A friend told me that the world is going to hell which sounds like a big inconvenience. He also said that in spite of this inconvenience, it’s like the powers-that-be keep giving us superhero movies to keep us distracted; but then again, he said, we keep buying tickets to them so maybe we like to be distracted, especially in these increasingly uncertain times.
It got me wondering whether all films are naturally, inherently escapist by definition.
I admit there’s a spectrum, a seemingly big difference between a documentary and an action movie, but then again to say any film is escapist suggests one person’s life and experiences are somehow more real and genuine than those of another; and more specifically, that someone watching a film, no matter the film, is having a less genuine experience than someone, say, working their nine to five.
Is there any real science in determining something like that? Is listening to a story strictly an act of removing ourselves from our own day-to-day experience, or is the act itself ultimately not escapist, since it’s technically part of our day?
The more important question may be whether it’s escapist to be enjoying the company of friends, or good music or taking a nice evening stroll and not worrying about our problems. Is it only a problem when we do more of the former at the expense of the latter, when we do more of what we want to do at the expense of what probably needs doing?
Is seeing a film or reading a book really a means of getting away from our own lives, or is it a more subtle manner in which to view our lives through the experiences of other people, regardless of whether or not that experience is fictional?
Are not the same or similar psychological forces at work when we’re hearing a friend, family member or acquaintance relate a situation happening in their own lives? How much of the act is pure voyeurism on the part of the audience, and how much is a deeper attempt by the audience to better understand itself?
I was thinking about the Headspace app, and how for me, it was the real introduction to mediation. It’s a great app for the beginner, and it does a wonderful job at making something long-considered esoteric more approachable and welcoming.
I started using it in early Spring 2016 and I continued meditating consistently for the next 2-3 years.
The experience taught me how to better handle my thoughts by adding some context and theory to what I probably already knew intrinsically—the simple idea that thoughts come and go and that there is no need to attach ourselves to them unless they are useful.
Simple enough, theoretically, though not necessarily easy to grasp.
The problem I ran into was that I got preoccupied with the notion of how I thought it should be. That is, how mediation should be and how I should be having started the practice.
This of course only led to more thinking, which inhibited me and had me second-guessing myself on matters I’d already more or less settled. How I approach my creativity, chief among them, but really a broad range of matters from how I relate to people to my morning routines, from how I dress and to my taste in music
Those hiccups might seem unfortunate, but maybe they were necessary in order to stand on more solid ground further on up the road.
I’m beginning to see how that sort of thing happens from time to time.
I recently applied to a job that asked me to select the best pic of myself in the outdoors. It sounds like it could be an exciting one, a job where I’d be spending time in some of my favorite places, or one place depending on how you look at it. That is, the National Parks or in the broader sense, in nature.
To that point, I’ve come to see them less as individual places and it more as one larger whole. Our planet. I like that approach more.
It’s hard to say which picture could ever be the best, but this is the one I felt like posting–taken almost exactly four years ago.
Much has happened since then both in my life and throughout the world, and I’ve been fortunate to have gone on many adventures in the time in between. Hopefully I’m a strong sum of those experiences, as each was its own unique reminder of my connection to both land and people.
I’m not unique in that respect, since I know many who have turned to the outdoors and felt a similar way. Restored, replenished, readjusted to the point that their day-to-day ambitions either suddenly feel silly, or are just given renewed purpose in light of the bigger realization that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and their possessions.
While I can only hope it’s enough to help us recognize the importance of preserving these places—since all of us deserve to experience the land in equal measure—above all, I hope we each begin doing our part in preserving the integrity of our environment, for the health of our planet, our one true home, for our physical health, and ultimately for our sanity.
I look back on recent years and I think about people marching against gun violence, or against corporate greed on Wall Street. I think about people marching for Black lives and for our government’s full recognition of their humanity.
And I think about two weeks ago, when everyday I stepped out and saw a smoke-filled sky blotting out the sun due to devastating regional wildfires. In the back of my mind, the fire’s reach had far exceeded the limits of the west coast where I make my home. Indeed, the larger symbolism was hard to miss.
The issues of violence, racial justice, environmental justice and economic inequality are, I believe, inter-related. The dangers of climate change for example pose the most immediate threat to Black and Brown communities, a disproportionate number of which fall below the poverty line in the United States and throughout the world–a reality most clearly demonstrated in food and water shortages not just in third-world countries, but here at home.
Tackling the threat of climate change will not automatically close the gap on income inequality or accomplish comprehensive racial justice. Still you cannot adequately address problems in your house when your house is, quite literally, on fire; and truly, the fight for a healthy planet has the power to bring people of different backgrounds and beliefs together, likely more so than any movement we’ve ever witnessed. More to the point, it’s the understanding of our interconnectedness that will ultimately save us in virtually every domestic and global conflict we experience; and nowhere is that realization more critical than in the necessary global effort to mitigate climate change by cultivating a cleaner and more sustainable world for all people.
The act of getting outdoors, spending time in our public lands and in the broader wilderness of the world has the unique power to reinforce the fundamental reality of our interdependence and dependence on the land. It’s just one of many reasons why it’s so important they stay preserved and protected.
I often reflect on whether it will just be an ongoing battle for every generation between people committed to preserving our wilderness for the public benefit, and the people who seek to exploit the land for their own profit.
I hope that it won’t. Maybe the dual threats of climate change and a global pandemic will convince people of their stake in each other’s health and the health of our planet, and the influence will carry over through generations to come.
I only know that the need for such a realization has never been so urgent.
As for our wilderness, and it’s unmatched beauty and healing power, for now there’s little more I can say, other than to simply go, as soon as you can, and experience it for yourself.
Let’s please take care of our home. I am committed to doing my part and I hope you will join me. The Sierra Club is one of our nation’s most enduring and influential forces for environmental action and awareness. I’ve been a member for a couple years now and I urge you to consider joining and lending your support as well.
As we continue life in quarantine and many of us spend an increasing amount of time at home, you may or may not have slipped into something of a routine or found yourself doing things to keep you busy or your spirits up.
One thing I’ve found particularly worthwhile is going through photos in my phone.
Now bear with me, because I know it sounds strange. Probably because it is. It’s also a simple way of passing the time which, for me, has proven to be a strong mood booster particularly when things around us seem so uncertain these days.
I take a lot of photos. Probably too many. Maybe I’m a nostalgic person, but I think the habit is due more to the fact that I like to celebrate moments. I take the pictures less as an insurance of not forgetting something, and more as a simple tribute to that singular moment in time.
It’s not that my memory isn’t good, I’m just generally a more visual guy and having the image helps me internalize the moment on another level.
In any case, it leaves me with a fair amount of photos, and while organizing them might seem at first like a tedious job—which it sometimes can be—with the right attitude, it can actually be very gratifying.
If you’ve ever gone through old photos with a family member, maybe old printed copies that were stashed away in a closet somewhere that neither of you had seen in a long time, then maybe you see where I’m going.
I know for me, in those moments, I walk away feeling less nostalgic and more grounded. I walk away with a better understanding of where I come from.
So let’s say I’m go through my photos and delete some, ‘favorite’ others, and as I’m going through maybe I’ll create an album and begin sorting them accordingly. All the while, I’m reflecting on past experiences which–in both subtle and obvious ways–naturally made me who I am.
Put more simply, going through our own history is useful for the same reasons it is going through any kind of history. It helps us better understand and appreciate how we got here. It keeps us grounded. Our feet are more firmly rooted with a greater understanding of self.
And so as we navigate the road ahead, and some of us are pushed to limits we never anticipated, remembrance might prove more valuable, and more necessary than we realize.
The New York Times sat down with each of the 2020 Democratic candidates a few months back and asked them the question: “Does anybody deserve to have a billion dollars?”
Deserve might be a strong word, but still, let’s say that person is an extremely virtuous, all-around beautiful human being with a heart of gold who does nothing but wonderful things. That person might deserve all the money in the world less because their moral character calls for a reward and more because it indicates what they might do with their acquired wealth.
I think, in theory, anyone deserves the money for which they’ve invested the time and labor; but that leads to the second question of whether that person actually worked for all the billion dollars they have. To what degree did their fortune depend on precisely that: fortune, or luck, or the ingenuity and sweat of other people?
Practically speaking, a billion dollars could be too much for any one person to have especially when it would likely be spent on the acquisition of things, which they’d pursue simply because they can and not because they actually need those things. How much of the fortune, conversely, would be invested in something that could make society better or more prosperous, like environmental causes or public infrastructure?
Might the ultimate measure, then, of whether someone deserves a billion dollars be what they plan to do with it? Would it be spent in such a way that would reflect their stake in others, or in a way that would serve and simply reflect their own ego?