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

Copious Variety

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The ride to the bus was quick but lonesome despite the NPR I was listening to. Stories of people all across the world were mentioned. How many different people there are in this world. Looking out the front windshield, I couldn’t help thinking of the lives of the people around me, all on their own way, following their own path, living their own separate lives. Early in the morning as it was, the gentle golden glow was only slowly beginning to crest over the mountains in opposition to the gray dawn and the roads were very lightly trafficked by both vehicles and pedestrians. For the cars that were out on the road, I couldn’t help but create narratives for each of the assumed occupants.

For the dirty, blue Toyota truck, rusting along all edges, I imagined a workman, going off to some construction site. He was mid-forties in age and somewhere well below mid-forties in income. But he was a good man, making an honest living for the family he loved so dearly.

For the spotless white Mercedes, I visualized a narrative of a woman in her late thirties. With striking red hair, perfected nails, a tight pencil skirt, a royal blue blouse, a black blazer, and a pair of empowered, peach-colored pumps, she cut quite a figure. I imagined her to be intelligent, hard-working, almost detrimentally so, and above all, in control of all aspects of her life. But with this pristine façade, I associated a much deeper story, one of loss, regret, and loneliness. I imagined that when she was young, she had envisioned herself wealthy, powerful, and happily-committed by age thirty-five. Most of her vision had come to fruition, but one crucial piece was still missing. And so, she spent many nights alone, her apartment feeling open and cavernous, the walls seeming to mock her lack of romantic intimacy. But she was alive.

I arrived at the bus, late as usual, gliding in a blur past the driver and the hordes of watching eyes. I wondered what lay behind those eyes— contempt, judgment, emptiness, or perhaps even depth of thought. The back of the bus, the last frontier in terms of seats, and the prime location for observation is where I landed. As they sat in the darkness within the bus, so did I­— observing and contemplating their lives.

I created scenarios for each of their lives too. I thought about the sorrowful-faced man. I pitied him; he seemed compassionate. But underlying his sunken countenance was a morose back- story, one of heartbreak and loss. I thought of him as average though; we all had loss. I just wondered why he seemed to take his loss so deeply, hanging on to his depression for so long.

The boy who sat next to me seemed pleasant enough with his youthful, humorous attire and attractive face, but his affliction was cigarettes. From his breath and that nervous, energetic twitchiness, it was clear to me that he was addicted, tragically and absolutely. I wondered what tormented him so that he was driven to the so-called cancer sticks. Perhaps a father that was nonexistent or a single mother who was working two jobs was the source of the anxiety that plagued him so. Still, deep within his brown eyes was a boyish hope in tandem with that childlike fear that is rooted in abandonment.

I cogitated on the young skiers in the seats just ahead of me. They poked fun at each other and chatted loudly and immaturely. I wondered exactly why they felt it necessary to converse in such a way. Had they just left home and never grown up. They seemed middle-aged in the physical sense, but in terms of psychological development, they seemed naïve, uneducated, even somewhat stunted.

My day continued on with these scenes in my head and soon, the bus ride was over. Walking along the street mall, a very different group of people surrounded me. Looking haughty and disconnected in their rich fur coats, they seemed altogether disinterested with the pedestrian world around them. A woman of considerable stature as well as apparently considerable wealth pranced past me, walking elegantly, almost levitating in her pretension. She was chattering into her phone, seemingly unaware of the entire world around her own particular realm, no doubt unaware of me as well. I wondered if she felt ashamed of her narcissism, but I already knew in my mind that she had neither interest in the outside world nor any anxiety for her lack of outward compassion.

Over the course of the day, my sense that everyone was separate and unique evolved and I became aware that my life and other’s lives are more similar than different. I began to feel that my motivations and drives were the same as everyone else’s. While I knew that my life was not without pain, suffering, and heartbreak, I realized that other’s lives were not either. Joy and love were most important in life, I soon recognized. My life is not unique; while variety exists, experience is universal for all of us.

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

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