A blog about being on an educational journey in my own life

– an explorer on a voyage of discovery.

Not all who wander are lost.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reality testing - Part 1

This post is the first in a small theme dealing with reality testing and the ability to challenge the perception of a locked situation.

I think that it from time to time is worthwhile trying to establish a reality test of my own situation or you can say putting it into a new set of proportions. It is very easy under stressful circumstances to build an imaginary reality or self-perception based on own imaginations and fantasies. This self-perception is not necessary a true picture of the reality - whatever that looks like - but is a picture or perception with a lot of empty holes with yet unknown information. This perception can have its source in fear for the future, in feeling self pity, having anxiety of the unknown, having unrealistic dreams etc. I find it healthy to challenge this self image, trying to push it in a new direction to see if it makes more sense to me. This is not necessarily an easy task to do - the reality can be very well hidden:

“There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.”, Jim Morrison (Letters from Joe)

The room with unknown information behind "the doors" is a huge source to imaginations and fantasies and "the doors" symbolizes the challenges and hurdles I struggle with on my way. "The doors" starts in a strange way to build up when a new situation occur. The trick for me is to carefully open the doors and catch some new information, which can exchange the unknown information in the empty holes with something known, the invisible with something visible and the superficial with meaningful content. Part of my process is to listen to people's stories and to talk to them to get their reflections on life. Or by reading and observing what's going on around me and thereby constantly opening the doors and incorporating new pieces of reality into the big picture - thereby putting my self-perception into a new perspective. For instance - what about these reflections on reality:

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”, Jim Morrison

This quote reminded me of "Love Hurts", written and composed by Boudleaux Bryant. It has been performed by many great artists. First by The Everky Brothers in 1960 later by Emmylou Harris, Roy Orbinson, Gram Parsons and others. I prefer the intensive and saturated version by the hard rock / heavy metal band Nazareth who took the song to a U.S. Top 10 in 1975. Listen to this 1974 performance and enjoy the intensity of vocalist Dan McCafferty...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take off for the last time

Since it is short before lift off for the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-116 for the last time it might be time for me to tell the story about how the photo of Discovery became cover photo on my blog. Actually it is the result of a real walkabout experience as we arrived in Mims, Florida by coincidence December 7th, 2006, the date of the originally scheduled launch. We were totally unaware of the big event so a late arrival turned into a rush south, down the coast to a hidden place - a small local restaurant on the shore just opposite the launch pad at J.F. Kennedy Space Center. Unfortunately the first attempt was canceled due to a low cloud ceiling. Being able to stay in the area we were looking forward to a new attempt.

The second launch attempt took place on Saturday, December 9th, 2006 with a successfully lift off at 8:47:35 PM eastern time, the first night launch since November 23th, 2002. It was a magnificent absolutely clear evening and the small restaurant was crowed with excited locals listing to NASA live on the radio and on the ongoing TV. Someone who had a few free yards in their front garden took the chance to earn a few bugs for parking. The local NASA fan club was sharing the latest rumors and interpretations of the news on the NASA channel, the weather forecast was discussed over and over and everything was mixed with old stories, personal experiences from the many prior lift offs and the smell of the home made burgers. Time for lift off came closer, the little restaurant oozed from excitement, the radio amateurs did the final tuning and I tried to decide how to take a picture of the take off.

As the launch time got closer people was gathering on the beach, air planes and helicopters were checking the sky for the last time and disappeared from the area leaving the final decision concerning take off to a small aircraft which in lonely majesty flew across the sky, obviously satisfied since it very rapidly left the scene and left us in total silence. Seconds later the horizon was illuminated and a giant light slowly started its journey across the sky, amazingly quiet despite the enormous power output. Discovery made a nicely formed curve in its attempt to leave the earth and increased its speed and altitude while it was illuminating the black sky, seconds later the booster tanks released and Discovery was on its own - on its voyage towards new understanding. As we were trying to understand what we had witnessed, we mingled into the streams of cars heading back to Mims.

Discovery safely returned to the earth Friday, December 22th, 2006 at the J.F. Kennedy Space Center. And some years later my own picture of the launch found its way to my blog as a symbol and metaphor of my own journey.

While I'm writing this Discovery has taken off safely for the last time and is now orbiting the earth - you can follow the STS-133 mission live here. Meanwhile take a look on the launch that Saturday evening December 9th, 2006 when i saw Discovery take off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Keep on walking

Many before me has discovered the importance of physical exercising in a stressful situation. Besides being stress reducing because of the increasing amount of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine in the body and on the same time the reducing effect on the amount of the stress hormone cortisol there is also a relaxing and meditative element associated with physical exercising. The conscious and active work with my respiration forces me to defocus away from the problems and concentrate on one specific task - breathing.

I am mostly doing walking and running at the moment and at the moment especially walking contributes to the meditative element and thereby is a key to inner relaxation and balance.

The Danish philosopher, theologian and author Soeren Kierkegaard (May 5th  1813 – November 11th 1855) who had a great interest in human psychology has concentrated the physical and meditative effects of walking in the following lines about walking as a problem solver and a way to make things better: 

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it, if one keeps on walking everything will be all right ...". (Soeren Kierkegaard's letter to his niece Jette and partly my own translation).

Another person who has recognised the meaning of physical activity is Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks in the American comedy drama from 1994. Forrest realises that he has to try to make sense of his feelings for his beloved Jenny, the deaths of his mother and his friend Bubba and he decides to go for a run which brings him from coast to coast across the USA and lasts for three and a half years. Enjoy the following clip and think about walking, running or something similar next time you encounter a new challenge, it might bring you some new insight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Have a haircut in a time pocket!

It is amazing to think of - I have known my hairdresser for almost 40 years! He know me and my life history better than most. Entering Jørn Sten Hansen's saloon is like stepping into a time pocket. Even though more than 40 years has passed since Jørn opened his saloon back in 1967 not much has changed. If it wasn't for the movement of the hands of the clock and the new date on the newspaper you wouldn't be able to see much difference from back then. You still need to turn the handle on the cash register as back then and the whole establishment: the black chairs, the sinks, the choice of colors and the big mirror which has experienced so much bears witness of a time which has passed - and thanks God for that - please don't change anything Jørn!

To be honest a few more things has been changed - giving a connection to the outside world - the photos. Jørn is a keen photographer and from time to time a new photo finds its place on one of the walls. For instance a collage with hairdressers from New York, Washington DC and Jørn him self in his shop in Denmark.

But apart from that, visiting Jørn is like being taken prisoner in a time pocket, which is living its own life totally unnoticed - places like this are becoming more and more rare now a days. In less than a second I'm back in time - hooked to all the memories in my own life. But it is more than that, it is a room for reflection, silence and relaxation and not least conversation - Jørn has the ability to be a therapist based on life experience and living in the present. It is a welcome opportunity to escape the busy hectic outside world which is moving on and on. When I arrive stressed and with low batteries - he turns my thoughts into new circles - I believe it must be better than tranquillizers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

American Beauty - the flying plastic bag

After writing about "My life on the clothes-line" I came across the famous "flying plastic bag" scene from the movie "American Beauty" from 1999 directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball.

There are many interpretations whether the film is a mystery story, a kaleidoscopic journey through American suburbia, a series of love stories or whether it deals with loneliness and beauty. Many of the scenes are about life in general and deals with issues such as hate, anger and frustration. And it is sometimes hard to figure out whether it is a funny drama or a serious comedy.

But the reason it is mentioned here is that from my point of view, one of the main messages of the film is to show that even in situations of utterly ugliness, there is beauty in everything - even if it at first sight looks insignificant, meaningless or boring. In this perspective even an inharmonious plastic bag floating and dancing in the wind above a parking lot in front of a wall on a cold gray day becomes beautiful. As the plastic bag is representing the real value of life and beauty, so are the swing patterns of the clothes-line a kind of carrier wave at which I in the end find my personal resonance in order to bring everything into better harmony.

In the film Ricky recognizes the beauty of everyday life in small things and shoots a video of as much as he can in fear of missing it. The scene with the flying plastic bag is what he considers the most beautiful thing he has ever captured. He tells Jane that the dancing plastic bag got him to realize that there is "an entire life behind things" and he feels that "sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it ... and my heart is going to cave in".
Take a look at the flying plastic bag scene with Ricky and Jane...