Photography

Photography has been a hobby of mine for my entire adult life. This started when I was around 18 when I decided to start using my father’s old film camera. This was when digital was overtaking film in the early 2000’s, and I suppose I was more interested in the mechanical and technical aspects of the machinery of film cameras rather than something I picked up out of raw creative drive.

My first camera: Minolta XG-7

So I bought some film from the supermarket and took 24 exposures, just kind of playing around. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually did create a couple of half decent photos! I can still recall some of them instantly. At any rate, I was inspired, and from an interest in the machinery came an interest in the art.

However, the vast majority of my photos were incompetently exposed and/or compositionally boring. When you’re paying about a dollar per exposure, the drive to get good is something that must be prioritized. So soon I developed a system where I would walk around with a clipboard with a stack of self-developed forms on it. For every photograph I would write down technical details such as the shutter speed, f-stop, lens focal length, focusing distance, et cetera. After a few dozen rolls of film, I actually was able to expose a decent shot! After this my interest in cameras exploded, and having little money or wisdom, I was soon into Toy Cameras.

Woah! Lomography! It’s good because it sucks!

Too bad my composition skills were still garbage! In reviewing my old film albums, it is so funny how all the images are competently exposed but are so boring to look at. Actually learning how to compose a decent shot would require a level of self-criticism that the expense and hassle of film did not facilitate. I kind of intuited this, and as a graduation gift I asked my father to buy me a camera. My first digital was a Pentax K-r.

Pentax: The Linux of cameras (derisive).

For a few years pretty much every image I produced was directly out of the camera. No editing at all. This was how I was used to operating, because when working with film, what you got from the supermarket was what you got! However, shooting on digital eventually allowed me to start editing my photographs digitally. Actually being able to crop after the fact teaches you a lot about how to compose while you’re actually taking the photo. Being able to produce developed photos that are slightly better than what I started with taught me the difference between middling composition and better composition, which was an intuition I would take with me into my next photo shoot.

I no longer shoot with my K-r, and most of my photography is still relatively boring, however the median level of quality and artistic vision is far better than what it was a decade ago. I definitely produce images that I are actually decent from an artistic point of view with a far greater frequency than back when I didn’t make a discipline out of it! This ability is the hard won reward of a lifetime of effort, experimentation, and self-criticism. In building my photo gallery for this site, I revisited my photographic history since about 2014. I included what I consider to be my highlights, which is probably about 1% of every image I’ve ever created (artistically).

The secret to taking good photos is just to take a lot of photos, keep the good ones, consider what it is about them that makes them good, and keep those qualities in mind for subsequent photo shoots. Nobody is born good at anything; in fact, a defining characteristic of humans is that we suck at pretty much everything in our natural state, but we’re very good at learning. This is a trade off: what we lose in innate skill we gain in the ability to profit from experience. A squirrel can only be a squirrel – a human can be whatever it sets its attention to (including a squirrel).

So go out: set the intention to focus your attention, put yourself in the way of experience, and profit by it!

With kindness,
-Petrichor

Practicing stealth dharma

Sitting on a park bench, deliberately fostering consummate feelings of goodwill and compassion for the man sitting across from me. Putting all my effort into this. My eyes moisten and my breath quivers. The emotions are almost overwhelming. I do not know his name. He does not know that, for a brief moment, I dedicated my whole existence to his happiness.

How to find eternal happiness

Originally written in January 2021

Focusing on your own happiness, trying to gain, maintain, and protect your own happiness; This will work for a while, and the basic needs must be maintained in order for the body to flourish. But impermanence will eventually sweep away any gains you make. Your tastes will change or circumstances will change. This will not work in the long run.

Only by contact with a deeper nature that transcends impermanence can people feel eternal happiness. What is the only feeling that we cannot get enough of? What is the only cup that cannot run over? The answer is: love. This is the only psychological state that people do not grow tired of. We can always feel more love. It is the deeper transcendent nature of people to love.

Therefore, if you wish to find a happiness that does not go away you must practice love deliberately. To feel happiness all the time you must learn to generate love consistently. This includes love with yourself, with those you are close to, with those you do not yet know, and with those who you find difficult. To reliably access the only deeper happiness that does not fade, you must not let your love fade.

The only way to keep a constant supply of love, and consequently, happiness, is to orient your attention to love. That which you love, and that the qualities of things that elicits that state. Salvation from misery is an attention that is always focused on love.

This is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Billions of years of conditioning have primed people to always be on the look out for trouble. Our attention is scattered, and that which brings us suffering easily grabs it. Most of us have had emotionally stunted upbringings and we live in harsh times of destruction; this condition has made us neurotic and has confused our ability to recognize the things we love. But you would have to be pretty far gone to not know of a single thing that makes you feel love. Start where you are comfortable.

Practice feeling love on things that elicit those feelings in you automatically. For every being this will be something different – for some it will be the imagery of a particular situation, for others an aesthetic experience, and for others a word or concept. But we all have at least one thing we can imagine that gets those feelings going. See how long you can hold onto love after stopping contemplating the thing that elicits it. Spend time getting in touch with the physical and psychological states that come with love. See if you can stoke the feelings of love by mimicking those physical and psychological states in your being. This is subtle work, but it can be done.

Once you can reliably stoke those feelings of love, think about yourself while continuing to elicit the physical and psychological states that come with love. For some this will be easy, for others who have been taught by life not to love themselves this will be incredibly painful and difficult. However to be able to be in contact with happiness reliability you must be able to orient your attention towards the conditions that cause love reliably, and you are not more constantly in contact with anyone else but yourself. It is very hard to feel genuine connection with anything else when the experience of everything is mediated by something the Self does not like. You must start with you.

Then orient the attention to those you are close with. This will probably be easy. It does not take much effort to feel love with those who are responsible for our wellbeing. Ride this wave of easy love. Abide in the space it creates and absorb its rejuvenating qualities. You have earned this.

Then orient the attention to those who you do not yet know. The people who you’re aware of but do not have an opinion on one way or the other. This might feel boring or difficult, but if you are able to focus on the physical and psychological precursors of love, as you had practiced, you should be able to get it going while focusing on those you do not yet know. By doing this repeatedly something magnificent happens; those you do not yet know become automatically associated with the states that create love through repeated conditioning. Consequently, recollecting people you do not yet know becomes the grounds for, ultimately, experiencing happiness.

Now the only thing left to do is to replace love’s opposite, hatred. You cannot feel love while feeling hatred; this is impossible. So in order to reliably experience the love that creates happiness, you must condition yourself to never experience feelings of hatred. This is not easy, because we have already learned how to hate and this has become a mental habit. But using the principles described previously, we can also grow love for things that would usually cause us to experience hate. By doing this we deliberately replace hate with love, and thus sorrow with happiness.

So next, orient your attention to those you find difficult. These are the people you do not like and who do not like you. But while doing this deliberately generate feelings of love using the same technique. Deliberately mimic the physical and psychological precursors of love, allowing those feelings to grow, while thinking about the people that elicit its opposite. This is very difficult, but it can be done. Start easy; with someone you only mildly dislike. You have plenty of time to practice this skill until you are proficient enough to use it on those who elicit full-blown hatred.

The more you do this, the easier it gets. You will find if you do this enough, it starts happening automatically. You will start to notice that the list of people you find difficult shrinks, and eventually it becomes hard to think of anyone you feel enmity towards.

But keep going. Practice the same skills on places, on objects, on groups, on situations. Keep on orienting your attention to love while exposing your mind to things, and the more things will be associated with love. The more things that are associated with love, the more frequently you will encounter things that make you feel love automatically. Consequently you will experience happiness more consistently.

When you can experience love while considering all things, you will find eternal happiness.

Hello world!

I just finished setting this up! Thank you for visiting my website.

My educational background is in psychology and I don’t really have much formal education with computers, but I have always had an interest. When I was a kid I used to go to Visual Basic programming classes, I attended Linux computer camp on three occasions, and I actually started my undergraduate education as a computer science major. I took a few classes in programming and one in UNIX system administration.

However when I was younger math made me anxious. Probably due to a subclinical learning disability mixed with a general lack of confidence in myself. I got spooked by having to take discreet math in order to advance in my major, and switched to psychology. I do not regret this, as I’ve always had an interest in the mind. In the end, the joke was on me, as I ended up taking (and deeply enjoying!) statistics in order to graduate as a psychology major, and later with a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Recently, I have taken up a job as a system administrator for an Electronic Data Entry program called REDCap. I got the job because it requires a strong background in research, even though I am challenged by its technical “system administratory” aspects. In order to familiarize myself with the systems I use everyday but don’t really understand, I decided to actualize a long-running and unrelated desire of mine to self-host a blog-type website.

What you see now is the the first complete iteration of this (probably) long term project. What can you expect here?

  • Eccentric dharma insights
  • Thoughts on my online/real life encounters
  • Commentary on the challenges and rewards of self-hosting
  • Photography
  • The occasional joke

Thank you so much for visiting. I look forward to sharing more of my experiences with you.

Om petri petri mahapetri maitripetri om petri swaha!