Art and Time: Creating Signposts Instead of Filling Moments

We live in a world today where most of the visual and written work that we produce is judged by…

We live in a world today where most of the visual and written work that we produce is judged by an extremely unrelated factor. Time. Here’s what I mean. As the internet has evolved, almost every information channel on the internet has placed a priority on time. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have extremely quick “decay rates.” Have you posted to twitter in the last 2 hours? If not, you’re irrelevant. No photos on Instagram in the last 24? Forget about it. Haven’t posted on Facebook at least twice a day? Expect that “engagement” to drop like a rock.

It doesn’t matter how great your photo is, how thoughtful your tweet, if it is not recent, in the world of time-based media consumption, it simply isn’t relevant. The reality is, time based media has worked to produce massive engagement online. But, has it made us better producers of our craft?

The focus on recency in how our art or craft is distributed has attached a value factor that has no bearing on it’s actual quality. Recency is now factored into how much attention your work gets. A post that has half the quality of another, but twice the recency, has a good chance of receiving more attention.

The problem with this phenomena is a loss of perspective. We are less able to learn from the past and as a result we have less ability to think about our future. “Now” has become everything.

Art has become content to fill the current moment with something interesting instead of an enduring signpost to point us toward a larger of view of our world.

The irony is not lost on me that I am posting this on a blog / social media. My thought here is we should be cognizant of how recency is affecting the way that we observe the world and what we create. Sometimes the older, might be truly better. The art that isn’t trending might be the thing to pay attention to. The lesson to me is to slow down and become a little more awake.

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August 1, 2016 @ 5:45 pm Trackback URL No Comments on Art and Time: Creating Signposts Instead of Filling Moments

My EDC: Spring 2016 Edition

I thought it would be fun to do a rundown of all of the items that I carry with me…

I thought it would be fun to do a rundown of all of the items that I carry with me every day. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive review of each item. Instead, this is a summary of each item and why I choose to carry it every day.

Garmin Vivoactive Watch

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There are so many things I like about this watch. The physical design is excellent. It uses regular watchbands so it’s easy to swap watchbands to aftermarket bands, though the stock band is so good I haven’t felt the need. It has a waterproof rating of 5 ATM so I never worry about it, not matter what activity I am participating in. The screen has proven itself incredibly durable even with all sorts of bumps and scrapes I haven’t scored a single scratch. The watch itself is super light at 18.0g. I found myself checking at times if I still had it on because it is so light.

The watch features GPS and GLOSSNAS support which is the primary reason I purchased it. It can track my hiking and biking activities with ease. What is even more exciting is that it is not hampered with with the poor battery life that most smart watches are. I lose about 5% to 10% batter per day meaning that I can easily make it a week between recharges. The charger itself is a very slick magnetic alignment system. The watch attaches positively and charges quickly.

This amazing batter life is achieved even with the watch face being an always on display. Watch faces and apps can be customized through the accompanying smart phone app. The interface is simple and not fiddly. What a watch should be. It feels like a finished product not a nerdy gadget.

Check it out on Amazon.

Gerber Paraframe 2

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I knew I was in the market for a folder when I happened across this knife at Home Depot on an after Christmas special. It is light, easy to operate with one hand and has a very positive frame lock. My only complaint is that the pocket clip can be difficult to clip in place because the side of the knife is open. This causes pants with thinner cloth to catch at times. All in all, sharp, light, well balanced.

Check it out on Amazon

Leatherman Wingman

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Multitools have alway been one of my favorite EDC items. They may not be the most beautiful, but they get used more than any other tool. I went with the Leatherman Wingman because of three main features. A locking blade knife that does not require opening the multitool to deploy. A scissors, which once you have you will never get a multitool without them. Finally an integrated pocket clip, means that I don’t need to worry about the legality of carrying this item and it doesn’t fall into the lint filled bottoms of my pockets.

Check it out on Amazon

Steve Madden Leather Wallet

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This is a trifold-nothing-special wallet that I picked up at the amazing Remy’s in Maine. I’m more attached to it because it reminds me of Maine that for anything else. It’s simple, reliable and gets the job done.

Check it out on Amazon

Motorola G 3rd Gen.

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I’m not going to spend a great deal of time talking about this phone but here are the high points of why I am carrying this phone. $200 unlocked. Battery life that gets me through an entire day, a night of sleep and can keep going a little bit into the morning. Waterproof! (I’ve dropped in the toilet, I’ve dropped it in the lake) Relatively untouched Android experience. Works on the Ting. Sure it has it’s shortcomings, but overall, I’m super happy with it.

Check it out on Amazon

That wraps of up my current carry, minus my keys. I haven’t done anything interesting with them. Hope you enjoyed!

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March 28, 2016 @ 12:50 pm Trackback URL No Comments on My EDC: Spring 2016 Edition

Stop being a starving artist

I remember growing up seeing TV ads for the Starving Artist art shows. I remember always wondering why the artists…

I remember growing up seeing TV ads for the Starving Artist art shows. I remember always wondering why the artists were starving. If they weren’t any good why not just get a job?

At its core though i think the starving artist show is a exaggerated example of a problem that we have with art. Our society by in large has dismissed artists who don’t make their living making art.

Let me start by saying I’ve been guilty of this more than most. I’ve taken countless artistic endeavors and attempted to monetize them. In these attempts, I have come to realize that the act of trying to make money in an artistic expression can kill it before it gets off the ground. Nevertheless this demand of our culture seems to be relentless.

Consider this. There was a time when music was created and shared primarily on front porches and in local pubs. What have we done to this communal art form? We’ve turned it into an industry focused on big money and big personalities. Music today is ruled by the likes of American Idol where the focus is on “making it” instead of making music.

This is just one small example of a gigantic lie that we have been telling ourselves. I want to dispel this myth right now. Your art doesn’t need to support you for it to be valid and valuable. Your band doesn’t need to sell a million records, your photography doesn’t need to earn you a living wage, your blog doesn’t need to have every major corporation clamoring for content deals. Let your art be art.

It is in this place of letting art be a real expression of your humanity that something special can happen. This is what makes art so powerful, it allows us to take our inner life and pull it out in an expression external to ourselves. So often this myth that our art needs to to make us money and support us kills the critical part of art. Art ceases to be an expression of who we truly are and morphs into marketing.

So what can we tangibly do to battle the myth that our art needs to support us? The simple step that I have taken is to start making things without a plan. This blog is an example. It might mean making music in your living room with friends. It might mean taking a hike and making photos for the pure enjoyment of the expression. It might mean painting a painting that you will keep in your house and never sell. It might mean writing poems and sharing them in notes to your friends. Whatever allows you to disconnect your art from supporting you will ultimately make you a better artist.

And what about making money? We all need money. To borrow something I once heard, “Well if you don’t already have a career, Starbucks has great benefits.” Find a way to make some money that gives you space for your art. It may not be the most exciting way of making money, but it will make your art come alive. And who knows, maybe somewhere down the line your art will start supporting you. But, learning to be content with your art being art will be a radically fulfilling decision.

Photo By Freeimages\Julia Eisenberg

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February 11, 2016 @ 12:37 pm Trackback URL No Comments on Stop being a starving artist

Leaving Church and Finding God: Sabbath

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads…

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

I have heard this set of verses from Mark 2 quoted frequently. Most often as a prooftext for why it is ok to work on Sunday. I think that I have even used this as a prooftext for that point. Sadly, this application misses one of the richest practices that Christianity and Judaism have to offer, Sabbath rest.

Our world’s pace is increasing exponentially. We are able to do more, access more information, connect with more people than ever before. First we had laptops that would allow us to take our work home. Then phones that allowed us to take our work to the beach.  Now we have watches that allow our work to follow us everywhere we go. It is somewhat ironic that in this digital world that is largely controlled by on/off electrical signals, there is rarely anything that turns off.

This “always on” phenomenon is very new to our species. Nature as a whole has ebb and flow, on and off, activity and rest. Trees sprout leaves, grow, then lose them again. Animals migrate south in the winter and then north once again in the summer. The earth itself marks every 24 hours with light, then dark, then light again. Sine waves are the mark of nature, not the hockey stick growth demanded by wall street.

This same sine wave, on then off then on, pattern is what Jesus is pointing out about the Sabbath. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Turning off is an incredibly important part of being human. Indeed, the inability to turn off physiologically leads to death (Fatal Familial Insomnia).  I would suggest that just like sleep, Sabbath rest is indeed made for man. It was instituted to be a time of restoration. The “off” in an always on world. The bottom of the sign wave. Christians often get this confused and say that the Sabbath was created to worship or honor God. Not so, according to Jesus..

What Jesus is getting at in the story that I introduced this post with, is that the sabbath isn’t about rules of working or not working but instead, it is about rest and refreshment. Resting, but being hungry, is not very enjoyable. That’s Jesus’ point. The Sabbath is to be enjoyed. How does this all actually play out?

For me, it means turning off devices. Taking photos. Going on hikes. Enjoying good coffee and good food. Letting my mind rest, and my relationships with my family grow.  And, not just “when I have time.” Because in reality “when I have time” never comes. Sabbath for me has become a restorative practice that needs to be regularly observed. In my case “Sabbath” is most often observed on Saturday mornings complete with sleeping in, getting coffee and muffins from a coffee shop and visiting the local farmers market.

My employer recently implemented a benefit that captures this same spirit of Sabbath. Called “True Days Off”, each employee receives one day off each month to unplug and do nothing. The idea is to let your mind rest so that you can return to do your best work. The “off” is what sustains and makes the “on” possible.

Sabbath may look different for you than it does for me. But, it just doesn’t feel right if the focus is not on refreshment and rest.  It’s something we need. And it would do us well to heed Jesus’ advice.


This series of posts comes from the experiences and explorations that I am currently living. Being a long-time, church-going Christian I have recently moved beyond the confines of traditional Western Christianity and consider myself somewhat of a spiritual nomad currently. Though I am not currently in the church, I have many friends and family that find the church context extremely valuable. These posts are in no way meant as a criticism of that context. Instead, I hope to share a little bit of my journey. Some of this journey may wander outside of “Orthodoxy” and what is considered safe within the church. But I, at no turn, mean to offend or cause hurt. You can find an archive of this series here.

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January 1, 2016 @ 1:58 am Trackback URL No Comments on Leaving Church and Finding God: Sabbath

Leaving Church and Finding God: Incarnation

As we arrive at Christmas I wanted to reflect on some thoughts I’ve had recently about the Jesus narrative. And about…

As we arrive at Christmas I wanted to reflect on some thoughts I’ve had recently about the Jesus narrative. And about how our our presuppositions about God can greatly change His story. These thoughts, center around making sense of incarnation. That beautiful, confusing, controversial, incredible idea that God in some form became a man. This post presupposes the desire to believe in God. I know not everyone is there. But even if you don’t need a God in your belief system, hopefully this post will help you think about the idea of incarnation and Jesus in a different light.

The narrative that I have followed for most of my life about incarnation has gone something like this: God the Father, a being in heaven, told his son, Jesus, to go to earth and become a human because people were sinning and He was going to send them to hell. Jesus, another being, then is incarnated into a third being. A human being. This human being then is killed by God the Father to satisfy His wrath so that he doesn’t send all of us to hell.

The fact of the matter is, if I took this story out of the context of the Christian narrative, it would make my head hurt. Why does God need to kill his son to not send us to Hell? Why is it Jesus and not God the Father that is the one who gets incarnated? Along this line of thinking, I arrived at a fundamental question that has changed my perspective on incarnation.

“If God was already a being, why did he need to become another being in order to come among us?”

This line of thinking blew the lid off of one of my most basic assumptions about God. The idea that God is fundamentally a “being”.

If God is a being, incarnation seems to ring a little hollow. God becomes something like a shape shifter that transforms from one being to another being. Why couldn’t have God, after all, just come among us as God? This idea of God existing as a being somewhere else is rooted in what many have called a three tiered perspective on God. This is the idea that there are three tiers to reality. There is a a God up above (Upper Tier) looking down on us on earth (Middle Tier). And we  are in danger of being sent down to the depths of hell, shaol or whatever you want to call it (Lower Tier).

This idea permeates the way we talk about God. We say things like, “God came down and touched me” or “I’m sending up some prayers for you.” While this idea can be nice, it also muddies the water by assuming that God is a being that is mainly somewhere else. It’s also a very old idea that isn’t very congruent with what we understand about the nature of reality. When we look up at the stars today, we don’t see “heaven”, we see our galaxy. Our exploration of the universe demands that we at least consider the language we use to describe God and his location in reality.

Our understanding of God is ripe for a renewal. Along with this, our understanding of incarnation is also ripe for new life.  Consider this famous Bible passage, “God is Love.” What if we actually treated that verse as reality? What if God instead of being “a being” in our minds was instead “Love”? What does that mean for incarnation? It means that Jesus is the physical, here and now embodiment, flesh and blood example, of Love. Now that is something incredible. The idea that something as intangible and abstract as Love, incarnated itself as a man, is truly a powerful idea. It also just makes a lot of sense. One being doesn’t become another being. Instead, God truly puts on flesh and bones and dwells among us as an example of the new life that is possible.

Now this may all sound like idle ponderings to those of you who are tightly tied to the Bible as a basis of understanding. I would suggest you at least hear me out as I leave you with my favorite description of incarnation.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Word made flesh. That’s the incarnation I’m celebrating this Christmas. Merry Christmas!


 

This series of posts comes from the experiences and explorations that I am currently living. Being a long-time, church-going Christian I have recently moved beyond the confines of traditional Western Christianity and consider myself somewhat of a spiritual nomad currently. Though I am not currently in the church, I have many friends and family that find the church context extremely valuable. These posts are in no way meant as a criticism of that context. Instead, I hope to share a little bit of my journey. Some of this journey may wander outside of “Orthodoxy” and what is considered safe within the church. But I, at no turn, mean to offend or cause hurt. You can find an archive of this series here.

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December 26, 2015 @ 4:37 am Trackback URL 2 Comments on Leaving Church and Finding God: Incarnation

The lie of social networks

I have recently been experimenting with limiting the social networks on my phone. I haven’t actually been canceling accounts but…

I have recently been experimenting with limiting the social networks on my phone. I haven’t actually been canceling accounts but I have been trying to limit the distractions on my phone. The funny thing is as a byproduct I have started just feeling lighter. I haven’t had so much heaviness in my life. There are many reasons for this, but one reason has especially stuck out to me.

Social networks masquerade as a windows into physical reality while in actuality they are creating an alternate reality that is at best a caricature of physical reality. Here’s what I mean by this. Social networks aggregate the collective high points of 300-500 peoples lives. In fact, sites like facebook actively filter things it deems uninteresting. This collection of high points does not equal reality in physical experience. There is no seeing your neighbor struggle to get their kids into the car, or noticing just how menotonous the cashiers job at the grocery store is.

Instead, what you find in social media are the two extremes of the average human experience. You see photos of people’s mountains top experiences, you see posts about the lowest points in the news and people’s lives. What is missing is the middle of the road. The average. The mundane. This is pa-rt of the reason social media is so addictive and makes you feel so unfulfilled at the same type. It’s almost like reading a tabloid. There’s just enough truth to keep you reading but it really doesn’t tell you the whole story.

On top of this misrepresentation of reality the sheer volume of connections that we attempt to maintain on social media is often unrealistic.

The average person can maintain 100-150 connections at any given time. We are currently experiencing the first time in human history where it is possible to easily find ourselves with a scale of connections that are much greater than our cognitive limit.

Now I’m not saying that increasing the scale of our connections is inherently bad. What I am saying is that we have some horrible implementations of using technology to foster connections and relationships today.  Look at the main networks that people interact with online. You have Facebook, an advertising company. Twitter, an advertising company. Instagram, owned by Facebook. Google, an advertising company. Linkedin, an advertising/paid subscription company. Here’s the crux of the problem. None of these companies (Linkedin is a possible exception) are in the business of connecting people. They are in the business of making their services as addictive as possible so they can increase your screen time to deliver more advertising and collect more data about you in order to deliver even more advertising.

The fact of the matter is, that none of these companies measure their success by how happy, well adjusted and socially enabled their users are. This is why I was getting that heavy feeling having so many social connections buzzing away on my phone. The networks I was using were not designed to make me feel good in a deep sense. They were, quite honestly, designed to be addictive.

So what can we as creatures craving connection do? I think we need to start hacking the services that are currently accepted and available. Just like adblockers are beginning to help content producers think about alternate ways of funding content production. Drastically changing the way we interact with our social circles online and offline can help change the nature of the social web.

(Photo Credit: Denis Dervisevic – https://www.flickr.com/photos/denisdervisevic/4745520501/)

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November 9, 2015 @ 12:45 am Trackback URL No Comments on The lie of social networks

Originality Vs Authenticity

I recently listened to a podcast that featured a discussion with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love among other books. The discussion of the…

I recently listened to a podcast that featured a discussion with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love among other books. The discussion of the interview centered around creativity and her new book, Big Magic. The discussion spawned a thought that I cannot get out of my head. Why is it that we value originality more than authenticity in our culture? Let me unpack this thought a little bit. The root of the word is origin. Originality springs forth, we assume, when we create something of which we are the origin. Originality is this idea of “make it new” that TS Elliot spoke about. Originality is a perception that we are making something all together new.

This seems a little presumptuous though. A newer concept that has gained acceptance lately is that everything is a remix. Everything that we do, no matter how creative, is building upon something else. At life’s most basic level we do not create ourselves or choose ourselves to be born into this world. We are the creative work of others who are in turn the creative work of their parents and on and on and on.

Unfortunately, our social structures tell us something different. For example, plagiarism detection in higher education is a multi million dollar industry. We tell students that their work must be original or  they will face penalties such as failing the class or expulsion from school.

Patents carry this idea into adulthood. An outside entity, the USPTO, determines if an idea is “original” and then grants a patent certifying that idea. One look at the latest news about the USPTO will tell you that even an organization whose whole purpose is to determine if an idea is original has an extremely hard time knowing what qualifies and what doesn’t.

Originality, when examined, seems to be a thinly veiled gatekeeper that allows us as a culture from early on to place value on people’s creativity. We tell a few people, “oh you really have original ways of saying things, you should be a writer.” And we tell others, “the chord progressions you use are just copies of Katy Perry songs, I don’t think you’ll ever make it in music.” This, as an aside, is another way in which we kill our creativity, by requiring it to be our source of income. Blog post coming…

There is another angle to evaluating creativity that may be more helpful. That idea is authenticity.

Authenticity seems to be a common thread that we as humans gravitate toward.

Why is it that, without trying, we alway have our mental radar tuned with a “crap detector.” When that radar goes off it might be slight and we just think, “something was a little off.” Or the trigger might be large and you will know exactly what is going on and a conversation leaves you feeling violated and icky inside.

On the flip side, we love it when our heroes, idols and mentors are authentic and real. That quality that we can innately sense may show through in a lyric, in an interview or in a certain camera angle. It is that quality that we innately sense as humans as a connecting moment. A connection was made that allowed us to know the creator in a way that was true to who they are. In this moment, our defensive mental radar is taken down and the creative moment is allowed to impact us. It doesn’t matter whether the chord progression has been used before, if the phrase has already been turned that way. What matters, is that at this time, for these people, in this place, that gesture, whatever it might be, has allowed a connection to be made, meaning to be shared and the creative work given life.

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October 16, 2015 @ 12:48 am Trackback URL No Comments on Originality Vs Authenticity

5 ways to unplug from your cellphone

Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. There’s a reason blackberry early on earned the nickname “crackberry”. I have…

Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. There’s a reason blackberry early on earned the nickname “crackberry”. I have lately been experiment and cataloging ways that I can live a less connected life while still being engaged online and offline. Here’s a few tips if you are looking for ways to unplug a bit from your electronic companion.

Buy a camera

When you are at a family event, out in nature or enjoying a nice meal you often want to document it with photos. The problem with using your smartphone is that there are so many distractions. Notifications, feeds, tempting unread message counts all vie for our attention and threaten to pull is away from being present the minute we pull out our phone to ale a picture. What’s to be done? Buy a camera. Not only will you find yourself able to take a photo quickly and return to being present, your photos will be better too.

Charge your phone when you get home

This is a habit I am still working on. When you get home put your phone in its charger and walk away. Not only will you be more present and get more done at home, you’ll also have a fully charged phone when you actually need it.

Turn off notifications

This one can be uncomfortable. I know I always struggle with the thought, “but what if the next notification is really important.” The fact of the matter is though that it’s almost always not. Notifications from most apps do not improve your quality of life at all. They’re just a stupid way that app makers use to vie for our attention. The great thing about this tip is that you can do it in stages. I just went through my phone and turned off notifications on 21 apps. I’ll probably go back through again In a couple weeks and cull some more.

Subscribe to what you want

Have you ever found yourself browsing YouTube and watching 30, 40 or 50 minutes of content that was really not that interesting or helpful? To combat this, subscribe to great content creators and then limit yourself to just watching what they publish. You won’t waste a bunch of time on crap.

Delete apps

I decided a few months ago that I didn’t really need Facebook on my phone. It was a huge time saver. I do check my notifications on Facebook desktop every once in a while. But I actually have to sit down, type in the url and go to the site. A quick tap on my phone was just too easy.

So there’s five ways I’ve found helpful in living a more unplugged life. What are yours?

Photo credit:  www.japanexperterna.se

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September 3, 2015 @ 6:06 pm Trackback URL No Comments on 5 ways to unplug from your cellphone