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

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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

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

The Skyline Destiny

Flying in, I could feel the electricity in the air, the constant state of unrest, and the love of productivity balanced with longing for the life of the party. Outside the small plane window, buildings so tall that they could scrape the underbelly of the plane were lit up, bright and perpetually awake. Everyone was out on the town from the paupers, to the wealthy, to the college kids, to the happy families from Brooklyn and Queens. New York City looked alive, as it did almost every night. From the moment we disembarked, the air was muggy and warm, even at that late hour.

The city of love welcomed us with open arms. That night, I too fell in love, not with a person, but rather, with New York City itself. It was that night when I finally felt everything that I had worked for truly come to fruition. All my work and long hours had led up to this trip, to this city.

You know how people say that they saw this one person, they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight? That’s exactly what I experienced that night. The moment I laid eyes on New York City, I fell instantly, completely, and hopelessly in love. I felt like I belonged there- like it was meant to be- like I was already at home in that beautifully-foreign oasis.

One of the best things about New York City is the incredible diversity of people, lives, landscapes, and personalities. Each street is a new neighborhood, each area full of a very different set of people. Every street is more glamourous and lovely than the last. But it is also as historic as any museum and as modern as the empire it represents. Everyone is so unique in New York, but many of them remind me of myself- dreaming always, working constantly, staying up late every single night, bitchy as ever on a regular basis, and opinionated about everything.

Maybe one day I’ll call New York home. And maybe one day I’ll get tired of all the hustle and bustle. But for today, that’s all still in the future. Today, all I can do is dream, work, and wait to see what my future holds. For now, I hope it’s a skyline destiny, and I think it will be. The city is as diverse as I am, and love is love. I made a promise to myself and the city that night that one day I would make it there and I will find it hard to renege on that. I belong in New York and I always have. One day at a time, one little step at a time, one day closer to my skyline destiny.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Art of Self-Sufficiency

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When looking at self-sufficiency, one must first look at the definition of its very core value, independence. And when I say independence, I am referring not to a perpetual state of solemn loneliness, but rather to an ability to find content and serenity in life’s silent, solitary moments. Self-sufficiency derives from the same foundational level as independence in that it too relies upon an innate ability to see merit in solitude. Self-sufficiency is much more than that though. It is a life-skill that will continue to develop as individuality and work ethic do as well.

But more than anything, self-sufficiency stems from an uncanny ability to remain poised, independent, strong-willed, and motivated throughout the multitude of experiences one undergoes daily.

There is a magnificent correlation between self-sufficiency and the ability to remain calm, collected, and eloquent in public. Likewise, to be self-sufficient, one must also be able to manipulate and finesse each interaction of life with great elegance and efficaciousness.

Self-sufficiency is additionally reliant on a skill set that aids in sustaining oneself independently. Primarily, organization is incontrovertibly necessary, utilized throughout each and every era of one’s life. But even more imperative to self-sufficiency is the ability not only to be tolerant of one’s seclusion, but to embrace and relish in that state of isolation. For some, being alone is an interval for writing, and for others it’s a time to watch TV or even cook, but a healthy adoration of solitary occasions is more than expected and accepted.

In the end, self-sufficiency has so much to do with contemplation, with independence, and with a deeply-rooted confidence in one’s own advantageous abilities. Self-sufficiency is the ultimate perfection of life, and we must embrace it for the sake of our own contentment and sustainability.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Accomplishing the Day

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Listening to life, we learn so much not only about ourselves, but about everyone around us and the world we live in. When we listen, we can actually hear our own personality speak and each little thought go by. When we look, we can watch the world go by in its ephemeral way. Each daily task is a mission for all of us, an accomplishment we somehow obtain gratitude and fulfillment from. Each thought we think and hear is an accomplishment too, something to be proud of, a piece of ourselves.

What do we really get done each day though? Do we sit on our couch and watch Netflix for hours on end, hoping, in our self-pity, that we will somehow have fulfillment and feelings of accomplishment bestowed upon us? Or are we the type of people who learned the value of hard work long ago, and are currently frantically going about our daily work and disciplined lives, gaining feelings of accomplishment from knowing everything we do and obtain is earned from hard work each day? When we look back on our daily lives a day, a year, or even a decade from now, what will we see? If it’s days spent asleep and lounging around, will we be content or remotely fulfilled by our past? Or if it’s days spent working from five a.m. into the wee hours of the next day, slaving away at something we love, will we feel that we were working too hard and accomplishing too much? These really are the questions to ponder individually and uniquely for all of us when ruminating on both past and future.

Personally, I know the answer to these questions in my own life, because I am the individual mentioned above, the one who slaves away at what they love from sun up to well past sun down. Last year taught me many things, but most importantly, it showed me the value of working hard each and every day. And while my work may not always be tangible, or at least not immediately palpable, it is truly fulfilling and I feel that I accomplish a lot each and every day. Each new thought I think and hear is an accomplishment in and of itself. Even just resting on a bench, watching the snow, listening to the man talking on the phone, or watching the child, awestruck with the perpetual interminableness of the world is  somehow much more fulfilling than drowning oneself in self-pity and terse-lived pleasures.

So be the observer of the world, the hard worker, or the busy-body. But overall, just be the one who looks back on their life and feels accomplished rather than disdainful. Work harder than anyone has ever worked before. Listen and look and watch more than anyone ever does. And more than that, accomplish more than you have ever wanted to get done. Relish in the feelings of pleasure, passion, and accomplishment one gets from living every day as if it’s one’s last.

Accomplish life, don’t passively live it.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones