Words and photography, Jesse Jackson IV |

Aspirations are a strange thing. You must have them in order to propel yourself forward in life, but if you have the wrong relationship with your aspirations, they become the very thing contributing most to your unhappiness. Leveraged well, inspiration becomes aspiration, a driving force behind the work required to reach what you aspire to; poorly, and it becomes resentment, sucking the very soul from within.

The addition of interaction to inspiration drives a negative relationship to aspiration, turning it toward comparison, the father of envy. The purest approach to sharpening the desire to achieve appears to be deep within the pages of a novel, perhaps in biographies of men and women from bygone eras - time having created just enough distance so as to not trigger envy, but not so much that one cannot see too much of oneself in the sculpted image. Our forebears hold in the stories of their lives guides towards better lives of our own, in both example and counterexample. Observation of the lived experiences of those who came before looks to be the most direct path to sophistication - a sharp line through the universal tendency towards disarray.

Experience remains the best teacher, but she is a harsh mistress. There are many parables through the understanding of which lessons may be gleaned at a more palatable cost, parables from which healthy aspirations may be gained without the burden of comparison so easily attached. Seek these examples in the ephemera of bygone eras, and what one discovers is striking similarity to our own. Beauty, so fleetingly ours as we live it, is eternal in the captured moment; the desire to seek and possess beauty is unchanged through the ages. Thus, understanding what once was le monde du jour informs le monde de demain, and does so in such a way that allows for an original interpretation, unencumbered by over consideration of what the algorithms prioritize.

It must be noted that within these words, there is an implicit assumption that beauty is a universal aspiration. This feels self-evident - not just physical beauty, but beauty of spirit, beauty of experience. We will take this as a given as we move forward, but there is doubtless much to be understood about the human experience if an aspiration towards beauty is indeed something we all share. Beauty may well reside in the eye of the beholder, but there are characteristics that truly beautiful things hold in common.

True beauty is closely tied to ethical, moral behavior, a respect for human dignity and the land from which we all spring; true beauty is tied to actions that reflect a sense of sonder. A respect and appreciation of this reality allows for a drastic reorganization of priorities and perspective. Understanding the degree to which yesterday creates tomorrow leads to a more considered, deliberate approach to the future. Given the import of worthy aspirations, perhaps it would be a useful exercise to take a closer examination of my own. There are a core set of general aspirations that broadly inform the choices I make in all areas of life. I do, of course, retain the right to allow these aspirations to evolve, but this is how I experience them today.


While I remain unsure of the source of my desire, there is no denying that it exists. I believe an answer to the question of immortality lies in a quote from Ernest Hemingway. “A thousand years makes economics silly and a work of art endures forever, but it is very difficult to do..” There are of course many answers to such a question - any number of great deeds are remembered, whether they be accomplishments in the fields of philosophy or great physical exertion. To struggle mightily and prevail; that is the core of the thing.

Great art shares a singular characteristic to my mind - a clear distillation of some aspect of humanity. This distillation persists throughout the ages and touches generations with whom one has no external commonality besides the central humanity; humanity that contains all of the necessary commonality. To lift the veil of all our differences and distill truth; that is my primary aspiration, the fruits of the pursuit of which I hope to leave as a defining legacy.

Second is a yearning to create and curate truly beautiful relationships, objects, and experiences. Much of what we encounter today is the result of an economic system which too often prioritizes profit over people, resulting in work done by the lowest bidder and with little to no regard to the quality of life of neither the working people who are commissioned to do the work nor the end consumer. This reality has distorted what we expect from transactions to such a degree that encountering a production chain that has flipped this relationship on its head is a shock to the system; the price tag seems extortionate, when in reality it is likely reflective of the actual value of the work done.

In aspiring towards beauty in the manner in which I make a living, I strive to create and participate in value chains that prioritize people over profit, honoring the humanity of each participant, and communicating the value in doing so to a consumer who ultimately feels honored by their very participation. Dignity in the exchange of goods and ideas, goodwill generation at human scale, lasting community impact; to empower those who pour their heart and soul into the communication of ideas through acts of creation by my patronage - this is the second aspiration.

Stairway to the past

The third aspiration, and the last uncovered as part of this exercise in self-examination, is the desire to absorb as much culture as possible. There is a general perception of my generation (as there will be for all that follow) that attention spans have been decimated, that care for the literary and socio-political heritage gifted to us by our forefathers lies by the wayside, supplanted by evolutionary technology that lays every possible diversion at our fingertips. This is true; nonetheless, I rage against this dying of the light. Even with the vast amount of information available at a glance, there is tremendous - priceless - value in digging just that little bit deeper and working to discover truths uncovered and transmitted across the ages in various media.

I aspire to consume and understand the message of the ages so that I may transmit said understanding to those who follow. Truth in intention is disseminated through all man has done; the ability to grasp it is entirely dependent on desire. Through this lens I view the world and all it contains; all that has been created measured against the ability to justify its existence to history.