Recently I was described with two simple words: hippie, heretic. Other than being a wonderful alliteration, these two titles are often avoided by mainstream culture due to the various implications they have. At first I was surprised with such a succinct, presumed assessment of my values and beliefs but after thinking about how titles define and shape our perspective of others and ourselves, I found it more so enthralling. This post is going to be about titles. The simple words we use to fit people within a context we can make sense of and lends to our survival.
Whether you’ve been titled something that has made you feel delighted or something that has caused you to do everything you can to withhold tears, we all know the drastic effects simplistic words can on our mentality. Fascinatingly, the crude categories we fit ourselves into have virtually nothing to do with how we exist in reality. Sometimes we work towards putting up a persona that allows people to join us in somewhat of a fantasy ideal that we’ve set for ourselves and when we convince everyone of this idealistic self, it can result in a nearly euphoric ecstasy. This may even lead to feeling like we genuinely accomplished a grand achievement in altering others perspectives of us. However the relief of being able to ignore that old self who took on other names can bring about an identity crisis if not managed with integrity. These new titles we desire to adorn our superficially revitalized public and personal image need to be thoughtful and, more importantly, analyzed by people we trust and love.
This shared life event of recreating our titles occurs regularly at different time periods for everyone. Probably one of the first times I remember desiring a title to be part of defining me, was in middle school. Not only were there an exorbitant amount of hormones starting to flow through my body, but also it’s a time for many where we start to form narratives of how we want the world to view us. Personally, I wanted to be known as the athletic, intellectual who was capable of achieving anything. Looking back at how I naively set this delusional expectation for myself it ended up sustaining my insecure ego for the following few years. At the time, aspiring for others to see this as a suitable title for me made it incredibly rewarding whenever I’d receive compliments in either of these categories. Reminiscing on those years is an out of focus blur but I can still relate to people that age who are trying desperately to have the appropriate titles attributed to them. I was one of the fortunate minorities to have a title I enjoyed and I know many who aren’t so fortunate. Remember, they have no standing on how we actually need to function in reality.
From a young age we learn to conform within the cultural and social structures around us. As useful as this is for early development, it increasingly seems like people yearn to remove any sort of connection to their family of origin, their once foundational ideals, or even the ways of living well in a location. A classic example of this is when someone who grew up in the church abruptly abandons their Christian title in exchange for what the culture anonymously directed them towards. Instead of worshiping God on Sunday, they are often now oblivious to the new form of worship, which point towards whatever their new, self-satisfying, title may be. Just to clarify, I’m not only referring to the stereotypical party scene that lures countless young people away from more positive experiences, but even now in my twenties, the more ‘enlightened’ lifestyles fill young adults with idealistic aspirations. Of course I fall into the trap of idealism from time to time but I think there are healthy ways to work towards idealism without it transforming your title for an illustrious elitist cause. Anyways, it doesn’t matter what alternative is chosen to replace our early life teachings and titles that accompany it but the reason I think this shift occurs is because it’s easier than genuinely learning what our own tradition has to offer on a deeper level than maybe even our parents taught us.
Immediately some people who have experienced transitions where their titles have significantly changed after rigorous, intentional, and thoughtful analysis may object to the claim that it’s easier. Of course I understand that objection, however, in some situations I’m not sure if an unaffected effort was given without already wanting to change. The thought might even be that by abandoning our original titles to a belief system that allows for perceived growth and a fresh new way people observe the showman we exude could lead to a better life. Again, I know there are genuine reforms in what we believe but in many case I really think it is easier to just entirely move to a new tribe that gives us a fresh title. Even though I’ve observed myself and others change their beliefs in a way that would omit previous titles in exchange for alternative ones, I have to remember our minds will do what they can to survive. If we adopt a new belief system because our older one is not working it might merely be due to the desire to excel in a new community rather than work through the baggage our old one possesses.
This might be a controversial post and one where you think that I’m beyond under qualified to write on but this blog has always been a platform to process thoughts and share with you my personal photography work. I’m always so thankful for those of you who take time to read it and support my image making. Too often it’s easy to mindlessly take people’s support for granted in a way that we aren’t even aware were doing, which is why I perpetually try to let you know how thankful I am for you. Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts on the post and what you think of the photos below from Cold Lake Provincial Park, where I lead a nature photography workshop March 3rd. If you’re interested in attending one of my workshops where I partner with LICA, just let me know because I have one coming up on March 24th!