The Operating System

FIELD NOTES: WHAT WE ECHO::Perpetual Creation—Collaborative Momentum

This week Danny and I passed the three month mark of our journey across the United States. Three months in, the goal still centers on journeying outside of our selves. That task complicates itself at every turn, but the motion continues toward new destinations both geographic and creative. The self twists new places into versions of old places to subdue anxiety—looks like X, reminds me of Y. Along this trip I keep catching myself bringing my past into the equation to make myself more comfortable. Yet, what happens when we organize our existence around the opportunities ahead rather than looking back deterministically?
Last week, we were in Tacoma for a film event hosted by the Grand Cinema and their amazing executive director Philip Cowan. The event was for the 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Heading into the event we weren’t sure what to expect from the people we were meeting. All we knew was that they would be talented. In my past, that term could be loaded with selfish connotations—a dozen years of soccer teams has made me worried about talent as a stand-alone descriptor. However, from the first evening in the lobby to IHOP the next morning to screening after screening day after day there was confidence and humbleness hand in hand. I was struck by the profound power that comes from the ability to leave the ego behind.
The whole time, I kept having the joyful thought, “Exit Strata.” What we were creating in Tacoma was in step with what our community here has been talking about and building all these many months. I kept hearing our thoughts echo throughout the event. The event was an authentic experience centered on new art. Every person there was living life and leaving a trail behind. Creative people were meeting, discovering, and sharing.  A community developed based on inspired and inspiring people and creation. I felt at home. It felt like an event of ours. I kept stopping and smiling. I couldn’t have been more proud about the goals that the Exit Strata network fulfills as it becomes a better version of itself, daily.
But that’s still viewing the present through the past. Every day since Tacoma I have been thinking of how to integrate that spirit more fully into my life. I go to bed with it on my mind, wake up with it on my mind. And I think that is a start. As creators we have so much to learn from each other. We are the resources that we need and because of that we have the opportunity to become co-teachers and co-learners. We need to keep building models and platforms to enable the sharing of our knowledge, our expertises. What I am realizing though, this collaboration needs to be the tint in my glasses.
The best piece of advice I received when we were just starting the magazine portion of Exit Strata, “Pick a size, immediately. Then everywhere you walk you can see the dimensions, you can learn how the composition works. Pick a size and use that as a lens.” Recently, I began heeding that advice in terms of community-building. The network that each of you has become a part of with Exit Strata is my frame. Every day now I get to build new relationships with that ideal in mind. What is particularly inspiring to me is how that new outlook can simultaneously impact those relationships, while each new person I meet is able to impact my understanding of what this network can be and do, together. Kafka wrote, “The decisive moment of human development is continually at hand.” I have never been more convinced of that fact.
I am looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning with that thought in my head. I am thankful that tomorrow I will be better at living the model we are all creating. The profound nature of opportunity often overwhelms me—then I breathe deep into my lungs and am filled with the understanding that what lies ahead of each of us can be made into what we desire. There is nothing more life affirming than that thought, every day. Onward.
Art by Danny Madden, words by Benjamin Wiessner.

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