SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 171: “Do As You Believe.”

“171 days at sea and still no sight of land,” the first mate says as the ship nears its last provisions. And even though the crew’s morale is low, the favoring currents and prevailing winds push the vessel on. Hope is, soon land will appear.

“Hey Richard, you are not a screenwriter, why the theatrics?”

I’m a visual thinker, and the ship at sea parable is the easiest way to express the emotion I face this evening after four hours of socializing with the world around me, and receiving zero interest from anyone to contribute to 365.

First a long drive, then a coffee-house visit, followed be more driving in seeking any form of inspiration. Even considered photographing my television set and calling it a stranger.

Yet, as my leg numbing drive arrives at its fullest height, a voice in my head points me back to a Ralphs Supermarket near my home.

“Why?” I mentally ask myself. “I’ve been there far too often, and usually am greeted with countless, ‘not interested’ responses.”

Gas is almost $5.00 a gallon and with the prospect of wasting way too much of it in aimless sailing, I succeed to my minds prompting and redirect my course to said Ralphs.

Now you have to picture the scene, it nights, the parking lot is dimly lit, an evening chill is setting in and there is this camera yielding dude stalking the parking lot. Would you stop to talk to him at 10:00pm while hurrying to get your weeks groceries? I’ll leave it at that.

Four rejections right off the bat; I’ve got only a few hours until the clock strikes twelve, and if it does, I’m painfully reset back to day one of 365. I’ve promised myself, and you, 365 consecutive days (with leap year, it’s even 366 days), and to miss one day is to blow the challenge.

Here I am, Sunday night, the streets are clearing and I’m starting to sweat bullets. I’m tired, stressed, miss my family, and really do want to respect the boundaries of what I assume is everyone’s desire to end their week.

I’m now bouncing from decline to decline; yet, as moved forward by my earlier mentioned emotional reference of the land seeking ship at sea, I sail forward.

It’s a difficult thing to keep morale up, but with the mission of 365 anchoring me, I cannot allow myself to scuttle the ship.

With a polite smile on his face, another unknown gentleman turns me down, “not tonight.”

No more counting Richard, just start asking everyone, I submit to whatever happens, happens, and at that moment, I turn to my right, seeing a very beautiful and healthy lady, packing a few bags of groceries into her car.

Yea, this is going to work, creepy dude with camera, single lady, at night, in a parking lot. Looks more like abduction to me. But, I’m trashed from the last four hours of wandering, and with a shaking voice, I approach her.

“Hello, My name is Richard, I’m a photographer, and I promise I’m not a creep. I live just around the corner, have a daughter, a wife and am working on a documentary project.”

I tell her, of how long I’ve been wandering this evening, and promise her I am not trying to guilt her into contributing. “I thought I’d just humble up and tell you what is going on with my project tonight,” I emote.

Krista is her name, and how wonderful she is. Without pause, she launches into a set of concerns that are magnificently in tune with the topics of the week; namely, the environment, free will and the perversions of political and corporate greed.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Krista starts, “I’m not bagging on religion, politics, or any right-wing agendas, but I am not happy with what is going on and suggest that everyone take a good look at what, and who they endorse or support.”

Krista is hailing on us all to be aware of the consequences resulting from the decisions of large money mongers, and requests that we take that into account in gauging our actions towards whom we support and how responsible we are in living our lives.

“What is sad,” she tells us with a resolve to her concern, “there is too much money at stake in large companies and political agendas, and yes, it is hard to compete with that… but we all need to do what we can.”

“Like what?”  I ask.

“Don’t get me started.” Krista responds as she jumps into a couple of grand topics, the environment and the FDA.

“Organic food, that such a joke, sure big corporate greed calls it organic Chicken, because they inject it with no hormones. But what the don’t say is what they feed to the Chickens. And what they feed to them is definitely not organic. So in the end, we are still eating food with hormones and chemicals in it.” Krista informs.

“And the chemicals we absorb? The FDA approves Aspartame as a sweetener and we eat it in things we don’t even realize contain it. It’s messing up our seed. I’m not talking about things like worrying about Cancer, it’s beyond Cancer, it’s all the hormones we are all-consuming. I am concerned about the future; the stuff that is going into our bodies is going to mutate us. I’m scared for how the kids of tomorrow will turn out.”

As we talk an SUV pulls in, “That’s my friend, I’m meeting him here for a few minute of business, I’m sure he has a lot to say,” Krista lets me know.

He pulls into the slip next to where we are parked and as he exits his truck, Krista introduces us, “Andy, want to answer a few questions for a blog this guy is doing?”

Without hesitation, Andy is in.

“Tell Andy the questions?” Krista asks.

In replying to advice for the world, Andy shares a point of view, “Organized religion will continue to keep the world in strife, and will eventually be the reason for our demise.”

An atomic bomb of an opening statement, but one that leads to a great conversation regarding the free will of man.

Andy seeds the conversation, “People believe in their families and their beliefs. That is a hard wall to get past.

Look at history, wars, genocide, whether tribal beliefs or cultural differences, it all ties into the retributions of political systems.

At one point I was OK with saying, do what you are going to do, but now I can’t say that anymore. It all affects us now.”

I express that I am active in an organized religion, and propose a counterpoint. One in which we see eye-to-eye. What I propose is a discussion on hypocrisy in posing a question, “Is it wholly the religion, or the acts of the men committing atrocities in the name of religion?”

We talk about this point for a while. Andy is open in his beliefs, “I’m an Agnostic Jew,” he shares. I totally respect his courage as we talk of the unity of man in respecting each other, regardless of religion.

“Corruption is corruption, and in the end I will always stand on the side that shows the most humility and throws the least blame.” I express the Andy.

We nod in agreement on this point. After a long evening of searching, I know why I end up only steps from my home, to have this discussion with Krista and Andy.

Both are evangelists for the freedom of mankind and spokespeople for the betterment of the planet.

My opinion, in the end regardless of faith, orientation, gender or creed, one aspect is universal, we need to look at each other as fellow humans and drop the focus on judging personal beliefs in growing to allow all to worship as they see fit, and to fight to facilitate that freedom.

In fairness to myself, I can’t say organized religion will continue to keep the world in strife, but I can warn that if followed without humility and true love for one another, it probably will be a part in our demise.

Andy states, “At one point I was OK with saying, do what you are going to do, but now I can’t say that anymore. It all affects us now.”

I understand Andy’s worry. It is based upon history, and the results of many a hypocrite. But leaning towards the silver lining of hope, may there come a time when, in our circle of influence, we can at least safely say, “Do as you believe.”

Perhaps then, we can get the critical masses to address other issues, like the planet, humanity and a peaceful future.

I know, “Richard, you are a hopeless optimist!”

I can live with that label, and humbly pass it on in sincerely wishing for others to adopt it. As hard a label as it is to tote, at the end of the day, and perhaps with the right momentum and perspective, we can all do our parts in influencing those around us to carry good works forward. We all have hope buried within. My wish is that we all find it. Good things do come from the smallest of gestures and I will not cease in my claim, the power of one is remarkable.

Krista, Andy, thank you both for your perspectives.