“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually.”
- Abraham Joshua Heschel
Matt Goad walked in with a spring in his step, life in his eyes, and a knowing smirk on his face. His voice bounced like a red rubber ball as he introduced himself in the midst of being surrounded and greeted by a handful of other familiar faces in the community who displayed a real eagerness to say “Hi” and catch up with him, if even for just a split second in passing. We were off to a good start and we hadn’t even gotten started yet. I knew from the get go that I was in for a fun and fantastic ride.
We exchanged a few pleasantries while waiting for our respective names to be hollered out loud prompting us to retrieve our cups of coffee. I asked him how much time he had allotted so I could keep us on track: “I don’t know, I have work I could do and a staff to manage but I’m good.” I looked down at my wristwatch, asked if he had thirty to forty-five minutes to spare, he consented, and we were off…
This guy was good with people, engaged in the moment, quick on his feet, eccentric with a touch of quirky, comfortable with himself, readily accessible, surprisingly vulnerable, forthright, sharp, witty, and whimsical. His pump was primed, perhaps it always is, and the words came bursting forth, elicited with what I hope to be a thoughtful question here and there mixed and matched with a gentle prompt and idea floated for his consideration and response. I guess the best word for it would be conversation. Often so lopsided and forced. Not the case today.
Matt began to describe who he is and self-reflect by disclosing the elements of his life for which he feels most passionate:
“I am passionate about art, design, and music. Art is… In the eye of the beholder. Who am I to tell you what you see?
Art is self expression and there is no army mightyful enough to keep me from creating the vision that I possess. I don’t create so that people will like me. I create and stay true to the vision that demands to be expressed so that I might continue to like and actually respect myself. To not do so would be a grievous wrong.”
Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War of Art” talks about how creative or artistic work of any kind is “not a selfish act or bid for attention… It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution,” he implores, “Give us what you’ve got.”
Without missing a beat Matt moves on to talk about the design aspects of his life and time:
“Graphic design, how I am fortunate enough to make my living, is a touch different than art to me in that you have to produce for the client in a timely manner and you can’t always wait for inspiration to strike. But inspiration is typically fond of hard work anyway as the saying goes, so i suppose that my art and my graphic design make for a pretty good pair.”
Each time I find myself in the presence and good company of a true artist, creative, and maker, I’m taken aback by how much the creative process has to teach and show us about living life, and living that life well.
Here again, Pressfield drives Matt’s point home:
“This is the other secret that real artist know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
And if you thought Matt was enthusiastic about the first couple of subjects we tackled, art and design, you hadn’t seen anything yet. This man is a true fan(atical) of music in every sense of the word.
“Music is a big part of my life. I grew up in a family full of musicians. A piano stood in a prominent place in whatever house we lived. And a guitar was always within reach. I got my first job delivering newspapers at the age of 11 so I could save up and buy my first electric guitar.”
Somethings never change, 35 years later Matt’s home is still full of music and art is reverberating off the walls. He visibly lights up like a little boy on Christmas morn as he talks about the rock band that he and his buddies have formed called the Feel Specters. He goes on to totally geek out and go on a full fledged riff about the greatness of the Beatles:
“Greatest band ever! They were all about love which is the most powerful force in the universe. I’m a card-carrying member of that club.”
Even though Matt has managed to maintain his boyish charm and joy, his childhood was fraught with isolation and a hefty serving of family dysfunction.
“My dad was a minister and as a result we moved from place to place, town to town, and church to church every year so I was very alone. I immersed myself in drawing which saved me. And in my adolescents I discovered rock n roll which set me free. My childhood experience was somehow awesome and torturous all the same.”
Now knowing that Matt’s dad was a minister, I couldn’t help but inquire, as to whether or not spirituality was still a part of his life today. “Yes, through nature and the cosmos but not through the bible or religion. I find inspiration and connection in nature, but find no solace in organized religion but certainly respect those who do. All I know is we don’t know.”
Which segwayed and gave way to a provocative back and forth about the wonders of the universe and the vast expanse of its mystery. For me, it has always been the mysteries of faith and spirituality that have kept me. The hard and fast, black and whiteness of religion has never offered much comfort or clarity. It’s the greyness, the unknown elements that have kept me on the search.
More recently my working definition for mystery has shifted and become all the more meaningful and profound. The mysterious is not necessarily something that cannot be known, but rather something that is infinitely knowable. And the infinite cannot be contained. The moment you think you’ve got it all good and figured out is the moment you’ve given all gained ground back up and find yourself at square one
“In an uncertain world,” says Brene Brown, “we often feel desperate for absolutes. It’s the human response to fear. When religious leaders leverage our fear and need for more certainty by extracting vulnerability from spirituality and turning faith into ‘compliance and consequences,’ rather than teaching and modeling how to wrestle with the unknown and how to embrace mystery, the entire concept of faith is bankrupt on its own terms. Faith minus vulnerability equals politics, or worse, extremism.”
For a moment we allow ourselves to sit in the moment and feel the weight of a childhood gone woefully wrong. It hits hard and heavy when Matt recounts, in his own words, “the awesome and tortuous memories. In fact, my own experience of family, has made me hesitant to start a one of my own. And at 46 I still don’t have a family but I’ve wanted one to help fix the broken one I had.”
Matt quickly brings a little lighthearted levity back to the conversation when he pauses and spouts out… “Which is why I wanted to start a band.”
Matt came to Oklahoma City in 1989 to attend college and study design. After a series of internships, opportunities, and first jobs, he purchased his first and current home in Edgemere Park in 1998.
“I was drawn to the urban core for its architecture, design, and feel. I felt like I was in Europe or some other old world era. It was magical, storybook like. Place is important. No doubt. There is a mutuality between people and place. There is something about the craftsmanship and uniquenesses of it all. Streets that are winding all gathered together around a central park.”
I’m always curious to know if the personal journey that people have embarked upon that has led them to a particular part of town contains any universal truths and secrets that can be unlocked and applied more broadly. Matt picks up right where I left off:
“In my opinion, there is a mutuality between people and place. The urban core offers a more humane way of life. It’s more representative of how we are intended to be and live - walking dogs, waving to neighbors, shopping at farmers markets.There’s something inhumane about a 20 minute commute to work or walmart when your commute could be as short as across the hall or a bike ride down the street.”
Matt Goad is among the people, for whom I want even more of in my life, those types who are reclaiming their citizenship. He is not merely consuming the goods and services of the city, nor is he merely participating in the life of the city, he is actively contributing, giving back, even sacrificially so, which is at the core of what it means to be a citizen.
“I’m totally encouraged by what’s taken place in the City; blown away by the effort that has been made. While I’m generally super positive about most everything, I must say that I’m bummed about the historic buildings - like the Stage Center - that have been torn down. In twenty years we will all look back on that as a big and obvious mistake.”
Matt and I reluctantly wrapped up our conversation - time was up. We thanked each other for the exchange. He for my thoughtful line of question; me for his heartfelt and honest response. We gave and we took away. Each one enhanced and made better by the time well spent.
I would say that he’s well on his way to living up to the kind of legacy he intends to leave and the indelible mark made:
“What do I plan to do with this life of mine? I’d like to think that I plan to live the golden rule and create art for others as I’d want it created for me. I hope to be remembered for hard work and positivity. Through my art, I want people to smile and be inspired.”
Something tells me they will do just that and so very much more. For they already are. ⊙
If you are looking for a great community anchored by a fabulous park, Edgemere Park Historic District may be the place for you. Dominated by picture perfect Tudor Revival architecture, the elegantly manicured homes in Edgemere range from stately mansions to charming bungalows. Other predominate styles include Colonial Revival, Spanish Eclectic, and even one Art Moderne residence. Outdoor life and cozy, family-friendly streets are some of the hallmarks of Edgemere Park. The neighborhood is home to Edgemere Community School. Prices start around $200k and go up to $1 million or more.