I wake up early to capture a family preparing the first meal of the day. The family shares one room and one kitchen among nine members. My presence is unavoidable but remains new and exciting as the kids gather around and pose between the lens and the reality of their morning routine. I don’t speak the languages, neither Katchiquel nor Spanish, but I am able to interact through smiling in my presence without the need for words. Before the meal is finished, the two oldest boys, Julio and Carlos, ten and thirteen, are sent to weed the families plot of onions on empty stomachs.
I follow them down the road and past the community. Everyone is going about their morning routine, making their way to the fields with tools in hand. I pass women washing their onions in the stream that runs alongside the road, trash and debris all around. Those who are fortunate enough, to have the time and the money for books, walk to school to receive an education as Julio, Carlos, and I veer off and begin descending down the dirt path. We exchange lessons through the little we each know – English and Spanish, sometimes Katchiquel.
We make our way past a pool of water where the stream collects; we take a moment to wash our faces and cool-off. We continue on, passing through an open field and then again down another steep-dirt-path. The view is by far a spectacle I am grateful for not having gone without; hillside upon hillside of onions, corn, and other crops cover the land that looks out to the lake, the volcanoes, and the clear blue sky hanging overhead.
We arrive at two small plots marked-off by blue flags; this is all the land that belongs to the family. Beyond these two plots, the two boys and their father work in the fields tending to another man’s crop. The only land they can afford is a couple miles from their house. The trek took more than thirty minutes to reach and is considered worth-while with less than an hour of time spent weeding the family crop, and then it’s back to the house for a late breakfast – five little tortillas and half a handful of beans and lightly salted broth – a meal they occasionally go without.
How do those behind ever catch up? This family is unable to receive a microloan because they lack reliability and trust to pay it back. They need money to earn money, to prevent watching their house fall into the stream, to feed the family, to educate their children, and to go on living. What one bank offers might be their only opportunity but the decision is made outside their grasp and there is nothing to be done without the consent and support of the community.
Later that day I followed the two boys through the rain down another valley to cut wood and carry it back. After their daily task they stopped by to receive more lessons in English. Their desire to move up is not what holds them back.
I see through and see. I see opportunities unfold. I said yes to this project knowing little before, learning through vigil, inspired to explore, a desire to see more, new worlds, posing new questions, but who are they for?
I was the last member to join and was often found doubting my role. As the story unfolds, I’ve come to find new inspirations to hold, to carry from and return to the world. Even if I lack what another might not, I do not lack the ability to say yes and I do not lack the ability to be an individual. Any step and all steps made are steps to be taken. Where they go, we hope to a goal, but to take the first is how we move through to more.
What can I do as an individual? I see myself in the reflection of my lens. I am silent, observing. I know nothing but questions. How are stories retold? What questions will viewers unfold? What reality do they mold through their own? What questions will they find through the lens I hold? What can one do as an individual?
“He closed his pallid eyes and slept, not through weakness of flesh but through determination of will… He wanted to dream a man; he wanted to dream him in a minute entirety and impose him on reality… In the dream of the man that dreamed, the dreamed one awoke… Fire was the only one who knew his son to be a phantom.” – Ficciones
Hot and cold winds cloud my mind; infusions of emotions now collide. Inspiration draws from a flash of light; a question is born out of the dark night. What can I do from where I stand? I fight in fear of losing sight. The perception I have now, will it be buried in time? Never reborn? Or will the mind realign to an appearance of right? Am I a phantom? The question bites. If I do not act and reflect now, all is for nothing and nothing I am. I can see no further than the light that passes through my eyes, into my mind. I see only the illusion of height I attempt to climb.
“No book is also a stairway, though doubtless there are books that discuss and deny demonstrate this possibility and others whose structure corresponds to that of a stairway.” – Ficciones
How I crave to be alone and without thought, thoughts that speak and cry in plight; ‘look at me’, ‘look at what could be’ but they cannot. They desire an end but the end is never near. The end does not exist. Thoughts search to find the one dream we share but their act remains infantile. Their nature is ever-changing and their existence extends beyond the endless. I find both stillness and unrest. To remain between is the test. I appreciate the pain and ease, the practice to be free, to question what we might become.
“Lost in these imaginary illusions I forgot my destiny.” – Ficciones
The tree I sat in was not the same tree. It might have been a similar location and it might have had similar leaves but my sitting and your sitting require two separate beings, two separate days and two separate trees. Why strive for the same? Only in separation from another man´s dream is any great thing achieved. Forever I search for new trees atop new mountains, and as you climb those behind me, I continue striving. I seek taller trees and taller mountains beyond the sights we see.
I am young. Innocent and ignorant. I am still learning but I am also fresh and without commitment. Full of doubt. Doubt I forever desire. That I find inspiring. What I believe helps me to see clearly. We know no solutions but desire to will the value of one into the world. There is no one solution, only partial ones. The one is outside of opportunity but is one we will forever strive to foresee. Partial solutions are all we can see, no extremes are necessary, but inspiring small steps, perhaps that is what all individuals need. Momentary dreams we allow to pass.
Time is not now, it is ahead and out of reach, trying to catch up. My mind is racing. I cannot slow it down until I am comforted by my mind's will to commit to a single dream, no longer with uncertainty. I let it be to put my mind at ease, to go on tricking my mind to find some sleep.
“The certainty that everything has been already written nullifies or makes phantoms of us all.” – Ficciones
I am unable to participate in the same teachings, lacking the necessary skill, the language they are speaking. I wait at home. I continue reading. The dialogue between student and teacher is yet achieved but remains intriguing. I aspire to teach and speak through desire, to inspire an attempt to climb higher and higher. My philosophy is not to find answers but to move forwards, backwards, through questions, reflecting a movement never captured.
Answers have no literal value; there are no answers in truth; reflection lights the fire. Everything between what we read and write, speak and hear, is dialogue at play. Every new day is deceiving, the same opportunity but with new thoughts we try to persuade. We find our way through the game and are often led astray, but when we return, we bring back the will to stay.
We clear the bush with machetes, shedding light on the rich soil beneath our feet. We place baby trees two meters apart, finding our way up the hillside, a steep inclining slope. We are giving what strength we have to help an ongoing tradition, aiding to an act to insure future generations. Our friend Anthony tells us these trees we help him plant are not for him but his children, so they can use what grows for their own support, wood to build and warm a future home to care for a family of generations both young and old. His father works alongside, having done the same for Anthony 20 years before.
I am reminded of many great memories, which I find to be gifts of their own, for without the expereinces shared among my friends, teachers and family, I am left with little inspiration to grow. If it weren´t for those who planted seeds in my soil, I would be without seeds to share and plant for those. Memories continue to rise the further I am from home. I carry them with me, let them propel me, finding ways to share my seeds with the soil now exposed.
(photo of Jose Solares, taken by Sean Leonard)
“War and courage have done more great things than charity.” – Zarathustra
A heavy root drinks from the soil of the earth. The tree in which we climb drives deep with reflections on responsibility. One does not learn from only receiving; one learns from developing the roots of responsibility, withstanding the nature of reality, learning to stand alone and not coming to rely on charity.
“The most difficult thing: to close the open hand out of love and to preserve modesty as a giver.” – Zarathustra
This reality is a game but we must restrain and offer only an equivalent exchange. We are learning to take responsibility. Taking care of our family and sharing with the community. What we receive, we give back. We always find a way. Even if it means starving ourselves a bit more the next day.
I have spent three weeks here and have yet to discover this! A sight of the land I will come to know and miss. I found a tree resting on the hillside. I climbed to find a moment I know will last a lifetime. I am alone in peace, in the eye of the storm. I see mountains, valleys, foliage and the lake, fully exposed. I see the people, their homes and their crops. Lost in a moment. An almost timeless state. I have found the perfect branch for my thoughts to nest. I put my mind at rest. Atop the tree, the sun reaches me, peeking over the hillside, rising with its light, warming my back. It inspires me. I see more clearly, riding its rays, the light propels me forward… I am taken by the wave and awake in a waking state.
The man carries a heavy load of wood upon his back. I go unnoticed in my silence, watching him from above, and I choose not to speak. Are we causing more weight, sitting before them placing words on a blank page? Life between us is not the same, or is it? I feel moments of disgrace, and through fear I lack their strength. Am I carrying my own weight?
“Only the doer learns” – Zarathustra
I am here to learn, experience, and then to find a medium in which I can teach. I have fleeting moments of doubt on darker days, but I am brought back, reminded of my strength through a friend´s words, through the words of one of the great, what the spirit says is like going with your gut feeling and sometimes you might not know why you need to do something, but if you don´t don't do it then you'll never know why you should or shouldn´t have done it. I am quick to doubt myself. I do not aspire for set ideals. I never stay within restraints. I struggle in great lengths. I watch my thoughts evolve, letting them be, but not letting them last, extracting what I can as night and day pass. Through dreams in mind and through the night, I try to listen for what is now and not the past. If you know me well, I often follow the images and words I find behind closed eyes. I often rely on what I see, through and through, two eyes blind, the third I search to find.
"I desire nothing of things, except that I may lie down before them like a mirror with a hundred eyes." - Zarathustra
To overcome my greatest fear, I commit myself to changing consistently. The fingers of reason are unable to grasp the reality of the experience itself. My own reason is one of my greatest mistrusts, thus doubt has become one of my greatest abilities, finding intellectual problems over-sighting the ways in which I now see. Freelance philosophy, without reason, is how I now choose to create, for without the freedom, philosophy is another dream. I am continuously skeptical, for no reason thus far has set my mind free. Experiencing life through art, literature, music, and film, only with a growing passion, is the closest I will get to not or not not knowing what it is to be philosophizing. Trying to define the truth is blinding; it is felt and known but not spoken. I am redefining what is reasoning.
"Unutterable and nameless is that which torments and delights my soul and is the hunger of my belly." – Zarathustra
I am lead to believe in creating through presence and participation. Art is my medium and my movement to create. Creation is the movement, to teach is to inspire but to know is only an occurrence felt through oneself and through experience. The influential life force is the child within: passionate, chaotic and free. Carrying the inspiration to live forever, again and again, and thus through eternity. The art of a child is a revelation of insight.
“An electrical storm that breaks upon the cloud and bad weather which has caused it.” – Zarathustra
After our visit to school, even more kids have arrived. They appear more comfortable to play outside our house as we prepare a meal for the night. They build a world with their imaginations and all the supplies come from the earth. They bring bundles of moss wrapped in their shirts, adding rocks, sticks, leaves, and whatever they can find. I become inspired to draw. They are soon distracted, watching my pen almost hypnotized, lost in the patterns I create. Finding silence as their eyes gaze. After I am done, they collect some river clay and make more little creations that take them through to the end of the light of day. We look up to the falling sky, see colors we have never seen, running for our cameras, then up the hill to capture the sight, the moment feels like a dream; a herd of children running with desire to share and create. Our actions between, perpetuating momentum, a continuous exchange. The children have so much fun with so little, and when the moment grows, it flows, as abstract willing. I question how our cultures grow together as a witness to another world with the weight of both worlds.
"He who wants to become a child must overcome even his youth." - Zarathustra
Our imaginations evolve as we grow older, whether we choose to keep them or lose them is not the question but rather if we allow them to grow and remain at play, how we choose to apply our knowledge. In most cases, the more we know, the more we question our actions, the more we try to find meaning and the more we lose our freeplay. A new goal: to remain a child, to always imagine and to have as many dreams as one can have and let them change as many times as one can imagine.
“Dance beyond yourselves! What does it matter that you are failures!” – Zarathustra
“Spirit is the life that itself strikes into life: through its own torment it increases its own knowledge.” – Zarathustra
When we arrived, the days were long and slow, so much was still unknown. As night and day pass, we think we gain control. Our perspective continues to grow. We easily fall custom to new routine and find new comforts as our bodies grow lean. The land I see no longer feels so foreign. I watch overhead. New questions are posed but slowly we gain control without control. I cannot help but fear the depth will slowly grow shallow.
Knowing that I have another home, seeing it through my memories and dreams, it all distances me from what lies before blind eyes. I am as hard as a stone, I compete with my strength, and critiquing myself is a constant state. I desire to remove the weight, not the strength, and let the current flow, carrying me under, over, and out to sea. Every day I crave to climb mountains seen and forseen, off in the distance, they are waiting for me, but they remain out of reach. Their peaks are high and my legs are too soft. I desire the challenge with the weight of what I dream.
Words will only voice our struggles. Beyond words, there might be something but to speak of what it is, is a struggle. Stillness speaks but only through movement is it heard. Through reading and writing, flashes of wisdom, insight, only do they exist beyond the words. I am honest with myself, letting the peaceful warrior be heard. I read, finding a tone sown to new stirs. Lost in words, I forget, I am starving! Let it be heard!
“Wisdom… she is a woman and never loves anyone but a warrior.” – Zarathustra