Monday, April 21, 2014

Know the Meaning of Freedom for Life

Do You Know the Meaning of Freedom?

The following is a excerpt from A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man, revised for online.

Is freedom something you value?

Collaboration
Freedom is something most of us think we have, and while it’s likely to be true, the underlying question is whether we use it. Declaring for freedom can be a chancy step outside the ordinary. Take marriage as an example.

Of the married people you know, including yourself – if eligible – how much freedom do you see in the relationships and how much compromise?

Are the couples bound by mutual affection and interest or by what a friend of mine used to jokingly call “holy padlock?”

If partners in a marriage run their lives as a series of compromises driven by the demands of the partnership, what may have started with freedom of choice is no longer free. We know this to be true, but it doesn’t adversely influence our actions because freedom is less important to us than stable, long-term relationships.

As these are central to so many lives, in the practice or the wishing, we might keep in mind that they can be freedom killers. Remember the childhood game that included “paper covers rock?” Well, security crushes liberty.

Should it?

Keeping in mind that none of us has anything but that one single moment of reality to live and everything else, past and future, is imaginatively stretched out for perspective, is it wise to surrender it to a security that is not voluntary, but automatic and predictable?

How much value is washed away with the loss of free choice?

This single, small example, with which we are all familiar, as a way to illustrate how value may or may not be enhanced through free choice. Real life experiences are more complex and subtle, but we can start there. Involuntary activities are valueless absent choice.

Choice is the value-maker of the world. Until we choose, we have no motive for determining the value of anything. It’s inconsequential, idle activity.

Make a Choice about Freedom

Choice waits in every moment. Our rambles are electrified by choice, choice about where we are, with whom and why.

If our walks through life involve well-worn paths followed without anticipation about what will be experienced or if they are taken with security guaranteed, we end up chewing some pretty stale grains, the nutrients of which will never cause us to flourish.

When I started my routine of walking along the water every morning, changing my path only when severe weather threatened to wreck my outfit, it was with a commitment to awareness and an understanding that each walk must thrive with change.

The characteristics of the estuary would change, taking it from calm to powerful, even to ominous. The sky held an endless variety of clouds and clarity. Overcast skies varied most, the inexplicable bottoms of the clouds folding, smoothing, roiling or hanging still. Certainly, the air temperature as I walked through the seasons went from balmy to frigid with many stops in between. Winds flavor any day differently than any other.

Fellow commuters walking along the waterfront, seldom anyone I knew, gave me new things to observe about relationships and isolation. Most importantly, my moods, my states of mind, were different.

All the factors that affected me, from my concentration on the working hours ahead and domestic life to my private meditations on the intimacies of existence, salted how I felt, saw and interpreted the world I rambled through.

Tom Peters wrote about his father walking through the same door for something like forty years and presumably going through the motions at his job.

Peters, a man awash with fresh ideas, used contrast to press the importance of making even our routines exciting and colorful. If we stay awake, each day can be full of invention and discovery. Joy can be our most common experience.

Rambling for Abundance


As I rambled, I kept up my meditation routines, staying aware. “Abundance in life” repeated at the
front of my thoughts like a chant, encouraging me to look for and appreciate the realities I’d been given.

The practice also reminded me that abundance is my natural environment, that life is rich with experiences and that it’s impossible to imagine anything without having the resources for getting it. I’d never be restricted, except by my own choice, from accessing objects of desire.

Anyone can wish for a messenger who shows up out of nowhere and tells them they’ve won the lottery, but if there’s no real belief in the gift or in its intrinsic value, it’s a playful diversion and nothing more.

When, however, we’re sure that our genuine desires are always fulfilled, we’re forced take a different position concerning what happens next. This insight took me to a new place, one where I was not only privileged to have but also fully responsible for getting to understand in detail, fleshed out, whatever it was I truly wanted.

Conflicts ensued immediately.

Having this left no time or space for that. Days, I realized in a way I never previously had, were limited to twenty-four hours, and any week still consisted of no more than seven.

If I was going to shock the world and become the first fifty year old to launch a successful career in major league baseball, I had to accept the terms. That meant far more time away from home than had ever been of interest to me. I enjoyed the pleasures of being home. I also loved travel, but a working life on the road is much less attractive.

Maybe I’d become a bestselling novelist instead.

My books might grab the public’s attention. Not every writer can afford the eccentricities of Thomas Pynchon or J. D. Salinger and ignore the rabble. Even those two seemed more stressed at times by the demands created for evading fans than they might’ve been in accommodating them.

So, I could sit at the head of line, doling out endless autographs in anonymous bookstores, or I’d visit talk shows where the viewer concentration required was not allowed to interfere with the demands of brushing teeth or preparing for sleep. 

The process of clearly identifying and refining desires, imagining their practical effects, became crucial because each arrived instantly on the road to fulfillment.

Thinking It Through and Making the Choice for Freedom


There is pleasure in contemplating what we want when we know results will follow, but there is also responsibility, including an understanding that whatever happens with us always affects others, even dramatically.
As long as we are awake in every moment, we constantly refine or tune our choices. We anticipate what comes next and how it will impact the future.

The thing is that some of us never change the flavors of our lives much at all, which leaves us walking the same trails to the same places. We settle into a groove and stay, which is fine if it’s a happy groove, but as humans, our spirits thrive on change just as our bodies flourish with a variety of healthful foods. Disability and disease strike when we neglect nutrients.

Similar dysfunctions must occur when we fail to nourish our souls.

Freedom comes up as a subject of value. It’s the ultimate value, but that’s not without irony. We can’t shake freedom. Even when it’s the freedom not to exercise choice, it can’t be avoided. We are still choosing.

So, why not use our freedom to make a commitment to our passions? Why not decide to dance or sing or build equations or teach children or care for the disabled or drive a race car or paint or write poetry or march in a drum corps?

What’s left?

Not long ago, I read a claim that when we are not awake, making conscious choices, we gravitate into some sort of default activity.

This can’t be true. If for no other reason, it can’t be true because the default attitude, the mindset with which we are born, for people and all other living things, is gracefully passionate wanting. It’s spiced in humans with imagining and the steady revising that marks us as the most avidly thinking creatures of all.

Worms are worms, and cats enact whatever magical activity strikes their fancy. 

As people, we are seekers and explainers.

We can’t lose passion without making a clear choice about it. Our desire doesn’t wane from any lack of use, although it might get rusty. It’s always present, from first breath to last, always ready to fire our engines.

Something must persuade us to look away. Waking sleep is by no means a default. It’s marked by evasions into which we are drawn and intentionally follow.

Get the book:



David Stone

Find A Million Different Things: Meditations of the World's Happiest Man and all my other books on My Amazon Author Page

Monday, April 14, 2014

Be There: Fine Art Photography Images of New York City

Balloon Girl (Soho)

Up Close, What Does New York City Look Like?

Deborah Julian is a New York City based street and urban landscape photographer.

Her eye find images from the street that tell stories.

Balloon Girl tells its tale on a summer day in Tribeca: A long-legged woman in a pink dress and high heels seems about to be lifted off the street corner, carried by her balloons.

But in reality, her distracted expression suggests she'll be anchored on the assignment for a while.

Another, more subtle narrative about urban life can be seen in Between Two Universes, a vision that strikes the social differences in the dungeon-like characteristics of the New York subway system.



The woman in the photo has just left the upscale neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. The subway system, its filth and rudimentary design is a great equalizer. All travelers, rich or poor, young or old, are greeted with indifference and disrespect.

People connect New York's urban landscape with Manhattan's aggregation of competing towers, now mostly glass, as they resemble a geometric mountain range, the angles squared and clean. But an older New York stakes a claim on values that once shaped Manhattan.


The Empire State Building, seen from the west in High Line Park, in muscular in what now seems like old age, a force more than a presence. And not glass.


Deborah Julian's pictures of New York City can be hidden gems, for all intents invisible to to visitors and nearly all residents. 5:00 A.M, Winter, New York City is an example, both unique and beautiful in its artistry.

A light layer of snow frosts a balcony in this haunting scene as residents arise and the night, represented by a ship in the cold East River, falls to the weak arrival of light. The silhouette of a woman seizes your attention before your eye searches for more details.

An important element is much of Deborah Julian's work as an urban street photographer is its narrative. In Carl Schurz Park, New Normal, the narrative verges close to an essay on contemporary life.

The New Normal, Carl Schurz Park

In a picture that's been a favorite at juried shows, two women of differing styles use the rails in Carl Schurz Park, a scenic location where the East and Harlem Rivers join to form the tidal chaos of Hell Gate. The graying sky, the rough structures in the background combine with the mundane behavior of the women, indifferent to each other and their surroundings, to create a challenging image of disconnection.

Deborah Julian continues to post new images of New York City on her website