Today I have arrived back in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula after leaving it over 8 months ago. Many forces drove me back here, but the two that pushed hardest were, one, the disconnection I feel from my own society in the U.S., and two, to continue to pursue my goal of establishing myself as a professional photojournalist.
I remember being 21 years old and on my way to university in Olympia, WA. I was reading John Krakauer’s Into the Wild. The book resonated with me in a profound way. At the time, it seemed like it was the death of the protagonist, Chris McCandless, that haunted me so much. But, as I’ve grown older and spent more and more time searching for my own niche within American society, I see McCandless quite differently. It is his incredible courage that continues to pull at me somewhere deep within my own psyche, the courage to stand up to his own fear and walk away from the society from which he felt so disconnected.
Many things have changed in our country since Chris went into the wild. But what leaving “first-world” civilization means to me now is probably not so different than what it meant to him. For me, it is an escape from an advertising and media saturated existence, capitalism run amuck. Instead of a society like the one I was raised to believe I lived in, one where I could be anything I wanted, one where the possibility of upward mobility was there for every American, I see now that our society is, or has become, far more feudalistic. The vast majority of all our country’s wealth and opportunities are being hoarded by less than 1% of its population. The rest of us are only serfs, an ever-growing super-herd of online avatars that the other one percent exploit, manipulate, and extort for their own gain.
It has become so pervasive that before moving, I felt trapped by a never-ending onslaught of advertising. I was becoming conscious of a dark and terrifying epiphany on my horizon. And, as I searched endlessly for jobs, scratched out menial paychecks and borrowed money from my parents, that looming realization became harder and harder for me to avoid. I was beginning to suspect, to believe, that my own aspirations, my own self-consciousness, my own loneliness in this world, were not coming from me. They had been planted there to ferment and invade my psyche by a lifetime of being part of a “target market.” My very dreams were hopelessly intertwined with the scripted ones of the humanoid projections filling television and computer screens. I began to feel my own identity slipping away, eaten away bit by bit by advertising agencies. And the irony is that it is the ruling minority’s primary tool that I willingly chose for my own profession--media production! I went to school for film. I worked at a production company, producing goddamned commercials! And it is of course no mystery why I completely burned up and washed out. I was not only one of the millions of walking, talking cash machines for the rich and powerful; I was part of the problem. I was one of the factory workers operating a machine designed to make other people feel inadequate, and that by purchasing some product, that they might fill that void.
So, what can I expect living on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica? I can expect cold showers, air thick enough to swim in, and, if all goes well, a wealth of challenges and experiences serving as fuel for my human soul. This blog is meant to serve as an avenue for sharing those experiences and the photographs I take along the way. It is my goal to someday support myself as a photojournalist. I want to document life outside the developed world. I want to show all those feeling trapped by jobs and first world comforts that there is great adventure and joy in places in which we Americans may fear to exist. That one can get by with far less than we are made to believe we need. And that hardship, loss, and adaptation are the flames that temper and solidify the joy one takes from his own existence.