“Looking for light in this world is like looking for light in a bucket of mud (his metaphor for sh*t). Even if it exists, you will never know. The mud envelopes the light, envelopes you, and fills all the space between. Any impact the light might have is minimal. The mud is all there is, don’t waste your time looking for more.”

“Digging in the Mud”, Originally published on REAL LIVES, Medium. 2017

An editor I once knew had what I felt was a dreary motto which he always seemed to find a way to throw into any encounter. He used it to justify everything from his wife’s anger, project failures, disgruntled employees, or just about any setback he encountered. He especially liked to use it to promote his dim view of those who cared try to change the world … me, for instance.

When he first dropped this on me, I presumed he was just another child of the 60s, still jaded after all these years. I could not resist the temptation to react to his repetitive negativity.

“You create the world you make. If you want to live in a world of sh*t, then so be it. Don’t assume there is no other option.”

He stood steadfast and resolute, whatever argument I posed. The world was a dark bucket of sh*t and everyone was part of it. This could not be true, or everything I have worked towards was wrong … or was it?

One morning I surrendered. Hungover and unwilling to listen to the entire diatribe, all I wanted was to return to my desk and sleep.

“You’re right. The world IS a bucket of sh*t and any light in there is invisible due to the vast quantity of sh*t that surrounds it.”

I was not just saying this. He WAS right. I couldn’t deny the logic anymore. Even I did not expect what came out of my mouth next.

“That is why we need to dig and move and search to uncover the light, helping it shine further, if only for an extra second. Looking for light is not about changing the nature of sh*t. Sh*t is sh*t.”

“But by it’s own nature, sh*t blinds you. Who knows? Maybe, if you dig a bit, the lights you find will blind you instead. If you explore your surroundings, you may find light everywhere. All that’s needed is someone to wipe the sh*t from your eyes.”

“If none of that is true, by exploring the sh*t you may begin to understand its nuances, its character, its complexity. You may find that every grain of sh*t is unique; no longer a uniform bucket of sh*t with all the negative connotations. It may become a complex, frustrating, enriching world teaming with uniqueness. You may start to appreciate the diversity and culture of sh*t. Slowly, the sh*t may transform into your own definition of light.”

With this, my world returned to light and I began digging in earnest. I have spent a lifetime digging in the sh*t to find those unique lives that enrich my bucket of sh*t.

“Real Lives” is a collection of encounters, lifestyles, and cultures. It is a celebration of how little it takes to enrich our lives. The stories told are not of world-changing philosophies or heroic battles. This is a collection of normal people pursuing full lives while empowering those around them.