David Roman, Toolmaker...................................Interview
Often we know more about the intangible than what surrounds us day in and day out. By virtue of reaching for what we desire, we study, and in studying an object it becomes intimate, an “other” part of ourselves that we need, perhaps one we are meant to search out.
I believe it was Abba Joseph who said we should let our desire be like a fire that consumes us. When we desire a thing so much, is it a part of -a reflection- of us, more ourselves than we are capable of being until we find it, manifest it, and then give it away?
A short parable from a book now long lost to me:
Native guy and a white guy are standing on the porch smoking a cigarette. Native guy asks the white guy if the cigarette is holy. White guy says, “no, why would it be?” Native guy says, “well, it wasn’t- ‘til I gave it to you. When I made it a gift, it became holy.”
Meet David Roman, Canadian Mi'kmaq Native and White guy, and my friend:
|“I just wanna make people dream with the work that I do.”|
David is a musician and an artist and a tool-maker and a human being. David walked one of those winding paths, sometimes easy on the pavement, other times forced into the gravel, others run right off the road into the gutter.
Raised in Canada with his parents and two sisters, David’s father’s family was large and tight. But like some of us, he experienced trauma in those teen years that no one should. It put him on the road at extreme speed, breakneck, one might say. David says he was on the fast track to death getting up to 145 mph on his motorcycle. Eventually he was in a head-on collision in 1992. He was thrown 30 feet up and came down on his head. The worst injuries include four herniated disks and extreme encephalitis (brain swelling) resulting in tissue damage, memory loss, and years of therapy at every level. David is still recovering, and still suffering - from night terrors.
David makes masks. Here’s why.
I wasn’t in fight or flight because I was frozen (from 14 to 18 years old). I was in terror for like four years. That is what propelled me to have the accident… Then all I could think about was the pain I was in.
In 1996 I tried to find my memories because I couldn’t remember who I was after the accident. So I was taking like three-hour baths, and light deprivation, and sound deprivation, and food deprivation to get back to reality, to know who I was… and then all the memories came back but I didn’t have the coping skills to deal with them. I was left confused by situations, humor, social interactions. I didn’t understand when faces didn’t match… So I would read out loud after the accident, to try to understand… what commas meant. It was like basics: “what is a paragraph, what does that mean?”
[The accident] really hindered me from comprehension, but it propelled me toward a higher level of comprehension.
Masks were something I was obsessed with because I realized that the tone or sound of the voice didn’t match the archetype of the face. Studying human nature since the accident: the mask has been a reoccurring theme in my life, because there is a necessity to the mask, seduction, euphoria, but also a duality when the tone or the voice doesn’t match the face.
I see a lot of things because of the accident, so I recognize a lot of stuff. It’s hard to be around. I just see people’s agendas really quickly, but I- I do wear a mask because I’m just like, this person insults me, I just play stupid because for one, it’s not worth the confrontation. Also, now I know you more than you know me.
So my mask is a mask of tranquility. I’m not this tranquil. I choose to wear a mask to not ever get to the confrontation stage.
|“I had night terrors for years an then I made masks and thought after a while 'maybe these would work in my dreams.' I made them for my friends and then I realized they might work for me, too."|
The 8 DIMENSIONS
David tells me there are eight dimensions from the void, 0, up to a level of consciousness beyond what most of us aside from transcendental monks can imagine. The 3rd dimension is our day-to-day lives, the 4th is the dream world.
Eight is infinity. So, I feel like there are different levels that create those all the way up to infinity. And each one, you know, from death, sickness, the 3rd dimension- I think when you’re in the 3rd dimension if you’re sick you’ve gone down to the 2nd dimension, closer to death when you have a terminal illness. Death is one, zero is the void which is a representation of the void: death. The void is the negative aspect.
It’s not about good and evil – but there are negative aspects to life and there are positive aspects to life. And the void is… I don’t really quite understand it completely but I think that there’s a negative force. I call it “famine.” And I think famine is the most egregious form of punishment because it’s the slow torturous death.
The COUNCIL of the STARS
I have this belief that there’s a council, something like a council of the stars. The council of the stars is watching the universe or multi universes… maybe they’re different levels of that society but they’re more advanced than we are. Because we can’t even get along based on our religion or color of skin. So how can we know what a deity is when we can’t even get along with each other? I think we are so ignorant… so base still in our existence, as a culture and as a society. How long has it been since there’s been rights to vote for everyone? And how long have we been here on this planet? C’mon! We’re just beginning! How do we even know what a god would be if we don’t even understand each other?
So, it’s all division. And it’s perpetuated. And this perpetuation is part of the void, in my opinion: the famine. Famine, you know, hungry and desperate. It’s negligence for sure. It’s neglecting people and needs, whereas the council of the stars is some kind of euphoric place. It’s a paradise, and these beings are logical and reasoned beyond our comprehension. They are watching what this planet is doing.
What if this planet blows up and shards of it are projected to other innocent planets? How do we have the right to do that to our environment? Our environment is not just this planet; it’s the universe and our galaxy. So, it’s like we’re projecting all this negativity, this world of war. Famine is present right now.
And I think that this council of the stars may intervene if we do that. Who knows? Maybe these beings come down that are like three times the size of us, and you know, their bones are made of iron and their skin of Kevlar – you know what I mean? Who knows? To be something as fantastic as that, be like, “you know what, judgement day is not about God.”
I wanna please the council. Yeah, I wanna please the council. Yeah, cause they need understanding too.
DREAMS & MASKS
I think the exploration of the mask is trying to find the truth. You know? Because I was so confused for so long.
I feel like I’m not confused by people at this point in my life. And I think that if I didn’t have the accident I probably would be… I was really strong, I didn’t know I wanted to die.
I did! I was on a fast track to death! And then, in ‘96 when I was doing all those exercises to try and remember, I remembered that I didn’t really wanna be here, and I spent the last couple, two, three years trying to survive because it was a natural instinct – “oh, I need to remember, I need to like, live! I need to like, fix my body!” That was a natural instinct that brought me back to awareness to live again. To realize that I didn’t wanna really live in the first place! I just spent a bunch of time trying to fix myself and I didn’t even wanna be here?!
MASKS in the DREAMWORLD
So, the investor asked an interesting question; he was like, “so you are an authority on what people will look like in the dream world?” And I was like, “yes, I am an authority on what you will look like in the dream world, at least in my dream!” I will adorn you for the dream world.
The first four masks, I called them the four brothers. My father had 6 sisters and 10 brothers – so 11 boys! So, but 4 of them that have left the planet now – I named them after them. One is Shelby, one is Kavel, one was Melrose, and my father Angus is the mask sitting over there… Angus. And so when I think of them, how I would want them to be presented in the dream world and how they would feel decorated… like a soldier gets a decoration. It can be a color, a colorful badge.
So these are my colorful badges to decorate with love. That’s a decoration of love, because when you put the mask on, not that these are to be worn in reality or the 3rd dimension, but… I’ve had people put masks on and it changes their whole movement. They move differently, they smell it, they smell the leather, they move – their whole body changes because they feel something. They feel something like, something that is more than, or something that is within them that they can express.
I lost my religion for a long time. I didn’t have anything to believe in…and that feels very, uh, like why are you wakin’ up, you know what I mean?
So, the masks are also like having this other world (in the 4th dimension), to have this beautiful headdress, or this mask, or this breastplate, or something that you wouldn’t really walk down the street with. It’s a fantasy that you get to partake in when you sleep. So it takes you in – it’s just like a movie or it’s like what people use religion for, it’s to escape the mundane.
In being adorned by these pieces that someone loves you enough to make a piece for you… you know? Hopefully that also is part of the feeling: “oh, that mask is made for me, wow! That’s cool, I’m gonna put it on in my dream!” You know, so it’s a level of love.
That’s why I love it because I can’t really make a piece unless I have a muse. And even if I’m not making it specifically for that person I’m making it to see their response. Cause that’s what I need for love. I’m making this stuff to be like, “hey, look what I can do!” to see a smile, or a gasp, like, “hey you can do that?!”
My half-wolf, half-Samoyed was my muse [for one mask]. It’s funny cause there was a time when I didn’t know why I couldn’t create anything at all. I didn’t know that I didn’t have a muse anymore. And then my roommate needed a chocolate sign, he makes chocolates. I banged it out in like an afternoon. And he loved it! And I was like, “wow, what happened? I just made this thing!” I’m like, “oh my god, he became my muse.”
It didn’t have to be a woman that I would do anything for. That’s the typical stereotypical muse, different artists they’d have their muse. It can be multiple. And I thought it could only be one muse!
And now I can even make up a muse. The person I don’t even know that I’ll never even see again, but I really wanna make this piece so that I see if that lights up their eyes. “That’s who I am in the dream world, that’s who I am, that’s how I move, that’s the way I walk.”
I believe there’s positive and negative experiences. In reality and in the dream world, so if you’re wearing your outfit in the dream world, wearing your fashionista in the dream world and you come upon an adversary then you’re protected as well as being adorned.
These tools give life through death in the dream world. They (beings in the dream world) are reborn into this world, as human, out of our dream world, and they are given life instead of death. They’re given life to learn, which is the greatest gift. So you’re actually giving a gift to your adversary in the dream. So it’s actually a positive thing.
No longer in the 4th dimensional world, but now they’re in the 3rd dimensional world, but they don’t know they came from that just like we don’t know where we came from. And they have to live a life- the greatest gift is life.
It’s not like all of the sudden you have taken their power away; you’ve actually taken them away from the trap of being in the 4th dimensional world that they can’t experience… falling in love. They get to experience life, all those wonderful beautiful things that we get to experience. So then they don’t even bother you anymore. So then maybe it’s giving life to a certain part of yourself, when you do that. Maybe, you know, maybe that’s like a part of it.
|view from above the tower|
That is something that I’m still trying to figure out, but, you know, those things that are in our dream, some say those are part of ourselves we’re fighting with, so if you give that part an escape out of you, your mind, into reality it could give a more complete version of yourself.
I’m not a fighter at all, but I would go to bat for my friends. And this is my way of going to bat for my friends. In their minds, in their dream life, because I can’t do it in reality. This is my spiritual vigilante. I’m arming my friends in the dream world where you can battle it out for your sanity, for your peace of mind.--
I left David with my mind blown wide open for a number of weeks. Even after transcribing this interview and letting myself marinate in his words for two months, I still find myself chewing on his ideas. I believe that is because I have never been presented with ideas like his before.
So much of David's mind is on the cutting room floor of my Word files. But one thing that cannot remain there is his focus on the plasticity of our brains. How we can continue to expose ourselves to the new or the different every day, and find ourselves exploring more of the infinite universe that is available to us.
In that same way, I think David's gifts let us access another way to see ourselves and manifest parts that are usually hidden or even kept down, left unexpressed. There is a euphoria for me as a writer in coming to see an idea finally articulated, a sense of "yes, that’s it, this is who I am! That’s what I wanna be!" or "That's the idea, that's it!"
David's masks are tools, they become a sort of second living thing – iterations of ourselves in a whole new dimension, we are captured, recaptured, re-iterated? Remembered? And in this re-membering, we are released like the 4th dimension beings, back into the world, to experience it differently.
His masks can become vehicles for traveling back into ourselves and more deeply into new conceptions of this world. The masks are a regalia, the adornment we wear for the ritual of finding out our deeper spiritual selves, the ones that live in our dreams, and can return us to the infinite universe of which we are a part.
David Roman will be part of a group show in coming months; check back here for full details.