Monday, March 24, 2014

Wrestling with Recognition

Let me start by saying I get plenty of recognition. The counseling students I've been working with have recognized my efforts and complimented my style. They've confirmed that they are growing and that I'm part of that process. The staff and faculty that I work with have given recognition for my efforts. I've had some photos recognized in different forums. And I've published a book which has received positive reader-recognition. The upcoming topic - my struggle with recognition - and my reality have very little in common. One might think they'd be intimately connected, and I might be inclined to agree. But it isn't working out that way.

Part of me wants recognition, wide-spread recognition. I'm not exactly sure what for, I just know the desire is there. I want my book to sell millions of copies (or at least more than 100). I want my photography to be recognized for the incredible impact it has and for me to be recognized as an artist.

Another part of me wants nothing to do with recognition.
I didn't write the book for other people, although I obviously realized other people would buy/read it when I published it and put it on Amazon. The motivation to write was purely selfish. I wanted to process - through the writing - all the things that had been running through my brain. I had ideas and concepts and quotes and stories. They were so jumbled that they concurrently made perfect sense and no sense. So I needed to record my thoughts to help make sense of the growth I was experiencing. I also wanted to make sure I didn't forget all that was happening - and I knew I would if I didn't write it down. Even now I read back through parts of the book and think, "Did I go through that? Do I remember doing/thinking/feeling that?" Having a record of the most challenging, most rewarding, most tumultuous, most contented time in my life is so important to my continuing growth as a human, as a counselor, and as a follower of Jesus.

I've stopped submitting my photos for judging at the camera club. I like the critique and I like to hear people's thoughts on the images, but I'm not interested in receiving a score. The score itself is just a number. It doesn't help me. The number doesn't indicate what's wrong or right with the image. It doesn't show whether I'm getting better or not. It doesn't even measure the quality of the image, the artistic value nor the story telling aspects of my art. So I'm opting out of the judging process.

I rarely post photos online anymore. I'm not exactly sure why, but it's part of this struggle for recognition.

Throughout this process of simplification and searching for significance, I've had opportunities and challenges to think ahead. Looking to the future, specifically to my death, I ponder the end and what I want that to look like. I don't want a gravestone or even a marker anywhere. I don't want to be buried. I want to be cremated and spread in the Idaho wilderness: mountains, desert, river - I don't care much where. I want to become part of the land again - dust to dust. I want my ashes to nourish future plants and just become part of the landscape.

When I'm remembered, I don't want it to be because there's a memorial or stone some place. I want to be remembered in the hearts of those who love me. And when they die, my memory will die with them. I'm very clear about this desire for anonymity and being forgotten someday.

So then, the wrestling match.
I want recognition; I don't want recogition.
I want praise for my talents; I don't want praise.

I'm confused by which desire is the more important. Am I a humble person who's pride sneaks out? Or am I a prideful person striving to be humble?

I also wonder if maybe I should be pushing myself into discomfort. If I'm comfortable submitting photos without being judged, am I doing myself a disservice? Further, should I be pushing myself professionally? I wonder sometimes if I'm using my disability as an excuse. "Well, of course I'm not doing more - I'm on disability." Should I be working a full time job? A part time job? Should I be doing more?
When I do more, I can push myself for 2 or 3 days in a row. Then I pay the price, physically. I crash and sleep for a really long time to recover. My mind says, "I can do this. I feel great." My body answers, "No you can't. I'm going to shut down for two days."

If I choose not to participate in contests, or choose not to publicize my art, am I limiting myself to my safe little box of comfort? By working part time, teaching here and there, am I doing enough?

I want to make a lasting contribution, to be significant in this world. But then that is contrary to wanting a simple life, an uncomplicated existence. What is the answer?

I don't know - which is exactly why this is a struggle. It's not one I necessarily want to solve or finish. There's not a way to win this internal wrestling match. There is no right answer. I think the struggle, the debate, the questioning, is the most important part. Questions are so much more powerful than answers. Questions hold possibility, curiosity, seeking, potential. Questions expand and flow, create and challenge. Questions are dynamic.

Answers are static, limited and awfully boring sometimes.

I'm sure some who read this will offer recognition. They'll say, "Chris, you're a good writer/photographer/counselor/professor." And I will understand and appreciate the sentiment with which that praise is offered. But I'm not seeking that.

Like I said, I process things through writing. Some of it is in this blog, some in a book, some I write only for myself and is never seen by other eyes. So this post is just me thinking publicly.
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