Tag Archives: contemplation

Finally Reflecting on 2016

If the number of 2016 posts in this journal were representative of productivity, it would appear to have been a mostly uneventful year. That certainly wasn’t the case. January felt like a continuation of December and only now is it beginning to feel like the new year has begun. And so, the time to grade myself on goal completion for the previous year and to set goals for the current year has finally arrived. I am a proponent of annual goal setting. When I make a solid list, refer to it regularly, and hold myself accountable I tend to meet many of them. Oddly, last year I didn’t make a solid list. Apparently I forgot to or lost it on my perpetually chaotic desk. Despite that oversight, several non-specified goals came to fruition and a number of pleasing events occurred.

  • I have been wanting to travel for work more frequently. I had three opportunities. 1) A producing/shooting gig in Costa Rica (mentioned in my last post to this blog nearly a year ago). 2) A Facebook live-stream overnight trip near Joshua Tree for AirBNB. 3) A 2 month roadtrip around the U.S.with Erika (55 days—42 states—13,510 miles) creating a web-series for TYLT that will be releasing very soon.
  • We at Butcher Bird funded and shot our first feature film. It is now running through the final stages of post.
  • I convinced my mother to try a tandem sky-dive
  • I lead some great climbing routes including the 1500ish foot Solar Slab, the unique Tunnel Vision, and the imposing Matthes Crest (which turned into a bit of an all-night epic because of a foolish attempt to retrieve a fallen camera).
  • I descended a few undocumented canyons (some with the ever beloved Scott Swaney).
  • I finally got to shoot video of a snow covered San Antonio Falls canyoneering descent (something I had been trying to do for quite some time and posted about here on this blog) and put together a 360 VR video of the Seven Teacups.
  • Erika and I finally made it to Alaska and toured a glacier. We also made it to several National Parks we hadn’t visited before and attended Halloween in Salem, MA. We have now been to 45 of the 50 states.
  • I got to do some great social things with friends like multiple game nights, an awesome bachelor party weekend in Zion for the Merrill wedding, visit my family multiple times, and introduce multiple people to their first ever multi-pitch climbs.
  • The podcast continued (currently 46 episodes) and featured guests from all over the country recorded in their respective locales.
  • Erika and I celebrated 10 years together touring the treetops of Wrightwood.

It was a rewarding year, but there are certainly places I fell short:

  • Happy Canyoneering (my puppet talkshow short) did not move forward.
  • Scuba Climbers (my Class C canyoneering documentary) did not move forward.
  • I slacked on a proper physical fitness routine in the last half of the year.
  • I didn’t make the strides towards big wall climbing I’d hoped to and climbing El Cap for my 40th birthday is seeming increasingly less likely.
  • I still haven’t started work on a Death Valley Mars short I want to do.
  • My office is still a disorganized mess.
  • I didn’t try cross country skiing, dogsledding, or solo backpacking.
  • I haven’t gotten back into a regular illustrating routine in years.
  • And various other projects, responsibilities, etc. languished while my pile of books to read increased faster than it depleted.

And so now I sit compiling my list of goals for 2017. I look at where I succeeded and failed in 2016 and attempt to course correct. Where do I want to be in a year and how do I get there? Life is too damn short to squander.

The “Love It or Leave It” Mentality

It’s found on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and billboards across The U.S. You’ll see it alongside flags and images of shrieking bald eagles. Love It or Leave It. It is a rally cry for many who are fed up with a nation of complainers and critics whose words speak louder than their inert actions. It has become an embraced ideology for many who love what the United States of America means to them and their family. Unfortunately, it is a myopic steamroller that quashes any hope for equality, reform, and open debate.

I am going to do my best to avoid stereotyping the users of the phrase or falling prey to logical fallacies that attack the speaker instead of the message. My qualm is with the phrase itself, what it inherently means, and the damage it can cause. I don’t believe people who say "Love it or leave it" are any less intelligent or malevolent than any other random group adhering to an ideology. I do believe their intentions are good and they want America to be a great place. My argument is that most of them have not deconstructed the message they are sending and analyzed its potential repercussions. To many "Love it or leave it" may be synonymous with "Don’t shit where you eat" or "If it aint broke, don’t fix it" or "Blood is thicker than water" or simply "Stop your bitching." Yet, it is not synonymous with those phrases. When it is broken down, what "Love it or leave it" truly means is "Don’t question authority and don’t criticize that which is sacred." These are the same tenets many monotheistic religions espouse—do not question that which is sacrosanct. These are not the tenets of Democracy.

"Love it or leave it" implies that to love something, one must accept all of its faults without judgement. This, in itself, is not necessarily bad advice, although it often is. There are ample examples throughout history where a similar ideology to "Love it or leave it" has been used with disastrous results. The sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests continued for innumerable years because the Church was unwilling to look at itself critically. Love it or leave it. Children have been violently abused by parents because a spouse was unwilling to accept his/her family unit was flawed. Love it or leave it. 

Let’s imagine a world where everyone abided by the concept of "Love it or leave it." We would have no labor unions, no women voters, no attempts at equality among races, no minimum wage, and no United States of America. If the founding fathers had embraced "Love it or leave it," there would have been no American Revolution. We would still be under British Rule. In actuality, we would probably all be members of a Mesopotamian (or even older) society because no one would have taken a stand to create new and different societies. A world that lives by "Love it or leave it" is a world without dissent, it is a world of lemmings blindly following each other over a cliff to their untimely demises.

Democracy is the antithesis of "Love it or leave it." Its goal is to include the views and needs of all citizens in hopes of making life better for all of them. The first step in improving something is to look at it critically, to unearth its faults. The second step is to review those critiques and enact change. I think the prevalence of the "Love It or Leave It" mentality is because most of us are too eager to take part in step one, but too complacent to take the second step. We all get sick of listening to someone complain about something who never tries to improve his/her condition. I think what the "Love it or leave it" proponents really want to say is "Stop bitching and try to fix it already" and that’s what I wish they’d start saying instead.

2010 Enters the Room

As a child, the collective concept of the future was defined by a romanticized conception of the years 2000 and 2010. I looked ahead to these years imagining the sudden wonders they would bring. Now, the future has become both past and present. Its marvels, while many, did not sprout up instantaneously as I may have expected at the age of nine. The changes appeared progressively, seeping into daily life, so transparent that we only seem to recognize how different the present is when we stop to remember decades past. Many of the expected changes have yet to occur and many will not for they were facetious, yet much has transpired that few if any anticipated or predicted. We are in the future now. Its gifts have been many. And it has brought treats and consequences.

Life follows a similar route. It has followed a course I did not anticipate, but it has also walked a path I did foresee. It has taught me that things I once valued are valueless and that other things I did value are more valuable than I could have expected. It has been a life of dualities.

Those that think learning ceases after schooling are sadly mistaken. Some of life’s greatest lessons seem to come later in life. I am still young. I can’t fathom what greater lessons await me in the future. The last few years have been a time of reevaluation and course reckoning. Thus, what better time than the new Year to once again stop and reexamine one’s charter. We are a few days into the New Year. I have begun the typical metaphorical steps of instituting change and preparing for a new journey (reorganizing the home and workspace, sorting and trashing old belongings, shaving the beard and chopping the hair). Now, it is time to decide what to do with the coming year. It is time to set goals.

What types of goals? What is important to me at this point in my life? What is enriching my experience?

1. Outdoors, nature, outdoor sports, whatever you want to call it. I need to keep pursuing this aspect of my life and the self-discovery and redefining that come along with it.
2. Creativity: I create. video, animation, illustration, story, etc. I have to continue to evolve my skills and stop the ones that are atrophying from continuing to do so.
3. Convergence: I need to find a way to combine the above two so that they needn’t fight for my time.

2009 was a relatively productive year for 1 and 2. I did a quick analysis of the events I was part of in 2009 that fell into those 2 categories. This gave me a feel for what I did with my time last year.

2009 Overview
Multi-night Trips: 8 (7 involved camping)
Hikes: 16-20 (2 Backpacking trips)
Video Shoots: 4 Projects
States Visited: 4 – California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Louisiana
Activities: SCUBA Diving, Caving, Snowshoeing, Trapeze, Whitewater Rafting (2), Whitewater Kayaking, Rock Climbing (indoors + a little outdoors), Bouldering (indoors + a little outdoors), Canyoneering (non-technical), Camping, Firecraft, Orienteering, Canoeing, Bungee Jumping, Kart Racing

Thus, I’d like 2010 to be at least as productive as 2009, but hopefully more so.
Here are some of the things that come to mind that I want to do. I’ve listed them in two groups: priorities and optional. Priorities are those things I am requiring myself to accomplish before 2011. Optional are those things I’d like to fit in if possible, although some are conflicting with present priorities or other optionals.

I anticipate this list to change throughout the year, but not shrink. I also expect to be able to strike off everything under priorities or else I will have to reprimand myself in some fashion.

2010 GOALS:

Finish Current Video Projects (SM, Marty, Spec)
Take Rock Climbing Lessons
Go Skydiving
Go SCUBA Diving again
Start drawing on a regular basis again
Take Surfing Lessons
More long-distance backpacking
Take Erika Horseback Riding
Visit State and National Parks I have yet to visit
Renew my passport
Write new stories
Collaborate on new video projects
Keep trying to defeat my various personality faults
Become Adept with environment creation in Vue
Learn Lightwave basics

Backpack the West Coast Trail
Compete in an AXS race
Start shooting stock photography and video to sell
Hike Mount Whitney
Backpack Zion Narrows again
Attend Whitewater Rafting Guide School
Begin work on illustrated book of retold fables
Take a solo backpacking trip
Visit more states
Take a trip out of the country
Return to Yosemite (visit the back country)
Try Packrafting
Continue to push my claustrophobia

Overview Breakdown of 2009 Events

I Be Done Seen About Everything…

I remember watching the animated Dumbo movie as a kid and being confused by the singing crows who couldn’t bring themselves to believe Dumbo could fly. They’d seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band, and so on, but a flying elephant was beyond their comprehension. I was probably six or so and clearly I had seen an elephant fly throughout the movie. What was so hard to believe? Now, as an adult, I know numerous reasons an elephant can never fly. I, too, would be skeptical if someone told me an elephant could fly.

Yet, I can’t help but think that something more important was lost when I stopped believing an elephant can fly.

In the Words of Teddy

Said in reference to the Grand Canyon, but an apt blanket statement for wilderness in general:

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Define obscenity, then define god while you’re at… or love… or infinity

My friends’ page brought an interesting and infuriating case to my attention today:
Read about it here and numerous other places.

Essentially, a man in Iowa was arrested for importing manga from Japan deemed obscene. The collective opinion seems to be that, in this case, “obscene” means illustrated kiddie porn. As is to be expected, numerous people from both sides are up in arms. The difficulty in defending the right of someone to own illustrated child pornography lies in the fact that many will assume you are defending the right to molest children. Clearly, anyone who stops for a moment and applies logic to the argument will see this is not the case. Molesting real children and owning fictional representations of children engaged in sexual acts is not the same thing. Below is something I posted on another journal that should help elucidate my feelings:

The reason child pornography is a crime is because it endorses the victimization of a child. A child is molested and photographed. This is a crime. The ownership of this photograph makes the owner a criminal by proxy. The owner is aware a child was victimized and endorses this activity.

Illustrated child pornography is a victimless crime, its victim is fictional. To charge someone as a criminal for the ownership of pornography featuring fictional characters is to charge this person with thought-crime. The assumption is an owner of illustrated child pornography is a pedophile and therefore a baby raper. Yet, being a pedophile is not a crime. The act of molestation or molestation-by-proxy is the crime. Ownership of fictional material does not equate sexual action in reality.

Any time the court is brought in to decide our freedoms and define what is acceptable art, we open the gates for a multitude of freedoms and artistic expressions to be reviewed and potentially criminalized. Do we want to open up that debate because of a victimless “crime?”

Many others with much more credibility than me have discussed this much more eloquently elsewhere: (I highly encourage reading their rants especially if you disagree with my stance)
Neil Gaiman’s Thoughts
Carl Horn of Dark Horse

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is always accepting donations and doing their best to make sure the comics community is treated fairly. Feel like donating?

Stand in Place (Step forward, then back)

The collective population surprised me last night. A black man can become president of the U.S. even when a large ill-informed portion of the populace paint him as a terrorist and spread unfounded fear and blatant lies. I hope that means people care more about leadership than race now. Last night made me proud of America. Last night made the world proud of America. Maybe we can stop being the playground bullies now.

Yet, the allegedly progressive part of the nation let me down. Proposition 8 passed, effectively rescinding the rights of gay people throughout California. Just over half of voting Californians decided not that gay marriage should continue to be illegal, but that it should once again become illegal. They voted to take away a group’s rights. Pore over that for a moment. A right wasn’t denied, it was taken away.

I was hoping last night would be two steps forward.
I guess I can settle for one.

Saving the Universe

Behold, this weekend I have solved the problem of global warming!
Tax breaks for rooftop gardens.

I have also solved the dilemma of youths purchasing online products without a credit card!
Banks, Paypal, whoever wants to make a lot of money should begin offering childrens’ accounts to parents already members of their organization. Automatically or at will, parents can deposit money into their child’s account. Attached to this account is a virtual debit card. Children (I’m mainly thinking teen and pre-teen) can use this virtual debit card to purchase items online. The card will be recognizable as a child’s card meaning no purchasing of porn, firearms, alcohol, and other fun things. The card is attached only to the child’s account, not the parent’s.

Were I a man with knowledge or interest in any of these industries, I would flit away and become very wealthy.
Instead I share these amazing ideas so that one of you (yes, you!) may become wealthy in my stead.
Godspeed lads and lassies!