Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Bear Wisdom

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’ve seen extreme bravery from the least likely of people. Life is about the moments when it has all gone wrong. That’s when we define ourselves.

-Bear Grylls, adventurer and start of the Discovery Channel series Man vs. Wild

I wish I had fewer opportunities to define myself.

I like to blame my melancholy on an existensial crisis brought on by a near brush with death served up thanks to a bit of cancer.  But, the truth is, every moment is an opportunity for everything to go wrong, for redefining ourselves.
I’ll be honest, ladies and gents, for the last loyal few of you who put up with the empty, impersonal posts, life does seem empty, void and without any real meaning.  I do my work well, mostly, and try to be a good friend, though I know I often fall far short of that humble mark.  But, the work is impersonal, and any schmuck could do my job.  The moment that I stop putting in that extra effort, I can and will be replaced.  I’m the kind of guy who you can call while he’s on vacation, who can’t say “no” when an acquaintance needs help with their computer.  But, what difference does that make?  I mean, outside of my utility, what difference do I make?  To anyone?

I’m sure my friends and I would disagree greatly in regards to what my weak points, my character defects, are, but, I’ll tell you, there’s more wrong with me than a simple inferiority complex.  As a dear friend casually pointed out Sunday night, I look to all the wrong people for validation.  Yes, I’m talking about women.  No, not just one, but, well, virtually any woman.  I don’t know why, but it’s not even the few who do tell me that I’m worth more than my simple skills, that I have value beyond my utility.  As someone at work said, if I can’t be handsome at least I can be handy.  But, beyond a few very common skills with a computer, things that anyone with Google could manage, I don’t even have much use in the world.
No, what I hear are the other voices.  I hear the girl from Junior High who laughs at my first fumbling attempts at snickering socialization.  A lesson learned too well.  I hear my ex-wife’s bitter barbs, still working their poison into me.  Worse, I hear the silent voices.  I hear the women who don’t even say anything, who’s voices I imagine saying aloud all the worst things I’ve ever thought about myself.  They’re the worst.  When someone silently turns away, or glares, or doesn’t notice me at all.  The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.

So, there I am, an un-confident shell of a former self I don’t think I ever was, wanting to be different, but no knowing how to go about it.
I’ve a friend who’s a professional artist with whom I have lunch virtually every Monday.  We’ve been talking about art a lot, and photography.  My photography, actually.  His unfortunately accurate assessment of my work is that it lacks passion.  He quite rightly described me as being afraid, afraid of following that passion.  Also, he sussed out that I had in my head some notion of doing the photography “right”, that I was very concerned about doing it that mysterious “right” way.  And, those two things were what was holding me back.  If I could just let go of those things, then the crisis of my internal life would be freed.  Maybe.  And, yes, these two subjects, three subjects really, are all tied together.

So, there is the crux of things.
I know at some deep level that I am at a crisis point.  It would be hard for me to picture my life having gone much more wrong than it has.  Forty and divorced and, as much as I love kids, not a one to be found on Father’s Day.  Deeply in debt, with more on the way, thank you again, cancer, you bitch.  It may not be the way that Bear means in his sound bite, but life has gone wrong here, trust me.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think art could save me.  I think that getting through that semi-mythical block would free my entire life.  But, here’s the thing…  The passion that’s missing from my work, is women.  Complicated, confusing, confounding, captivating women.  Women who mean so much, too much, to the tattered, hollow shell of my ego.  To approach them for inclusion in the work, I have to be indifferent to their constant rejection, but, you know, I’m not.  And, would I have so much energy around these mysterious, magical creatures if I were entirely fearless around them?  Doubtful.

So, what to do, what to do.
Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps a few more therapeutic lunches with my artist friend.  Perhaps, cancer survival aside, this existential crisis point may be a turning point.  If I’m lucky, I’ll find a bit of courage and surprise myself.
If I’m lucky.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"You must forgive in order to live."
   --Stephen Orchard


  1. Passion has to come from within. I don’t think it can or should be dependent on anyone else. The fire has to burn to get the camera out, to learn more, to get better. If you really want to improve your photography you are going to have to make some changes in what you are doing. This is just my assessment from watching from the sidelines. You are going to have to reach out to people, whether in person or on Flickr. You are going to have to look at many more photos, ask about techniques, try more experimental things, be more creative and get the camera out much more.

    One time when I asked you about coming to a meet-up your response was that Friday night was the only night you could do it and that you didn’t have room for any more friends in your life. But I wasn’t asking you to sign up to be everyone’s best friend, but to get out with your camera, watch others work, start getting ideas and start making some connections to improve your photography. I think your artist friend’s assessment that you are afraid sounds right, but why? I think that is what you are going to need to figure out and then whether you are afraid or not you are just going to have to go for it. Walk into the abyss; face the dragon.

    Good luck. I have changed so much from who I was 4 years ago thanks to my photography. It hasn’t all been easy and there were some really low moments. But my life is so much more than it was and I’m grateful for that. I hope you find that passion no matter what the area of expression you choose to pursue. And as a much younger person told me (wisdom of youth) having a romantic partner can’t make you happy, they can only make you happier. You have to be happy on your own.

    Comment by laanba — 6/24/2009 @ 7:51 am

  2. Ah, I should not write at 1:00am. I am unclear in the small hours of the day.
    No, my passion for photography isn’t so much derived from someone else in the sense that validation from them is what fuels the fire. More like they are the subject matter. Have you heard of Bob Carlos Clarke? Brilliant photographer. Killed himself earlier this year. Google his work and you’ll see what I mean. I didn’t realize that in a former life his work was something that had driven me to distraction until just a few months ago. I just finished his very autobiographical book Shooting Sex.

    Now, Laurie, you’ll forgive me because I’m probably about to sound arrogant and mean-spirited. Going to shoot with a group of strangers feels taxing just to think about to me. I used to really enjoy people. People of every stripe, every socio-economic background. But, after years in a very service-oriented industry, not so much any more. I find the vast majority of people to petty, small-minded and entirely concerned with ridiculous things. I find most people, frankly, taxing after a very short time. Perhaps it’s small and petty of ME, but, well, there it is. I’m tired of trying to manage expectations and I’m tired of the demands most of them put on me.
    I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any idea at all what other people think of me. I think I edit most of what goes through my mind pretty well before it comes out of my mouth, but if I said what I thought of many people as I’m dealing with them, well, let’s just say I don’t think I’d have to worry about being put upon for my time.

    Still, I know you, and my artist friend, are correct. Something needs to change for my work to improve. And, fear, of one kind or another, is what holds me back. I know I should grit my teeth and go with one of the Meetup groups to shoot, but I still feel very self-conscious shooting with other people and shooting strangers without having asked permission. It’s a weird thing, considering, but, well, there it is.
    As for the rest, well, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish. I’m considering converting to Catholicism just so I can become a celibate monk. A celibate monk photographer who shoots nudes. Hmm, maybe I need another plan.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 6/24/2009 @ 9:05 am

  3. It doesn’t sound arrogant and mean spirited and trust me you aren’t alone. Most people think those things about most other people. I’ll let it go other than to just say whether it is a meet-up or an online group or a seminar, you are going to have to interact with people in photography. Even if you just shoot buildings like I do and from what I’m reading you want to shoot much more than buildings. Portrait photographers are those things called “people” persons.

    Comment by laanba — 6/24/2009 @ 10:18 am

  4. You don’t have to join a religion to become a celebate monk 😉 Hey, this post plus the post on running away tells me something. The people you currently have in your life are holding you back – simply by reinforcing the things you feel are tedeous, and not reinforcing the things you want to love about yourself. It isn’t true that you always find yourself no matter where you go. You always find yourself when you look through your own eyes, ignoring what others see. You can reinvent yourself anytime you want. Look at how many times Madonna reinventer herself, and she can’t hide. You just have to be willing to put up with the dropped jaws of all of your friends. If they are really friends, they’ll like the you you chose to be.

    I don’t believe you will find yourself through the lense of your camera. Art doesn’t work that way. You find art through the lense of who you are. Guess what? There is passion and art in you. I’ve read it in these pages. But the other commenter is right – you have to lose the fear. Fear holds us all back. I have an idea – go photograph all the things that make you afraid. Look at it, hold it, then put it where it belongs. But when you do it, remember to be honest.

    It’s perfectly normal to go through these little crises. You’ll be ok.

    Comment by Cheri — 6/24/2009 @ 10:23 am

  5. Ha! I know, Cheri, because I am truly just about there. And, perhaps you’re right. It may be that part of the fear is simply that I will be a different person and I’m not sure everyone will like the change.
    Somehow, though, it’s most reassuring to know that my little crisis is, in the end, perfectly normal. Seriously. Thank you for that.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 6/24/2009 @ 10:45 am

  6. since you like books, check out: “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. it is all about releasing our creativity. she says that the things that we are most resistant to are the things that we may be the most talented.

    Comment by jenjen — 6/26/2009 @ 7:11 am

  7. So, is this what “working from home” looks like, Jen? I may have to try that. 😉
    Actually, I have a copy of The Artist’s Way around somewhere. When I finish the book I’m reading on the yakuza, I may jump to that instead of reading Mark Flood’s book of art essays, Clerk Fluid, based on the blog of the same name.
    And, I find it amusing that this little whine started out because I was all wrapped up in what one or more women, to be named later, thought of me, while all the positive advice and reinforcement has come from women. Surely, someone, somewhere is trying to send me some kind of message.

    Comment by the Network Geek — 6/26/2009 @ 9:26 am

  8. ha ! if you will notice, i posted my comment at 07:11 – i had not officially started working from home yet. don’t you worry – your federal tax dollars did not go to waste ! “the artist’s way” book is sort of a “workbook” type of book. you can get into it and start your “morning pages” while you are still reading other things. it really may help to unblock your creativity – if that is what is really going on.

    i’m more interested in the “one or more women, to be named later” comment you made in your last post. do tell !!

    Comment by jenjen — 6/27/2009 @ 10:06 pm

  9. I actually couldn’t find the copy I thought I had, so I bought another copy, along with Man’s Search For Meaning, which I want to re-read.

    And, uh, by “to be named later” I meant, “I will never, ever answer this fully, completely or truthfully”. Sorry I wasn’t clear. 😉

    Comment by the Network Geek — 6/27/2009 @ 10:36 pm

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