I met the future of America today

I met the future of America today. Technically I’ve met him a number of times, our kids flail around at Tae Kwon Do together. 

But get this — F.J. Sands got up at 5:30 this morning to write. He’s got family. He’s got job. He’s got (a very cool) wife. He’s even got dog . . . Yet last night he got home from work not long before midnight and arose at 5:30 this morning to tackle the page.

Last year he wasn’t a writer. This year he’ll be finishing up his second book.

Harvard researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler speak of the 3 Degrees of Influence in their book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — there’s more to this title if you can believe it, but I’m worn out; you’ll have to click on the link for the rest.

They’re riffing off the 6 Degrees of Separation concept Stanley Milgram popularized in the 1960s with his social connection experiments. (The 6 Degrees of Separation refers to how a person is separated on average by only six connections to any other person.) 

The 3 Degrees of Influence defines how far influence spreads out from one person (on average). Bill Clinton’s goes farther. Mine does not.

The 1st Degree of Influence is direct, it’s to those you know. Friends, family, co-workers, those with whom you have direct relationships.

The 2nd Degree of Influence is once removed. For example, a friend of a friend. You suggest a technique inspired by the Kama Sutra to a friend who suggests it to their friend. Naughty naughty.

The 3rd Degree of Influence goes one step further. You start saying, Hey Hey Hey when you greet your sister on the phone. She adopts it from time to time with her Mom Group. One of those Moms catches the bug and starts using it — then her friend at work picks up on it. 

Now dozens of people you don’t even know can be annoyed by this habit, not just your family.

This 3 Degrees of Influence is as true for bad jokes and good hairstyles as it is for violence and indie films and grievous errors in fashion judgment. 

Influence extends beyond those we know to ghostly others in an extended social network.

Back to F.J. Sands, the future of America. 

Why do I speak of him this way? 

Because that’s what propels us into a more compelling future. Both entrepreneurially and artistically. People who assert their imaginative selves into new projects. Books or businesses. People sparked to tackle something new despite the ongoingness of all the other things they juggle.

I’m fired up by F.J. Sands now. 

Let’s loop back to the 3 Degrees of Influence and see how I fit in. And maybe you as well.

F.J.’s wife’s friend fell in love with a successful writer living in the Florida Keys. When they were visiting his wife’s friend in her new digs F.J. looked around at the writer’s life and thought, Why not me too? 

He’d wanted to be a writer when he was younger but had fallen off the path. F.J. came back from the visit and wrote furiously, with humor and passion. (A thriller.) (I’ll link to it when it becomes available to the public.) 

The first book is with an editor now . . . and F.J. is tearing toward the finish of a second book. 

Now me. 

I’m not sure if I’m technically the 2nd or 3rd Degree of Influence in this chain. Regardless, I’m feeling F.J.’s intensity and it’s fueling my own race to finish a book. 

Here’s the title. Don’t read it aloud without taking a gulp of air first:

Bohemia in Suburbia: 
Oh the creativity and originality outside of urban centers (one guy found traversing America) (in an old van) (that had problems of its own).

Yeah, it’s a long dusty road of a subtitle, but what the hell. 

I’m guessing that someone else might pick up speed on their own writing project when they bump up against my enthusiasm. It could be here in the digital realm or it could be when I’m bouncing around in the three-dimensional world. And they’ll have a writer in Key West they know nothing about to thank.

For you 

Evan Griffith
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Meeting my digital heroes: Meeting Christopher Foster

Puppy . . . oh, and Joanne and Christopher Foster.

While on art road trips I’ve decided to hook up with people I admire digitally whenever the opportunity presents itself. In Colorado this summer I was able to meet 82-year-old blogger Christopher Foster.

(Though his website still claims he’s 81, don’t believe it for a minute!)

When I first heard Christopher Foster’s voice on my voicemail it seemed to encompass the English speaking diaspora. 

Raised in England, with over four decades in Canada and now residing lo these many years in Colorado, it’s understandable that Christopher Foster’s accent would fall somewhere in the Atlantic, neither old world nor new. In his inflection you can hear the blended global reality we’re all living these days. 

Check out his site The Happy Seeker. Read somewhere between 3 and 13 posts . . . . Tell me that’s not a drink from a profoundly deep spring. One that flows unceasingly wise and good humored. 

Don’t you want to drink from those waters as often as you can?! I know I do.

Christopher Foster is a beacon to me. His light — so much farther along the road of knowing than mine — calls me in his direction. His work illumines the path I’m plodding. 

In so many ways Christopher Foster embodies — ensouls! — who I wish to be in this life. Attentive, perceptive, generous, understanding, forgiving, lighthearted.

And this . . . though I mentioned it only paragraphs above, it begs a double emphasis . . . he’s 82-years old! He’s blogging! 

It’s a bit like finding a retired unicyclist taking up motocross. There’s no pining for the ways of yesteryear with him; Christopher is too busy striding into the Internet expression era.

So what is Christopher Foster like in person? 

As humble and thoughtful and emanating pure huggable goodness as you’d expect. Every bit as special is his wife Joanne. 

(My god that woman’s eyes sparkle! She’s got some kind of secret back-door connection to the divine, you just know it.)

Surprisingly given his age, Christopher is a robust walker. He hikes local trails with gusto, through fields and woods, in a land just shy of our craggiest mountains. Once he set out I nearly had to tailgate to keep in his wake. 

There’s a creek running through it, this land he walks. Which makes metaphorical sense. 

When I read Christopher Foster’s work I feel as though I’ve physically emerged from that deep cool spring you pictured above, one likely fed by mountain streams such as the one he visits often in his walks. 

Water is the most kinetic of materials we humans encounter daily. The way it transforms itself, the way it disappears from the surface of our rivers and lakes only to reincarnate as rain, washing us clean . . . 

That’s what I get from Christopher Foster and his work. A feeling of fluidity. A feeling of purification.

He demonstrates again and again that the raw stuff of our life can be transformed by our attentive reflection upon it. Our experiences return to us, rain down on us . . . in generous, cleansing gusts of renewal . . . if we slow way down and listen.

This is what I hear in Christopher Foster’s words: 

That stillness heals. 

Contemplation enriches. 

Connections matter. 

You are the eternal. 

Your unvanquishable spirit soars.


You feel this in his presence. I don’t need to meet Emerson, I’ve met Christopher Foster. I hope you do too. Go to his site. Start anywhere. It will lead you back home.

(To your highest best soul self.)

For you 

Evan Griffith

Meeting my digital heroes
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My polyglot spiritual roots

What I’ve gained from various sources: 

Art — Creation is the thing

Christianity — Love, baby, love

Buddhism — Meditation and attentiveness

Hinduism — Wide-open inclusivity. We are all one. Thou art that! 

Sufism — Soul drunk steeping in the divine Beloved

Science — Healthy skepticism. Prove it to yourself 

Positive Psychology — Emulating what works, works 
(in fact, it works wonders)

Human Potential — Incremental changes over time makes for a much better Evan

New Age — All that has come before is worthy of being reinterpreted and reimagined and recombined

New Thought — Think it, feel it, become it

Oprah — Full throttle enthusiasm for the genius of others just might lead to billionaire-hood

For you 

Evan Griffith
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Buzzing the window pane

The Pancake Nebula

A fly will buzz the same window pane until death.

Do you ever find yourself buzzing the same obstacle over and over? You know what you want, you can see it in your mind, but some super sticky, invisible force seems to keep you in place.

When I am stuck at some point I have to ask myself — am I engaging my full human capacity here? Am I seeking other paths forward? Am I developing new strategies? 

Or am I mindlessly repeating the same intense actions with a little less energy each time?

Am I buzzing the same bright window pane?

For you 

Evan Griffith
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One little thing goes wrong . . .

one of the things my phone does
when the SIM card is working, take oddly artistic selfies . . . 

One little thing goes wrong and my world spins into turmoil. So I think . . . until I bring in some new thinks. 

Six weeks ago on an art trek my phone SIM card freaked out. It couldn’t be accessed — which shut the phone down. It kept rebooting to try to access the SIM card.

Suddenly I was blinded to the world I operated in. My communication system was down. My GPS was down. I was in the middle of an arid desert . . . 

It’s a phone with a large face — my info center when I’m on the road. On these art treks I travel from art destination to art destination. This device is my mobile office. It’s my email and texting communications center. Contacts. Destinations. Research. Mapping. Planning. 

Oh, and it’s my phone. It’s a quaint concept, but I also use it for phone calls.

So . . . everything was down.

This one thing gone wrong threw my existence into high uncertainty. Yet when I subsided I began to think of all the things that go right in my daily life on the road:

  • Tires, inflated and rolling
  • Engine, humming
  • Roof, not leaking
  • Air conditioning (People of the West and Southwest — how ever did you live here before AC?!) 
  • Clothes, affordable, and I didn’t spend weeks making ’em
  • Hat, same thing
  • Sunglasses, they provide instant cloud cover on a cloudless day
  • Messenger bag, a mass production product cleverly designed just for me
  • Tablet, digital version, not the 10 commandments prototype
  • Toilet, flushing, thank you so very much plumbing engineers  
  • Shower working magnificently; that personal, adjustable, temperature modulated rain shower I get to engage in once or twice daily
  • And thank you clean hotel, for popping up in that Utah desolation
  • Food service. No matter where I travel people entice me with their food wares. With big bright road signs even
  • Highways passable and well regulated, with virtually no fear of road banditry. You really don’t want to traverse the country multiple times in a summer if roving packs of desperados abound . . . 

So much going right. If you took 5 minutes, you could list 50 things that are going right at this very minute. Maybe a hundred if you can speed talk.

When something goes awry, it’s helpful to breathe yourself down into an optimal place, the better to figure out how to right the thing gone wrong. Reflecting on the litany of things going right was highly effective for me. It was almost as though fairies had flown in to plunk on their lutes . . . 

For you 

Evan Griffith
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Work harder? I hardly think so

Saw a Work Harder sticker on the back of a truck. I’m going to take that to heart, but in the way that makes sense to me. 

I’ve never once witnessed people who work harder/hardest having the best lives. In my experience it’s the people who make work and life and relationships work best for them that thrive.

Examples abound in your everyday life:

I’ve met immigrants who work hard day jobs and then wash dishes at night and have a third job on the weekends. They work fucking hard. 

Yard workers and sugar cane migrants and roofers and mechanics in open air garages work harder (and sweatier) than anyone else in our era . . . .

How much do you want to live their lives?

So, for me, I’m going to Dream Harder.

The ones I know with good lives — the ones whose lives you might actually want to taste for yourself — are the ones who don’t work harder than anyone else — to the contrary — often they work less than everyone else. 

What they seem to do especially well is to dream concretely. 

They are the ones who are very specific about what they want. 

(And they do all they can to get there.)

(While enjoying the hell out of life along the way.)

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee.


Tom Robbins: A renegade looks at prayer

Confiscated from . . .
Tibetan Peach Pie
By Tom Robbins

Rena was a sweet, sunny, towheaded child, whose life revolved mainly around her family of dolls.

It was a lovely May day two months before my seventh birthday when Rena, age four, was taken to Blowing Rock’s new clinic to have her tonsils removed. 

“She’ll be home in a day or so,” my mother assured me. Rena never came home — except in a pretty little coffin decorated with cherubs, lined in white satin. She’d been administered an overdose of ether.

To this day, when anyone I love leaves home for longer than a few hours, I’m filled with dread that they will not return.

When Mother became pregnant about a month after Rena’s death, she prayed over and over and with much fervor that she’d give birth to twin girls: a single daughter would have invited inevitable comparisons to Rena, and as for another son, I guess one Tommy Rotten was more than enough for one household. The next March, my twin sisters Mary and Marian were born.

It gives one pause, does it not? You needn’t place it in a religious context, we can argue all night about the true identity of its source, but for me, at least, there is no denying the evidence of answered prayer.


How Daniel McClendon went from realist to visionary

This past summer I wandered into Daniel McClendon’s studio gallery curious . . . and emerged electrified. 

It wasn’t just the space. A 105-year old industrial building that he retrofitted as a gallery space on the periphery of Asheville, North Carolina.

It was the work itself. His work is a blast in your face explosion. You feel the life in it even as you’re trying to figure it out.

His story is as good as it gets about reinvention. 

Daniel was a realist for years . . . it came to a halt the way many things do, anemically. He’d lost the love for the work. He could feel he needed to do something different but didn’t know what. Whatever force had been in his art earlier had drained from it.

This impasse led him to quitting painting altogether. The juice wasn’t there anymore. He could no longer continue in the same trajectory.

Three months later, in bed one night, a new vision clutched at him all at once. Just like it did for Einstein, when Einstein gave up.

Here’s how Dan puts it:

“The idea was to just paint the thing itself. Paint only the parts I loved and forget the rest.”

The new work flew out of him. It was so raw and startlingly different from his staid work from before that he kept it hidden from others. But those who stumbled across it were as swept up with its power as I was when I came across it early this summer.

Pieces sold, word got out, the once-realist was now a power expressionist. Now he can’t keep up. He had to winnow down his galleries because sales were clipping along so robustly.

What is it about quitting a thing you love? Why do so many epiphanies come once you’ve stepped away from your obsession? 

It happened to Freeman Dyson when he became pivotal in unifying quantum mechanics and electrodynamics.. It can happen with you. 

This below-the-mind ability we have to tease out a vision worth living seems to require three elements: 

1. An addictive elusive struggle to attain something crucial to you

2. Giving up the struggle

3. Taking time away 
(while your mind sifts sifts sifts in background mode)

. . . . .

On quitting his life work . . . and the gestation period leading up to his insight:

“I don’t think it goes away. It’s in the back of your head. But you’re relaxed about it. All the pressure’s off.”

~ Daniel McClendon

For you 

Evan Griffith

What Creators Do
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee.


Advice for future millionaires

“Give Mommy hugs and kisses. Smiley face. Do now!!”
While I’m giving you advice,
 that’s my son giving me advice in my planner.

I advise all future millionaires to take service work. 

Early on, work in a service industry. Be it waitressing, day labor, retail, as a cabana boy, spraying fragrances at the perfume counter, working in a food truck, whatever, however, learning to be of service to others will serve you well.

Learning how to be of service will aid you in acquiring those future millions. 

Also . . . 

Those of you with a heart, even decades later you will remember what it was like to be on the butt end of exasperation or snootiness. 

In college I had a male friend and a female special friend. This male friend was a loudmouth and a braggart but we liked the guy. Enough anyway. He’d never worked a service job. Sweet scheisse, was he ever a jerkhole to waitresses. 

My female friend had never had a job at all. Though she was inquisitive and cultured — she’d been reared in Europe for a time — her treatment of wait staff bordered on dismissive. It was painful to be in her presence at a restaurant.

But you, future millionaires, with your enlarged by service hearts, you would not for a minute allow yourself to treat others insolently. And the world will be better for it. 

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for a soul spritzer via email, once or twice a month.


What is this power — this power of repetition?

The simplest force in the world is repetition. Repetition is a soul-tunnel into the essence of any endeavor. 

I’m blown away by the people around me who’ve effected real change in their lives over time. And they’ve all done it the same way, by reinforcing their momentum daily.

Some call it walking but not you — you who have walked daily for years on end. You call it spirit movement or walkabout time or connection through motion.

Some call it meditating but not you — you who have meditated every night for years. You who have put in your thousand hours. You call it necessary. You call it your practice.

Some call it giving but not you — you who have contributed generously and charitably over the years. You call it your life work. You call it your calling. You call it healing.

If you do a thing in a certain spirit long enough — repetition with reverence — it becomes primary to your life. It becomes a node for expression of your highest being.

Artists who create daily know this.

Parents who nurture daily live this.

Careers are made by showing up — alert — every day. 

Meaning is made by engaging a thing or a person or an idea often. 

Water tunnels through stone in this manner. Patience overcomes anger this way. Paper beats rock (but not scissors), though I don’t think this process is involved . . . .

. . . . . . .

Anyone living and breathing an ideal every day knows the colossal and astounding accrual that comes from doing a thing repeatedly over time.

It’s like compound interest but better. 

I don’t know what the seven wonders of the world are, but I do know the eighth  compound interest.

~ Baron Rothschild

Never ever ever was a relationship built without repetition.

Never ever ever was something changed in this world without repetition.

Never ever ever was there a worthwhile thing created without repetition.

(Sheesh. There sure is a lot of redundancy in this post . . . )

For you 

Evan Griffith

What creators do 

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