The zone of graceful urgency (Gregg Braden)

I heard Gregg Braden use this term in an audiobook of his: That rather than living in crisis we are living in a zone of graceful urgency.

He was speaking of some of the extremes we’re experiencing in recent years. Peak debt, peak energy, climate change, economic transformation. Braden was framing national and global difficulties as actionable, not desperate. As he points out, desperation can lead to rash and thoughtless action.

I’m taking this phrase to heart in a personal way. When (seeming) crises pop up, how much better is it for me to think I’m in a zone of graceful urgency . . . not a hairy overwrought gonads-grabbing terror of a crisis.

It gives me time to pause. Time to sift. Time to experiment solutions.


My favorite word from Disney (and what it means for your life)

We’re all bushwhacking our way through life. Countless others may have trod similar paths . . . but it is only you alone who are now doing it for the very first time. You’re a pioneer, you daring one!

Ease your child into big water for the first time and let go for just an instant. All the strokes you’ve swum  all the strokes humanity has swum  are meaningless to that kid. 

Disney has a term for its creative class: Imagineers.

They imagine and engineer creations.

This term is apt for us life pioneers too. We are simultaneously imagining and pioneering and engineering our way through a thicket whose surprises we can never quite anticipate fully.

We are imagineering our way forward. One revelation at a time.

Isn’t that a helpful frame when you’re in a quandary?

How can I imagineer my way through this crap — this debt — this loss — this setback — this low, low moment?

It’s playful, yet demands specifics. (Engineering!)

It’s engaging our fertile minds, while asking us to push on.

Imagineering asks us to imagine.

(Imagine what? Possibilities that thrill us.)

Imagineering asks us to ask questions. 

And we all know good questions draw real answers.

Who knew your pioneering life could gain much from Disney?

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

Click here for the occasional thing from The World Is Freaky Beautiful.


Dorrie Koller’s gift from the sea: Recovering life after the death of family members

I used finding my gratefulness and joyfulness to be the key in coming back into full life after Don and Mom passed away.

I went down to the beach about a month after burying Don at sea. Standing there in the gentle surf, I felt something wrap itself about my ankles. It was a string of wooden zen beads. I hung it on my truck rearview mirror, and on my way to work, I would take each bead and claim something that was really good about my life. 

Even if I had to simply repeat the same thing over and over, I did this faithfully. Some days were so hard I could hardly wait to get my hands on these beads as they helped me concentrate my efforts to feel life again.

Here I am, almost 4 years later, and I am extremely happy. Not emotional, fluffy happiness, but a deep, deep grateful happiness of peace. I understand just how blessed I am to the cells of my being. I am even grateful for what I had to endure. 

It sounds funny, but the peace and patience I have gained from this exercise have given me the ability to deal with thousands of people every day in a calm and loving manner. (Working at the airport.) 

 I have also discovered that while I am now single  I am far from being alone. I live with the entire world in peace and love.

I am no longer a widow. I am a free FREE me! I had a wonderful life with Don; and much to my amazement, I have a wonderful life now, too.

PS: May I repeat  look for your joys every day, all day long. It works!


Feeling full in your incompleteness

Do you ever feel full in your incompleteness?

When I was graduating college I felt this way. Fulfilled in my only begun-ness. I feel it even now 3.3 decades later. It’s the way blissed-out new lovers feel, sated in their journey just started. 

Writers who trust their craft feel it when they’ve entered into a new project: the glorious mystery of unfoldingness.

You know it will be drawn out, the story or book or poem or post. It is coming and you will be ushering it in like a midwife.

There is a spiritual equivalent. You feel it in every moment of connection. You feel whole even in your opening to more-ness.


Unearthing everyday joy (one way)

Part of the mission here at The World Is Freaky Beautiful is unearthing everyday joy. You can see everyday joy peeping through in this post, or bursting through in this post. And this one too. 

An interesting thing happens to one who archives everyday joy. You begin finding it everywhere. So much so that within months you could take any hour of the day and write about some offhand delight that occurred within it.

The richness inherent to every moment of every day starts to find its way into you . . . and you begin to live in a world of happy. Not in a nonsensical, surface-y way, but in an ecstatic to be immersed in the mystery kind of way.

I’m not suggesting you start a blog . . . there’s 173 billion of us already doing that . . . you could . . . or you could quietly unearth everyday joy yourself. At the end of each day jot down your day’s discoveries in a notebook or a Google Doc . . . 

I guarantee you won’t be the same person in three month’s time. 

A lighter version of you will come to the fore, a version of you that has an easy laugh . . . who revels in deep relationships and chance encounters. The you who knows there’s a nugget of something wildly cool and blissed-out beautiful in each person you encounter  . . . and can’t wait to uncover it.

This version of you is already here. Awaiting its own uncovering. 


How long will you susidize your creativity?

At a rest area in Iowa

All art is subsidized in the beginning.

All ideas and creative projects are subsidized at the outset.

In business it’s called research and development. Another version is venture capitalism. Angel investors are an iteration.

Subsidizing your children till they’re capable of self sustaining is the most widely practiced form.

Bootstrapping a small solopreneur business is the ultimate subsidy. You take funds you’ve earned or received from elsewhere, combine that with prodigious effort . . . and push forward maniacally until the small biz can sustain itself . . . or you collapse.

Every creative project is subsidized by sweat and money until it succeeds. Or fails. 

Big business will write off its failures. If an investment isn’t paying off within a reasonable timeframe  and all efforts to right the enterprise miss the mark  then executives make the decision to pull the plug on that effort. So they can focus their resources in another direction that offer greater reward.

We as creative individuals often fail to do what business does so well. Periodically review.

I have a writing jones. No amount of reviewing will ever change that.

What does beg review is what I’m writing, the projects I’m working on. How it fits into my life as a family man and art gallery owner and friendship juggler.

I write this post partially for myself  as a spur to review! As a nudge to dig in and analyze. How can we improve our art business? How can we better address the off season? What new legs to the income stool can we create?

I also write this post partially for others I know who’ve put in long years at unsuccessful endeavors. Endeavors that are not soul projects.

How long will you subsidize your project?

If you are the only one subsidizing it, then you can go on indefinitely if you wish. If you are also asking others to subsidize you and your project, then review time with them is a must. Especially family members.

You will always subsidize your creativity in the beginning. If you’re well past the beginning, then it’s always wise to ask if this particular effort continues to be worth your investment.

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

Click here for the occasional thing from The World Is Freaky Beautiful.


Two types of wounds (Question for today)

Breakdown in Somewhere, Nebraska

There are two types of wounds.

You’re wounded by what happened

  • She took her love to town and didn’t take you with her
  • He hurt you, bad
  • Everything fell apart when __________ happened
  • You went on an adventure and things took a turn for the worse, much worse.(Oh wait, this slides into the second type of wound . . . )

You’re wounded by what didn’t happen

  • You didn’t find long love, the kind that lasts the length of a lifetime
  • You didn’t achieve the greatness you assumed would be yours
  • You couldn’t have children
  • You haven’t found your groove . . . and everything feels . . . amiss

They’re all one wound. The wound of unrequited expectation. You expected something and it didn’t play out that way. It’s all unmet expectations.

So what do you do with expectations that weren’t met? Seriously, what do you do with them? So they don’t fuck with the life in front of you right now.

How do you release thwarted expectations and get on with this wild ride?


Retro zen: Motel 6 is the Apple of roadtel design

Today we’re celebrating design in the unlikeliest of places. Cheap highway hotels. Roadtels I call them.
In my art treks I’ve come to know them well. When you’re staying in one location long enough to savor the locale, well, you don’t stay in these. As when I was in Santa Fe last week.
Or was it half a decade ago. Road time is very now. Whatever isn’t happening now feels like time before time. The day before yesterday? Could as easily have been last year. It’s that distant to me. Cuz I’m in the now, grasshopper.
When I was in Santa Fe I was in a Hilton by the Plaza. The better to walk the town center each day, the better to hike Canyon Road and peruse the galleries.
On the road it’s roadtels. Why waste money when in and out and some sleep in between is your only intent. 
Today we’re celebrating Motel 6. Do you remember that decade not long ago when Apple surprised you every year or two with something startlingly fresh?
Motel 6 has done that for me.
Take a look at that photo above. It’s 60s chic and Zen spare. Everything is pared to simplicity. Uncluttered is good! Yet there is vibrancy here  in the color contrasts. In the design.  
That’s what great design does for you. It makes the functional even more useful. It also makes it enjoyable in its own right.
Take a look at that top photo again. Do you see the rolled-up yoga mat standing vertically next to the mirror. Squint if you must. Or with a flick of two fingers, enlarge the damn screen.
That’s mine. I do yoga on the road.
Now look at this second photo. That’s the same room from the opposite vantage point.
You can’t tell it because of the foreshortening inherent to our visual perception . . . but there is much more space on the far side of the bed than there is between the bed and the wall with the mounted TV on it.
You know what that means for one such as I? Plenty of yoga mat space.
Did you notice something else? There’s no rug!
Why the hell do hotels insist on rugs? Even in Santa Fe in a luxury hotel I was skeeved by the idea of the carpet.
Carpets are ideal for life forms. What traveler wants life forms at their feet when they’re popping up and heading to the bathroom? Life forms spawned from generations of previous guests?
You know people  most people are grosser than you. Because they’re not you.
A hard floor of any type is far superior to a carpet when you have a gamut of strangers filing through.
Inspired hotel design needs to account for the occasional ribald guest, the guest who takes things too far. Whether it be addiction or sex or lack of personal hygiene, those guests abound.
How do I know? Because I see them all over the place in real life, just as you do.
That means a fair percentage of them trod your roadtel room before you did.
Inspired hotel design also needs to account for the more than occasional slovenly cleaning crew.
Hard floors handle this on both accounts. With a hard floor, whatever guests who inhabit the room to excess deposit can easily be cleaned by even the most disinterested cleaning person.
Motel 6 all the other hotels will be following your lead in years to come. Thank you for this hygienic innovation.
Look what they’ve done here. Motel 6 has created an intimate nook and work desk. See the top photo for the full effect.
They’ve taken two elements found in every hotel room the comfortable chair and the work desk  and mated them. It’s a cozy configuration that works.
When I’m in relaxed mode, I hang in the corner bench seat. When I need to pound out some work, the chair is a better perch.
The peninsula table between them is wide enough for two, and yet the curved end makes it graceful. Less hostile even, there will be no bruised hips navigating around it. 

See this badly photographed bathroom shot? Look at that elegant simplicity! The light running down the left hand side. Genius. The rounded holes  for toilet paper! For bath towels and hand towels!
See how the staff have rolled the larger towels? Delightful. You feel delighted and amused when you first glance in. 
Let’s finish with this raised bowl sink. The rounded edges consistent with every other softly contoured corner in the room.
(Note the mirror above the desk nook, as well as the TV mount. And for good measure note the bedside table. Not shown is a wall mounted ledge table on the same wall as the TV, with a clever ledge shelf above it, from which two circular prongs extend  with hangers to hang your clothing. All with the same curved cornering.)
What do you feel in this optimally-priced roadtel space? Charmed. Liberated. Entertained even.
The team that designed the new Motel 6 experience deserves awards of a transcendent order. They’ve taken the humdrum and opened it up into a new experience. While making it more sanitary! And cheap!
This is why design matters. Why stripping away the inessential matters. And why playfulness matters.
This is the world we all want to live in. A thoughtful, electric world, made exciting because someone  some group of people  took the time to reinterpret a common experience and hence make magic for the rest of us.

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

Click here for the occasional thing from The World Is Freaky Beautiful.


We’re all creatives now

In the marketing world there is a sharp delineation between those who do the creative work and everyone else. Those on the creative side are called creatives. So obvious a term it was unlikely to be thought up by a creative.

Who are they? The copywriters, the photographers, the designers, the graphic artists. Those who form and fashion the advertising. Those who come up with the ideas.

Today I was watching a mechanic figure out an electrical issue. I’d picked up a Uhaul trailer in the mountains of Colorado. In Greenwood Springs, where incidentally I saw my first pot shop.

My thirty-year-ago self would have loved it. This was the advertisement blaring in the window:

Lemon Haze
$125 oz
Say what?!

Back to the mechanic.

Some of the signals weren’t firing on the Uhaul trailer after being connected to my van. It was a little nerve wracking. The shop was closing shortly for the weekend, and I had to load up artwork from a client’s home tomorrow, Sunday. 

And that client has a very tight window due to the closing on the sale of her mountain home.

It was nerve wracking only until I went to what the Japanese refer to as the Hara point. Where you breathe yourself into a calm so deep you feel it in your gut  and then you feel the most desirable outcome from there. Which I did.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s not about things working out well when they didn’t seem to be going that way. Though things did work out well.

It’s about watching the mechanic figure out why some signals weren’t firing. Specifically the left turn signal and the running lights. The brakes and right turn signal were copacetic.

It struck me: We’re all creatives now. Every job has a creative aspect to it, some more than others, true, but there’s virtually no escaping creative engagement.

The factory jobs, the rote jobs, they are disappearing. They’re offshoring or digitizing or roboticizing.

This is good as well as demanding.

This past year I’ve been dealing with a businessman who’s been helping an artist friend of his get on her feet. This guy is far more creative in his efforts on her behalf than the vast majority of artists are on the business side of their careers. Or gallery owners for that matter! (Like me.)

I even get miffed at this guy because he’s continually challenging me with suggestions that put me in unfamiliar territory.

We’re all creatives now. This business guy, this mechanic, the waitress who served me artfully this afternoon, John Marshall, parents who are into parenting, you.

If we want a fulfilling life in the new paradigm we have to learn to rely on our fertile imaginative minds to probe possibilities, to get us where we want to be.

Creative engagement is exhausting . . . until we go there daily. Until asking questions and seeking answers becomes a part of our personality continuum.

Grappling with something creatively means teasing out a result when you don’t know how to get there.

It’s a lot of, Let’s try this.  . . . And now let’s try this.

And perhaps paradoxically, it’s thinking like a scientist. No failure is failure, it’s just data. It’s just something you’ve learned that will bring you closer to what your seeking.

We’re all creatives. Experimenting like scientists, figuring out steps that will take us there like engineers, sparking ideas like artists, loving the process like lovers.

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

Click here for the occasional thing from The World Is Freaky Beautiful.


Aspen and Hell

From a gallery sign in Santa Fe. See? There’s nothing that can’t be combined . . . .

In Jewish mystical thought Hell is distance from God; Heaven is closeness to God.

Tomorrow I’ll be at my furthest point West on this trip — since my family is in Southeast Florida I’ll be at my darkest Hell Point also. Each subsequent day will bring me back closer to my friends and family and life there.

Who would have thought Aspen, Colorado could be thought of as Hell? (Metaphorically, Aspenites, metaphorically.) Only me, on this trip.

I get what the Jewish mystics are saying!

On this plane relationships are my highest value. The farther I am from what I value, the more hell crops up in my experience. Even when driving through the ancient ruggedness of New Mexico and the steep verticality of the Colorado mountains.

Fortunately I am only ever one deep meditation away from Love. I am going to that space now . . . .