Read Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist by John H. Sibley Online


John Sibley was a homeless artist living in the streets of Chicago for six months. His aim in his philosophical essays in "Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist" is to shed light on and humanize a growing global problem. "Being and Homelessness" focuses upon the extreme anxiety and pain of being homeless as an artist, which forces him to live undergroundJohn Sibley was a homeless artist living in the streets of Chicago for six months. His aim in his philosophical essays in "Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist" is to shed light on and humanize a growing global problem. "Being and Homelessness" focuses upon the extreme anxiety and pain of being homeless as an artist, which forces him to live underground and exist in an in-authentic mode of "being-in-the-world." Sibley uses an existential lens to focus on this ghastly problem because the homeless being-in-itself is forged in rootlessness, displacement and their lives are governed by the existential D’s of death, dread and despair. After his dark night of the spirit Sibley believes that being homeless in the world, displaced, rootless, is one of the most terrifying challenges that a human being can experience. "I gazed down into the underbelly of the abyss. I am blessed that I escaped the stygian darkness of the nether world of alleys, bridge viaducts, vacant cars and subways caverns. To escape that region of dread and despair teaches you that pain and suffering are central to the human condition," Sibley writes.In these essays Sibley uses the term being-in-the-world as an experience that makes one acutely aware of that gap between consciousness and objects in the world. Being in the world makes the homeless aware of a distance, emptiness and gap, which separate them from the region of things. The essays articulate a plea to maximize this great nation’s resources, both public and private, to help the wretched existence of the homeless. "I cannot recall the exact day-to-day or month-to-month suffering I endured. But the existential feeling of dread, despair, hopelessness, wretchedness and loneliness still clings to my consciousness," Sibley said.“I write to illuminate the plight of the homeless so that when you see them in libraries, on subways, city busses, local train stations or standing in front of missions like they had stepped out of painter Edward Hopper’s canvas, you won’t judge them, as Anatole Broyard noted, as ‘creatures of the darkness, where sex, drugs, gambling and other crimes are directed against a bourgeois culture that despises them.’” The terrain is Chicago’s Loop, Near Westside and the now abolished Maxwell Street open-air market between 1989 and 2005. The homeless problems have become a Malthusian nightmare not only in Chicago but also in urban areas across the nation and the world. The large population of homeless men, women and children give most cities a Third-World Urbanscape.It would be disingenuous to state that the homeless only need shelter when the problem is much deeper than that. The Government needs to invest in creating a new Integrative Holistic Rehab Center [IHRC] to combat the multiple causes of homelessness. Sibley recognizes the need to heed the words of the homeless, Danish genius, Kierkegaard, who believed that philosophy must recognize the presence of man-in-the-world.The reality is that millions in hard times are only a lost job, a breadwinner's disability or death, a business failure, a lawsuit, a divorce, a long-term illness or natural disaster away from homelessness....

Title : Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist
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ISBN : 9781979452342
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 174 Pages
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Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist Reviews

  • David Lentz
    2019-01-07 16:16

    This courageous and inspiring work of non-fiction by artist, John Sibley, gives a human face to those who live underground among America's homeless. "Being and Homelessness" dives deep into the existential nightmare of having no place to call home while the Arctic wind, known as The Hawk, blows off the lake into Chicago. This book is philosophically wise and challenges us to take better care of those who live in our society with intellectual capital to offer like artists and writers. Among all the vitriol and rhetoric about cutting budgets to fund the most basic needs of Americans, John Sibley's self-portrait of the artist as a homeless man is profound, moving and inspiring. He asks the basic questions about what it means to own virtually nothing and still seek to assert his identity and dignity in a nation which prefers to look the other way. The truth is that many people -- no matter how well off they may consider themselves and even those who can't imagine homelessness happening to them -- are one stroke of capricious catastrophe from living in the streets. So what happens when you are stripped down to the barest of bones and compelled to live on the streets? Sibley's story is not only enlightening about the dignity of man under the worst of human circumstances but it is humbling in its inspiration and victory in the rise of one homeless artist from the depths of deprivation. This story gets down to what it is that makes us human when all we have left is our humanity.

  • Alan
    2019-01-01 14:15

    Do not read this book, unless you’re prepared to lose your place in line, to have your applecart overturned, your ideas upended. As with the harsh Chicago wind, The Hawk*, this book knocks over ideas like trashcans. Forget everything you thought about philosophy, art and “the homeless.” They turn out to be individuals, not a collective noun. Some are painters. Some, philosophers. This one is both, and a writer. Only this specific homeless painter could have written this book, a work with rising patches of genius, like the neck of a giraffe.A penniless man fills with vast culture, more than the billionaire running the White House, who does not dine on water, on jazz, on Velasquez and on Caravaggio: “While listening to Trane’s music and looking at the master’s paintings I was swept into another dimension, which transcended my material impoverishment. Sitting there, I thought, I could have been one of Caravaggio’s homeless models. Or Velasquez’s Moorish assistant whose painting skill rivaled the master’s”(42). This Moorish assistant writes with more philosophy than all of D.C., starting with the idealist Berkeley, who lived three years in colonial Rhode Island near this reviewer. But Chicagoan Sibley’s homeless winter nights disillusion him with God, and lead him to Kierkegaard’s existentialism, his leap of faith from the absurd universe, from the dread and chronic depression experienced by modern mankind (68). (Or modern manunkind as e.e.cummings has it). Other philosophers come up like Schopenhauer and Korzybski. Think you’re familiar with art? Expect to meet, up close, well painted, the unfamiliar with the famous: Basquiat, Emilio Cruz, Frederick Remington, Kerry Marshall, Maurice Wilson, Betye Saar, Pipin, Joseph Yoakum, Cortor, Ed Paschke, Charles White, Pier Manzoni, Norman Lewis, Renee Townsend, Warhol, “Doc” Towns, Venus Blue, Lucius Armstrong, Muneer, Karen Mzique, Stanley Kincaid, Gale Sheri Blackmore, Milton Roberts, Lorenzo Pace,Thomas Hart Benton, Art Green, Gladys Wilson, Judson Brown and Philip London. To name a few. Up close, he sees at Burger King years later a brilliant friend from art school, Maurice Wilson, Yale M.F.A., Seagrams Award winner. “‘Maurice!’ I whispered… He looked at me, squinting, his face Sudanese black with shades of sienna and umber…’Sit down, Sib…they might see you.’ I sat down, wondering what they he was talking about. ‘Who might see me?’ I asked, puzzled as I looked around, slightly paranoid from his words. ‘The FBI, CIA, NSA. I tell you Sib, the muthafuggahs tryin’ to kill me.” I said in disbelief, “Why you, Maurice? It’s your imagination man. No one is after you…Maurice, you got somewhere to sleep tonight? Let me give you my business card.’ ‘No, Sib, I can’t take it. That card may have poison on it…’ I tried to shake the gloom that clung to me as I looked at a broken-down genius. A genius possibly like Friedrich Nietzsche, …who sat in a vegetative state in an asylum for more than a decade”(58). This portrait of his fellow student Maurice follows those of their Art Institute teachers. Sibley finds his route to homelessness c/o the American Court system paved by a couple of stereotypes: All Blacks Look Alike and the Jewish Lawyer. The latter urged a guilty plea because it would result in parole, but also because he did not know anything about his client, an Air Force Vietnam vet. Once he learned DocSib graduated the Chicago Art Institute School and painted, with a magazine article about his art, the well-intentioned lawyer regretted the guilty plea. As well he should, since the wrongful conviction in a cold 70’s December, for stealing $10 from a white woman, a felony, cost the writer his home and a career.Some giraffe-like patches of genius. Leaving at 6PM every evening after working at a temp agency or doing street portraits, “south on State Street listening and feeling the seismic, metronomic whump, whump, whump of the Jurassic jackhammers…Everywhere I saw vehicles that looked like grazing Triceratops wallowing in mud. Giant cranes, bobcats and metallic Brontosauruses. The construction workers wore bright yellow hats and orange protective vests, grafting like soldier ants. They worked with gargantuan, metallic, robotic slaves. “It was like gazing at a Jurassic subterranean nest. A vast pit of forgotten cultures, fossil records, landfills, and an ancient Indian burial ground…tribes like Chicago, Illiniwek, and Potowatomi, civil war soldiers, unknown murder victims, dogs, cats, and the homeless under the subterranean floor.”(69). Additionally, Sibley builds an anthology of interesting quotations, from Orwell, “I wanted to submerge myself, to get down among the oppressed, to be one of them and on their side against the tyrants!”(Down and Out in London and Paris, 1933). To Renoir, reportedly, “A painter also has to paint with his balls”(63). To Julian Barbour, “Some people can pass a Cathedral and not notice it”(27). To Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action was White, how the G.I. Bill in NY and NJ funded fewer than .003% non-white mortgages. Or, back to Orwell, “There is something horrible about being homeless at night. The coldness, death lurking around every corner, the isolation”(Ch 4 epigraph 67).*Singer Lou Rawls calls it The Hawk (70).

  • Jesse Hanson
    2018-12-19 14:28

    A Multi-faceted Look at the Life of an Underground Artist John H. Sibley's new literary work, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist, is an important and welcome contribution, arriving as it does, at a time when the scene of the art world is mostly cordoned off to all but the privileged elect. From my nosebleed seat in the bloody colosseum of the arts—being an underground artist myself—I often found myself cheering along as John attacked the giants, demons and all fierce bastions of that world with eloquence and candor."I was relegated to selling my art on the street level not because I lacked talent but because I was shunned, ostracized and treated like a pariah by both Chicago's white and black art establishments." Taken out of context, as I have done here, I realize it sounds like sour grapes, like the complaint of an artist who has likely not put in the required effort, not stayed the course, or does, in fact, lack the talent to succeed. Not so: Not only has John been practicing and honing his unique artistic crafts since he was a young boy, but he is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His knowledge of the academics and history of art is formidable and that is only enhanced by the practical knowledge of a man of the streets.However, there is much more to Being and Homelessness than a diatribe against the art establishment. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. This chapter deals with the multicultural open-air market atmosphere, highlighted by the legendary Chicago Blues culture that manifested for a period of some forty plus years. I had previously read this chapter, when it was posted on, and found it fascinating. The following is taken from the comment that I wrote, regarding the post, at that time: "This is very gritty and intense. It seems to be written just like someone is talking; telling about, reveling in their experience of life—stream of consciousness. There's just so much in there, almost more than the senses can deal with. Life experienced as a perpetual street fair—exhausting and thrilling at once."Another aspect of John's book that I appreciated was his exploration of Black history in America. Here again, Sibley pulls no punches in presenting his facts and opinions: –example of facts: "The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 to establish 244 years of slavery.Contemporary African Americans have only been free 139 years, using 1863 as a benchmark, which means that blacks were slaves 105 years longer than we have been free."–example of opinion:"The salient fact is that black Americans are still reeling from the dehumanizing effects of the former slave trading nations of England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the US."I certainly am not a fan of John H. Sibley's every opinion. I don't personally agree with his outspoken political criticism of Barack Obama, and especially with his endorsement of Herman Cain—I at first thought it was a huge literary blunder for him to include such opinions in his book. But after ruminating on it for a while, I think I can see a reason for the inclusion. His main point seems to be that Obama, although a black man, is not an "African American". "Obama's world is not the one of American slaves like my ancestors." Sibley is exploring the experience of the American descendants of the slaves. Fact is—and I can't deny it—Obama is not one of them—Cain is. It's a pure issue of identification.For those of you who may have read Sibley's novel, Bodyslick, this work is, in my opinion, much more palatable. It is, in fact, as has been mentioned in another review, a fast and easy read. For the most part it takes me back to my earlier reading of Chapter 8, The Lost Culture of Maxwell Street. The editing is questionable—I hope you won't let that bother you. If you have an interest, even a curiosity about the life of art, outside of the mainstream, spoon-fed versions, this book will be of interest to you. If you have an interest in the causes and experience of the homeless, this book will interest you also, though it is not its main theme, despite the title. Recommended: by a fellow underground artist.

  • John Doe
    2018-12-22 19:23

    I saw a priest on the Tavis Smiley show, and he was arguing that the church should be like the book of Acts, believers going out into the world, speaking the truth, getting arrested. What the priest was doing was calling into question people who attend Sunday services and primarily receive religious entertainment. Similarly, Sibley questions the passive "emotionalism" of the contemporary church in addressing deep injustices and poverty.What do communities of faith have to offer the homeless besides a free meal and a soft bed? In his essay, Sunday Morning, Sibley notes his reason for attending church services. Sarah. A beautiful woman, who attends his church and serves food afterword. She treats Sibley like a man and encourages him. She reminds him that there is no theological difference between rich and poor and that in faith all things are possible. Sarah gives him hope.While the book is called Being and Homelessness, much of it is about being a black artist in the racially divided city of Chicago. Sibley writes that being homeless taught him that he was a man before he was an artist. This may simply mean that people with empty stomachs don't worry about the meaning of life, but I want to challenge Sibley to pursue this line of thinking further. Specifically, I would encourage him to read Martha Nussbaum's debate in the Boston Globe with several contemporary philosophers called For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. She argues that our primary obligation is to the greater tribe of human beings and not to any smaller group. Even though we sometimes feel a certain solidarity with those that are like us. Moral progress is always in the direction of helping people who are different than you are.Sibley writes clearly, and his thinking is lucid. He defends the importance of affirmative action. He even weighs in on black conservatives and the Tea Party. And he confronts the issue of homelessness and mental illness. I absolutely devoured this one! A quick easy read that is thoughtful and well done.

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-01-01 13:30

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)If John Sibley's name sounds familiar, it's because he's the author of the over-the-top urban post-apocalyptic actioner i>Bodyslick, which I named a top Guilty Pleasure here in 2011; but it turns out that Sibley himself has had an even more sobering and fascinating life out in the real world, becoming homeless twice in recent decades even while pursuing higher-education options in creative fields. And now he has a memoir out about his experiences, Being and Homelessness; and while I'm forced to admit that it wasn't my particular cup of tea (I don't have much of an interest in the subject to begin with, disagree with Sibley regarding some of the political issues involved, and also found his writing style to be overly rambling and unfocused much of the time), let me also say that this is an unusually well-done book for this kind of topic and author background, and that those who have a greater natural interest than I in the intersection of art, philosophy and social welfare will undoubtedly find this a fascinating and worthwhile read. A meandering title that often makes its points in a roundabout way, some are bound to find this a clever and unique approach to the entire subject of "the homeless," while others are bound to tire of it quickly; this should all be kept in mind before picking it up yourself.Out of 10: 7.8

  • Mysterium
    2019-01-11 19:35

    Insomnia and I have a very sick relationship. I damn and curse it for making me feel like I am wandering around in an altered state of unrest. I secretly invite it into my bed chamber as it gives me a peaceful respite from the world and my mind to sit and become absorbed into awesome books. After a restless night a few missed slumbers ago, I had my heart touched by John Sibley's amazing book, Being and Homelessness.Wow!! This book is deeply profound. John is one of those rare souls that one is lucky enough to encounter that can take you by the hand and give you a tour of the "real picture". He is an artist in more ways than one. His words are filled with dimension, texture, colour, grit, focus, and realism. He shows us the side of homelessness from the perspective of a man held hostage, a fighter, an educated mind, a thinker, a mover and a shaker, and most importantly a person of dignity and great worth. Our society is so quick to cast off the homeless and attached a label on them. They are viewed as present day lepers sadly by far too many people. As a former mainline pastor that witnessed the hypocrisy of so many self proclaimed Christians, that would use the homeless to stroke their own pious egos, I had to laugh at John's depiction of some of the stereotypical pastors that came down to "save" these poor souls. It isn't sin that made them homeless, it is a broken system and a society that worships money and colour (as long as you are the right colour of course)that holds so many down like a boot to the neck. Needless to say, I tore up my Christian orders and became an Interfaith / Interspiritual pastor that cast off all of the bullshit and judgement of my fellow "clergy" and focused my attention on people, regardless of their social status, gender, colour, creed, etc.It sickens me how so many churches will go to the shelters to preach and give out hotdogs and beans. Force the "hostages of economics" to listen to the message, say the proper responses, give their souls to their Christ, and then, and only then, feed them. When the "colour outside of the lines" pastor like myself, proposed to feed them first, not lock them down and force religion on them, and show them good deeds that make people want to stay and listen, as opposed to making the homeless run a maze to get the food pellet at the end, I was shunned by my colleagues. When I proposed to open the church to them, I was reprimanded and told that we would lose our regular members (insert cash flow here) if we filled the pews with people on the streets. I guess I must have hit my head after seminary, as I had always thought that the man we modeled our religion after was a homeless man who didn't judge or exclude?? I guess that gets filed away with all of the other myths of religion and explains why there is a mass exodus (no pun intended) of followers of organized religion and clergy, me included. The Kool Aide has finally run dry, at least for us.John's book spoke to my heart in my own terms. It is beautifully eloquent in some sections by using wonderful imagery to describe the city and its inhabitants and then shifts to graphic street language to illustrate the brutal reality and harshness of life without a roof of your own over your head. This is the perfect balance. Life isn't always about politically correct language and verbiage, life can be as chaotic as a Pollock painting filled with wonder and awe one moment, and then be a huge pile of shit that smears on your shoe the next. This is real life, and John is an artist that paints is pictures using only real life as his media.Reading this book is like walking along side John as he revisits his life on the street. It is entertaining, an eye opener, and damn frightening at times. Chicago is not an easy city...especially on the streets. I have felt "The Hawk", and it is not forgiving at all. John shows the reader that sometimes you have to scrape away the grime to see the blessing and the beauty. We need more Johns in the world to remind us that we all bleed the same colour of blood and shed the same tears.Do yourself a favour and pick up Johns book and read it. Review it, and pass it along so others may do the same. It is well written and from the heart. I hope that parts of it speak directly to you as it did to me. My prime example of this rests on the work of Caravaggio. Caravaggio's works have always spoken to me. Though I have very liberal views of theology, I ave always been attracted to religious art. I think the only reason I stayed Roman Catholic as a youth was the fact that the church was much like an art gallery. It wasn't until I learned via John, that Caravaggio was a rebel in many ways and was shunned for not conforming. That describes me as a pastor 200 percent!! Thank you Brother John for giving me the missing link as to why Caravaggio is a hero in my book. Oh, and you are now in those ranks as well. Peace to you and keep up that fight!!!

  • Stephen
    2019-01-09 14:26

    I received this book from the author for a review. I had previously read his fiction work and was very interested in an opportunity to read his non-fiction.John Sibley is an intelligent man, an artist and philosopher who has experienced life through many lenses and filters. He has seen the highs and the lows. The lowest point, which is the focus of most of this book, saw Mr. Sibley become homeless.'Being and Homelessness' is a series of essays that discuss a myriad of social issues (from poverty to racism and beyond) through the POV of a Chicago artist who has suffered the trials of homelessness. He explores societies biases and prejudices as he has experienced and/or learned them. The author tries to avoid the usual counter-bias that we often hear these days. Yes, he is as guilty as any of us at times, letting the clouding influence of personal experiences create a skewed viewpoint that he presents as 'fact'. But, mostly he writes with clarity and conviction backed with research and balance. In some of the essays Mr. Sibley writes in a form best described as 'stream of consciousness' and the ideas flow like a river from one to another while remaining connected and organic. I enjoyed the times when he used this style because it felt like I was riding along in his thoughts, seeing things directly from his mind's eye.My views and perspectives form a polar opposite to those of the author: I am white, social conservative, from a small town in the Southwest. So, reading this book had a bitter-sweet feel for me. I have never been in a minority (as a white male in the US). I have never been homeless. I have never had to experience the barriers placed in the system that held me back. I have no love for Liberal, Progressive ideology. However, I did relate to the narratives in the book. I felt pain when reading about the conditions of the homeless in Chicago. I felt anger when the author discussed the government's plans to dismantle the heart of Chicago's Blues heritage. I felt ashamed of my cultural ancestors who caused so much devastation to minorities in America for generations.On, the other hand, the author does not connect as well with me when his narrative digs deeper into his politics. He quickly dismisses the 'personal responsibility' platform of conservative politics by using common rhetoric. He provides a short discussion that blames, among other things, drug addiction and criminal behavior (two things that stem from personal choices)for so much of the poverty and problems in America's minority communities. While I think his views are interesting and well thought out, I have trouble empathizing with those who discount 'personal responsibility' as a prime requisite for functional society.Moving past the discussions of social ills and politics, Mr. Sibley discusses faith, Christianity, and other supernatural elements. These discussions were the highest points in the reading for me. The author has been in a position to have existential crises and has come back from the edge. His ideas on religion, belief, and supernatural reality feel spot on to me. I would really love to hear more from him about his thoughts on divine beings as well as supernatural experiences. Without spoiling anything, I will mention that a single paragraph about an odd paranormal occurrence has peaked my interest and I hope to learn more about it from the author someday.To conclude, this is a book that will challenge a reader to re-examine your beliefs, biases, and positions. It will cause inner reflection and lots of future research and/or conversations. I recommend this book for anyone who has lived to walk in the same paths as the author. But, more importantly, I recommend this to everyone who has never experienced any of these things. If you have never been homeless, unemployed, discriminated against, or arrested then you must read this. Learning about the experiences of others helps us to prepare ourselves for events that may occur in our lives. Mr. Sibley has provided some lessons right here for all of us.Highly recommended!!!

  • John Sibley
    2019-01-01 20:16

    I completed the first draft of Being and Homelessness at the Fox River Hotel in room 24 at 306 N.River Street,Aurora, Illinois on March 25,2010. It is a Hotel where Edgar Alan Poe would had felt at home.Beacon-News. January 6 ,2012 1:08 pm"Hesed House experience contributes to writer's being" http://

  • Skyler
    2018-12-27 18:27

    *I received a free copy of this book through the GoodReads First Reads Giveaway.This array of essays from John H. Sibley shows a different side of Chicago. It's a side not everyone has seen, a side not everyone wants to be privy to. But it exists. The author's time living on the streets as a homeless artist offered him a new perspective from which to view the world. "I looked at them with indifference as they gazed at me. I had seen so much violence in this subterranean hell that I was numb. Anesthetized. A hopeless silence rose among us. There was no need for words. We all knew the horror of surviving on the edge of the abyss. But some of us reacted differently." He describes the Chicago art scene with a sense of warmth and feeling, emotions that were rekindled after his emergence from the abyss, a hiatus of homelessness and poverty. Through his use of quotes and references, John Sibley highlights the problems with racism and xenophobia that exist in the United States. And perhaps my favorite essay in this memoir is the one that recounts Sibley's encounter with his peer, Maurice Wilson, at a Chicago Burger King. Wilson, a genius and fellow artist, had been led down a path that descended into paranoia and ultimately madness. Sibley relates, "I tried to shake the gloom that clung to me as I looked at a broken-down genius." Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist makes no apologies for what it is and kudos to John H. Sibley for his gritty honesty in telling his story. From the historic blues music of Howlin' Wolf on Maxwell St., to Little Man clutching a butcher knife to the throat of a fellow human being, this is one memoir about which I can honestly say, I'm glad I gave it a chance. It was definitely worth it.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-15 17:22

    I feel that John Sibley's "Being and Homelessness – Notes From An Underground Artist" is an important read. What I enjoyed about his book is that it wasn’t what I expected thus forcing me to reexamine my perceptions and images of who the homeless are. An artist and writer, John Sibley unexpectedly found himself homeless in the late 1970’s. Despite what you think, this book is not about John Sibley’s journey in, through, and out of homelessness. While I would have liked to hear how he managed to stop being homeless, he does not really tell us that. He does, however, describe some of his experiences and his words paint a stark picture of what that reality is for those who have to sleep on the street or in homeless shelters. He is able to give us a glimpse into a world that most of us hope and pray we will never see. If you read "Being and Homelessness", you will be able to see part of a world that most of us hope and pray we'll never experience. You’ll also see how our country has failed to adequately address the needs of poor people who should never have ended up in this situation.Nevertheless, "Being and Homelessness" isn’t only about homelessness. Rather, it is one man’s view of how it was for him. His collection of essays about his thoughts on myriad subjects – art, music, Afrocentrism, math, treatment of the mentally ill, politics, and Pres. Obama’s dilemmas and failings to name just a few. Some of it was actually difficult for me to grasp and so I felt challenged. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps our minds from ossifying and with that in mind, I recommend that you read it.

  • Emma Stephens
    2018-12-26 13:28

    It was impressed upon me in childhood that homeless people choose that path, either because they don’t want to work or are otherwise rebelling against society. Of course, now I understand about mental illness, addiction, and other contributing factors, but it never occurred to me until after I read John H. Sibley’s incredible story that ending up on the street could have easily happened to me or you or anyone dealt a crummy hand in life. Many of us would not overcome such an ordeal as he painted in his remarkable memoir. It is hard to imagine someone so gifted ending up in such a situation, but it is clearly that gift that kept him from staying there. His desire for understanding his place in the world, no doubt, gave him the inspiration to change his destiny. Absolutely commendable!

  • Della S.white
    2018-12-21 17:18

    Sibley addresses the issue of homelessness from an intellectual standpoint in a brutally honest way. I should mention he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he’s a painter, and he wrote the science fiction novel Bodyslick. His love of art, literature, and music shine through at various points in the book. It’d be easy to talk about his beautiful chapter on Maxwell Street in Chicago, or the insightful and timely chapter on Obama’s 2012 dilemma. I feel that John Sibley's "Being and Homelessness – Notes From An Underground Artist" is an important read. What I enjoyed about his book is that it wasn’t what I expected thus forcing me to reexamine my perceptions and images of who the homeless are. An artist and writer, John Sibley unexpectedly found himself homeless in the late 1970’s. Despite what you think, this book is not about John Sibley’s journey in, through, and out of homelessness. While I would have liked to hear how he managed to stop being homeless, he does not really tell us that. He does, however, describe some of his experiences and his words paint a stark picture of what that reality is for those who have to sleep on the street or in homeless shelters. He is able to give us a glimpse into a world that most of us hope and pray we will never see. If you read "Being and Homelessness", you will be able to see part of a world that most of us hope and pray we'll never experience. You’ll also see how our country has failed to adequately address the needs of poor people who should never have ended up in this situation.Nevertheless, "Being and Homelessness" isn’t only about homelessness. Rather, it is one man’s view of how it was for him. His collection of essays about his thoughts on myriad subjects – art, music, Afrocentrism, math, treatment of the mentally ill, politics, and Pres. Obama’s dilemmas and failings to name just a few. Some of it was actually difficult for me to grasp and so I felt challenged. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps our minds from ossifying and with that in mind; I recommend that you read it.

  • Tracy
    2019-01-13 13:22

    Anyone who pays attention to the news knows race relations in the U.S. have been especially tense. That’s just one dimension of the problems written about like John Sibley, who shares in his book, Being and Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist, his experiences while homeless in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. He calls homelessness a fate worse than death.The author uses vivid descriptions to show you around the Chicago streets he lived on, letting you see the city from his perspective. Perspective is a key word here. Mr. Sibley uses his education and experience as an artist to muse on the role of perception in many of his experiences. Most people who haven’t experienced homelessness themselves can’t imagine what it must be like, and most don’t think about it. We can think of poverty as something we need to address and even try to help. But until we can see through the eyes of someone who has experienced it, we can’t understand, and it can be difficult to be truly compassionate. In this book, you are shown the gritty details by someone who has been there.Like many of those facing poverty and homelessness, he was a military veteran before circumstances left him without a roof. He was also educated, married, and healthy. As he explores his own experiences, he also introduces others who have been disenfranchised: another artist, once considered a budding genius and now suffering from mental illness and poverty, a mathematician and former academic in similar circumstances, and others. He takes care to show readers the people who are often seen by others as less than human or unworthy of concern. If they are seen at all, that is. Mr. Sibley reminds us the homeless are often invisible in the world. As he puts it, he and others like him are ignored because, “I am a constant reminder of not adhering to the American Dream: job, house, family, dog, a white picket fence […] I am a nightmare that makes you wonder about your own vulnerability.”From the beginning, Mr. Sibley states he is writing with a focus on the experience of being homeless rather than discussing the causes. I found, however, he spent a good amount of time on those causes. I can’t fault him, though, because I imagine it would be impossible to find oneself living on the street without contemplating how it happened, especially for someone who seems so introspective. Throughout the book, he considers issues of race, class, and other classifications that have proved divisive. As he navigates his experiences, he touches on the institutional racism that has set black Americans behind economically and kept them there; the growing income inequality that continues to make it harder for anyone to keep their head above water; the discrimination faced by convicted criminals who have served their time and are trying to merge back into society, but who can’t find jobs or housing; the need for compassionate treatment for those afflicted with mental illness; and the humiliation that prevents many from seeking help.The book isn’t an easy read. Don’t get me wrong – it’s compelling and I ended up barreling through it much faster than I expected to. The difficulty is in the despair and desperation of the people you meet, in the pain felt by people who society as a whole refuses to acknowledge, and in the unnecessary violence and death they are subjected to. Unsurprisingly, these experiences colored Mr. Sibley’s world view and shook his faith, both in God and in humanity.But not permanently. Throughout the book, he also notes the same circumstances that challenged his faith ended up reaffirming it, and he states, “Being homeless taught me to enjoy the basic human pleasures in life: family, a good meal, a comfortable home.” He stresses the importance, no matter what your circumstances, of hope to get you through.Despite these rosy notes, Mr. Sibley’s story is not heartwarming, and it’s not meant to be. He has written an account of the raw, harsh, and troubling account of a world many look past without seeing and asks you to remember it’s a real place, with real people and real pain. Stories like his need to be heard.Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book and asked to provide an honest review. All the thoughts expressed here are my own.

  • Nikki Johnson
    2018-12-27 15:25

    Have you ever thought how easy it would be for your life to turn around in an instant? That someone else's mistake, one circumstance of ignorance, can take away everything you had – your family, your friends, your career, even your home?Do you ever think you could lose all this, just because you’re not the “right” skin colour?Being and Homelessness follows the journey of artist John Sibley, who, due to unfortunate circumstances, found himself without a home and without family, pursuing his street art to survive on the streets of Chicago.The city is mean, and the culture of art even more so, as John struggles to find a place within society. Gripping, powerful, and eye-opening, this book tackles the brutal truth of homelessness and artistry in America, told through hard-hitting words by the brilliant mind of John H. Sibley.With introduction by Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Being and Homelessness is one book you can’t put down – a true-life story that will change your perception on one of the major problems facing the world today.

  • Jude Arnold
    2018-12-20 19:19

    Thank Goddess, I’m not homeless anymore! I was from 1984 to 1999. And I certainly hope YOU are not ever homeless! John Sibley writes about the 6 months in which he was homeless in Chicago. John Sibley is an internationally acclaimed author and artist and is a substitute teacher. He studied at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and he served in the US Air Force in Vietnam as a security policemen. As an online friend, I wrote a review of John Sibley’s first book, BodySlick. It is a fast paced, futuristic novel. Being AND Homelessness: Notes from an Underground Artist by John H. Sibley is quite different. It’s more like a documentary and a research report. Approximately 150 sources are credited in the back of the book listed according to the 15 chapters. At times Being AND Homelessness is kind of sweet and innocent; then at other times it’s quite heavy and intellectual.Here’s some of the references I found intriguing: Derrick Jenson in The Culture of Make Believe says our culture says if your American Dream turns into a nightmare it’s your own damn fault; Marx said religion drugs men with heavenly hopes that take away the need to do good here and now; and one of my favorites, C.S. Lewis said most of the evil and suffering in the world has been produced by human beings. In Democracy Matters by Cornel West (I like him a lot too) white suburbanites and middle class blacks wall themselves off into comfortable communities averting their eyes from the ugly realities affecting so many. According to Kerry James Marshall, blackness stems from the invisibility of blacks and the negative connotations associated with darkness. Emilio Cruz quotes Alfred Korzybski, whatever we say a thing is, it isn’t!In one of the chapters John is talking about all the terrible events we’ve witnessed, like Katrina. He says something far more sinister than global warming is behind the devastating disasters befalling Earth in our lifetimes. At another point he is talking about how people become homeless and socially outcast; “When the cultural gatekeepers will not accept you, your options dwindle.” John identifies many severely mentally ill homeless as diagnosed with a cocktail of disabilities and unacceptable to society. The statistics he sites were unclear whether they were per day, month or year; but suffice it to say that many of the mentally ill let out of institutions have gone on to commit murders, usually of other homeless people. How can the ghetto become a source of wealth? These 3 facts can make it happen, says Freeman Dyson; solar energy, genetic engineering to make the solar energy usable, and the internet to develop skills and talents to operate these systems.Maxwell Street, John asserts, is a historical treasure and a uniquely important landmark. The history of music and the blues constitute Chicago’s greatest claim to fame. He suggests creating a blues museum out of a storefront on Maxwell Street.Being AND Homelessness includes an entire chapter discussing Tom Clancy’s book Rainbow 6 where the homeless replace lab rats. Sinister scientists reap billions of dollars from genetic commerce. I understand the irony of the free market where everything is transformed into a commodity. As a health professional I could not agree however with John’s take on “Body Works.” That was that show of the polymer preserved bodies, organs, systems of vessels and nerves. For me it was totally cool, educational and scientific. We’re getting close here to some other issues I’m sure John would not agree with me on, so moving on…. I am totally aware how slavery continues today in the human trafficking markets. It grieves me terribly that one in 3 black males are incarcerated, on probation or on parole. John wonders if there is a pathologic genetic memory of slavery. He points out that contemporary African Americans were slaves 105 years longer than they’ve been free.John goes on to talk about his view of Black History being totally interwoven into the fabric of America. He asserts Black History is really equal to American history and should not be put in an ethnic box. Myself and not being Black, I can only say I know many Blacks who want to honor and study and live their AFRICAN history. You know from Africa? Kind of like me wanting to explore my roots back to Glastonbury, England.John ends his book talking about what a disappointment Obama has been. Obama lead a privileged lifestyle and attended tremendously elitist private schools and universities. Obama escaped the rite of passages of most black men in America. John calls Obama “ball-less, weak and spineless.” In concluding this review, I’m going to makes some suggestions. All those foreclosed homes? Give ‘em back to the home owners! All those abandoned buildings in all the downtown areas? Give them to the homeless and the 99%! We’ve got to learn to get along with each other. We need to have honest open discussion about the ethical and moral dilemmas facing us. Finally, we’ve got to do more ceremony, a lot more ceremony, where we are feeding the Spirit world. Forgiveness ceremonies! Healing ceremonies! We must heal the past wounds. We’ve got to remove the blocks to Peace and Love!

  • Matthew L.
    2018-12-25 18:21

    I met John Sibley on a cold winter day, right around the holidays, when we shared a table at McDonald’s to talk about his new book, Being and Homelessness. I wrote a story about his efforts and experiences for the local paper. As John told me more about his homelessness experience, I looked outside and wondered what that would be like here in Aurora, and in nearby Chicago. Winter weather can be brutal on the walk from your car to the store. Now try and imagine living permanently in that environment. Just the thought makes me shiver. It’s easy as a freelance journalist to just pick up and move on to the next story. Something piqued my interest enough in that first encounter however, to see what the full book was about. I bought a copy and kept reading, and I’m glad I did. Sibley addresses the issue of homelessness from an intellectual standpoint in a brutally honest way. I should mention he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he’s a painter, and he wrote the science fiction novel Bodyslick. His love of art, literature, and music shine through at various points in the book. It’d be easy to talk about his beautiful chapter on Maxwell Street in Chicago, or the insightful and timely chapter on Obama’s 2012 dilemma. But his chapter “Wild Dogs” is probably the most powerful look into some of the dangers lurking in this world. My initial reaction when he makes the claim earlier in the book that homelessness is a worse punishment than death for any human, is that he’s being a little dramatic. But then he takes you into a world where you must position yourself for survival. You need to scrounge for your next meal. You don’t know who the person is next to you. Hunger, gangs, and the threat of death lurk around every corner. Any day can bring challenge that you are not prepared to handle. These conditions combine to turn the homeless into vicious animals, Sibley says. In the “Wild Dogs” chapter, Sibley comes to his friend’s defense as he was being bullied for his food. What the friend fails to tell Sibley is that the attacker has some serious gang ties. Sibley takes you through his confrontation with this man in a way that will elevate your adrenaline and make you feel like you’re preparing for the street fight. “Wild Dogs” is a chapter about the unknown. It’s about not knowing what lurks around the corner on any given day, feeding the fear of uncertainty, and creating an environment that could tear strong people down. In this way, Sibley makes a strong argument for homelessness being worse than death. Most of us are one disaster away from this type of fate—and we’ve heard that before. Whether it be job loss, a health catastrophe, or family turmoil, they can all wreck us, but we choose not to think about that because it’s uncomfortable. Sibley jolts us from our comfort zone, and for that alone, this is a powerful book worth reading.

  • Georgia
    2019-01-16 15:22

    Being and Homelessness - Notes From An Underground Artist, John H Sibley's discussion of homelessness in Chicago, doesn't take the more usual voice of the victim listing the reasons why he found himself living on the Chicago streets. Despite his extended time existing on the street, there is no victimization in his voice, no rage against the machine (readers familiar with Chicago understand 'machine' takes several meanings in this case) and he makes it clear he found no glamour in being homeless.Instead, Sibley writes as an observer given uncommon access to a way of life. Sibley steps back from his personal experiences to better observe the homeless community around him. With each observation, Sibley defines what he sees, then details the 'death by a thousand cuts'-type political moves and modifications that have brought our society to this point - where the increase of homelessness is now viewed as collateral damage in the daily fight many of us wage to keep our own financial heads above water. Sibley's writing style reflects his artistic training as he 'samples' the words of other notables throughout his book. Quotes from experts, past and present, are woven into his conversation and lend weight to his discussion. This book has not been dumbed-down to appeal to the mass market reader. Sibley's Being and Homelessness insists the reader sit up and pay attention - and he's right to do so. That is the only way the homeless culture will change. It is interesting to note that since Sibley published Being and Homelessness, the State of Illinois has elected a new governor who's political agenda and attitude bodes poorly for Chicago's homeless. The new governor would do well to read John Sibley's book.

  • Keeley
    2019-01-06 16:36

    Got this in a first reads giveaway.I feel like Mr. Sibley is really onto something in his seeming assertion that one cannot really examine his own existence until he is financially or emotionally destitute. In this book, the author becomes homeless and manages to survive, unlike so many others. He has a unique viewpoint that is not often heard from, and the ease with which he weaves the subjects of racism, poverty, isolation, philosophy, and even music, together is impressive. Some people crumble under intense situations, but Mr. Sibley seems to have gained tremendous strength and insight.