Putting the Puzzle Together

A good friend said to me today “seems like all the work you’ve been doing and the journeys you’ve gone on, they are all pieces of a puzzle, and now you have to put that puzzle together.”

Paris RiverIt would seem so, after 13+ years as a blogger, 9 years as a podcaster, and over 7 years of giving lectures and workshops around the world, I’ve always believed that this was building up to something and I would know what at some point down the line.  All this knowledge, experience, and the contacts I have around the world, they do indeed fit together in different and sometimes unexpected ways.

But the puzzle still lies before me, waiting to be solved.  And whereas in the past there always seemed to be time and a natural order to all this, now it would seem push has come to shove financially and professionally and the question is – can I put it all together and make something out of it that I will be good at, enjoy, and be able to live from.  Over the past decade the answer has been yes, yes it can and will work. I have been fortunate enough to have lived the kind of life where I do indeed have options and people willing to help me sort through these options to find what is real and worth while.

One feeling that follows all this is that the time for sitting back and just going with the flow has ended. The time for action, decisive, meaningful, and well thought out, has arrived. Success is in no way guaranteed; I need to stand up and create the next opportunities.  Just like I did when I started this whole thing all those years ago.  The same spirit that caused me to start writing online, with an honest and determined approach, even at the risk of sounding like a fool, is what once again will get me to the next level (of life and slow journalism) which I very much desire.

On that note, on to Brooklyn!

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The Difficult Part, After the Journey

Over the past 10+ years of traveling and creating media based on those journeys, I’ve discovered that the hardest part is not the journey itself, but what happens after.  After all the excitement and the learning, most journeys end.  And most times, it feels good to come home, examine what has been done, and reflect on that.  This is especially true if you live in a community, as I do, where people love to discuss and reflect right along with you.

The trouble comes with that age old insensitive question – what next?  What more will you do with what you have learned? What’s your next move? Will it be as interesting or exciting as this latest journey?  Can’t you go back and build on the first journey?

Pondering the Pyramids of Giza. November 2012

Sometimes the answers fall into my lap.  An invitation, inspiration or an idea that pull me like a magnet in whatever direction seems to be a good fit.  Sometimes, however, the answer doesn’t come easy.

Budgets dry up. Invitations expire.  Ideas get lost among other ideas. Even the belief in my own self and ability will waver at times. It may all be a natural progression when you’re following a personal mission that is so different from what we normally think of as “work” or “career”.

Thankfully whenever the question of “what’s next” has come up in the past, the answer never took long to appear. The answer sometimes comes from within, but more often comes with the help of good people in my life who understand what this is that I am dedicated to and sometimes see things that in the moment, I am not able to see.

This month will mark the end of the Arab Artists series here on my website.  A five week journey that was so rich in learning and communication, it produced more than 3 months of content.  Making it the longest series I have ever done for the podcast. A series I hope one day will have a part II.  But for now, I’m thankful to have had a part I and that many of you have made the trip with me and enjoyed what came out of it.  I honestly wish more people would give it a listen, I think there is an education in there that you can hardly get anywhere else.  But hey, as my Egyptian and Lebanese friends would say (in different pronunciations): khalas (خلاص), you did your best.” 

Now for what comes next….

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Fresh Eyes, Ancient Place

Photo by Fin

We are a little over two weeks from the beginning of the North Africa/ Middle East journey lovingly titled “Arab Artists in a Revolution.” As with any great journey, the preparation also raises questions about how to approach our conversations and media creations in the best way possible.  The term “best way” is particularly tricky in an era where it’s difficult to capture and retain the attention of any audience, though Im pleased to be starting off with you my listeners and readers, not to mention the Radio Open Source audience who have clearly shown their desire to see this project become a reality.

But here’s another aspect that makes missions like this one a special challenge. My history as an independent, make-it-up-as-I-go-along blogger turned journalist turned media producer or whatever I’m defined as these days. I’ve been working on topics that interest me (and hopefully sometimes you) for more than 10 years now, and throughout my tenure I’ve only occasionally stopped to look around and ask – what do the people want? That was, for me, the major point of being a personal media- citizen journalist type, I don’t just try to entertain or capture your attention, I first follow my heart and learn about topics, people, and places that capture my attention.  With any luck my interests intersect with yours, that’s when it feels extra special.

This particular journey begins with a unique partnership, two guys from different generations with different experience, setting off for a land they have -until now- only read and talked about. A region the entire everyone seems to have an opinion about after it re-captured the world’s attention last year. So the question I have for myself is, how do I make sure this one is not only a pleasure for me, but exciting for you as well? To what extent should I be listening to the opinion and experience of others, as opposed to doing what Ive always done, following my nose and relying on my global network to guide me to the fantastic stories of real life?  How do you keep your mind and your heart open when you’ve done something one way for so long?

One thing I realize beyond any of these questions, is that it is good to try something new and challenge my own traditions. Thankfully I set off next month with someone who’s work and friendship have taught me a lot about what is possible and what I’m capable of.  And of course, I set off with all of you along for the ride, via this daily noise machine known as the internet. So all in all, the fundamentals are in place. Everything else, as always in life, we will figure out and make it great.

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ctrp432 The Daily Show, South Park and Society

photo courtesy of the Berghs School of Communication

The Daily Show and South Park, along with The Colbert Report, are the 1-2 (3) punch of socio-political satire in America and have been for well over a decade. Some dismiss them as childish clowns with limited significance while in fact, they are among the most trusted sources of news and entertainment wielding tremendous power from the reputation they have built as uncompromising provacateurs.

Brian Dunphy is a lecturer at Brooklyn College, a citizen of the world, and a keen observer of satire in all its forms in the United States.  He starts each day with a bowl of cereal and Jon Stewart, and his in-depth research and analysis reveals that there is a lot more happening here than just a bunch of funny impressions and the occasional fart joke.  There is real speaking of truth to power and challenging people to think and look carefully at the actions of the powerful decision makers of this world.  Today on the podcast, Brian gives us a taste of this topic that he has been bringing to audiences in North America and Northern Europe over the past year.

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