Name: James Michael Maynard
Place of residence: USA/ traveling
Occupation: Aspiring writer and musician
Met in: Fondation ArteSumapaz, Colombia / October 2019
Editor’s note: This interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews by Gabriel Kreuzer, on his travels through South America. Photo by Gabriel Kreuzer.
Gabriel Kreuzer (GK): If you had the free choice, who would you like to have dinner with?
James Michael Maynard (GMM): I would like to have dinner with my 74-year old self, and ask about what has happened, ask for some advice. I would probably get some good advice from a 74-year old me. I have always been interested in the idea of being able to observe myself, for example imagining sitting at a bar and somebody comes in and I imagine how it would be to watch myself, walking into that bar. So I think I would like to have dinner with my older self. I would ask how comes that I spend so many years being so mopy in my early life (laughs). “Why did you spend so many years being not just enjoying life?”
GK: If your house burned down and you could save three things, what would it be?
GMM: My guitar, my parents gave it to me for my 21th birthday and it’s an important thing for me. I love music, I want to create music. I don’t think the guitar is necessarily my main instrument but just as a notion, for my parents, it’s an important thing. And there is this giraffe I have, named El Cheffe, that my little sister gave to me. I would save that. It’s a papier-mâché giraffe that she got from her college town. She asked me what I want for Christmas and I said that I want something that she can only find in Oxford, Ohio, where she is going to school. I would really like to keep that giraffe because I love my sister a lot. And I have a couple of letters… I have a pan-pal back in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this girl named Andrea. She had a tough life. I met her in group therapy, she has a four-year old daughter named Luna, she is just a year or two older than me but she spent many years as a working girl, I don’t want to say prostitute, but she was a sex-worker, her daughter came from…. she was raped and that is where her daughter Luna is from, that incident. I have a couple of letters that we exchanged back and forth so I would like to save those. And she is doing great now, she is in school, she has left the sex work behind and she got custody of Luna again after she had lost it. It is nice to have this continuing conversation with her.
GK: Which dream of yours would you like to fulfil?
JMM: I have the biggest dream in the world to perform, to perform on stage, to do music and to hold the energy of a room. I think everybody has this job in a room, but to really be a huge part of it, and to perform, to be up on a stage, to be singing, to be going around stage, to be bringing the audience in… that I think is one of my biggest dreams and goals in life. And then beyond that I always had a dream of opening a school and helping people who feel a bit different around the outside, to see that they have other people. I imagine doing this when I am older. But that they have people who have made these paths and to help other people to see that it is possible for themselves and also to bring the beautiful things in the world and the history and all this back. To give back to people so that we can learn about ourselves as humans.
GK: Which artist inspires you?
JMM: I just found an artist who is inspiring me and her name is Patti Smith. I started reading a book of hers called Just Kids and it is inspiring me quite a bit. This girl, who I actually had a small relationship with, that really was very impactful to me, she is an artist and I think she is the one who switched me on to trying to own my own creativity. Her name is Isabelle, she has inspired me with her unresolve and fierceness. She won’t compromise on herself being an artist. I see that in her and I see it shining clearly bright. And Picasso! Some of his work is really cool but there is just that line that he has which is “My mother said to me,
If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope. Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso”. He decided to own who he was and then what he was able to create with it, make with it and say about the world and taking the risk on art. People have this greatness in them, and he had a greatness and decided to channel it. He decided to be himself which is beautiful thing.
GK: What ability would you like to own / learn?
JMM: I really really wish that I knew more about coding and that whole world. I think from a theoretical point I get parts of it, but just being able to do that… I think the reason why is I think there is space there for so much creation and I wish that I had the skill to know some coding-languages at the back of my hand and to really be able to spin things up. I think it would be great to have conversations with the people who are building the technological force of the next stage of humanity and I would like to be a voice in that in some respect. I thought about going back to school and doing it but I haven’t decided yet. I guess you have go in all or nothing but then again it doesn’t have to be the entire narrative if life. I think I will learn at least a bit in my lifetime. I would like to find people who do coding but not to build an app or to code the backend for some company but to really get into the theory and philosophy of where we are going as humans and then have a much wider scope and then also put the hard skill of knowing how to spin up code.
GK: What positive character trait do you find most valuable in a person?
JMM: Receptivity. People who are willing to be open in the situations they go into. To be willing to receive energy and then let that transform you. I think I am turned off by people who are always trying to just to really push the energy and holding that and walking around with a big box. I really like people who are willing to open up their chasm of their own being, however small or wide, and receive people. I think that is one of my favourite character qualities.
GK: What beautiful memory comes to mind spontaneously?
JMM: It has to do with Isabelle, my ex-girlfriend. One night we drove in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we are originally from. It was a late night and we met in this grocery-store which is near the east-side of one of the big highways and on the east-side of the town, where the highway runs through, there are these large mountains called the Sandia Mountains and we met up and we piled in the car and we drove up to the top of the mountain together. This beautiful cold night… it was in January but there wasn’t any snow and we drove up the winding mountain listening to music, talking, and we got to the top of the mountain. We got out of the car and I had some blankets in which we just wrapped ourselves and we walked to the edge where there is this viewpoint. Essentially you are on the side of the cliff looking over the whole city. Albuquerque sits at about 5000 feet [1.500m] and then the Sandie mountains are another mile high [1.600 m], so a mile above the city and the wind is freezing, it is coming from the valley that is at the sheer side of the mountain and it is just coming up and hitting us and I remember Isabelle staying there wrapped in the fucking blanket and just looking up the side and I had mine catching the wind and it was just beautiful.
GK: Do you have a favourite place on earth?
JMM: Albuquerque, New Mexico (laughs)! That is the first thing that popped into my mind. And there the group therapy with Dr. Thomas Carey, one of the true warriors that live in the world today, a peaceful warrior. One of my favourite places in the world. That’s where I have learned. I feel that I owe everything that I am to that, it is a very base level core part of my being and I can’t wait to go back and see what people have been doing and to talk to Tom. In high school my parents did not know what the fuck to do with me so they put me in therapy to figure out what was wrong. My primary doctor referenced me to Thomas Carey to get a description for Ritalin which is fucked up because I hated that shit, it actually made me very depressed for about a year. But anyways, I went to him and he said come to the group therapy and then I started going there when I was 17. Dr Carey is kind of my sensei, like a spiritual teacher. I mean you meet many teachers, many sensei, but he is the one whose philosophy of live I inscribe to.
GK: What in your life are you most thankful for?
JMM: Probably for my family, even though it is maybe the biggest source of frustration, as I guess it is with many people… working through the emotions and stuff like that. They really are supportive of me, they’re so supportive, and I think it is my own journey to own myself and continue to stand up for it. I have a twin sister and were like two sides of the same coin. We help each other but we go forward in different directions and I think we propel each other. And I have an older brother who I am also very thankful for because I think he cares very deeply for me and for the rest of our family. My mum and dad, they love me whatever what. I mean they are conservative, they have different views of the world and things like that, but in the last two years I have really started to take ownership and push back against them, talk about things, own myself, and they accept it. I think it’s difficult because they get scared at first. But then they eventually say “ok, we love you enough that we can let go of our fear because we see that you are actually owning yourself” and that’s the greatest thing, the best gift.
GK: What makes you happy?
JMM: Many things! Naps, great food, wonderful cuisine, people- I love people and I love conversations. One of my absolute favourite things to do in the entire world is to go and sit in a place with food, people, conversation, drinks, and you just sit and you talk and you enjoy the company of people. It’s one of these things, sometimes you can plan it and sometimes it just happens. But it makes me beyond happy- food, conversation, and seeing the light in other people’s eyes as we commune together. And other things as well: doing art, going on explorations. And the spirit, when the spirit leaves the body and communes with everybody. It’s like you are speaking, talking on another plane. It is like a wonderful, great big party- I absolutely love it.
GK: What is your definition of success?
JMM: I think success is learning to love yourself and then whatever energy that brings is success. But everybody is different, everybody has some beautiful, wonderful thing, whatever it is. And if you’re able to love yourself and go to the well drop the bucket deep and wheel it up- it will be incredible what you’ll find. And that’s success. And I also think it’s the most difficult thing in the entire world as well- constantly going to the well, wheeling the bucket down and wheeling the bucket up, and once again draw in that water and being not judgemental of what comes up. And being patient to see what’s coming up… being patient I think is the most difficult thing and what is required for learning to actually care for yourself.
GK: What are you most proud of in the last year?
JMM: I am proud of myself. For doing this. I chose to quit my job and again say no, I care for myself enough that I am going to go search, go find, go drop the bucket. To go believe in yourself and say I can do this, I am strong enough. Whatever comes, I can work with, wrestle with. And I am proud of my friends, they are my other family. I see them blossoming, they are excepting me and loving me. I love them, all of them, and I am proud to know these people.
GK: What is the most beautiful thing about your home country (USA?
JMM: I am seeing that there is a lot of opportunity there. But it’s difficult, it is becoming a crazy place and it is so polarized and people are angry. I think being a leader in a global sense, for example culture, there are so many difficulties with that and I see it almost as something monstrous. But I think that there are things that are beautiful… That New Mexico and places like Big Sur exist there. And that I come from there and my family, there’s people that I love quite dearly. Older ideas that relate down, not the monstrosity that it has become, but I think some of the ideas of pursuing life, of giving opportunity to everyone… I mean in practice it doesn’t happen, but some of the ideals really are quite beautiful. The song of the U.S.- it’s not like an actual song, but the song of the U.S. is beautiful. New Mexico is a beautiful place even though I spent so many years with the fierce desire to leave and to never come back. But when I came back after university and lived there for six month I really fell in love, a deep love. Of course there are some difficult things as well, like everywhere, it’s not like an ideal place where you just walk in the Garden of Eden. But when I see myself later in life, I think I will finish my life there. It’s a high desert, 2000m high, there are cacti, it’s dry, there are mountains and the colours- I think the colours are the most beautiful thing. And there is a lot of authenticity in the people, in the movements that have been and I like it because it hasn’t been pimped out yet, it’s not commodified.
GK: Which habit is important/ useful for you?
JMM: I think discipline… whew, that sounded so sharp! But some type of disciple is very important to me. When I was in Albuquerque and I was going to the group therapy the other cool part about it is that Dr Carey also has a karate dojo. A place where you do karate, but a dojo also is something spiritual, like a place of respect and honour. So he has this place and he invites people from the group. You can’t google it, you can’t call it and just take classes, you have to be invited into the community. That’s just the nature of it, they don’t just want anybody, it’s not commodified, it’s not a place to make money, it really is a spiritual place. I am a student there and it’s everything that I love in one, it’s about spirit, it’s about honour above anything, and respect. And there I trained for 6 month, I got my yellow belt. The karate test I took was one of the most important events of my life. Because it made me say “I can do this, I can own this”.
GK: What is beauty to you?
JMM: Isabel is beauty. But there are many other things… the blue butterflies that fly here are beautiful, the vista. Life is beautiful, human life is beautiful, sadness, darkness is beautiful, songs are beautiful. Pain can be very beautiful. I refuse to put a definition on beauty, I don’t know what that looks like. But I can say things are beautiful. And it’s weird, beauty hurts a little bit. That’s why I think people cry when they see something beautiful- because its fucking awesome!