Embracing Change – In The Eyes of God

Ever travel to a place you’d NEVER think you would, let alone accidentally drink the water, get seriously ill with a 103 fever, sleep on a mat upon a cold concrete floor in a small boarder town where no one spoke your language, then take an open windowed bus ride during the monsoon season to one of highest elevation cities on earth? 

I was 22 years old and recently graduated from college and that summer decided to travel around the world with only a backpack, a few travelers checks, and the Lonely Planet guide for various countries like China, Thailand, India, and Nepal.  I was young, healthy and loved history as that had been some of my favorite classes – taught by teachers and professors that had also been to exotic lands, and loved sharing their stories like I’m about to share with you.

After 3 weeks slumming in rooms at youth hostels throughout East Asia, I arrived in India, Bombay Train Station to be exact!  This is one of most famous, but seriously poor cities on the planet, and here I began a 2 week trek via bus, train, auto-rickshaw and by foot to such stunning cities like Agra and the Taj Mahal, Varanasi and the Ganges River, Calcutta and Mother Teresa’s City of Joy, and Darjeeling the once capital of tea export out of this region of the world!  While in Varanasi and boating down the holy river, I drank some water out of an bottle that I thought was new.  Well, it wasn’t as our guide had just filled it with local tap water before we arrived – since it was super hot and humid at the height of the monsoon season, I drank without thinking much about the days to come.  It didn’t take very long for me to become violently sick and the travels in open air buses and trains became very uncomfortable as this was where an American tourist on a budget slept each night.

After a few days of serious rest in Darjeeling and taking “I have NO idea what kind of drug” we found in a local pharmacy, I was feeling well enough to continue our travels.  Thus began one of the most amazing parts of this trip, and one that even though I’ve shared many times to students over the years, never gets old, just more poignant toward embracing change in my life.

In the border town of Kakarvitta, Napel and India – we arrived in the dead of night with rain pouring so hard you could see droplets jump several inches from the puddles on the muddy ground.  Traveling with two friends I had met in college, we barely found a room that was already taken by two families from central India and enough space on the floor for us to lay out a mat on a cold and damp concrete floor.  I didn’t sleep at all, mostly because I was not 100% and also the rain was so loud on the metal roofing of our room.  The next morning, we secured a bus going to Katmandu our final destination before flying to Europe in four days.  The bus had open windows with metal bars and looked like it was built back when the English still occupied this region.  The rain and wind were still whirling around us, and made my recovery all the harder and often blew side ways making our seats wet – we had to wear our rain gear to find any sense of comfort.

What is a normal 8.5 hour drive on the East West Highway when not traveling during a major storm, it took us two days and several stops along the side of the road – bus breaking down twice and the road washing out into one of the many rivers we had to cross.  While waiting for large tractors to reconstruct our road so we could continue, we took on new passengers, many of whom road on top of the bus – Nepalese style!  We truly had no more room as every floor space, roof top, window and seat was taken.  I happened to be all the way in the back seat center isle, so could see to the front of the bus peering over sleeping bodies and families sharing food and drink throughout the long trip to the foothills of the Himalayas.

With eyes half open, I noticed at the front of the bus on the floor a man and what seemed to be his wife as he held her lovingly and with great care.  She seemed very ill, and even from where I was seated I could see the worry and the tears on his face as she came in and out of consciousness.  He caressed her like I had never seen before.  I couldn’t help but stair at them, and just then, the man looked back toward me and fixed his eyes on mine.  I was embarrassed so looked down and away, hoping that I didn’t offend him in some way.  I began to wonder the whole story of this couple, dressed in traditional Nepalese colorful dress.  Why were they on this bus, and not in a hospital?  Why wasn’t someone on our bus with any form of medical training tending to her needs?  We had another 9 hours to go, so what would happen to this woman if we broke down again?  With a dull headache and not being able to keep my eyes open anymore, it wasn’t long before I fell asleep, the first time in nearly 24 hours.

I woke with the sound of music playing – Madal drums echoed in my ears with a rhythm that was alive with national pride.  We had arrived in Katmandu mid morning, and as we all began to exit the bus, I could smell the distinct odor of incense from a Buddhist temple nearby.  As I stepped down the stairs, to my right was a group of men in white and blue shirts were tending to someone on the ground.  I stood there watching, then noticed they were trying to revive the woman on the bus.  Next to her was the man, her husband, sitting against the wheel of the bus, his face looking tired and tattered written with days of fear and heart-ache.  I walked up to him, and felt compelled to say something, but words didn’t come.  I knelt down on one knee to his side, and put my hand on his shoulder, and peered into his eyes.  He turned his head, took my hand into his, and gripped it tightly.  For about a minute I just stayed there with him, not truly knowing what to do next.  The man, who had just lost his wife to what I heard later was cholera, who held the treasure of his life in the last moments of life – then took my hand and placed it next to his heart and smiled.  In the moment of absolute horror, he smiled.

When I began teaching, I remember sharing this story with my students – partly to tell them a little about who Karl, their new teacher was, but also and hopefully more importantly to let them hear about a man and his wife, and through them, God who looked and smiled back at me.

Embracing the Change simply put is just that – noticing and then holding on to what is most important in each and every experience of our lives.


I’ve read that’s it’s important to start a blog by giving one’s readers real and true content – and since I just recently watched the movie I’m about to talk about, this short excerpt shouldn’t take too long and could bring you a smile and warm your heart – how fitting during this time in our world, to smile a genuine smile!

In 1991 I decided to become a teacher at a Catholic all boys school here in California.  Only two years earlier I had watched Robin Williams and his role as Mr. Keating, mesmerize his students in the acclaimed, “Dead Poet’s Society,” a movie that at that time I never thought would have such a profound influence on my inner core and spirit.  I was a lot like Mr. Keating as a young teacher – I told many stories, was revolutionary in my teaching methods – even taught classes outside – while walking in the park down the street.

I believe that the themes in this one movie, those of Life, Death and Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) have influenced much of my artwork – how I grapple with not only the significant changes in my life, but also some of the injustices in our world.

Here is the scene that has resurrected fond memories of where I was at emotionally at 22 – and in many ways still today:

After a short stint selling Apple Computers after college – very true, I met Steve Jobs at an Apple Expo event while pitching the Macintosh LC to teachers and principals – I decided to become a teacher! I realized that selling a “box” was not all that exciting, so I decided to “sell” the minds of our youth instead.  Change at that age wasn’t too difficult, but admittedly going from my very first and very nice base salary plus commission to a barely above the poverty level teaching salary took some serious adjustment.  Robin Williams’ character, Mr. Keating gifted his young students a life-lesson that I heard loud and clear. What do you hear?

“Carpe (Hear it?”)

“Carpe Diem”

“Seize the Day, Boys”

“Make Your Lives Extraordinary”

Can You Hear The Music?

Thirty-one chances. Thirty-one futures, our futures. It’s an almost psychotic feeling, believing that part of their lives belongs to me. Everything they become, I also become. And everything about me, they helped to create.
― Esme Raji Codell

“in the beginning…”

Did you know that everything in life has a beginning? It might sound completely obvious, even juvenile to say that, but as I begin to type my very first blog post, I’m reminded by one of my favorite spiritual thinkers, and what he said – “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Gandhi

My name is Karl-Jürgen and I’m genuinely excited to share with you each week, thoughts about the artwork I’ve created, the feelings and emotions they evoke within me, and hopefully affect a little change for good in our world – it’s being true to myself that is driving this blog. Ok, ready…set…GO!

When I received my doctorate in education and a few years before, a masters in theology, both in my 20s, I honestly had many more questions at the end about what life is all about. Honestly, you’d think, that getting a degree from a university and then getting that first amazing job (for me being a teacher), would teach you a few things, providing everything you need in your toolbox of life! What I’ve learned, however, is that I have even more questions than I ever received answers.

“Cultivate Curiosity. If you really want to grow in your lifetime, learn to be as inquisitive as a child. Curious people are never bored, and for them life becomes an unending study of joy.” Tony Robbins

I think it’s wonderful to begin this exploration, in our New Year – no where near over our global pandemic and most people struggling in some way. My Dublin, Irish mother taught me to live life with a “cup half full” attitude and even though so many have died, so many suffer due to COVID-19, our world seems so polarized one way or the other, even with all that and so much more, I firmly believe that goodness will win, healing is happening, and truth will set us free – notice my Biblical reference there – I just couldn’t help it.

A little over two year ago, I began realizing that I can create art. I KNOW RIGHT – go figure, that as I turn 54 next month, I’ve found a joy and passion that is not only fun but truly rewarding, affecting small but poignant changes in the lives of others.

Having visited so many museums around the world, and being the kind of person that can spend hours absorbing the history, and the ideas behind the art, I truly never spent any time on a side of me that was pretty much dormant. ‘Liars Listen to the Wind’ like many of my pieces shares the internal struggle with the truth, which I know all too well! I suspect, that most people do too – and this blog will explore how we can “un-pack” that a little, accept who we truly are, and live a life that is open, honest and giving wholeheartedly and completely. I’m very excited to begin, hope you are too, and together let’s make our world even more special than it is today!

Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Helen Keller

Surmounting Reality

Hello, I’ve been taking digital pictures for a little over a year now, and enjoy creating scenes that are inspiring to me personally! I have an eye for so much that is beautiful in life and appreciate the wonders of the world! My love of culture, people and their differences, strengths and weakness seems to be driving my photography. I have been using GIMP in most of my editing, and recently began using Photo Shop CC, so enjoy bringing many of my themes to another level of beauty that I hope you enjoy. Enjoy your stay here, and know that with just one simple kind act, we are changing our world!

Founder of Surmounting Reality Surrealism in Art – a new Surrealist Flickr group, that celebrates real life and digital artists from around the world: www.flickr.com/groups/surmountingreality/

Along with Angela Thespian, we bring you one of the top SL magazines celebrating all that is good about Second Life! FOCUS Magazine brings novice photographer together with those who have been taking snapshots for some time, and several who are artists and photogs in real life! I’m proud to be a part of such an amazing group, and one that has well over 1200 members and over 10,000 who read FOCUS Magazine each month.

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