The Search for Silence

Our minds are poisoned. I hate being so pessimistic but it’s true.

Whats even more heartbreaking? I’m not totally sure were at fault. A combination of the times we live in and the attractiveness of things. If you take a step back and look at your life, you’ll very clearly see a picture of static surrounding you. What is that static you ask? One word I came to find: Noise.

Noise could come in many variations: sounds, screens, opinions, jobs, motives, goals, etc. Really, you name it, it could turn into noise. Believe it or not a bunch of our time is spent in noise. Noise controls, surrounds and for the most part, dictates us. Whether we agree with that notion or not, noise is a constant companion to our lives.

In our homes, we turn on our televisions. In our cars, we turn on the radio. When we exercise, we put on our headphones. Even when waiting in elevators or on hold with customer service, sound fills the void. I challenge you to find an area in your everyday life where you achieve peace and quiet. Report back, please. I promise you the task is sadly difficult.

That’s where the search for silence started for me: the realization that tranquil, calming moments were strangled by a stronger force. I started to see how routine noises had become, how it seeped into my life. And unfortunately, how it didn’t seem to bother me much.

You know, sometimes life has a way of swooping you up and turning the volume on so loud that we forget what no volume is like. Truth is, I can’t say I really miss the silence because as much as I think I’ve experienced it, I haven’t. Neither have you. Think about it. There is so much noise surrounding us. So much clutter, and so much distraction. Maybe it’s because I’m a minimalist at heart but all of this noise was an overwhelming force I had little control over. That bothered me.

A lightbulb then sparked: my quiet was gone, my God given rite to tranquility stolen. Like stillness was something I used to hear about. Like a distant relative that you don’t see any more, that doesn’t come to any family parties. I started thinking very intently about the sense of silence and about what benefits moments of quiet brings. Here’s a crazy thought exercise: What would the world be like if we all had a designated time of quiet? What changes would spark? What realizations as a people would we come to?

One of the biggest realization for me was taking control of my time. I don’t have to live a life of distractions and unnecessary detours. Although it doesn’t always feel like this: I am empowered to choose. The problem is, choosing is hard. Because habits are hard to break, especially bad habits. I started to focus on my bad habits. Social media…noise. Radio……noise. Podcasts……noise. Sports…….noise. I’m not saying all these had to go. But balance had to be achieved. My scale was way out of whack.

Like I mentioned earlier, all of our quiet to noise ratio is overwhelmed by the latter. We just don’t realize it. We’re overpowered and unaware of the noise. That really got me thinking. If I’m so out of balance, it’s impossible to see what I’m missing.

So, what am I missing? Are there benefits? Benefits to having quiet in our lives? Or did silence go by the wayside for a reason. Was it unconsciously chalked up as unnecessary?

Is time worth spent searching for silence?

Well, I deemed yes and i’ve started searching for ways to achieve silence. It meant breaking habits and routines. It meant odd, long spaces of nothing. It meant unnatural long pauses of quiet. It meant many bonfires by myself and long quiet walks. It honestly meant going out of my comfort zone and all I’m used to.

What I’ve found thus far has been startling, though.

I want to talk about focus and reflection a little bit. When I started quieting down elements I sensed something creeping back into my life. Something that was there, but much harder to achieve. I’m talking about focusing. I’m unsure if I’ve been a clearly focused, but knocking down the distraction of noise has helped tremendously.

Looking deeper though, it seemed most of my noise came from my wanting of content. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I really wanted to know what I was missing in those time blocks of noise. I found that when left to just silence, I was reflecting on my past a whole lot more. Not in a depressing manner, but in a pro active learning objective. This was super interesting to me.

The focus and reflection I achieved that resulted from times of quiet where astounding and equally priceless to me. That’s an amazing notion, huh? That we could possibly produce something priceless with no worldly amount tagged on. In this case, my priceless product of silence was focus and reflection. I was able to think more clearly because I felt so much more in tune with myself. That made sense to me. Connecting with myself was an inability before, now it seems more reasonable based on reflection time in silence.

Of course, It goes without saying that I’m still in the very beginnings of this exercise, but what I’m finding is eye opening and demands personal documentation, in my opinion.

At the end of the day, what are we as a people if we don’t think, focus and reflect? I think piling on so much noise that prohibits silence is an extremely hazardous that equates to us being a whole lot less human as a society.

I fear the value of true, unobtrusive, calming, personal quiet time is fading softly into a dark sea. What I fear even more is that no one even flinches. Like throwing a life jacket is too much of a hassle. Personally, if I lose my quiet time, I lose myself and thoughts with it. Over the past few months, I’ve become aware of how valuable quiet time can be. It can be an escape in times of crisis. It can be as comforting as a warm blanket or as soothing as a hot cup of tea. The truth is silence is what you make it. But you can’t make anything from what you can’t find.



Rewatching My Movie 10 Years Later

I don’t talk or write about my movie much and I often ask myself why. Writing, filming, post-production, etc. Honestly, it’s difficult to list everything I was responsible for before my mind gets exhausted. Making ‘The Fiction‘ was one of the highlights of my life and If I die tomorrow, to have been able to make a movie from start to finish would be one of my favorite, most cherished experiences of my existence.

Truth be told, the finished product just didn’t end up the way I envisioned it. What I didn’t realize before filming was how immensely hard making a feature film is. Especially when you have extremely little experience. I think anyone who read the script before shooting knew there was something special, but most people politely instructed me to not film it. To sell the script and move on. The ever repeating phrase of first time filmmakers hardly ever work, just never faded from consciousness.

I look back now and of course see mistakes I made. From inexperience, to just being entirely exhausted by the time we got to filming. I had that odd combination of being completely driven where no one, and I mean no one, could have stopped me from making that movie and combine that with not really knowing how to execute on a level this script deserved. In hindsight, I should have sold the script and starting work on something else. But that’s a lot easier said then done, especially now.

I often forget that when you believe in something so much, it takes a lot more than sense to sway you. Honestly though, I’m proud of that. I’m proud I had that characteristic in me at such a young age. I had a no tolerance, take no prisoners approach to getting the film done. I was stubborn, but in a good way. In a way you would want your kid to put his head down and dig hard for a goal. Show some mental toughness. Unable to be swayed by the world. I had that for sure back then. I don’t so much now. I’ve lost a lot of that energy as of late.

A few nights ago I did something I was dreading for a long time. Almost 10 years after wrapping on The Fiction, I watched it. I was nervous about this for so many reasons. I mean, I was nervous about being nervous. But I went to Amazon, rented a copy of my own film and watched.

Magic doesn’t work through time, the film still has many shortcomings as I remembered. Like I mentioned earlier, there were many technical issues as well as experience issues that plagued me throughout production. So watching through the other night couldn’t hide any of that. Those emotions rushed through me. I remember those feelings well. Being in our dark editing room months after shooting only to realize there is no way this scene is going to work as planned. Thats a scary feeling. At one point I remember driving home from an editing session and looking at the script sitting on my passenger seat, almost like it was staring back at me in disappointment.

The rewatch didn’t spawn all bad feelings, though. Actually, most of the viewing really comforted me. It comforted me to know that that was me. I know that sounds stupid. But its been 10 years now. It feels like another life ago. But it wasn’t, it was me. Still in the same skin just 10 years removed.

I loved seeing the cast. Eric, Andrus and all the heavy lifting they had to do to make up for my inexperience. They were sweet and gracious at every point of the production. I admired seeing Jeff play his multiple roles. I loved seeing young Allie play a role she was so committed to. Watching also made me recollect on the crew. Mike and Spike immediately come to mind. I have never and certainly now don’t mind saying this; The Fiction would have been half the quality it was without those guys. They did an amazing job with cinematography and Mike with editing. I am forever indebted to them. Of course I remembered Chris, my sound guy and long time school friend, who dropped everything so he could help me. He wasn’t completely comfortable with all the responsibility of a full sound team squeezed into one person, but he did it because he cared. I will always be appreciative of that.

Speaking honestly, watching The Fiction felt like a breath of fresh air. I know its a movie and to strangers, thats all it will ever be. But, to me it’s a time capsule for my life. Good or bad, I achieved this. Success or failure, no one could take it away from me. It was a tremendous learning experience about filmmaking, team work and most importantly, friendship. I would like to think everyone else on set felt this way, but I felt an extreme closeness to them while filming and anytime I saw them afterwords. Even when I rewatched, that feeling came back. The memories of jokes in-between takes and script revisions, prop placements and plot discussions. To me now, all that stuff feels so special.

After the rewatch I really wish I could hit the rewind button and go back. Not to fix little sound problems or acting quirks. Not to rewrite a scene to make it work a little better. Not to make different choices on set or off. I know it sounds crazy but I wouldn’t change a thing. I want to hit that rewind button so I could feel the warmth and camaraderie that the filming experience induced. I know I’ve tried to explain in words what I mean, but its just impossible.

Everyone involved in ‘The Fiction’ holds a very dear, special place in my heart. Who would have known the most important result of filming my own movie wouldn’t have been a completed film, but friendships and experiences that I never deserved and could have never achieved on my own.

Without a doubt, creating The Fiction was the biggest challenge of my life. But undisputedly, without question the most rewarding.

This is in no way a shameless plug, I promise. That was never my intention. But, if you read this post and are genuinely interested in seeing the film here are some links:

Attention as a Resource

The other night I had a dream. It was vivid, inspiring and downright admirable. Sometimes my dreams are so far in fantasy that I know I’m dreaming. That has to sound weird but it’s the honest to God truth. This particular dream was so soaked in reality, confusion wouldn’t begin to describe my emotions. I woke up realizing the unfortunate truth. This was only a dream.

I had a dream of a world where people can sit through long, dull conversations, without feeling the need to douse themselves with instant-gratification delivered through glowing plastic screens.

I had a dream of a world where people were aware of not only their own limited attention, but the precious attention of others and wouldn’t start texting in a movie theatre, totally killing the mood of a dramatic scene.

I had a dream where our devices would be comfortably allotted as the occasional supplement to our lives, and not used as a poor replacement for them. Where people would recognize that the constant and instantaneous delivery of information has subtle costs associated with it, as well as its more obvious benefits.

I had a dream of a world where people would become aware of their own attention as an important resource, something to be cultivated and renewed, to be built and cherished, the same way they take care of their bodies or their education. And this new cultivation of their own attention would have oddly set them free. Not just free from the screens, but free from their own unconscious impulses.

I had a dream where respect for attention would extend to the world around them, to their friends and family and the acknowledgment that the inability to focus is not only harmful to oneself, but harmful to one’s relationships and ability to hold and maintain intimacy with someone.

If all this really happened, if all this was real, we would let freedom ring, from every village and every county, from every state and every city, we would have been able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, would have been able to join hands and sing “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

Maybe somewhere in the world, humans act like this. Hey – a guy can dream, right?

Yes, this was my dream. But i’m awake now. Its very clear smartphones have just about taken our full attention. Myself included. You could call this a dark outlook. I unfortunately call it reality.

Truth is every human has an ongoing war with their attention. Whether they know it or not, their attention is in high, high demand. Until we can start thinking about and treating our attention as a resource – a limited resource at that – we are all in very big trouble.

The Conversation Triangle

This is kind of a follow-up post from my previous. I was informed that Lindsey and 2 close friends embarked in an in-depth conversation last night. Not that anyone needs my permission or anything, but I strongly approve of moments like this. This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last I harp on a such a subject as important as conversation.

I have told Lindsey many times I feel like the art of conversation is slowly dwindling away. Especially, meaningful conversations where one can grow and learn. I mean think about it, when was the last time you had a significant exchange of words with someone who was 100% invested in what you were saying?

With the rise of social media and the style of “connecting” it spawns, all the little nuances of actually sitting down, looking someone in the eyes and listening to them are lost. Social media disables you to “feel.” You can’t read heartbreak on someone’s voice when you’re reading text on a computer screen. You can’t sympathize through pixels. What social media unfortunatley does enable is quick judgements, silent spectating and empty assurance. It really is a poor excuse of connecting and if thats all the next generation of humans have; they will be sharply cheated out of real, genuine companionship.

In-depth conversations are not only profitable, they are needed. As living, breathing people, we long for connection and bonding, at least I do. And it’s a rare feat when it happens. But when it does, you can bet you’ll know. You feel the presence of something special. Something foreign that only happens when you invite it. From my experience, it takes honesty, patience and listening. The conversation triangle.

Regardless of what subjects were talked about during Lindsey and their conversation, if one yearned for understanding and achieved some sort of answer, thats all that matters. To be able to sit down and reason is a God given right and a necessity.  Sometimes we lose sight of the simple things. Like just listening and learning from other people. Even if you don’t agree; switch your brain to learn, its unpopularly profitable.

In conclusion, I’m super thankful we have good friends and family where this is possible; good conversation. Sure, it’s a rarity in todays life. But almost all the battle is having the other half to talk to. We do. When Lindsey told me about their conversation, it served as a great reminder that we have friends who are there to talk when there is a need. And to me, thats priceless.

I had this client in Connecticut named Fred Russel. Fred was a warm, insightful man. He is one of my favorite people i’ve ever met. He was one of those individuals that you just wanted around. When he walked in the room, the atmosphere lit up with positivity.

I’m left thinking of something Fred always said at the end of his haircut. He would never fail to say: “Dan, another long conversation that seemed too short.”

I’ve always thought to myself: “ya, thats the mark of a good connection.” A long conversation that seemed too short.

Sprinkle some honesty, patience and listening on top, and you have something extremely rare and uniquely special.

The Bible, Completed

About a year ago I challenged myself to actually read the bible all the way through. Front cover to back. Today I can report I’ve finished. If your new to this personal venture of mine, you could read the midway update post. I wanted to check in with everyone to state what I learned in the past year. The act of consistently reading everyday has taught me about myself, God and the bible itself.

To play quick catch up: Everyday I read my bible according to a set plan. Some days I was required to read 2 chapters. Some days 10. After a while things got more and more difficult. But I stuck with the task. It was worth it. I was explaining to Lindsey yesterday although I’ve read all the way through, I don’t feel I am some bible scholar now. And if early readers recall, that was never the point. The original objective was simple, just read!

You see, I was having issues with the “just read” part. I think a bunch of people do, but we’re all ashamed to say anything. We’re ashamed we *really* don’t care. I have no shame in saying that. That’s definitely how I felt a year ago. I just didn’t care. To be incredibly honest, I couldn’t care less. That realization was overwhelming frightening to me. Thats why I pushed so hard to make this a priority. I wanted to read for my own sake and my families sake. I was introduced to the King James Bible a little over 8 years ago. So in that sense, I’ve always felt a little behind the eight ball compared to life-longers . But when I was finally honest with myself and realized I just didn’t care about reading, I felt like a scared hypocrite.

Maybe Christians nowadays don’t want reading the bible to be a priority, or more accurately, maybe they don’t think the “act” of reading it should be hard. Maybe they think because reading in a consistent manner is so time consuming and difficult, something is wrong with them and they look the other way. Nothing can be further from the truth, though. Reading is hard. Dedication is hard. Discipline is hard. Anything you do that is worthwhile in life is going to be a hard, upstream swim. Why should reading the bible be any different?

After 1 year of day in and out reading. I could tell everyone this. If I can do it, any of you can. The gains were worth it. To become familiar with the bible is worth your time and effort. Im not saying that in a “from the pulpit, talking down to you” sort of way. Im saying it in a human to human way. This book is worth the praise. The accolades were right. The praise is accurate. The King James bible holds up like no other piece of art form I’ve ever experienced before.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not all of a sudden a bible scholar. Very, very, very far from it. But I now have a good “feel” for the bible like I’ve never had in the past. I could really sense the broad strokes of the New Testament very clearly now. Thats something you get with personal, concentrated, quiet time. Thats how you build. Constructing relationships take time and effort. Why did I assume Bible reading and my relationship with God would be different?

Church is fantastic. It’s a great place to go and fill up and be around like minded people. It’s not the whole thing though. Very far from it. Reading the bible through for a year has taught me to turn my Christian life inside out. To refocus my aim and effort. My focus is now more on the days in between church and attempting to reach people. Thats what the Bible has taught me the most this past year. People. Reaching out. Helping. Having compassion.

You could certainly say I should have known this from just going to church. And I did. But by reading my bible for 365 days straight. Now I believe it.

Looking forward I am going to continue my reading. But I’ve made some changes. Some of the cons of last years plan was the amount of reading they required a day. For me, some content went by the wayside. I never liked that. In 2017 I am just focusing on the New Testament and 1 chapter a day. Im going to accompany that one chapter a day with studying on that chapter after.

If 2016 was about completing the bible for the first time. 2017 will be about digging through the NT. I think thats a natural progression. Reading through the bible has given me a decent to good foundation on everything I thought I was familiar with. Now concentrating on just the NT will allow a clear focus.

Im really excited about what 2017 brings and what I will learn from God and His word. I also want to thank some of you who emailed me after my initial post and either encouraged me or gave me some guidance. That was very cool and unexpected.

It’s a funny feeling to finish a year long plan of reading. About a month before I completed I started thinking of what direction I wanted to go in next. In the back of my mind was the not read option lingering. Immediately, I squashed it. After a reading the same book for a year. Leaving it at this point would be leaving a part of me. I don’t want me and the Bible to ever be strangers again. I understand I need to it way more then it needs me, but our relationship is just growing, I pray. So, after reading for year, I can honestly say I don’t have any intention of stopping. Usually when you embark on a reading plan your always eyeing that finish line. I feel at this point in my life this is just the beginning, though. And with God’s help, I pray I never reach a finish line.

If you are reading this today without a starting point, I hope this post didn’t hit you with a punch of condemnation. If I meant to do anything by writing this, it was maybe inspire someone who is in the same place I was a year ago. I implore you to try and read. Just a little.

Many have asked what tools I used to read. I picked the YOUVERSE BIBLE app for iPhone and under plans I selected “CHRONOLOGICAL” . Like I mentioned, some days it got tough, but hopefully your desire outweighs the difficulty. I particularly liked YOUVERSION’s layout and simplicity. The app organized my daily reading in a very simple way. You could even configure it to push you reminders for your reading.

Again, Thanks everyone for following this journey with me. Here to hoping I can continue through this year and to your and my reading in 2017!