Our guest today is Chris Jordan, an internationally acclaimed American artist and TED speaker. His photographs and films explore the contemporary world from multiple perspectives and challenge us to look both inward and outward at the complex realities of our times. In this episode, we talk about his journey from being a lawyer to becoming an internationally acclaimed artist and environmental activist, how he worked with his fear, why getting people to panic about climate change is not effective in creating positive action, and the transformative power of grief.
“It took me 10 years as a lawyer to learn the most important lesson that I've ever learned about unconscious fear.”
Chris studied law and worked in a law firm for 10 years. Even though he knew from the beginning that this wasn’t his path, he had many fears and self-limiting beliefs.
He knew he wanted to be an artist and was very passionate about photography. His transformative moment was when he worked with a therapist and realized that the biggest risk was to not live his life how he wanted it to. He learned about the 2 types of fear, the bad fear of taking the risk, which he had to overcome, and the good fear, what he would feel when taking the risk.
Chris decided to quit his job in 2003 and cashed out his retirement account to start a new life as a printer and a hobby photographer. Later that year, his friend, who was an internationally known fine art photographer, saw one of his photographs on the wall and recommended him to approach galleries. Soon, he had his first exhibition. This started his career, which at the beginning was paved with much uncertainty, but also with endless dedication and passion.
Consumerism And Art
“I went and beheld, kneeled on the ground in front of the carcasses of those birds and it absolutely changed the world for me.”
Chris’s work is around the environmental and social issues we are facing as a society. One of his projects, Running the Numbers, looks at contemporary American culture through a lens of statistics and shows the mass consumption of our society. According to Chris, humans cannot comprehend these huge numbers, and if we cannot see them, we don’t feel anything. He aims to show these numbers in his art and put them to the forefront.
Chris went to Midway Island, a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the fall of 2009, and saw the many carcasses of the albatrosses filled with plastic. This experience made him realize that ocean plastic pollution was a global issue, and his project, Albatross depicts that.
According to Chris, changing our consumer culture is crucial and it starts with reconnecting with our feelings and changing our collective habits.
How To Truly Be An Environmentalist
“That what I believe humanity needs to reconnect with is the beauty that is all around us. And the love that we are made of.”
Chris became aware of a paradigm over the years that environmentalism turned into panic mongering and terrifying people into action. However, in a state of fear, humans get paralyzed and simply cannot make decisions, so this approach doesn’t work.
Chris suggests a different approach of practicing gratitude for the beautiful world we are living in and working on our inner world, which will positively change our other world as well.
The Transformative Doorway Of Grief And Love
“Let's let go of hope together and calibrate toward that North Star, which is love, foster love, grow it in our hearts and in the world.”
According to Chris, our culture is grief averse, so we think that grief is bad. However, when we feel grief and loss it is an unbelievably powerful feeling to reconnect us with love. If we allow ourselves to feel the sadness of grief, it always moves through quickly and we allow ourselves to feel love as well.
Chris also advises us to let go of hope because hope is always about the future. It doesn’t mean that we become hopeless this way, it means we are finally ready to take control of our destiny.
Palma’s Reflection On Being Alive
This week, we invite you to take a moment to reflect on the notion that being alive is a miracle.
Just consider the fact that your body has roughly 100 trillion cells that are all orchestrated together without you having to do anything about them. The fact that your body breathes, your heart is beating, you are able to walk, taste, touch, smell, feel love, sing, jump, run, and so on.
Think about the rest of nature. How acorns become maple trees, the beauty of flowers, and the perfect harmony in nature.
Nature's not something out there. You are also part of nature, and being alive in this human body is a miracle.
About Our Guest, Chris Jordan
Chris is an internationally acclaimed photographer and filmmaker whose works are exhibited and published worldwide. His work walks the fine line between beauty and despair while exploring the dark undercurrents of our consumer culture’s focus on disposable goods and mass consumption. Chris’s first foray into the subject was the project Intolerable Beauty, which demonstrated the enormous amount of waste in various areas throughout Seattle. His next project, Running the Numbers, used innovative perspectives to illustrate the vast magnitude of our mass consumption.
Chris’s largest project to date is a series of photographs, Midway: Message from the Gyre, and the companion film, Albatross. The project was inspired by a stunning environmental tragedy that’s taking place on a tiny atoll in the North Pacific Ocean. He and his team photographed and filmed thousands of young albatrosses that lay dead on the ground, their stomachs filled with plastic, underscoring the destructive power of our culture of consumption, and our damaged relationship with the living world.
Chris Jordan is all in on beauty. After photographing sea birds dying by the dozens from consuming bits of plastic, Chris had a revelation: It was time to refocus in his lens on the awesome beauty of the planet. Now, he searches out natural places that can inspire us to treasure and protect them from the devastating effects of pollution and climate change.
A special thanks to Chris Jordan for taking the time to share his inspiring story with us.
Continue Your Journey
Now it is time to find your own unique path. We can help you to connect with your innate wisdom and create an inspiring vision for a deeply fulfilling and meaningful life. Apply for a discovery session on our website,palmamichel.com.
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