A quiet roar of leaves rattling through thousands of wilderness acres fills the distant air as the lapping water nudges the rocks on the shore by the barely moving lake. A nearby spring-born loon proudly calls out, knowing she is near ready to fly toward the Southern border within weeks as the brisk air turns to ice. A close gathering of loon relatives loudly encourages her as she flops and flutters a Sunday-morning experimental flight.
Glistening deep yellow sun reflects like dancing elves, sparkling and shimmering atop the surface of the water. Black lace; pine tree needles in silhouette frame the scene I love so dearly as I leave my warm little cabin to venture into the chilled air to visit the 140-year-old octagon-shaped porch on the lake. Filled with the sounds of beeping birds, fluttering squirrels, and the tapping little feet of field mice.
Yellow lupines and goldenrod spring up to signal fall as the dappled light makes the apples in the tree behind the kitchen glow orange. Deeply I breathe in the crisp fall air, knowing we’ll soon have to leave this unheated paradise once colder weather hits. I’m rolling the dice that I’ll see enough fall color saturate the mountain in leaves of red before we turn the key on our drive back to Texas.
Fall, my favorite season, is something we’ve never experienced on this little Adirondack island, and barely experienced here in the past. Maybe once, before the kids started school. The call of the school year has always required our return to Austin, but now we’re staying on to experience the fall, along with our newfound roles as empty nesters who are not quite sure how to handle this newly discovered thing called silence.
Memories of my first visit to this million-acre protected park remind me that I was uneasy about coming to this place as our family sold our Lake Wawasee place in Indiana after three generations. I thought that was my favorite place, our summer escape. But rather than resting on tradition alone, my father, troubled by loud Jet Skis and racing boats and fumes of fuel, responded to the movie On Golden Pond, realizing there were still places that remained quiet, without the noise and pollution — much like Wawasee was when our family first settled there. I resisted the breaking of tradition. I didn’t want to leave there to come here, and I was determined not to like it. But by the end of a week here, I discovered something about this place, and about my own heart, that resulted in my never wanting to leave. Summers on this lake have blessed me since 1989.
Cozy, and Stuck
The lesson for me was that I was comfortable and resting on something that was good, but not as good as it once was, and for me never as good as when my great-grandfather fished that motorless lake. I was obstinate, unwilling to leave, determined not to accept the change made by my father — who was selling it hard because he knew we would fall in love as he had. In short, I was cozy and stuck in my ways.
Human nature prevails when comfort sets in. I’m reminded of a cartoon my late friend Courtney Thompson sent me decades ago: a picture of a general whose men are in battle with antiquated weapons. A man is there selling Gatling guns (early machine guns), and the general says, “I don’t have time to see a salesman. Can’t you see I’m in a battle?” The idea is that he was too preoccupied to look at something that would have given him an advantage and allowed him to end the battle much more quickly.
We are a resistant bunch, we human beings. We get stuck. We do things because that’s the way they have always been done. That’s what we think, or believe, because it’s what our fathers and mothers believed, it’s what our grandparents, great-grandparents, and their forefathers believed. All too often we fail to think for ourselves. And if someone were to bring documented proof that what we believe is wrong, we’d still resist it. I’ve often wondered whether, if someone brought indisputable, documented proof that my biblical beliefs were untrue, I’d be able to shift the thinking I’ve spent my life believing.
This COVID-crazed time, this time of unrest and turmoil, this time of information and misinformation, censorship of social media, confusing and conflicting data that can bring distrust of any new information, has helped me realize how easily we comply with suggestions if they’re in the name of safety. This has helped me realize just how fragile our freedom can be. I’m finding my brain scrambling to understand what and who to believe anymore.
What about you?
The good news is that I’m forced to challenge my beliefs, I’m forced to explore other outlooks and opinions, and I no longer trust any of the voices I once relied upon. I can’t believe a single tweet or video that is stated as fact, and I can’t even trust the fact-checkers. It seems everyone has an agenda to sway me one way or another.
I have to think for myself.
I have to challenge everything I’ve believed in the past.
I have to accept that I might have been wrong, or that others I used to believe can no longer hold my trust.
There is a tectonic shift taking place in this world, right before our eyes.
Follow the Incentives
We can no longer sit in comfort and accept what is happening to us. We have to use the brains we’ve been given, and we have to ask “Why?” with every word we read. We have to follow the incentives, follow the money, follow the purpose of every word and statement thrown our way.
It’s uncomfortable, and I’d rather be comfortable, yet we cannot allow our comfort to blind us or we’ll never be comfortable again.
I’m just guessing, but I feel as though things will be seen that we won’t want to believe. We’ll need to decipher, decode, and think for ourselves rather than rely on the comfortable past of our former selves, our family ways of doing things, and maybe even history itself.
Disruption Means Challenge
Like it or not, 2020 has disrupted us. Much like my father dragging us to a place we didn’t think we wanted to go, this disruption will make us challenge every thought and belief we’ve ever had. It’s frightening, but then again, change always is. Yet it’s change that improves life. It is discomfort that creates new levels of comfort, and hard times that make us stronger and better.
And … it’s a time when my faith is amplified as the only thing I can trust.
Every generation in the past has had something… the Great Depression, great wars and conflicts, plagues, civil unrest, and disease. We’re getting our chance to experience a special time in our lives, a time we will share with our grandkids, a time that will enter the history books. It may not be what we would choose, but we should embrace it for the ways we will be reborn.
This may seem like a time to fear. It may seem that the things happening will never end, that life will never be good again, that things might get worse. I can’t trust in man, I can only trust in God, and trust that we’ve been given the ability to think and make decisions for ourselves for a reason.
Like Your Life Depends on It
This will pass, and life will be good again. But it will be different, which is why your willingness to think and ask yourself who and what you believe, is more important than ever. Think like your life depended on it. Use your own brain, be willing to consider differing opinions, be willing to ask yourself why something is true, why you should believe it, what needs to be seen that’s not clearly visible. Ask yourself if you’re stuck or blindly following the way things have always been.
Change what you can change. Speak up about what you see to help others — like me — see a new perspective. You may end up being the one voice they can trust. And know that a freight train of change, of obtuse ideas, of hard-to-believe truths may be put before you that could change something you’ve believed for your entire life.
A Time for Questioning
This isn’t a time for comfort, it’s a time for critical thinking, for questioning everything we believe, for questioning everything others tell us and questioning who we trust to load our brains. It’s also not a time to seek reinforcement of what we already believe, but a time to deeply question ourselves and what we are clinging to from our past..
Answers always lie in our questions.
PS: For 179 days, no days off, I’ve been on social media at noon Eastern, with one single intention … to keep your head in the game. What that means is that I am trying to offer a distraction from the virus and the things causing us to fear. As they say on the airlines, put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. You and I cannot be there for our families and friends if our anxiety is at its peak, if our fear is consuming us, if our immune system is compromised by stress. My daily presence is designed to remind you to breathe, to do things for yourself, to do things that are fun, even though you may feel guilty about having fun. I want you to feed your soul, feed your mind, and feed your body with the good things that will keep you strong and balanced.
I have to avoid the news, I have to avoid doom scrolling, and I have to avoid negative people on social media or in person. I don’t put my head in the sand, but I refuse to fill my brain with hours and hours of negativity. Stress is the number one cause of cancer, of heart disease, and of all disease. You have to protect yourself by getting exercise, eating great food, and avoiding things that depress you, meaning negative information and negative substances. That’s why I’ve opened the vaults and am giving you what I normally charge for each day at noon and three — to help others have a positive distraction, something that some find fun. And if we’re learning, growing, and having fun, we’re strengthening our ability to get through anything placed before us. And we will think more clearly because we’re exercising our brains to discover new things. I’m only offering art. That may not be for you, but find something your heart needs to fill your soul with joy.
In an effort not only to try to save my business, but to help others have a few days of complete escape and a flood of training, I’ve created some live virtual events to teach art to anyone who wants to learn. I’ve leveraged my lifetime of contacts to get the best of the best to teach drawing, painting, and various forms of art, including landscape, plein air, portrait, figure, still life, flowers, and more. It’s the first conference of its kind online, and we have already had about 1,200 people sign up from over 30 countries. It’s going to be monumental. Learn more about it at RealismLive.com.
If you like art and are curious, it’s not a lot of money. The last one I did, a woman attending said she got a four-year art education in five days. She said it was better than art school. Now I can’t make that claim, but you can find out for yourself (or forward this to friends you think might like to learn art). I do have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you attend, but don’t like it by the end of day one, let us know. We will refund 100% of your money, and you will have received day one for free.