The News from the Workbench: December 10, 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

EBJ Photography 2016

Today began as so many mornings do, with the blaring noise of the alarm breaking the cool serenity of slumber. Once the hopes of further excursions in the dream-world subsided, I was able to rise from my bed and look out on the world in all its glory, lit by the soft morning rays of sun cutting through the icy winter chill. After my morning run, somewhat longer today at around five miles, I was sufficiently awake, present, and chipper to begin working once more. But this morning was different, because when I walked out the door this morning, I was eager to get going and start working on my writing and my musical work for the day. I haven’t felt this ambitious or motivated in six to eight months.

Today, I thought I would touch on some of what has made me return to the basics, the fundamentals of my art and also what has allowed me to keep going after all the struggle and pain of this year. Only recently have I been able to return to the process of my art, my writing, and my music after months of strife, lack of motivation, and insecurity with where my career path has been leading me. Though it is hard for me to admit, I think that my personal life and the circumstances of my life have affected my work and artistic life over the course of this year, something I will always be ashamed of.

The last months have been filled with a sort of longing for the piece of me that makes me unique, what makes me essentially me. Every hour of every day has been spent in search of something that can’t be found, unsure of the road forward or of how to create the life I want to live and the art I want to make. It has taken me months to realize that this is a journey that for all of us is uncertain and never-ending. Upon reflection, I have been able to find new comfort both in the doubt and unease and in the small daily routines that center my mind and push the days onward.

It has been through reading the works of great authors, listening to the music of great musicians, and admiring the artwork of the masters that I have been able to find my voice again. What I have realized is that this voice I have found within myself can only truly be found in the tireless awareness of myself and of my actions. True, my path is deeply intertwined with the stories and paths of many others, but only in self-knowledge and personal discovery may I find the stories which must be told, the ideas that have yet to hatch, and the memories that are so crucial in my psyche.

In the last week I have had a much needed reprieve from the day-to-day busy work and lists of tasks and appointments. Time spent alone—thinking, observing, and remembering—has reawakened my soul. I no longer search for the unique energy of my actions and thoughts or for where my path should lead; I now search within my own mind and body for that true self that we must all find inside. My true self drives me towards my passions and I have now found the motivation to work once more. Motivation comes not from how I think I am perceived, but in what really matters to me.

So I read, I write, I play music, and I think. My voice has returned for now and I must remember how I got here. I must recognize that when one gets past the petty, menial, daily slog, inner truth may emerge and the drive for love, storytelling, and immersive beauty will return.

That’s the news from the workbench this week…

-Ethan Brown Jones

Perception

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My lamp shreds the dim, morning darkness agonizingly. The room is the same way I left it only hours ago, diving into the warm blankets and the unconscious equally as ferociously. Yesterday is done, soon to be completely forgotten. The work piled and undone, which felt so pressing previously, now feels motivating and exciting. I can hardly contain the passion I feel, rising promptly from bed, rested, even on so few hours of sleep. The office glistens in the crisp wash of lamp light. Today will be a good one, I feel.

My day has only just begun and already I feel powerful, motivated, and ready for what is to come. So much like the others is this morning, but it feels unique somehow. In hindsight, the events that tortured me so over the last weeks seem miniscule, so much less implacable than I once felt they were. The onerous happenings seem to fade away, leaving in their place a sense of renewed hope for the future.

Not so much was it about the instances themselves but the arbitrary set of emotions assigned to them each day. The places I went, the people I met, and even that actions I took were, and are, shaped by the unsupported, often undecided views I took on them momentarily.

Perception holds such an incredible place in our lives as human beings. For, while other creatures observe their world on a subconscious level, we are able to not only observe, but also cogitate on our perceptions and explore them in order to glean comprehension.

Only a week ago, I would have told you that only two basic categories of comprehension exist in this world. I would have described to you the reality as I believed it then— we either observe and perceive the world in order to understand it or we are passive to all objects around us by concerted effort to shelter ourselves from reality. But what I now hold true is that our comprehension is also highly dependent upon the specific way in which we perceive every moment, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. I too used to believe that one simply viewed the world as it was, that I could easily perceive the difference between the reality in my head and the reality exterior to my mind. My view of this has changed as well, even in this short time period. Our internal ideas, preconceived notions, and a lack of true objective perception often lead to the horrible phenomenon of miscomprehension and misperception, I now understand.

After a bad week, Friday felt the worst of all, despite the inherent reprieve that is naturally associated with the end of the week. And in hindsight I realize that Friday was in fact the end of my sorrows though I didn’t feel so at the time. My deep resentment for all that had happened that week had poisoned my perception of all experiences and actions for the entire rest of the week. My thoughts had been negative towards all around me and I was stuck because of it. But I didn’t exert any effort to change this fact; I felt so comfortable in just allowing my negativity to stew and eventually boil over, thinking that my attitude towards the world was set in stone, unchangeable by mine or anyone else’s hand. But the weekend brought with it the time to journal, converse, and reflect on the week as it had been. And what I realized was that the week had gone exactly as my poor attitude had predicted going in. One misfortune on Monday morning had soured the rest of the week, promoting numerous conflicts, anger, and eventually, unproductive self-pity and depression. And it was my fault. No, the world had not sent me a week full of problems; my own mind had created all of that. The way I dealt with tiny daily issues had sent me into a downward spiral from which I did not recover quickly. Instead of seeing the value in all of my experiences or noticing the smallest beauties of every moment, I had fallen prey to the easier, yet more detrimental cycle of negative energy, unproductivity, aggression, and irrationalism.

I now view positivity as a personal choice, rather than a predestined factor. As I have chosen over the last week to think positively in the face of adversity, I have been much happier and felt less stressed too. Yes, the inconveniences, the conflicts, and the stressors still exist. But I have been dealing with them in a very different manner. Even when I find it difficult to remain positive, I try to utilize the passionate emotions as motivation to keep growing, keep working hard, and keep moving forward.

The beauty of perception is that it is unique, manageable, and easily controlled— this is what I try to remember each and every day.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Unceasing

Forest-Lake-at-Night

Life never stops moving all around us. When we are young, we believe that the world is ours to command, that time is endless, that we can live whatever life we want to live. Youthful but naïve, we hope that one day, all of our aspirations and dreams will miraculously turn into our reality. But the world isn’t that simple, we come to understand. If we don’t watch closely enough, life slips by, and soon, we are older and life hasn’t worked out the way we would have hoped.

Recently, I was lying in bed on a cold winter night. It was dark outside the window, a kind of blue, haunting, suffocating dark. Lying there, journaling, as I was, my mind slipped facilely back into the past. Memories of former dark nights came rushing back. It was as if, for a moment, my mind had slipped away into the high clouds of my memory, resurfacing things that I hadn’t recalled in quite some time. Unearthed, the memories frightened me. Had my life really gone so far off course from my meticulous planning without me even noticing it? Had I really lost my way so easily, without any awareness of what was going on?

I have been moving so frenetically in order to simply keep up with the ways in which my life is progressing that I have not had time enough to check back in with my master plans. My life and my world have been rocketing towards my future so swiftly that I have only had time to hang on tight and struggle through the piles of work yet undone. And it never ends; the rush doesn’t subside; the days don’t grow remarkably longer.

Life never stops.

When we are young, we believe that we will have all the time in the world to realize our dreams; we believe that reaching our dreams is simple.

We grow up, the illusions end, life moves ever faster, and we are left to decide how best to nurture the shrinking remnants of our dreams. We are forced to open our eyes, noticing once and for all that life is short and we must push harder and harder if we are to grow and closer to our dreams.

Dreams don’t build themselves. So I looked back through my life the other night, recalling so many things I have done. I began to recognize that I must use each day to its full potential, pushing myself to work harder, be more focused, learn more, love more, and, most importantly, live more. My days speed by at an ever increasing rate and my life seems to be moving towards the future rather expeditiously. But still, life doesn’t stop to wait for me to catch up.

But the real question in my mind is whether I’m heading towards the future I have worked so hard for, or an entirely different future.

So as life speeds on, I push forward, growing, working, and dreaming each day. Only with daily effort can my reality become my dream reality. Life never stops; neither can I, my future depends upon me alone.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Road to Recovery: Late Once Again

Once again, I was late. As with many times before this one, I had cut it way too close, not left on time, and tried to cram way too much into a single day. I hustled out to my car, spilling coffee on myself in the process. My bags, my papers, and I flew into the car splaying ourselves across the seats. The engine roared to life as I cranked the key hard in the ignition and I raced furiously out of the driveway to my meeting. I turned on my podcasts in an attempt to calm myself with NPR but it was almost futile with how stressed I was. Swerving around corners, I drove with one hand, putting on makeup, eating a snack, and scratching down a quick note with the other one. I saw the car ahead ambling along at a less-than-satisfactory pace and roared past it in a hurried fury. Each second that ticked by was one more second of lateness.

Was it just my imagination or did every car in my way secretly wish for me to be horribly and utterly late? Each driver ahead of me went slower than the last; each one drove a little worse. I fretted and yelled obscenities inside the charged comfort of my car.

Finally making it to my parking space, I sped in and frantically gathered myself and my belongings. I slammed the door, locked up with shaking hands, and ran. Rushing into the meeting, I excused myself for the millionth time, citing the atrocious traffic as the cause of my tardiness on this occasion. It was on this day that I realized it wasn’t working anymore; something had to change drastically in my life.

And so I set to work on a plan of how to change my life for the better. My realizations scared me; I realized that because of my constant procrastination, I was constantly putting things off until the last minute, and thus, constantly being late. All of this led to a lack of stability and control in my life and so I set out to change it all.

I researched for months on end and tried a multitude of things until one night, tonight in fact, I decided that my new life was ready to begin. Tomorrow, all my plans will come to fruition and I’ll be organized and on time, or at least that’s the plan. After all, what is life if not a constant work in progress?

Every day, I work towards my goal: that one day I will be on time to everything that happens in my life. Every day too, I research more and more, learning each and every moment how to make my life better and continue to improve the problem areas. I get more inspired as well as more discouraged when I realize how much more work I still have to do. But each day, each hour, each minute is a new one, and the next one is an unprecedented opportunity to go forth and work even harder. I must have faith, and I do, that I can accomplish my goals and live a more fruitful and successful life, and thus, a more happy and fulfilling life.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Working Hard at Work Worth Doing

The hours go on and I sit in my office, working away, waiting for inspiration, and scratching away at one of my numerous drafting pads. Desk drawers full of notebooks, shelves full of books, and file boxes full of papers line my office- hopeful reminders of my past and decidedly present inspirations. Black pens quiver in anticipation of something new and truly great. Papers clutter the wide, seasoned desk, remnants of former busy nights.

The morning comes early, dreary, and cool. Promptly, I rise and get moving, eager to start working once again. After a quick run and then prepping for the day, it’s an hour or so of emails and notes. I write and play piano and design all morning, and then it’s off to a couple of meetings before coming back to the office for more creativity, more work, and especially, more coffee.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

I’ve always loved that quote and felt that it describes my life and goals in many ways. When I reread that quote, which is hung above my desk, I am reminded of why I spend long hours doing research and working on numerous projects. I remember that I am working to make the world more beautiful, more elegant, more equitable, and more loving.

Often in the course of our professional lives, we are forced to work on unnecessary, rather uninspired, and unworthy tasks. It is at these moments that we realize how rewarding it is to work away at things that are truly worthy of our efforts. For, lest we turn into lonely, saturnine individuals, we must work every day to ensure that all of our energy is utilized in making the world a better place.

When I finally fall to sleep in the deepest hours of the night, I always try to look back on the day with gratitude, but also with austere, censorious meticulousness. Because the day I lose those compulsions toward detail- especially as it is corollary to the beneficialness of activities, is the day that my efforts and my work will no longer be worthwhile.

I pride myself on my constant pursuit of my better self, yet I am also forlorn when I look back upon the mistakes of my past. And so, it is with regret, but also motivation, that I go about my work, striving for greatness, but not getting lost without the most-important, larger picture. Work is only worth doing when it is done with the utmost passion and impressive scrupulousness. At no other time will work be worthwhile, no matter the honorability or meritoriousness of the work itself. It is what each of us instills in our daily duties that gives our lives meaning and gives relevance to the words of Theodore Roosevelt.

If nothing else, we owe it to ourselves to nurture our lives through thoughtfulness and hard work. One day, we too may look back and see that our endeavors were worthwhile. If nothing else, it’s something to strive for.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Someday We’ll Be Smarter

Source: lovethispic.com

Source: lovethispic.com

We wake, consumed in the fleeting bliss of dreamland. But soon, reality sets in and we realize that we are back in the drowning layers of despair. We long for the days when everything was perfect, when our lives were simple, when nothing really mattered much; because now, it does. We loathe ourselves for the mistakes of the past, knowing full well that this is pointless – the past is gone, unchangeable, and starkly painful. We miss the love we used to have but know that logically, it could not last. Love lasts only as long as it need to, and then life moves on. We are left, as quickly as we’ve fallen in love, with nothing but the words “Goodbye; Thank you for loving me.” And then they are gone.

Someday, we’ll be smarter; we’ll realize that happiness and love never last and are only ephemeral- this being the only reason that they matter at all. We’ll love more honestly someday- we’ll try harder and stay longer.

Someday, our lives will have meaning, we’ll love each other, and we’ll be ourselves. I dream, as I’m sure you do, of a world where hatred is nonexistent and injustice is rectified.

But this is today. We are delusional in thinking that one day the world will be better- that we will be smarter- because we are human- incorrigible and inherently imperfect. We love one another transiently, wandering towards our future loves rather than focusing the moment, finding joy in all that we possess now. Too quick to fall into sullen depravity, we push away even those whom we are closest to. We deride each other for the sheer joy, finding the pain of others conciliatory to our own morose depression. We are capricious when it comes to relationships, surprising even ourselves with our lack of empathy and quickness to leave. Recognizing and controlling even the simplest joys in our lives becomes routine and innately pedestrian. And for what, so at least we can fall asleep knowing we’re in control?

We are beings of habit, fearful when confronted with change. Constraining our feelings, we hope to deter pain; although it still reaches all of us in its way.

Someday, we’ll be smarter. We won’t let ourselves get hurt. But because of that, we won’t live. Pain and sorrow allow us to live, to learn, and to grow. We are all infantile without the complexities of our own mistakes, and in turn, the lessons we learn. Our past and the subsequent hindsight allow us to look back and be grateful while also moving on with our lives. All we can hope for is that one day, we’ll wake up and say “Thank you. I love you. I always will, but my life moves on and so will yours. I will never forget you.”

Only on that day, will we truly be smarter.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Way We Live

San franisco offices at night

The way we live is the way that the world is. We live for the beauty in everything that we see. We live to become better, to become brighter, and to become more alive.

We follow our dreams because it is the only thing we know how to do. We follow the people we hope to become, living each day, hoping that it will matter. Every day we wish for the life we want to live, but it is a long way off. We dream because we must have hope, we must will ourselves to live on.

We work tirelessly day-in and day-out, pushing forward into the unknown, groping for the future we so desperately wish to possess. Work becomes us because work is the final frontier; work is the path to our dreams. When we are young, we believe that dreams just come true, that one day we will simply wake up, and our aspirations will have become reality overnight. But soon we realize that the world is so much more intelligent and complex than that. To see a dream realized without contemplation and magnificent labor is to have created a volatile and unsustainable dream. We find out that in order to maintain happiness and to sustain that dream, we must work every day for it.

We live to work, to learn, and to help the world become a more beautiful place. The world is our canvas and we have to paint a more beautiful picture, leaving our own unique mark on history.

Our own unique perspective fuels us; we charge on, moving towards an unknown, but unexpectedly spectacular goal far off in the future. And we are successful, not because of outside influences, but because of our on interior drive for success. We change the world because of the way we live, the way we choose to live each and every day of our lives.

We are the ones who’s light’s stay on many hours past dusk as we work on into the night. We are the ones who are up at dawn and ready to change our lives, our careers and the entire planet each moment.

We are not alone, we are living together and for each other; our purpose on this planet is to love one another and make the world a more equal, loving, and prosperous planet overall.

This is the way we live, and it’s the way we should be living. Because this is the life we were meant to live and these are things we are supposed to be doing. And we must continue on, learning, living, thriving, working, loving, and thinking every day. That’s the way we live.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Why Do We Fear Change?

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I fear that which I cannot predict yet I also fear the truth.

Why is it that we fear change so much? Life moves on around us constantly and it would seem that we are rooted firmly in the past, knowing not what the future holds and resenting ourselves immensely for that. We like stability and security, and so change scares us.

I have always felt like a person who’s prepared for whatever comes my way. But recently I have feeling substantially more fearful of the future. I will be moving not only towns soon, but also to a new state and region entirely, and I will be doing that alone. I think we fear change in this way because it is a loss of security, a loss of basic comforts that we must face alone. When we embrace change, we are going out on a limb and becoming someone new; we are doing that entirely on our own, and that frightens us.

In our everyday lives, although we may not realize it, we are constantly met by things that are normal for us and thus subconsciously comforting. And so when life changes, we are then forced to acquire new comforts and create new normalcy in our new lives. Newness is what scares us; we are afraid of the unknown future. But we must travel on in our lives, or we will never go anywhere.

Change is often the best thing for us, but it is also one of the scariest things. We fear change mainly because it means that all we have known will not be the same anymore which is undeniably terrifying for everyone on this earth.

As I look back at my life thus far, there have not been many changes of magnitude. But as I look forward, my career, my location, and my personal life are all uncertain which alarms me. I am a person who likes to be in control and the fact that I am not and will not be for a least a little while horrifies me.

What we all need to realize though is that we are the sole creators of our future and we have the power to change our destiny any way we want to. In my own life, I have realized that while I make the transition from rural Colorado to Long Island, New York, I must be willing to sacrifice some control for the benefits that the change will generate. And I must also be willing to step up and take control of my life to change my life the way I want to change it.

I was talking to someone the other day who was describing how she was close to retirement and scared of both a change in her future financial security and a change in her purpose in life. And the primary emotion I heard was fear, fear for the future and of things she could not control. And what I thought to myself was that this woman had a right to be scared. I understood her fear, because I have those same types of concerns for my future.

I think people are remarkably similar and vulnerable too, when it comes to their fears for the future. But what we all must realize is that fear of change is okay, but we must embrace change in order to move forward. Change is a piece of life and it’s the reason that life is interesting.

So accept your justified concerns as a way of comprehending your options. And overall, embrace your future and live your life the way you want to live it; change is just part of the journey.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Adrift: Thoughts on Now

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Time moves faster now; the days grow shorter; the nights grow darker; the stress grows more intense. Sitting at my desk in the golden glow of my desk lamp, the fervor is palpable, the air somehow charged in anticipation of the busy night to come. My muscles stand rigidly, awaiting their next movement.

The long list of to dos seems to reach ever-onward into the abyss; a million things to do and so little time to complete them in. Time is ephemeral, life is rushed, days are busy, tasks are never done, relationships are never visited, and people are forgotten.

It’s easy to forget the joy we once knew, the ease and docile carelessness e once felt, and the apparent comfort we once experienced. Life is mundane now, we feel nothing. Life is uneasy, it is stressful, and we are seldom carefree. Life is uncomfortable now; we are submerged in a constant state of longing.

We remember the people we once knew, the places we once saw, and the things we once enjoyed.

Life is volatile now. It is fast. It is rushed. We are never safe, nor are we ever truly happy. We feel angry, we feel hurt, and we feel irritated.

In the dark, we are restless; we stare out longingly; we await the events of our life; we reminisce; we can never forget; we can never remember.

Our lives are disjointed, everlasting, never-ending, ephemeral, terse, fickle, loveless, subservient, stressful, fearful, furious, pulchritudinous, and dreamy; the list goes on and on.

We will never be happy, we think; we will never remember all we wish to; we will never be as talented as we once were; we will never live our dreams; we are adrift and no one is there to save us.

And then we wake up.

And then life moves on.

And then we are living, NOW.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Rush, the Bustle… Overwhelmed!

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Jumping up from bed at 530 AM certainly must have its perks, but complacency is decidedly not one of them. Even as one takes one’s first steps on the day’s crisp, new ground, the world is already racing along and the daily struggle to keep up initiates once again.

Papers and products fly everywhere as one rushes out the door, late as usual, coffee in hand. The sprint from the front door to the car is one of Olympic quality, and despite the traffic, one is able to maneuver the vehicle like a professional driver, expertly racing to work. Showing up at work goes similarly, slamming in the door with T-2 minutes till official working begins.

And so starts the day, rushed, stressed, and tightly-scheduled.

The rest of the day looks like any other, running from one meeting to the next, never a minute to spare. People stare as though astounded by the proposition of actually having places to be, an outlandish and extraordinary idea.

Coffee is always a necessity, but on days like this one, coffee is a means of survival and an indulgence clutched constrictively in one’s hand at all times. Food seems a luxury today, as does even the tersest of bathroom breaks, let alone breaks at all.

One’s desk is an oasis in a sea of endless desolation, an edifice among shanties, and a release for desperation and anxiety. The familiar little space seems so comforting in the accelerated world encompassing it.

The drive home is a small period of serenity, spent in quiet, mindlessly attending to the road ahead. The whoosh of air from the vents is refreshing somehow, like the fragrant sea breezes on a smooth, soft, seductive, sandy beach.

A glass of Merlot is all one can think about on that drive home, and luck would have it that it is waiting for one on the counter once home. The Merlot slides effortlessly, slyly, placidly down one’s throat and it instantly alleviates the stresses, problems, and pain of the day.

The chilly, crisp sheets unwind the pressures of the day, soothing the day’s wounds and roll one into dreamland. The thoughts of the day soar away making way for effusive aspirational dreams.

And tomorrow the day will begin again, the everlasting cycle of exhaustion and assiduity. Life moves on around us at a brisk pace every day, the question is whether we can keep up.

Love,  Ethan Brown Jones