time

seasons

One thing particular to life in LA is the lack of seasons. Sure, it gets a little chilly in the winter and hot in the summer, but, most of the time, it’s a nice day outside. It’s one of the reasons so many people live there.

I didn’t realize I missed seasons until I moved away. There’s something special and important about changes in weather patterns and how they mark the passage of time. For me, it creates a mental expectation of change. Without that, I had a vague sense that time was passing, but most days felt just like the one before. There was an ongoing sameness that dulled me.

Seasons bring their own challenges, and also their own moods. Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring each have a different feel to them—a special uniqueness.

Much like the annual seasons, there are also seasons of creativity. There are times of newness and discovery, times of repetition and improvement, times of rest, and even times of loss and failure. Each one is an important part in the cycle. 

Currently, I’m entering a time of trying new things and also bringing old projects to a close. I’m learning to allow and plan for the time each creative undertaking requires, rather than trying to rush through it. I’m also learning which investments yield too little results to continue.

After having been through some big life changes, and a time in which I didn’t accomplish much in the pursuit of a creative career, I’m now returning to routine practice, goal setting, and measured growth.

I’m still figuring out what is most important and how I should best manage my time, while also experimenting. As I hear someone describe: when you’re getting started, you just throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. Though I’ve done all that before, I’m rearing up for another round of spaghetti chucking.

How about you, have you thought much about what season you’ve come from and which one you’re entering?

the power of now

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Life is a strange thing to me. The more I think about it, the stranger it seems. 

Just how much control do we have over our own lives? In the case of external events and circumstances, it often feels like very little. But, in the case of our internal attitudes and the actions we take from them, we have much more.

I’ve heard one preacher describe life as a series of choice, decisions, and consequences. In some aspects I believe that’s true.

As far as time goes, and the passing thereof, we have no control. Like it or not, time just keeps on ticking into the future. All we have is right now. This moment. No, I mean this one. Even so, our now is shaped by our past and what we do now determines our future.

So often I’m tempted to dwell too long on the past or worry to much about the unknowns of the future. Either obsession can become a hamper to creative thought because both can be the result of dwelling in fear.

Yoda claims that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. For Anakin Skywalker this was true. It also led to three mediocre (at best) prequels. Sorry George, but it’s true.

As far as dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, fear leads to indecision, which leads to inaction, which leads to … well … not creativity. Maybe you have a better word for it.

In Clint Eastwood’s movie, Gran Torino, Walt is a retired vet who is, in many ways, stuck. He’s old, in bad health, has lost his wife, and despises his multi-ethnic neighbors. He’s a man haunted by his past wrongs who has a grim outlook on the future. Now, I wouldn’t call him scared (he’s a ballsy guy, to be sure), but there is an internal fear that keeps him disengaged—at arms length from his neighbors and even his own family.

But things change (a necessity for any story) and Walt is drawn out of his cocoon of beer, home repairs and car maintenance and into caring relationships with his Hmong next-door neighbors. He finds creative ways to protect and care for them, especially one boy in particular. Eventually, Walt takes an extremely heroic (dare I say, creative) action to put a stop to a gang that has been attacking the family.

In the end, there is a sense of redemption for Walt and hope for the family he helped. His decision to step into the moment and make some real changes lead to a positive outcome. That’s not to say everything is peachy, but it’s a much better story than what would have happened if Walt had stayed holed up in his house until he died of old age.

At some point, we’ve got to let the past be the past, let the future worry about itself, and focus on what we can do right now and the impact we have on the people who are around us today. I hope you, unlike Walt, don’t wait until you’re a crotchety old fogey full of regrets. But, even if you are one, it’s not too late to start living in the now, right now.

A brief regard of slow things

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With apologies to Patrick Rothfuss ...

Things take time. Some very good things take a long time.

I’ve been learning to appreciate this, to enjoy the process itself.

The Sequoia national forest is a good place to observe this. Those immense trees have been around for hundreds of years through fire and storm and they just keep on steadily growing. They are remarkable in many ways and, unlike a Los Vegas hi-rise, they didn’t sprout up overnight.

Most of the time, I want to rush everything. Whether it’s my culture or personality (let’s just blame culture, shall we), my tendency is toward instant gratification.

I want it now. Actually, I wanted it yesterday, but since we haven’t quite got time travel down, now will have to do. 

A lot of businesses run this way (even my own at times), and I think the frantic demand for faster and more is killing us.

It definitely doesn’t help where sleep deprivation is concerned.

These last few months have been more a time of rest than rush for me. While I still struggle with feeling unproductive and unaccomplished, I think there is a definite positive side to taking things one slow, measured step at a time. 

The theory holds true with compound interest—very small amounts added in over time equal a much greater end result than a few large deposits.

I heard about a study where they had one group wear spf 15 sunscreen every day and the other wear 65 spf only when they were outside and it was sunny. The result, after only 5 years, was the 15s looked about the same and the 65s look noticeably older. 

Hey, maybe I’m not so crazy when I fret about unprotected exposure to even trace amounts of sunshine. Mr. Sun is a big meanie. 

Anyways, I’m trying to enjoy more things that take time. Lately, I’ve been making batches of cold brew coffee, which, in my completely accurate opinion, tastes way better than the hot brewed kind. But it takes 24 hours of brewing as well as some prep work and cleanup.

Besides the end result (smooth, delicious coffee), the process itself is kinda fun. It makes me feel like some kind of coffee connoisseur.

In my office, I’ve got a standing desk with a hand crank. It was way cheaper than the electronic one. It takes longer and requires some effort to crank that baby up and down a few times a day, but it’s also a nice little break for me.

Sure, it’s more work to grow your own vegetables rather than buy them from the store, to write a letter by hand, or to take a break and soak your feet at the end of the day. But the attention required by slow things leads to a greater appreciation, and, ultimately, enjoyment of the thing itself.

So take a break now and then, smell the flowers or put a kettle of hot water on the stove for some tea. You may just find yourself smiling. 

And, hey, you could use a break.

in a moment

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This post is something of a follow-up to the previous one, on record.

I don’t think any of us truly appreciate how much weight a moment carries. Or maybe I’m the only one and the rest of y’all got it figured out but aren’t telling me. Hey, fess up already will ya?

We often repeat phrases of encouragement like, “live in the moment,” or, “be in the moment,” or the classic, “carpe diem,” which, shockingly, has little to do with fish or ten cent coins.

And I like all that stuff, I really do, but how to live it isn’t always clear to me. Moments and days aren’t easy to lay hold of. Time itself is tricky; it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

But hey, we’re talking about just a moment here. A fraction of time so small it’s hard to measure. Surely that can’t be so hard to grasp. And moments are so plentiful, like a bucket stuffed with fish, they should be a cinch to snatch.

Could be it’s because there are so many of them, we forget their value. And what do you do with it once you’ve got it anyways? I mean, it’s all wet and slapping you in the face now! The fish, I mean.

Maybe moments are more like a giant stream full o’ fish just swimming on by. Sure, you can get a few in a net, you can try to capture those precious moments, but, unlike pokemon, there’s no way you can catch them all.

Yes, moments are important, but does each hold the same weight? It doesn’t seem that way. But I do think every moment, even the most mundane, holds the great potential.

One decision can be made in a moment which entirely changes the course of your life. You might choose to quit your job, move, forgive someone, take up drinking, quit drinking, run away, get married, or even join the rotary club. A reputation may be destroyed in a split-second decision.

And unexpected things can happen in just a moment, ground-breaking, earth-shaking things. There is a magic to the moment.

Moments are plentiful, powerful, and unappreciated.

I might never be able to hold every moment sacred while also releasing it to allow time for the next. Still, I do try to pause now and then, just to take things in—to take a breath and notice where I am, to enjoy people I'm with, and to just be thankful for it all.

Once I have it all figured out, I’ll let you know, momentarily.

on time

Time is a funny thing, and I don’t necessarily mean humorous. 

It sneaks up on you, surprises you and shouts, “gotcha!”

Time, you little trickster, quit doing that!

Yes, we have many expressions for the way we feel about time. It flies. It marches on. Sometimes it stands still. 

Doctor Who calls it “A big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff,” as if that makes any sense at all. Guess it’s a Time Lord thing.

What I find funny, or rather amusing, about time is how very predictable it is and yet how often we are caught off guard by its passing.

A younger version of me used to view time as an enemy. Sometimes he, I mean I, still do, ahem, does. Man this time thing can get confusing fast.

But time is not the enemy, it’s a resource. An extremely valuable one at that. Since time travel does not, to my knowledge, exist (ok, so perhaps it does, but we’re all traveling forward at basically the same rate), we can’t get back the time which has passed. Our time is limited and passing. This is both a problem and a challenge.

Come to think of it, this very well may be my first major misunderstanding: thinking time somehow belongs to me. I act as if I’m owed a certain amount of time just like a paycheck for services rendered.

But no child, woman, or man owns time. Except maybe Gandalf, who claims a wizard is never early or late but arrives precisely when he means to. Sounds to me like someone’s playing fast and lose with the space-time continuum.

Since I’m neither a Time Lord nor Gandalf, all I can do is be thankful for the time I’m allowed. 

The philosopher Heraclitus saw time as a river, which always changes. He made the observation that you could never step in the same river twice. Clearly he ripped that straight off of Disney’s Pocahontas. 

In his own words:

“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”
“You could not step twice into the same river.”

As I see it, time is something we must aim to use wisely and well, before it slips away. The river flows on whether or not you dip your feet in it. Sometimes it carries you away.

We can become so anxious about time that we become obsessed with it, making frantic attempts to stem its flow. This is where FOMO, or fear of missing out, comes from. We feel the need to keep up with everything all the time. But instead of using it with the powerful and direct force of a firehose it’s more like a bucket we’re sloshing about, all the while just dampening the ground a bit.

I’ll admit, I can become so concerned with all the things I might possibly miss out on that I don’t really commit fully to anything. No bueno.

I’ve found the better and more helpful attitude is, now or never.

If I can’t commit to a thing now or at least dedicate a specific time to it, then the thing may very well never ever get done. Yes, it sounds a touch dramatic, but think of all the stuff you’ve truly intended to do “someday” but never even started. There is no such thing as someday.

As creatives, we must be people of the moment, employing and enjoying the time we’re living, right now, in the immediate present. Because, whether we use it or not, the time will vanish like water on a hot desert road.

Hey, who’s thirsty?

 

“Time is a game played beautifully by children.”
~ Heraclitus