You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by, you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. -Seneca
I have started this post three times now. The last few weeks have been difficult in getting in the proper mindset to write a blog post. My process is a little hit and miss. Typically I will read something, most times it has nothing to do with art, but may touch on creativity or the grand scheme of life, and that will spark questions that feel I need to find answers for. This is always on a personal level. I am not here to answer questions about how others should live or what others should or shouldn’t do.
On a very personal level, I find living a meaningful and insightful life hard. I don’t mean for that to come across as a negative. Just because something is hard does not mean it is not good, or great, or tremendously rewarding. My thought has always been, anything worth doing is worth doing right. Sometimes, maybe most times, that “doing it right” is very very hard. I also believe most good things in life take a lot of hard work. So I prefer to view “hard” as something that when accomplished will have great benefits.
Last month I read an article at On Landscape by Guy Tal. I have admired and enjoyed Guy’s writing since the first article I read years ago. The article mentioned a simple premise, if I were the only human on earth would I still photograph? When I first read the article I was just reading for enjoyment not stopping to ponder any specific ideas or questions as they might apply to myself. As I frequently do, I re-read this article again recently and the premise for this post began to form. I got to the part about being the only human and if so would I continue to capture images and create photographs. Without concern for how Guy answered this I stopped and attempted to put myself in that situation.
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. -Socrates
I honestly have no idea if I am an odd human, my suspicion for years has been that I am. Or at minimum somewhat of a misfit. For most of my adult life I have had questions about myself and possible if my mind just works outside the preconceived normal realm. Upon rereading this article my mind immediately went with this idea of, if I were the only person on earth. I have no problem doing something like this. Placing myself in a made up world, a fantasy place, complete with all the trimmings. I can do this to the extent that I have even found myself weeping while in the midst of my dreamlike states. My hypothetical world, in my mind, is nothing like the world I live in. I mean not even close. I am not sure if I just digressed into explaining that or if it is somewhat relevant.
As I placed myself in a world where I was the only human, I imaged all the beauty that I have seen in my life, plus a plethora more. I could not think of a reason I would photograph it if I were indeed the only human left. All I could think of was setting and enjoying any number of scenes for as long as possible. I can imaging setting on a hill over looking a beautiful valley from sun up until sun down. And then just lay back and be hypnotized by the night sky. Then something occurred to me. I would like to paint a picture of it. Not photograph it. But take brush and paint and paint it. I have longed yearned to be able to paint and someday hope that I will. I have always thought that when I physically can not explore the outdoors like I would like to I would begin to paint. Just another dream of mine, but is seems like a real possibility to me. I would undoubtedly rely on memories and past experience in which I would attempt to put on canvas.
Why would I want to paint a picture of a scene instead of photograph it? To me it is simple. The finish painting would not be the reason to paint. The part I would want to experience would be the extreme examination of the scene before me and the need to notice each and every detail. I could image myself painting this one scene all day long.
This is not what I do when I photograph a scene. I don’t take all day examining a single scene and then slowly attempt to make a personally creative rendition of it. There is nothing stopping me from doing it, but the simple truth is I don’t. I could find an enjoyable scene and spend the day examining each and every detail near and far. From the patterns of earth at my feet to the placement of leaves on a distant tree. Yes I could do that, but I don’t. It’s not uncommon for me to spend anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes photographing one particular scene. The reason it usually isn’t longer than that is, in that amount of time the light can change considerably. Consequently changing the entire mood of the scene. If that happens I typically move on. But if I was painting it, I would simply create my own mood the way I would want it to be. I would try to transfer the image in my minds eye to canvas. This would inevitably have a personal prejudice to it. If I wanted the clouds different, I would simply paint them differently.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. -Confucius
I touched briefly in the last post about how the last couple of months were challenging to me personally. Life has a way of smacking you up side the head just when you think your going for evening stroll. Time to myself and with those I cherish the most have been a great help. I have been through rough patches before as I am sure we all have. The bottom line is, life goes on. You might as well buckle up and partake in it. It isn’t going to stop or slow down just because you are having a bad day, or week, or month.
I wanted to touch upon a few things that I have been working on over the last few weeks. I am asking myself a few very important questions these days. One question in particular is weighing heavy on me as I have pondered it daily for weeks. That question is: What is my purpose? This isn’t meant in a “why am I here” way, but more of a, since I am here how can I be the best I can be? Not only for myself, but for my family, friends, and humanity in general.
It may help to understand this by explaining the basic context of this question. The question came to light as I was watching a couple of videos by Brian Johnson on his website Optimize.me. The videos are part of his Masterclass series on various subjects all for the purpose of optimizing the very best person you can be. The subject of these two particular masterclasses were: Journaling, and Purpose. One of the many topics that is covered concerns finding your purpose. Obviously this is going to be a personal decision for each of us. But when confronted with this question I am beginning to understand it is paramount to understanding if you are or are not doing the things that should be done to move in the direction you want to move in. I am convinced that in order for anyone to continually make improvements in their life they must intimately know their purpose. Otherwise, why would anyone do what they do?
This goes beyond general ideas of purpose. It is not enough to believe your purpose is to be a creative artist. You must understand why you have chosen that specific purpose. Just because you like doing something really has no bearing on if you should do it. Just because you are good at something does not mean you should do it at all.
I will admit, I have a tenancy to over analyze things. When I find myself doing that I must stop and recognize it and try to pull the reins back. I feel it is better to make a decision and go with it then to sit around thinking about it and doing nothing. But I am the first to admit, my actions at times do not align with my thoughts. If I am wrong or I find myself needing to make adjustments then I make them. The important part is to take action. There is something that Brian says about the need to take action. To quote from his Journaling Masterclass; “You must suck to un-suck”. Meaning, don’t be afraid to fail, take action, and if you mess up, correct it and move on. Out of over 60 minutes of this presentation that statement has stuck with me.
I have been doing a fair amount of writing the last couple of months. Specifically I have began to journal. This has been somewhat sporadic. Ranging from daily to 2-3 times per week. The goal is to do this daily. That is where the “Purpose” Masterclass comes in. To be clear in my purpose I must commit to it. Not just want to do it. Not just hope or think about doing it. I must do it.
There is a hope that the simple act of writing a bit on this topic will help in clarifying my own purpose. Obviously there is no right or wrong way of approaching this, but something does motivate me to make this attempt. It would be easy to say, I would like my purpose to be the ongoing pursuit of enjoying such things as photography, exploring and enjoying nature and my natural surroundings, or perhaps to be a better husband, father, or friend. A combination of all these sounds like a noble purpose. But these things are not clear and seem much to generalized. Of course I would like my purpose to be any one or all these things.
Just being a better person is not a purpose. There must be something more. My mind becomes nearly blocked of thought when I actually try to determine this. Why would my mind lock up when I am attempting to find clarity on something like this? There is still something that I am trying to protect but I am not sure what that something is. It may simply be myself. A sort of self preservation mode that takes over when I subconsciously place myself in situations where failure is high. Am I over thinking this, or simply fearful of the unknown. Fear is a tremendous motivator. It may the the single most important motivator to mankind.
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. -Marcus Aurelius
Time can be so fleeting. Do any of us really “have time”? Or does time have us? Okay, maybe that is an over analyzing of time, but still, something I consider when traveling down these roads.
I have had this post setting as a draft for almost a month now and have noticed it is becoming quite lengthy. I hope my diatribe into “What Motivates Me” has not been a complete bore to anyone. As I read what I have now written I believe I may not have answered the question of what motivates me. I may not have even partially answered it. Is there a definitive answer? Or is it the continued daily wrestling of life?
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. -Friedrich Nietzsche