Running through the Alps

For runner Joe Grant, freedom is the rhythm of effort colliding with focus. The ability to unthink and just do it sets him free.

“When your mind lets go of things and attentiveness is not forced…that’s when you tap into a feeling of freedom.”

It can be challenging to tame the incessant honking from the monkey mind, especially when we’re roaming ahead with no destination in mind.

But we can achieve flow, moving like water over rocks in stride with the magnetic forces of the land.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

All gifs/videos by Wells Baum

Standing in Grand Central Station reminds us of the temporariness of life, that what’s here now can be gone in a flash.

We should be dubious of ephemerality, especially in the internet world where things get consumed and promptly forgotten. Good feelings are equally fleeting.

Instead, the overall wager should be on long-term serotonin rather than one-off surges of dopamine.

Here now, gone in an instant

Better to find our feet in the urban wilderness rather than orbit around a flock of sheep. In the hierarchy of happiness, stillness plays the long game by persisting through noisy places.

A 3,900-mile journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway

What is it about train journeys that make us feel more alive than taking a plane or riding in the car?

For one, trains are part of the environment. Like snakes, they can weave in and out of nature. They go unimpeded into mountains, cities, forests, and slither by oceans.

There’s no better way to see the world than riding the train.

It gives us a chance to paint the world with our eyes. Each blink of an eye flashes novelty, like scrolling an Instagram feed into life. 

Trains are just what we need in a dizzying mobile-first society. They give us a chance to slow down, but at the same time light up the brain with curiosity and compel us to see more, do more, and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.

PS. I took the train from Seattle down to Los Angeles once, not quite the length of Moscow to the Far-East on the Trans-Siberian Railway, but undoubtedly a memorable one. It was an excellent time to reflect on my own life’s journey and to take pictures. I wrote a semi-fictional book about the trip earlier this year, which you can read for free right here.

Streams as anti-structure 🏞️

Photo by Wells Baum

The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure, the unpredictable and chaotic movement of its flow; fresh water slithering over rocks, persisting downward all the way into the mouth of the river.

Streams can only perform their function if nature permits such fluidity, the human renter backs off, and it swims unimpeded; flexing a dynamic energy so essential to the information Earth collects.

Seen and heard 🔉

All photos, gifs & videos by Wells Baum

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‘It looked like a Life Saver. It looked like a Life Saver up in the sky.’

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via giphy

Annie Dillard first published her essay ‘Total Eclipse’ in 1982. It’s since been republished The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New. Below are a couple of my favorite snippets. Read the entire essay on The Atlantic.

On seeing the total solar eclipse, also known as the path of totality:

If you think very fast, you may have time to think, “Soon it will hit my brain.” You can feel the deadness race up your arm; you can feel the appalling, inhuman speed of your own blood. We saw the wall of shadow coming, and screamed before it hit.


On seeing a partial eclipse:

I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane.

Are you excited to see the moon lurch between the sun and the Earth?

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Jim Carrey: I Need color

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What does making art tell us about ourselves?

For actor Jim Carrey, making art was a vocation that chose him. One New York winter, he felt compelled to bring color to his life, so he painted it out. As he puts it in the video, “artists make models of their inner life.”

For Carrey, art has become a form of catharsis. He also delves into sculpture, learning about himself through clay molding.

Whether it’s in the studio or on stage, creative diversions seem to be a form of self-healing for Jim Carrey. Perhaps it is the playful state of mind is what puts us at peace.  Uniqueness can be our moral compass.

“People that are different have a shot at being original.”

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

 

To dare is to blog

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A blog helps you solidify your thinking. But the practice of blogging is both a freedom and a constraint.

It’s liberating to say whatever you want, even if no one reads it. How dare someone discovers you! At the same time, there’s a fear that what’s written isn’t polished enough to be published.

But that’s what blogs are: rough drafts. They’re good enough. They are the blank piece of paper, a sandbox where people work out ideas. Blogs are full of contradictions and imperfections.

The fear is that your words may be wrong or misunderstood. No one likes to be called out. But that’s also part of the excitement; the ability to catch someone’s criticism.

Bloggers are already naked. They can even blog in their underwear. Bloggers notice and give other people something to discuss.

Bloggers raise their hand before they are ready. They pick themselves, professionals, past success, or not. They have a long-term willingness to figure it out all out and change the world while no one notices.

A disappointing film that highlights life’s stupid misfortunes

In case you missed it, the Paris-based motion design team at Parallel Studio stitched together a series of GIFs that highlight some of the most unfortunate things you might have encountered in everyday life such as like a download that stops at 99% or a spoon that falls all the way into your soup.

Feeling frustrated? You can submit your own videos to the Unsatisfying Challenge.

Filters of mind

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John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972)

The challenge isn’t knowing what to see. The challenge is learning how to see. As soon as you learn what to look for, your originality dwindles. Your interpretation becomes someone else’s.

To see well, in pictures and words, you have to know how to notice the good from the bad. Pictures speak in words. If what you see in your Instagram is uninteresting or cliche, then it may be worth skipping or unfollowing the user. If what you’re reading on your Twitter or RSS feeds is banter or click bait, keep scrolling, filter that keyword, or unfollow (friends and family aside) that individual if their predictability continues.

On the other hand, if the images or words make you think or feel like you’re learning something, keep tabs on that feed. A talented Instagram or a Twitter user can be equivalent to visiting a museum, reading an excellent book, or listening to an interesting lecture where there’s more signal than noise.

Of course, no one’s interesting all the time. There’s nothing wrong with using social media to have fun. But as an overall principle, if you point your antenna to the right people, you can consume the most intriguing stories and ignore the rest.

Bonus: Watch John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, and you’ll never look at a picture the same way again.

Bill’s Murray’s Advice: Stay Light, Stay Loose, Stay Relaxed

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“If you can stay light, and stay loose, and stay relaxed, you can play at the very highest level—as a baseball player or a human being.”

Bill Murray

Be a pro, but don’t take your work too seriously. If you’re not having fun, reconsider how your love for the game.

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