Wednesday, January 7, 2015

365



365 days, 365 photos. Sunrises, sunsets, woods, mountains, lakes, fields, cities, bike rides, hikes, friends, celebrations, and the ordinary beauty of the everyday.

It's more than a little odd to see an entire year reduced to a single image. On the one hand it makes the year seem very short, very small. On the other hand, it's incredible to see what one year, or one image, can contain. Every image in this has a story, and each story intersects other stories. In one image is an entire world, and in this one image is the entire year. Who I was on January 1 is completely different from who I was on December 31, and there's no way anyone could have predicted the path I would take to get there. And yet, here it is captured in a single image.

The sense of place a photograph gives you makes this so much more powerful than just a journal. I can remember exactly where I was when I took each shot, where I was going, what I was doing, how I was feeling, what I was thinking. Days that might have just been another day at the office become recognizable, and special days become even more significant.

I started this project just because I enjoy finding beauty in the world around me, and sharing it with others. I hope that what everyone who followed or stumbled across this took away from it is that there is beauty around us everywhere we look, if we just take a moment to find it. Take a moment to notice that, and realize how much you can find to be joyful about in 365 days.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks

So what am I really thankful for?

I’m thankful for my home; cozy and warm, with cats curled up beside me.

I’m thankful for Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, and Mahler, and the chance to sing them to thousands.

I’m thankful for art; in galleries, on streets, danced on a stage, seen in a museum.

I’m thankful for pizza, beer, and Douglass Street.

I'm thankful for comfortable saddles and chain tools.

I’m thankful for a place on the floor at the SOMC Life Center, and getting stuck at railroad crossings.

I’m thankful for my Light and Motion Urban 550 and Scioto Trails after dark.

I’m thankful for people who think it’s a good idea to ride 50 miles to a garden.

I’m thankful for chainsaws and friends who know how to use them.

I’m thankful for mosh pits in Pearl Alley.

I’m thankful for sprints in the dark.

I’m thankful for Lower Twin and Mingo Road.

I’m thankful for Ohiopyle, Cumberland, the big slackwater, Harper’s Ferry, Silver Spring, and the Dubliner.

I’m thankful for tomatoes and fires.

I’m thankful for bells and the chance to share them.

I’m thankful for Great Seal and Lake Hope.

I’m thankful for Red Sox Baseball.

I'm thankful for a crash pad in Old Town East.

I’m thankful for whiskey sours and poetry slams.

And I’m thankful for all of you. Here’s to another year to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Now We Are 40

I don't care about birthdays.

To be clear, this doesn't mean that I don't like birthdays, or that I have some sort of pathological aversion to getting older. I literally don't care about birthdays. My birthday rolls around, and most of the time my only reaction is, "oh yeah, it's my birthday again, isn't it?" I've had people suggest that I'm avoiding some deep seated anxiety about getting older, but seriously, I really don't care. Since I've been divorced, it's been a good excuse to throw a party and have some friends over, but I could do that any time. Granted, people are more likely to show up when it's my birthday, but all I really want is to hang out with my friends.

Against all of this, this time it's different. As much as I'd like to think that this is just another number, it is a landmark. Both because we happen to have ten fingers and so have a weird affinity for intervals of ten, but also because of how it uncannily falls so close to the middle of our lives. Whatever the case may be, it's been more on my mind than any birthday I've had as an adult.

40.

The chances are pretty good that I've got fewer years in front of me than behind me at this point. This inevitably makes one go reflective. What's happened in the past 40 years? What have I accomplished? How have I made my mark on the world? How have I impacted those around me? And of course, what does it all mean?

Maybe I haven't done everything I might have wanted to. Maybe I haven't done as much as I could. It has been a messy, human life. Not everythng has gone as I might have wanted, but it has been lived...

I have traveled half the world, and around every corner seen something new and amazing. I have sat at the feet of those learned beyond my years and gained from their wisdom. I have revealed the thoughts of ancients to new students eager to learn what it all means. I have climbed inside the language and the world of those who came before and gleaned glimpses of their minds.

I have ridden thousands of miles over hills and plains, in heat and snow. I have piloted boats across northern lakes and through sub tropical seas. I have tread mountain ridges and wilderness deeps. I have lit fires against the cold and plunged into icy streams to escape the heat.

I have stood in front of crowds of hundreds and made them laugh. I have lit the stage to make them cry. I have sung under starry skies and blazing sun, in caverns and on mountains, before thousands and to one. I have thrown myself headlong into the tumult of music, and sat patiently as its beauty unfolded before me.

I have seen death, I have seen birth. I have joyed under the moon at a friend's happiness. I have cried at a friend's funeral with the loss of one who helped to make me who I am. I have held those I love as they mourned, and I have been held as I mourned in turn.

I have laughed with friends new and old, and wronged friends now lost to me. I have failed, gloriously, and learned more about myself through that pain.

I have given of my time and treasure to help those closest to me, to help the city I live in, to help the least fortunate among us.

I have raised from a child a woman beautiful and strong.

I have loved, and been loved in return.

It's been a good 40 years. Here's to the next 40.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Word

I am so tired of this.

I don't know what's different this time around. We have many of the same players and attitudes as we did in 2008, but for some reason back then it didn't seem to bother me as much. Maybe it's that, as I observed to someone the other day, at least McCain was consistent. But this time around there doesn't seem to be a coherent, let alone consistent position on the right.

But I don't think that really explains my weariness with the election this time around. It's more than that the position is so incoherent. It's that so many people have bought into it and don't seem to have the foggiest idea that everything about it is so wrong, and so dangerous.

Most of you know that I'm fairly upfront with my political leanings and my beliefs. If I feel that the person I'm talking to can handle an intense debate without it damaging our relationship, I'm even more than happy to really engage, to really push and argue and tear apart ideas and examine assumptions. But the fact is that I'm always holding back. I doubt that anyone has seen me really go after a debate for years. And recent changes in my career have made me even more reluctant to let loose.

But now I'm so tired of it. I'm so tired of smiling and nodding as people who I love and respect make excuses for the conservative side in this election. I'm so tired of people ignoring obvious gaps in the arguments, or passing over borderline racist and misogynist comments from actual candidates for political office, and doing so because "things haven't gotten better fast enough" or because "he's arrogant" or because "it will cost me money."

There is no argument on the Republican side this time around. None. As near as I can tell their platform is:

  1. Cut taxes. Doesn't matter that it will cost well over a trillion dollars over the next ten years. Do it anyway.
  2. Increase military spending. Doesn't matter that we already spend more on the military than most of the rest of the world combined, or that the military doesn't want or need it. Do it anyway.
  3. Let insurance companies continue to inefficiently make life or death decisions about people's lives while bankrupting them. That's better than costing everyone a little more money in taxes.
  4. Remove any regulations on industry, especially the fossil fuel industry. Because that costs jobs, renewable energy is nothing but a scam, and record drought and several 100-year storms in a row isn't a sign that anything's wrong.
  5. Get government out of people's lives, unless it involves a very narrow reading of certain Bible passages, in which case legislate the hell out of it.
  6. Oh, and we're going to do all that while cutting the debt. Because once we do all of that everyone will be so happy that we'll have enough money to do it.

I'm happy to discuss the relative merits of free market economies, or libertarian principles of government, or the role of taxes in a modern democracy. But that isn't happening here. There is no positive argument for true conservatism being made, because the positive argument might alienate some centrist voters. So instead, let's either scare everyone into voting for the Republican candidate, or convince them that we have some magic bullet that's going to make all their problems go away.

I'm not the biggest fan of the president. I think that he hasn't been anywhere near as forceful as he needed to be in making his case. I think that he placed too much faith in rational decision making and lost a lot of political capital in the process. And I think that he's abandoned a lot moral issues that really need to be addressed, like the use of drones in combat, or the ongoing detention of accused terrorists at Guantanamo without trial or counsel, or the growing power of the Executive branch. But at least he has a coherent plan to continue to ameliorate the country's economic problems, which has been working for some time now. If anything he hasn't gone far enough in demanding sacrifice from the wealthiest Americans or supporting infrastructure and alternative energy development. At least he's not making stuff up.

But even beyond the platforms, you also have to consider who you're actually supporting if you vote with the Republicans in this election. You're supporting people who think it's necessary to qualify rape as "forcible" or "legitimate." You're supporting people who think that certain people in our society shouldn't have the same rights as others because of who they love. You're supporting people who believe that our current president is a secret Muslim communist who was born in Kenya, but probably actually just don't trust him because his pigmentation is a little on the dark side.

After all of this, I'm sorry. There is no argument to be made to vote Republican in this election. And I am befuddled and distressed that it is as close as it is. Are my fellow Americans so small-minded, so easily swayed by pretty words, that they could be won over by arguments as flimsy as this? Or is it just that they are so afraid of people who are different from them, or so afraid of perceived threats, or so afraid that true recovery is HARD dammit, that they cling to the one person who sounds like he's going to make it all better? Is almost fifty percent of the country nothing more than scared children in the dark, crying for daddy?

Apparently.

I'm so tired of this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Tenth Doctor

The other day a friend of mine responded to my comment that I missed David Tennant as the tenth Doctor Who, saying that there was something very meta about that because I could be a doppelganger of David Tennant. However, after thinking about it some more I'm wondering if David Tennant might be my doppelganger. So much so that I've started searching my belongings for a pocketwatch engraved with Gallifrean symbols. Consider-- both Cycholibrarian and the tenth Doctor:

  • Are tall and skinny.
  • Have a tendency to run their hands wildly through their hair while thinking, and don't seem to care about the resulting mess.
  • Prefer to wear Chuck Taylor All-Stars (even with a suit).
  • Have a tendency to talk very quickly about things no one else understands.
  • Have been known to bellow "Allons-y!" and other non-English phrases for reasons only clear to themselves.
  • Have very expressive faces, especially when  grimacing about Very Important Things.
  • Move so fast that others frequently have trouble keeping up.
  • Surround themselves with beautiful and intelligent women, even if they can't have a relationship with them.
And if that wasn't enough, when in High School one of Cycholibrarian's nicknames was "Nick of Time"!

So please keep your eyes open for that pocketwatch... but whatever you do, don't open it!




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sonnet

There is a magic in the rising moon,
Across the sea the siren voices call,
The mountains pull the wand'rer from his room,
And forests make no lord so fit a hall.
Beneath clear skies we huddle round the flame,
Laughing until our hands and souls are warm.
New faces fast become our ancient names
Known to us all before the world was born.
This is my blessing and my greatest fear:
To see it all and never stop for rest.
I think and new frontiers 'fore me appear,
And pathways spread beyond each undimmed crest,
Until I feel my heart will burst its bonds
With all the possibilities and songs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Six Degrees

This morning I had another of those "small world" moments that seem to come so frequently in our hyper-connected world. I'm involved in a public art project for Columbus's bicentennial next year to create original pieces for the carillon bells at my church, and one of the composers who I've shown around the tower friend requested me. Even though I had never met her before this project, I come to find out that she's already friends with two other friends of mine. This is the point where most people just laugh and make a joke about how Columbus is really a pretty small town. But I've thought about this before and I'm not sure that it's so much that Columbus is a small town, but that we are all connected a lot more than we think.

Think about how many times this has happened to you: you're at a party, maybe not even in your hometown, and you fall into conversation with a stranger. That person happens to know someone where you're from or where you work or from your hometown, and son-of-a-gun you know someone who went to school with that person or who works with them or who dated them 5 years ago! Heh, small world, right?

But what if you're not at a party? What about that person walking down the street towards you? If you started a conversation with them, how far from you would they be? Or what about that other driver who you yelled at for cutting you off this morning? Or what about that guy sleeping on the stoop next to the bus stop?

Not so much fun anymore, eh?

I think that the truth we never think about when we laugh about the fact that we "happen" to know someone who knows someone is that really it applies to anybody. And not even people in our own hometown or even our own country. I'm willing to bet that every person reading this right now knows at least one person who either currently lives or used to live abroad. As soon as you find that connection you're into a whole other network. So my parish priest who grew up in Liberia probably links me to the Nobel peace prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and through her to all the people suffering in Africa who she and her compatriots have tried to help. Mankind's suffering and triumphs are not as far removed from us as we might think.

Some may say that this is just the result of our hyper-connected world. Except that it isn't. In the Homeric epics every time a character comes to a new place they recite a litany of connections that tie them to the people in that place. Texts ranging from the Bible to the Norse sagas are filled with genealogies that are designed to give the reader context and connection to the characters in those stories. This is a fundamental human drive: to find the connection, to learn how we are all connected to each other and what that can lead to.

Ironically, I think that the connections we are discovering through technology are are actually allowing us to return to our natural desire to find what links us together. I can only hope that as more people discover this and more connections are forged it leads to more understanding among all people, and a greater care for our common humanity.