Etc.

Etc.
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“The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.” — Terence McKenna

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In my multi-year plan to transform lifestyle and focus, 2019 is the year designated for returning to the work place, an effort I’m now coming back to after a summer spent helping friends and family move to the area. Before diving back in, I thought I’d share some of the teachings that have been running through my mind as I peruse the job market. After stepping away for a few years from a lengthy career in healthcare project/program management, I now confront the tricky question that comes to many after awakening; how to reconnect to the working world from a very different state of mind.

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Joseph Campbell
"The Power of Myth"
"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be....People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."

Dr. Julia Mossbridge
"Feeling Stuck? Here's An Exercise To Help You Discover Your Life's Purpose"
"Successfully bringing your gifts into the world has been called self-actualization by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who also emphasized the importance of self-transcendence...All intelligent and reasonably sane people, as long as they have their basic needs met, have the desire to achieve both self-actualization and self-transcendence. To do both is to pursue your calling...pursuing your calling is not logical—it's experimental. As a scientist, I see it as deeply scientific."
Ram Dass
"Discovering Your True Work Path"
"Many, many years ago, many incarnations back when I was a professor at Harvard, I used to run a course called “Career Decision Making.” It was interesting to start to lead with your wish list of how you would like to live, how you would like to serve, and then start to tune very, very slowly. If you have that option, you’ve got to be ready to fall on your face and make mistakes. That’s a very important part of this game of hearing your uniqueness. Because what you listen to until your mind is really clear is always colored by all these kinds of attitudes, prejudices, cultural preferences and so on."
Eckhart Tolle
"How Can I Find Work That Will Give Me Joy?"

"If you come into alignment with the present moment….there is an added dimension of aliveness that comes in….And it is often then that change comes into your life, when you align with the present moment instead of trying to get away from it….. You are so aligned that actually Power begins to flow through; that's why I call it the Power of Now. It is the Power of Life itself. And gradually the Universe, or Life, notices that you are in a different state of consciousness. And often it is then that change comes into your life, either through a chance event or chance encounter or sudden idea or realization…to fulfill your purpose on this planet and in this form which is to be a vehicle for consciousness to come into this world."
Alan Watts
"What If Money Was No Object?"
"What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?...If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You'll be doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living - that is, to go on doing things you don't like doing. Which is stupid!...And after all, if you do really like what you're doing… you can eventually become a master of it - it's the only way to become a master of something, is to be really 'with it'… But it's absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don't like, in order to go on spending on things you don’t like, doing things you don't like…it's all retch and no vomit, it never gets there."
Rupert Spira
"What Is The Right Job To Do?"
"It's natural ... to want to use the body-mind in the service of this love and understanding. For so long, the body-mind has been used in the service of the ego, trying to fulfill its impossible demands and fears. Now the ego is no longer in place, or at least is largely diminished and in its place - love, peace and understanding is in charge, is wanting to be expressed. And your body-mind is what you have been given to express that love and understanding, to share it, to bring it out into the world. So use your body-mind for that purpose. In relationships, in activities, in employment…"

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<p id="walk-light">"...Walk Through The Light..."</p>

“…Walk Through The Light…”

I just took a short road trip and as happens now that my blog is up and running, the outing brought me into contact with people who – surprise! – have questions about what it was like to experience an awakening. Though I enjoy sharing my experiences, I’m equally fascinated by what it is that’s bringing each person to the point of asking such questions, especially those who can’t quite put their finger on what it is that’s calling to them. I also enjoy how these conversations re-ignite the spark of wonder permanently embedded into my psyche by what the awakening revealed.

On the way home I got to hang out for a few hours in the Seattle airport and between people watching and scrolling through the daily headlines, I was reminded that billions of fellow humans are very much caught up in the ‘separate self’ part of their story. Some portion of me relishes living during a time when a noticeable wave of change appears to be moving through our collective awareness, watching with a delicious sense of anticipation as other minds begin to pick up the same questions I’ve just made my way through for I know how much mind-blowing astonishment lies just around the corner for them. (As Ram Dass would say, “yummy, yummy, yummy!”) But on the days when I get jazzed about what I’ve already experienced, I also feel a deep sense of eagerness to get on with the awakening already! It just so happened that as these thoughts resurfaced again a few days ago, I was chilling to Vocal from Madrugada and realized the lyrics were reflecting my frame of mind perfectly. Clearly, the collective consciousness speaks through many voices.

click to listen

Vocal

You better run, you better run
You better not wait too long
You better run, you better run
You better run for you have a heart
So let’s start, so let’s start
So let’s start, tear it all apart
You better run, you better run
You better run for you have a heart

Well, oh, well, oh, you know it’s only so much I can take
I buried my head in that pillow for a million days
So, oh, oh well, I’m sorry but I do not care to wait
Dare not walk through the light
Dare not walk through the light

Your vision’s traveled far today
So why don’t you run away
Your vision’s traveled far today
Like in the times when you say
I have a cry, I have a cry, and I will not be contained
I have a cry, I have a cry, and I will not be contained, no

Oh well, oh you know it is only so much I can take
Buried my head in that pillow a million days oh, oh
Oh well, I’m sorry but I do not care to wait
Oh, dare not walk through the light
Dare not walk through the light, oh

top image: Grant Ritchie

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Glas

 

Glas   by   Aeon Video

Blown glass is one of my favorite forms of art. In this Oscar-winning documentary short, jazz music and 1950’s film are combined to contrast the art of handmade crystal with the machine production of glass bottles.


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Wrapping up this round of posts on the arts with a few more, beginning with these short video clips in which six teachers share their perspectives on the role of art and the artist in society. Teachings of this type have deeply informed my mindful journey back into the world of form and have helped me to glimpse the larger human story embedded in all works of art and creation.

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Terence McKenna
'Art & Artists'
"I have great hope now for art produced by the interaction of human beings and computers."
Deepak Chopra
'The Role of the Artist in Society' (excerpts from the documentary 'Mythic Journeys')
"The artist is the social conscience of a society."
Dr. Carol Becker
'Art's Role in Society'

"Society has to be able to observe itself … and what allows a society to do that are the producers of art and culture"
Eckhart Tolle
'The Source Of All Creativity'

"But there is a vaster, much vaster intelligence in every human being that is non-conceptual, not words and concepts. You can't analyze it but everybody has that within, potentially, and I believe that is the source of creativity.."
Jordan Peterson
'Why You Need Art in Your Life'

"A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent."

Rupert Spira
"'Why Make Art?'
"The purpose of art is to take the senses on a journey back to the source of perception, which is pure awareness."

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Gaming Music Gallery

To wrap up this first round of posts on the art of computer gaming, here’s a small gallery of soundtracks that demonstrate not only the range of musical styles found in gaming but some of the best work being done in the industry. For music that’s emotive with dashes of energy, check out Journey or The Unfinished Swan. Ori and the Blind Forest reminds me more of a Studio Ghibli or Disney soundtrack with its range, large sound and sweeping movements. The smaller and charming music from DVA is anything but routine and invites multiple listens whereas the soundtracks for Ibb & Obb and Hohokum are the type of meditative electronica that makes for a chill gaming session – or a good work session when playing in the background while blogging (true story – listening to Hohokum at this very moment). The images below link to freebies offered on Youtube for your listening pleasure;  please consider supporting the artists of any of these creations you want to enjoy repeatedly. :)

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Gaming Art Gallery

It seems only fair to share some samples of the gorgeous computer generated art I was raving about in the previous post. Whether it’s a photo-real moonlit beach or a stage full of wooden marionette puppets, these beautiful digital environments practically beg to be explored and enjoyed.

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<p id="on-gaming">On Gaming</p>

On Gaming

Appreciating The Art & Peaceful Play Of Computer Gaming

Would you like to know the – tenth, let’s say tenth – thing I realized right after awakening? Within a few minutes, literally, I recognized that computer gaming would never again hold for me the same importance that it had until that moment. This thought brought a feeling of loss because I lloooooove me some computer gaming, so much so that in 2016 I spent a considerable number of my pennies on a computer hardware upgrade (which I actually took pics of in true geek fashion) so I could jump onboard the VR (virtual reality) bandwagon. My super happy plan in late-2016 was to finish a project management contract and take a 3-month break from work to slip off the planet into the worlds of cyberspace. Then the awakening happened and all those plans ceased to exist.

After awakening and then spending months pushing through my outdated notions of what it means to be spiritual, I came to point where I recognized that my next challenge would be to come back to the world without getting lost in it. Though I was no longer clear on what specific work I’d be doing in the future, I was clear in my understanding that I should not withdraw from the material ‘noise’ of the world but should engage with it on a creative level. I felt called to resurrect my longstanding and long-neglected interest in artistic creation and to marry that with the skills I had acquired professionally over the years and see what happened. And if this approach seems a little cavalier, blame that on the spiritual teachers who encouraged me to indulge in such recklessness(!).

It turns out that many who awaken are left facing the challenge of finding a new purpose in life, one that feels more true to the newly revealed self. In response to those asking for help in finding this purpose, many teachers advise two things – patience and engaging in the act of creating. Patience makes the time for a practice to develop, bringing the stillness that carries insight. Acts of imagination and creation hook us into the mainline of Source consciousness, the wellspring of all inspiration. Whether through singing, painting, writing – any act of creating is recommended as a way to help quiet the egoic mind and invite inspiration and insight; I’ll share some of these teachings in the next gallery.

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What happens to our sense of ‘me’ after death? Does our consciousness reincarnate in another form to live another life? How should we prepare for our death – and what does that even mean? Insights of the type shared by these six teachers in this video gallery helped me discover a new perspective from which to grapple with such questions about the transformation that is death.

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Alan Watts
"A Happy Death"
In this 8-min excerpt from one of his many lectures, Alan invites us to embrace the other half of the natural rhythm that is death.

"You can only die well if you understand this system of waves… that you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life. These are just two sides of you because 'you' is the total wave. See, you can't have half a wave. Nobody ever saw waves which just had crests and no troughs. So you can't have half a human being who is born but doesn't die; half a thing. That would only be half a thing."

Shakti Maggi
"Nothing Dies, The Endless Kaleidoscope"
Though the video quality is less than ideal, Shakti Maggi's concepts on death and 'reincarnation' (my term, not hers) come through with the loving clarity that is her hallmark in this short 4-min. video.

"The body, it is simply a movement of energy arising from the stillness of your being …[during death, this movement] will be simply receding back into stillness."
Adyashanti
"Death: The Essential Teachings"
In this 5-min. video, Adyashanti describes how the process of aging can lead to the wisdom and freedom of letting go.

"But certainly, enlightenment is absolutely intrinsically linked with death. There is no deep lasting liberation without death, without dying before you die, without the psychological self giving way. They're intimately linked; you don't get one without the other. They're absolutely linked together."
Rupert Spira
"What Happens to Awareness After Death"
Rupert explains why we experience different states of awareness and offers a description of 'reincarnation' (my term, not his).

"Remember, the body is an appearance in the mind. So when the body dies, just a particular localization of consciousness disperses… Consciousness doesn’t dissolve."

Terence McKenna
"Life And Death"

A 6-min lecture snippet in which Terence comments on the origins of the body and exploring the after-death space with psychedelics.

"So I think what biology is, is the intrusion into 3-dimensional space and time of hyper-dimensional objects. And the other clue to that, that seems an argument for it, is that we do have this thing called 'the mind' but we can't find it anywhere. It doesn't seem to be anywhere… [at death] I think probably these objects retract back into hyperspace - higher space ... we clothe ourselves in matter but we are not matter and so to actually complete a human cycle of existence, you have to go into death. It's where you came from..."
Eckhart Tolle
"What Happens At The Time Of Death?"
In this short excerpt from an audience Q&A session, Eckhart talks about the transformation consciousness will face after the body's end.

"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal ultimately exists….. Beyond the appearance on the level of form, which is the only level where death exists, it is a transition from one form into another form or from one form into formlessness. That is what death is, no more than that. Nothing real dies…. It's a transmutation of form."

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A gallery of images painted by C.G. Jung into the original Red Book. Click on the images to see text and notes from Jung and the book’s editor, Sonu Shamdasani.

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Calling The [Psychedelic] Others

 

Calling the Others  by  Simon Haiduk

Of the numerous ‘psychedelic’ videos I’ve seen, this Vimeo short has one of the better depictions of the hallucinatory effects observed in the natural world when under the influence of psychotropics (per my experience :))
Calling the psychedelic Others!”


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The Crossing by Yann Tiersen

 

The Crossing  by  Yann Tiersen

Hold my hand, let’s take the boat
Where you go, we all go
You will keep us warm inside, across the sea, all through our lives
Don’t be scared, just hold my hand

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Art From The Ancient Egyptians

Though we often imagine ancient cultures as being populated by ‘primitive’ peoples, the art and temples of ancient Egypt (5,000 BCE – 400 AD) reveal a civilization with a far more advanced understanding of the material and spiritual world. The symbolic language of the Egyptians carried layers of meaning, the deepest of which was only revealed to graduates of Egypt’s famous mystery schools, during which psychotropic plants – likely mandrake and blue lotus – were used to unlock the deepest secrets of their sacred science.

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Animations of Unseeable Biology

 

Animations of Unseeable Biology  by  Drew Berry

After this post about the amazing form that is the human body, I felt like sharing this example of new computer-generated animations that accurately depict functions of the human cell at the molecular level. More of Drew Berry’s stunning work can be found on the WEHIMovie YouTube channel.


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Ayahuasca Serpents

Ayahuasca Serpents  by  TAS Visuals

While pulling together the ayahuasca gallery, I sidetracked numerous times into the vast trove of digital art inspired by psychotropic plants. This short video, in which the ayahuasca serpent theme makes an appearance, is a trippy example. Find more psychedelic clips from TAS Visuals on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.


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Art Inspired by Ayahuasca

Experienced psychonauts assert that specific psychotropics (LSD, psilocybin, cannabis, etc.) provide access to specific inner spaces or ‘dimensions’. As odd as the notion may sound, it’s not quite so hard to believe when viewing the work of artists who’ve encountered the ayahuasca brew. Not only do their complex and colorful images give the uninitiated a peek into the ayahuasca experience but they also make clear – in beautiful details! – the striking similarities among the visions of many people. According to these paintings (and numerous verbal accounts), ayahuasca opens the door to a realm of tropical wilderness full of wise serpents, jungle cat guides, sacred plants, ancient trees, vivid colors and – for many – a Mother Gaia archetype. Here are a few examples of ‘ayahuasca art’ from two widely known artists, Pablo Cesar Amaringo and Anderson Debernardi.

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Fox and The Whale

 

Fox And The Whale  by  Robin Joseph

The Universe helped me find the perfect first video for a blog about awakening. It’s all here; dreams and journeys and whale song.


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<p id="glossary">Glossary</p>

Glossary

Introducing The Vocabulary Of Awakening

The language of the non-dual, non-path pathway had me reaching for the dictionary a number of times; let me save you some clicking. A few of these terms were just new to me; some seem to be taking on new meanings with new people – awakening, for example – leaving plenty of room for crossed wires and confusion. Hopefully I can help clarify things by providing my (working) definitions of some of the more esoteric terms used on this blog.

  • Esoteric – … just kidding.
  • Awakened -one who has experienced Source consciousness (God, Allah, One Mind…) and the true nature of ‘self’ by achieving a state of consciousness in which thinking ceases and consciousness and physical form separate. The awakened state can be achieved gradually or suddenly. I was awakened but do not yet live ‘awake’ but ‘aware’ and am now in the process of awakening – understanding how to live as Source consciousness.
  • Awakening – the process by which the awakened person cultivates an understanding of the awakened state and begins integrating the new understanding into their life. I think of myself as awakened and awakening but not enlightened.
  • Enlightened – one who lives in a state of grace, a state of ‘awake’, ‘present’, or ‘in the now’; the Dalai Lama.
  • Gnosis – from the Greek noesis; refers to inner wisdom, direct knowing, subjective understanding. Example: I experienced the gnosis…   …then came the gnosis…  I would also call it ‘a remembering’; so far, perceiving a ‘truth’ when in an altered or meditative state feels like recovering a memory (an amazing feeling!).
  • Hallucinogenic – causing hallucinations, an experience involving the perception of something that is not present – a mirage, chimera, fantasy.

  • Mystic – a person who seeks, by contemplation and self-surrender, to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect” is the Oxford definition and something along these lines would certainly have come to my mind in the past. Then I heard mention of another definition – I believe from Dr. Mossbridge – that I found intriguing; from Gaia:
    1.  You value experiences above all else – Mystics tend to steer clear of strict doctrines and principles. Because of their innate intuition, they have a high level of trust in their own morality and inner self. While they are driven to connect with the ultimate reality, they feel it must be on a deeply personal basis that can only achieved through their own experiences. Mystics still turn to others for perspective and opinions, however, these will not be their main and only source of truth.
    2. You question existence – Why am I here? Why are we all here? These are common questions that haunt a Mystic’s mind. While Mystics have the ability to see the connected strings behind every action, it does not mean that they are able to fully comprehend how the universe works and why. Because of their heightened senses, Mystics have a natural curiosity about the physical and spiritual world.
    3. You are comfortable with uncertainty – Mystics understand that there is a plan behind Every Action In The Universe, and therefore trust that every action has purpose, even if they don’t know what the next moment will bring. Mystics also trust in themselves and their connection to the universe that they will be able to interpret any signs and act accordingly. While they are still naturally curious, Mystics have no driving desire to force their future.
    4. You value intuition – Mystics rely on knowledge, language and physical senses the same as others do. However, their intuitive perceptions offer a deeper form of insight. Mystics trust in their own intuition and value similar intuitive traits in others.
    5. You are uncomfortable with spiritual hierarchies – Tenuous rituals or traditions have no place in the world of spirituality for Mystics. They do not believe that there is only one path or correct way to experience divinity. While not everyone can experience the ultimate reality, Mystics understand that every person has a unique and impenetrable perception of life, and therefore the ability to experience a unique divinity to some extent.
    6. You have your own set of rules – Mystics feel a connection to every living thing and therefore are able to look beyond what may be socially accepted. Mystics have an innate trust in their own morality and intuition and are guided by their experience, rather than leaders or society. This can often make them spiritual or even political rebels.
    7. You value internal growth – To Mystics, rituals and traditions are meant to trigger internal insight and transformation, not to appease a higher power. This is another reason why Mystics often feel uncomfortable with structured religions. Mystics feel that personal growth toward the universe’s ultimate plan must come from within. It cannot be dictated or ordered. Mystics feel a responsibility to help others to find their way, however, they cannot tell them what is right and wrong.
    8. You believe you are a conduit for power, not the source – Mystics possess an understanding that every living thing must come and go, and that in the grand scheme, they are simply one wave in an ocean. Because of their connection with everyone and everything, Mystics are often humble and more concerned with understanding and emotion than with power. They see their insights into the universe as a borrowed gift – bestowed upon them by something greater, but ultimately temporary.
    9. You believe love is the source of life – Similar to No. 8, Mystics believe that love powers everything. The people and experiences that we love in our own lives are merely a small reflection of a larger, all-encompassing love. Love is not something that originates in you, rather it is something that flows through you and every other being.
    10. You don’t know everything – And you don’t think you know everything. Mystics acknowledge that the universe is infinite and mysterious and is far too complex for the human mind to fully comprehend. They don’t know everything and they know they don’t know everything. Mystics enjoy reaching out, learning new things and hearing new perspectives. They trust in the universe’s plan and see their journey as one of understanding, not preaching.
  • Noetic Sciences –  a term from the field of consciousness studies; ION’s definition:
    ~ noetic: From the Greek noēsis / noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, or subjective understanding.
    ~ science: Systems of acquiring knowledge that use observation, experimentation, and replication to describe and explain natural phenomena.
    ~ noetic sciences: A multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experiences.
  • Non-path pathway – Peter Russell posted this on ‘the path of no-path‘ (SAND). He describes the practice of doing nothing, of following no practice, stopping everything and just being. This is a definition of the moment in which one steps off every path into just a state of pure awareness.The other definition describes the practices by which a person learns to achieve a state of pure awareness through using wisdoms from any tradition(s) as a consequence of understanding a single consciousness is generating all spiritual paths and so all paths will lead to the same center.
  • Psychedelic – from Greek words meaning ‘mind revealing’, refers to internal perceptions induced by altered states of consciousness. Psychedelic hallucinations are those experienced within the mind only, often brought on by ingesting a psychotropic substance.
  • Psychonaut – “from Greek terms ‘psyche’ (soul/spirit/mind) and ‘nautes’ (sailor/navigator); refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjectively experienced effects of “altered” or non-ordinary states of consciousness as well as to a research paradigm in which the user voluntarily immerses themselves into an altered state, generally considered to be inaccessible via everyday means. This is typically done in order to explore the boundaries and depths of human conscious experience (including the subconscious)”, per this definition is from the excellent resource, PsychonautWiki.org
  • Psychotropic – affecting mental activity, behavior or perception.
  • Shaman – “a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world” per Wikipedia. And here’s what a shaman has to say: “shamanism is the art and science of engaging with the forces of Nature, in its physical and non-physical forms, beyond the limits of linear time and space in order to affect the desired changes in the life experience of the beings who are asking for this service.”
  • Spiritual Duality – a belief that God and that which God creates are distinct, separate but connected through spiritual bonds.
  • Spiritual Nonduality – a single consciousness (Brahman, Source, One Mind, God…) is the source of all; all form, energy, thought, perception – all comes from and goes back to a Source consciousness. Wikipedia provides a number of illustrations.
  • Teacher – one who enables the student to discover their own true nature.

image: christitzeimaging.com/shutterstock.com

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<p id="credits">Credits</p>

Credits

A “Thank You” To Everyone Helping Me Construct This Blog

If you had told me a year ago that I would need to learn all about blogging software, I probably would have emitted a series of whimpers while slowly collapsing into a pool of melancholy. (Like my cat does when I tell him I will NOT be filling up the food bowl for the third time today … lots of drama.) After years of intermittently working with homegrown intranets, designed-by-committee webpages and complex commercial products, website work had become a task I completed but did not usually enjoy.

So when, during the summer of 2017, I somehow decided that a blog would be my next adventure, I was both looking forward to the creating but dreaded the thought of tackling yet another learning curve for the new software. Turns out, all my worries were for naught; a user referral prompted me to select WordPress as my platform and the rest has been pretty smooth sailing. The WordPress application isn’t perfect but it is rich in features and largely intuitive in design (such things exist!!?). Perhaps even more importantly, the user community is large and generous. If there’s any functionality I can’t figure out, a quick search reveals a dozen solid sources of information, many with video instruction. If there’s functionality I want but don’t have, another search usually reveals one or more free plug-ins that do exactly what I’m after. (Free software! From just some people!) And best yet, it all pretty much does what it says on the box.

I loaded WordPress on August 3, 2017 and had the complete shell you see here constructed in a month – and I enjoyed every minute, I truly did. And because the software was easy, I was able to turn more quickly to the task of writing and damn good thing too since by the time I’d finished creating the site, it was about eight times larger than I had originally planned … (sigh) … Life …

And then there are the pictures! Thousands of big, beautiful, high-resolution images of things amazing, funny, thought-provoking, mesmerizing – all given away by the artists for the price of a ‘thanks!’ or a small donation. What a delight it’s been to lose a few hours just clicking and looking. Pictures can communicate much and now I have a large ‘vocabulary’ at hand. Wonderful.

So – my heartfelt “Thank you” to all the humans involved with delivering these blogging products and support. I have decided you are all wonderful human beings. (updated 2/21/2018) 

WordPress open source software for blogs, websites and apps

Theme
Seasonal Pro by Shaped Pixels – WordPress offers hundreds of free themes but I opted for the ease of buying something very close to what I already had in mind; the features have worked perfectly and the software easily accommodates customizations without issue; nice!

Plugins and widgets
Column Shortcodes by Codepress – used to manually construct an index for each page
Coming Soon Page & Maintenance by SeedProd – lets you face plant with your blog site in private
Content Views Pro by CVSOFT LLC – creates custom page templates; I’m using it to hold a static post at the top of each page while adding new content below
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi – drives the functions on the Contact page
Enhanced Media Library by wpUXsolutions – used for organizing an exploding image library
Image Widget by Modern Tribe – used for adding an author photo to the footer
No Self Pings by Michael D. Adams – removes self-pings from blog stats
Show-Hide/Collapse-Expand by Bunte Giraffe – used for collapsing longer posts
TablePress by Tobias Bathge – provides responsive tables for the “Book” and “Teachers” posts.
TinyMCE by Andrew Ozz- allows customization of the Visual Editor toolbar

Image/photo sites
Unsplash – nice clean layout, easy to use; a small site but growing quickly; I was impressed by the quality of their collections.
Pixabay – a large collection of well organized, beautiful, high-resolution images in a wide array of categories; the ‘editor’s choice’ filter is a nice add
New York Public Library Digital Collections – with almost 800,000 images, some from the earliest days of print, this is a site to spend an afternoon browsing
ISO Republic – started in 2014, another user-friendly site hosting 3,000+ copyright free images for your browsing pleasure
Wikimedia Commons – a slightly more complex maze of categories and subcategories but it’s sitting on top of millions of images; bring coffee
Shutterstock (purchase only) – for when you need really cool mushroom pictures – and no one creates pictures of psychedelica like the professionals

Support
WPBeginner – I found myself landing on this site a number of times when looking for ‘how to’ tips and ‘best of’ lists.

image: Morvanic Lee

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