I woke up this morning to the continued sound of ecological destruction during a time of year when Nature is softest with infinite potential and hope. It pains me to see the steel tines of “progress” desecrate the ancient lands which have given life to countless generations of coyote, rabbits, ravens, snakes, lizards, quail, chuckars, yellow balsam root, sage, rabbitbrush. What was once curvaceous wild hills upon a dark sky is now terraced into submission and polluted with streetlights.
If you are going to pillage the Earth,
break it down
With iron tines of adapted war machines,
called backhoes, bulldozers and rock crushers
Then at least have the courtesy to do it at the high noon of summer
or the dead of winter.
Ravaging in the rain in early spring,
when birds sing their song of hope
where plants brighten with lushness
how flowers show their vulnerability
while soil opens with fertile receptivity,
Pain turns to torturous despair
as the ancestral lands give stillbirth
and the blood of terra erodes,
devoid of life.
The sacrilege of doing something more perverse than what is already evil.
The equivalent of killing somebody, but killing a pregnant woman.
Where evil turns to sacrilege.
Almost half of all calls to your cell phone will be scams in 2019, according to a report by First Orion. But this is not the only reason I block everyone’s phone calls…
It was a dark and auspicious night. The first time I had been to one of my “secret spots” while the sun sleeps. I jumped the barbed wire fence and walked in with my flashlight. While few things scare me in Nature, I got spooked enough to turn back. But it was only then when I heard a distant stream which beckoned my curiosity. I went off trail to find verdant soil of moss, lichen and mushrooms giving me a certain camaraderie out here alone. After carefully crossing another old barbed wire fence and rounding a box canyon, the stream became louder. I shined my flashlight across the valley and saw a waterfall I had never seen before and I am sure no one else knew. The super-blood-wolf lunar eclipse left me in complete darkness where I could look to the sky and see the milky way. Once at the waterfall, I danced with rain drops falling down the tiered stones while the water shimmered with starlight and the moon changed her dress. A beautiful and sacred experience only to be cut short from a phone call late at night. Even in my distant refuges I could not escape intrusion. I was angered by the interruption and did not answer … but also had an epiphany.
The sacred focus on this precious reality I live in is often fragmented by distractions from other people. Even when I do not respond to a call, text or notification it breaks my continued focus which is hard to regain. Like making love and then having the door-bell ring.
I believe the currency of life is not money nor time. It is attention. And tech companies seek to monetize our attention by triggering the addictive dopamine response (same mechanism in cocaine and gambling). The average millennial checks their phone 150 times a day according to a study by Qualtrics. This divides our daily waking time into six and a half minute increments. This dissected attention is a piecemeal warzone of the very thing that defines you … awareness.
Most phone calls are not urgent. As a creative professional I need my sustained focus all day and do not tolerate unwanted distraction. This is why I block all phone calls.
People with their stories, media with it’s opinion and applications with ulterior motives seek to replace my physical reality with their own virtual one. Trying to convince me of a facade reality which will never be as complete as my own authentic one. Or in other words, giving my attention to another’s reality is only a partial experience whereas giving my attention to my “here and now” is a complete experience.
If someone wants to talk with me they can leave a message or send a text.
But of course texting is fraught with unwanted attention drains as well. People quickly realize that texting me is not much different than email. It usually takes me hours and sometimes days to respond to a text. Here is how most people deal with texts…
Fred is going about his productive day being focused in the flow, then he gets a text from his friend Jane. Not wanting to be rude, he responds promptly, but then he gets another text a few seconds later. He spends some time thinking of and composing another text to send, to which Jane responds just as quickly as before. And then the cycle of text-and-response, text-and-response burns a whole half hour out of the day just to figure our where they’re going for lunch. If you have multiple people texting you, this can eat the entire day as well as being a regular interruption of real life.
I’ve defaulted in not responding promptly. Sometimes I will only send one text a day … if that. If a person responds in the usual quick way, I wait to respond till I am in a place where I don’t need my focus which is usually at least a few hours later. This prevents me from getting into a cyclic conversation which burns my time and attention. If things need to be figured out quickly, I will call them since phone conversations have less chance of miscommunication and relay information in a fraction of the time it would take to text.
Seek solitude and be rewarded with the richest life.
Here is a fitting quote by Henry David Thoreau:
“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable [shelter], where no indignity can assail, no personality disturb us.”
“Silence alone is worthy to be heard. Silence is of various depth and fertility, like soil. The silence rings; it is musical and thrills me. A night in which the silence was audible. I hear the unspeakable.”
You’re an artist when you say you are.
You’re a good artist when you make somebody else feel something deep or unexpected. -Amanda Palmer
As a self described individualist taking pride in self-sufficiency, I understand the trepidation in asking anyone for help.
In 2017, I drove my flatbed truck down to Dallas, Oregon to witness the full totality of the solar Eclipse alone — or as alone as I could be.
Driving down there on surprisingly open highways, I thought “once again the media is hyping traffic problems too much, perhaps it scared people from going”.
The eclipse was a powerful experience where tens of thousands of people were all focusing on the same thing and experiencing uncommon collective awe in the magic of existence.
Afterwards I had nothing to do but head back home.
I use the lesser known navigation app “Waze” and thought I was being clever in choosing the Oregon backroads to avoid the congested interstate. It turns out “Jane” told everyone else the same thing.
As time went on and more people decided on heading back home, the winding single lane country roads — as if capillaries — were having serious thrombosis.
Stop and go traffic moved slowly for miles upon miles which made my leg sore considering my five-speed manual transmission. Eventually it slowed to the point where we were stopped for fifteen minutes at a time before moving another twenty feet. Was there a crash?
I finally got out of my truck and jogged two miles to find a four car ferry shuffling people over a small stream. I asked the man how much does it cost?
I don’t have cash. Do you take credit card?
I had to turn around after investing hours on this path.
Anyone else would have asked the nearest person for two dollars, but not me. I had too much pride to beg. I walked back in poor mood with a perturbed countenance.
Someone I had chatted with earlier while walking to the front, rolled down their window and asked what I learned up ahead. I told them my situation and they raised a questioning eyebrow while saying “well, we’ll give you the $2!” I walked the rest of the way with a springy cheer that others could not fathom in this traffic jam.
How grateful I was. And a powerful lesson in realizing we live in an interconnected society where the smallest actions can be profoundly helpful. Perhaps next time I will ask for the $2.
How many other things do I not ask for out of egoic stoicism?
* * *
Amanda Palmer has an excellent ted talk below (and new book called “Art of Asking”) which explores why many people are afraid to ask for things and how important it is for professional creatives to ask.
Asking for something exposes you to vulnerability and rejection. So we retreat into our lonely shells to avoid potential pain but end up moldering.
She presents a novel idea of working for free but asking for help. She encourages people to pirate her music but asks people to help her out. This has yielded one of the most successful music crowdfunding campaigns where she raised over ten times her original ask of $100,000.
It’s not about how to make people pay for art,
rather it’s about how to ask people to pay for art.
I want to add that there is a critical element which she doesn’t explicitly cover in her Ted talk…
When you ask for something, make sure you give something — even of simplest form. When Amanda was a street performer as a living statue, she would give a flower to anyone who put a tip in her hat.
Sometimes the reciprocation is simply authentic gratitude by telling them “Thank you so much! This helps me more than you might imagine…”
With gratitude, good fortune grows. People want to support those with real gratitude as opposed to the ungracious.
* * *
In Maria Popova’s article on BrainPickings, we are reminded that Henry David Thoreau — the man known for living alone in the wilderness in his hand-built cabin — was in fact supported by his mother and sister bringing pastries every week and how the land was given by a rich friend. Do these supporting people somehow reduce the legitimacy of Thoreau’s writings?
We romanticize struggle of the lone hard-scrabble person scratching their way to success or revelation; but it is the loving support we often fail to mention which paves the way for the greatest achievements in humanity. Behind all the heroes in history from Nikola Tesla to Picasso to Lincoln there are the unsung “Mother Teresas” quietly supporting them.
I reflect on how I claim victory for saving a nearby piece of nature from development. I was no “warrior” any more than another. I was just taking action as part of my flow. The supporting ancestors laid the foundation to where I am now. All the illuminating environmental media and books to inspire responsibility, how the canyon was previously saved from development decades ago, how my parents moved me to this area, how my neighbors gave me the letter from the city, how social media allowed me to get the word out, how my parents taught me to do graphic design, etc. etc. The people behind each of these elements are the ancestors who created divine circumstances which prompted me to take action. Most of them don’t realize they laid down the foundation for me to save the canyon and will never know they had a part. I then ask, who supported them? And who supported them? And who supported them? Who am I laying the subtle foundation of support for? This is the “butterfly effect” where we are all constantly creating realities with the simplest actions.
How my saying a simple word can change the course of reality in ways I don’t consciously realize.
When I asked people for their contact information to be part of a group,
when I asked an environmental lawyer to join us,
when I asked someone to file a freedom of information request,
when I asked the newspaper reporter to do a story,
These are all things where asking for people’s support creates the reality we want to live in.
When I read about Thoreau being supported by his mom bringing donuts, I am reminded of another donut story revealed by Jia Jiang’s TED talk “What I Learned From 100 Days of Rejection”.
Whereas Amanda‘s requests were reasonable. Jia’s were absurd. In his experiment to overcome fear of rejection, he went out of his way to be rejected.
The first time, he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger. When he was told no, he effectively ran away.
The next time he asked for a burger refill and when questioned he stayed engaged. But didn’t get a burger refill.
The third time he went to a donut shop asking for a donut shaped like the olympic symbol. It worked and the worker pieced together an interlaced five ring donut.
Besides overcoming his fear of rejection by asking for something, he also leaned to stay engaged and not “run away” when faced with repudiation. For example, asking why they said “no” to the original request usually revealed important things such as it was not him being weird, but rather they were physically unable to.
Or by mentioning their potential doubt before asking, you can overcome their resistance. “This might be weird but would you…”
I could fulfill my life dream by simply asking.
The people who change the world are the people who were met with the initial and often violent rejections. Like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or even Jesus Christ.
These people did not let rejection define them; they let their own reaction after rejection to define themselves. – Jia Jiang
Here is a great Taoist story explaining how — in the great complexity of nature and reality — the judgements we make as to whether something is good or bad are often only true for a fleeting moment. In the grand scheme of things there is neither good nor bad. Things just are.
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”
The farmer steadfastly refrained from thinking of things in terms of gain or loss, advantage or disadvantage, because one never knows… In fact we never really know whether an event is fortune or misfortune, we only know our ever-changing reactions to ever-changing events.
A longer film by Dan Sachar, “Overture” is another melancholic story reminding us of profound archetypes.
Filmed in a post-apocalyptic world, a lone man tries to piece together a broken memory while doting over a delicate young tree in an otherwise inhospitable world. A mysterious woman who seems to have uncanny wisdom and compassion forces him to look at the past and accept what happened to humanity. The desertification of the city slowly expands into the remaining life of nature.
In the end he returns to source and the woman is what I assume as Nature herself.
A short film by Dan Sachar covering powerful archetypes which will bring tears to all but the coldest eyes.
Poetry could be described as art focusing on that which is not said. Or in other words “reading between the lines”.
This video perfectly fits that definition.
Filmed in sepia almost to the point of black and white. A dead landscape showing what is oil or blood dripping down a heart symbol drawn on a wall. Puddling near a dead bird with feathers being blown by the wind. A broken bridge. A man in a truck wearing a gas mask. Drudgingly digs a hole in the dust. He pulls out the body of a woman draped in white from the back of the truck wearing a wedding ring. Of skin blistered with chemical burns. The mask wearing man carries her down the valley of the broken bridge and into the hole he dug. He lays next to her and takes off his mask, looks at the corpse of the young woman and dies next to her from what we assume is a toxic air. The video ends with oil or blood dripping down a heart drawn on a limestone wall. Soberly melancholic as it brings up the ancient archetype of love, loss and grief with and an unspoken undertone of environmentalism.
With search engines, I often tell people to “ask yourself before you consult search engines or external resources…”
While search engines allow us to research things and find inspiration; It is also causes us to no longer ask ourselves what we think and feel about a subject when we have the lazy way of just searching answers online. Too often we no longer think for ourselves but instead ask google. There are two negative potentials here.
Number one is the fact that google can control what you see and what you don’t see. This is centralized control of information. If you ask a search engine a question about genetically modified foods or global warming, your opinion can be based on what the computer shows you whether they are ads, page rank or mere omission.
The second is it often robs people the preciousness of creative critical thinking. You no longer have to think up an answer to your question when you can just search for it via google (or other search engines). But what if new answers would be discovered in the laboratories of our minds if people only thought for themselves? More often than not, search queries yield results from lay people on forums whom often know nothing more than I do or are repeating fictitious misconceptions. This also results in the development of echo-chambers whereby we get increasing polarization of view points through positive feedback loops which do not happen in libraries and book stores.
The old-fashioned way of learning things through other people, books, magazines and our own thinking allows us to be exposed to more varied and experiential view points.
Of course this comes from me … a person who built their own tiny-house version of a library … but I digress.
What music can capture a balance of human emotion? A balance of past and future? Of extroversion with introversion? Of the etheric state of receptivity with the rhythmic state of transmission?
My answer to these questions is Santana’s unusual song of “Future Primitive”. It is a musical composition with topography leading from an etheric calm trance-like sound which brings to mind a place without human existence, this leads to a frenzied drumming which inspires movement and dance. The drumming brings to mind our society of interconnected communication. But gradually this fades back to the etheric state. There is a saying that we are little water droplets in a waterfall who are separate for a period of time, but at the end they join back together in the same river of which they came from. “Future Primitive” begins as we all begin, etheric and unmanifested. From which we are born into a frenzied state of coherent drumming as if the heartbeat of our life. This fades back into the nebulous. This is the cycle of life itself.