Jack-of-all-trades. Hack-of-all-Trades. That me, if you want to know the truth.
Today I will spend time with my Leica. I still barely know how to use it (not enough time learn), how to utilize natural light (not enough time to learn), how to capture the right blend of uniformity amidst variety (not enough time to learn), who to shoot (nobody willing).
For no other reason than nine lives lore, I can find myself wishing to be a cat. Why? How else to pursue the nagging passions?
In trying to cram them into this one, earthly, life, like today I’m Paul-the-photographer, the result is the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none.
Paul, the hack-of-all-trades.
Fact is, I specialize at exactly nothing, other than the specialty of little bit of this and little bit of that.
Nine lives Paul, no doubt, would be posting today of the limitations of having only nine lives.
If I had to choose today? Most likely:
#1 Photographer: more of humanity than nature, in the Annie Leibovitz realm.
#2 Revolutionary: Going all-in like Jesus (more than anyone else) and MLK and Gandhi and Bob Dylan and Harriet Tubman and Wittgenstein and Saint Francis and Bonhoeffer and Luther and Céaser Chávez. (Please visit forthechildren.org to sign the pledge and help me on this one.)
#3 Botanist/zoologist: Because Albert Schweitzer.
#4 Philosopher: In the spirit of Aristotle. My BA and MA helped greatly, but only almost scratched the surface of understanding metaphysics, epistemology, logic, aesthetics, ethics.
#5 Geologist: I know almost nothing about how the earth is composed nor how plate tectonics work, and that bugs me.
#6 Gypsy: A full-time observer. And truth-teller, no matter the cost. Just to travel to and from, to lick the globe, minus the encumbrances of money, schedules, social pressures to be “responsible.”
#7 Cook: Not a chef — a farmer who spends as much time attending to the ingredients (soil, sun, water, freshness) as much as the cooking part.
#8 Historian: Not sure which era nor region. Eighty-one lives wouldn’t be enough to satisfy my craving to learn about all those people from all those places during all those times.
#9 Musician: I play bass (decently), guitar (average at best), trumpet and piano (below average at best).
Are you a hack-of-all-trades, too?
P.S. I forgot art historian, especially into the minds of Van Gogh, Chagall, Picasso… Oh, and a college professor (philosophy), oceanographer, architect, triathlete, yoga instructor, theologian, hermit.
“Those moments which murdered my God…”
On that September morning, I walked the Krakow cobblestone streets in near-freezing air at 5:30 a.m. to grab a bus to Auschwitz. I had pulled an all-nighter but not by choice.
The reality of visiting that infamous “there.”
I don’t remember the ride but I arrived. The tour guide, a blonde woman in her 50s — speaking perfect English with a thick Polish accent, languid in reciting the blisteringly-morbid data to a dozen tourists who wouldn’t dare utter a word.
I had read the books, watched the documentaries, ingested every frame of Schindler’s list, countless times. But there is something about a place.
As the helpless prisoners arrived, young children, the elderly, and those with illnesses were separated. A guard would point to the left or the right. One direction meant to the “showers,” which pumped deadly Zyklon-B poison gas into the chambers.
I kept my mouth open for hours — a dropped jaw allowed me to cry and breathe, simultaneously, as my nose was plugged. There was something about the ground: the dirt, the cement, the grass, whether inside the gas chamber, along with one of the roads, in the disgusting barracks — “they walked in this ground.”
I should have remembered but I hadn’t — these camps had but one purpose: extermination. If you weren’t shot or gassed it was only so you could work…to keep the killing factory functioning.
The stories of torture, disease, filth, “surgeries” — you can google those if you’d like. I don’t have the stomach right now to repeat them.
A wave of anger — one that I had never felt before, and haven’t felt since — began to arise. The Final Solution — the command to exterminate — was announced on January 20, 1942. Why this anger? Because for nearly 20 years, millions sat silent. Christians. Pastors. Everyday citizens. Sat silent as Hitler attacked the free press, institutions of power, foreigners. Dark-skinned people (he ended up murdering millions of them) — all in the name of making German great.
But Bonhoeffer did. The Lutheran pastor was called “divisive” and “political” for standing against the hatred. He paid the ultimate price at Flossenburg.
The words of Elie Wiesel rang through my crazed mind:
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Estimates suggest that Nazis murdered 85% of the people sent to Auschwitz. Of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Today is Holocaust Remembrance day — I will never forget, either. I hope none of us do.
See the problem?
Yes, I’m a white, educated, Christian, male. So what understanding could I have about racism, or anti-semitism, or sexual harassment — or any kind of discrimination?
Ultimately, nothing. It’s all theory.
On that note, I studied normative ethics in my 30s and 40s (when I received a BA and MA in philosophy). I’ve had a painting of Lincoln hanging in my office for 20 years. I bought it from my friend, Bradford Solomon. And my parents, each of them — I heard their stories.
Dad, a Mexican, remembers the “No Mexican” signs, right here in The OC. Mom, being a Roman Catholic and an Italian immigrant in the 1950s — no bueno.
I wrote about it in 2005. But, again, it’s all theory.
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today. Grateful Ronald Reagan made it a national holiday. Happy to see all the posts and quotes on social media.
But most white, educated, Christian, males (who hold the handles of power in politics and business), like me, can’t truly understand. Whites can’t understand racism.
See the problem?
This post won’t move the needle. I guess I post because I feel it’s my duty. There are massive problems surrounding racism today, and they only got worse on January 6 when (predominately white men) sacked the capital wearing Auschwitz t-shirts and waving Confederate flags.
I read a book recently called “White Fragility.” (Written by a white lady.) She wrote, “For those of us who work to raise the racial consciousness of whites, simply getting whites to acknowledge that our race gives us advantages is a major effort. The defensiveness, denial, and resistance are deep.”
She’s so right.
In the end, more and more these days, with a little help from my friends, I look away from politics and look to Jesus. He understood. He was a refugee from the wrong neighborhood, hanging out with all the wrong people. And he wasn’t martyred on behalf of those like me with privilege, but those with none.
As much as I might try, I can’t understand.
See the problem?
Recently I decided I would start riding my bike to work. At least a few times a week. This is one of my many New Year’s resolutions. In all likelihood, I won’t get very far.
I hadn’t ridden my Bianchi in over a decade. Brakes seemed sketchy. So, before my first voyage, I took it in last week for a tune-up. Today I picked it up.
I went for a test drive, back and forth, across our cul-de-sac.
I saw our next-door neighbor, playing with his baby girl. Albert is probably in his late thirties. His baby, Eleanor, just turned one.
I don’t talk to Albert often. Partially because I’m an introvert. I feel awkward. And also because he’s an ER doctor; he’s not around much.
I did want to ask him about COVID-19. Last May, I wrote this post, which included “ER doctors are seeing a spike in severe cases of child abuse.”
So I rolled up. His golden retriever, Maddy, rushed me. She just wanted attention.
“Hello, Albert, how are things at work?”
Albert is soft-spoken. He doesn’t talk much. And when he does, he gives really short answers, always with a smile.
This is a summary of what Albert just said about COVID-19.
I prodded: “I read that there shortage of beds in Southern California hospitals.”
“We are treating people in the waiting room. We are having to send people with other conditions home. There’s no room.”
I inquire more. “Are most of those come in elderly, or with preexisting conditions?”
“Some of them, yes.”
Then he added something. For those of you that think COVID-19 is some kind of hoax or exaggeration, please pay attention. This really just happened; I just came inside to memorialize what an ER doctor just told me.
“Some just die. There’s no way we can predict it. Younger people. What appeared to be very healthy people.”
I ask, “That is the reason for the use of the adjective novel, right? It’s new and we don’t know enough about it yet?”
“Yes, it’s new. Very difficult to predict.”
This wasn’t news to me. Just a few weeks ago, a Congressman-elect from Louisianna, Luke Letlow, died of COVID-19. Healthy as an ox. Forty-one years old. He left behind his wife and two children.
Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s, but have likely circulated in humans for centuries. They are part of a large group of viruses that have crown-like thorns on their surface. The Latin word for crown is coronam. COVID-19, the current strain, was first discovered in 2019, hence the suffix, 19.
I thanked Albert for his time. I got back on my bike.
I rode for about 10 more minutes, thinking about what Albert just said about COVID-19.