Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Spine of Life

Nicky, The Brave
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

The Spine of Life

Following is a piece excerpted from my forthcoming book 25 Lessons: The Art of Living. I was inspired to share it after pondering a photo from Rose & Olive.

In sum, their picture made me think about courage and my own experience with having the gall to pursue the fulfillment of my own potential as a person, as an individual, as an artist. To paraphrase Nietzsche, “Pursuing one’s passion is the spine of life,” in other words following your bliss often requires one to muster the nerve to consistently take many risks.

To illustrate this musing, I’ve decided to use a photo taken last week of Nicky, my youngest son, while we were camping at Bear Mountain. For I hope that by my example my sons learn how to avoid the apprehension that comes with age and responsibility, and to continue taking the risks that are the privilege of youth.

“Youth is a gift of nature, Age is a work of art.” – Scott Allen –

Moreover, both Enzo and Nicky consistently motivate me to brazenly pursue my passions.

Recently, five-year-old Nicky took the plunge and essentially taught himself to swim; he has always been the more athletically aggressive of the two, and his feats of physical bravery continue to astonish and inspire me.

Lesson 8: Strike a Chord (Be Daring)

In addition to the mental, emotional and physiological aspects, striking a chord in your life also means striving to be yourself; a self that naturally does not have one side or the other, but rather is balanced by the organic variety of ways that you are compelled to express who you are, who you want to be, who you are becoming as an individual.

This evolution however takes some daring, a bold act of faith in oneself that ultimately will strike a chord in others.

Alas, creativity, success, originality and individuality all require disrupting the status quo, shaking up things a bit, turning up the place, and tuning into one self in order to see things anew.

During our separation, my wife and I began seeing a therapist, Dr. Om Feelgood. We had been to see a social worker before, but that did not work out because not only did she seem to immediately side with my wife, rather than serve as a neutral guiding force, but she also rarely offered any constructive advice. Her opening question was always “So, what do you want to talk about today,” and then we would sit there quietly for a very long minute or two in awkward silence.

Dr. Feelgood, on the other hand, immediately seemed to catalyze each session and offered us exercises that both of us agreed to try and follow. Admittedly, he also employed cognitive behavior therapy, which was much more in line with my own thoughts on how we might resolve our marital disputes and allay the tension.

However, during one session, he actually planted a seed that not only inspired me to pursue photography so passionately, but may have ultimately proved to be one of the reasons I would ask for a second separation a year later.

We were discussing why I spent so much time alone and on the computer. I explained that I had been writing for years and that it was essentially a solitary activity that could not be done alongside someone watching TV or otherwise. I also briefly mentioned that I had taken on many creative projects over the years, and that I had long had aspirations to be an artist or a writer, but had not pursued these goals in earnest because I had taken the more conservative, “do the right thing,” straight and narrow road instead.

Just as it happens to millions of others, I began to loop around as I fulfilled the various sacraments of modern life: professional job, marriage, children, better paying corporate job, moving out of the city to suburbia. As a result, I began to take a lot less risks, I began to play it safe and in turn my soul began to shrivel, as it yearned to be on the edge, it hungered to be out there venturing into the unknown, it was eager to strike a chord.

In response, Dr. Feelgood pointed out that it is at this age, one’s late 30s through early 50s, that many artists actually break out and begin to produce some of their groundbreaking and notable work. Although I had read many books and taken a number of courses about success, genius, creativity and excellence over the years, I hadn’t heard of this trend before, and thus I immediately took it to heart. How could I not be motivated to break out of my shell and finally come into my own, be all that I always had wanted to be?

While I experienced many difficult moments after moving into the Little Church, I have also became more true to my vision of myself. Over those few empowering months I willed and experienced much that is sublime: a transcendence of self, conversations with the divine, ethereal bliss, and the manipulation and making of time; the survival and thriving upon circumstance; realizing a passion and discovering an untapped talent therein; and perhaps, most importantly, realizing that I am in control of my own fate.

When you’re willing to be yourself and finally find the courage to be different, your newfound bravery will show up in your artistry as well. I found that since I was taking a bold step in life toward self-fulfillment, that this audacious attitude and determination immediately influenced how I went about and took pictures, what and whom I took photos of, and what I did with them once they were on the editing table.

As a result of my courage, I stuck with things for which I was immediately criticized, including my proclivity toward taking photos of everyday life, my penchant for taking series of photos that “looked the same” to many people, and my “cut-out” technique, which eventually became one of my trademark artistic renderings.

Gustave Flaubert once said that “thinkers should have neither religion nor fatherland nor even any social convictions.” One’s mind, heart and soul should likewise be inspired by this general principle of evolutionary, pliable and adaptable ambiguity.

Besides being and becoming who we truly are as individuals, being daring, being courageous, not being afraid to strike a chord, also means accepting that our lives are our own, that fate is, in fact, ours to manage and determine. Circumstance, nature, nurture, and all the teachers, authorities, and inspirational figures of our lives merely influence us; they do not hold our destinies in their hands. Only we have that power.

audentes fortuna juvat : fortune favors the bold
-Vergil, Aenis-

No comments: