Twenty Sixteen

| December 26, 2016

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I resisted writing these “year in review” posts until a couple of years ago, when that year came to a painfully abrupt end that almost demanded commemoration, an epitaph and a heavy headstone to make sure it would remain in the past. The following year I made a similar post that was also cathartic, and today again I feel a sense of closure and relief in thinking about the twelve months that passed.

My initial resistance to writing these posts was due to feeling that a year is too arbitrary a period to reflect upon—too long to acknowledge the myriad of meaningful moments that occurred in its span, and too short to draw conclusions and patterns about life in the abstract. But on second thought I realized that, like the few seconds it takes to measure a heartbeat, there is anecdotal value in examining what a year can tell me about the general shape of my life.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining. ~Parker Palmer

I take a bit of pride in the fact that a year in my life is difficult to summarize, that so much has transpired and so much was experienced and so much has changed in the months prior, that it is beyond my ability to recall and connect it all in a single narrative. I also find solace in the recognition that I could not have predicted much of it beforehand. It tells me that I am living in real time, that on balance I am making good use of my moments and days, and that I am keeping myself open to new experiences, discoveries and epiphanies.

And if there is a conclusion for the ages to be drawn from such diversity of experiences in the span of four seasons—from so many ups and downs, and from recalling the many moments of intense living—it is this: don’t worry about the ages. If you have not already accomplished it, make it your goal to arrive at a point—the sooner the better—when you feel you have already lived a rich and rewarding life. Because from that point on, you are free from the tyranny of accomplishment and competition—you already won; you are free from the opinions, expectations and prejudices of others—they cannot diminish what you already have; and free from fears of hardship or premature demise—you already lived more than most.

It is not death or dying that is tragic, but rather to have existed without fully participating in life—that is the deepest personal tragedy. ~Edward Abbey

2016 for me was a complicated year, a bi-polar year, an intense year. There are many ways I can interpret it to mean different things, but I choose to acknowledge how much beauty I’ve experienced; so many meaningful times, both alone and in the company of exceptional and inspiring people; and the privilege of having freedom and wilderness, open spaces rich in natural beauty and grace, and the skills and abilities to weave the thread of my life with theirs.

Beyond all other affirmations, I am proud of the fact that as another year comes to a close I feel rewarded and grateful, and I look forward to seeing what comes next. Any year that ends thus has been a good year.

A selection of work from the year that was can be found here.

Previous year posts and galleries:

Ponderosa in Blue

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Category: All Posts, Featured, Thoughts and Musings

About the Author ()

Guy Tal is an author and photographic artist. He resides in a remote part of Utah, in a high desert region known as the Colorado Plateau—a place that inspired him deeply for much of his life and that continues to feature in his images and writing. In his photographic work, Guy seeks to articulate a reverence for the wild. He writes about, and teaches, the values of living a creative life and finding fulfillment through one’s art.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tif says:

    That diversity informs your life, and it’s visible in your photos, your writing, and your teaching. It’s what drew me to your work years ago, and it continues to inspire and inform my own life and work. Thanks for that.

    Seasons greetings and best wishes as we head into 2017.

  2. Norm St. Landau says:

    Many good wishes for another unpredictably excellent year, Mr. Tal.

    Your art and thoughts thru the blog have guided me down some very rewarding paths this past year.

    I came to your site and blog in search of tips for better photo processing. Interested in your philosophic approaches to photography, I came back repeatedly to the blog and then your books, including More Than A Rock.

    And then I started mining mindfulness resources…Flow…John Kabat-Zinn…all essentially traceable back to your writings and art.

    Like you, I live in a wonderfully isolated setting (for me, along the Chesapeake Bay). Your work, both written and images, have encouraged wonderful changes and inspiration for living.

    Many thanks. norm