Kierkegaard, religion, and existentialism.

Sunrise. A woman and a man awake. Their eyes crackle open to the outside world and freedom faces each with the day’s first challenge. Burning like the hot sun, this empty day stands before them and demands recognition, having returned once again with freedom’s unworn morning salutation, a vehement inquiry, “what now?”

To acknowledge one’s mortality is to bear the burden of assured finitude — an unknowable end, an unavoidable certainty, both of which habitually offer nothing but disquiet and enigma; but, to acknowledge one’s free nature is to confront an existence containing unfailing infinitude — the unavoidable certainty that unknowable ends await us, as we are compelled, simply by being, to decide each moment of our own fate. Bound by these facts, which incites the harsher terror: accountability for a repercussive future, which results from answering the day’s “what now”; or, the knowledge that every action, no matter its effort, cannot stave off our grandest threat? In questioning the purpose, then, of existence, some individuals may see the day’s warming sunrise and believe it need be nothing more than what it is, another moment enjoyed or ignored in another day — inherently meaningless. For others, the shelter of religion provides solace from the terror of their existential bind as it supplants divinity for uncertainty, moral doctrine for individual responsibility, and eternal salvation for encroaching annihilation. One individual who shied away from the simple mechanics of sunshine and instead found existential warmth underneath tenets of divinity was the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

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¶ 2017·03·11
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Donald Trump’s Fight to Make America Great Again

Because the amplitude and frequency of an intentionally divisive and enraging discourse, one hinged clearly on fascist ideologies, has become so loud, I feel I can no longer sit silent.

There has been much talk about our ostensible President-Elect’s similarity to hideous leaders from the past who employed the same style, tone, and types of loose logic his various aphorisms and press releases embrace, digestibly fashioned as part of an attempt to rise to a dangerous level of power.

These various floating theories are all quite believable. There are admissions on the record that Donald Trump owns and reads the writing of Adolf Hitler, stated by both his ex-wife and a close friend. There are scholars who note the similarities.

But, we have had little visual analysis of the two men and their words united.

In the Internet Age, visual analysis is paramount to understanding the present and investigating how the ethernet cables of history connect into contemporary culture. Especially since the Presidential campaigning is now, more than ever, a visual barrage of memes, hot takes, and logo-emblazoned soundbites experienced as a visual object of communication and persuasion, there is much to be said about a supposition — an imagining — of history and today’s phenomena colliding in one form.

Today, as a cadre of the mainstream media — nay, a free press’s heavily spotlit faces meet with Mr. Trump in a private, off-the-record meeting, I have composed a pamphlet which presents a hypothetical rendering of history and hysteria colliding.

This pamphlet employs no original content other than direct quotes from Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler, all readily available in the furor of the public sphere.

It is presently available as a PDF and I am releasing this artwork into the public domain.


¶ 2016·11·21
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We are witnessing a distinct period in America, one when social media effortlessly ushers to the national surface an immediate awareness of all that can be wrong with us.

Between the ascendent rapture of nationalistic racism coloring trepidatious political theater, and the actual, applied racism administered by myriad overparamilitarized local governments, and the rhythmically induced torpor of celebrity drivel, each interbuttressed with consequent communal outrage and adulation, the Internet and society feel rotted.

Vagary has become so normalized, precipitated into a reactionary amphetamine on which rapid-fire events flood a visual consciousness with gore, absurdity. What next? What possibly next?

Everything lately feels very, very episodic. Beyond soap opera.

Almost beyond control.

As artists, we must question our operations herein with the Internet social medium.

We must question, in general, whether screaming into the digital abyss actually harms us more than the continued emitted assaults toward which we can digivocally descend.

Do we simply recycle vitriol with each bump? Do we just help turn up the heat when it’s already sweltering?

Though we do find connection and comfort and maybe even revelation through these pipes, we must, perhaps, move ourselves away from these lightboxes, even if just a bit farther, abandon unconscious efforts for culling mentions and being liked. Amend our exposure. Step back rather than in.

And certainly it would help if we subvert.

¶ 2016·08·02
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Evictions, Chris Rusak 2016

Dear I fear my time here is chafed
The cameras have arrived
The signs erected
Trucks file in; boxes out
A world has discovered

They say I will ruin
Destroy their hood
Smash their piece
With my being; jaggy stone
Nicked to a fabric

Prices skyscrape
Simple savings scratched
For a stake, admissions
In places swagged
By hip, by common

Here, nothing. A dryness
A competition for
For anything, for attention, for
For work, for anything, for
For chances, for anything, for

There, something. A fabric
A community for
For ruin, when I arrive, they
Say, are we not the same
Not the same, the same

To work. Us for them, too
Arrive home, say anywhere else
Them here though, no
But there, no
Dear, we fear
It’s just this fear, dear
(It’s just this fear, dear)
It’s just, dear. It’s just

¶ 2016·07·07
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Apex of the Calcite Mines, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, inverted. Chris Rusak 2016

After one has hiked several distinct areas of the western United States deserts, they all begin to feel the same once you’re deep onto the trail, encumbered by cliff sheers, powdery monoliths, and the confetti geology indicative of an ecological churn which molded the general routes humans would later heuristically overstep. It’s one of the key features to hiking, actually: dependability.

On a recent hike to the Calcite Mines inside California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a trail through a sea of slot canyons and wide washes, trenches of death mosaicked with the previous evening’s flash-flood fatalities — elderly ocotillos, mostly — milky white briquettes and chips of flashy mica sun-speckled a dipping and rising path to a World War II resource depot. On this trail, like all the others, nature’s aesthetic and function, a renewal of life through the renewal of death, is so apparent. It is, for me, the reconnection with this dependability that so often calls me out into the middle of nowhere to meander and wander and do nothing but walk and breathe.

The basic premise of all philosophy is really an observation of nature in order to explicate the phenomena we call time and space, hopefully stoking communication and understanding with others; derivations of this exist as the philosophies of a subject matter — the philosophy of language or the philosophy of art, religion, science, whatever. But language, art, religion, and so on, are all derivations of nature and its cycles, syntheses of accumulative, explicated observations of nature: the burning of forests, the reticence of the rains, starved flowers, skies of color, the way a stone chips, and the constant winds editing our paths. Moreover, however we observe and describe any experience, field or linoleum floor, both the experience and the observation are inextricable from the heretofore indisputable law of certain death.

When you stop on your path to consider all the why that sprouts around us, one might be able to see that every effort in which we partake is also one of disorientation. Namely, to even describe on the internet a California desert, for an anonymous someone thousands of miles away, is to disorient yourself, yet for a brief period of time, from the direct and present nature surrounding you, inasmuch as the description imparts the same temporal extraction for an unknown reader. To describe crestfallen ocotillos hammered and lain dead by a storm paints a knowledge image while it similarly defines natural action. Much of the troubling why of existence is human-created, war for instance, but mirrored from nature, the compulsive thirst for resources and those shadowy lurking hungers and starvations. The drive of the technological age seems to be the repeated self-conviction that a centralization of knowledge imagery will somehow positively change a growing humanity that rapidly encroaches more corners of the natural world, though the present temperatures of society (and climate) suggest we’re quite slow to elaborate how more technology will propagate, or more importantly inspire, an improved participation with natural forces. But, like the circularity of a child philosopher, no dialogue, technologically mitigated or otherwise, will ever breach the terminal why of nature’s terminability. Perhaps for our own good, and certainly for nature’s sake.

Monoliths on the Calcite Mine trail, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Chris Rusak 2016

In any case, the creations of language, art, religion, science — the action of philosophy itself; thought, really — is a blindside to the human dilemma of perpetual disorientation: All soundless pause leads to an absence of direction. No matter all the commas and descriptors lining our path, whatever our war colors in society, the answers are evanescent at best, true and complete knowing is implausible given the scope and force of the natural world and the scope and force of the creatures hungry inside it. And what we individually know is quantitatively closer to nothing than some things.

It is the believing we undertake, however, that we could describe a dead ocotillo to another and by that orient ourselves toward each other which lays down a continued path for many of us to undertake. Deities or no, the mere human synthesis of belief shields us briefly enough from the loud natural forces which will inevitably shatter us like revealed facets of calcite.

But still, though, that pure feeling of laying upside-down atop a calcite mine ledge to observe nature askew, its dizzying disorientation, and the force of that moment as it reorients us alone to our self, and to the spaces between us and through sky.

I would know nothing so to hinge that way forever.

¶ 2016·05·08