Does the Darkness Find You?

We all know of the dark and twisty places that touch on the depth of our existence as humans. I’m not referring to the surface level sadness and anger that find us on a regular basis and tap us on the shoulder for a little get together.

In the Holy Church of the Sepluchure

I’m talking about the deep, thick caverns of darkness that find us- unwilling and unprepared to deal with the void that the darkness provides.

This darkness shatters our realities and leaves us bewildered and alone.

The darkness is something we rarely talk about in normal discourse. We hold this darkness close to our souls and we show it only to a select few. We reveal the darkness only in moments of intense vulnerability with people who can sit with our darkness and not flinch or judge.

Not everyone harbors the strength to sit with the darkness and welcome it to a cup of tea. And some darkness is just too intense to share a space with for a moment longer than necessary.

Sometimes the darkness breaks people and they never glimpse the light again.

How you handle your darkness can be an indication of how much joy and gratitude is present in your life. When we truly understand the brevity and gift that life provides us, we can sit next to our darkness and touch the sorrow that lies within the void and not be permanently damaged. When we understand how truly blessed we are or when our lives are filled with unconditional love, we can surrender to the sorrow and know it will not break us.

We know that this darkness will not define us. We understand that the void will not empty our souls and strip our compassion. We comprehend that the pain we feel, the sorrow that engulfs us will eventually subside. If we’re lucky.

Our darkness will leave a mark. Our darkness may linger, unwanted and unwelcome. Our sorrow may hide the sunshine for some time.

But eventually, our ability to sit with our darkness will move us forward towards a new definition of our existence. Our darkness will push our souls to the boundaries of our mortal existence- to peer into the abyss below. Our sorrow will remind us of our strength and gently carry us towards a deeper level of empathy than we would know otherwise.

Our sorrow will connect us to others, without words, without language- with only a glance or an exchange of energy. Intense sorrow breeds a cloak of empathy that embraces the energies we touch who have also walked the path of sorrow.

The darkness will find some of us and leave in its wake a strong, powerful being who fears little and loves much.

The conversation is on The Twitter- join in! @crystaldstreet

Our Evolving Selves.

We are constantly evolving. If you aren’t evolving- you’re dead. Sorry to be so blunt, but the person who doesn’t constantly change and evolve is a person not truly living.

And then- we dance.

Stop for a moment. Hit pause. Close your eyes and what is the vision of yourself?

Are you standing at the edge of a rocky ocean, arms spread wide, head back and falling into the wind? Are you feeling that wind of change caressing your cheek, whispering into your ear the sweet nothings of something bigger than you- something larger than your daily existence? Are those winds of change enticing you to walk away from all you’ve known and step into something totally new and embryonic- something revolutionary?

Do you see yourself in a vast, wide world, standing in the midst of swirling chaos and uncertainty- totally still and immersed in the moment?  Are you standing amongst the bedlam completely at peace and grounded in this environment of wonder and adventure?

Or are you buried beneath a sea of obligations? Are your bags so deep and so burdensome that your lungs are crushed and you can’t see the light beyond your things? As you stand here, buried and bewildered, are you wondering if there’s more to life? Are you wondering how you got there? Are you wondering where to go next?

If you fall in to the last category- then you need to evolve. At some point, possibly many years ago, you stopped learning. You traded in the adventure and the uncertainty for the corner office, a 401K and comfort. Hate to break it to you, but that was the wrong decision. (Depending on your family situation, a little stability is necessary and so is the ability to provide for your loved ones) But sacrificing your life to accomplish these goals is not required-society only wants you to think concession is necessary so you’ll continue to consume and boost the economy.

If you’re currently standing in that position of burden- go learn something. Turn the microscope inward and embrace a talent, skill or idea you crushed long ago in order to pursue your comfortable existence and go master that skill. Go be that person you envisioned at 18, the fearless warrior living an exceptional life. Go be that person. Start with learning. And begin your evolution.

We must constantly evolve.

Even though I’ve been on this unconventional journey for many, many years- really, my whole life, I still feel the need to constantly evolve. To the point that my need for evolution can be viewed as a character flaw. As soon as I figure something out or accomplish something- I don’t feel the need to continue doing it! I then feel compelled to tackle the next unknown- the next adventure- the next craft I must attempt to master.

This winter has been a wonderful learning and evolutionary experience. Again, as was last winter. I’ve learned that my struggle between the stationary life and the transient life must end. I have to be one or the other- I can’t be both at the same time. But, it is possible to be transient at times and stationary at others- just not all at once. And, ironically, that involves shedding even more possessions and fine tuning my spiritual path in life.

In order for me to evolve, I must push myself to an edge that I’ve glimpsed at, but never truly embraced.  I must push myself to the edge of passion, to the edge of my craft, to the edge of my personal relationships and to the edge of my comfort zones.

When I close my eyes, I see a woman standing in a deep valley, filled with all sorts of unknowns and curiosities. This woman is planning her way through the valley, navigating her way through the mystery- and this woman is ready to dance at any moment. I also see a woman standing on the edge of a cliff above that valley. She’s standing in the wind, eyes closed, just feeling the sense of wonder that valley holds. She’s feeling the winds of change and she’s reveling in their whispers of uncertainty, passion and evolution- and this woman’s ready to leap at any moment.

To soar.  To fly.

This vision comes to me often, every day, at the most inopportune moments. And I always pause and sit with the vision. Then I write. This vision gives me peace. It doesn’t tell me what to do, it assures me that the intensity is real- that the intensity of that vision makes life worth living.

What do you see when you close your eyes? Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to leap? Are you ready to soar?

And are you willing to fall in order to evolve? Or are you too afraid to do anything at all?

Let me know your vision- I’m on Twitter- @cstreet10 !  If you’re ready to take the conversation deep- join my TinyLetter and we’ll go there!

How Do They Sleep at Night?

**DISCLAIMER** Ok, it’s time to put on the big girl/boy political panties to read this one! If you don’t care for politics/media/current events, you may want to skip this one.

Is it possible that the people are finally stepping out of their complacency and taking a stand for their vision of a just and sustainable society? Will the people win or will the corporation crush them with its morality devouring agenda in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan?

Many people read their news in Nepal on the walls of the city.

And do I want to live in a country if the people lose this battle. Do I want to live in a country that places the welfare of the corporation above the well-being of the people? Do I even want to live in a society that values and protects the bonuses of Wall Street magicians who make money out of thin air- to the detriment of the rest of us mere mortals who exchange time and tangible products for money? Do I even want to stay in a country who will denigrate the work of a teacher and fight to privatize the job of a fireman? Do I want to live in a culture that celebrates the misbehavior of the entitled and ignores the sacrifice of its civil servants?

Can I sit by and watch the destruction of the infrastructure of a nation- before the very eyes of its people- and not take some sort of action? Can I stand by and watch as the largest transfer of wealth occurs in a country so abundant in wealth and capability that it was, at one time, the beacon to all other nations?

How do the politicians forcing this anti-democratic agenda sleep at night?

Do they not have children and grandchildren? Were they never inspired by a teacher? Have they never been saved by the sacrifice of a firefighter, police officer or soldier? Have they never been in a country when the government collapsed and the basic services that keep a country functioning, like trash collection, cease to exist? Have they ever stepped outside of their glass castles and walked among the very people that placed them in the castle to begin with? Do they have no understanding of what democracy truly is and how it works?

Or do they merely answer directly to the Corporation at this point in time? Are they too busy consuming everything in sight to really give a fuck about what’s best for the nation? Are they too busy sticking their head up some CEO’s ass to care that these actions will have dangerous consequences for future generations–and current ones?

As I sit and watch the citizens of several states fight to maintain their livelihood- people who, for all intensive purposes, should be doing their important work rather than fighting daily for rights from a Governor implementing a corporate agenda; I’m wondering what exactly I can do to participate. I don’t have the resources to fly to one of these states right now and I’m not versed on domestic issues and policies. I have a platform here, which I am using now, and giving a moment’s reflection for the issue. What more can be done? I’m asking- let me know your answer- @cstreet10.

Here are two of the video clips (see below) I spent time with last night and was completely appalled at the actual legislation that’s being pushed through many states right now under the guise of an economic crisis. Yes, our economy is in crisis- there’s no doubt about that. But does Michigan need to create legislation that allows a governor to dismiss an entire municipality’s ELECTED officials and turn the city over to the hands of a corporation? Yea, that’s real. It passed the state House and is about to pass the Senate.

Our media is not giving us the true story-the whole story, so maybe my role in this- my means of participation- is to curate the information for others. Maybe raising the collective awareness of what’s happening in our world is my means of participating in this revolution. Maybe that’s my role. For now.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that my job is to bear witness. To simply witness the world, with all its struggles, pain, suffering, wonder and beauty, and interpret the experience for others. I seem to do this fairly well, with words and images, so I believe that this is what my purpose truly is, to be a witness- and tell others. But I cannot be everywhere, nor do I want to be.

Honestly, when I watch the news and see what’s happening in these states being run by governor’s hell bent on removing democracy and then hear the mass media talking points in the everyday conversations of the people around me, I want to jump on a sail boat and drift off into the sunset. Seriously. That’s my first thought.

But I can’t do that. I must watch. I must participate. I must continue to try and tell people, one conversation at a time, to seek the truth. I must tell people to look beneath the shiny info-graphics, blood-pressure increasing music and bloviating talking heads and see the real truth.

These are your teachers, your firefighters, your police officers. These are the people who shape our future and maintain our present. Should they truly be the ones to “repair” the economy, with their pensions and pay rates, while our tax dollars flow unregulated into the pockets of Wall Street?

Regardless of your stance on unions, should we not take pause and say, “yes, your job is more important than some insane political agenda.” Hollywood can’t even write this shit- it’s so far from any tangible reality.

So in light of this revelation and rant- I’ve launched a tumblr site where I merely post the media I’m consuming and give some commentary of my interpretation of the news. During my time at UNC, I had the good fortune to study media agenda setting theories with the creator of the theory and took several classes devoted to culture and information consumption for my Peace War and Defense course work. While I may not be an expert media analyst, I’ve devoted the better portion of over 7 years to closely studying media production, agenda setting theories and the means by which the Corporation and the government control the information the everyday person consumes, and in turn, the public discourse. So, I’m putting my expertise to use here.

More to come on this topic! Stay tuned!

and one more to watch…

If Someone Held a Gun to Your Head, What Would You Choose?

You’re staring down the barrel of a gun.

The hammer is cocked and a finger’s on the trigger.

The potential grim-reaper has one demand.

One simple choice stands between you and the bullet ready to careen out of that gun and end your life as you know it.

Author John Kitchens poses for his promotional portraits- intense!

The gun man says this…

“Pick one absolute, one passion, one activity, one pursuit, one purpose.  That’s it.  No others.  Only one thing and do it everyday, with all your remaining life, all your creative ability.  Do that one thing to the fullest everyday.  And nothing else.

Or I end it right here.

But there’s a catch, you have to do this one thing to the best of your ability with all the talent and logic your mind can muster- and only your mind- to the irreverence of everyone else in your life.  You can think of no one else’s opinion of your work, you can embrace no one else’s vision of your life, you can stand by no one else’s decisions.

Only your own.

From this day forward, you must embody your absolute and you must shed everything else.  And you can live for no one else’s vision or opinion of what your life should or could be.

Or I shoot.”

Could you decide?

Could you- with the reality of your decision only inches from your face, look at all that you do and all that you think is possible with all the ideas and creative endeavors you embrace- and pick one.  Only one.  And do that one thing, that one absolute to its highest potential?  Without waiver, without deviance from your path, without outside influence on your work?

What would you choose?  What would you do?  What would you discard?

I’ve had several conversations with my local barista revolving around modernity and the effect this virtual world is having upon the way people interact and communicate.  And today, as we were talking about her potential Mac purchase and my tutoring her to bring her up to speed on the ways of the Mac, I repeated a statement I often make when people are impressed by all the computer knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

“You could take it all away, all of it, give me a darkroom, some film and my chemicals and I ‘d and I be in bliss”

And I mean it.  While I love writing for this blog and the new world it has opened up for me, I would gladly place it all on a shelf, take out my film camera and some black and white film,  pull out my negatives, fill up my trays with stop bath and fixer (darkroom chemicals) and go to my happy place.

You wouldn’t even need to put a gun to my head, you’d just have to slide some food under the darkroom door every few hours and be sure I enter the light of day every so often.

I continually come back to this point throughout the entire duration of my career as a photographer.  I went digital because my clients demanded it.  I produce multimedia because people are paying me to do it.  I shoot weddings, portraits and write online articles because it puts food on my table and keeps a roof over my head.

But I would gladly give it all back if I could return to my roots- and still make a living.

I would gladly return to the days of film. I’m heavily debating it at this moment.  I’m trying to figure out if I can stand in front of that gun and just do one thing.  And can I still support myself in the process- can I swim against the current, do it my way and not starve to death?

I miss the days of film and the darkroom.  The days of waiting with child-like excitement, for days on end, for my negatives to be developed just so I could see if the actual vision in my head rivals what I captured on film.

And in some instances, I opted not to develop the film because I liked the vision of the image in my brain so much that any actual representation of the image in real life would be disappointing.

That’s fucking crazy.  But I’ve done it.

There’s a fabulous scene in Vicky, Christina, Barcelona, where Javier Bardem is explaining about the beauty of his father’s poetry but that he never published any of his work, nor translated it into English, in fact, he speaks no English because of his art.

“He’s a poet, and he doesn’t feel that another language should pollute his words.”

When asked about his poetry and why he doesn’t publish, Javier answers with this, “He hates the world. And that’s his way at getting back at them, to create beautiful works and deny them to the public.

[He’s so angry] because after thousands of years, they still have not learned to love.”

That, to me, is the sign of true passion, to an extreme.  That is a man, who, were a gun pointed at his head, would choose one thing- instantly.  And further more, if a gun were pointed at his head asking him to share his work or water-down the vast significance his work held based on someone else’s judgment, he would tell the reaper to pull the trigger.  Or do it himself.

He would choose death before he compromised his art.  His passion.  His purpose.  That’s intense.  That’s real.  That’s the type of absolute drive we should all hope for when we embrace our passion.

Would you go so far to defend your purpose?  Would you hold your work close to your soul and let no unworthy person see the fruits of your passion?

Would you choose death over the compromise of your one purpose in life?  Do we even speak of such extreme passion in today’s world?

Have we lost the true devotion to a craft, to a purpose, to a drive that we would choose a slow meaningless life devoid of passion, intensity or risk over the brief opportunity to embrace our purpose, to pursue our calling?

Would we choose the bullet, rather than take the risk and fail at striving to embody our purpose– our absolute?

Would we have the strength and the courage to deny the world our art if that world was unable, unworthy or unwilling to embrace the brilliance of its purpose?

What would your choice be if the gun was in your face?  Is it not already?


When Will the Resignation End and the Awakening Begin?

Where does resignation originate?  At what point in our lives do we concede to the situation we find ourselves within without fighting for a vision- for a dream?  Why do some resign at the first sign of adversity in a privileged existence and others fight to the death when faced with a life of perpetual turmoil?

It will fall upon this generation to find the passion to fight for their future and repair the damage that the in-action of my generation- and the one's before it- have inflicted upon their world.

Does the person who resigns without struggle signify a person who values life less? Has the modern institution of entertainment he so willfully worships convinced his subconscious that his life has little value? Was the fire extinguished in this person long ago, at the coming of age when his life was consumed with violent video games and images of destruction as forms of entertainment? Did this man’s resignation happen because of the entitlement handed down from his parents?

Did this person’s resignation happen long before he gave up- long before the daily drudgery of a life without meaning or beauty became his biography?

Why does the other man fight to the death for what he believes he should possess from birth? Why does he sacrifice everything– home, love, stability and breathe– for the chance to give those inalienable human rights to those who will come after him?  Why does he fight so hard- when his parents chose not to pick up the same battle and left him to deal with the ramifications of inaction?

Is it because he grew up seeing the results of war and hardship first hand? Is it because he understands the fragility of freedom, the uncertainty of access to the commodities that sustain daily life, the oppression of a foreign government at the hands of a corrupt state? Does he fight to the death because he bears a passion and appreciation of life that can only be acquired by holding true sorrow in your heart?

Why does one man resign when he has so much, yet another man fights when he has so little?

Why does one man value his own life so little, that he would waste the large portion of his years doing that which he loathes to participate in a system which consumes the very essence of the world he lives upon, with no thought to the next generation or those withering as a result of his consumption?

Why does another value his life so much, or the vision of what his life could and should become, that he would place that very life on the line to manifest his visions, for himself and the next generation? Why does a man embody such passion and such resilience, when he has known so much pain and suffering?

Why does one man willingly allow the mechanisms of suppression from the system to force him to resign his life- when the other man fights to the death to remove himself from the forced suppression of the State?

And at what point will the resigned faction of Western culture stand up and begin to live? What will be the tipping point for those men who willingly handed over their lives and their minds for the opportunity to consume? When will they embrace the freedom they were born into and realize that the meaningless entertainment they consume is the suppressive force that killed their spirit?

At what point will the resignation end and the awakening begin?