Sunday, September 26, 2010


This was a most unusual week because I had two photography shows.  One was with the opening of a new restaurant and the other was part of an invitation-only show in connection with the Baltimore Book Fair.  I put in many hours of work in preparation for both of them, so many that I questioned if it was really worth all this effort to pursue my passion for photography.  People liked my work, but sales were disappointing.  A sign of these recessionary times, perhaps.  Or perhaps a sign that my efforts aren't worthwhile.

By the end of the second show this afternoon, I was drained of enthusiasm.

Some friends had said they would meet me at the restaurant after the other show closed, but they didn't show up.  I sat there contemplating a salad and latte for what seemed like a very long time.

Then the most wonderful thing happened.

A young well-dressed man came into the restaurant.  I smiled at him, for I was sitting right next for the door, and then went back to my gloomy thoughts.  After several minutes he came over to my table and said enthusiastically, "I love 'Carnival Midway'!"  I invited him to sit down and talk.

"The people at the counter told me you were the photographer who took these great pictures," he said.  I thanked him and did feel a sincere wave of gratitude.

He continued, "I don't have a lot of money, but I would like to buy one of your pictures."

As luck would have it, all my prints from the other show were still in my car because I had been too tired to move them into the house.  So I went out and hauled two large carrier bags of prints into the restaurant.

We sat and looked at many pictures for a long time.  Then I found that I had printed some 13x19-inch prints of the image he liked, and he bought one.

We continued.  He is a biologist at at prestigious research institution and takes pictures of developing fish embryos through a microscope, so he has a trained eye.  He said he likes to support local artists, and then said he'd like to be my patron!

He shared an idea for an abstract image for me to work up, based on "The Emergence of Consciousness" series (see previous postings).  Then I suggested a different twist on his idea.  Before long, building on each other's thoughts, we had developed the genesis of a new work.  Then he had to leave, possibly to check on something in the lab.  We had talked for over an hour.

As I walked out to my car, carrying the bags of prints, I felt completely confirmed as an artist.  This was all the more remarkable because I had been so discouraged such a short time before.

I think my "patron" was an angel, sent to give me a message at just the right time.

And now, we will see where this path will take me.

The Emergence of Consciousness:  Cell 01-02-08


Sunday, September 5, 2010


I've been reading a lot of resources lately on global climate change and sustainability.  Most if not all of them are focused on climatology and economics.  It's certainly clear that we must drastically reduce our consumption of material goods and non-renewable resources if we are to survive as a race and as a planet.

However, minimizing consumption is not the root solution.  We must develop a civilization based on respect for each other and for our planet in order to survive and thrive.  If we continue to be self-centered, we may succeed in reducing our own consumption a bit, but we will fail to help others who need to be brought up to a level consistent with a healthy, quality life.

I'm not sure how to do this.  We can't do it as individuals, although many individual efforts can help somewhat.  However, uncoordinated individual behaviors will not achieve a critical mass for global change.  Instead, there needs to be a paradigm shift in our global society - a shift away from economies based on unsustainable growth, toward an economy of mutual benefit.

E. F. Schumacher discussed the concept of Buddhist economics in his seminal book Small Is Beautiful.  It has been in print since it was first published in 1972 .  His words ring as true today as when they were written.  Buddhist economics is not based on material consumption, for attachment to material goods is the basis of all suffering, according to their way of thinking.  Instead, Buddhist economics is based on benefiting people

Our modern economies, whether they be capitalist, socialist or communist, have all used war as a way to line the pockets of the military-industrial complex and fuel the machinery of economic growth.  Instead, we need to be thinking in terms of how to produce the maximum benefit for all humankind and the planet, how to value work as an integral part of life rather than something to be avoided.  In other words, a Buddhist economy is based on people rather than goods, on creative activity rather than consumption. You can read Schumacher's classic essay, "Buddhist Economics", here.

This global paradigm shift must involve re-thinking all our measures of economic success.  Instead of measuring a Gross Domestic Product based on production and consumption of material goods, we will need to consider how to measure a National Quality of Life and a Global Sustainability Index.  The country of Bhutan has it right: it measures its economic success as Gross National Happiness, based on nine components that are given equal weight:

1.   Psychological Well-being
2.   Time Use
3.   Community Vitality
4.   Culture
5.   Health
6.   Education
7.   Environmental Diversity
8.   Living Standard
9.   Governance

This year's World Economic Forum at Davos recognized the need for a major paradigm shift.  One US company, PepsiCo, has an enlightened CEO in the form of Indra K. Nooyi, who has introduced the concept of a Double Bottom Line:  in addition to simple profit and loss, a company should be measured by how much it benefits society.  (The irony of this statement is not lost, as PepsiCo's snack foods undoubtedly contribute to the global epidemic of obesity and the looming crisis in the state of health, healhcare and well being.)

So where do we go from here? Scientists have already figured out if we eliminate all carbon emissions now (which of course is impossible), global warming will continue until 2050 because of the momentum already in place.

And in 2050?  Someone will have figured out another model to predict the effects of unrestrained spending and consumption, while the world continues doing business as usual and the planet reaches a point of no return.

It may be a while before we have a Buddhist in the White House or a Gross Global Happiness Index.  Until then, may we each strive to live in such a way to respect our fellow humankind and our fragile planet.  And may we all move in the direction of a global paradigm shift, as quickly as possible.

San Miguel de Allende:  "Language of Life"