A NowHere Dilemma Solved.

And now, some of you have something that says, 'Home'. I don't. I'm Nowhere.I’ve been defining the new place which I call NowHere, and of course there are details that irk me here and there.

One of them was the ghastly electrical panel that someone thought would be a great idea to have in the dining space. A big, grey, electrical panel – one that might have gone with the more industrial side of me, a call to my childhood roots in electrical motor rewinding and industrial troubleshooting.

Somehow, that just doesn’t fit me in that way anymore. I might go hang out in a place like that because it’s comfortable to me, but it doesn’t mean that it should define my space. So, there was a thought of covering it somehow.

Worse, it’s the first thing I see when I come out of my bedroom. Haze grey and there to stay. It’s just ugly.

The first thought was bookcases on wheels that a cousin was going to give me, but those were bookcases made of that compressed wood that he had managed to put wheels on out of his own boredom. And really, they just didn’t fit.

Then came the thought of a mirror, but then, in an emergency, did I really want that? And given the angle, it would be awkward should I have a visitor in the visitor’s room. So I went around and looked at what people had to hang that would be the right size.

There were some paintings, priced for their own market which I am not a part of – and it came to me that I have enough photos that I should have something of worth. Thus I started going through my Flickr photograph collection, and I found it troubling how many pictures that I had taken in landscape versus portrait. I needed a long photo, not a wide one. I went on vacation.

Framing this one from Tobago.That’s when I saw the shot. I couldn’t take it properly – a lot of planning went into it to get it the way I wanted it. When I got back, I printed it.

It was, indeed, what I wanted – and of course the people who printed it said so, but that’s affirmation to a customer. It’s sort of like having your mother tell you that you’re smart and handsome/beautiful.

Maybe you’re not. You’ll always be special to someone who carried you around inside them for 9 months or so. They’re too emotionally invested in you to see you, sometimes, for what you are.  

Then I dropped it off to frame. The wait made that panel uglier by the day. In 3 days, I was called to pick it up, so I went and I did. The gentleman who had framed it, whom I never met, was busy with two ladies so I waited quietly.

It wasn’t long before all three looked at me expectantly. I pointed at what I could see was my framed photo, large enough not to be completely hidden by other framed works.

“That’s mine”.

“No, that’s mine”, said one of the women.

I know my work. I know that one is mine. In conversation, she realized I was the photographer, and she did something I didn’t expect. This was an opportunity, she wanted it and it was mine. I could have sold it right there and then.

“You didn’t sign it.”
“It’s for me, I have no need to sign it.”

She wanted me to sell it.

couldn’t.

I did not want to part with it. I know it’s one of my best photographs I’ve ever taken, if not the best. Yet, it wasn’t about the framed picture, it was about what I learned and how I had grown; it was collateral damage of a distinct growth of myself as a human being.

... And hung.Somehow, it had gone beyond covering that ugly grey panel. It had become about me stretching everything I knew about light, tides, meteorology, vectoring, photography, and timing – things that by themselves had no value to anyone. This was a nexus of a set of knowledge and ability that caused me to push myself to become better beyond that silo of photography.

This wasn’t pride, or I would have sold it and printed another. This wasn’t about bargaining for a better price. This was about who I am and am becoming, and some things – some things you hold on to as a reminder of that.

Some things hold a value beyond what other people might see as a cost.

The picture that hangs will never be sold.

However, it has pushed me a bit more toward getting more photos together for people to buy should they wish, which I’ll dedicate 10-20 hours a week on until it becomes manageable.

What Dost Thou Do; What Hast Thy Done?

Attempts at Self Portrait (6)Invariably, people who have reconnected or just connected with me have gone through the Q&A with me that I used to find painful.

Whether I’m married (no), how many children I have (looks around), what I’ve been doing with myself (where do I even start?), what I’m doing…

These questions have never made sense to me, particularly the last two. Whether I’m married or not is no gauge of completeness or even content – I have empirical evidence on both ends of the spectrum. Whether I have children assumes that I would want to try to explain the mess of humanity to a little human without having to apologize all the time – and nevermind the biological requirement of said little human having a mother who I would have to put up with, and more importantly, she would have to put up with me… I’m sure I don’t know. Absolutely sure.

The last two, though. Now, all of these questions are related to how people view the world, their lives, and what a life is. In that, the last two are bothersome.

So here’s how I’ve come up with my new answers.

What have I been doing with myself?

How many times have I thought to say, “that’s a rather personal question… what have you been doing with yourself?”, but opted not to?

I’ve been living. I’ve been growing.

No, really, I’ve been living. I’ve been growing.

See, as a kid, when everyone was being asked what they wanted to do, and the answers ranged from policeman to fireman to doctor to lawyer… I wanted to be an oceanographer. And then life happened.

I ended up working with electrical motors, then offset printing, then computer programming, then software engineering (there is a difference, kids)… In college, I started as a EET, then went to CIS, then dropped out. then I joined the Navy as a Sonar Technician, switched over to Naval Nuclear Propulsion, then switched again to Hospital Corpsman.

Then life happened again; I worked at a blood bank where I trained phlebotomists and made custom furniture for mobile blood drives – then went to Honeywell, where I got to play with Inertial Navigation and GPS stuff, then went to…. well, I did a lot of things. And then somewhere along the way, someone started paying me to write, and I picked up photography and people paid me for that, too. Then I inherited some land, and I applied a lot of what I know about learning to learn more about agriculture, land management, and generally, how to get results without confrontation.

Just a few days ago, a lawyer sat across from me and said, “You don’t need me, you do all of this stuff by yourself.” No, no, of course I need her. I just think her talents are wasted on the mundane things I can solve myself by simply not being a jerk and working with people. It’s a novel concept that most religions were centered around at some point – we see how that went. But I digress.

And all this time I’ve been reading, thinking, exploring the world as much as I can in all ways that I can – not just physically. So what have I been doing?

The answer is looking for something. It’s looking for some sort of answer to gauge where I am in society. Am I someone who wields influence? No, not really, I wouldn’t like to think so. Am I rich? No, my bank account is something that I have a detached relationship with. What sort of car do I drive? How big is my house? How much tax do I pay?

So yeah, I’ve been living and growing. I might as well tell people I’m a nomad.

“I’ve been nomadic.” Leave that right there. Give them the hand wave with it and look at them as if they should know what that means. It should be fun.

And…

What am I doing?

Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing. No one wants to hear that. The truth is that no one knows what they are doing. We’re all winging it. Some are on the beaten paths, though, so that’s what’s really being asked: “Which beaten path are you on?”

Well, I’m not. Truth be told, I never really have been – a few times I tried them, but they just didn’t suit me. They smell wrong, they make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and the authoritarianism within them fills me with dread. Beaten paths are boring, too.

Meanwhile, I’m the sort of person who just pops up out of the brush now and then to see where everyone is.

Clearly I need a better answer than that. Clearly people want me to impress them somehow, tell them how awesome what I’m doing is, but they won’t see the value in not knowing and figuring it out as I go along.

One of my initial thoughts to answer this question was, “Avoiding answering this question”, but that just seems a bit too… jerkish.

I don’t have an answer to this other than moving stones, and I think that’s the answer I’ll go with.

A Personal Minimalism

UntitledI watched a tongue in cheek video on minimalism and it made me ponder my own. After all, I’m a minimalist, but not of the sort that is parodied so well in this JP Sears video.

It wasn’t some spiritual awakening, or some new age hyperbole.

No. It was about having too much crap.

My family includes hoarders – some self admitted, some not, but hoarders all the same. “Because you never know….”

And at one point, I changed. I’d come back from a 120 hour week in the labryinths of Honewell, Clearwater, to my 2 bedroom place with every conceivable device one could have during that period in the 1990s. I had DVD players in every room. Television sets galore. My home office could probably have supplied the entire department I worked in.

I walked in and it dawned on me that I spent so much time working that I never used any of this stuff. I had two bathrooms and showers – why? There was only one of me, and visitors were rare because… I was rarely home. I was working so I could buy stuff that I never used. I had 2 cars, the project RX-7 (which was probably the only thing I valued out of all the redundancies). Just a few years ago, when I was still in the Navy and working with the Marines, all my stuff fit handily into a Seabag. I could, at that time, walk around with everything I owned.

I didn’t lose things. I didn’t have unneeded things occupying space. I didn’t need to worry about moving a bunch of things when I left one place and ended up in another.

This was no spiritual awakening. It was a simple matter of being tired of dealing with all that shit, as well as the acknowledgement that I didn’t need most of what I had. And that was that. To an extent.

Then I caught myself buying things later on and asked myself why. It didn’t make me happy. It just seemed like a burden. It became something I just didn’t want to deal with, that distracted me from things I wanted to do. So I purged the idea of buying things without need. When you distill your world, you find out what matters – and you keep those things. The rest doesn’t matter. It could be if you’re trying to impress people, but if you have to impress people, do you really want them around anyway?

And then I traveled a lot. I left stuff in the Dominican Republic in 2005 to find out that it was given away when I asked about it in a few months. Or thrown out, or something. And so even what I carried in life became lighter.

Do I recommend it for other people? No. Would I give you some new age bullshit of how it frees your soul? No. It’s just what works for me. Having a limited amount of dishes means that I don’t have a lot to leave in the sink. That means I’m not afraid of looking in the sink, that I have no apprehension when I glance around about where things are.

I know where my towel is. And where the one in Safety Harbor, Florida, is.

It’s not like I can take it with me when I die. And why would I want to?

As Peter Gabriel wrote, “… Hey, I said, you can keep my things they’ve come to take me home.

But then I would say that reading Erich Fromm’s, “To Have Or To Be” is worthwhile. 

Having, Being

Movin'...It seems like sooner or later in my life, I have to fit my things into a small amount of space – be it a few bags, or last time, the inside of a 1st Generation RX7.

I suppose that this would be a chore for some people. They grew up in a nest, and since then they grew up with this nesting habit that they associate with home. A place for things, be they artifacts of an interesting life or simple hoarding.

In conscious memory, I’ve never had that luxury for a variety of reasons that range from being young and footloose to the military to the understanding that nothing lasts forever – the universe is constantly churning away at itself, remaking things as much as allowing the illusion of permanence. No things actually are worthwhile unless they are useful, and then it becomes about frequency and the hedonism associated with it. Some people cling with their nails to things. Few don’t.

And it’s that time again, where like a bird you take a dump before launching into flight. Getting small again. When you’re looking at things and deciding whether they are worth keeping based on space and time, you’d be surprised how little mass you are left with. It’s addictive, a hedonism of it’s own: Why do I want to take this? Do I want to take this more than that? Do I need it? Is it worth the weight?

Is it the raft you needed when you were crossing the ocean, when now you cross the desert? Ditch it near the ocean where someone else may have use of it.

In the end, none of it matters – when you die, you just leave someone a mess to deal with and things to fight over. It doesn’t go with you.

Probably because you don’t need it.

(Hat tip to Erich Fromm).