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 Musical Love Affair

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Lights blare; the crowd hushes to silence; only my footsteps crack harshly in the deafening emptiness. Thousands of beady eyes focus intently on each and every square inch of my body. Somewhere out in the dark theatre, a cough echoes, seeming inexcusable and out-of-place. I am alone on the stage, the only center for the room’s attention. I raise my eyes to the loge and a roar explodes from the crowd. My arms are raised above me head as I smile lovingly at the audience. Sitting on the deep-black leather piano bench, the room hushes in an uncomfortable, anticipative silence. My fingers delicately rest on the keys, my eyes scanning the magnificent nine feet of strings constituting the Steinway, stretched out before me. Taking a deep breathe in through my nose, I begin to play, the sound filling the monstrous theatre, my mind becoming intoxicated with sonorous music. I feel comfortable in the song for a while; then it changes; I am no longer at home where I am; the music transitions to a place very far from where I began. Emotion drives expression onward into the cavernous abyss. I am focused intently on the music; yet when one is accustomed to playing music, one knows that sounds bring back memories wrapped in the silken gauze of emotions, rushing out through musical expression. The end approaches, I feel. A sense of longing for it to never end engulfs me and I am reminded of so many other nights just like this one, equally as perfect. And then the song is over. I’m sure the crowd is clapping; their hands are moving; but the roar of music in my head deafens me to the sounds of the outside world.

A group of musicians comes out on stage with me and I’m sure that I make some gracious speech to the audience, however subconscious my words seem to be. The next song is counted off; I play once more. But the music has no real beginning or end, only ephemeral constancy. The heavy black Steinway is resplendent in the purple hue of the stage lights and I am suddenly unaware of all tangible things in this world. The music is all. In the air surrounding the other musicians and me, a creative energy flows, water-like, torrential, and imperious.

Just as soon as it began, the concert ends. I bow and leave the stage, waving royally as I exit. Alone in my dressing room, the energy fades, the lights burn out, the world comes rushing back and the dressing room feels cold and isolated. Thoughts are turned to reality: I should get some more gas; I think I’m out of lettuce; I should really head to the office and finish up some work. The stage is gone. The concert fades away.

I am alone on the stage. Dim radiance glows from the work lights throughout the theatre. The air lies dormant, thick around me. I am nothing; I am nobody; I have no talent; I have no worth; it is all a lie, a repugnant untruth; my life, my dreams, and my reality are all inchoate, prone, strewn across the wretchedness of the stage; doubt turns to despair which in turn turns to self-loathing. I try to play, but the feeling is gone, the emotions- all snuffed out. In the dim glow, the piano seems decrepit, deterrent, disdainful even. Tears stream down my cheeks onto the keys that once passionately embraced my fingertips.

But the clouds lift; the lights return.

The theatre is quiet but alive. Breathing deeply, I step gingerly onto the stage I know so well. And the roar begins again. Beloved once more, I am weightless, significant, and unaware of the despair that lies just beneath the surface, at least for a little while.

The crowd hushes once more and I scan those nine feet of strings. A musical love affair begins anew.

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

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

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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

Dead, Hopefully

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It was late January and as I drove my Honda along the long, dark highway, all I could think about was the all-encompassing death I was heading towards faster and faster every day. My career was in the toilet, my love-life was on its way to its death, my hope was dead, and worst of all, my ambitions were dead-and-gone. Death had swallowed my life whole, and now it was simply spitting out the bones one by one, leading me into the dark alleyways of despair. I breathed- in…out…in…out- the simple task of breathing seeming somehow more difficult than living another day on this earth.

Lost, desperate, lonely, and hopeless, I drove on through the night, a lone pair of headlights illuminating the suffocating darkness.

What was it that they used to say back in Catholic school?

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

What a load of bullshit. When God closes a door, he fucking slams it as hard as he can in your fucking face.

Career: unemployed; spouse: none, twice divorced; kids: none; life: DEAD. The only thing I had to show for twenty-seven long fucking years of life was my old shitty-ass Civic, Marge, as I called her. Marge was my one true companion; she seemed to love me no matter what.

I was driving on the highway towards… well… towards the end, wherever that was. I was finding my new life at the other end of a long, winding highway- how fucking euphemistically cliché. Bitter, that’s how Aunt Lois used to describe me, bitter, resentful, nasty, and her favorite one, fucked-up. I was as far removed from the fucking bitch as I could get; I moved across the country just to finally evade her grasp. Lois was a poised, elegant woman when she wanted to be, but Lois didn’t often want that.

Marge purred along as my mind wandered aimlessly through the dark.

Back in Illinois, I had always believed that it would work out, that I would make it big and never come back to this God-forsaken hellhole. My whole life had been like that, always running away from something. First it was my family, primarily Aunt Lois, and then it was my first marriage, and now, it was my entire God-damned life. Running…

Cities appeared and then flashed by, my destination was unknown, but I was sure that none of this was it. I was ready for death now, nothing could stop me. Happiness had left me. You know what they say; when life gives you lemons- fucking give up. Well, life gave me a whole fucking lemon grove, and guess what, I fucking gave up.

I hated Lois for who she had become, a crotchety, selfish, old cunt who did nothing but bitch all day long. Thank God her poor husband Lester had died so at least he was in a better place now- hopefully a very quiet, peaceful one. I had spent enough years of my life with Lois to realize that death was better than having to put up with that old bat.

I was close now, the road was about to end, one more path ending abruptly in death. Mine was just one life, would it really matter? I longed for death, for only in death was the pain gone, were the voices silenced, was the anguish extinguished.

But death was too fair, suffering was much more realistic. And so I suffered. And I still suffer, and I’m alive. I guess that’s good, being alive. I wouldn’t know if death is any better since I’ve never reached it.

I guess it’s safe to say that the road never ended that night- who knows when it will end. Life’s a bitch as they say, and you know what, so am I. I’m a fucking bitch, and that’s ok, there are lots of us out there.

I hope death is a little less unfortunate, that’s what I fucking hope. Oh well…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Lost in Life

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Lost. Looking up and having no place to go. We are lost, longing for some glimmer of hope, waiting for a rescuer that isn’t coming. We are alone in this life. When we trip and fall, no one cares. When we lose our way, no one is there to save us, and not a single person will guide us on our way without desperate imploration.

Waking up, we are dead before our feet even hit the ground. Our life has lost all purpose and we are just drifting on the gentle, savage waters of depression. Life is gray, the days are gray, the nights are gray; all is gray. Groping for our savior, we are drowning in the deepest black waters, sliding into forever while mercilessly adhered to the agonizing moments of today.

Our career has swallowed us up, and we are but another mindless, expendable employee. Frowning faces greet our every moment. Each hour seems to grow exponentially longer towards infinity, the excruciating days never ending.

We get in the car and just drive, hoping to god that life will just end. We drive on and on, driving on a journey towards nowhere, waiting for hope to come racing around the next curve towards us. The world goes on forever and we believe that if we just keep driving, perhaps we will hit the end of the darkness, that just maybe, our life will be cut short, thus ending our misery.

But we move on, because we don’t know what else to do. We have lost our way, and we are ignorant of which way to progress. We miss the life we used to live, and we miss the hope we used to feel. Locked in cynicism and depression, we see no hope for the future; but life moves on. We move on, and no one is there to hold our hand as we go forward.

We are alone in this world, and we are lost.

And life moves on…

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

A Perceived Reality

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Sitting, watching, rolling along in the world, people go by, places disappear, and we never wake up.

Lounging, observing, living life to its fullest, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

A tree can be many things. A tree can be a botanical oasis, a deciduous wonder, or a sculpture of nature. A tree can be a companion, a goldenrod firework, or simply just that which it is, eternally a tree.

Driving along a highway, one’s eyes dart from the roadway sporadically, leering at a passerby, observing a provocation of mild interest. But do we really reminisce or even simply ponder what we are actually observing?

Being an artist, a musician, a designer, or a writer, one learns early on that perception is paramount to one’s own art in addition to one’s reception and comprehension of others’ art. For an artist, it eclipses purely the art world and so perception and observation become the rawest essence of daily life.

Perception is fundamentally applicable for all though, not simply the artist. From the way we perceive sounds and lights and noises and colors, to the way we observe the more subtle and inconspicuous world of emotions, personalities, ideals, and aspirations, the observations we collect and the assessed perceptions we feed off of fuel our minds and our lives more than we can begin to cognize.

And so for some the tree may be just a tree, a biological organism complete with cells, molecules, and a carbon-based composite we call wood. But to the lucky few among us, that tree is something more, something existentially greater than originally assumed. That tree is a manifestation of beauty, courage, joy, transcendentality, and most of all, vivacious, unabashed life. That tree may be gold or green or even red, but that tree is a pictorialization of life and death, pain and resilience, and most importantly, love and loss.

So perceive life how you will, but comprehend and discourse with it each day. For each day is uniquely divergent from the last; lessons are learned, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones