a great film, and we are captivated - captives in the story. A major illness, a terminal diagnosis is also included. Feelings, big bumps, real physical pain. A broken down car? Trump is president. It turns out that the wallet was stolen. Not fun, no one is claiming that. Or easy. But somehow, it’s the very ticket in.
Can I, can you, enjoy this cliffhanger of a show? You’ve been watching for years, as have I. Our shows are singular, but consistently witnessed and known. Have you ever noticed that?
Let go of the splintering branch, and see how that feels. No one is immune. You, are welcome.
Welcome one and all to the coolish breezes and warm updrafts of the New England fall!
I’m excited to share some art and some writing and some upcoming events with you. There's one on Sunday - a talk called The Whole Orchard, and another on Nov 12, and one in December...
The summer was a sweet one, and I bravely shared about my book to audiences of mostly my own family :) and the friendly librarian - but always it was worth it and fun. I shared at the
Art: I have the pleasure of sharing over 20 paintings and drawings in an unusual setting, along with paintings by Somerville Artist Sally Strand. It’s beautiful fancy home for sale in Watertown. Peter Boyajian and Paul Moreton at Real Estate 109 have set this up and they’ve done a fantastic job. Come see some new works and what it looks like in a high end design setting! You can see it by appointment at 222 Main St. in Watertown.
On October 1st, I joined artists Maria Molteni and Sue Murad for the North Hampton Book and Print Fair, where we took no prisoners, letting the world know what artists who make books are capable of. I shared a table with these gals, and saw the beautiful film Sue made about a piece of Marias at their screening the night before. See some pics here!
This Sunday, October 23rd, at the Theodore Parker Unitarian Church, I'm giving a talk called The Whole Orchard at 10:30 AM
On November 12, Joanne Rossman, Purveyor of the Unnecessary and the Irresistible has generously offered to host a book signing at her most excellent of shops - known all over the country for her curatorial chops and eye for special things. She wins the absolute prize for selling more of my books than any other shop, and I love that she’s only a ten minute walk from home. It's a great place to get your xmas shopping done!
The Help me [ ], do the thing. is now in 26 shops and I'm burning on some cylinders, trying to show up for the task of getting the books out into the world, without getting all weird and edgy, and it’s going pretty well. Contemporary Prayers to * [whatever works] is in 53 museum shops in 26 states!!! And I've finally found a place to store all the books that isn't underneath my bed. I'm so pleased.
In December, there is talk of an event at Spoonbill & Sugartown Books in Brooklyn New York! I am thrilled about this, and grateful for the support of Jonas at Spoonbill who proposed we try a talk and a workshop. We’re in the planning stages and it’ll be one of those weekends…
Sunday Oct 23rd: Theodore Parker Unitarian Church 10:30 am: talk: The Whole Orchard.
November 12: Book Signing at Joanne Rossman, Roslindale MA
December: Spoonbill Books, Workshop and talk, Brooklyn NY
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.