Life is for living

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All what little money I had saved was spent in the move home to Missouri. We’re just now — one year later — to the point where there is a little left in the coffers at the end of the month.

Now the smart person would take the little bit left over and set it aside for a rainy day. Me, on the other hand, will take my Beloved out for a meal. Or I’ll buy a roll of film, or a book.

I was thinking about this recently and came to a conclusion. Life is for living, not for setting aside in anticipation of some future event which may or may not occur.

When I have a little left over, I’m going out to dinner, I’m going to go to the movies. Afterwards if I still have some extra, then I’ll put some in savings.

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Analog in a digital world

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There’s something special about paper and pencil.

Permanence.

It’s something you can hold. Something you can look at. No further technological input required.

What I wrote earlier tonight — barring catastrophe — could be picked up 100 years hence and read.

It won’t matter what a computer looks like then, or even if they exist at all.

My great-great-grandchildren with their direct neural connections to the net could find the (paper) notebook in which I wrote this post and see what I had to say. This blog will be long gone.

It’s one of the reasons I prefer my photography as prints.

Physical analog copies have a staying power that bits and bytes cannot have unless the keeper of the information has the time and money for the constant upgrading of file formats and storage media.

Five-and-a-quarter inch disks made way for 3.5’s which were replaced by CD-ROMs until Blu-Ray came along. Hard drives are starting to fall to flash-based media. Computers are obsolete the day after you buy them.

My shoebox of prints and negs will also be there 100 years from now.

The upgrade cycle is great for tech company’s bottom lines. I am weary of it.

How fundamentalism sabotaged my life

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I recently picked up the book “I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing,” by Kyria Abrahams, from the library.

It’s a story about a girl growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, later to be “disfellowshipped.” I’m not particularly interested in reading about JWs but a snippet from the cover jacket caught my eye …

“… explores the ironic absurdity of growing up believing that nothing matters because everything’s about to be destroyed.”

And that resonated with me, because that’s pretty much what I grew up believing.

I wasn’t taken to particularly extreme churches as a child, but the groundwork was laid. And when I found myself cast out of my mother’s house after turning 18, newly married and out in the real world on my own for the first time in my life, that early conditioning took control.

I never finished high school. I was failed my senior year for handing out “Chick tracts,” and I didn’t go back. College was out of the question because the rapture would happen any minute, why waste time in class when I could be out “winning souls.” Not that — to my knowledge — I ever actually won any souls. Funny how constantly arguing with people about how wrong they are tends to turn them away.

Eventually I realized how insane I was being and quit. Quit everything to do with Christianity. In fact, I declared myself pagan. But by that time the damage was done. I was too busy earning a living to go back to school. I’d found myself a career that I was good at that didn’t require schooling (photojournalism) and I coasted on that for nearly 10 years.

Now here I am 31 years old trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. One thing I will be doing … living.

Exclusion

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Christianity today is a religion of exclusion, i.e. what we don’t do, who we exclude.

But reading the words of Christ it seems to me that he intended to create a faith of people who were inclusive. He said “Love one another,” and he lived it while hanging out with the “dregs” of society.

Christ came not to condemn (John 3:17) and told us frankly not to judge (Matthew 7:1), and yet Sunday after Sunday so-called men of God thunder messages of condemnation and judgement from their pulpits.

I think it is very important to note that Christ’s only recorded words of condemnation were aimed squarely at the religious leadership.

How have we as followers of this man fallen so far from the ideals that he taught?

I was impressed by a monologue found at the end of the movie “Chocolat;”

“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we create and who we include.”

Income discrimination

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We’ve been trying to buy a car. Our bank approved us to spend a certain amount of money, but we have yet to find a car they approve of. What we find is either too high mileage or too old.

Actually, we did find a couple that were approved, but one sold before we could even start the paperwork and the other turned out to have some mechanical issues I didn’t want to deal with.

But those were exceptions to the rule, I think my banker might have a slightly inflated idea of what kind of car you can get for certain prices these days. So I’ve been asking around at some dealerships to see what kind of financing they offer.

I got to talking figures with one of the local dealers yesterday and I came away a bit miffed. See, Noel and I make very little money, under $10,000 per year. Not that we’re complaining, we’ve worked very hard learning to live well at this income level. And we do live well.

Our budget takes up only about 25-30 percent of that income. And the vast majority of that is our camper loan which will be paid off soon. What it boils down to is that we have several hundred dollars of discretionary income each month with which to purchase a car.

Turns out the dealer’s bank won’t even consider us for a loan because we make so little money. It apparently doesn’t matter that 70 percent of my money goes straight into our pockets. Our income is below a certain magic number, so we are unworthy.

It irks me, but that’s okay. I don’t really want more debt anyway. Being debt-free is one major key to living on so little money.

Lay it down

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Laying down our “all.” Even for those who hate us.

Christ gave us that example to live up to. Most of us think of it in terms of dying for someone else. What if we think about it in terms of laying down our pride?

Quite a bit harder, it seems like.

Few of us will be asked to give our very life. But our testimony of Love is damaged every day because we refuse to lay down our pride.

It is human pride that leads us to declare; “We are right, you are wrong!” It is pride of the worst sort that compels us to damn people to an eternity of unimaginable suffering because they disagree with us.

Where do we humans get this insatiable need to be “right?” I’m more than guilty in this regards. I spent much of my adult life arguing right and wrong as it comes to religion, while ignoring what the religion was trying to teach.

Live life! Be good to one another! Love one another! How did we ever turn that into “you’re going to hell!”?

Faith is believing in something without knowing (Hebrews 11). How do we figure that we could ever convince folks of something we don’t know ourselves?

I have faith in Love. I  believe that Love could transform this world. But I’ll never convince anyone of that with words. I can only live it, and allow Love to transform me. And hopefully Love will infect those around me, and we can have a Love epidemic! 🙂

God is Love!

Tools of the artist

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Every form of art has its own tools of the trade.

Obviously there are the physical implements: pens, brushes, cameras, guitars, etc. But I’m thinking more of the techniques by which we use those tools to express our vision.

You can learn these techniques, but at some point during the practice of them there will come an “ah ha!” moment where you suddenly get it deep down. Then you will be able to really use that technique to create your art.

I remember my “ah ha!” moment regarding the relationship between shutter speed and aperture very clearly. I was a very green photographer. I “knew” what aperture and shutter speed did. But one day I was out and about with some friends and we came to a water fountain at a shopping center. For some reason, I decided to shoot the fountain at every aperture. From as wide open as the light would allow, to the smallest available on the lens. When I got the prints back and saw the effect, it was then that I really knew what aperture and shutter speed did to my photos.

I was lucky in my career as a photographer to get a full-time job making photos very early. I spent 40-plus hours every week for almost 10 years being paid to learn photography through a lot of trial and error. It is the very best way to learn!

I got to thinking about this recently having committed myself to learning another art form — guitar.

I’ve loved music for a long time. And this is not the first time I’ve been involved with music. I’ve “known” what music could do, and quite a bit about how and why it does it for a long time. But learning the techniques on my own, and hearing the results from my own guitar has led me to many “ah ha!”s recently.

And I find myself energized not only by the creation of art, but also by the learning process itself. I eagerly await that next “ah ha!” I can’t wait to find out what I didn’t really know before, and for that next horizon to appear.

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