Uncovering the Essence of Family, of Every City, of Every Human Being

Vincent Van Patten


Photo by Josh Marshall on Unsplash

I’m off to the side unconsciously observing, a familiar state.

My eyes glance around the patio at the multitude of conversations taking place. Gathered around several tables with over twenty relatives, there’s nobody I look at and don’t respect, I don’t value, I don’t love. We’re of the same tribe, yet each of us is on a journey of our own — cousins, aunts and uncles, fathers and sons.

There’s a togetherness that I admire, an energy each of us contributes to where the older I get, the more I feel I contribute to this spirit.

More than the sum of parts that makes up the dynamics of a family, there’s something more, binding though intangible, stronger than the blood which flows through our veins.

Essence gives this world its meaning, what we can’t see in the natural. The artisan uses his hands to create something beautiful in its imperfection, a subtlety that connects man to his craft, and in effect, to others.

Essence is the indescribable identity of a culture, the characteristic that plays a larger role than language, politics or tradition. Essence makes a civilization a civilization, a city a city, a family a family, an individual like nobody else.

The sky was gray this morning as I walked along the beach, a soft rain was coming down. I enjoyed it, I’ve always loved the rain. Today it was unexpected.

I’ve done this before, about a year ago going through a difficult time. I’d go on long walks to clear my head and simply stay active. I thought about what my life was a year ago. A year ago. An entire year has passed. What I want remains the same, to experience this rainy, archaic, beautiful world. To discover the dark dingy corners and open vistas, I’m in search of essence.

This world is a living art form.

How we interact with one another, how we treat our loved ones, our families and friends, strangers. How we relate to the cities we’ve grown up in, these ever-changing cities which expand up and out yet stay true to what they really are, decaying structures caught in the flux of modernity. The blending of the old and new evokes something in us. That’s art.

I can’t walk past a graveyard without stopping to ponder the lives of those there.

Churches and cathedrals have the same power over me. I feel as if I’m drawn to their spires irrespective of the beliefs they foster, the colors of their stained glass windows, the opaque deep blues and red. I’m fascinated by their construction and history, the vision of their maker.

These places are beautiful to me, they’re real, they give the world heart.

The world is ours to live in and be in now, to love and treat with respect. To respect our world is to be truthful in it. Showing who I truly am, being utterly truthful, it’s a battle of devotion.

We live in a world where people are scared to be truthful, scared to show our colors, scared to even open up to ourselves and accept, or rather love who we are. I’m no outlier.

This is what makes us human, the differences and similarities that have been passed down from our ancestors.

We’re all people attempting to make sense of the time we have on this planet, this is all we’ve ever done. Our journey is a universal one that transcends time.

Through life and through death, we’re part of a universe asking to change, needing to change, a more inclusive, fearless world. I read about the lives of great heroes before us, unsung everyday heroes, not only the ones leading the army into battle, but the nameless. It’s the nameless that give the world its essence.

I truly enjoy stories that capture a time and place. My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard does this just as wonderfully as any great novel of the past. He captures our modern world, more specifically, our daily life. He’s unafraid to write truly, and to me that’s captivating.

Knausgaard reflects on his past and creates a story I want to read because I connect to it. He doubts himself, he doesn’t believe he’s good enough to be a writer. Yet, he continues to document his story, he continues to write.

His books describe our modern world, of a family with its problems, of a man looking for meaning. I want to keep reading because I see myself in it, I connect to this author who wrote a book in Norwegian which somebody had to translate into English for me to understand.

Like the unending Swedish days in which Knausgaard describes, life is often foggy and unclear. But he keeps writing, unashamed and curiously. These historic figures I am fascinated by — writers, actors, builders and thinkers — they were just people living in what they knew as their modern world.

They did something courageous, they stood up for something.

Sometimes it was simply putting their heart on a page.

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My name is Vincent Van Patten. This is my home, a place to share who I am and what lights my soul on fire. I’m a writer, media creator, and co-host of The Dare to Dream Podcast. Most importantly, I’m an inspired citizen of our ever-changing world. I strive to learn all that I can about how we’ve progressed to where we are today as individual cultures and as a planet. It’s my passion to fill every day with exploration and creativity no matter where I am, whether in California crafting my latest project or on my way to discover someplace new. By writing about my experiences, connecting with people and the earth, and remaining present, I always feel at home. I write to express my perspective of daily living, from the thoughts in my head to the relationships we share as human beings. I write about travel, culture, books, life, philosophy, spirituality, health, self-improvement, and history. I also write poetry and short stories  —  doing so soothes the soul. I believe we’re here to challenge ourselves by questioning all we think we know. When we do, we open our minds to a way of living we could never have imagined. This life is a journey with no finish line in sight. I hope to leave a positive impact with every step I take.

Del Mar, CA

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