be like water...

after some very serious introspection and soul searching, i have found that new direction that i alluded to in my last post. for those that know me really well, you know that my two passions in life are being creative and helping others. for over half of my life, i have taken pictures to quench my creativity and volunteered my time to many worthy causes to help those that are less fortunate.

but for the past few years, i seem to have lost that edge i used to have. the fire that once burned inside had dwindled to a mere flicker. like the pilot light on a gas stove. perhaps it had even burned out. maybe i was burnt out.

this past week, however, someone (or something) turned the knob to high. perhaps it was the ghost of Bruce Lee in the East West Players recent production of Be Like Water. A story of a 13 year old gung fu fanatic tomboy who is visited by the ghost of Bruce Lee and learns the true meaning of strength and water.

"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

many of my philosophies on life turned out to be the same as Bruce Lee's. as a kid, i loved watching his movies. Enter the Dragon, Fists of Fury...perhaps subconsciously his words stuck in my head. too bad his skills didn't magically manifest themselves in me as well.

somehow, Bruce always seems to make an appearance in my life as well. 13 years ago, i was on assignment in Athens, Greece and i was taking pictures of the local gypsy people near the harbor and one man came up to me and said i looked like Bruce Lee, and then he struck a martial arts pose.

earlier this year, i was in Japan on vacation and my friend and i were wandering the streets near chinatown in Yokohama and we came across a red roll-up door with a couple of portraits of Bruce Lee painted on it. well, i had to take a picture with my own martial arts pose. the Greek guy did a better pose than i did.

as you can see, it looks like Bruce is ready to knock my head off for having such bad form! ha ha!

after watching Be Like Water, and being very impressed by the production, it really made me think about what i was doing and where i was going. the past few years i have been trying to find a project that i could really get involved with. one that would combine both my passion for creativity and helping others.

that project has now become quite clear now...Hibakusha. Hibakusha is a Japanese term often used to describe the people who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. the literal translation is "explosion-affected people". loosely translated, the term also refers to others outside of Japan who have also suffered from the fallout of atomic bomb testing and exposure to radiation.

the average age of Hibakusha in Japan is over 75 years old. as time marches on, many Hibakusha don't have much time left.

so i have made it my mission to photograph 65 (or more) Hibakusha from around the world and exhibit the prints in LA and Hiroshima in august, 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the bombings.

nobody really knows how many innocent lives were lost, but estimates place it at well over 200,000 while countless more lives were changed forever.

despite the atrocity of the bombings and the tragic losses, the threat of a nuclear war still looms. while North Korea has begun dismantling its nuclear reactors, other countries like the US, Russia and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons with the added fear that other nations like Iran are trying to develop their own. [May 2009 update: NK has resumed nuclear and missile testing]

so the ultimate goal is to not only have the the exhibit travel around the world, but to also publish a book to be sent to the leaders who possess the power to disarm. the book would not be one filled with too many words...let's face it, the world leaders probably won't take the time to read it. but instead, it will be filled with pictures of the survivors and each will be accompanied by a quote from the survivors.

the book will hopefully serve as a reminder of the horrors that a nuclear war can unleash. nuclear warheads today are far more powerful and destructive than the two that were dropped on Japan and no one should have to experience the pain and suffering that the Hibakusha have had to endure for the past 63 years.

i'm not exactly sure what lies ahead, but i will have a new perspective on the world and i predict it will be life altering, not just for me, but for many others. whatever difficulties i may encounter, surely it will be nothing compared to what the Hibakusha have endured. and if times get tough, i'll just have to ask, "What would Bruce say?" "Be like water."