Learning to see again

Video by Wells Baum

Once Paul finally sat down, he made an effort to scan his body and feel his feet touch the floor. He stretched his head back to gaze through the skylight. The combined light and shadow of the glass-sheathed car danced around him like a carousel. The ambient shapes of silence put him in a trance. The plane thousands of feet above looked like a butterfly who’s wings froze to the shutter of the camera in the eye. He regained his focus, this time shuffling his feet to swirl around in the chair, searching, not for anything in particular but anything unusual.

The above is an excerpt from the chapter Learning To See Again from my book Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight. You can buy a copy or read it for free below.

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Please let me know your feedback on the book on Twitter. Which chapter or line is your favorite? What would you have liked to read more of? Just send a tweet to @bombtune or email me at wellsbaum[at]gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

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Bookends: Red and blue in Cusco

Photo by Wells Baum (Cusco, Peru)

Red used to be the world’s “first color,” writes historian Michel Pastoureau in his new book Red: The History of a Color. It was all people knew before blue emerged as a symbolic color in the 12th century.

The red color

It is the basic color of all ancient peoples (and still the color preferred by children the world over). It appears in the earliest artistic representations, the cave paintings of hunter-gatherers 30,000–plus years ago. Blood and fire (the domestication of the latter constituting an important human achievement) were always and everywhere represented by the color red.

Photos by Wells Baum

The blue color

Blue has become associated with peace and tolerance (as in the flag of the U.N. and its peacekeeping forces). In Pastoureau’s telling, blue is the color of consensus, of moderation and centrism. It does not shock, offend, disgust, or make waves; even stating a preference for black, red, or green is a declaration of some sort. Blue invites reverie, but it anaesthetizes thinking. Even white has more symbolic potential.

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Photo by Wells Baum

Read Red versus Blue

→ Stop: San Luis Obispo, CA

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Photo by Wells Baum

He circumnavigated the station, ready to go no place but where he ended up. But the more he paced, the clearer his thoughts became. All of a sudden, he had an epiphany which awakened his inner scribe.

The above is an excerpt from my latest book Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight, which you can download for free for Kindle, iBook, Nook, or read online.

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The old crossing

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Photo by Wells Baum (Kemer, Turkey) 2013

Across the bridge, where pedestrians pass.

Even as the strong bridge rots, we continue walking to connect the gaps to the wider world.

Under or over, we suspend doubt to avoid its nonexistence.

Build your own bridge, the old crossing of words.

Photo by Wells Baum (Machu Picchu, Peru) 2017
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Photo by Wells Baum (Bronx, NY) 2014
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Photo by Wells Baum (Brooklyn Bridge, NY) May 2012
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gif by Wells Baum (Harpers Ferry, WV) 2017
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Photo by Wells Baum (Georgetown, DC) 2016

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‘Be a first-class noticer’

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We travel to escape the plague of the routine and unexciting. In return, we get a new perspective and acquire new ideas.

But the slightest contrast quenches the thirst for discovery. Our own backyard is full of interesting things.

Life contrarian Aaron Goldfarb writes in How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide:

Interesting people don’t need to fill the voids of their life by simply placing their body in another state, country, continent.

We are blind, even to ourselves.

Grab a camera to help train the eye to look for subtleties. Photography recasts everyday things into novelty. Commit to a way of seeing.

The often unseen and unheard beg for acknowledgment. In the words of Warren Bennis, “Be a first-class noticer.”

Horse power 

Photo by Wells Baum (Peru)
Trains and tractors made the world less dependent on horse power. As the 19th century came to a close, horses were abundant. Consider this fact:

“In 1900 there were 145,000 horses in the French army and 130,000 horses working in Manhattan, while at the same time in Australia there was one horse to every two humans.”

Horses went from animals that drove economies and conquest to sprinters at the pop of a pistol. This looks like a fascinating read: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Looking out to see in

Images by Wells Baum

Travel retrains the eye to see. It is only when we face sharp contrast, can we make vivid comparisons to the unfamiliar (and familiar) back home.

Travel induces perspective. It is the practice of curiosity.

Anything that removes the banality of everyday life and replaces it with a dose of novelty to shock the senses makes one appreciate both what is out there yet to explore and acknowledge what we’re used to seeing.

Taking the Local Versus the Express Train

The main differences between the local and express trains are the number of stops and speed.

You can take an express train that leaves 15 minutes later than the local and still gets to the same destination 5 minutes quicker.

However, seats are limited on the express train while the local has plenty available. The faster train may save you time, but it may also be the least comfortable route.

In many ways, life is a perpetual decision between taking the local or taking the express train.

You can fast-track a goal and be done with it but be really stressed along the way. Or you can gradually get to your destination by slowly progressing, enjoying the process.

Everyone has to choose the path that’s right for them. Some people will mix it up depending on priorities that day or simply what’s available at the time. For instance, you may completely alter your original intention of which train to take simply because it’s running late and the other is available at that moment.

Most important is the realization that you’ve got to get on the train and just go. Once you’re on, you’re on; there’s no turning nor looking back. You have to live with your decision.