Saturday, August 29, 2009

Camden, Saturday

I woke up to rain. Gently drumming across the roof of the van, the slow lullaby - the edgeless whisper of drops drawing me out of my dreams.
Gray, glassy, blurring - shimmering across the cresting waves, clinging to the sides of the sailboats' sheets, wet across my eyelashes. My skin feels cold and tight, I slide on my jeans and pull my tussled hair back out of my eyes. This is quite.. the quite of a morning that doesn't quite want to come yet.
Thirst runs through me - I lay back onto the plush crimson seats and wonder if the rain outside is trying to find my hot mouth.
I think of the huge boats outside, the heaviness of the anchor, my bare feet clinging to the wooden deck, climbing up up up through the ropes - escaping the horizon.
My horizon.. the place between the depths and the heights of my soul.
My imagination is interrupted by the melodies of wind chimes. I sit up and run my hands around the back of my neck. This does not seem like a day, but rather an endless early morning - an anomaly where time does not exist, and where I have the ability to think about anything I want, for as long as I want: free from the limitations of a clock.
Gray, glassy, blurring, silent, untouchable. The perfect place for wonder.

(Andrew Tipton)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Painting Waves

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
Fight club

Standing in front of the canvas.. I stare blankly at the paintbrush clenched between my fingers. Drops of indigo blue splatter on a khaki-gold background. Afternoon sunshine beams through the open windows; the hum of the ceiling fan overhead: metronome to my brush-stroke sonata.
I take a deep deliberate breathe, and run my free hand through my sweaty hair.
There are a million things to do.
There are a million other things I could be doing right now.
But this is the most beautiful of all moments; and I am painting waves.
I'm here.. of all places on earth, because I want to be - I choose to be.

Right now.. what is it that you want to be doing?
Where do you want to be?
When you woke up this morning, and climbed out of your hammock.. what did you imagine that you had to do?
Go to work?
Get dressed?
Gather firewood?
Smoke a cigarette?
Take a bathe?
Get to class?
We are one choice away from what we want.

"I Need to.."
"I Must.."
"I Have to.."
Those phrases ring through my mind countless times a day. Without even thinking, without even knowing what we're saying.. we offhandedly lay claim to behavior, whose necessity we have elevated above our own will; we speak as if our actions are out of our hands.. as if our moments are no longer our decision. Our lives seem pitiful and weak.. because we see ourselves in that way. Choice-less, because we have already established expectations on our day.. on our week.. on our life. Pretending to be burdened by an imaginary existence that has not yet played out.
This is your life. This is your choice.
We do anything... only because we choose to.

We assume that because of consequence.. our actions must follow a set of guidelines. If we abandon our 9-5 job, obviously we will not have an income. If we ride a bicycle everywhere, it will definitely limit how far we can travel quickly. If we give money away for no reason, we won't have money to spend on our self. If a decision makes life tougher, or makes us poorer, or takes away comfort, or leaves us hungry.. or kills us.. we do not even register that as a choice. But we still have those choices - At every moment, we still have every choice.
"I have to go to work today.. or I won't get paid."
"I can't go off sailing.. I need to settle down."
"I need more money."
"I need a car."
"I have to save for my child's college education."
"I must eat.. or I won't live."
"I need to get out of this dirt hut."

Lose everything. Lose all ambition and practicality and responsibility.. lose fear and lose anticipation.. lose rationality and then choose what you want to do today - because then you will be free to do anything.
Sleep all day.
Walk around naked wherever you please.
Paint waves on a canvas.
Go for a swim or a hike.
Leave a $10,000 tip.
Write a book.
Chop firewood.
Do open-heart surgery.
Sail to Cuba and become a communist.
Become president.
Starve yourself.
It doesn't matter. Know that choice is completely in our minds.. it is always yours. The ability to own happiness in all places, is proportional to our ability to never "must", never "need", and never "have to", ever again.
That is freedom. That is freedom.

(Andrew Tipton)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"A young man asked Socrates the secret of success. Socrates told the young man to meet him near the river the next morning. They met. Socrates asked the young man to walk with him into the river. When the water got up to their neck, Socrates took the young man by surprise and swiftly ducked him into the water.

The boy struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until the boy started turning blue. Socrates pulled the boy's head out of the water and the first thing the young man did was to gasp and take a deep breath of air.

Socrates asked him, "what did you want the most when you were there?" The boy replied, "Air". Socrates said, "That is the secret of success! When you want success as badly as you wanted the air, then you will get it!" There is no other secret."

With all due respect Socrates.. I disagree.

I spent this week listening.
In bars, in stables, on the phone, in office buildings, on the tennis court.. listening to people answer two very straightforward questions.
"What is success? And are you successful?"
Needless to say, we do not all agree.
As far as "what" success is... there were all sorts of interesting answers, and passionate speeches to accompany them. I was lectured on everything from: being a good Christian, to investing, retirement, doing what you want... As the conversations continued, the list grew.
Obtaining wealth,
having power,
being remembered,
being a good person,
having a great career,
caring for your family,
having kids,
being happy...

Success, (in our minds at least) seems to be entirely dependant upon our own perspectives - as biased and varied as we want it to be. For example.. the idea of success to a businessman in Birmingham, and the idea of success to a 17 year old girl in Atlanta are very different. One wants a promotion; one wants to be a model.
Is that how it is? Or is there possibly a universal success?
A deeper, complete success that is beyond personal whims and perception.

The second question I asked.. "Are you successful?"
(I did not expect this - my heart sank as I continued to listen.)
Not a single person told me they were successful; not a single person told me that they were confident their life was a success. Not one person!
Instead, I received reasons "why not".
Reasons they weren't as good as they could be.. reasons why they had failed.. excuses. explanations. defensiveness.
(I did not expect that)
When did this happen?
When did we decide we needed to defend our position in the world?
When did we start living in a state of achievement depression.. who first told us we weren't successful enough - that we needed something more, to be something more.

After interviewing.. after listening to countless conversations.. I am starting to believe that the majority of us imagine success to be outside of ourselves.
A place, a goal, an amount, a person, a scenario - Something else.
In our minds, we aren't successful yet.. because we still believe there is something more that we must do or become in order to complete ourselves.
That is a tragic circle of thought.. endless, weakening, feeble.
"success" will come and go like hunger.

What if... what if were are already entirely successful?
What if we are unequivocally complete? Need nothing. Need to become nothing.
What if we can stop chasing success, because it is already woven into every one of our days.

"...Socrates pulled the boy's head out of the water and the first thing the young man did was to gasp and take a deep breath of air.

Socrates asked him, "what did you want the most when you were there?" The boy replied, "Air".

He wanted AIR. He wanted simply, utterly, absolutely, AIR. The story should stop there - when the boy's head emerges from the river, and he gasps as deeply as his thirsty lungs will allow.. wild-eyed, frantic, shaken, alive. At that point in the story.. all distractions are lost, all reasons, all motives, all greed, all worries, all comforts, all lies. There is only one success at this point.. life - taking a single breathe.

I believe we have overlooked what we already possess - the single and ultimate "success", - we live.
Perhaps the secret to being successful, is knowing that we absolutely already are.

(Andrew Tipton)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Real Plants Don't Melt

We've been lied to.

A barely clothed woman smiles back at me from the glossy pages of my sports magazine; her photoshopped features sear my intellect like a carton of smoldering cigarettes. I read the headline; in bold type, "..people always ask me if they're real - I say, no but they look real!"
My stomach tuns into knots.
A page ad for a plastic surgery clinic.. they do look real.
..but what if I want MORE than that?
What if.. just "looking" real, won't cut it anymore?
What if I want the real thing?

Inside of a restaurant, I run my fingers through the leaves of a potted plant.
Plastic. I feel duped.
I attempt to break off one of the branches.. but that is a no go.
"This plant is not real.", I deftly point out to the hostess as she walks me to my table.
"Umm, yeah", She says, "but it never has to be watered!".
She smiles and then seats me.
I am sitting in my booth, staring at the lifeless green illusion - I feel myself start to sweat.

A lie that has ever so gently wound itself through my days, that now I actually tolerate it. I actually am part of it.. I actually embrace it!
We have been lied to.
We have been convinced that "fake" is just as good / or better than the real thing.
Fake flowers don't need watering.
Fake breasts look perfect.
Fake foods taste delicious...
I'm saturated in this pitiful level of satisfaction.
There is a growing disconnect, a disconnect in my own mind with "WHY" the pieces of life are beautiful.
Why be real? Why choose it, if there is a cheaper, longer lasting alternative?

If everything is best, simply because it looks good, or feels good.. then I would be the first in line to convert life to artificial.
But it is not.
Life is beautiful, because of depth - because of the intricacies of existence .
A flower is stunning.. not because it is forever perfect and plastic.. but because it is a living, growing, alive thing! It is beautiful.. because its REAL. Beautiful BECAUSE it needs watering, and needs sunlight, and needs real dirt.
A woman isn't amazing, because she is a flawless piece of molded silicone.. her beauty comes from what she is; a speaking, thinking, warm, exciting human!

If we take away those attributes.. those "uncomfortable" inconveniences.. if we destroy those awesome imperfections, all we are left with are shells of the former being. Nothing beautiful.. nothing real - just pretty, long-lasting, and soul-less.

I don't want to be soul-less.

If the extent of my days are spent in an artificial world, with artifical smiles, and artificial tastes - why be here?
REAL, is the best part of living - it is the only part of life that is worth living.

(Andrew Tipton)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I passed her today.. walking to her mailbox.
She walked with a slight limp and the trudge of a person who has forgotten about sex.
Her sonic-white hair was cut short, like the ladies do.
I stopped pedaling, and began to coast.. I don't know why, but I couldn't look away from her, she was mesmerizing. As I neared her driveway, I could see everything about her: The wrinkled skin on her pale face, her thick glasses, her paunchy stomach, lines from cigarettes smoked many years ago.. an angel of oldness.
She was probably younger than I imagined; She looked a million years old.
Cankles add 10 years.

I avoid old people.
It is so convenient that we stick them away in special places when they get to be uncouth and embarrassing.
Out of sight out of mind.
Out of mind out of motion..
convenient. How sickeningly convenient.

This was a woman.
She was 8 years old once. She caught frogs in jars.
She was 17 once, she kissed a boy for the first time, and had butterflies in her stomach! She lay awake all night thinking about it.
She was 25 years old. She watched the sunrise over a lake, after spending the night camping with her children.
I can't look away, I am starring into her gray eyes, and I can see myself somewhere below the surface. I will be her.
god that is crazy! She was me, she did the same things I'm doing.. she played, and loved and cried, just like me.
She was young.

I would love to shoot an entire book filled with photos of naked elderly people.
To SEE them, to see those sagging bodies, and those veins, and those tired faces - It would do me good. Real good.

Flesh by Manabu Yamanaka (© 1995)

When life is in our faces, when every piece of existence is right there staring back at us.. we have nowhere else to look.
Show me the weakest, most frail, senile old man.. show me his ugly legs, and his wrinkly ass. Show me a fat old woman.. let me see her thin saggy breasts, let me stare at her.. soak in that unattractive part of life. The part of life we like to ignore and pretend will never come.
Suddenly I am not too busy to climb trees.
Suddenly I am not too concerned with the color of bathroom walls.
Suddenly I am not too worried about pension plans, or mortgages.
Suddenly I am not too distracted by fancy offices with large desks.
Suddenly I am not too interested in working 50 hrs a week.
Suddenly I want to move.
Suddenly I need to dance.
Suddenly I would love to make love and music and art and pizza.
Suddenly I want to live.

Let infirmity linger on my thoughts and in my head.. so that when wake up in the morning, I say to myself, "Oh My GOD!!! This day will be tasted!".
We are all beautiful, we are all wild, we are all awesome.

I love that that she was me only 60 years ago.
I pedal past, and I think she winks at me. ;)

(Andrew Tipton)