Tag Archives: philosophy

Annual Report

As the literary year draws to a close, I am reminded of just how much has changed since my first blog post one year ago today.

I’m glad to say that I’ve not had the time to write nearly as much as I would have liked.
It’s a strange thing to say considering how much I enjoy writing, but I tend to acknowledge the relationship between words written and miles of trail or river experienced as inversely proportional.

While this isn’t strictly true, it should serve as an indication of just how many miles I’ve traveled in the last year. But I’d prefer to qualify those miles traveled with approximate data on three vectors that may better illustrate what was witnessed and experienced in those miles. Since a year ago I was probably doing something similar with investment data, I thought it fitting to focus upon different measures of success to summarize the last four quarters of experiential growth.

Quantitative Performance Summary

This first graph will illustrate the approximate number of  nights annually spent outside throughout a duration of  past seven years and three months. I used a combination of recollection, planning documents (maps) I’d retained, and Facebook photos/videos to reconstruct my memories of various trips throughout the years. This is as scientific as it gets kids. You’ll see that literary year  (LY) 2011-2012 was the most “outside” year on record, with approximately 36 nights spent outside. So far in 2012, we’re off to a great start with 17 nights already accounted for in January and February alone. I project LY 2012-2013 to be a bullish year for “Agorasomnulence” and set new records for mosquito slappage.

Graph two shows approximate figures of photos taken annually over a duration of the last seven years and three months. Figures were determined based upon photographic archives and did not include cell phone photos or photos taken with other people’s cameras. LY 2012-2013 is on target to be the most picture takingest year on record with already 25% of 2011-2012 calendar year captures in the bag. A reliable sampling method has yet to be developed in order to establish correlation between quantity of total image captures and those that are not complete crap and/or awkward gopro images of my own befuddled face.

Using facebook photos and recorded interviews with friends, family and strangers in supermarkets, I have been able to reconstruct approximate head and facial hair values for the past six years and three months. Again, LY 2011-2012 proved to be a record breaking year for both head and facial hair length. In the final days of LY 2011-2012 we saw an emergence of a new “mustache”  category in conjunction with a slight decline in overall facial hair length. Analysts are currently developing new metrics for reporting mustache v.s cheek hair length. Forecasters are unsure if the mustache emergence will be a trend throughout LY 2012-2013 or if it’s growth will be undermined by environmental factors such as  heat and ridicule.

*High Five counts were not available at the time of this writing. Initial projections indicate a statistical increase, but causation cannot be determined due to an unusually high occurrence of people with more than two hands represented in the data set.

Qualitative Summary

The cliche simile of comparing life to a roller-coaster belies the complexity of existence. Days, and by extension lives are seldom either exclusively good or bad… up or down. Everyone knows this, yet we perpetuate the colloquialism.
One of my favorite ideas to share as a counter point is that we’re all just extracting particles of existence from waves of probability. The idea, that I’m fairly certain I stole directly from Rob Bryanton, is a freeing one.
The selections we make everyday when choosing our own pocketfull of existence particles are by definition products of compromise. We trade the ideal for a reality of consequence each time we reach into the flotsam of probability and  make a choice. And while our ideal future is rarely bobbing on the surface like a cork, the process of reaching deeper into the froth is one that forces us to get our feet wet. Because while at some time or another we’ve all been lucky enough for our ideal to wash up at our feet like so many sand dollars, most of what is worth having requires wading eye deep in order to see it, much less reach it.

The metaphor of existence and probability as ocean waves sort of got away from me; the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve traded a lot for the amazing year I’ve had. Where I’ve gained friends and fellow travelers in new experiences I’ve missed time with loved ones and being there for many major events in my friend’s lives. For every mile of beautiful river I’ve floated, or mountain landscape I’ve photographed, I’ve missed floating from bar to bar with some of my best pals and cheesing with them shoulder-to-shoulder. And for every transformational experience with wildlife that I’ve been privileged enough to see, I’ve missed the chance to share it with two of my best friends, my parents.

Yet sometimes no matter how deep we dive, the reality for which we’re searching is not a probability that exists within this universe. Becoming comfortable with this idea is what makes us comfortable with ourselves and our choices; but deciding to embrace the discomfort makes us value the things that are not quantum…it makes us value the things that we cannot incorporate into all possible places in all possible times of our lives… that which is finite, yet always immeasurable…that which we share with those who’s feet get wet alongside our own…or our mustaches…only time will tell.


Fleur de sel

Clues were scarce.
As I scanned through the hundreds of pictures and videos with the tiny left-right arrows, there were only a few hints at who the camera’s owner might be. The face at the end of an outstretched arm, framing itself from a distance was that of a young sandy haired man. The first few photos appeared to be of a military academy graduation, but my knowledge of the armed services did not equip me with the ability to identify the branch. The last few photos, hauntingly,  showed the beach along the great Salt Lake where I’d found it. Snapped just moments before I’d arrived there with my friends Matt and Mark to test whether the rumors of supreme buoyancy were true, those pictures chronicled a similar experiment shared between people I suspected would always be strangers to me.

The Great Salt Lake Sunset

Matt and Mark on The Great Salt Lake at Sunset- Photo By Clinton Begley

It was day thirteen going on fourteen of a vacation across the American west on July 31st, 2009 and I was due to fly thirteen-hundred miles back to the Midwest the following day. A week earlier, while descending 3200 feet from Stony Indian pass in Glacier National Park my own point-and-shoot camera had slipped from my hands and exploded like a soda can full of glitter upon a slab of granite at my feet.

Granite :1 | Camera: 0

Though I felt blessed holding it’s cosmically bequeathed replacement in my hands, I couldn’t help but sympathize with the unknown smiles captured in each photo I flipped through on it’s tiny screen.

It was obvious that what I held in my hands was a chronicle of a summer of celebration. Over 200 pictures and videos of travels beginning with a graduation. Family trips. Exploration. Memories.

My search for the camera’s owner started logically and simply. A call to the Antelope Island headquarters yielded no reports of a lost camera. Once I returned home, I reviewed the catalog of pictures on my computer and meticulously poured over the images looking for clues. No license plates, no diploma pictures. There was a brief moment of hope when I spotted a last name on the front of some BDU’s worn by what appeared to be the owner’s father. But without a first name, there was no way to know for sure. I googled phrases like ” lost my camera at the great salt+lake” and “lost camera at antelope+island”  I signed up on a couple of lost camera websites and shared salient points about the details of the camera’s discovery in hopes that the owner would go-a-googling too. Although a year and a half passed without a clue surfacing, I’d stubbornly resolved to some-day find the owner. Over the past few months, as I’ve prepared to embark on another journey, the camera resurfaced amongst my belongings. At last, begrudgingly, I resigned myself to put it to use.

A quick visit to ebay yielded a new battery and charger for slightly more than the cost of postage. Upon the arrival of my new accessories, I decided to browse the photos one last time before deleting them forever and claiming the camera as my own with which to capture my own archive of travels. In this last viewing, something new caught my eye. A box, mostly out of frame, upon a table at what looked to be a graduation dinner.

My fingers moved fast: Right Click>Open With> Photoshop CS3

As the pixelated image of the box at the table’s edge filled the screen, I realized I was within reach of finding the camera’s owner. It was a Josten’s box. Probably containing a class ring, or graduation announcement or other such milestone marking memorabilia, the box was exactly the clue I’d been looking for to link all the pieces together. Visible barely within frame was part of a shipping label, the most important parts: Last name. Zip code.
It was enough to deduce the graduating academy.

Within moments I was on the phone speaking consecutively with several employees of Josten’s customer service department as I was put on hold and transferred up the chain of command after each before them had been regaled with a story of my attempt to reunite a 2009 Colorado Springs Air Force Academy graduate with his camera, and how I’d come to posses it. Less than 45 minutes after an abridged account of the whole saga had been left on customer service manager “Dawn’s” voice mail, I received a phone call from an incredulous and appreciative guy now living in Logan, Utah.

Salt Lake Horizon Photo By Clinton Begley

As Above So Below on The Great Salt Lake - Photo By Clinton Begley

I just returned home from the post office a few moments ago, shipping receipt in hand. It would be easy for me to concede that this receipt is all I have to show for my hours of playing Horatio Caine and the year of self restraint that kept me from deleting the pictures outright and hawking the camera on ebay. But in truth, I’ve been given an opportunity to appreciate a perspective wholly unique to the clockwork of the universe.

Dozens of times throughout my life I’ve received the metaphorical phone call from a Josten’s employee informing me that someone found my camera and wanted to return it. I’ve always passively accepted the gifts and blessings handed to me without much understanding of the intricacies and details that needed to exist in order for that final connection to be made. I’ve always trusted that what had fallen into my lap had done so for a reason, and I’ve accepted it without questioning the myriad factors required to get it there. What strikes me now is that over the year or so of periodically holding out hope that I’d find the camera’s owner, I never once felt like I was on a mission to execute some higher purpose.  After-all, it’s just a camera… not a kidney.

Truth be told, my motives were mostly selfish. I enjoyed the puzzle of it… the mystery to be solved. Yet in the end, something wholly implausible yet altogether positive resulted for a guy in Utah who had but to answer the phone and recieve. Not to wrap this whole thing up into a cute and quotable bundle, but it really makes me pause to consider what blessings each of us are blindly and unflatteringly executing everyday by indulging what motivates us in the ways we were created to be.