Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On Abstinence and Effort:

Warriors, Old and New
Toledo, Spain
Photo Credit: 
A. Massey Productions

Caked sweat, blisters, jock-itch, opened veins with blood pooling onto the hot desert sand…

Face paint, nostrils filled with gun smoke, explosives, heat stroke, lots of yelling, hospital waiting rooms, dance parties across the street from hospital waiting rooms, more explosives…

Press interviews, photo-ops, miles upon miles of marching, pain, fatigue, tears, and even more explosives…

These are just some of the things I endured during my last week of advanced combat training in the military. It was intense to say the least. But then it was all over. After a lengthy graduation ceremony with pomp and circumstance, led by a rather boorish army Major, we were sent home for a weekend of rest, recovery and recuperation.

Immediately upon returning to my apartment I dipped my cracked and calloused feet into a hot soapy bath. Armed with a large glass of Scotch I tried to reflect on the week’s pass while allowing the instrumental Jazz music that played from the speakers in the other room to soothe my aggressive spirit. I had done it, finished what I had set out to accomplish. It was grueling but I persisted and even through my exhaustion, flames of honor burned in my chest. I was damn proud of myself.

Yet, I was also heartbroken. My latest occupation had nearly killed one of my greatest loves: writing. Because of the demands and urgency of the military I had little to no time to write. Even when I found the time to put pen to paper all my work seemed like shit. Nothing flowed like it should and the words failed to excite. It was almost as if nothing stimulated me anymore.

Suddenly, right then and there, I got it! In the midst of my brooding I was smacked in the face by Mother Inspiration herself. Scotch still in hand, I bolted barefooted out of the bathroom and stumbled into the bedroom to find my ever-ready pen and pad. After close to a half a year of writer’s block I had finally found a cure. The cure, coincidentally, was found in it’s own symptoms: Vice, pleasure, debauchery, excitement, and inspiration.

All is for pleasure or the absence of pain. Sounds hedonistic, I know, but even religious folks who fantasize about their afterlife when they die are expecting a heavy dose of the world’s favorite pastime: feeling great!

Thanks to once-booming economies and a technological revolution, many vices and devices these days are quicker, stronger and easier to acquire. The buildup of waiting for something exciting is a thing of the past. This is, in theory, a fantastic phenomenon. It has led to increased pleasure, quicker feelings, more sophisticated sensations.

Except when we become desensitized to it all — then we feel dead.

Connectivity is stimulating and in today’s new age we are overstimulated. Furthermore, things like fame, validation, success and attention — feats that once took lifetimes to achieve — can be accessed with a single upload. Up until the Gulf War a soldier had to wait up to weeks to receive a letter from loved ones. Now, thanks to instant messaging, communications are streamlined even overseas. Modern thinkers blame Globalization and the media for bringing various “EXCITING” issues traditionally scattered around the world — such as war, crime, poverty and natural disaster — into the everyday living rooms via TV and internet. Ironically, it is possible these days to feel the horror of a murder, tsunami, rape, or coup d’etat that took place halfway across the globe even before you get to work.

But as we are pumped with heavier doses of strong sensations, from things like lightning-fast connectivity and hyper-consumption of now affordable luxuries, our dependency as well as capacity for pleasure grows. This can have long term consequences. One in particular, aside from desensitization, is the lack of triumph usually felt after working hard to achieve something.

In a way this is how narcotics effect the psyche. When ingested, strong drugs pique the pleasure plateau to shockingly high levels in a fraction of the time normally needed to achieve those results naturally. For example, if, in one day, you ran a marathon, volunteered at a food bank, planted a tree, cleaned your room and saved a panda you would undoubtably reach a lofty level of self-worth. All that hard and fulfilling work would leave you feeling encouraged, happy, proud and overall pleased with yourself. Unlike the pixie dust that some indulge in, those pleasures took hard effort to attain. It will last and be available even longer through memory and tangible proofs. You won’t just pee it out after a painfully long withdrawal process.

If the military has taught me anything it’s to appreciate the small things as well as things I had previously taken for granted. With all luxuries limited as of late, I have a new appreciation for everyday gifts like hot showers, tasty food, human connection, entertainment and even freedom.

Surprisingly, the army’s limitation of all these things has transformed me not only into a reflexive warrior but, in many ways, a happier person. When I have that free time I’m more conscious of it. Every tune is magic. Every kind pair of eyes is adored. Every uninterrupted night’s sleep with my boots off is a miracle and, of course, time in general is better utilized.

Boredom is not a fun state of mind. But even with increased stimuli and options we can still feel empty. I know I can. The idea is to pace yourself. Have something to look forward to. Limit yourself and let desire develop. Savor the flavor and enjoy the chase. Fight for lasting pleasures and take your time enjoying them.




After much time (unwillingly) abstaining from hot baths, groovy music and anything remotely close to Scotch I was finally able to properly enjoy myself. What followed resulted not only in renewed excitements but the restoration of the even greater pleasure of creativity. And with that, I got more than I bargained for.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Sparks of David Photography

                /ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl/ adj.

1. Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: (e.g., everyone)

"Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength."
-Sigmund Freud

(Source: Oxford Dictionaries)

Have you ever gone to the pool for a swim and dipped your toes in the water only to find that the temperature is frigidly cold? This is called toeing the waters. Over time you gradually expose yourself to the uncomfortable waters before fully immersing yourself and soon afterward you're swimming freely and confidently splashing around. The other option, of course, is to dive in quickly and watch as your body naturally adapts to the new environment. 

I recently joined the military and every morning when I awake I'm faced with a dilemma. I sleep on the top bunk and when I finally swing my legs over the mattress and let them dangle below, I groan. Quickly switching gears from the ultimate state of vulnerability to a high-octane day can be shocking and dreadful. I'm hesitant and the trip from bunk to bottom feels more like skyscraper to concrete pavement. Every morning I say aloud "Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water" as if the floor below is an icy pool and I'm avoiding total immersion and every morning -- despite my displeasure -- I take that leap and land on the floor with a thud. The phrase has become so common that if my fellow cadets see me dawdling in bed or stuck in my morning stupor they'll say "Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water." It's a friendly reminder that despite fatigue, fear of the unknown, and the fact that you are so far removed from what some call "normal life" you must believe in the blood rushing through your veins, dive into life's challenges, and prevail.  

Essentially, each and every one of us is vulnerable in some way or another. Aside from obvious times when we're not on guard, like when we eat and sleep and other states, we must face other psychological and ideological vulnerabilities. Religion and science are at odds as to the fundamental questions of when and why we were created and we all know that regardless of the answers we had no choice in the matter. Unable to foretell the future, we wake up every morning vulnerable from uncertainty and must patiently await as the external factors of our fate progress every day. 

Vulnerability surrounds us all. It strikes when you really have to pee while on a bus and someone comes over to talk to you. It hides in your luggage when you travel to a foreign land and are unable to speak the language. It rears its ugly head before an important job interview or when you ask your crush out on a date. It's by your side when you have a disease running through your veins and when you can't seem to shake the chains of a troubled childhood. It whispers into the ears of the artists who publicly display their work and haunts the dreams of parents whose children are just gaining their independence. Vulnerability is when you are one of 7 billion human beings living on a spherical planet that always seems to be on the brink of death and destruction.

Abuse is knowing that a victim is vulnerable and then trying to exploit that vulnerability. When a perpetrator targets peoples' innate desires, fears, feelings of loneliness and lack of knowledge in order to attain dominance it highlights the criminal's own insecurity. Their fiend for supremacy and strong desire to manipulate their own vulnerability manifests itself in their unspeakable acts. 
To love, on the other hand, is to embrace vulnerability. It means giving somebody else a large chunk of your inner-self and trusting that they won't destroy everything that you have built yourself up to be. Although, when you've been hurt many times before there is an almost natural reluctance to re-enter the sometimes terrifying world of dating and intimacy. Protective barriers are built and fortified over time and the prospect of allowing another to occupy your heart is unsettling. But much like other uncertainties in life, love requires risk and courage. It takes guts to dust yourself off and try again but when hope and action prevail your only obstacle is time. And in due course you will find what you are looking for.

I think that because I'm so vulnerable I (naturally) try and protect myself from harm and look for security. I look for constants in life, final answers to unanswerable questions, and, of course, I plan plan plan. Maye it's laziness and I'm trying to secure my future so I don't have to constantly return to my responsibilities. That when I find those answers the quest will be over or when I make something official I'll have it forever and not have to maintain it. I'm still learning that I can't control it all or have the answers to everything. That I need to embrace mystery and take risks because life's more exciting that way.

I can't always escape my vulnerabilities but when I can find the courage I believe in my personal capacity to have a great life and my ability to face uncertainty with wit and wisdom. When I stand up to speak to a crowd or introduce myself to someone I admire or try something new I remember that we all have our vulnerabilities. I remember that guilt, insecurity, pain, fear and uncertainty are universal emotions and feelings and that while we are all unique our commonalities outweigh our differences. I remember that we're all in this thing together and that somehow comforts me.

When things turn sour I try to embrace the suck and forge on through. I keep my eyes open for pleasantries and when all else fails I wait for the hourglass to turn or the cycle to change. Despite my vulnerabilities I give it a shot because I know the glory days exist and I look forward to their arrival. I anticipate the summits, the days when I'm the winner. When energy, flow, clarity, meaning and connection surround me. When I have no problem diving into the water.

It requires courage to leap into the pond without knowing whether the water is hot or cold. But when we start to swim and see others doing it too we realize that we were all on the same boat to begin with. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Grandmother's Essay:

"I am trying to improve my attitude but I know the disease is progressing ... But I don’t think I’ll ever give up. I’m old enough now where I can just sit and ponder."

- DeVera Gordon, 1931 - 2011

After going through some old files I unearthed a short essay written by my late Grandmother DeVera who died in 2011 after a 24 year battle with Parkinson's Disease. The essay, found below, was composed over a span of eight months with the aid of facilitated communication and featured in The Review of Disability Studies, a scholarly journal published by the University of Hawaii. Although a heart-wrenching documentation of disease, the essay also underlines her awareness of self and her ability to separate from circumstance and not allow the effects of her condition to suffocate her spirit. It highlights her courage to hope and search for the clarity and strength needed to maintain a positive self-image despite her disease. 

In her essay, my grandmother proves that there is a part of us all that is separate from our bodies, sensations, and ideas. Deeply rooted beneath years of personal history and distraction lies a simple and unbiased observer of all that we perceive. It's where our most brutally honest thoughts come from and the source of our deepest desires. The part of the self that remains long after pain and pleasure have exhausted their powers. It's the knowledge that we are not solely a body worn out from years of hard work and abuse. We are conscious beings with desires and dreams. 

With this awareness, we can separate from circumstance and not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by our troubles or allow pain's all-encompassing potential to breach our innermost barriers and blanket our intrinsically positive nature. 

Steaming, Compressed Air


DeVera Gordon with Zosha Stuckey


This essay recounts the experience of my disability. In it, I demonstrate how I have lost the ability to know who I am. It shows how my body has lost its balance and how my mind has lost the ability to formulate language easily. I offer the experience of what it is like to live in my body and mind. I was able to write this because I worked collaboratively with someone who pulled language out of me. I have never before thought of myself as an author. I’m still waiting to realize why I deserve a place in a table of contents. 


Steaming compressed air. Fresh air doesn’t surround me the way I’d like it to. My body is hot and I have lost the ability to know who I am.

Have you ever gone into the back of a dress shop and looked at yourself in the mirror? You may have looked better than you expected, you may have looked worse. Either way, you still knew who you were. Sometimes I pass a mirror and realize that the person I thought was standing there is not standing at all, they are sitting and they are in a wheelchair. I wonder how the person in the mirror will get from sitting to standing? It’s the indefiniteness of how long will this person persist in trying to stand up?

The first shock came in 1987 when I realized that I could not stand on my own anymore. When things were good I didn’t think about how things might get bad. I didn’t know I had a problem coming up.

I can’t speak right these days. It’s very difficult to formulate language. It’s hot and cold. I can’t grab hold of what I’m trying to say. I start to write a sentence in my head, then it stops and it doesn’t flow. The more I turn the light on to see it, the less it penetrates the surface. I can’t spell or hurry up and put together a sentence that makes sense.

Life doesn’t feel chronological. I never know where I am in time. When I’m there isn’t there a now here? I try to figure out how I approach things—I start with zero and then I try again. When is zero, is it yesterday? It takes time to place myself into space and time. I don’t want to rush. I try to analyze and maintain control as I go along and in the meantime now is built up. I don’t have any view of the future.

I never know where I am in space either. There’s no experience at all. The experience doesn’t even experience itself. How can you be less than nothing? It seems like everything is moving around me. I can’t describe it. The furniture is moving around, then it’s standing still. I feel dizzy like everything is moving around and I’m going in the opposite direction. I feel like I’m always walking backwards. The wheelchair—it’s like a cage—I feel as if as there is somebody behind me that I can’t see. I can’t turn around like I want to. I can’t always look where I want to. I can’t be aware of one direction and the other at the same time.

My mouth is dry and I’m crooked. I lean. I have a dry mouth and a blank expression inside my head. My legs are thick and weak and twisted. The left leg is not grabbing hold of my foot. The foot is not grabbing hold of the floor.The left leg feels weak. Outside on the edges the legs are uneven around the knee and the buttocks. Thin mushy pasta—I like it with some firmness to it like the Pennsylvania Dutch do it. It has grips and flavor. It feels even. The fact that I can’t stick both shoulders up and back. They feel as if they’re shaking and trying to grab hold of something. I get the feeling I don’t have a good grip. As if I don’t understand the process—how you move the skin around the bones and leave it alone. A building at the beginning of its construction. Where does the body begin? Where does it end?

I talk to myself a lot. I ask myself what are we doing here? I keep trying to know where I am or why I am here, but I rarely figure it out. I say to myself you should smile more. There are lots of things to smile about. I just can’t recognize them fast enough.

I am sitting across from the nurse’s desk. I am trying to read, which is very difficult. The doctor is around and he seems to want me to smile no matter what. I am told to smile all of the time. Without a good reason, without a history, without a build-up of some kind of story. Just smile, be weak. That’s when I want to be left alone. He just says smile. I say to him I’ve been told that before. He probably figures that I have a contrariness, that I don’t want to comply. They want you to produce a good result and I just don’t have the energy to do that right now.

The remarkable thing here is how the ability to stand up or sit up is so important. Even when I sit up, I’m crooked and uneasy. Then the doctors look at me and say just smile. As soon as you need an appliance to help you stand up you are already in trouble. I never thought I’d be in a place like this. Does it make me feel less of a person? Yes...that seems to be the problem. If I was at home and I had to go to the bathroom, I would just go. But now, because I have lost the ability to stand, I have to go according to a schedule. I am allowed to use the restroom every 2 hours, no more. And they get nasty about it, harass me about how I just went or snicker at me.

Things aren’t bad now, I just feel weak. I just want to be able to relax and not think about how things could get worse. Everybody dies a little bit every day. You have to get used to the idea that there will be less of you left. I am trying to improve my attitude but I know the disease is progressing. I’m trying to put together a positive image of myself. It’s like going in circles, after 18 years I still am in shock. But I don’t think I’ll ever give up. I’m old enough now where I can just sit and ponder.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to have Unlimited Energy:

Okay, I'll admit, the title may be a little deceiving. Of course there is no such thing as unlimited energy! Perpetual motion, or the idea that - once activated - something could run forever, is a physicist's pipe-dream and, quite simply, not consistent with the laws of the Universe. To quote an undated proverb, "All things must come to an end." No matter how hard we try to reverse this reality, everything in life will either stop or progress into something entirely different. You can go strong and hard with whatever you are doing but eventually fatigue will ensue or you will reach a climax and begin a new oscillating cycle. 

We all know that the energy in our lives tends to ebb and flow. Emotions come and go and the feelings we so desperately try and hold onto seem to slip out of our tight grasp. We've all experienced loss of desire, motivation, and peace of mind. Many can relate to the frustration of depleted energy when we needed it most or perhaps, even the occasional slip from a physical or spiritual plateau. Sometimes, the feelings produced by things we once viewed as majestic have ceased to excite the senses and rev our internal engines. Other times, we may feel that we just don't have what it takes and helplessly watch as our bold sense of courage sluices down the drain of time. 

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography
The most infamous example of expiration, of course, is the loss of life. I do not fear death. Just as I had no choice in being born I will have no choice but to die. The mystery is how and when our lives will terminate and what kind of life we will live before we are forced to embrace death's final calling. Like our favorite song, the tune may sound beautiful but the music will eventually end. The idea is to create a novel sound and always play your very best. Occasionally, yield in your tracks, listen closely, and enjoy the pure melody while it lasts.

In order to play this "song of life" we need energy. The key is to understand that there are forces encompassing us and are readily available for our personal use. Despite inescapable laws of physics, mass reserves of energy that can propel us forward -- under any circumstance -- are just waiting to be tapped.

Energy surrounds us all. The most concentrated form -- available almost everywhere -- is human emotion. Unless you are a hermit secluded in a cave (or perhaps work as a politician) you will come in contact with raw emotion and real human feelings throughout your day. There are so many things that create emotional responses and send a powerful surge of energy rushing through our bodies. Even seemingly meaningless events can trigger emotion and by definition energy. From car horns and police sirens to barking dogs, crying babies, and even the amateur DJ blasting a sorry excuse for music in the car next to you in a traffic jam. While these are widely considered a nuisance, they all emit a charge that -- if channeled properly -- can springboard you through your day with a boost of energy and enable you to take flight reaching previously unattainable heights.

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

While many of the aforementioned are irritants that come and go with the times, there are certain cycles that are constant. Nature is an energy machine that does not stop. Albeit an illusion of Earth's rotation, we see the sun rise in the east and set in the west each and every day. The cyclical seasons pass, change, and morph into each other without fail and trees, leaves, and plants wave their foliage with the push of Wind's everlasting force. Tap into the rhythm and momentum of nature and you will be constantly rejuvenated and awakened by it's beauty and vitality. Likewise, so long as we are alive our hearts will keep ticking. Listen to the music that is constantly playing within your chest and find your body's own natural rhythm. Focus on the beat and exercise your ability to quicken the pace of your pulse when you're running below your personal speed limit. Find personal equilibrium in the expansion and contraction of your lungs and concentrate on your breathing to nourish your body's dynamism and mind's stream of consciousness.

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

To quote another undated idiom that somehow manages to trickle down into our daily conversations, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Beauty, in all it's glorious subjectivity, has the tremendous power to refresh the mind-body-soul trio. All forms of aestheticism, whether it be in the form of people, artscenery, humor, jaw-dropping talent or countless others can shower a ray of hope onto even the darkest form of fatigue, laziness, and depression. There are people on this planet who are blessed with personalities so bold and bright that they inspire people by merely being in their presence. If you allow beauty to reinvigorate your senses you will soon be on a constant lookout for pleasantries because they will put a skip in your step and give you delight throughout your day.

The sundry riddles of creation and the universe can frustrate the thinker but instead of denying their ideas entrance into your line of thinking, allow them to drive your imagination and fuel your own hypotheses. The thrill of the unknown can tantalize the intellect and unleash the caches of vigor needed to search and find the solutions to the questions that our hearts and Souls yearn to have answered.

Photo Credit: A.Massey/Shiffman Cottage Productions

Ironically enough, another way to boost you performance and raise energy levels is by giving it away. Scientists and academics are suggesting that altruistic and benevolent behavior releases endorphins in the brain which sends a rush of exhilaration and well-being through the body.

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography 

At times, we may be haunted by the memories of our past and terrified by the foreshadowing of our future. But the combination of both feelings – if transmitted properly – can play a pivotal role in enhancing the present. Find life in inspirational quotes and photographs and tap into the vibrations and waves that radiate from media and advertisement. Think of your loved ones, mentors, and role-models for encouragement and motivation.

Although the possibilities are limitless, there is one technique that offers a fail-safe way to immediately boost energy. By doing something outside of our comfort-zones we can turn the crashing heartbeat that knots our throats into easily instrumented power. Once the butterflies are released they can then flutter away effortlessly into any direction you choose.

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

As I have mentioned previously, energy is not good or bad - it's neutral. Only once the charge is directed positively or negatively can it then take on a constructive or destructive role.

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

The sunset that sends a surge of awe through your system? That is potential action.

The military jet-plane that roars across the sky making the hairs on your body stand at attention?  That is a boost of power.

The undying wind that annoyingly ruffles your hair-do on the way to meet your date? Well, that's just bad luck…. Just kidding! It's a burst of buoyancy that if harnessed properly will put a light in your eye that he/she cannot deny.

This is the crux of inspiration. A spark of energy and emotion is ignited which creates a powerful surge of motivation and passion that can be aimed into any area we choose. In turn, fear can be transformed into courage, pain into power, and lust and infatuation into compassion. Impatience can lead to creativity and jealousy into an innocent desire for bigger and better things in life.

This starts by being an unbiased observer of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations. With proper awareness, the many forces of nature and aspects of society that influence our desires and emotions can be stopped in their tracks and redirected down the avenues that we choose.

Everything is alive.
Everything is energy.
And it's all ours for the taking.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Hidden Power of Artistry:

When I was in High School, I had an influential English teacher named Ms. Tipton. Initially, I viewed her as the one solely responsible for assigning harsh loads of homework but that hardly scratches the surface of her impact. Ms. Tipton challenged my worldview. She encouraged my creativity and opened my mind to the influential literary works of Emerson, Thoreau, Hemingway, and Coelho. Although, most importantly, she provided me with a platform to present my ideas, inspiration, and unique individuality through creative writing assignments and painstaking essays. I would never have admitted it at the time but - looking back - Ms. Tipton had a profound impact on my life.

One day, Ms. Tipton stands in front of the class and asks if any of us has ever written poetry.

"Poetry?" I scoffed. "Poetry is for fairies."

Ignoring my crass remark, she slaps us with a fresh assignment: Write a poem. 

I remember sitting silently at my desk with a blank mind. There is much negative stigma surrounding poetry and perhaps I was to blame for obstructing ideas from passing from my mind, down to my right hand, out of my pencil, and onto paper.

"This is Horse5#!7," I thought. "I didn't come here for games."

With time running out, I was forced to recalibrate and reluctantly penned a poem.

Surprisingly, it was pretty good! The poem was shrouded in key-words that depicted elements of my private life. It was humorous and playful yet, mysterious and thought-provoking. It was genius. More notably, it means something to me. It is my brain-child, a product of my creativity and labor. The poem had remarkable depth and - along with the others from the class - the paper adorned the corridor of our school for a couple weeks. I would sometimes stop and read my work while shuttling between classes (or when I found myself in the hallway for long periods of time). I would reflect on its personal meaning and retract to the moment when I wrote it. It was gratifying and uplifting.

Poetry is just one of many forms of art. Others include: music, song, film, theatre, photography, dance, painting, drawing, culinary arts, and even imagination. Art is powerful because it is more than just leisure and aesthetics, it is alive. Aside from its entertaining properties, art has the ability to trigger novel thought and fresh emotion. It can activate memory and inspire enlightening ideas and courageous action. This happens because the benefits of art are multifaceted. When an artist successfully fashions a finished product they put a piece of themselves into their work. If it is personally satisfying, kvelling ensues. Perhaps, they have found consolation in the arts; not just relief but long term  empowerment, especially if the work is timeless and can be returned to. It can then relieve, educate, uplift, and entertain the viewer, listener, or patron. If it is coherent it can encourage them to create their own form of artistry thereby continuing the cycle of progressive inspiration. 

Art acts as a conductor where real live emotion can be passed from artist to observer. In its unadulterated form, art can even communicate. Music, for instance, is an excellent form of communication. Even to this day, musicians use the power of song to influence society and spread ideas. Aside from lyrics, the top-note of a melody can stir the emotions of even the hardened criminal because music conveys moods and feelings in ways that spoken word cannot articulate. Known as the language of the Soul, music is a catapult that sends me soaring into the unknown. Using the strings of an instrument, I can climb to a higher level of consciousness while being supported by the vibrations and security of the melody. Music is VITALITY. I have told friends that if I ever kick the bucket they should play some of my favorite tunes because I will rise from the dead.

While I indulge in many types of art, it is writing that truly fascinates me. The fact that your eyes scan the numerous symbols and characters on this screen and can present an idea or produce a feeling is mesmerizing. It is subtle and simplistic, yet it can transmit even the minute intricacies entangled within the complexities of human thought and existence. Take, for example, this quote: 

"Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don't have to escape from."

-Seth Godin 

For some, it's provocative, for others, earth-shattering. What's blissfully apparent is that a one-liner has the power to change a life. The mere formation and placement of symbolic characters can inspire one to evaluate their lifestyle or question the norm. 

Photography can be even more powerful than writing. According to an old adage: "a picture is worth a thousand words" but it really depends on the quality of the picture. Because photographs are visual they can be a catalyst to boost the power of imagination. The sheer ambiguity of some snapshots can instill emotions based on the viewer's interpretation. They can capture and immortalize a moment, promote dialogue, and even start a revolution. Below are selected pictures from my portfolio that will arouse feeling in the heart and activity in the brain:

"The Right Moment"


"We Found Love"

"The Good Life"


"The Sun Will Shine Again"

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

Similar to music, still-images, along with film and theatre, can be a captivating tool to transmit a message to an audience. When used in a classroom-setting it can often help student retain more information by exciting the brain with audio-visual stimulation as opposed to conventional ways of learning. For performers, the art of entertainment can upgrade their personality and - by assuming the role of another - is a fun and harmless way to get away from the daily grind and everyday routine. 

To dance is to find rhythm in chaos. Much like exercise, through dance, one can express strong emotions and energy that would otherwise be inescapable. It also unleashes a rare freedom in the dancer. The ol' one-two step increases breathing and heart-rate which pushes the body to higher capacity thus, making room for bigger and better things in life.

What moves you? Whichever form of art tickles your fancy or lifts your luggage, embrace it. Use it as a tool to fuel your imagination and uplift your lifestyle. Find an outlet for the immeasurable amount of energy and emotion that rages through your body and use it as a way to express yourself. Enjoy art's natural relieving properties and delve into your own special interests through creativity and expression. But most importantly, have fun, explore, and enjoy.

All Art is powerful. Although, one type sticks out from the rest:

The Art of Living

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keeping the Flame Alive:

"A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies, and adopting new viewpoints." 
- Wilfred Peterson

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

"Tickets, please!" shouts the guard at the gate entrance.  "Everybody keep to the left". Jack fumbles around and foolishly pats at his pockets knowing damn well that he doesn't have a ticket. He doesn't even have money to buy a ticket. But he wants to be on the other side of the barrier. He needs to be at that concert. After such a hellish week, Jack justified that he even deserved it. He craves the kicks, to feel alive. He pictures himself standing next to the stage. The lights flashing in his eyes as the music washes over him lifting his sorrow spirit to breathtaking heights. He feels the emotion and chaos as bodies crash into each other in a sweaty mosh of ecstasy and bliss.

Determined to be at the dance party that rages on a mere 50 meters before him, Jack makes up his mind. He wants in and will be there at all costs. Hopeful, he weighs the options that would replace an entry ticket. Then, Jack sees it. A crack in the fence. It's close enough to the entrance to be slightly hidden by the sea of people that surrounded. He can do it but he needs a distraction. Just then - as if the rebel gods were on his side - the opportunity comes.

The ticket master turned for a moment to speak to a patron. Or was it to chastise a fellow trespasser? Jack didn't bother waiting to find out and made his move. He feels a hot jolt run through his entire body as he wedges one foot and knee through the crevice in the fence. He was almost there! Was he spotted? Jack stifles his doubts and fear of the crime. He could hear the excitement rising through his veins. His heart beats in synch with the tempo of the bass-pumping techno blasting from the speakers and he feels the raw nerves in the pit of his belly. A brief wave of sweat washes over Jack's body as he slips his hips through the gate. He's in. He can hardly contain himself. "Keep it cool, Jack. Don't look back - just keep moving," he mutters anxiously to himself as he strolls animatedly down the lawn towards the stage. A mixture between a laugh and a whimper escapes from Jack's throat. He knows he will prevail. Moving as if he has every right to be there, Jack's stroll turns into a brisk, yet, awkward jog as he bolts down the grassy hill and races towards the dancing crowd. "Yeaaaaaaa!" Jack bellows in triumph at the top if his lungs. He had made it.

Jack spent the rest of the night socializing, shamelessly dancing, and horsing around. The music, human connection, and new territory was just what he needed. After a terribly hectic week of mind-numbing work, Jack was worried he would split at the seams from the pressure. Like a childhood delinquent searching for the thrill of living on the edge, Jack needed a release. And that's just what he got.

Jack searches for something meaningful in life because he is unenthused. The 'rat race' and daily grind of mundanity had left him feeling high and dry and he just wanted to break the vicious cycle of stagnancy and feel exhilarated again. Jack's life had become habitual and it lacked the vivacity he needs to thrive. He needed to feel ALIVE.

The truth is, we all need to feel alive. We need excitement, something to rev our engines! But if we do the same things - in the same way - every day, our lives will lack… well …LIFE! The human experience is dynamic, progressive, and ever-changing so there is a constant need to keep up. We must keep things fresh or we will wither away, die, and scatter with the wind.

Jazz things up! Keep your work captivating, your education insightful, your travels inspiring. Maintain an arousing love-life and keep your friendships surprising. Step outside of your creative comfort zone and try something new, something avant-garde to trigger novel thoughts and feelings. Innovate in all areas and challenge your personal status-quo. Advance in life!

If we fall into mundane routine even the most beautiful things in life will turn into a dull bore.
It may sound cliche but take a different route to work or volunteer yourself for new responsibilities, shock your muscles with a new and challenging exercise or delve into new territory in your spiritual journey. 

If you think and act in terms of change new opportunities will arise. You WILL experience something new. How different our lives will be is determined by how far we go to into foreign territory. Perhaps, Jack's resolution was reckless and irresponsible but if life is empty it will somehow be filled with something - whether in the form of struggle, revolution, or opportunity - to keep us on our toes...

We have all been given the spark of life. It is now our responsibility to kindle it into a flame. Feed your fire with the appropriate fuel and it will warm and illuminate the way along any path you choose.

Keep the flame alive - keep life interesting!

"The less routine the more life." 

- Amos Bronson Alcott

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Inspirational SLAM POETRY:

"Life's like a road that you travel on
When there's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind"

- Tom Cochrane, LIFE IS A HIGHWAY

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

We are all cars and the open road is our journey in life
Through the laughter and tears, the sweat and strife
Just know: It's your car, your rules
So don't listen to those fear-mongering fools
who misguide  
The backseat drivers who tell you to slow down 
Who suffocate your rising flame to keep you in the "right lane"
They just want to help but does anyone really know you?
Does anybody really know what you need?

A driver's manual can keep your automobile in tip-top shape
But it will not tell you where to go, which turn to take
Drive somewhere new. Take the scenic route.
Go far! 
It's your car...
YOU drive YOU thrive
And if it gets dark? Turn on your headlights
If it turns black? Switch on your brights.  
Change the radio station and turn it way up. 
Ride the music, feel the sensation 
But you must not sit idle, get in the groove
Find your support, get off your ass, and move
So long as there's traction under your tires they will carry you where you choose
You're responsible for your happiness, to get out of the gloom
But like burning rubber on hot asphalt, You may have to ZOOM...

Find excitement! Feel your engine roar with life
Hear it purr like a prowling leopard 
Let it loose. Throw open the cage with all your might
Drive Dammit Drive!
Feel the thrill of your movement. The rubber on the road. 
Roll down the windows and let the wind blow through your hair
Maybe you'll jolt at the honk of a horn. Should you care?
They want your attention. We all want attention.
Fate? Hate? Maybe it's just bottled up aggression...
More important than petrol are the people that surround you
Like fuel for your car, they will drive you 
But you can go forward or backward.
It's your trip, What would you do?
If you keep looking in the rear-view mirror you'll miss what's in front of you    
So think forward. Write your own map. Get a clue.
Create your own destiny, Make your own decision!
Or be driven... 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

CODEPENDENCY: Collaboration Vs. Dependency

"Tell me how am I supposed to live without you 
Now that I've been lovin' you so long
How am I supposed to live without you
How am I supposed to carry on
When all that I've been livin' for is gone"

- Michael Bolton, How Am I Supposed to Live Without You

Irritated, Jack storms out of the café allowing the double doors to rattle as he hurries past puzzled onlookers. Earphones blaring, he shoves a cigarette into his mouth and bolts down to the street corner to hail a cab. “Dammit,” Jack grits his teeth as the second yellow cab drives past, ignoring his outstretched hand. He walks further out into the street foolishly expecting a driver to somehow sense his urgency.

Suddenly, an unmarked white van screeches to a halt in front of Jack. The side door slides open as three masked-men jump out and charge him. One man forces a beige burlap sack over Jack's head whilst the others clasp his hands behind his back. Jack's cigarette falls from his fingertips letting out an audible hiss as it lands into a puddle by the curb. Struggling under their grip, Jack kicks his feet up to the door-frame in a pathetic attempt to avoid abduction. But with one final lunge, the sinister men shove Jack feet-first into the empty, seatless van. He felt a deep burn as his back skidded on the vehicle's crusted carpet. Unable to stop the momentum, Jack's right knee crashes into the van's inner steel frame just as the doors slam shut.

Having taken a heavy blow, Jack grunts as he slumps on the ground letting his left ear rest on the itchy carpet. The burlap sack slides slightly off his head providing a brief window where Jack can see the tread of numerous pairs of steel-toed boots. He looks up and unintentionally catches the eye of his kidnapper who quickly scrambles to produce a large stun-gun. The blue streaks of 900,000 volts of electricity are all Jack remembered before everything went black.

Before his eyes could fully open, Jack is forced onto his feet and heaved headfirst out of the van. A three gallon water-tank follows, hitting his back with such force that it nails his torso into the sand. Jack wheezed as he hastened to his knees. The door slams shut and the engine roars to life as the van speeds off, leaving a trail of dust at Jack's feet.....

Picture for a moment that you are Jack and you suddenly find yourself in a barren desert with only a water jug and the clothing on your back. How would you survive? Would you be able to fend for yourself? Would you be able to do it alone? 

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

Codependency is the unhealthy psychological reliance of one person on another. In broader terms, it is the expectation to be motivated exclusively by extraneous factors.

Codependents are not self-sufficient because they rely on environments, substances, and other people to influence their lives. They allow external forces to dictate how they feel about themselves. They lack the wherewithal to actualize positive emotions, or cope with negative ones, by themselves. 

In reality, fuel for codependents is everywhere. It can be in their morning coffee or in their pill-cabinet; in the workout room or the bedroom. Codependency can hide under the guise of charity and counsel. It can manifest itself through the quest for validation or the reliance on other peoples' and complements and kind words. Some codependents will even flirt for fun in a pathetic attempt to feel empowered. Albeit an illusion, these seductive swindlers yearn to fill in the multiple holes of their self-image by feeling important and desired.

With the removal of these habits and techniques, codependents may break down. Perhaps they cannot be alone with their own thoughts or live with the insecurities that require outside assistance.

While healthy practices - such as trust, friendship, and advice - do exist, we must establish a strong foundation for ourselves and by ourselves. The tools, programs, and people around us are meant to assist, enhance, and cultivate our already unified personalities not “make our lives”. To rely on other people, places, or things to drive us - or worse - make us feel whole, safe, and happy is codependency and will not last. Once those things are gone, everything that we have worked on - under false security - will disappear.

Jack never made it out of the desert. He died not of malnutrition or the sting of a scorpion, but insanity. Unable to cope without his music, cigarettes, and girlfriend (with whom he argued with at the café), Jack felt powerless. He was empty, alone, and incompetent. He was nothing.

Take responsibility of your own emotions and don't rely on others for your stability and well-being. Establish a firm foundation for yourself so you can generate those feelings naturally and carry them with you wherever you go.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

For the Opinionated, Non-Conformist:

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

There is a certain comfort in not caring. It's so easy to brush things off with an “EH”. It's so easy to nonchalantly let life and its issues pass by and not even check the rear-view mirror. It's too easy.

For decades, I fought a dreaded battle against lethargy. Like a fat, complacent cat not wanting to be roused from its slumber, I was apathetical; unmoved by the multitude of personalities, ideas, global issues, and injustices that surrounded me. In short, I didn't give a shit about anything.

I shied away from it all. Perhaps it was fear of making the leap from the objective to the subjective or simply a depressive indifference I faced. But I knew I wanted to be sophisticated and outspoken to voice my opinion and individuality. Stifling my inner-voice meant being trampled by those who piped up the loudest or influenced by those who spoke boldly and with confidence and conviction.

We live in societies separated by political and religious affiliation but I always doubted that everyone miraculously fell into one category or another. So many people couldn't possibly agree on one thing. I didn't want to feel pressured. I hated feeling obligated to walk down the avenues of RIGHT or LEFT or conform and join a team in the political arena. And I absolutely abhorred dogma. Isn't the world big enough to house new ideas?

But conformity is a recurrent theme in the blueprint of nature. For example, the molecules in water droplets pool together in what is known as cohesion: 

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

Some vines and other vegetation weave themselves through other plants in an attempt to gain more light and secure survival:

Photo Credit: Sparks of David Photography

Fire, musical synchronization, clouds, even the “slow-clap” are all examples of forces that will eventually find order, symmetry, and harmony.

So too, regarding human nature, many choose to conform to conventional ways of thinking and succumb to the force of gravity that pulls us downward when we try and ascend to new heights of intellectual freedom.

When you break nature – the inertia of the status quo - you create a new reality and are the narrator of a novelty. YES, the world IS big enough to house new ideas! But If we don't express our opinions - or at least voice an excerpt from our stream of consciousness - we can feel insignificant and miss an opportunity to gain wisdom by bouncing ideas off one another. If we conform to “the norm” we can disregard, or worse, suppress our individuality.

Granted, unity is important but if it is an excuse to not think for oneself – to be lethargic and not have an opinion – it is useless.

Opinions come from interpretation which is the result of our individual life experiences. To voice a thought or idea is the epitome of creating from uniqueness. It is our brain-child that should be loved and cultivated to maturity. One day, it can even be an influential game-changer in universal ideology, thus continuing the saga of progressive thought in our dynamic human existence.

Don't settle for second best. Think for yourself and stick out from the rest.