When I was younger, I found myself fascinated by the prospect of life after death. I was drawn to miraculous stories of people who had nearly died and come back to tell the tale. The thought that there might be something after this equally comforted and frightened me. My young mind struggled to consolidate these ideas, to figure out what to believe, and to this day I’m not sure I have found the answer.

I’ll admit, in my youth I was far less rational; far less scientific than I am now and I was definitely more impressionable. I think the desire to fit in when I was young drove me to “believe” in what everyone else around me did. But as I grew up, my curiosity grew too, and I began to question the beliefs I once thought were fact.

By the time I was in high school I had amassed a mental archive of “after-life”stories and I noticed a pattern had emerged.  The type of life a person led seemed to dictate how they would describe the afterlife. The religious would see “god,” the spiritual would see family and loved ones, and the scientific would see nothing. Obviously, there were some exceptions but the point I’m getting at here, is that the “afterlife” seemed to be entirely custom order.

Naturally, it begged the question: What if it is? What if in those final milliseconds before the brain goes offline, our perception of time slows to infinity and the events of our lives no longer exist as compartmentalized memories in our minds? What if, in that moment, there became no past, no present, no future, but instead like a brush combining paints to make a new color, a new world was born of all possibilities . Ready to be manipulated, molded, and shaped into the most beautiful mosaic of peace and tranquility. A paradise; a final parting gift before a long journey home.

It seems plausible that in such a chaotic state the minds interpretation of “reality” and the definition thereof is no longer important. That time itself becomes irrelevant; unnecessary. That we unknowingly, spend our lives creating our own made-to-order paradise, feels somehow right to me. Maybe that’s what all the ancient scripts have been trying to describe all along and we have just been too caught up to notice. Maybe the years we’ve spent refining dissonance corrupted the waters of a once crystal clear understanding?

Perhaps it is not for us to know. Perhaps the mechanics of consciousness will never be understood well enough to say for sure but it’s a nice thought none the less. Maybe it is the justice we deserve, good and bad, and maybe “hell” exists there too. Or maybe “there” is nothing at all. Seems all the more reason to enjoy life while it lasts. All the more reason to invest in those you love. All the more reason breathe in the moments you have and bring that paradise to life.

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Imagine for just a moment, that we are not alone. That this vast internet of stars, planets, rocks, dust, and light is just one of many. Each floating in the stillness of something altogether different; unknown. Something otherworldly and unnerving but home once to all. Recognizable, not by shape or touch, but instead by a feeling. Like you’ve been there before.

I often wonder what lies on the other side of the door; the other side of everything. If “here” exists then surely “there” must exist as well, and if that is true then what is in between? What is before? What is after? If it’s true that matter can not be created or destroyed then surely we must live on in some form or another.

There are those who believe that when this life is over, another begins. A paradise for the ambiguous “good” and fire for all the rest. Seems like a cop out to me. The archetype of crowd control on loan from the middle-ages. An invention created to shield the human mind from fear. Doubt. From the responsibility and weight of life and death; the weight of consciousness. After all, if you aren’t the one in control, you can’t be held accountable for a life left un-lived. Monotony matters not to those with second chances and even less when the grass is always greener on the other side.

Imagine, if you will, that this and the world of dreams are one in the same; two sides of the same coin. Imagine that they are two equally valid realities, forever bound to one another, and tied through the ether by the lens in your brain. Each one, entirely isolated from the other physically, but still affected by an echo contained there-in. We call it sleep, but this is just a word we use to describe something we are unable to comprehend. Unable to measure. Unable to predict. The switching of consciousness.

We need the universe to make sense; to be defined. Infinity is all together too much to process. Without borders, How can we find our way home? Does home exist? Without walls, How would we ever feel safe? Infinity is desolate. Infinity is worn. Infinity is frozen. And in a place like that, surely life can not exist. But maybe there is something else?
Maybe at the edge of the universe, where infinity meets eternity, the un-alive are looking down at us, just waiting for their turn to live. Maybe this place we call home is the paradise we seek and we are lucky to be here. Maybe by some mistake of evolution we are just the first form to be aware of it. Likely the only consciousness that has ever seen this place, perhaps the only that ever will. We know something is not quite right but we lack the ability to decipher why or to recognize that this physical plain was only ever meant to be a home for our bodies.

A transition between the here and there, the before and after, and all else in between. We’ve woken up too soon and find ourselves confused and frightened, desperately trying to make sense of something we were never meant to see. Desperately in search of meaning. Of purpose. Where life is just the quantum superposition of matter in macro and might only exist to serve as the fastest route to somewhere; Somewhere less crowded.  Perhaps consciousness is just a light to guide us on our way toward complete entropy and the end of all things.

Many people spend their whole lives in search of answers, of meaning, or the reason behind our existence. But the more I learn, the less I believe there is one, at least none that you can find. I think it is up to us to manifest meaning from within ourselves. To smile in the face of endless infinity, knowing we are no different from it. Nothing stands still, nothing is static, and nothing is within your control, except you. So make the most of it. In the blink of an eye, it’s over, and when it is we say things like:

“They’ve gone to a better place.”
“They’ve gone home.”
“They’ve passed on.”

and maybe we are right. But it’s not heaven or hell or even a place at all, it’s just eternity passing through. On a voyage to find a home in everlast. A home that exists within….us.

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Poem – “A Plague of Nations.”

“A Plague of Nations.”

Profit steers the profiteers,
as they call out for extraction.
No minerals here, just smoke and mirrors,
feeding sheep who crave distraction.

A band of beasts; a sinking ship.
Half fool, half marauder,
with rhetoric to make you sick,
and a right to guns but not clean water.

These profiteers, with prophet fears,
sell a surveillance state of mind.
Piously, they think privacy
is about what you have to hide.

They deny the warming world,
casting science as a foe,
all watch in awe as the icecaps thaw
sinking cities to depths below.

A fading future; a sword and suture,
casting shadows; overlooked.
Like a rolling tide, they travel far & wide
to practice prejudice by the book.

The serpent tongue that licks the air
plants seeds of hate and greed.
From the stage it builds a cage
and blocks the way for those in need.

This mentality; a plague I see,
summons monsters from the past,
and all will cower at their awesome power
to fly a nations flags half mast.

There are no prophets here, just prophet tears,
and a howl in the night.
A heavy loss; the divided cost
of choosing wrong from right.

I watch the sheep, and let out a sigh
as they close doors and dead bolt locks.
The irony that they can’t see?
It’s a wolf that leads the flock.

By Devin Ott
February 5th, 2017

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On a road somewhere the sky is falling. It’s cold and dark. The winter chill outside taps on the window begging for shelter from the storm but it’s all just for show. A dusty thought, tucked away in the back of a cabinet somewhere. It clears off the cobwebs and dares me to open the door. Dares me to close it. Dares me to do nothing.

A dream sits to my right, radiating the entire essence of beauty defined. Focused to a point from the vast cosmic ether, projected as a mortal, but I know better. Cast under spell, I hear whispered words ringing in my ear like notes of a song I’ve heard a thousand times, but never quite like this. We are driving somewhere, anywhere, somehow it doesn’t matter. I am here, we are together, and everything else is just perfect silence.

This road knows me well, but I alone, and seems threatened by my passenger. It was lonely then and sometimes I’d let the cold in just for the company. Perhaps it still is, just in a different way now; a better way. A feeling that by it’s very existence, tells you you’re headed in the right direction. You’re on the right path.

A direction leading to nowhere at all and the only way to know you’ve arrived is by having been to all the places it isn’t. All the nights of white knuckles were meant to be and now pay homage to the mind they helped stitch back together. Piece by piece and thread by thread. I guess freedom is the price you pay for selling yourself.

I never did find what I was looking for, but instead something far better. Something that holds no comparison to any and all I could ever have imagined. There is only us; a light on a lonely road. The winter chill outside, still tapping, only serves as a reminder now; adding value to the heat. The vale is lifted and I finally see, that all the roads I’ve traveled, all paths I’ve walked, existed only for us to meet.

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Poem – “Pixel People.”

“Pixel People.”

I pressed my ear against your chest
and felt the earth shake beneath me.
The ringing I can hear, crawling behind the mirror,
takes pictures like they’re pills; unceasing.

A king; disappearing
to lust or dust or pawn.
Poised and rearing; chasing his tail
as the crowd stands there
cheering him on.

He hears a voice behind the wall
turning cobwebs into rock.
It says he lost the key.
It says she broke the lock.

The painted snow; a moonlight red.
A forge of life there-in.
The buzzing glow is just a show
for stumbling whispers on the wind.

It’s here on the edge, we sink or swim,
watching water on the rise.
Each pseudonym contained within
only serves to advertise

a life of pixel people
pacing hallways in disguise.
They feed the thief a stamped motif;
a smile for prying eyes.

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The Illusion of Perfection.

“The Illusion of Perfection.”

Watch the video here.

Each day my reflection changes, likely not in reality but who knows for certain. Human perception is largely biased. The world is open to interpretation and as a result, the way we see things changes from person to person. Two people who witness the same event, hear the same song, or look at the same picture, will never come away from it with the same understanding because reality it seems, is subjective.

I realize now, that there are errors in my programming; perhaps in everyone’s. Errors that alter the way I see the world, how I see others, and how I see myself. There are days I’m smart and days I’m strong, days I’m ugly and days I’m fat. Some that I’m inadequate, some that I’m everything I want to be, some that I’m brave and some that I’m scared. Scared to forget, scared of being forgotten, and some days I reflect as I truly am: somewhere in between.

On days like today, I can’t tell the difference. The mind in the mirror is beautiful but cunning and it knows there is no truth in our reality, only opinion. Whether we are aware of it or not, we’re always seeking approval in one form or another. We look to others for validation; judging our merits and gauging our worth by reaction alone. From a young age we learn that if you behave a certain way, mom & dad will approve, and if you don’t they won’t. This teaches us how to behave in society, but many people never stop searching for this kind of acceptance. They never learn that image and self-worth are not something given to you, but instead something you create for yourself. I was one of those people.

It started young, when I was a boy. Subconsciously comparing myself to my friends, I’d see how they looked, how they acted, what they’d achieved, and I guess at some point I determined I didn’t measure up. That I wasn’t as smart or talented. That I wasn’t as good looking. I fell in to a pattern of inadequate thinking that, in one form or another, still follows me around to this day.

There was a time when going the gym 6 days a week and dieting was the norm for me. My life was an endless pursuit of what, I thought, came naturally everyone else. I wanted so badly to look like they did. To feel worthy and accepted; to accept myself. I was racing my reflection and never once stopped to think where the finish line was; where I’d be happy with how I looked. Happy with who I was. If there was a road that could take you there, I never found it. The whole mindset seems a paradox to me now. How could the pursuit of some superficial esthetic ever lead to a lasting feeling of self-worth?

It’s a fantasy; an illusion of perfection, and it exists only in print. The mind is a weapon if left unchecked and in a society where sex sells and money talks, human beings are always in season; always on the menu. That’s why it always felt like no matter how strong or thin I got, I still wasn’t satisfied. I always wanted more. The finish line always felt like it was just out of reach because in reality, it didn’t exist.

The way you look is just one part of who you are. I think it’s easy for us to forget that. With the emphasis our society puts on appearance, it’s not surprising that little girls and boys grow up feeling like I did. I hope that if I have kids one day, I’ll be able to instill in them a feeling of self-worth and confidence that is uncompromising, unconditional, and distinct from the world outside.

I hope I can teach them to focus on what they love about themselves and about others, not what they don’t. To find validation not through some else but within themselves. Because the mirror doesn’t show you as you are, only as you think you are, and perception is malleable. Happiness is not a finish line, it’s a mindset, and by learning to love yourself and your imperfections, you can find a lasting happiness that will ripple like a wave to all other parts of your life. You have the power to change how you see yourself and it’s never to late to try. Beauty lives in all of us and you can find it if you want to. All you have to do is look.

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Generation: Anxiety.

“Generation: Anxiety.”

Watch the video Here.

The world is changing. We are more connected with one another than at any other point in human history. Woven in to the digital fabric of the modern age, we are like strands of satin in a vast sheet. Our lives playing out as a sequence of one’s and zero’s, repeating for what will surely be forever, until suddenly it stops.

These days, I find myself equally frightened and humbled by the immense power held between my fingertips. This golden glass; this seeing stone. It connects me to all things past, present, and future and holds the world for ransom. It scares me to think how, in a world so closely connected, it feels like we are more alone than ever. More isolated. More anti-social. More suspicious.

Not long ago, we spent our days working together for survival. We lived in small communities where each person had a defined role; a purpose. But now, in the age of instant access, the global community, we no longer know where we fit in or where we belong. We may have outsmarted the natural order, but in doing so, we’ve discovered that it’s lonely at the top.

We crave a sense of belonging, a feeling of acceptance, and it drives us to invest foolishly in indulgence. A society built on flimsy opinions, with an over-emphasis on the merits of material wealth. We have become little more than cogs in a clock. So fundamentally important and yet, we still just watch the time pass us by. Distracted, over-worked, and under-played, we build handcuffs with our habits and prisons with our networks. We forsake the moment for the hour and forget to live in it. Our attention is split a thousand ways and at any given moment we are bought, sold, upgraded, traded-in, liked, favorited, and forgotten. We are fragmented; incomplete. We are Generation: Anxiety, and we generate our own anxiety.

These are the symptoms of a world where time shines like gold & everyone is greedy, and in a fast-forward existence, who has time to breathe? Who has time to feel? There is always work to do but it’s never work on you. And that’s a big part of the problem. We spend so much time working on the dreams of others just to keep afloat, we forget to chase our own dreams. We forget to work on ourselves. All these things add up to weigh us down. A sea of people, sinking below the surf, left to feel worthless, abandoned, and misunderstood. But there is another way.

Re-focus your mind and breathe-in the moments you have with each other, for they are few and fleeting. Put down your phone and be present. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, but also strong, and strive to treat all beings with respect. Because success in life is not measured in dollars, it’s measured in difference. The difference you make for better or worse in the lives of all things, big or small, smart or dumb, beautiful or ugly.

How we treat each other and how we treat the world, matters. Be kind to yourself and those around you, even if no one is watching because your legacy is not something you can buy or sell. It’s not something you can trade-in, upgrade, or download. It’s not something you can take with you when you go. It’s a gift, given in trust, that lets us know we belong. That we’re not alone. And that feeling, that difference you can make, is something far more valuable than money.

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