When all seems lost and life feels hopeless.

Sheila's Perfume
One of countless flowers.

When all seems lost and life feels hopeless…

find a purpose.

Find a purpose that is larger than your trouble.

Dedicate each day to that purpose, that great good.

Uplift others. Propagate love. Oppose what is wrong. Discover truth. Create new beauty. Voice what is worthy. Share your gifts. Send ripples of generosity into the future. Do an unselfish thing.

Choose.

Once your purpose is found, think of little else.

You will gain everything.

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Infinite words but just one small life.

Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego skyline in the background.
Sailboats moored near Shelter Island, downtown San Diego in the background.

Anyone who tries to write soon realizes a daunting truth. There are countless possible stories to tell, and numberless ways to tell each one. Infinity multiplied by infinity amounts to a whole lot of indecision!

Last weekend I stood on a patch of beach on Shelter Island. A sailboat moored nearby fascinated my eye, and I puzzled over its profound complexity for several minutes. How could I accurately paint that sailboat with words? How could I phrase the most perfect description? Is it even possible? With a million words is it possible?

As I watched the bobbing boat and struggled to sequence potent adjectives, a sudden thought shook me: Writing’s purpose, like art’s purpose, isn’t to replicate the world. It’s to stretch our minds. That is all.

Words are limitless. As limitless as the universe. They allow us to travel anywhere, in any direction.

A few well-directed words can focus our minds (for a moment) on overlooked things; they can help us see vague things more vividly. Words can seek and memorialize those things that seem important. Words tossed about can provoke hidden feeling and allow us to draw nearer to others. Words, when magical, can help us to discern whispers of meaning in the echoing vastness around us.

Our lives are finite. But the infinity that is contained in words can expand our lives. That is their purpose.

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House of Iran is for human rights, religious freedom.

House of Iran at Balboa Park's International Cottages and a proclamation supporting human liberty.
House of Iran at Balboa Park’s International Cottages and a proclamation supporting human liberty.

When I go for a pleasant stroll I’m often lazy. I’ll note interesting things from afar, but fail to walk up for a closer look.

Recently I took a good close look at a large plaque located conspicuously near the House of Iran in Balboa Park. The House of Iran is one of the couple dozen cottages built for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. The furnishings in the colorful little buildings exemplify life in their respective countries. Many members of each “house” trace their ancestry to the old country.

The shining plaque lies in a bed of flowers. I approached it and paused to read. It’s dedicated to the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.

According to the plaque Cyrus the Great (585-529 BC) was an enlightened Iranian emperor. Unlike many rulers of old, he upheld human dignity throughout his vast empire and treated his subjects humanely. He opposed slavery and supported the freedom of religion.

This ancient declaration of human rights was inscribed in cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which is now on display in the British Museum.

Plaque with translation of the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.
Plaque with translation of the First Declaration of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great.

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Millions of city doors, beckoning restless people.

Decorative doors to La Granada Ballroom at the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park.
Decorative doors to La Granada Ballroom at the House of Hospitality in Balboa Park.

How many doors are waiting to be opened in one ordinary city? In San Diego, with a population that exceeds one million, there must be many millions of doors.

We take doors for granted, pushing through them like nothing, and yet there is something magical and transformational about each one. Doors represent movement through space and time, from this amazing present to a future, amazing present. As we’re propelled forward in life we pass through many doors, and like the choices we face they are found on every side. Where do we turn our feet? Which doors do we try? Every chosen door leads our restless feet into a beckoning and wonderful unknown.

So, anyway, I just love looking at endless doors. And each unique invitation they present to the eye, while concealing unseen places beyond.

Here’s a variety of doors that I’ve photographed during many walks…

Colorful front door to a small residence in San Diego's Little Italy.
Colorful front door to a small residence in San Diego’s Little Italy.
Colors of the Italian flag frame this unusual door on India Street.
Colors of the Italian flag frame this unusual door on India Street.
Imperial Beach surf shop has a door plastered with beach-themed decals and signs.
Imperial Beach surf shop has a door plastered with beach-themed decals and signs.
Caged lion in the Gaslamp guards the Hard Rock Cafe, and a door with electric guitar handle.
Caged lion in the Gaslamp guards the Hard Rock Cafe, and a door with electric guitar handle.
Funky west entrance to the House of Blues in downtown San Diego.
Funky west entrance to the House of Blues in downtown San Diego.
Walking past distinctive front of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Little Italy.
Walking past distinctive front of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Little Italy.
St. Paul's Cathedral in Bankers Hill and an elegant red door behind rows of columns.
St. Paul’s Cathedral in Bankers Hill and an elegant red door behind rows of columns.
A little shop in Sherman Heights has a plain door invitingly open beside fun pinatas.
A little shop in Sherman Heights has a plain door invitingly open beside fun pinatas.
Artist studio door is wide open and welcoming in Balboa Park's colorful Spanish Village.
Artist studio door is wide open and welcoming in Balboa Park’s colorful Spanish Village.
International Travelers House has a door that welcomes one and all.
International Travelers House has a door that welcomes one and all.
Is that a swinging saloon door in Old Town, or a painted version on an ordinary door?
Is that a swinging saloon door in Old Town, or a painted version on an ordinary door?
This rusted door makes a fashionable statement in downtown San Diego.
This rusted door makes a fashionable statement in downtown San Diego.
Just a cheerful orange and bright green door in East Village!
Just a cheerful orange and bright green door in East Village!

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Duality in Coming Together mosaic sculpture.

Coming Together sculpture near Petco Park and convention center.
Coming Together sculpture near convention center and Petco Park.

A very prominent example of public art in San Diego is the large sculpture that stands at the southeast end of the convention center,  just across Harbor Drive from Petco Park. The colorful ceramic and mirror mosaic face, called Coming Together, was created by internationally famous artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Two more of her whimsical artistic works can be seen in front of the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park.

Niki has explained that Coming Together represents the essential duality in human beings. The two sides of the composite face have several notable differences.  One side is black and white, the other has a range of bright colors.  One side is jagged and angular, the other is smooth and curved.  One half of the face has long hair, the other half doesn’t.

The striking image that is created, she has explained, is a Western interpretation of yin and yang.  The duality includes joy and darkness, and the masculine and the feminine.

Created in 2001, Coming Together has definitely become a well known landmark in downtown San Diego!

Public art created by Niki de St. Phalle.
Public art created by Niki de Saint Phalle.
Closer look at light shining from mosaic sculpture.
Closer look at light shining from mosaic sculpture.
Ceramic and mirror artwork reflects nearby Hilton.
Ceramic and mirror artwork reflects nearby Hilton.
Coming Together sculpture stands along Harbor Drive.
Coming Together sculpture stands along Harbor Drive.

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True believers line up to seek converts.

Child asks passersby if they are ready for death.
Child asks passersby if they are ready for death.

Balboa Park is a great place to see lots of street performers. It’s also a fine place to spot true believers. Lining El Prado on any given weekend, people who avidly believe in all sorts of religions, philosophies and political ideas hope to make converts of passersby. You can check out their posters and pamphlets, ask a question, or just walk on by. Being in southern California, it’s mostly laid back and good-natured.

I walked down El Prado yesterday and got a few pics:

Proselytizing in Balboa Park and argumentation.
Proselytizing in Balboa Park occasionally includes heated debate.
Muslims use Jesus to engage possible converts.
Muslims use Jesus to engage possible converts.
Atheists on El Prado make their case to tourists.
Atheists on El Prado make their case to passing tourists.
Scientologists with mysterious stress-detecting machines.
Scientologists with mysterious stress-detecting machines.
Hare Krishna advocates sit chanting their mantra.
Hare Krishna advocates sit chanting their mantra.