Survive, Exist and My Dreams

This blog post this morning started out to be one about my thoughts about ‘surviving’. I have already written the first few lines and posted them on my FB page. Here’s what the opening lines were intended to be:

Was talking to a friend today about my lifestyle. She said that she felt I should take better care of myself: i.e., eating right, sleeping right, etc. I told her I’m a survivor and I take as good care of myself as I can under the harsh circumstances that I find myself in almost everyday.

She said she wanted to see me do more than “just survive”…she wanted to see me thrive. I explained that my idea of “surviving” is holistic. For me to “survive” is to live holistically…body, mind and spirit.

Henry David Thoreau said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” I refuse to live a life of “quiet desperation” and die with the song still in my heart.

I got curious and looked up “survive”. Found something interesting. Survive comes from the Latin supervivere. Let’s break this down.

“Super” means “above, over, beyond, over the top”

“Vivere” means “to live”

So to ‘survive’ means to “live over the top”

So I think my telling my friend that I’m a survivor was pretty much on track. I live my life — over the top.

These few lines have already gotten a lot of attention on the FB page and even several “likes”. This morning I was standing outside watching the traffic go by and thinking, and yah, I know that thinking for me is a very dangerous sport. But bear with me.

As I watched the traffic I realized that most people in this country seem to have taken the word “survive” and reduced it to it’s lowest common denominator. Have you ever asked someone how they’re doing and they respond with, “I’m surviving” as though that were a BAD thing?

I don’t think surviving – either the definition I’ve given above or the way it’s commonly used today – is a bad thing. What I think is a bad thing is merely existing. And that’s what I sense that most people – at least here in the nation’s capital – are doing…merely existing.

By “existing” I mean three things:

They have become slaves to their possessions. They’ve become so materialistic that they’ve surrendered their lives to the pursuit of obtaining things and then keeping things. Somehow they’ve reached the point that possessions own them instead of vice versa. George Carlin once said, “We don’t have homes anymore. We have houses. A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff”. I kinda like that.

Their lives revolve around ‘boxes’. The box called a TV or the box called a computer. One writer recently called this phenomenon “vertical networking”. We (as a society) have become so integrated with the ‘boxes’ that we socialize with (and through) machines instead of participating in “horizontal networking” where we actually cross the street and talk to our neighbors. “Horizontal networking” is where we engage in deep, meaningful, relationships with people that are sharing the same space with us and NOT located hundreds or thousands of miles away. Yes, I understand that interacting with people at long distances can be enriching and educating and I have no problem with that. But when we know more about someone through the power of the internet than we do about the folks that live three doors down, well, something has gotten awful topsy turvy and we lose the value of real human exchange.

They look to their jobs as their “source”. It can become too easy to see the 9 to 5 routine as the “source”. Because we fall into this trap, we can allow ourselves to become pawns in the system that all of the occupation movements in the world are protesting against. Corporations reduce us to clogs in the wheels and view us as numbers instead of people…and numbers are disposable. Bank of America received millions and millions of dollars in taxpayer (that means you and me) money to bail them out. What did BoA just do this week? Annoucned they were laying off another 10,000 workers. Many of these 10,000 people had possibly come to the conclusion that Bank of America was their “source”.

What are my dreams for the future? I’m a simple guy, so I guess you may call my dreams simple.

I’d like to get a cute little house in the mountains. Someplace that is close enough to town to be able to walk to if needed, yet somewhere far enough away so that at the end of a grueling road trip I can crawl in and pull the mountains in over me. Somewhere that Jo and I can continue to enjoy being with each other at the end of the day when she’s worn out from doing her thing and I’m worn out from doing mine. A place that is not just a “house”, but rather a home.

I’d like to be able to continue to travel and shoot. Yah, life on the road can be rough sometimes, but sometimes I feel like I’m a hunter. Know how a hunter will set in the duck blind all day, freezing his ass off just waiting on that one perfect shot? That’s me. I stand around in the cold and the rain waiting on that one perfect shot – one day I’ll get it too.

I want to have friends and neighbors (live ones – not virtual ones) that are there when I need them and ones that I can be there for if they need my help. I want to look into someone’s eyes when they tell me THEIR hopes, dreams and fears.

And I promise I won’t try to get a photo of it.

Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson currently is in Washington D.C. pointing his camera at OccupyDC

CLICK HERE to see more of Nelson’s work or to hire him for a shoot.

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