Duality, the Flow and World Domination ~ Day 1

I’m a skeptic. I know- newsflash. For someone with a journalism background who loves to dive into a little Chomsky/Zinn sandwich every so often for shits and giggles, this is not news.

Walking down Burnside in Portland.

And being the eternal skeptic, I approached this past weekend with a little curiosity, a healthy dose of “whatevs” and a large amount of timid reservation.

World domination, really? What does that mean? How do I wrap my brain around all the different types of people at such an event? Entrepreneurs, bloggers, writers, business executives, artists and students all gathering with only one main commonality- the desire to lead an unconventional life.

And dominate the world, of course.

Past seminars and conferences were all rooted in professional photojournalism frameworks; giving me a grounding point and strong common element to every person attending the event. I spoke the language, I understood the industry and I could wander freely in this environment with ease and comfort. Not so at WDS. Everyone spoke a different language- everyone came here from a different place- a place uniquely their own. And the thought made this slightly introverted artist very uncomfortable.

So, instead of talking you through my transformation from skeptic observer to humbled participant, I decided to show you in images and notes from my journal. These images aren’t your normal event coverage photographs. I chose to photograph the event as a participant- not an observer. When emotions are coursing through me at a fast and furious rate- I turn to the camera to express the core of what I’m feeling. No matter how I lie to myself and how I try to bend my perception of reality to fit into the narrative I want or need in that moment, the camera never reflects this internal deception. The camera reflects exactly what I’m feeling- regardless of what I’m thinking.

So, here is my journey through a little World Domination. Enjoy and join me please.

Friday~ Day 1

Sitting at a coffee shop in Portland people watching and relaxing before the summit.

“It’s strange to meet a group of people who know you only by your work. The daunting reality of this type of meeting is wondering if the person you’ve projected through your work is in alignment with your true self and the energy you send out into the world. I believe mine is- but it truly reinforces the gravity of the work and the responsibility to lead- through interactions, art and engagement”  ~ written in my journal while watching the neighborhood wake up and stumble into this coffee shop.

Grabbing dinner on the way to the opening ceremonies of WDS.

Shockingly beautiful weather for most of the weekend. The only rain fell during the closing party- a sign?

Almost there- the walk to the Portland Art Museum is long, but fabulous.

People watching by the train.

Let the Domination begin!

Riding the train back to the hotel, with some young kids way "hipper" than myself.

The lovely & FIERCE Satya Colombo is my partner in crime for most of this weekend. One of the truly wonderful connections to arise from dominating the world. ( http://satyacolombo.com/ )

A little late-night adventure by the river.

A little night walk across the bridge.

An evening stroll.

Ahh...night photography. Just makes me happy.

Almost time for sleep, a few blocks from the hotel.

Day one complete. The festivities continue tomorrow with Hipster hunting, giant peach parades and some White Hot passion!

All image are available for use on blogs for free and prints can be made from any image posted here. Simply go to this link (or click on the images) and you’ll be directed to the studio gallery for purchasing. You can also download the image from the website for free.

The Traveler

Walking through Hebron.

The Traveler hears another conversation.

She sits with a smile on her face as she listens to the daily chit-chat on a bus. She knows this chatter is not hers to judge or to engage in. For her world is not filled with trips to car dealerships, office politics and weekends on the pontoon boat. Her world is filled with boarding passes, security checks and bus itineraries.

The Traveler turns heads.

He sits on a street corner or a park bench, propped up by his backpack.

Resting. Lounging. Plotting. Watching.

People turn to watch him as they drive by on their way to the office. He’s different. He doesn’t belong. His backpack indicates another path in life. He’s not weaving through traffic and inhaling a McMuffin as he frantically plows towards another day just like yesterday.

The traveler sees people watching him. He understands these people are gazing at him and thinking of another time in their own life. People are instantly thrown to a time in their lives when a choice was made. The traveler reminds them of the adventure they’ve been postponing, the dream they’ve delayed and he reminds them of the person they could still become. And sometimes, he reminds them fondly of a time when they were the traveler.

The traveler sees this recognition on the people who pass him by. And he quietly acknowledges this fleeting engagement with a smile of peace- a gesture of understanding.

A smile of simple kindness.

The Traveler lives in the moment.

The traveler is here. She’s present. She’s living in the moment- at its truest sense. She answers the question, “Where do you live?” with this simple reply- “here.”

For the traveler truly does live right here. Right in that moment. Her world is on her back- literally. Wherever she stops is just where she will be. And the next stop, well, hopefully it takes her one step closer to her destination. For that day- or for her life.

The traveler enters an authentic state of being that the non-traveler cannot comprehend. The traveler still has concerns; she also bears the burden of worry. But the act of perpetual movement and complete presence puts her worries into perspective. A perspective not shared by the sedentary soul.

Her worries revolve around her arrival- and her next departure. Does she have a place to sleep tonight- that meets her comfort zone? Will the bus she’s currently riding on take her to the proper destination- and if not- is she prepared to shift gears on the fly? Will her computer last through this next trip- or better yet, will her back? Can she afford a taxi to help her arrive at her resting spot tonight- or will she have to lug her heavy baggage through a city in 100 degree heat?

Will her friends and family understand that her perpetual wandering and desire to commit to no schedule are the things that bring her comfort- elements of her life that bring her joy? Will others understand that this sense of constant motion places her closer to her Flow- allows her to touch the edge of all that is possible- all that is beautiful- and sets her within her true essence of creative being that no other action can provoke? Will she find the person who understands this and chooses to travel through the journey beside her- as an equal- and with as much intensity and passion for the unknown as she harbors?

Will her perpetual travel leave her alone and without the ability to ever enter a “normal” state of living again? Or will her travel show her the pure joy and beauty of a chaotic world- and cause her to willfully celebrate a life of un-convention?

The Traveler has Freedom.

Above all else, the traveler holds his freedom as the essential element of his existence. He holds that freedom close, tightly embracing the ability to go- to leave- at a moment’s notice. Not because he has to leave or because the present makes him unable or unwilling to bear the moment. No, the traveler leaves because he must-it is his calling.

The traveler knows that destinations await him- filled with the smells and sounds of the raw essence of humanity. He knows that somewhere a street vendor is preparing a meal that will shift his definition of ecstasy. The traveler knows that somewhere a dingy, decrepit bus waits to hurtle him deep within a Himalayan village and allow him to glimpse into the distant, dying culture of a people who are invisible and fading amongst the mechanisms of modernity.

The traveler knows that somewhere, someone- in a place he has yet to visit- has a story to share with him. A story that reaches beyond language and cultural disparities- a story that will change his perceptions of the world he walks within.

The traveler protects this freedom at all costs- for he has sat with people whose countries deny them a passport and remove the ability to leave. The traveler knows the value of freedom- for he has walked among those who have none.

The Traveler knows peace.

The traveler understands peace in a way that few politicians or statesmen can comprehend. She has sat amongst a war-torn community who live the ramifications of our military industrial complex every single day. She has listened to the heart-wrenching story of a woman widowed by a callous soldier. The traveler has stood at the Wall between two peoples fighting for the same land. She has walked in the shoes of the displaced. The traveler has broken bread with the rebel soldiers fighting for the opportunity to merely taste what she holds above all else- freedom, self-determination and choice. She has felt the sting of racism, felt the fear of dictatorship, smelled the pain of tear gas.

The traveler has visited places others dared not go- for she must know what a place smells like and she must stand among the people her government has programmed her countrymen to fear and to hate.

The traveler knows there are two sides to every “truth” and “absolute” that her government uses to control a complacent population. For the traveler knows that every person in a distant land and an unknown culture is someone’s lover, someone’s mother or someone’s father.

The traveler sees humanity for what it is and what it could become- because she has chosen to walk within humanity and not hide from it. She stands within the chaos of humanity because someone must bear witness and someone must tell others what they cannot see for themselves.

The traveler embraces the entire world- because that is where she lives.

Tickling~ A New Strategy for Conflict Resolution

Spending the day with a 20 month old is an eye-opener.

I know, news-flash there, but I’m in my mid 30s and have yet to reproduce. Nor do I spend much time around those lovely little vehicles of innocence. I love kids, I just don’t bump into too many hanging out in coffee shops and wandering the world.

The world, through the eyes of an almost 2 year old.

While on a recent assignment in South Carolina, I spent the night with one of my oldest and dearest friends. His daughter is approaching the crux of those lovely terrible twos. She’s testing out her voice and seeing just how far she can push her luck in obtaining her desired outcome. She’s determined and resilient- and stubborn- like her father.

We were standing in the kitchen, having just finished an adult dinner of brie and crackers while the little one finished her toddler staple of chicken nuggets and corn. She’d just sucked down the last of her milk and wandered back into the kitchen where the remnants of our dinner were resting on the counter. She stretched her tiny arms to the edge of the counter and began her chant. Milk! Milk! Milk!

And she was debating on whether or not her demands should be supported by a full- lunged wail or a simple pouting cry to her father while she reached aimlessly onto the counter top looking for the milk she had just finished.

She chose the ear-piercing wail and filled her lungs in order to implement her agenda, when her father reached down and tickled her.

Tickled until her lungs, ready to wail, released the most delightful little giggle that tosses you backwards to a time when all you had to worry about was milk, your blanket and the hope that someone’s nose was tuned into the fact that your lunch just passed through your little body with a vengeance.

She giggled away and released her death-grip on the counter and shuffled after her dad into the den to watch a combination of Yo-Gabba Gabba and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

And I had to stop and think- what if all conflicts could be resolved with tickling. How simple would the world be if at the pinnacle moment of conflict driven retaliation or instigation, we were tickled and dissolved into laughter.

No- visions of Mubarak and Gaddafi being attacked by giant tickle machines before calling for mass annihilation of their people in an attempt to retain power- or enforce a western imperial agenda- is not a possible method of conflict resolution.

I get that. I’m not naive.

But what if humor were a means of conflict resolution. What if we glanced the humanity of another- one considered a mortal enemy or an impediment to the evolution of our nation- through the laughter and comedy that is inherent in all human beings?

What if the worst of the worst- and the largest stooges of the oligarchy- could be “re-programmed” to see the humor in another? What if the most impersonal among our leadership could learn to see a person’s laughter, their joy, their humanity?

Might they not be so inclined to see this person and his community as a commodity? Might they be convinced to look upon an “enemy” as a human, rather than a barrier to a natural resource to possess, exploit and consume?

What if we required Jon Stewart to attend all UN Security Council deliberations and act as the humorous mediator? What if we sent Dennis Leary along as the presidential attache for all diplomatic state dinners? What if we sent Lewis Black along with the Secretary of State to mediate the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks? What if Bill Maher became the moderator for each presidential debate?

Might the leaders of the world not wage war if they were looking at one another with a faint smile on their face? Might the men who issue the orders to destroy a village blocking access to an oil pipeline stop and reconsider if laughter were still echoing through their hearts?

Might the world be a little more secure if we were all just tickled at the moment our anger arose- and then vanished?

Authors Note: Happy Birthday, dear Jamy! Hard to believe our friendship spans three decades- are we that old? Love you and wishing you the best on your next journey in life! Ciao Bella!

Can Hope Maintain Peace?

This essay was written while conducting a documentary project on the Tibetan Exile community in India, funded by grants from UNC. I was studying photojournalism as well as Peace, War and Defense at the time and this essay reflects many of the questions I based my projects upon- and am still seeking answers to. While the topic is specific to the Tibetan population and their struggles over the past 60 years, the overall themes of pacifism, modern war-fare, modernity and cultural preservation apply to many of the issues we currently face as a society. A point, which in light of recent world events, I think we should all revisit and truly ponder as a collective.

A Tibetan monk takes a minute to watch the action on the streets of McLeod Ganj. Image by me, 2006.

Is it possible for the Tibetan people to initiate and maintain the last peaceful struggle to achieve autonomy?  And if such a goal is unattainable through non-violence, then is peace throughout the rest of the world merely an unattainable objective?  Is mankind, as a whole, unable to accept the spiritual implications and requirements of non-violence?

Can man simply not accept that peace is achievable through diplomacy and that profiting off of the deaths of others is not a viable solution to the evolution of mankind?  Or does war and peace truly boil down to the pursuit of commodities and natural resources coupled with the profiting from military mobilization?  Is war hidden behind the shroud of freedom and democracy for everyone whilst the true motivation for invasion is the commandeering of monetary gain and positions of power?

Historically, states have not bothered to hide the fact that they were invading to commandeer the resources of another.  Imperialism.  Today, states invade the sovereignty of another in order to retain the natural commodities desired by the aggressor and the intention is hidden beneath liberation and protection from dictatorships and autocratic regimes.  This is acceptable to the general public. One can easily digest the notion of spreading the desirable conditions of human existence- opportunity, freedom, and the pursuit of further inalienable rights- but the travesty lies in the easy acceptance of veiled truths. Such truths are, at times, hidden by various avenues of media; a deceit that kills innocents and destroys the cultural strands woven over centuries of time.

Children at the Tibetan Children's Village take a break for snacks. These children are orphans, some with families left behind in China. The Tibetan Exile government provides a familial and educational environment from these children as they are separated, sometimes permanently, from their families left behind in China. Photo by me, 2006.

Are we unable see the tragedy that our own consumption and desires for material wealth bring to other societies?
Or is that consumption merely the end product, or means of modernization and can that consumption help build poorer nations into a status of development that becomes self-sustaining?  If that is the case, then are we as a society ready to embrace and accept the means of modernization and development by the spreading of consumption of cheap material goods?  And when this type of “sustenance” reaches a capacity breaking point (for truly, there is only so much physical space in this earth for cheap Chinese goods) and when the resources needed for such production come at the cost of human lives and cultural heritages- as in the case of the Chinese using Tibetan natural resources to create cheap material exports- will society accept that violence and war will be used to attain the power and control over such resources for this eventual material outcome?

A young Tibetan teaches western tourists how to cook traditional Tibetan meals in McLeod Ganj, India. Image by me, 2006

Do alternatives exist to this type of modernization and if so, what are they?  How do we spread a sustainability option not reliant upon such cycles of production and consumption?  And how do we call the international community to embrace and implement such alternative means of sustainability in the world economy, particularly when the governments pursuing the a fore mentioned opportunities of obtaining natural resources sit on the very councils of the international body that determines the justifications and conditions under which conflict and war may be waged?

A Tibetan monk spins his prayer wheel during an interview at a Tibetan Refugee Reception Center. Tibetans who flee China on foot eventually make their way to this final reception center before they assimilate into the local community.

When does non-violence become as detrimental to a society as violence?  Is the slow deterioration of a population who’ve existed for thousands of years an acceptable by-product of pacifism or would the direct and indirect harm to non-combatants in a violent conflict situation be an acceptable outcome of a people’s struggle to regain freedom?  If so, what constitutes the boundaries of acceptable collateral damage—and can cultural identity and heritage be considered under the definition of collateral damage, or does that merely apply to human lives and the ability to pursue the basic rights of life, such as breathing, shelter and eating?

Is cultural identity quantified in the definitions that justify violent action and the situations for which war may be pursued?  Or is it merely a secondary element to the harming of non-combatants?  Yet, what if that cultural identity is the element which defines the non-combatant, that keeps the population of civilians alive, or is that merely overstating the relevance of cultural identity to a population of people, particularly in the era of modernization and globalization?

Is it better to whither slowly or expedite the demise in attempting to save what might no longer exists?

The comments are open on this one- let the debate begin!

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. I had a press pass to photograph this event and mangaged to create not a single decent image. Epic photo failure!

A Tibetan protest on the streets of McLeod Ganj, India.

Images of Tibetan prisoners in China. We interviewed several recent refugees from China and their stories of brutallity were heart-breaking and gruesome.

More images from the protest.

This image hangs as a reminder of the sacrifice and means of protest of individual Tibetans in the office of the Reception Center.

The Fear of Love and a Shattered Narrative

What happens when we’ve been using an outdated narrative to shelter ourselves from the major decisions or actions in life? Do our narratives provide a distraction- a false sense of security that keeps us warmly nestled in the arms of a delusion?

Watching people at a music festival in NC, photo by me.

For the past several years, I’ve held a personal narrative close to my heart- a narrative based on a person I met randomly twice in my life. Our second chance meeting- 15 years later and unbeknownst to me for I forgot our first meeting so many years ago- stirred up such intense emotions that I was left questioning so many things in my life. The Universe doesn’t just cross two paths in this manner twice in a lifetime. It must mean something! Right?

This man brought to the surface many emotions I had tucked away in the pursuit of a more meaningful and deliberate life. I chose intellect and adventure over romance 6 years ago and have never looked back. I knew the time had come to love again- for I had truly learned to love myself over these past 6 years and have come into my own.

And even though the red flags were flying- I tore down my barriers and allowed my love and passion to spill forth. Yet, this man was either too scared or unwilling to accept such intensity. So he walked away.

And though I put this personal narrative aside, I never truly released it. I allowed it to repeatedly resurface over the past several years. I even stoked the hornets nest every so often and this man replied in kind. I seemed to stir the nest when I was feeling slightly lonely or just avoiding a major decision in life. I figured that I’d just wait and see if something interesting arose with this man and then just roll from there.

Foolish- yes. Healthy- not so much. Productive- no.

This winter, I truly tore down the walls and placed myself before the narrative and said this time- I’m going to risk the pain and the torment of such intense emotions and walk that edge of romance again. And this man helped lead me towards that edge- in a few tantalizing phone calls and correspondence. He led me right to the edge- and though I didn’t fully trust the outcome- I was willing to see what lurked beyond that edge.

So I reveled in my narrative. I knew deep down that this behavior was not healthy nor did this man truly deserve the narrative I had created- but I didn’t care. I just went there. Over the past month, the narrative has grown thin, weak and twisty. The narrative is now something that turns my stomach, it makes me cringe and I want to berate myself and abuse myself for allowing the narrative to exist in my mind for so long. But I don’t, and I’m writing this for the world to see in the hopes of fleshing out what this behavior actually means.

And today, I shattered that narrative. This man turned away from me– again. From all that I am and all that I have to offer. Today, this man showed his utter inability or incomprehension of embracing something so wonderful as what I have to offer.

And today I embraced the emerging true narrative that I always knew existed with this man. The other narrative- the real one- the dark and twisty one. It always existed. It grew right along side the shiny, polished narrative I created for my own masochistic pleasure. And every so often- each time this man turned away from me- I would look at the real narrative- the one that I was unwilling to truly embrace- and justify why this could not be the case.

For I see the good in the people I let into my life- I see the beauty. Once I get to know a person and let them into my world- however slightly- I will always give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe the good in people. I see the potential and the love that each person has and I want to believe that people will always act on that love- no matter what their own narrative may be.

And I believed it in this man, until the bitter end. Bear in mind, I did not have a relationship with this man. We acknowledged the chemistry and passion that existed between us and spent several evenings over several years together, but no true intimacy ever evolved. He was never ready to accept what stood before him. He spoke of change and embracing greater truths, but his actions spoke of his fears and his weaknesses. His actions, even today- at the bitter end, spoke the truth that his words could not. And the intensity of our chemistry kept me hooked- I wanted to know what this chemistry meant. I wanted to bath myself in the dynamic range of emotions that such passion and chemistry could provide.

The narrative that I did not want to face actually reflected the type of lifestyle that I speak of at length on this blog. This man, like so many other lost souls I’ve met over the years, stands at a point in life where so many are today. On one side, he sees a different path for himself. A path that reflects his true self, a path that leaves him feeling fulfilled and joyful at the end of the day. I know, because he told me as much on the first day we truly hung out. He was standing at the crossroads of his life, longing for another direction. Ready to take action and seize a better, more truthful existence for himself.

And in that moment, I built the narrative of finding a man that harbored the chemistry and the passion and was making radical changes in his life to embrace a new self. That’s the narrative I built. We would journey off into the unknown adventure together and he could see a whole other side of life that he never knew existed. That was an exhilarating prospect.

And today I stood and shattered that false narrative once and for all.

For I truly hope he does embrace such a narrative in life- but I doubt he has the strength or the knowledge to do so. Even amidst my anger in this moment- I truly do hope he embraces the positive outcome that a narrative of radical change can provide.

Even though deep down I knew that I was clinging to the wrong narrative, I still held it close in the dark evenings when loneliness sets in. It happens- I’m a single, 35 year old woman with a ton of love and beauty to give and at times the fact that I have yet to meet the man that recognizes and embraces this gift makes me feel utterly alone in the world.

But, there is another narrative emerging. Well, it emerged many years ago, but, as you can tell, I enjoyed frolicking with the other narrative. The narrative of finding that man who has already done the difficult work of finding himself and his path in the world. This man has passion, he has intensity and he has made a deliberate choice in the way he lives his life. This man has love, he has depth, he has brilliance and he has balance. This man recognizes beauty when it stands before him- because he recognizes the beauty within and all around him. He sees the opportunity that an unconventional woman can provide and it doesn’t make him flinch. This man will stand next to his own fears and his own sorrow and never shrink away from the pain or the chance to evolve from the despair. This man stands before society and revolts against its devastation and destruction. This man will fight for the chance at a better life, for himself and his community. This man will stand on his convictions and place his life on the line to ensure that the world recognizes its fallacies and he will fight to bring about a revolution- a revolution of thought, of action and of love.

This man, this narrative that I’ve tucked away and am bringing back to the surface, he exists. I know he’s out there and I will wait until our paths cross. I’ve always known that the false narrative I chased for the past several years could never live up to this all-encompassing narrative of the man who completes me. And I’ve been a little scared to embrace the better narrative- afraid that it might not exist and I’ll be left alone.

Maybe I’ve been the one who is scared and stuck in an old paradigm. Maybe I am the one at fault for not being true to myself in waiting for the man who reflects my ideal narrative to emerge. Maybe in clinging to the safe and false narrative, I’ve been denying myself the ability to pursue my own life to its fullest- by harboring the thoughts of what-ifs and maybe-so. Maybe clinging to the old narrative was a way of insulating myself from truly risking it all to find the one man that really embodies and mirrors all that I am- and all that I hope to become.

Maybe this little phoenix has just shattered her last false narrative that reflects a past life she has outgrown and evolved past and is now ready to rise from her ashes and set the world a-blaze.

Game on, dear friends!

The comments are off, but the conversation is on- hit The Twitter!! @crystaldstreet tell me if you’ve been harboring false narratives or what you’ve done to shatter them!