Saturday, May 27, 2017

I don't talk about it much here but I assure you, I'm angry.

The thing that my kind, progressive, intellectual friends just can't seem to grasp is that their outrage sounds like the sweet singing of an angelic choir to Trump supporters.

It's ok to be angry. Anger can be fuel. Outrage, however, is a temper tantrum. And to Team Trump it is the most delicious desert they've ever tasted.

Many of us are crawling into the mud-pit and joining in on the hate circle jerk. Stop playing on their terms. Take action. Build. Work in community.

I don't talk about it much here but I assure you, I'm angry. And I know that outrage won't solve shit. Set goals. Work towards them. Be successful. And smile coyly as you casually move the chess pieces to a checkmate.

Operate with the belief that those of us who are lost in that bubble are not necessarily evil. Assume good intentions without obsessing about it. Many of us/them are beaten, broken, frustrated and hoping to hold on to what little power they can grasp. They've been manipulated by our darkest fears and motivations. You have shadows inside of your conciseness as well and you fucking know it.

Speak softly and carry a big stick. Work towards the future, one step at a time, and try to avoid the distractions. We can show the world what compassionate leadership looks like by building the future, not by railing against it.

Stop serving them their breakfast in bed. Build the restaurant so that they have no choice but to come to you when they get hungry. And then it's up to you if the only thing you want to serve them is a healthy vegan meal.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Our Uncle Passed Away

People often ask me if my dad is tall and I respond that my uncles and grandpas are/were. Yadollah Afshar was a big guy. He retired a colonel in a pre-revolution era narcotics task force which he described to me as being something like the Iranian equivalent of the D.E.A. In fact, his first visit to the United States was so he and some other members of his unit could take an F.B.I. led training course in New York City.

We called him Amoo. Amoo is Farsi for uncle; specifically from one's father's side. Amoo is also how my brother's son refers to me.

Amoo was a gentle and kind man. But he also had a lot of cool cop stories. One of his favorites involved going undercover as a villager through the northern mountains, near Turkish and Russian borders, in pursuit of cartels. He had told me he had a reputation as being the guy who'd fearlessly walk into rooms and bust heads when necessary. I believe his stories not have been embellishments specifically due to the fact that he was such a gentle and kind man. The confidence of a physically imposing alpha male who never needs to bark like a Chihuahua. The physical confidence that he can defend his family's honor. He was the kind of man any man could aspire to. The warrior poet.

As a seeker of truth, I've almost tried to find someone to say something negative about him and have, as of yet, been unsuccessful.

His calm demeanor was something I often mentally refer back to. His energy came through his every pour. He was a great example of how much more youthful a person can seem, no matter the number of decades they've spent in their human skin, when they actively maintain a positive energy. His philosophy was that "life is short" and that there is no logical reason to allow negativity to fester.

Amoo suffered a stroke and the last six months of his life was spent in varying degrees of silence. This was happening on the other side of the planet so it was, for me at least, difficult to feel a connection to what was actually happening. It was like reading a news clipping rather than watching the movie.

Amoo's human ego is no more and his body no longer animated. The energy that animated his body returns to the Godhead. The entity I refer to as Amoo now lives among the ghosts that roam the hallways of our minds and consciousness. I am reminded of Alan Watts' bit about the terrible relationship humanity has with death. About how our intensive care units are these drab, lifeless and depressing places filled with anxiety and sadness. About how silly it is to attach so much negative energy to an inevitability. Watts suggested that perhaps the death-wards would be so much less debilitating had they been designed to be cheerful places, with colorful walls and rooms for families to gather in order to celebrate a passing of consciousness... Where you'd have this menu of drugs you could take so that your final breath was taken through a euphoric smile. Now that would have been an interesting way to for a narcotics law enforcement professional to go.

We're told his final breath was as gentle as the way he'd lived.

I got to see him last year. We walked around Seaport Village and he tried on hats. We laughed together at the silliness of all the ridiculous reasons our family members quarrel with each other. This is silly... But I feel satisfied with the end of my journey with Amoo because he got to see the Arash that I am today. He got to see me with bigger arms, a smaller waistline and the confidence to walk the streets of this city like it's my city. It's hard to describe; it's a man thing.

I haven't cried yet but I'm sure I will. The body needs to process things regardless of what the mind says or perceives to know. And I'll shepherd this experience, as I do with all things, by creating art to interpret it.

I love you Amoo. Your essence continues on in everything I touch.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

They Buy You


Jamahl Kersey and I collaborated on this minute-long short film last year, this one being the third in a trilogy. The goal was to market The Law Office of Jamahl C. Kersey, Esq. but we didn't approach like we were creating advertising. We knew from the get-go that people don't buy your product; they buy you. 

We'd kicked around a couple of ideas and were about to move forward with an ad but one day, while hearing Jamahl speaking so passionately and sincerely about why he does what he does, it hit me that that's where the focus should be. Not information about the law or explaining the services but Jamahl's own extremely eloquent prose. So I sat down with J and interviewed him the way I'd interview any guest on Burner Podcast or #CrappyAwesome. And from that recording, I isolated quotables from Jamahl's own words and constructed three scripts which he then fine-tuned.

Each of the three videos focuses on the characteristics of Jamahl's professional journey that we felt, when combined, gave the most complete story we wanted to be tell. The first is focused on his connection to the Spanish speaking community and was shot around Barrio Logan, the second is about the black experience and the third (this one) is specifically about his practice.

The music you're hearing is by the amazing Danny Green, whom I actually went to high school with. Jamahl and I are in total agreement about utilizing our own pool of talent so I just started digging through Danny's catalogue looking for a good tune. While multi-tasking, this song started to play in the background and my ears peaked. This was the tune! I minimize the window I'm working in and when I see the title of the song, any doubt that synchronicity was in full effect evaporated. The name of the song is "Second Chance."* Different sections of this same song is used in each of the videos.

We had Chris Reyes come in to record and master the audio. Having the freedom to bring in experts to do what they do better than we ever could was quite a liberating feeling as an artist and really elevated the quality of the project.

The videos were all shot on my old Canon Rebel T3i with the kit lens that came with it and edited on Adobe Premiere. We are so excited about sharing the other two chapters with you soon.

*The album, Altered Narratives, is available at dannygreen.net.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ice Picks in my Ears

I used to hear them say "it's all mental" and "mind over matter." Then when I would try certain kinds of activity I would think, "the pain in various parts of my body attacking me at the exact same time WOULD DISAGREE, SIR!"

But I get it now.

We are consciousness driving around in these human vehicles. Every once in a while a gasket pops or it overheats or the engine works too hard. Not every one of us but a lot more of us than we realize are driving reliable Hondas and they're going to be fine for at least 800,000 miles as long as we do all the oil changes in a timely manner.

Today, I was running uphill in the cold rain on Hill Street by Sunset Cliffs and it suddenly felt like someone started jamming ice picks in to the meaty area under my ears. I've learned overtime that my body is extremely sensitive to air pressure and the temperature (which I recently discovered is due to Raynaud's Disease). I went back to the car, found more covering for my head & ears, put on gloves and ran the less elevated Sunset Cliffs Blvd corridor instead. The most common mistake in thinking that I've observed of my fellow humans is the thought that if we can't do something 120% then we shouldn't even try. It's like getting a paper cut and shouting, "screw it - might as will chop off the arm!" This even applies to political involvement - the silly thought that if we can't be career politicians then it means we shouldn't even attempt to get involved. This is in the political rant; it's an observation of a pattern of thinking. I understand now how the mental fortitude of athleticism translates to success in other areas of one's life. See Arnold Schwarzenegger for exhibit A.

Everything is connected. Reality is an illusion. Right now I am learning how to DJ and I am doing it by connecting it to the things I've already learned about photography. When picking up a new thing I've found that it works best not think of it as a new thing but a new angle of something I already know. Music and photography, for example, are both about manipulating waves - one happens to be light and the other is sound.

For me, physical activity has always been another form of meditation. I don't doubt that envisioning the finish line is a powerful tool. But what I find works for me is focusing on the moment that I'm in rather than my destination. And that helps me in physical activity because that's the way I see life in general. It is a natural instinct to try not to think of the discomfort - to try to leave the body and go to a happy place. Meditative practice teaches us that we can feel less pain when we dive right into the discomfort. To experience the full catastrophe.

It always comes back to this: I have yet to face a challenge the solution to which has not been awareness.

The human body is a amazing durable machine. Push it harder. We are not all created equal. Some of us don't have the knee and ankle and scoliosis problems my body does. Some of us have much greater challenges. And that's completely OK. The race truly is only with yourself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

God Complex

Continuing to search for God as if it is something outside of us is the very logical parts of our wonderful, complex human brains attempting to make sense of this whole 'reality' thing. Should we decide to come to the conclusion that we are the universe incarnate and our individual consciousness is simply a different face of God, we are able to move further past the parts of us that continue to seek the approval of our parents, our peers, our superiors...

Most of us decide to never walk down that road. Some of us walk so far that we lose touch with our fellow humans completely. Either way, the road has no end.

Kindness feels good because loving our fellow humans is the same as loving ourselves.

There was a time that I looked down my nose at those of us who understood God to be a petty, angry child who demands worship, bloodshed and chastity. I've since come to the conclusion that the God of Abraham is, indeed, the God in all of us. Because that capacity for darkness exists in us all - it's just that some of us have had the privilege of socializing our human brains differently.

Count your blessings if you've had the good fortune of creating a positive association with loving kindness and charity and not approval-seeking and hubris. I am so grateful for this beautiful little corner of the world I've lived. I am so grateful for the serotonin rush I get from watching people feel joy and succeed. What a terrible curse it would have been if my brain preferred the high of beating others down as that high is such a short lasting and disappointing one. The high I get from watching all you other me's succeed and win and find love and kick ass at life is so epic and long lasting and seems to have like zero withdraws.

I get that it's a symptom of my privilege that I get to think about consciousness this way. This version of me is not a starving child in a war-ravaged country who's primary concern is my next meal. But having the privilege to explore the tippy top of Maslow's Pyramid doesn't make the discoveries up here any less true.

God is you and you will see the parts of God that are the parts of you. That's where I've come to: A place where the different views of God no longer upset me. Your interoperation of reality is just as valid as mine and they need not clash.

I'm excited about the next level in this human video game thing we're playing.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Element of Irreducible Rascality

"Human nature is a fundamentally good arrangement. Including not only our virtuous side but our also passionate side. Also our appetites and our waywardness. The Hebrews have a term, which they call the yetzer hara which means the wayward inclination. Or what I like to call: The element of irreducible rascality. That God put into all human beings. And put it there because it was a good thing… And so a truly human-hearted person is a gentleman with a slight touch of rascality just as one has to have salt in a stew. Confucious said that the goodie goodies are the thieves of virtue. Meaning that to try to be wholly righteous is to go beyond humanity. To try to be something that isn’t human.”

-Alan Watts speaking on Confucianism and Taoism

***

The most “enlightened" people I’ve known, those who have journeyed to the beyond and returned to tell the tale, have mostly agreed with the messages I keep receiving: Go play. Enjoy all the fruits life has to offer. Indulge in passion and pleasure but for love’s sake stop taking everything so damn seriously. Love unapologetically. Know that hurting others hurts you because you are them and they, you. Dive into service and doing good in the world. It feels good. It makes life more fun.

Beware of scoundrels and charlatans disguised as gurus and enlightened beings who demand they be respected. Who see laughter as a sin and are offended easily. We are all specks of stardust.

Go play.

Darkest Before the Dawn

When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.

-Yin Yang from the Tao Te Ching

***

The universe, reality, God... Consciousness. We are it’s breath, it’s manifestation, it’s dream. Our hearts may not always beat in sync when we chose to see at life at a micro level, to see life as day-to-day rather than the big picture, but we are specks of stardust in a grand multiverse. We are one. Every one of you is me and I, you. We are all God in drag. One consciousness who happens to wear all these different skins and masks.

Our physical world, this living breathing entity that we think is outside of us, is doing some shadow work. It is looking into it’s darkest corners in order to grow it’s love and light.

We humans feel like we don’t get to consciously choose when that shadow work begins and it is for this reason that it creates such suffering. But if we knew we had to touch the flame in order to understand what being burned feels like, would we do it? How many of us would purposely chose to get punched in the face in order to break the fear of physical injury? We actively avoid pain at all costs; that’s our biological programming. Yet growth is always prefaced with some kind of suffering.

We tear muscles to build new ones. We fall so that we may rise. We touch the flame as children and learn to respect fire.

We will embrace our fellow people. We will come at our brothers and sisters with love. Those we disagree with about the nature of reality and society are simply us having been raised in different circumstances. Do not give in to fear and anger. Let us not further divide ourselves from each other. Really think about what “love thy neighbor” actually means.

It is always darkest before the dawn. I am very much looking forward to watching the sunrise with you.

All of you.