David Lutz introduced me to Jamie. We had only conversed through email prior to our meeting for this interview, so I was surprised by his accent when he met me at the door. Because he’s such a joy to listen to, I do highly recommend listening to this interview, but Jamie's got a lot more going on than his accent. I particularly enjoy that he speaks his mind and has a solid set of values including caring about being a good man. It's not every day I meet a man who openly admits to wanting to be a good one. I share that desire. When the time comes for someone to remember me, I hope that is one of things that comes to mind. I love it so much when I meet a stranger who is ready to engage in real, vulnerable talk right away. Thanks for that, Jamie. We sat on some cushions on the floor in an empty yoga studio and I spent our time together thoroughly embarrassed by my poor posture...
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I guess these days I describe myself as a father. I'm a seeker. I've always been interested in different cultures, different ways of being. I've always wanted to advance myself. I'm someone who's very passionate about the subjects I'm very passionate about. I'm very interested in getting yoga out there, for a start, for men. I'm really passionate about that; I just don't think there's enough in this country, specifically for men. I'm very much into alternative lifestyles. As a father, I want my children to see the world from different views, not just a cookie-cutter existence. Yeah, I'm just interested in everything. I'm passionate above all things.
What matters to you? And what motivates you?
Continued growth matters to me. Being a good dad, being a good husband, and being a good man. And figuring out what it means to be a good man in this culture. Things are so different. 200 years ago, 300 years ago, going back - men's roles were obviously very different. And now I think we're trying to find who we are in this day and age.
I'm self-motivated. I'm really driven. In terms of Ayurveda, which is yoga's sister science, I'm very pitta - pitta's are very passionate, very driven people - to the point where, I wouldn't say I'm obsessive, but I'm definitely... I get something stuck in my craw and I have to do it. I've always been that way. Whether it was martial arts - I have a black belt in karate - I did Muay Thai, I've studied it my whole life. I wanted to the best at something. My yoga is good because it helps me let go of being the best. Yeah. Self-motivated, self-driven. I see other people who are doing what I want to do and I aspire to be on the same level as them. Not be them, because I'm unique, but I just want to be the best me I can be. And that motivates me - gets me out of bed every morning. That and really good coffee.
What does it mean to you to be a good man?
To be honorable. To be a good friend to my friends. To be a good husband and a good provider - although my wife's a physical therapist, so she makes very good coin. To be honest, I want to present to people who I truly am instead of a facade. I always think about Eleanor Rigby - the Beatles' song - wearing a [face] that she keeps in a jar by the door. And I think so many people are not true. Especially with internet culture these days - you know, this is Facebook or Instagram - people look amazing and then you see them and that's not who they really are; they're not being true to themselves. And I think we need to be true to ourselves. Especially as men; just be who you are. Let that shine through instead of pretending. That's a man to me; just someone who's a friend, who's loyal, who's honest, and is who they are and is just there for people.
What concerns you? What gives you a heavy heart?
I see a slipping of the standards with the way people are these days. I see so many people walking down the street - and I'm involved in the health care industry, like I said, I'm an MRI technologist. I scan people all the time and I see people who are just not as healthy as they could be. Whether that's from environmental degradation or it's lifestyle choices, people are just destroying their bodies. People aren't moving enough. People are becoming obese and sick through that. And I'm not judging people. In Ayurveda they talk about people being kapha, which is one of the doshas, and kapha people tend to be more rubenesque - more curvy - and you can be very healthy like that. I just see people and I see the effects of that - of poor lifestyle decisions.
And I worry about the state of the planet. I know that's a very clichéd answer, but I'm really worried about the state of the planet. I'm worried about how things are gonna be for my children and my children's children. Things are starting to break down, you can see it. Food supplies are getting contaminated... I worry about that. You can go to a big box store and you spend 25 dollars - 50 dollars - on shit food and none of it's real and people are feeding it to their families. Again, I'm not judging people. If that's all you can afford and you're trying to do your best. Everyone's trying to do the best for their family. But there's got to be better choices. There's got to be better support systems in place for people so they can eat 'cause it all starts with diet. Kids are not getting good nutrition because people are in a rush. We gotta slow stuff down, man. We really do. Or we'll spin off the planet (laughs).
What do we mean to each other on an individual basis?
I feel, especially these days, depends where you live - in major cities, there's a big disconnect. Bend's a pretty decent size what we'd call in England a town - I wouldn't call this a city, I know it is in American terms - but in Bend I find people are really friendly. People give you a nod. You'll be in the grocery store, people will smile at you. There's a lot more interpersonal interactions. When I see people on the street, they're another human being, you know? I see them on that level. I see them as being a possible somebody I could become friends with or reach out to at some point. Not everybody wants to be friends these days, but I think in general people are just disconnected. And they're just moving through their lives in a bubble. But thats other people. Me, I meet 15, 20, 30 people a day as patients, so everybody I try to connect with on some kind of level. And I'm talking like Tea Party members and people who have completely opposing views on politics and lifestyle than I do and I always find a way to connect to them. That's how you gain people's trust and that's how I can do my job - my Joe job - effectively is gaining someone's trust so I can stick 'em in a tube with loud noises and get good images that get them on the road to being better, you know? That's me.
What does it mean to you to be part of a community?
For years I always saw myself as a loner. I always was the English guy - although my father who is Scottish 100% would really take offense if I called myself English - but I always saw myself as a loner on the outside. And I always have been a loner. I've always been interested in stuff that's maybe a little bit - because of its esoteric nature - kind of puts me a little bit on the outside. But even in being slightly an outsider, you find community of other outsiders. And, to me, it's always having somebody to converse with. Someone who's on a level where I can talk to them about subjects we're interested in. And just having someone you can reach out for.
It's really comforting not feeling like you're just on your own. I've moved so many times around this country, to have roots and have a community is wonderful. It's a support network. It harkens back to the old days when tribal structures were in tact and you had people and everybody relied on everybody else. Community is an echo to that tribal structure that all humans - no matter race, creed, religion, whatever - had in the past. Before we just got mechanized and industrialized.
This question is about social injustice and greed. You were talking about the quality of food and some of the options that are available to us and I guess I would consider an element of that to be social injustice, as well. That's one little social injustice. There's all the other big issues; there's racism, gender inequality, homophobia, etc. What's your role in working towards equity and humanity and social justice?
My role is speaking out about it. I think the best way to not let stuff go unchecked is to speak out when you hear it. Like I said, I deal with a lot of people from different backgrounds. If people start talking about things that I find distasteful, I tell them it's not okay. I grew up in a very multi-cultural society and, quite frankly, I don't care what your religion is. I've read most of the holy books - religion's always been fascinating to me - so I don't judge people on their tribal identity. I don't care how people fuck. I've had male friends who find homosexuality abhorrent, well I told them real quick I didn't like that and I don't want to hear that shit and if they don't like it, then I detach from them. I lived in San Francisco. I was involved in Wicca for a long time. A lot of my brothers were gay - I hugged them; they gave me kisses on the cheek; told me I was pretty sometimes - very flattering when I was young. I don't care! If you love another man or if you're a woman who loves another woman, love is love. I teach my children that all the time. And the color of someone's skin... that stuff doesn't matter. And I think we need to be really outspoken about that. If we could encourage people to stop looking at people as the enemy, instead looking at people as like these guys are a resource, maybe we can come together and raise ourselves up, I think it would be a lot better world. And we need to help educate those people as well. You were talking about food earlier on, it's so true; there's places in America where you can’t get good quality food. There was a guy in South-Central L.A. who's a gardener, who's trying to encourage people to plant on vacant plots and plant along the sidewalks and they started to crack down on it, stopping him from doing it. Why are they stopping him from growing food? Why is it these kids are going to bed fucking hungry when they could be growing food with a little encouragement from outside the community? They don't want people to be empowered! Sorry (laughs) but it pisses me off.
Would you say you have a sense of purpose?
Yeah. Yeah, I do. I want to evolve myself so I can lead other people. It's like Plato's Cave, where everybody's looking at the shadow's dancing on the wall. All it takes is one person to look and, Oh shit, the entrance is here - we're looking the wrong way. And I think we need, as individuals, just to awaken ourselves a little bit more, become more conscious, to be better examples in the community and just in our lives so people can look to us as somebody to follow - as an example. It's like everything else; you have to humble about things because there's always people who influence you who are way above you... like the Dalai Lama, right? The guy's like a wise, old Yoda. I've seen him speak and everybody was craning forward, everybody was so entranced by him because of his magic about him. My purpose is to get people healthier, get people thinking about their lives, be more conscious and to kind of peek their head out the window and look around and see what's going on and not to be so narrow-minded.
Get out of that I'm a Republican, I'm a Democrat, I'm a Christian, I'm a whatever and start looking to the underlying theme of being a good person. The Golden Rule. Help other people. Like the Buddha said, Not everybody's ready for the message. Jesus.... originally... was only preaching to fellow Jews with his message. But stuff ripples out. My purpose is to help people step up and to evolve. For example, I'm teaching yoga - maybe I'm gonna give somebody a Pranayama technique so that if they're getting stressed out, they can calm themselves down. If I teach one person that and they can teach somebody else that, we can calm ourselves down. Especially men, where we're so hair-trigger these days that bad things happen. If I can get somebody to have more freedom of movement in their body because they sit in a chair all day and to feel what it's like to be a child again - have that child-like movement back - then that's it. That's them evolving one step. From there, Well I can do this now, so I can do other things in my life. Empowering people... this is a long-winded answer, I'm sorry... to empower people in their life to waken and to step up and evolve... You know there's the line in the book Dune, The sleeper has awakened. Well, we're all asleep. If we could just get ourselves to just pull the covers back and look at the reality behind the veil and just evolve as people, we could bring everybody else with us.
What do you want more of in your life?
Hours in the day. There's not enough time for everything. I have so many interests. I love to read. I work four days a week, which is why I'm only teaching one yoga class right now - that's gonna change soon. I drive to Prineville. I drive to Madras. So I'm commuting, so I try to maximize my time in the car listening to podcasts and books on tape and whatnot. When I'm at work, I'll do my yoga practice on my lunch break. I get home and then I'm a father. I slip into my father role and a husband role. And then at the end of the day, there's so many things I'm really interested in and I want to learn more about - I want to get more in-depth. If there was 28 hours in the day, I'd probably use them all.
Do you have anything you'd like to put out there?
I'm really passionate, again - to reiterate - about teaching men's yoga. A lot of men are really turned off by going to a yoga class. And there's these women here who are incredibly flexible and incredibly graceful. And sometimes, especially because of our lifestyles, we're clunky. We've been sitting in chairs, we've played sports in school, or we've had a car accident - our backs are jacked up - and men just feel really uncomfortable in the classes. That's why I've tried to set aside a space for men to come and have a laugh and do yoga. If you ask any of the guys that come to my classes, it's very supportive; it's funny. I'll play punk in my classes. I'll play hip-hop. I'll play Public Enemy. I'll play Krishna Core music like Shelter. I'll play Cro-Mags. I'll play all these NYC hardcore bands and California hardcore bands - Black Flag and whatnot. Come, hang out, see what you can do. And I see people coming week after week and they're making progress. And while we're working on the physical, we're also working on the mental. I want more men to do it.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
What made you want to do this? When you started this project, what was the motivation?
This is my second go at it, really. A number of years ago, in 2008, I had been spending some time working for a nonprofit, developing some habits - interviewing people and taking portraits for their cause - and it didn't work out in the end for that particular thing, but when it ended I had all this creative energy, but I didn't have a platform anymore. And in the state of wondering what to do next, this other idea came to me and it was to go out and introduce myself to a stranger every day and photograph them. I wanted to do that every day for a year. This was in 2008 and there wasn't a lot of these projects going on. A good friend of mine encouraged me to go out that day. I hadn't prepared. I didn't have a website. I didn't have business cards. I didn't have anything. But I did. I went out that one day and that project became I Heart Strangers and I ended up doing it for 625 days in a row. A number of things happened throughout that - lots of evolution, and lots of thoughts - and I ended up quitting, kind of with my tail between my legs. I felt like I had become pretty defeated by it. And so, in 2010 this long pause began. And I didn't know how long it would become, but I felt really sad that I didn't do the project anymore and I also couldn't come up with an idea that wasn't that project again. To the point where, years later, I even tried to begin that project again. And it just didn't resonate with me - it didn't feel right.
A number of things happened and all these different life events and I find myself moving out to Bend and, two weeks after coming out here, I was walking in the woods - it was in the winter of 2016 - with my dog and in the middle of snowy trail, the idea for this project hit me. I have all kinds of thoughts on what ideas are and where they come from. I don't know. I was reading this book called Big Magic around that time and Elizabeth Gilbert has really pretty language for what they are, but basically maybe an idea is a living organism and if it lands on you and you don't use it, it just goes on to someone else. And this idea landed on me and I used it. So, this is interview 95 for this project - a year and a half later.
It comes from a sense of curiosity. It also comes from a sense... I just don't feel like we're doing life right. We as the whole and the systems and the things we value aren't the things that I value. And I guess that's worth exploring for me. If I have this thing that doesn't really line up with what most people are engaged with, I want to explore that. And then, it happens to be a good thing, so I want to share it. I think if I had some darker interests that weren't beneficial, I probably wouldn't have started the project. I'd like to think that's true. I also think we owe each other. I think we owe each other respect and we owe each other dignity and we owe each other humanity. And this is, for sure, speaking to me, too. I owe everyone more patience and I owe everyone more compassion and more empathy. And this is also a way for me to practice that and to try to hold myself accountable. So, I guess somewhere in all that is maybe the answer to your question.