The qualification matches are over, three weekends back to back were just a little too much of a good thing in the end although I seem to have managed to get through this year a lot more easily than in previous years. I guess it's partly to do with the fact that I'm physically a lot fitter now, but also that I've learned a lot of new skills to cut down the load for myself on a competition day.
I've probably mentioned before that besides the technical aspects of the sport I'm also interested in the "people" part of the day itself. One of the things I like to do in between the activities is to go looking for interesting personal moments or portraits of the competitors. People who are actively involved in something which moves them deeply have a quality of expression which I seldom see and which intrigues me.
People change when doing something they love, eyes and body language tell a relaxed and natural story, the real person comes to life and moves in ways unexpected and unsuspected. Emotions come freely and naturally, there's space for reflection and honesty when mundane constrictions are put aside.
The same happens at festivals and fairs, people who have managed to shake off their "normal" life become open and less inhibited, showing parts of themselves they wouldn't dream of doing out in the "real" world. In some ways it's a form of escape, in others it's a time for enjoyment and rejuvenation, following dreams and rekindling the flames of intuition.
We all need moments in which we can become ourselves. Our lives are too often filled with the need to play the part of somebody who is at odds with our own needs and desires. The realities of our daily lives require us to act in other ways than we would like, often to our own detriment. How many of us have had to sacrifice that which we genuinely feel comfortable with in exchange for a chafing existence in which we would prefer to do otherwise?
I sometimes wonder if it's such a wonderful tradeoff, too often exchanging much of our happiness for an economically safe situation in life and too much associated dreariness. Imagination is a precious commodity, often as adults we've lost much of our ability to reconnect with the things that make life beautiful and worthwhile. What are you doing to find yourself again in the noise and confusion of daily life?
Yesterday was the third and last qualification competition for the National Championships which are to be held in March. All things told, it was a reasonably relaxed day with only 45 participants, although there was the usual mix of tension and apprehension in play at any given moment.
For the participants these events are a make-or-break moment. There is just one chance to perform creditably and one mishap can ruin everything. One issue the youngsters face during their exercises is one of absolute trust, in themselves, in their trainers and in the good results they'll need to be bringing home.
Sometimes there's disbelief, sometimes there's the sinking feeling that what they've done is right on the edge, occasionally they scare the crap out of themselves when things go differently to how they'd planned. Disappointment is often followed by an encore of tears and the occasional tantrum, mostly there's just an (indignant) resignation when the outcome didn't meet expectations.
And so it goes. Life rarely goes according to plan, just to add a bit of excitement and drama along the way. Keep well...
This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago. A lot has happened in the intervening time a lot, the issues involved here are still as relevant and as urgent as they were then.
Recognition is one of the most basic necessities of being human. Practically all of us participate in varying social groups, families, work spaces, places of recreation or even when just together in a train on your way to wherever.
People need to be noticed, to be seen as valid participants in society, to be needed by somebody else in meaningful ways. People need to be seen and feel valued, not just noticed in a distracted way, in passing glances whilst we whizz along doing other things we find important.
Loneliness is one of the most serious and underrated afflictions in our society... all too often we have little idea of the people who live around us and all too often even less interest in attempting a small but meaningful one-to-one interaction.
This clinic has helped me focus on this issue. We're all in this together here, in a small, closed community in which we need to act and interact with each other. Many here have been temporarily derailed by personal circumstance, some are shedding the inheritance of a previous lifestyle, some are damaged and lonely souls who have lost their way in a world they barely understand, let alone be able to participate in in any meaningful way.
A friendly word, helping with a chore you see someone is having difficulty with, a well-meant smile or a quiet joke can make such a difference for someone battling with isolation, their own place in a new social setting, a seemingly hostile world.
It's so easy, it costs nothing besides a moment of connection and little effort, but carries such an enormous value. Just by noticing someone and letting them feel important for a moment is probably the greatest gift of all.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. ~ Steve Jobs ~
Everybody needs help in some way. There's no single person alive who can get along in life on his or her own, without the assistance of others. If only in the most practical ways, there will always be people necessary, to make the clothes you wear, provide the electricity you use, furnish the goods and services which you need to conduct your daily business. No one can be alone, unless you wish to make tremendous sacrifices.
On a closer level, people also need others around them for stimulation, for reflection and for feedback on how they are doing in the world they live in. We all need a certain form of validation, people like to share things and encourage each other so as to bring out the best in ourselves. If we shut ourselves up completely, we condemn ourselves to be confined to the small world of our own pretentiousness, and limit our abilities to our own familiar mindsets.
In the course of each day we receive all sorts of input. Good and positive things, negative and degrading ones, overwhelmingly neutral ones. Situations, ideas and knowledge are not good or bad on their own, yet since they come from sources outside of ourselves they need to be filtered and processed, after assessment for how applicable the gained input can be for our own well-being. It's a process of stretching, expanding and growing. In mental, emotional and spiritual ways, understanding that we don't posess all wisdom and that other people can provide valuable insights for our own further progress.
On the other hand, people enjoy sharing the knowledge and experience they gain with others. People write, people sing, people tell each other endlessly about whatever interests, concerns, frightens or enlightens them, and as our technological possibilities expand we see that humanity has embraced the internet to connect with as many other people as possible to share whatever they feel is important for them. We all love expressing ourselves, we all love being listened to and we all appreciate what others have to say, in as far as the message can intersect with our own perceptions of reality.
Getting down to the bottom line now, although we all talk and share and project, can we also listen as well? Are we able to just shut up occasionally and really try to understand the message somebody else is trying to get across? I must confess that, when I'm in a hurry, I barely take the time to digest the input I've received. I'm so busy rushing from one thing to the next that everything just becomes one great, gray jumble in my mind, and I end up confused, annoyed, tired and disconnected.
Part of the sharing process is also taking the time to listen, to be silent and be attentive to the needs of whatever it is someone needs to express. It's not all about me, it's all about us. Sometimes it's about me, often enough the realities of the lives of others need consideration and understanding, to the exclusion of my own needs, wishes or inclinations. Back and forth, giving and taking, sharing and receiving, it's all good and all necessary to create a well-rounded and fulfilling life.
So there we go. Look, listen, learn and share, and keep on sharing. Life's too short to be selfish, life is for living with other people around us, to make the world a better place for all. Have a great day, keep well...
“Real religion should be something that liberates men. But churches don’t want free men who can think for themself and find their own divinity within. When a religion becomes organized it is no longer a religious experience but only superstition and estrangement.” ~ Federico Fellini ~
The Wheel Gymnastics regional competition for our district was held today, in a city about 40km from here. Three of the four clubs in our province were represented, with some fifty participants altogether.
All in all it was a bit of a strange day. Many small mishaps, long waits and disappointed gymnasts along with much hilarity, improvisation and occasional confusion. For my part, shooting a competition with a raging headache and a sore throat didn't help much either.
Once again the lighting was difficult. I managed to get hold of a more or less useful colour temperature but with an insanely harsh contrast which I can't correct on the camera I'm once again going to have a lot of adjusting to do this week.
No matter, more than enough to keep me occupied for a while. Keep well...
I've been a bit distracted during the last week or so, lots of photo stuff going on so I haven't had much time to go exploring my fractals. It's probably going to stay that way until at least the beginning of February, so in the meantime I'll try to find some of the better videos on YouTube which I can use for inspiration and elucidation.
I love the 3-D effect of this film, it adds an extra element of awe to an already amazing phenomenon. In a way it feels like I'm descending into an endless rift, as timeless and deep as eternity itself. I wonder which programme was used to make this effect. That, and how much processing power was needed to render this video. It's amazing.
While cleaning the kitchen in preparation for cooking dinner, notice that the living room is cluttered. This is not a revelation of any kind, as those in your immediate world have all pointed out repeatedly that not everyone keeps their old newspapers in reverse chronological order and in multiple stacks about the room.
Obsessing about the stacks of newspapers, you decide to clean the room from top to bottom. On second thought, that seems like a lot of work, so you turn on the TV and vow to least get rid of half the newspapers before dinner.
Dinner. What IS for dinner anyway? Return to the refrigerator, which is nearly full, but nothing strikes your fancy. Browse through two or three cookbooks, make a grocery list, grab your purse and head out the door.
Walking to the car, notice the "WASH ME" dust graffiti. Grab the hose and turn it on. While watching the water run down the driveway in rivulets, remember that the roses could use a good pruning.
En route to the garage to get the pruning shears, wave hello to Mrs. Barnes, your neighbor to the east, who wants to talk about the garage sale she is having this next weekend. That gives you a great idea...you will organize some things and add them to hers. The house needs cleaning anyway. Excuse yourself and head back to the house to start picking out items for sale.
THE HOUSE !!! Remember that you were on your way to the store for something, but you can't quite recall what. Was it groceries? No, it can't be. The refrigerator is so full, after all.
Shut off the water, pick up your purse, and get in the car, not sure where you are going or why. Head for the craft store just because it sounds like a fun place to be. While there, remember all those newspapers, and think what a good idea it would be to make scrapbooks of current events for the kids to read when they get older.
Buy three large scrapbooks, decorative papers, scissors which cut wavy lines, curly lines, and zig-zag lines. Don't forget multicolored special pens, acid-free glue and pre-cut shapes for interest. The total: $87.32. Head home to start the project.
On the way home, glance at the gas gauge and realize that it is on "E" and probably has been for some time. Put "fill up the car" on your mental list of things to do.
While waiting for the Automobile Club to come with a gas can, start to wonder where the day went and why you are so tired? And hungry. What is for dinner, anyway?
* N.B.: ADD = Attention Deficit Disorder
OK, all jokes aside now. ADD is a serious disorder, related to ADHD but with out the hyperactive component. It's characterised by an inability to focus for longer spans of time, impulsiveness and a propensity for mental overstimulation. ADD/ADHD symptoms are also identified as part of the larger autistic spectrum of disorders.
There are no cures, only workarounds. For those who have mild symptoms, a reasonable functioning in society can be expected. Those who with more, or more pronounced symptoms, many and varied forms of assistance and guidance may be needed.
Finding a useful diagnosis is difficult, since symptoms vary between individuals whilst similar clusters of behaviours can also be part of other disorders. Generally speaking ADHD occurs more frequently amongst males, ADD amongst females although the difference seems to narrow in adulthood.
Looking at ADD in a different way though shows that the disorder has many postive side effects, amongst others creativity, general friendliness and being more people oriented. Here's an ad hoc overview created during a meeting. Sometimes I wonder if ADD/ADHD isn't more a societal classification problem than that there's something really "wrong" with people. We're all different, with different capabilities and possibilities, and branding someone as deficient or deviant because he/she falls outside the generally accepted grid of norms and behaviours for reasons beyond anybody's control, is both hurtful for the individual and detrimental to society.
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
The road to achieving any goals you might set yourself may be a long and difficult one. Sometimes we raise the bar just a little too high for ourselves, stretching ourselves and our capacities to the limit in an attempt to gain the prize we seek. Quite often we succeed though, occasionally through sheer force of will or by putting in just that little bit of extra effort which you never thought you had in you before you started. It often happens to me that, at the end of a long and difficult race, that I'm still able to put in a sprint during the last several hundred metres, almost as if I'm tapping into a hidden and unknown reserve which my mind uncovers at just the right moment. When I'm totally motivated, it just happens.
We often don't trust ourselves enough to bring in the results we need or want. We know what we want to achieve, but doubts and reservations about the practicality or feasability of what we want to do get in our way. Partly to do with fear, fear of failing, fear of going out on a limb, fear of making an ass of oneself, partly also because we're worried how our environment reacts to the wild plans we're hatching. All too often there will be subtle reminders from others that we're not up to the challenge, gentle hints that we should just leave things alone and get on with what you've always been doing, or well articulated comments letting you know that what you're trying to do just isn't possible.
The little voices which feed our self-doubt drag us down, every day in every way. And whilst we can't do much about the niggly commenters (both inside or outside of our heads), we do have the ability to control how we react to them. Mostly, it's useful to remember why you've decided on this goal for yourself. What will it deliver for you, what do you think will be the ultimate benefit? Why is it so important for you, even though what you have planned for yourself might create personal difficulty or hardship? Write these down, keep them in mind because every time you falter, every time the nagging doubts appear you'll be able to remind yourself of where you're going and what you need to do.
In the past people have often passed comments on to us, convincing us of our inability to perform certain tasks or reinforce our perceptions of our lacking certain skills. And more often than not, we've taken these opinions to heart and set them in stone in our lives, resigning ourselves to the impossibility that we might be able to change at some time in the future.
WAKE UP! Live is all about change, so why can't you change also? What inhibits you and tries to stop you discovering your own potential? In the same way I can run a decent sprint after a 16km run, you also can access the hidden energies and possibilities in your own mind, and discover completely new aspects of yourself you'd never dreamed of in the past.
In my younger years I had enormous difficulty expressing myself in public. I found myself stammering and blocking up every time I faced even a small audience, and in the course of time and after numerous efforts, I totally gave up even trying. That was me, I couldn't do it and I resigned myself to the fact that speaking in public just wasn't the right thing for me. End of story. Until I discovered that I too had an important tale to tell, that I was able to use my own experience to help others, that I could share the methods and techniques I'd learned so that the people I connect with could benefit from my past difficulties. With some guidance, and a lot of encouragement, I worked at neutralising my fears, learned new skills and in time was able to run workshops and address symposia. I really needed to be convinced that what I wanted to do was possible, that the only person holding me back in the end was myself.
And so it goes. Every day, in every way, I'll be seeking out new challenges. Big ones, small ones, really tiny ones occasionally, but always throwing down the gauntlet for myself and daring myself to take on a task I had previously convinced myself I couldn't do. By all means, listen to other people and take their input on board, but don't let the flames of your smouldering self-doubt be fanned by what other people have to say. Evaluate what they share with you on it's own merits, find what's useful for you but don't let their comments or reactions be the driving force in your own life. If only because you need to respect your own autonomy and sense of self determination.
You are in charge now, you make the decisions, you know what's best for you. And even if you can't see where you're going, trust yourself for a good outcome. Even of you make incredible blunders occasionally, even if you things don't work out the way you'd wished at moments, you'll know that you've tried your best and can be motivated to continue moving forward in a different and improved way.
Try it, you'll like it, and trust me. Good luck and keep well...
I've been given to wondering about what the term "ambition" means. To me it feels like one of those fuzzy words that nobody really is able to define but which everybody seems to know something about. For my part I'm rather ambivalent about what ambition actually is and what it means in my life. Actually, I don't really care any more, I"m just doing the things I need to do in the ways which are good for me, and that's enough. But more about that later.
I've never been a particularly ambitious person in the traditional sense of the word. I've spent large parts my life half-heartedly chasing illusions and dreams, only to realise that what I thought I wanted from life just wasn't useful for me and that there was no value in pursuing ideals which were too far removed from my own realities in life. Even when I was young, I could see that the expectations of the society I grew up in were seriously flawed, somehow there was a large disconnect between what we thought we wanted and what we really needed. People being encouraged to chase socially defined ideals or values was pure nonsense in my view, there was no merit in trying to achieve goals I didn't believe in, in order to attain some kind of status or position in society which I had no real need of.
The society I grew up in expected a lot of me. Study hard, get a good job, settle down, climb the social ladder, live a comfortable life and make sure things worked out as easily and as quickly as possible. It was a mindset everybody seemed to believe in, if you did your best and you did it for long enough, you would make it to the top (of whatever) in the end. Nobody considered the possibility that the projected, socially acceptable goals might not be useful for everybody, that what might be good for one person might not be suitable for another. Quite aside from the fact that not everybody was able to compete on equal terms or had serious limitations which precluded even a perfunctory performance in the soap opera of life.
Probably one of the most valuable gifts we can give our children is the ability to think critically and make appropriate judgements for themselves, so they can chart their own course in life in their own ways and according to their own abilities. We would do well to show them that a lot of the "success" perceived in society is only sheen and bluff, here today and gone tomorrow, and that success is not measurable in bank accounts, material possessions or positions in the social hierarchy. If anything, a person is a success if he or she has used their abilities to the fullest, can contribute to society in his or her own unique way and is happy doing so.
I'm feeling somewhat drained today. After all the fuss and business of the competition yesterday, an emptiness has settled over me which I'm finding difficult to get rid of. Most things I want or need to do right now take a lot more effort to get started than I'm used to, and keeping up the momentum is a chore in itself.
Most of today has been taken up with sorting out the images made yesterday. In some ways it's part of the job that I dread most, just sitting down and having to make decisions about which images get to stay and which ones will be discarded. One by one the images pass by, some get rejected because they're technically not acceptable, others which aren't particularly flattering also get the chop. Others yet again which are just too bland or "more of the same" get discarded in the end, usually during the second selection round.
In the end, one of the most important criteria I use is whether a photo makes me feel happy or proud or justified. Happy for both myself and for the person portrayed, proud because I feel the photo is was made well but also because the gymnast concerned has done excellently in some way. I sometimes feel like it's an honour just to be able to capture that very essential moment which defines a good exercise, too often I'll just miss the crucial moment and end up with a so-so image, often enough though I'll catch it and with a little judicious cropping or post-editing I can make it just that little bit better.
Anyhow, here's a couple of images again today, the rest will follow in a few days. Enjoy!
I arrived back home an hour or so ago, after a long trip by train back in the dark of evening and after having to direct a couple of decidedly lost Spanish tourists back to their hotel in the south of Amsterdam, instead of our town about 40km north of our capital city. It's been a long, eventful and decidedly worthwhile day, I managed to capture a lot of beautiful moments which I'll be putting up on my website later in the week.
I've included a couple of images which I made today, which I find both curious and thought provoking in some ways. When I shoot sports events, I try to capture the action and the movement of the moment as securely as possible, attempting to capture a moment in eternity as effectively as possible.
Yet, looking back into the images, I see whole new stories arising, unwittingly performed by the athletes themselves. Eyes tell many and varied stories, body language betrays inhibitions, sadness and ambition. Every performer has his or her own tale, which is displayed in the movements of their bodies and the wheels.
The rest of the photos will follow in the course of the coming week, hopefully they will be ready by next Friday since I've got a new competition to shoot on Saturday. There's a lot of selecting and post-processing to be done, at best I'll select only 10-15% of all images shot and since I seem to have misjudged the colour composition of the available light I'll need to do some extra work to get that straightened out.