Picture this: The American Dream

Picture this: The American Dream


Have you taken any time to consider the American Dream?  In my experience, the American Dream is not a static concept so much as dynamically driven by geography and culture. Having lived in several parts of the United States, I can safely say that my sense of the American Dream has shifted from place to place, but always included the ability to enjoy wide-open spaces.  To that end, you might say that I envision the American Dream as those unalienable rights as outlined in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Therefore, if I were to comment on “my” American Dream, I might sum it up briefly by saying that it is the Liberty to enjoy my Life without encumbrance by governmental agencies, while I Pursue Happiness. 


But what is “is”?  Do I “live” and therefore have “life” just because I breathe?  Not quite: Life for me is a journey and liberty is the freedom to take the turns on that journey that are pleasing and desirable to me.  Happiness: Well that is simply being satisfied that I made my own choices along the way.  There are no guaranteed results in this “American Dream”, just an equal opportunity to turn our life into whatever we want it to be.  There is no joy that matches a wide-open space with my camera.  At the end of the day I might be tired, hot, dirty and 100 miles from home, but satisfied that I have pursued my American Dream.  But wait: That is my American Dream in Kansas, and does not necessarily have anything to do with my time in Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, or Pennsylvania etc.  I might seek out a mountain trail or beach in Connecticut and in Pennsylvania, it might be a waterfall, covered bridge, or a country farm scene.  There are many themes that I might be engaged in with different geographical areas, but the pursuit is close to the same in all places.  As a young backpacker, just seeing the sights along the way was good enough for me, but that was when I lived in a city and worked in a bigger city and spent my rush hours sitting in some serious traffic.  Today the camera is a very important part of that scenery because I want to share those sights with others. 


You might have guessed by now that my American Dream today involves having a camera handy and getting away from it all.  Kansas for instance, has many Scenic Drives that you could take over the course of a weekend and experience some of the more interesting sights and culture of our great state, and in my opinion; it is a good idea to have a camera with you.  Sure, these kinds of little excursions are very enjoyable without stopping to shoot, but the pleasure of viewing those photos repeatedly has a healing effect on the soul.  Trips like these are easy to afford in rough economic times like those we live in today, but the photographic fruits can last a long time.  Not only that, getting out of the car to really experience these locations is an important part of these trips.  Walking around at Monument Rocks or Castle Rock can be a once-in-lifetime experience, besides being the stuff that builds a rich childhood for your kids.  I do not know about you, but in my family, we spent a lot of time driving for vacations and getting out to explore everywhere we went.  That was some good stuff to remember as a kid, and it has had a permanent effect on my life.  It is also very cool to be able to share these places with your friends and family and introduce them to more of the world they live in.


After everything is said and done, it is all about getting out with your camera and enjoying the many liberties that we are blessed with as Americans. Sitting on the couch and watching your favorite shows on television may seem like a great idea for you, but once those shows are gone, they are gone. The photos that you accumulate from simple little scenic drives can provide a lifetime of fun and invigorating memories. If you enjoy activities at the lake, you will probably also enjoy the photos of those activities during the harsh winters of Kansas. I once read a book about developing memory; the author suggested that one of the best ways to preserve memories was to keep photos of those memorable moments handy, where they will be viewed often. Some of my favorite photos are hanging in my studio, and provide wallpaper for my various computer screens.


If you need some inspiration to get started on excursions (such as I have discussed here) catch up with me on Facebook or Flickr and have a look at the various galleries available. You may discover places that you never dreamed existed in and around Kansas. By the way, we do not have to show a passport at the borders between states here in the United States, so it is okay if you cross the border into one of our neighboring states and find some cool stuff to shoot there too.




~ by jrcowell on August 13, 2011.

3 Responses to “Picture this: The American Dream”

  1. So true Jeff, makes me want to get out and explore now! Road trips rock, especially when you have a camera. 🙂

  2. You are so cool! I don’t believe I have read anything like that before. So nice to discover another person with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

  3. Good to read your blog again Jeff. Hopefully we can hook up sometime in the near future and take another road trip. Very enjoyable.

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