–a slice of kake from KELLEN WINTERS' mind.

Etymonline.com just informed me that the word progression was coined in the late 14th Century, derived from the Latin participle stem of “progredi” or to "go forward." Makes sense.

To me, progression looks like a set of white marble stairs that reach as far as the eye can see. Progression then shifts into a series of fleeting images that flash in and out of my mind to me.

Progression looks like my Facebook Timeline.  A year ago from today, I welcomed a single dread into my hair. 10 likes. Scrolling through the past, I can’t help but think that progression and decline are inherently reliant on one another. Certain moments in time, that I’d like to forget, but thanks to Mark Zuckerberg will always remain. Just for that, I have half a mind to give that guy a heart-felt “fuck you.”

I ended 2012 by getting nailed by car while cycling. In the ICU, I laid next to a guy with one eye who called himself Deshawn. We both shared a strong affinity for The Weeknd. This particular bottom ignited this sense of newness within me. I felt like the middle-aged white man who wakes up one morning and realizes that life is fleeting, and as a result of this beautiful crisis decides to get an earring or a sports car or a divorce.

Then I was laid off my job. I felt completely stripped of my identity, and I was forced to begin again on a clean slate. In a way, I was thankful. Under odd circumstances, I met an amazing man, who eventually led me to become the co-founder of my own company. I was just fired from one of many side gigs for a multitude of reasons, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s more or less because of my strong dislike for cocaine and its (mostly) soulless victims.

This year, I started entertaining the realities of love and got dumped, then shamelessly fell in love all over again.

I’ve spoken with so many folks who feel as if there is something supernatural in the cosmos this year. Someone or something that is responsible for all of this change. Something inherent that made 2013 different than all the rest.

I must admit that I sang this song for a while, until I took a step back and thought, “…maybe this is just a sign of blatant growth within us.”

Cut to Roy Spencer.

Most Saturdays, you’ll find Roy Spencer playing the trumpet on the corner of Clark and Division. His overall demeanor is consistently cheerful, though most are quick to recognize that his wide smile is almost always laden in some sort of experiential sadness. We met on a chilly morning in May of 2012. Per usual, Spencer was standing beneath the local convenient stores’ loading garage with his trumpet in hand. Usually, I would hand Spencer a stick of gum as long as he promised not to chew it while he played. Other times, we would talk about the social implications of his playing music on the street, the art of basic human interaction, or The Bulls’ most recent hindrance. This time, I wanted to ask the 63-year-old about life as a journey and a consistent climb. I wanted to know if all this almost cosmic growth that my peers have been experiencing was a product of some sort of greater, celestial plan, pure coincidence, or simply a sign of self-realization and personal growth.

“I’ve experienced life in waves,” said Spencer.

“There were days, years, milliseconds where I felt all was right...but at some point everything gets takes a turn and gets crazy...that’s life,” he said.

Speaking with Spencer ignited an idea within me. A while back, I read one of the most thought provoking quotes, that has never seemed to escape me.

In her book All About Love, bell hooks encouraged folks to “lift as [they continued] to climb.” When I was younger, I used to think that life would plateau and flatline once we reached a certain level of stability. Spencer led me to believe that the idea of an existential plateau could only lead to eternal duress and turmoil. The good, the bad, the wrenches that exist in our everyday lives are only exist to ignite growth, present challenge, and maybe add extra helping of spice into our seemingly cyclical lives.

“Chasing your dreams is the first step to happiness certainly,” said Spencer.

“...But understanding and acting on [your dreams] is what rattles the walls and will always make the present interesting,” he said.

Though Jean Deaux is only 20 years old, she is on the brink of being a mastery of her craft. Legendary musicians speak of her burgeoning success. She exudes progressive energy coupled with an abrasive forthright demeanor. But amidst her honesty, Deaux possesses an inarguable human aura that’s always oozing with inexplicable charm. She casually talks about being signed to hip-hop superstar major labels, working with the music industry’s top producers, and the mounds of weed sitting on Justin Beiber’s living room table. Celebrity aside, Deaux is still burdened with the self-doubt and uncertainty of what the future holds for anyone trying to thrive.

“Sometimes I wonder what’s going to happen. Sometimes I wonder if this is what I should be doing, but that usually fucks things up,” said Deaux.

“People think I’m annoying ‘cause I’m passive,” said the singer.

“...I’m passive because I need to stay grounded and in the present. Like, if I’m late, I’m late...that’s in the past. I can’t fix something that’s already happened,” she said.

Much like Jean Deaux, Zen Buddhist clergymen encourage its practitioners to forget about learning from the past and applying lessons to the future. Instead, they  reclaim and expand the present moment.

“..there is no purpose in getting anywhere if, when you get there, all you do is think about getting to some other future moment. Life exists in the present, or nowhere at all, and if you cannot grasp that you are simply living a fantasy,” writes Zen Buddhist Tim Lott.

There are 11 days left in 2013, but that doesn’t matter.  For months, I’ve been reflecting on the the past and future with little regard as to what I’m doing presently to be the ringmaster of my own life that is seems to fleet as I grow older and more enlightened. I’m slowly beginning to realize that having little to no regard towards my character only seems to inflict confusion, paranoia, and my self-reflection at the beginning of this essay. Growth is not measured by the myriad of curveballs that are thrown or by supernatural coincidence or even by dreams.

Progression lies in the application of lessons learned through all of the above. Thinking critically and questioning may often be seen as hindrance, but I can’t help but think that allowing things to slowly progress will allow us to adapt in the most necessary way. We must learn from every step of our journey to ensure we’re honoring our aspirations.


–article by KELLEN WINTERS

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