“Fool’s Gold” and the empty hunt

Last night my girlfriend and I watched the film “Fool’s Gold” featuring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. It was directed by Andy Tennant.

The story focuses on Benjamin Finnegan, played by McConaughey, a deep-sea treasure hunter who has wasted his life chasing the lost treasure of a Spanish Galleon known as the Aurelia. Tess – played by Kate Hudson – has decided she’s had enough of his whimsical dreams and divorces him – despite her own fascination with the treasure of the Aurelia. She commits herself to divorcing Ben, returning to normal society, and finishing school as she finds a more stable, predictable partner.

Soon after their divorce Ben finds himself abandoned at sea until he is discovered and brought aboard a yatch by Nigel Honeycutt – played by Donald Sutherland. Honeycutt is on an aimless vacation with his daughter Gem – played by Alexis Dzienna. In an effort to finance her new life, Tess finds work on the same yatch as a waitress.

Soon after climbing aboard the yatch, Ben captivates Nigel, Gem, and even Tess with his theories about the lost treasure. Nigel – who has no shortage of coin – finds a purpose. Gem discovers an adventure that cuts through the superficial interests of her vapid social life. Tess succumbs once again to Ben’s charming yet fruitless pursuit. And Ben finds the support and resources he needs to make his pipe dream a reality.

If you wrote a story about these characters and their lives after finding the treasure, nobody would watch it, or care. It would have to end in tragedy. What would be the point? I think this is a fairly obvious realization, yet that conclusion elevates in importance when you realize what this story is really about.

It doesn’t matter what our dream is, or the length of time we have been pursuing it. It does not matter the amount of progress we have made, nor does it matter the struggles we have endured. There is a vision in your mind that you alone have been granted access to. That vision by itself is enough to fuel years or effort, decisions of regret, and a hollow belly of return on investment.

We can spin tales about our dreams that seduces others into believing in us. We can connect dots on a future timeline that land us directly in our own mirage. We find competitors who will fight to the death to find our treasure before we do. But most importantly, we will happily and eagerly forfeit a safer and more secure position in society to remain on an expedition that seemingly ruins us.

It is ironic to me that Nigel Honeycutt enthusiastically sets sail for this lost treasure. He is already wealthy beyond imagination. In the eyes of a safe and secure society, he has already achieved the ultimate ranking in social hierarchy. In his own perspective, however, it is Ben who is rich, and he who is poor.

You are on a treasure hunt. It is filled with obstacles that will strike you into the dirt. Your learning may propel you forward but its execution will repeatedly go unrewarded. The morning will begin with aspiration and the evening will end in despair. But you will wake up, and you will do it again, and again, and again.

Why?

Because your treasure is out there. You are not the only one mad with desire to uncover it. Many will forfeit the journey long before they bring shovel to sand. Many others will find themselves lost along the way, failing to see they misunderstood the map’s instructions. And many, many others will stand idly by, watching treasure after treasure get discovered rather than unfolding the map that is in their own pocket.

It’s not the treasure that we’re after. It’s the hunt that we live for.

A Maze With No Exit

There’s a great video on youtube about this Sushi chef in New York. Customers pay an astounding price to eat at his restaurant. The seating is extremely limited and reservations are made months in advance. I believe the menu is tailored to the specific customers for the day, but I may be mistaken. It’s been a while since I watched it but the important part has stuck with me. The habits that sushi chef had shaped for himself – from arriving hours early, sharpening his knives, and prepping each dish – struck me deeply.

I watched another short documentary recently about a salt farmer in Mexico who is the only person left to keep his family’s tradition of salt making alive. He is poor, breaks his back daily, and has no intent on stopping.

I think about monks from time to time. Each day they rise early and pray. They spend time performing labor-some tasks. They thank God before each meal. Then they go back to work. Each day to them is similar in action, but unique in joy.

Advancements in technology have made information, entertainment, and communication available in a flash. Our minds are jumping every 5 seconds and have been conditioned to demand stimulation at a moment’s notice. Yet we wonder why rates of depression and anxiety continue to climb.

If you’ve ever played a video game, you’re likely familiar with the concept of playing as a single character who continues to improve his skills in order to attain his overarching objective. You retrieve plants and use them to craft medicine and food. You perform tasks and are rewarded with money. You purchase stronger weapons and your enemies are no longer as threatening. It’s fun because it simulates what real life is supposed to be – without the real work.

We can develop habits that place us in the pathway of success. If you want to improve your writing, you can study books. Or you can write. Or you can provide feedback for other writers. If you want to film a special effect you are unfamiliar with, simply type it into youtube and you will find a tutorial that suits your needs.

Each hour of every day we receive the gift of time. We can choose to spend that time developing our own character to progress toward our personal goals, or we can waste that time on consuming the products of others.

There is a generous reward provided to those who routinely devote their time to habitual improvement. The reward is not always the gift of prosperity and acclaim. The reward is found in the joy that comes from living with purpose.

When I find that I am depressed, sad, or anxious, I find that the core of my beliefs has often shifted. I fall so far into consumerism that I have allowed the thoughts, opinions, and products of others shape my worldview. At the center of my flawed belief is the idea that their is no pathway to success, joy, or meaningful production.

I often think of a study that was once conducted with mice. The mice were placed in a maze that had no way to exit. For a time, the mice tried relentlessly. They took new routes and made different turns hoping to find an exit that they had previously passed over. Eventually they stopped searching. Instead they slumped over and rested, finally learning to be content with accepting that escape was an impossibility. But the researchers performing the study waited until this point in time to finally lift a barrier and allow for a clear pathway to freedom. Do you know what the mice did? They remained sleeping, and stopped looking for the exit altogether. They remained trapped, but unbeknownst to them their freedom would have only taken a few more attempts.

Throughout life it’s easy to look back on past efforts and shortcomings and conclude that the success we desire is simply not in the cards for us. “Seek and you shall find.” Though we might not see the path we have been looking for, it does us no good to accept misery as an inevitability. We must get up, we must gather our tools, and we must get to work.

Master of Composition

Ivan Kulikov,  1904, Oil on canvas, Gemäldegalerie der Stadt Murom

I am plagued by an unusual curse in life that to a large extent has limited my efficiency of output in my journey of story. During each occasion that I apply processes and habits that are tantamount to purposeful action and positive results I am bombarded with imagery and memories from my formerly successful past – my dreams morph into the passion of my youth. It isn’t until my eyes creep open that I must self-inflict a painful reminder that my former dream is now dead and the passion I once had is a crop that can only grow but never produce. This cycle is debilitating, anguishing, and demoralizing. The common solution to this problem is to engage in behaviors that will distract the mind – behaviors that do not hammer a single nail in the foundation of success.

But tonight I stumbled on a realization.

The successful behaviors I employ today run along the same wires that propelled me to perpetual improvement during my youth. It seems that running current through the “success” channels of my brain may be what is prompting the vivid memories that I’ve spent so much effort to contain to the past.

Successful behaviors will produce the desirable result across different fields of application.

Our tendency to produce work that passes our highest degree of scrutiny will dictate the quality of our artwork. The determination to shape each plot point to its proper timeline, each character change to its newfound obstacle, each word to its speaker, and each action to its motivator will all work in tandem to deliver a story that resonates with the viewer. The same characteristics of tedious effort carry over to music, to painting, to family, and to life.

Now what if in God’s hands we are no different than one of our works? What if our ability to shape our thoughts and actions toward unrelenting focus on a singular goal is what enables Him to make us that artist we seek to become? Perhaps by undertaking the same processes, disciplines, and habits we know are required to deliver masterful compositions we are enabling ourselves to be shaped into a master of compositions.

I’m sure these connections may be obvious to most, and to others unconnected, and to still others uninspired by any deity, but to me this has been a light-bulb revelation.

I find it ironic that my previous post was making a mockery of the need for an exemplary script prior to moving toward production. I have spent the past 2 days ceaselessly sharpening my story to the point that it will puncture the mind of the viewer. Despite the likelihood it will not achieve any great recognition even when it has been completed, that is not going to stop me from trying.

The composing of art to the highest level of personal achievement is both fulfilling and self-developmental. Any artist on the bottom is not creating to be heard, recognized, or profitable. We are creating because every object of creation competes with every other object of creation. Each individual has the right to compose their piece with a masterful stroke of brilliance should they reach high enough to grab it. The ability to acquire these skills is a God-given right, and for me that is a most tremendous blessing.

Sea of Misdirection

smartcapture

Have you ever woken up and known exactly what time it was, down to the minute? It’s an amazing mechanism, our internal clock. It’s a gift we have that we don’t appreciate and don’t give much thought to. If this intrinsic device is monitoring the outside forces without our control, what else do we have inside of us that interacts with the outside world?

Our autonomic nervous system is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is also known as our “fight or flight” response. It is influenced and aroused by outside factors. When someone pulls a knife on you, your sympathetic nervous system will produce a rise in adrenaline and help your body to react in a way that is intended to help you find safety. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is known for controlling the “rest and digest” process – the things your body does to keep you alive without any input from your conscious mind.

Perhaps these systems exists on a spiritual level as well. Perhaps this is the reason the “Law of Attraction” seems to work.

But I once watched a documentary about The Secret (or the law of attraction) and found it was more propaganda than anything. If you’re not familiar with the idea, I can summarize it in one story I distinctly remember from the film: A man spoke about how he had been drowning in debt. He told himself he had money even though he didn’t… then POOF! A mysterious check randomly landed in his mailbox and he was saved.

What’s dangerous about believing in this magical phenomenon? Your psyche, for one. If you think your perspective on the outside world alone is enough to manifest physical developments, you might as well spend your entire day convincing yourself your problems have already disappeared. This is a formula for living in denial that will only enable your problems to worsen by not properly addressing them.

Now let’s return to the internal clock and why that is significant. It regulates and interprets an external value without our control or conscious effort. I believe we have an internal spiritual “clock” – only rather than time, it monitors direction.

Keep taking steps, actions and initiatives that take you closer to where you would like to already be. Imagine you at that destination in life you would like to arrive at and shape your day according to that. Spend no time contemplating whether your effort holds any value if the fruits of your labor will never be fully ripe. The system of thought that avoids this destructive, purposeless doubt is known as faith.

When you shape your actions, thoughts, and beliefs to align with a successful outcome you are becoming the person you want to be. As you constantly dwell in a system of perpetual growth each new achievement will come to you without surprise. Your goals will be accomplished because you corrected yourself to attain them, not because you convinced yourself you were capable and your level of blind confidence was enough to fool the physical world.

Just as we have an internal clock to subconsciously monitor time, I believe we have a metaphysical tuning fork that informs us about the direction we are heading in. We know when we are shaping ourselves into the creator we aspire to be just as we know when we are crumbling into a creature of destructive habit.

I hope you take this day to direct your thoughts and actions toward your ideal self. If you take to the sea with your boat and allow the wind to shape your journey you will die lost and starving. Bring your map with you so that even the storms will not misdirect you. Do that, and one day those same storms will only be remembered for helping to shape the greatest captain who ever took to the sea.

Run Faster

runner

Dream a dream of words and sleep,

live a life of hope and deeds.

Pray you won’t waste another day,

Waiting for the grey to fade.

Rise today and raise your wings,

To your fears I say you scream:

This world is mean, at times obscene, at times I seek a sign to see.

I say I say I say to you, the truth of fear is it’s untrue.

There is no thing you cannot do, no dream that can’t be made real too.

No reason to lie to yourself and say “I can’t” or “Well I fell.”

For when we struggle we feel some pain, and in that pain we don’t see gain.

But if you rise and rise again, push through the pain and play pretend –

If you run when you can’t see – you’ll finish first, then believe me.

– Thomas M. Watt

Try

Falling-depression-34376623-1420-903

Day by day by day by day,

I laze and wait then think and stay.

Time goes by until tomorrow, then comes some more with the same sorrow.

Tired of mundane depression, scared to try and face rejection…

Or regression to this same state, the ground don’t hurt it’s the fall I hate.

Up and up and up I climbed, ’till my hand slipped and then I fly’d.

Near the top, I climbed that high, but that misstep was my last try.

At first I kicked my arms and legs, reaching to grab what I once played.

And as I fell down from the sky, my eyes did struggle to not cry.

After I crashed I settled in, waiting to die, not re-begin.

I stand and think and think some more, dwell a lot on painful sores.

It hurts it hurts it hurts so bad! How can I climb when I can’t stand?

No more God, no more good doing. No more dreams, no more hope spewing. No more prayers for more good graces, no more thanksgiving, He can’t replace her. No more right track lest I go wrong again, no more rising means no descent.

I’ll just lie here until I die, thinking glumly and seeking highs. Drown my brain in lull and sleep, ease my soul with soul-less deeds.

Checkout that ass, give me that food, I’ll take a drink of scotch or booze. Some more tobacco, a cigarette, I’ll fuck that girl who I just met. Or no I’ll break her little heart, do what I can to make her depart.

Hate and hate and hate some more, destroy my body ’till it’s no more. Blind myself with thoughts of doom, end my hope till it’s no use. Joy is those who next come here, faith are those who stand real near.

How comforting it is to know, way up high, I’ll never go. Never climb that high again, never make another friend. Never fall in love with her, never mistake my own dead-end. Never one more situation, that risks the chance of escalation.

No more sadness, no more pain, just endless, constant, life-refrain. Hurt and hate and destroy some more, until with past I’ve evened the score.

But then today I looked around, and realized I’ve been here a while. And if I climb I’ll fall again, maybe ten times more than ten.

But maybe I should get up and try, before another day goes by.

Maybe pain is one example, of what you get from trying ample.

Where’s that ladder? I’ll climb that bitch, then rejoice in heaven, with those who finished.

– Thomas M. Watt

The Man Runs

Image

The man walked. He walked and while he was walking the demons were following him. They latched onto both of his shoulders, one wrapped around his waist, and another clasped to both of his ankles. He wanted to run, but he couldn’t.

No.

He had been here before. This wasn’t the first time he felt this sluggish. This was not the first he had been tied down by the worst of thoughts – How awful he was, how terrible those around him were, and how unchanging the problems always were.

They seemed.

He didn’t no why, but he knew this was the truth. He knew it was the truth because he had been here before. He had heard what he could not do. He had been told many times before that he was weak, doomed to fail, and not cut out for anything good.

The man walked faster.

Why? What was it that he had seen before that he could not see currently? Was it his lack of a sports drink? Was it his ambivalence towards healthy eating habits? Was he simply not cut out for a run?

No. He could run. He could move his legs faster and then find out how far they carried him. He decided not to give up before he even started.

The man jogged.

At first his breath felt heavy. His weight felt heavy. One of the demons from his shoulders fell off. Then another one, from his waist.

Wait. He was not a loser. He was not as bad as they said. He was currently down, but he had been down before, and he had also been up in the time in between. And the people around him – why were they so bad? For petty faults? Everybody had petty faults. He had petty faults.

The man ran.

The demon from his ankles fell off. He was not bound to sports drinks. He was not defeated by physical things. He owned physical things. He owned physical things because his power did not come from physical things, it came from somewhere else, somewhere from above, and the power worked through his heart.

The final demon fell off. Yes. That was how it went. He could run. He could run and beat many people at running. He was not getting tired, no. The less he worried about how tired he would get, the less tired he got. In fact, he got more energy. He pumped his legs faster, and it felt good.

The man sprinted.

He smiled. The wind swept through his hair and he felt light. Like it was no longer himself who had to carry him. Like his body was moving by way of another source. And the source was not from anything he had eaten, or anything he had done to manufacture. The power came from above. And if the power came from above, to help him, then what could possibly stop him? If he was not bound to whether or not he consumed a sports drink, then what was he bound too? If his power came from a source greater than the confines of the world, than what left was there which could confine him?

The man bolted. He charged, jumped, smiled and laughed. The man was not a loser. The man was invincible, because the source springing up in him was invincible.

The man kept running.

– Thomas M. Watt