Holding Forks And The Present

There is always the thing behind the thing.

When I share pictures of modern day still life I do so because of what I am capturing by witnessing the present aesthetics and how they affect my mind.

The nicely designed book with a striking color on my table, with the right proportionality and height as it rests cleanly.
The coffee mug while sitting in the coffee shop with the unfocused background breaking streams of light through, providing hints to background activity and beauty.
The mixing of overheard conversations in public, providing a different symphony each time.

This is the thing behind the thing. Caught well in the present, my impulse is to share a scene because of the way the overall moment has descended on me while I observe.

In Ryan Holiday’s book Stillness Is The Key, he writes the following on becoming present:

We want to learn to see the world like an artist: While other people are oblivious to what surrounds them, the artist really sees. Their mind, fully engaged, notices the way a bird flies or the way a stranger holds their fork or a mother looks at her child. They have no thoughts of the morrow. All they are thinking about is how to capture and communicate this experience. (P 28)

Ryan perfectly describes what is happening in my mind. But I only get there when I have done the extremely hard task he lays out, which is to become present to the moment I am in, not thinking of the future, not dwelling on the past.

The background mechanics of me becoming infatuated with the height and right angles of a book sitting on my table helps me engage even further with the cacophony of thoughts swirling in my mind. But it doesn’t stop the mind. It allows for intense deep work to be engaged.

Like the Muse described by Steven Pressfield, the real work begins to descend on me. It enters me and then I just have to respond. I have to write out a draft of a blog post. I have to put several ideas together finally about something I was neglecting. I have to respond.

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The contrast of the dark stain on the riser table with the light color of the wood on the main table, along with the aroma of my morning coffee and crisp book cover……..yeah this is all ‘the thing behind the thing.’ I might actually get more out of the morning not ‘doing’ anything but simply sitting there and observing.

We need to observe the present. The day we have been given. The sights in front of us. The sounds we can hear. We must take things a day and a moment at a time.

Ryan goes on to say “An artist is present. And from this stillness comes brilliance.” This brilliance is beyond hard to describe. Which constitutes the work to be done. Which is why we sit still observing what is around us and relaying it back.

I want to keep getting to this place of being present and transmit what I find.

Going Through

I’d wish my past year onto no one. Friend or enemy.

I’ve gone through several violent interruptions. Wake up calls I never saw coming. Wake up calls I saw coming. Reflection compounded upon reflection. A lingering pause allowing for second, third, even eighth levels of thinking about what to do now.

But would I wish my past year onto me? Yes. I’d never abandon what I’ve gone through. I wouldn’t trade it in for a ‘pleasant’ year at all.

What people say with cliche verbiage is true. If I didn’t go through hell, if I didn’t go through pain, if I didn’t go through terror, I’d never become who I am today.

The key word above is through. Coming out on the other side of it all doesn’t mean I’ve arrived at the formulaic movie ending where the climactic scene ties all loose ends together as the protagonist is surely changed for the better. Going through means I made it through the terrible occurrences. I’ve made it to some sort of ‘ok, that all really happened?!’ state of being.

The climatic scene isn’t here yet.

Going through is sort of like the part of the movie Castaway where Chuck Noland is finally rescued from the island he was stranded on for years. The suffering is finally over after all that time on the island, and in real time as the audience watched a man talk to a volleyball!

But now Chuck needs to get to Kelly Frears.

Off the island, surrounded by people, but still in a profound loneliness. A pain which needs fixing.

He is, however, not at all the same Chuck prior to the plane crash.

As I see what I’ve gone through over a year’s time, I realize the habits, rituals, and reactions to how things panned out are exactly the things carrying me into the next phase. I’m prepared in a way I never planned to be prepared.

This is exactly the point of another cliche. Lean in. Yes, lean into your situation, even if it is terrible and not what the trajectory was originally. Lean into the lessons learned. Lean into the new habits. Lean into how you survived, and carry the lessons learned not only into your new life but also into the lives of others.

My past year was an apprenticeship I didn’t sign up for. My future now contains endings I didn’t want either. But these climactic scenes will be more meaningful than I ever could have imagined had I not gone through it all.

I Do Though

Wait.

You don’t feel this moment like I do?

You don’t see the colors inside your brain when the music is playing?

You don’t hear patterns of colors as they hit your retina and cling to your memory?

Your body doesn’t become warm when certain sentences dance in cadence?

You don’t wander through ancient paths looking for your ghost?

You don’t concentrate all your focus on never being the person you once were?

You haven’t read through stories of past lives looking for your own future?

You don’t understand why I don’t understand the point of this meeting?

Your chest doesn’t swell when gray blankets the sky matching your senses?

Oh. You don’t.

I do though.

Maybe I’ll permit myself to love the grace given to me.

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Confidence

As I surface from depths I never anticipated, I couldn’t help but notice I finally came-to somewhere I was never before.

Your expectations for me are expectations I never placed on myself, and never could I if I ever tried.

A world breaks in filled with nonsense to everyone not me but I can relate to this alien-rationale.

Anxiety mounts to perform in ways that will break me even as I finally breath the freshest of air and taste the most nourishing fruit.

As I justify my existence by the words others speak but don’t themselves practice, I suddenly realize no one knows what is coming out of their mouths.

I lean in further to the foreign land’s ways as I wash ashore now, not to be welcomed in the way I thought but instead further burdened.

The only sense I can make of it all is we are always never listening to others and we are always ever speaking to ourselves.

My only wish I have left is to speak as confidently about myself as others wishfully do for themselves.

The alien-rationale softly grips me tighter: Love your neighbor as yourself. As yourself. As yourself.

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Clearly

I feel clear.

Clarity, not out of arrogance.

Clarity, out of:

“Finally, I see and feel!

And now I am certain of how little I know.”

I am clear of the only things I must know.

I am clear of the only things I must feel.

I woke up today seeing my weightless burden.

I am well with what has been taken from me.

Clearly, I must give, now that I have so little.

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Fever Purge

The fever dream clears all present worries,
A sickness which purges pitiful pursuits,
Clarity pierces in the softest of forms,
Pasts are washed ashore, clean, bright, zealous.

Death started as soon as life began,
Hastening death only means to turn the fever
Into a victor for which it is not. It is a lie.
The fog lifts, the disease dies, and life loudly whispers.

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Papers Shouting Nothing

I know you’ll wake up inside your mind
In order to discover the visions were true
And never had places to set themselves into
The dusted covered up screaming face
Of lost passions justified by pursuits
Entangled in the next best thing
The way things are not suppose to be
But in the ways other’s desires burn intently,

Forgive my lack of self care
It was never a duration of time I wanted
While sifting through debris piles
Justified by covering up a true person,
As I provide you papers which are built
Inside a system of discarding without learning,
As I want you to not want any of this,
I maintain these words are desperately crafted.


There is no way anything can speak volumes
About an entire life, my life, your life
Those who we never care for or choose to see
If there was never a rounding to the closest soul,
I’ll check the math again and skip over mistakes
I maintain in order to never see stark pasts
Inside multiple light sources shouting down
Shallow intimacy with a person no one knows

Why provide documentation stating
Zero passions built on top of decaying foundations
With lyrical rhythmic bullet points filling space
To get you faster to no where I would ever go,
Approaching the slumbering forgetful mind
Not paying attention to everyone Abba keeps putting
On beaten down walking paths I can’t find on a map
But which tread painful impressions at sacred destinations.

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Freedom From Fitting In

The freedom is found far from fitting in,
It’s relief cannot be measured,
There is no price to put on it,
A valuation most pay a life or two for.

A realization floods over every fiber,
It’s mark leaving scar tissue of the most beautiful kind,
Imprinting not freedom from others,
But binding to each passing soul.

Breathing slowly recaptures everything,
There is no avoidance of hard work,
A commitment to freedom summons
Heartfelt joy for the hardest possible task:

Looking into each others eyes,
And looking into your own.

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The Pain Of Doing What You Love

I love the do what you love mantra. Gurus pounding their fists on tables saying do what you love right this moment so you can establish it as the thing you keep doing, the thing you do more of.

But what if there are painful reminders attached to what you love? Deep wounds which leave you completely paralyzed? Do you do more of something you love which has hurt you tremendously?

I think we have to do more of what we love even if we are hurt in the process. But not the exact same type of more.

If your passion or love died off at some point because the baggage of failing at it attached itself to your identity, stop this very moment confusing that failure with your identity. It’s not who you are at all. You just didn’t get it the first, second, or seventeenth time around. But if it is something you love tremendously then it is all the more reason to keep going further and see what you can do differently the next time around. Not to pack up and quit all together.

We shouldn’t place ourselves in the same scenarios or with the same people which resulted in the wounds either. It is really tough if the wounding came from people close to us, or people in general for that matter. It sucks because now we begin to attach the longevity and livelihood of our passions to people who are not us. They are not us. You are you.

And if the people are close to you then it presents a bit of a challenge moving forward for sure, but it must be forward movement. If the people are not close to you anymore, then allow this distance to be the ultimate signal that your object of love, the thing you love to do so much, doesn’t have to be attributed with them anymore.

The mind sucks at this because it thinks we are going to carry these people and those failings with us forever. But if they wounded our passion and they are not in our lives anymore, start a new forward momentum. They are not in our lives anymore. If they are people who are in our lives still, we have to be incredibly intentional by sitting down and taking the time to create boundaries between the amazing things we want to do and the people who have hurt those things. It has to be a therapeutic separation. Otherwise we will carry around a blurred future vision of what we love to do mixed with the pain inflicted by others.

We have to envision a future where, by the work we put in today, we inch closer to the incredible pursuits we have plastered to our hearts. The very things we love to do. The plaster, after all, is holding our damaged hearts together.