Tag Archives: wall street

The Flight Of The Phoenix

An online Flickr acquaintance, James, contacted me with the following note, which is paraphrased…

“Greetings Craig… I am at an Internet cafe and received your article… worded and sent out into the world with true heart and passion. Since I lost all of my stock holdings, I am currently homeless. I’m living in the Florida Keys: selling my art work, doing cleaning jobs, dish washing, and other things to survive while preparing for Saskia’s arrival on January 4th. When the stock market crashed, life went from having everything to absolutely nothing. I suppose it’s a chance to start at ground zero with a good attitude and faith in the good energies that will allow folks, such as us, to continue the struggle and create. It gives the world a chance to even out. Anyhow, I wish you strength, peace, joy, and love in life… James”

I responded…

Dear James… “I’m so sorry for your loss, but I really admire your attitude!

Though I cannot say that my life has ever been overly complicated by money, property, or responsibility to another person, after going through some considerable trials in the nineties, I had an epiphany on Valentine’s Day of 1998. I relinquished many of the so-called responsibilities and comforts that American culture deems important, if not altogether essential, such as functioning as a soulless cog in the machine in order to sustain a materialistic lifestyle and pay the bills. That day, while sitting alone, I willfully decided to go against the grain. I chose to be impractical… to follow my dream to become a documentary photographer and one day work for the likes of National Geographic and Smithsonian. During this process of becoming, I not only discovered there was an artist, writer, cultural anthropologist, visual historian, and activist hiding deep within, but I also realized that I had the tools, the talents, and the resources available to me to get people to ask a lot of questions (instead of blindly accepting the party line), consider different possibilities, and even change their thought patterns and behaviors. Though I have struggled along the way, as a direct result of these choices I have experienced some unbelievable moments in our history, met some truly unique and talented people, and come to know and love (and be loved by) those who I consider to be my dearest friends, without whom, I suspect, I would be little more than a pale interpretation of who I currently am, if not dead.

It may sound clich̩, but I firmly believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. This, to me, means that every event that occurs in our lives Рwhether it is large or small, or perceived as good or bad Рpresents us with an array of choices. If these choices are recognized, thoughtfully considered, then acted upon, they enable the individual the opportunity to endow themselves with purpose. Essentially, these moments present us with metaphorical benchmarks, which, if attended to consciously and with optimism, result in a more meaningful existence. Additionally, through reminding ourselves to live-in-the-present and do our very best Рwhile minimizing material attachments, emotional dependencies, and selfish expectations Рwe come ever closer to being truly free.

I was once in-love with a wonderful, beautiful woman who I met in Rio de Janeiro. After sharing a storybook romance, we decided to get married. However, after the hard knocks of reality weighed heavy upon our dreams, this marriage eventually came to an end. It resulted in one of the most painful and confusing experiences I had had in my life up to that point. Yet, I do not regret it having happened, nor would I choose to go back in time to change events, if I could. This is because so much good has come into my life as a direct consequence of this unpleasant event. If I we had remained together, I would neither have had the liberty nor the courage to pursue my passion as a photographer. It is likely that I would not have met any of the wonderful people who today inhabit my life. And if not for the therapeutic, creative, and purpose-driven qualities of my photography, I, as a person prone to depression, might not be alive.

Today my ex-wife is one of these dearest of friends. And though we have been apart for many years and don’t see each other as much as I wish we were able, both she and I are exactly where we need to be in our respective life situations. So, though my life was very painful and without direction at that time, it is as it should be.

Another illustration of the “Everything happens…” tenet relates to those people along the Gulf Coast who were victimized by Hurricane Katrina and the inept response of our federal government. These people had their existential foundations ripped from beneath them. Many were torn from their homes, their communities, and from everyone and everything they, and their families had known and loved for many generations. Whether upon their return to New Orleans or in another place, a many people were driven to despair, while many others tried their best to restore normalcy and routine. But apart from these people, there were a few exceptional souls who understood that their world was changing irrevocably. They allowed their repetitive routines, their material attachments, and their behavioral addictions to wither – effectively shedding their skin – as they adapted to their circumstances, became sensitive to their present, and expressed their thanks for all of the genuinely valuable and important things in their life. So, though they did quietly suffer as they slowly healed, they chose to look deep within while setting their sights on the horizon as they reinvented themselves, having had their eyes opened wide.

Anyhow James, I urge you to read between the lines of your personal experience while continuing to do your very best while in the Keys or wherever you may go from there. If you have faith in yourself and the universe, and choose to remain open, who knows? Perhaps you and Saskia will meet someone who owns a boat and who needs two people to crew their journey through the Caribbean? Or perhaps you will learn to juggle while riding a unicycle and befriend a fascinating and wacky group of performers? Or perhaps you’ll save enough money through selling your art to fly from Miami to the tropics, where a small piece of land with banana trees and cockatoos patiently await your neighborly presence. Your future success is contingent upon you broadening your perspective while opening yourself to new experiences and ways of being…

Trust yourself. Take a few risks. And live each day honestly, authentically, and completely. A great adventure awaits you…

In fact, it has already begun.

:) Craig”

And From The Ashes… An Apple?

It’s all coming to a head…

As a result of decades of unbridaled, Laissez Faire, Trickle Down Reaganomics, and a detached culture that has become spoiled by overabundance and privilege, my nation is going down in flames. Today, every crisis imaginable descends upon our collective shoulders as the Bush Administration makes ready to depart from the White House. And in the aftermath, he and his cronies more than likely walk quietly into the short memory of most Americans, left unaccountable to the high crimes his administration has committed over the past eight years.

How do I despise W? Let me count the ways… Two wars, bad foreign relations across-the-board, a cascade of sub-prime mortgage failures, an ever growing energy crisis, the collapse of Wall Street along with global banking and insurance institutions, the likely demise of the Big Three US automobile manufacturers, a sharp rise in unemployment and violent crime, social discontent, and the pending bankruptcy of the American tax-payers’ collective coffer. Whew! Thank goodness W didn’t succeed with convincing us to invest our Social Security dollars into Wall Street, huh? Nonetheless, most of us view these troubling times as unparalleled in the history of Western Civilization. I agree. But as the mythological Phoenix eventually rises from the ashes, I consider this period necessary. In order for our civilization to evolve, to rethink our relationship to one another and the planet that sustains us, our society must experience a metaphorical mid-life crisis that will give us the opportunity to view our own species’ existence and mortality straight in the face and rethink all that we have taken for granted.

Bailing out failing financial institutions is not an answer...
Bailing out our failing financial institutions is not the answer… It’s time for a paradigm change.

As with any great paradigm shift though, there will, of course, be casualties. But that’s a natural quality of growth. It’s almost always accompanied by pain and loss. However, as difficult as the challenges ahead will most certainly be, this may very well be the greatest opportunity ever presented for the continued existence of our species. As hopeless as it may all seem, we are seeing glimpses of cultural enlightenment. For the very first time in the history of the United States, we have elected our very first African-American President. Thankfully, this is indicative of a major shift in our way of thinking and doing and being. But aside from the unprecedented skin color of Mr. Obama, he also gives me the impression that he is quite possibly the most genuine, intelligent, conscious, selfless, and forward-thinking of politicians since FDR. With regard to these qualities, however, I guess only time will reveal the truth…

Meanwhile, as Mr. Obama awaits his democratically elected seat of power, the politicos chatter about stimulating the economy with unoriginal ideas such as tax-payer bail-outs and road-building. I disagree with these strategies wholly. We should NOT be propping up or rewarding failed institutions and amoral corporate miscreants to deliver more of the same. Nor should we be investing our valuable time and resources toward expanding an archaic, wasteful, and filthy infrastructure. The era of the automobile as we know it is nearing it’s end. With the limited national resources that remain in what now amounts to a giant basic checking account, we should not only become more intentional and strategic in our planning process, we should endeavor to create a future for our children that is worthy of praise. The representative powers that WE elect and who are accountable to US should impose clear and stringent standards alongside serious consequences so that we will discourage the furtherance of our greedy, selfish, and misguided behaviors.

At this time, when the planet is, without a doubt, rebelling against our myopic and exploitive occupancy, and its resources are either tainted and dwindling, we are perfectly positioned to put our hearts and minds, our fiscal assets and labor resources toward becoming the global leaders in a Green Revolution.

At this very moment, we have an enormous, unemployed, skilled labor force that is sitting idle. Let’s train and employ them to retrofit the rust belt to manufacture “green” vehicles, products, and technologies. Meanwhile, let’s draw the finest technological/scientific minds away from creating video games and new weapons of mass destruction to instead work on developing more efficient solar, wind, and transportation technologies.

Environmentalism, Socialism, and Capitalism are NOT necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. Similar to Roosevelt’s New Deal, there are millions of jobs yet to be created and trillions of dollars to be made through creating clean and renewable fuels, building (and retrofitting) energy efficient architecture, improving energy collection and waste disposal/reuse technologies, restoring the quality of our water, land, and air, consolidating our physical infrastructure (in the interest of preserving the natural environment and promoting community), and developing quick, inexpensive, and efficient modes of private and mass transportation. With consideration to the American work ethic, will, determination, and vision that made this nation what it became in the 20th Century, what if we put dedicated ourselves to institutionalizing a functional paradigm? Suits and hippies alike, we may very well be able to create a global movement toward a conscious and sustainable future.

In addition to these programs, we SHOULD be investing the balance of those hundreds of billions of dollars into creating cutting edge educational, health care, public transportation, and physical infrastructure systems. Let’s endow our children and young adults with a sense of identity, purpose, and meaning. Let us no longer deny the realities of sex. Let’s teach them the basics of parenting along with the sacrifices, the consequences, and the resources available to them. Let’s carefully select our teachers and pay them well. Let’s encourage preventative medicine and healthy patterns of behavior. Let’s strengthen our society’s weakest links by putting our criminals to work in our communities or compel them to serve in the military. Let’s tighten-up our development patterns and promote mixed-use development to encourage the formation of diverse communities while enabling accessibility for everyone.

Think about it for a moment… If, as part of a 20- to 30-year plan, we were to recognize our potential as a species – with aspirations to become an intelligent, healthy, conscious, and functional society – ignorance, fear, and crime would diminish considerably while our quality-of-life and worldwide reputation would improve measurably. If such standards were put into practice, the United States could very well lead the world’s nations on a path toward economic, environmental, and social excellence.