One hundred days ago, I was feeling a little out of sorts. Not a wreck, mind you, just aware of a need for better focus and a healthier perspective. Instead of blowing it off and moving on as I usually do, I decided to make a change.
And so, I walked into my kitchen, picked up a piece of chalk and scrawled a large ‘1’ with the word RESET beneath it on the chalkboard. I then sat down and wrote up a ‘100 Day Reset’ program which includes things like eating well, focusing on excellence in my work, meditation, family, smiling, showing gratitude, nurturing my physical health, paying attention to small things and, above all, being nice to and more patient with myself. At the bottom of my list I wrote: AFTER 100 DAYS, YOU WILL KNOW THE REST.
Since then, I’ve done my best to pay attention to this program. While I have skipped meditations, missed untold amounts of small things, lost my temper and failed to always deliver excellence in my professional and creative work, I believe I’ve made real gains through repetition and daily awareness of my intention to be and do better. Just the act of wiping away yesterday from the chalkboard has given me a routine that has helped cement positive new habits and gradually erase old ones.
I’m not kidding myself. Three months doesn’t change much. It doesn’t make me a new person. But it has been a new lesson, a new technique in personal reprogramming. I dare say my outlook is brighter, my heart more open, and my balance greatly improved. Sure, I’m still liable to make a bad choice, to take a tumble; but at least I feel like decisions that I make today are coming from a grounded place. That means a lot. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way.
My biggest takeaway has been a simple one: I’m awfully lucky. My life is filled with beautiful people and incredible opportunities. For as much and as vocally as I complain about the injustices in the world, unlike too many billions, I’m far from powerless. I am in a position to do something about the ignorance and inequalities. That’s real and true power, the kind that is not be to be wasted. Yep, that means I have a great responsibility. Here’s the cool part: Pretty much anyone who has the luxury of reading these words is similarly blessed and shares this responsibility. I’m not in this alone, though too often I’ve felt that way. Moving forward, I’m going to do a better job of forging meaningful connections with … you.
Now what? As the great American philosopher Prince tells us in his largely unheralded musical masterpiece Graffiti Bridge, there is “joy in repetition”. Indeed. I think it’s time for another 100 days. Maybe even 1000. Lessons are often short-lived because we tend to believe they’re permanent. That’s a huge mistake and one I hope not to make. Back to the chalkboard for me.
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A lot of years ago, closer to twenty than ten, I was walking through Portland, Oregon (I lived there once upon a time) and I was feeling it. Feeling on the cusp of something great.That feeling was in the air, in my air, moving through my lungs back out into the world where it energized everything and everyone.
You know that feeling, right? When you know, just know, that your time has arrived; that whatever project you undertake, whatever quest you strike out upon, whatever you decide to create, it’s going to be, well, totally fucking awesome.
Walking through my old Laurelhurst neighborhood, that rare feeling swept through me, ripping off old layers as it did, sending them spinning like dead leaves upon the wind far and forever away. I was transformed into a world-beater … if only for a short while.
Funny that this picture, taken in that moment, reminds me so very much of the very (relationship/career/life/wash) cycles that propel and channel our growth and regression. That Feeling quite often strikes more than once. Our lives are not designed as One & Done affairs. Great opportunities come around and around if we but pause to provide the right perch.
That’s not news, really. What I’m trying to figure out is, how much do I have left in the tank to pursue them? The grand enterprise that unspooled after this exposure commandeered the better part of a decade and left me equal parts excited and eviscerated. And the one after that left beautiful scars that I bear proudly. How many more times am I willing to dig as deeply, to expose the very best parts of myself to risk and ruin on my next flight of fancy? Do I have two more big swings in me? Three? Six? When will I refuse to get up from the mat? I’m guessing never, but I confess that sometimes I flinch a little when that wonderful breeze starts blowing.
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(Midi Matilda - Rickshaw Stop May 2013)
What a difference the right frame makes. Whether it’s having a conversation, taking a photo, or thinking about one’s past/present/future, the ability to select from a nearly infinite number of frames of reference (both real and imagined) allows us to play with perspectives to our heart’s delight. Whether we achieve greater clarity or confusion, depends on which frames we pull down.
And so it really does come down to choice. We all have the conscious decision to decide how we want to see the world, how we want to interpret its goings on. While cognitive dissonance typically results from choosing a worldview that is in clear contradiction with reality, the majority of humans voluntarily choose to undergo this paralyzing condition rather than select more truthful vantage points. Why, exactly, escapes me, but I think it has to do with equal parts intellectual sloth and fear of a a very scary and absolutely unrelenting universe.
Hmm… I may be mixing ‘frames’ and ‘perspectives’ a bit loosely here but this is a freeform, one-take blog intended not to convey unique or well-written insights, but instead to get you to look at my PHOTOS. In other words, this is not an ORION article. Which reminds me, suddenly, did you ever read OMNI magazine? The silver-colored pages full of nerdy tidbits? I LOVED THAT MAGAZINE.
Anyway, these days I’ve been choosing an entirely new set of frames and I’ve found that, yes, it’s a nice, simple idea to choose, embrace and empower your preferred view of the world. It may not lead to a different world, but it can make a world of difference.
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Which did you spot first? The woman going up or the man coming down? Or maybe you focused on that enigmatic leg in the corner that seems to be doing neither. This photo, taken not far from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, is one of my favorites because it reminds me, each and every time I look at it, that we see what we to see (now would be a really good time to watch this clip from ‘The Point’) and hear what we want to hear.Today, I want to see the scarf-wearing woman who is making her way carefully up those ancient stairs. And I choose to believe that she’s going to a good home with a great family, and that the life in front of her will be filled with more triumphs than failures, more happiness than sorrow.
Speaking of ‘The Point’, it’s a true masterpiece. The crowning jewel of Harry Nillson’s prolific output, it’s a story, album and movie that stirs some of my oldest memories. Released in 1971 (as was I), my mother would sing the song “Me and My Arrow” to me as a lullaby. Decades later, I did the same to my oldest son when he was a baby. What’s more, his younger brother, Archer, was named, in a fashion, after the very same song.
Ready to listen to ‘Me & My Arrow’? Here you go. MORE PHOTO BLOG
(Bodega Bay, 2013)
The last few months have been the most humbling of my life. During them, I’ve had to face one stark truth: I’ve not been the man that I thought I was. Worse, I don’t know if that man was worth a damn in the first place. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the separation began, when I allowed my life to begin a slow slide. Years ago, but how many I’m still reckoning. It’s a horrifying thing, snapping awake suddenly only to realize you’re careening wildly down the highway of life, running roughshod over everyone and everything you hold most dear in your life, and no matter how you grasp for it, you can’t quite find the wheel. Resisting the impulse to slam on the brakes is impossibly difficult. The right move, however unintuitive, is to let off the gas and coast to a stop. Then, with wits gathered and head leveled, proceed in the chosen direction.
Waking up is easy. Staying awake, in my estimation, will be the greatest challenge of my life. One that I’m more than up for, but one that will require daily contemplation and focused attention.
It’s time to be the father, friend, partner and brother that I was born to be. I’m tossing the rearview mirror and looking forward to the beautiful moments between the many horizons ahead.
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(Justice Masaru North Brilliant circa 2009)
I have this theory. It’s not a great one, or an overly complex one, or even one that really demands that I share it with the world. But, it’s nice to have theories. You can’t hold them, but one can certainly feel pride of ownership, yeah? Yeah.
The theory is that we can heal much of our negative conditioning by simply remembering not to forget ourselves. Let me explain, rather clumsily:
I propose that we are all, each one of us, little more than a compilation of every moment we’ve ever lived. Duh. But wait, there’s more. Perhaps not much more, but else are you doing? Read on and humor me. I think that these ‘layers’ if you will, are completely accessible to us, perfectly unadulterated. You are as much a 7 year old as you are an 18/31/43/71 year old. You need only dive in, examine and bring forth any version of “you” desired.
Here’s the fun part: I believe you can then revisit painful moments or lessons not learned and ‘do it right’. With the obvious anchoring in the present, you can allow memories to blossom, make a deep connection to a different (yet same) self. We all do this all the time… during moments of nostalgia, when laid low by old fears, when brought to tears by certain smells. And once we’re there, why, it’s just a matter of talking to ourselves. We can quiet the scared child, heal the wounded lover, educate where we were once ignorant.
This isn’t hypnosis, nor is it a therapy session. It’s as simple as sitting down and getting out of your own way. We grow old when we forget ourselves. So today, sit down, pick a self from the collection, and say hello. It may sound silly, but I dare you to try it.
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I’ve been struggling with the nature of freedom lately. Mostly as it relates to freedom from conditioning. With our deeply ingrained notions of how life should be, how we should behave and respond and what constitutes ‘success’, it seems that most of us are really about as free as my former fish friend.
Where I used to accept, then scoff at the concept of predestination, I’m realizing more and more that each of is largely predestined to act out a fairly rigid set of behaviors based on incredibly early childhood conditioning. When Asimov created the visionary Hari Seldon in his Foundation series, it seemed beyond belief that anyone could predict with great detail the precise ebbs and flows of humanity’s future (as Seldon did via his new science of ‘psychohistory’), right down to the lives of key individuals. As I sit here tonight, unable to sleep for so many reasons, it seems quite plausible, given our knowledge of exactly how to condition a consumption-based society that blindly obeys primitive religious and social mores.
Yes, we’re all of us, myself included, merely playing out the string. There’s no free lunch and certainly no true free will. Everything is predictable. Everyone has and will act according to programming.
Denis Diderot famously said, “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” But perhaps he should have added (besides “women”) to that: The last advertiser, the last teacher (yes), and (yikes) the last parent.
We slap the chains on young. Very few break free.
(And oh, I’ll sell you a giclee print of this for $240. Edition of 8, signed.)
A couple of years back I was wandering around Venice, California and saw this gutted TV pushed against a fence. More often than not, I’d likely have passed it right by. But this day, it came to me that it would make for a great perspective shift, so I hauled it into the alley. I’m glad I did, as the half dozen or so pictures I took with my little film camera remain some of my favorites.
Sometimes, when we need a new perspective, it takes a little work to find it. The world around us may not change, but grabbing a fresh take on it is always worth the effort.
If you’ve been, you’ll likely recognize this tilting wreck. In a city littered with more antiquity per footfall than any other, somehow this modern ruin is as arresting as any other. Yards away stand buildings that have half born witness to a half millennium of human folly while she survived less than fifty.
There’s a lesson about im/permanence in here but I’m not in a place to plumb for it. I’ll say only that we humans take an awful lot for granted.
More and more I’m embracing the blur. Not just in photography, but in all aspects of life. This isn’t to say that I enjoy a lack of distinction, but rather that I’ve been reminded in a big way that seeking definite clarity is a fool’s errand … that perfect vision often only happens at the periphery and only for a moment. I’m not a very bright guy about many things, but deep down, there’s a pretty sharp (now piercing) voice that has been screaming to me “you need to A) slow down and B) remember that perfect is too often the enemy of good”.
Blur. It’s not just a BritPop band. It’s a way of life.