Updated: Aug 12, 2019
This year is going by a little too quickly, but I fear that the rest of my years will be painfully similar, until it is my life that has gone by too quickly. I felt like I was running out of time ten years ago. Now, I am this, doing this. I’ve spent most my life investigating this… trying to define this… but now I am just being this, whatever that is.
Tenshin Roshi, in his dharma talks, usually begins with the living koan of what is happening now in people’s practice, and opens the floor to questions and concerns before beginning to speak about anything; I have said nothing. In fact, in the multitude of hours I’ve spent working with Tenshin, I haven’t really said much at all, and I have not participated in Dokusan much, basically because the times I did I was given the cliche Zen responses; I didn't really expect much more than that, and I haven’t really been at the Zen center that long; I guess in my head I’ve been studying this my whole life, so I feel like I am further along than most will give me credit for, but in reality, I haven’t been studying what they want me to study, and they don’t know me from Adam…or…Shakyamuni….I guess?
I’ve had a minor beef with Tenshin’s teaching, and that is in his throwing around the term cogito ergo sum. I had hoped to finally get up the courage to mention it in the last dharma talk I attended, but we were surrounded by college students on a retreat at the Zen center who wouldn’t really be able to rationally participate in the conversation, but Tenshin did ironically bring up the concept in the talk anyway. My beef is thus: he is very adamant about philosophy having nothing to do with Zen; under that precept, he presents cogito ergo sum as the best that “they” have come up with.
My argument is that philosophy is really nothing more than eloquently stating the obvious to a people who are too stupid to understand or see it, which is painfully similar to Zen: it doesn’t get much more obvious than “this.” I do understand that there is plenty of philosophy out there that is pretty wacky, but at the end of the day it is all basically common sense. I also found that I have a hard time separating western and eastern philosophy, which is likely due to the fact that the only western philosophy I’ve really read are the ancients (Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, et cetera), and those texts are very eastern as they are yet to be tainted by the religions that have destroyed the world. Also, I have a problem with cogito ergo sum being presented as “the best that they have come up with.”
It’s not, it’s just what some egocentric asshole said in an egocentric society four hundred years ago, and while we have gotten even more egocentric, there are far more beautiful concepts that have been written by western philosophy since, even by Descartes: doing a little research into the writer I am yet to read, tying him solely to cogito ergo sum is like continuing to say that Darwin said we came from monkeys, when he never fucking said that. Anyway, all of that was really just a cliff note to what I really wanted to ask: how he felt about esse est percipi, which I already know his Zen answer will be: “if I am not perceived, am I not?”
Again, it is a no brainer concept, but my interest is a bit deeper than that: not in that “being” is the goal, but how we are perceived as being; id est, if I am a genuinely happy person, with an optimistic outlook on life, and everyone around me perceives me as a negative asshole, will I forever be a negative asshole, even though that’s not who I am?; or, if I go to work and am made to feel useless and expendable, then I go home to a relationship and am made to feel useless and expendable, how do I not identify with being useless and expendable? It all seems silly writing it down, but I am currently knee deep in more drama involving something I am perceived as being but am not, so it is even more relevant than ever. When someone thinks you’re a negative asshole, that’s one thing; when someone thinks you’re a threat to underage girls and “sick,” that’s a whole other thing altogether.
A couple weekends ago, on the morning I was hell bent on raising my voice to Tenshin, I came home from the Zen center to find that someone had left a comment on my old blog, that I abandoned a year ago to officially start this new life. It started with “You are so full of shit” and ended with “you are sick,” with some manipulating naive, young girls in there somewhere. The post, which hardly warranted any attack, much less the evolution painfully obvious in the blog itself, which is why I left it live, as embarrassing as it is: here. I refuse to hide any of this shit. Fun. Then I went to log into my Facebook, only to find that a post from a year ago had been reported as inappropriate; three day ban. I figured it was the same person blindly attacking me, but good luck explaining that to Facebook. I sat out my three day ban and went on like nothing happened.
This last Saturday I woke up to another reported photo, from January of 2015; seven day ban. Fuck off and die. These aren’t inappropriate posts, mind you, but external links to my blog, which I didn’t get to chose the thumbnail for. That’s a whole other argument that I am yet to get a rational answer for. The seven day ban was accompanied by my Facebook page having been reported as fraudulent. Well shit; game over; even though there wasn’t ever a game. I was asked to send Facebook a copy of my identification to prove that my name was Sven Ellirand. Obviously I don’t have that, because my name isn’t Sven Ellirand, just like 99.9% of the art models out there don’t use their real name, but Sven Ellirand means something and is important to me and my story, so I would like to hold on to it. I did the next best thing: I sent them a photo of my DL, and an explanation of who Sven was, not in anyway expecting a positive outcome, because, well, nothing about Facebook and their rules and conditions have been the least bit accommodating to anyone who has had to deal with them.
I woke up to a message saying, “thank you Sven for confirming your identity.” What? I am still in the midst of an undeserving seven day ban that they will do nothing about, but my faith in Facebook’s absurdity is a little bit more than it was before. Thank you Mack and Abby (if those are your real names) for such a swift resolution on the identity bit. Now if you would only recognize that some crazy bitch who was attacking someone I shot a year ago created multiple fake profiles to attack us is the sole reason I spanned a 3 and 7 day ban in the course of a week for things I posted over a year ago, all would be right with the universe.
I did seriously consider scrapping everything and starting over…again. Fucking again. My life. Is it my life? or is it for everyone else to interpret and control? I’ve got some mountains to climb.
The model front this year has made me want to lay down in the street. I contacted a model in LA, which I hate to do: LA warrants a different kind of attitude that I’m not a fan of working with (prove me wrong). Case in point: she mentioned only being ok with shooting in studio, or with expressed, written consent to shoot on property, because she had a negative experience with authorities whilst shooting in a canyon in Malibu (durp).
I presented Joshua Tree, a southwest creative mecca, where I have had zero negative experience with authorities in 25+ years of shooting. She was in. On my next day off I went out to scout a location, which involved most of my only day off. I sent her photos of the spot and explained how much drive time it actually consisted of, as the spot, from the south entrance, was about 45 minutes into the park, and I was sure to let her know that I could only afford to pay her for two hours, because I live in poverty, people! She responded with “what park is this?” Then she told me that was an awful long way to drive for $200. Attitude. Then a beautiful traveling model announced my (kind of) area was on her route, so I hit her up to shoot, letting her know that Sunday was my only day off. We locked in a Sunday (Easter). I drove to LA (two hours away) to scout some locations in case she couldn’t find more money out in the desert. That turned into her asking if I could shoot Friday or Saturday in Palm Springs. Well, no, because I can only shoot on Sundays, and I already put in the time, energy, and money to scout locations.
Then it turned into me giving her and her significant other a ride to Monterey, shooting on the way; yes, that sounds like a lot of fun and is basically what I've wanted to do for a while anyway, but I can't afford to drive for days so it'll be cramped. I planned out a route; burned some cds so they would have some peaceful music; and I took a deep breath, knowing that I would be driving more than fourteen hours for a little, maybe, shooting. Within an hour of my scheduled time to go to sleep the day before, so that I could get up at 2am to leave LA at 5am, I got an “oh by the way” message… “I meant to call you, it’s just been a busy day”……….. neverfuckingmind. *sigh*
On Easter morning I got in my car and drove to Pirate’s Cove, near SLO, by my self, and sat on the nude beach, by my self, mostly because I do what I say I'm going to do, even if no one else wants to go with me. The soul I was searching for, I fear, is long dead. I have a beautiful human being in my life, two of them, three of them, and while the two year old and fetus are far from "modeling" age (if such a thing exists), I have a beautiful life, and I love it. I am still tortured by the thought of accomplishing something on the terms that I define, but I’ve got plenty of beauty here. I am still tortured by who I used to be (kind of), but I am at the point now where I am so past it, I have zero fucks to give.
Ultimately, all of this is my story, and it will be written and read. Whether people want to be a part of it or not is up to them. All I can do is laugh it all off and keep going....... keep dealing with 'this' ........... even if I have to sometimes shoot boring landscapes without beautiful souls in them.