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

Lost Words, Empty Promises

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Source: topwalls.net

I didn’t think I would care this much, that the words of my life would be so significant. When it comes to words, I always used to believe in a sort of unalterable importance. There was this sort of mystical, unravished honesty to all words. I guess my beliefs go back to a time where words still meant something, a time still remembered in the trivial ideals of modern novels. Once, despite the corruption and dishonesty that plague our society, words had meaning, had weight and consequences. No longer is this true. As an entire country has been rearranged in the modern, technological age, the once-assumed significance of language has been forgotten. And so, as words lose more and more of their influence, I have realized I care about this loss of verbal and linguistic sincerity on a much deeper level than I once thought.

Take the phrase “I love you” for instance. At one time in my life, I believed these the most consequential and truthful words a being could utter. But as so much else in the world has changed, so has the depth of this phrase. Where once these words meant a depth of love so intense that it almost pained an individual, now they are used passively and unthinkingly.

This is not to say that certain virtues don’t exist in the lack of sincerity our words now hold. Far fewer of us are hurt by a nasty insult or a fight among friends. They didn’t mean it we tell ourselves; what does it matter anyway? We are probably right in some sense, what’s the use in getting overly emotional over a couple of words thrown without thought? Especially with the speed of life today and the growing number of responsibilities placed upon us, what’s the point in placing meaning behind words, our own or otherwise?

However there is an aspect that seems to be overlooked in all this: the unique emotional experience words once opened us up to. Where once we read books for the beauty of the language they contained, we now seem content with the same storyline regurgitated over and over. I pity the writers of today too though. How can today’s writers compete in the career marketplace when they actually take the time to write something decent and meaningful? They have to produce quantity to make a living, and inevitably, quality falls through the cracks.

As I write this draft I realize how I dramatize this subject. I’m still writing for emotion and meaning, others must be too. Yet it is hard not to feel like a lone ranger on the final frontier when I look at the new best sellers list and wonder where quality writing died and when meaningless stories became perfectly acceptable. I just hope there are others out there on this night that are working equally as intensely on this same craft of writing.

Good writing to me isn’t even so much about the writing itself. Good writing is about passion, emotional experience, and simply taking the time to sit and think before thoughts are even put into words. Half the struggle of writing, at least for me, is just finding the motivation to sit alone for a while, contemplating experience, life, knowledge, and everything in between.

Writing can even be as simple as writing a letter once and a while (assuming I’m not the only one still writing those!). Journaling has so much to do with the practice of writing too. If we just had a few more people in this world sit down and think about their life, actions, and words I guarantee we could fix so many of today’s ailments. Maybe it is simply naïve optimism, but I truly believe that with a little more writing and a few less empty words, we could become a better people.

I once believed in that indescribable power of language, but it seems now to be just and empty promise, words lost in the space between reality and utopia. One day, hopefully that promise can regain its prowess. Just a few thoughts from a writer on a dark night…

Love, 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

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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

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

Alone in the Universe

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Life reminds us too often that we are very much alone in this universe. We try to pretend every single day that we are not lonely, but the reality is that that we are all a little bit horribly, unfortunately, painfully alone. We forget how alone we are for moments each day, when talking with our friends perhaps; but that doesn’t change the true nature of our solitariness. In our aging, we realize more and more that not only are we alone a majority of the time in our lives, but we also enjoy being alone for much of that time. It is in that alone-time, on the bus, alone in the dark of our rooms, or sitting solely at lunch that we get our best thinking done. It is in that time that we learn of the incredible monologue of our mind and assimilate how to discourse in depth with it.

That monologue is the one that drives us on each day. It asserts to us the merits of what we are doing and prompts us to introspect on our purpose and calling in life. One of the most important things a person can do in life is develop a healthy and sustainable relationship with that voice. The best concepts and innovations are thought up when sitting truly alone, engrossed in a depth of conversation with the neurological monologue that is impossibly unattainable in any human relationship.

Our battles in life are ultimately ours to fight alone. Friends and family are there to support us in both our triumphs and our losses, but it is each of us alone that truly sacrifices and obtains everything in our own unique life. We try every day to build our exterior relationships when what we should be doing is strengthening our own inner love affair. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: in the end, we are our own greatest asset as well as our biggest adversary, but we are all we have. So we must learn to communicate with ourselves and we must never stop thinking. The day we are truly alone is the day that even our mind goes silent.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones