The paradox of ongoing political interference

March 31, 2015

After sending my letter to the management of the 2019 team, I read with interest the controversy surrounding the selection of Philander for the World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand, coupled with the intention of Cricket South Africa to increase the quota of players of colour in both the provincial and franchise teams (which was announced a day after the semi-final loss).

A system consists of a social, economic and political domain. There is an inter-connected fabric of the parts (ideas) that make up the whole and if ideas continually clash, then the cohesiveness of the whole will be threatened.

The political level of a system defines what rules and regulations need to be applied to ‘what, when, where and how’ people associate and interact. Since political processes have to do with controlling energy and information flow, the system will become stuck and restricted over time if there is continual political interference.

Given that the system is sensitive to prescription and manipulation, most political interventions tend to create unbalance, mistrust and subversion. And with this, there will be issues or ‘hotspots’ that can not be spoken about. The system will begin to shut down on an informational level. While everyone in the system will be aware of these ‘unspokens’, no one will dare to verbalise or speak about them. It will be too emotionally dangerous and unsafe to do so. Only an outsider will have the freedom and maneuverability to mention or talk about the ‘unsaid’.

The paradox of ongoing political interference is that other problems on other levels are created for the system. As a case in point, the loss against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final highlights the paradox of how a born and bred South African player (Grant Elliott was developed and nurtured in the system), played a significant part for his adopted nation to beat the very system that had excluded (or rejected) him.

While young black South African cricketers need to be cared for and nurtured, so do all young aspiring South African cricketers need care and encouragement. No distinction along racial lines should ever be made. The loss of young white aspiring South African players to other cricket nations is already happening, and is likely to increase if the quota of players of colour increases. This is as much of a serious problem as is the need to create opportunity for youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. The challenge is to have a process of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong.

Administration, operation (playing) and observation (public and media) levels are inter-connected. If the administration of Cricket South Africa cannot free themselves of linear, prescriptive thinking then it is unlikely that the team of 2019 will be able to shift their old thinking patterns. More of the ‘same old, same old‘ can then be expected and in the process the observing nation may lose hope and interest in the team. Without public and sponsorship support there will be no emotional and observational context for the team to grow in. Without this support, the team will wither and shrink. The constant reference to ‘making the nation proud and wanting to win for the nation’ by AB de Villiers, highlights his acute awareness of this. The administration needs to seriously consider this. Applying short-sighted, simplistic thinking to the complex issue of inequality may unleash processes that threaten the fabric of the national team that is expected to perform at its highest level. Because systems act in waves, circles and spirals there is a tipping point when the system starts a decaying and fragmenting process. If this unfolds, not even a passionate, committed and loyal captain such as AB de Villiers will have the energy to hold things together.

 


A letter to the management of the 2019 South African cricket team

March 28, 2015

Like all South Africans, I have been witnessing the painful processes that all of the SA cricket teams have gone through at World Cup tournaments. I have previously written about possible solutions to the problem being encountered, but I am not too sure if any of the information has been received by any of the players or teams. I have also considered that there may be a rejection of some of my ideas.

The intention of my letter is not to cause more pain to you, but to offer a new way of looking at the past problems, as well as to move into the future with a clear vision.

Lighting up the sky

Lighting up the sky

As you know, the team choked again at the 2015 cricket World Cup tournament. While this may sound harsh, I believe that the first step to any revival is to truthfully acknowledge the problem. It is not emotionally weak to do so. It takes a lot of courage to look at a painful problem, especially if it has caused much embarrassment.

In the final overs of the semi-final match against New Zealand, the intensity of the situation got too much for the players. Two easy run-out opportunities were missed due to the phenomenon of ‘rushing’ (this reflects a desperate, panicked and impatient mind-set). Further, two collisions occurred on the field between players going for the same catch, which reflects restricted peripheral awareness (this occurs when the mind gets restricted due to the stress in competition).

Over the years, the teams going to the World Cup tournaments have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This repeated pattern has created the historical problem of choking, that you now need to address. Each team that had previously gone to the World Cup tournament had the opportunity to resolve this issue, but failed. I believe that their failure was embedded in a way of thinking, speaking and acting that inadvertently created the very problem that they were trying to resolve.

Please don’t despair about this. You have an opportunity to resolve this issue. But this will require a new philosophy and paradigm of thinking, resulting in a new way of being on and off the cricket field.

As you know, all of the teams leaving the shores have had excellent camaraderie and team spirit. They have also been totally committed on the field and have always given 100% effort. Further, I do not feel that their cricket skills have been an issue. So this is all good. However, the fundamental emotional and mental issues that all of the previous teams have struggled with are on a completely different level.

I know that the teams going to the World Cups have had sports psychologists, mental conditioning coaches, motivational gurus and expert consultants to assist them with the mental aspects of the tournament. But I don’t know what is discussed, said or applied to the teams by these professionals. However, confidential information about strategies and/or techniques that these professionals suggest tend to find themselves in the media. I am not too sure why, especially since this should be a private, confidential process. For example, through a press article I read that in this World Cup the idea of ‘show no weakness’ was very much part of the mental drive in the team. Despite this mantra, however, I was rather surprised to see how the players reacted on the field after the loss against New Zealand. It became apparent to me that in failure and disappointment the ability of the players to show ‘no weakness’ was not possible and instead a child-like emotional reaction and to some extent ‘self-pity’ was revealed to the world. I am sure that you as the 2019 captain will have to deal with these images when the press again confronts you with the harsh reality of failures and choking at the World Cup. In other words, the 2015 failure has added another layer of emotional pain that you will have to deal with.

If you do decide to bring in a mental consultant for your preparation, be sensitive to the confidential nature of the process. Do not go public with any intervention that may be decided on since this reduces the effectiveness of the work that you may be doing on the mental level.

I mentioned that a new paradigm of thinking and acting was necessary if you wanted to win the World Cup. This paradigm is based in quantum physics, co-evolved reality creation, energy and informational flow, process-orientated thinking and zen-like attitudes. While this may sound rather complex and difficult to comprehend, it is not.

You will need to take the team through a process of change and maturation, in which you heal past pain, and learn from past mistakes and approach the challenge of competition in a more co-operative way. While this may sound strange, I would like you to consider this. Every team at the World Cup is playing for their country and wants to bring the trophy home. Every team tries its best to win. Every team feels the pain of losing. Your team is no different. Every opponent your team faces will be challenging you to produce your best, just like you will be challenging them to be at their best. That is the nature of competition.

As part of the transformation in your team, you will need to shift the sense of entitlement and intense desperation in the team to prove its worth to the world. Be mindful of not promising to bring the Cup home, before any match is played. There is no need to tell everyone how important it is for the nation that you win, or that you need to make the nation proud by winning. The nation will always be proud of you if you deal with victory and loss in a humble and honourable way, after you have given 100% commitment on the day of competition. It is not necessary to speak about this, actions are far more powerful. Let the nation see for themselves.

It is important for you to consider how one creates realities by what you say in public. Think of life as being a co-operative energy flow between what you think and say and the way that life responds to you. I also believe that you have half a pen to write your life story, life has the other half. This is very much the same when it comes to competing against another team, batsmen or bowlers. The opposition are also influencing the process. As a case in point, I was impressed with the way the New Zealand batsmen chased down the target of 298 in only 43 overs, batting second. They were remarkably calm and emotionally balanced. They were also part of the story of the match. They had half their pen to make a mark in their history to go through to the finals.

You need to be able to assess your abilities in a realistic way. Most South African teams tend to over-exaggerate their abilities and under-estimate the task at hand. For example, in November last year, the one-day team were beaten 4-1 by Australia. In the round robin pool matches of the world cup tournament, the team lost to India and Pakistan. In the semi-final, they lost to New Zealand by 4 wickets. On reflection, we lost to teams that are considered ‘cricket playing nations’. The team may have built up the expectation of being able to win the World Cup by putting too much emphasis on their emphatic, one-sided, results against teams such as UAE, Ireland, Zimbabwe and a disinterested West Indies.

Every cricketer, coach, support staff and administrators (past and present) is wrapped up in the problem that you are trying to resolve. Given this, very little new information can be generated internally. That’s the nature of the situation that you find yourself in.

As part of the new way of thinking and the new transformational process you could consider some of the following ideas:

  • Bring in poets, philosophers, artists and ordinary every-day people with inspirational stories to address your team on an ongoing basis as part of a development programme. Group discussions and individual reflective writing needs to follow. This will help to expand your creativity, heighten your sensitivity and take you out of the restrictive world of cricket.
  • Each member of your team needs to do a soft, internal exercise which will help balance the energy system. Doing a martial art, tai chi, yoga, meditation or pilates will assist in developing an inner balance for your players.
  • The team needs to go through an ongoing group therapy process to heal past pain, and to develop an internal dynamic that resolves issues effectively. Linked to this, is the idea that each player develops more self-awareness, and becomes a leader of self.
  • Each player needs to commit to a hobby and/or field of study and this needs to be monitored by you. This process will help broaden the interests of a player outside of the world of cricket.
  • Every player needs to do some charity work. This should be ongoing and not be done as a once-off promotional stunt, with media attention. This will help ground your players emotionally since they will see a bigger picture of life.

The beautiful butterfly emerges after a remarkable transformational process.

So I am sure you have one significant question in your mind at the moment? So after developing the team as described above, will the team be guaranteed to win? Unfortunately, no. I hope that this does not scare you. The process of human transformation goes beyond winning. A new narrative is required for your team and it should not be judged on a result in a tournament. Instead, the purpose of the transformation is to develop a more grounded, emotionally balanced energetic system in each of your players.

I am reminded of the story of the 2 samurai warriors who were pitted against each by their respective emperors to fight to the death to see which empire would be victorious so as to annex the other. There was a lot at stake. Before the fight each warrior went into solitary meditation for about a week. To meditate on what? The story goes that they meditated on their death. They made peace with dying. They did this since the worry of death during the fight would have distracted their focus which would paradoxically, result in their death. They both knew that only one would remain, yet there was a serenity in both warriors as they faced each other.

As in previous teams, you will have a great group of players who will be proud to represent their country. The South African spirit is resilient. The challenge is to combine this with a culture of learning that facilitates a quantum leap in your team.

All the best for your upcoming challenge in 2019.


Same old, same old

February 7, 2015

Every cricket team leaves our shores with much hope, promise and high expectancy to win an ICC tournament, only to return with regret, failure, disappointment and shock.

The 2015 World Cup team left with a send off that usually only champions receive on their return, after winning a major tournament. So much pomp and ceremony and embarrassing speeches from dignitaries about losers, winning, uniting our nation and slogans were the order of the day. There was lots of winning talk, lots of excitement, lots of hype. Our team was paraded on a stage wearing designer sunglasses and jewelry, supporting the latest fashion hair styles, and smiling and waving to the adoring crowd. Interviews were conducted and television cameras rolled to record all the positive, obvious and meaningless talk from the players.

I remember the acknowledged embarrassment of the successful Brazilian soccer coach Carlos Parreira, when our national soccer team paraded through the streets of Sandton before the start of the 2010 World Cup. When asked what he thought of the parade, he stated that he had never been involved in a pre-tournament parade, without any results to warrant it.

At a press conference the South African cricket coach stated that the Proteas were mentally strong. He made a similar comment in November last year on his team’s return after losing 4-1 in a series against Australia. The captain, AB de Villiers stated that his team should have beaten the Australians since they were always in winning positions but the critical moments in the matches went against them. If what they were saying is to be believed, then without realising it the coach and captain were in fact inadvertently acknowledging that the team had actually choked in their matches against Australia.

It seems that the leadership in the team do not have any idea about how the self-fulfilling prophecy of choking gets perpetuated. Adamant denial, exaggerated expectancy and intense desperation to prove one’s worth are the nutrients for sustaining the choking issue at tournaments.

There have been comments made that this cricket team is different from those in the past. I am not too sure what criteria has been used to draw such a conclusion. While we do have our match-winning super stars in AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, the choking issue by-passes the individual level and instead exists in the unconscious, group psyche of the team.

There are going to be many unexpected, critical moments during the tournament that will test the psyche of whoever is in the middle of that particular unfolding event. The choking process can be likened to a haunted house. While there may be bravado while the sun is still up, at the stroke of 12 at midnight the nerve of whoever is in the haunted house will be severely tested.

I wish our cricket team the best of luck in the tournament. However, I feel that there is so much of the ‘same old, same old’ again in how the team and its leadership and administration have gone about speaking about the need to bring the trophy home. Such words are the building blocks of creating the very reality for us to fold under pressure again. Having said this, I hope that I am proved wrong.

During a recent visit to the Kruger National Park, I watched in amazement at how a little pied kingfisher hunted for its trophy. It was rewarded with a trophy that I couldn’t believe that it was capable of getting. It was a real treat just watching it enjoy its meal.

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Abstraction and projection

January 28, 2015

While doing some abstract photography, I could not stop thinking about the phenomenon of projection and creativity when encountering abstraction.

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The mind does not like ambiguity. Instead, it wants to get closure and definiteness, as quickly as possible. The mind finds it difficult to accept open-ended processes that may not have a clear, defined goal.

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When your mind confronts an abstraction or an ‘unknown’ entity, there is a tendency to project your own interpretation onto the situation based on your assumptions, unique cognitive structures and past experiential knowledge. This interpretation tells you more about yourself than the actual situation you are trying to make sense of.

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Many years ago, I underwent professional training into interpreting the Rorschach test responses of clients. The Rorschach test is a projective test of images that the client has to interpret and tell a story. That interpretation was then interpreted and analysed by the psychologist and certain hypotheses and inferences were drawn about the functioning of the client and the potential emotional struggles that the client may be encountering.

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According to the psycho-dynamic theory of Freud, projection is considered to be a defence mechanism. When utilising this defence mechanism, a person projects an unacceptable, negative unconscious part of him/herself onto another person. For example, if a person is very judgemental, he/she may deny this and instead project this onto another person and state, ‘you are judgemental’ (as opposed to acknowledging this aspect within him/herself).

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Abstraction creates an unease on one level, yet intrigue on another. It is in the interaction of unease and intrigue that creativity exists.

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The creative process is an expansive process where the mind projects new meaning onto the ‘unknown’. Creativity does not lose interest in abstraction. It thrives on it.

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A creative mind always looks at the ‘ordinary’ in a different way. Creativity is meaningful projection that adds a different perspective to the situation being encountered.

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Four perspectives, one reality

January 22, 2015

When consulting with my clients, I am acutely aware that a single fixed reality does not exist when it comes to perceptions of experiences in relationships. I have heard the old adage that there is always two sides to a story, being expanded to include a third perspective which is ‘the truth’. I wondered about ‘the truth’ aspect after taking some photographs of the reflections of water.

As humans, we are complex informational systems that use language to convey our perspective. However, language falls short to fully explain and describe what we are truly seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling. In addition, our perspective of our experiences depends on our worldview and life philosophy, which is derived from our accumulation of knowledge, experiences and historical family values and interpretations about the nature of life. Our worldview is unique as each one of us is unfolding and evolving in a unique way.

Four reflections, one water.

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The photographs above were taken of the same water in a dam, within a 15 minute period. What I saw in the water depended on where I stood, and where I looked. In addition, the reflections were influenced by whether there was sunlight, and if there was, the amount and the direction of the sun rays. The wind also played its part in influencing the ripples.


On the balcony – Reflection

January 16, 2015

Zurich put on a beautiful fireworks display to usher in the New Year.

Zurich - heralding in the New Year

Zurich – heralding in the New Year

Zurich - Welcome 2015

Welcome 2015!

Being on the balcony seems in the distant past. While there is a part of me that wants to leave it there (especially since I have been away), I did commit to do a reflection of the process in order to tease out some of my most significant learning. I want to honour that commitment.

How it started

The first thought that I have as I begin writing, is that the project started as a personal, private endeavour. I took my first photograph looking out into the distant, expansive East. After taking the photograph, I remember reading about a photographer who took (I think) 30 photographs of the same scene, in the same place, at the same time, and looked at the change that unfolded across the photographs taken. While this activated my thinking regarding the project, I felt I needed a slightly different challenge. I did not feel inspired to always set up the camera in the same way, with the same lens, and take the same scene with the same camera settings.

As I looked out from the balcony, my predominant thought was that there was so much in front of me. I wondered what I would capture if I took 30 photographs from the same place (on the balcony) and at the same time period (18h00 – 19h00)? There was a vast, complex sea of visual information that surrounded me. The question of where my eyes would look and what photograph would emerge intrigued me.

I wanted the process to expand and challenge my usual ways of looking at the world.

After taking my first 3 or 4 photographs, only then did I decide to share my experience through my blog articles. As part of my blog, I also decided to extend the challenge and see what meaningful life lesson (if any) would be triggered by the photograph that I had taken.

Walking onto the balcony

Before walking onto the balcony, I never could anticipate what photograph I would take. So I could not plan for each day. In fact, the process called for me to do the opposite and walk onto the balcony with no preconceived thoughts about what would unfold.

As I walked onto the balcony, I thought of myself as a blank, clean canvass that was going to be imprinted. I needed to be open to what the visual field would offer me.

Being on the balcony

Once I stepped onto the balcony, my intention was to create. A significant part of the creative process is performance. On a basic level, performance and creation are processes that have an end result. Since the end result is a consequence of the dynamic interaction between oneself and the environment (while doing a task or playing a game against an opposition), it is impossible to know exactly what the end product would be.

On a general level, I experienced one of three emotional and mental states during the creation (performance) process. Before walking onto the balcony, I could not predict what mental and emotional process I would go through. In other words, I never knew what was in store for me.

  1. There were about 5/6 photographs that I almost instantaneously knew that I would take as soon as I stepped onto the balcony. It was as if my visual and mental system connected immediately to a certain aspect of the vast visual field that was flirting with me. It acted as a magnet, which seemed to result in an immediate picture in my mind, which in turn, gave me clarity of how the photograph should be. These were powerful synergistic moments, where little effort or thought was required to take the photograph. I was mentally clear, emotionally calm and had no doubts that my mental map and the actual photograph (end product) would match. This could be defined as the calm, clear, knowing state that is in touch with the unfolding reality just before it manifests itself. It can be likened to a premonition.
  2. There were other days when I just sat and looked around not knowing if I would be able to get a photograph. I found myself searching and looking around to see what I could photograph. It was hard work during these times since I seemed to be consciously forcing the process. I was trying too hard. I felt an inner panic as I searched. This process was emotionally taxing.
  3. There were times, when I patiently sat on the balcony, not knowing, yet not worrying about what sort of photograph would emerge. This was a calm, not-knowing emotional and mental state. While waiting patiently in this state, something invariably jumped out of the visual field and caught my eye. It was as if the visual world presented me with a gift.

To expand further, if I had to quantify the percentage of each of the above states that I found myself in, I would say approximately 20% (6 out of 30 photographs) was in the clear, knowing state; about 50% was in the panicked, not-knowing state; while 30% was in the patient, calm, not-knowing state.

The second state was more dynamic, fluid and/or chaotic than the other two states. The challenge for me was to see if I could shift my panic into a more calmer place. I would guess that I was probably successful in about 33% of the cases. For the rest, I had to learn to live and embrace my unease as the process unfolded (and not to panic about the panic). This is a mental skill that many top athletes possess: the ability to embrace the internal panic without dropping the standard of their performance.

Despite being in one or other of these states, I was still able to produce a satisfactory, meaningful photograph at the end of every day. If I had known this before, it may have helped me to relax more in those times when I had so much doubt about not being able to produce anything.

Taking the photographs

My first and last photographs were the easiest. The first photograph was an obvious one. Our eyes always see the obvious first. As I walked onto the balcony for my last photograph, I knew that I wanted to incorporate and capture all that was before me. While it may not have been obvious, my mindset was very clear about what I wanted to do. My clear mindset, created a clear picture that could be translated through my eyes into my environment, to create the photograph that I envisioned.

On some days, I took a number of shots of one particular scene (maybe using different lenses and focal lengths) and then decided on the best one once I had loaded them onto my computer.

On other days, I took some shots of one scene, then changed my focus and shot another scene and so on; eventually arriving at a scene that felt right to me.

I noticed a number of patterns while on the balcony. There were bird patterns, plane patterns, sun and moon movement patterns. Certain birds, for example, flew overhead at approximately the same time every day, flying in the same direction. Once I had photographed a plane, for example, the possibility of taking a photograph of another plane was excluded in the future. This was a self-imposed decision that I took since I did not want repetition and instead, wanted my photographs to reflect the diversity of reality that surrounded me. While this decision made it more difficult for me since I was reducing my options over time, it forced me to look in different places thus opening up other possibilities.

Taking the photographs reminded me of the mining and exploration process (for resources). In the beginning, you have a vast expanse of easily accessible resource. But as time moves on, you are challenged more and more to refine your search of the resource since you have already consumed or exhausted what was easily accessible.

Loading the photographs on the computer

The number of photographs taken on each day varied. Understandably, there were more photographs taken on those days when I was consciously searching for a scene to take. It was as if my panic had increased my efforts and in turn increased the quantity of photographs taken.

However, having taken more photographs did not seem to improve my chances of finding better quality. The idea of just shooting as much as you can to eventually find the winner did not apply to me.

The life message of the photograph

The life message jumped out at me as I saw the photograph that I wanted to post in my blog article. For me, the words and the image seemed to complement each other. I felt that this integration helped to convey a meaningful message.

Recently, I spent an afternoon in a skate park in Zurich. Taking some photographs of one of the skateboarders reminded me of the excitement, challenge and joy of the creative process. Outstanding performance has no limits, it is an ongoing endeavour.

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On the balcony – Part 5

December 21, 2014

12 December 2014

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Looking out west

Today was going to be the 25th photograph in the project. As I walked onto the balcony I was aware that I had yet to take a photograph looking out west.

The vision out towards the east is more expansive, while the view towards the west is more restrictive. Given this, my dominant tendency (and perspective) was to look out towards the east. Setting my camera to face west, was breaking my dominant perspective.

13 December 2014

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A gift

One of my wife’s students gave her this Christmas reindeer as a year end gift to thank her for everything she had done. Giving a gift is an act of appreciation and gratitude.

My wife was inside putting up some Christmas decorations. She joined me on the balcony and playfully placed the little reindeer in the bush. She had brought me a gift to photograph. We smiled as I focused the camera on the little reindeer. One of the most powerful gifts we can give to others is a smile.

14 December 2014

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Same and different

I took this photograph of a small succulent plant we have on the balcony. Each stalk is unique, yet has the same structure.

As humans, we are unique. Yet, we are no different from each other regarding our basic needs. In addition, each one of us needs acknowledgement, respect and most importantly love, to grow.

We all have 24hours available to us each day we live. Our uniqueness unfolds depending on how we utilise this time.

For me, the photograph also reflects over-population and lack of space, which lies at the heart of our biggest global concern.

15 December 2014

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My neighbour

Sitting on the balcony, looking at me on the balcony.

In South Africa, we tend to live behind high walls, which separates us from our neighbours. The challenge is to re-connect to our neighbours and to build communities that are supportive and respectful.

16 December 2014

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Taking care

The garden below is beautiful.

Processes that are taken care of, usually result in beautiful outcomes.

17 December 2014

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Integrating everything around me

Today is the last day of my project. As I walked on the balcony I knew what type of photograph I would like to take, but I didn’t know how it would turn out. I needed to wait until it was dark.

I wanted to include all that exists before me in a single photograph.

Integrative thinking connects parts into a complex unified whole.


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