Monday, May 26, 2014

Update on Richard Theiss: new perceptions on life and the world we live in

I have many friends and colleagues, both in life and in the digital world, inquiring as to what I have been up to, as I have not been as visible of late.  I've had some life-altering experiences over the past 6 months that took me away from participation in many of my ocean conservation interests.  But now I would like to slowly begin to return to "active duty" at least in the writing/blogging arena.

In December of 2013, I was diagnosed with advanced Stage IV Melanoma cancer.  It seems my activities as a diver and cinematographer kept my body in good enough shape (for someone in his early 60s) that the cancer, which had been growing for probably four to five years, went undetected until a couple of tumors appeared on the skin's surface and further tests revealed cancer throughout my body.  Ironic that my healthy constitution which resisted the cancer up to that point also allowed the cancer to rage hidden from view for years.

[Lesson #1: As a fair-skinned Southern California native from a time that predated sunscreens (in fact it was called sun tan oil, designed to help fry your skin a golden brown), I and others in my generation all went through our sunburns and various skin damage that we then pay for decades later.  So, use your sunscreens, everyone.] 

So, with my newly discovered challenge, I retreated from film production work and most of my ocean and shark conservation activities - blogging, posting, speaking engagements - to focus on treatment and see how life was to play itself out over the next few months and years.  When given an incurable and terminal prognosis as I have, it's interesting as to how your perspective on the quality of life changes.

For some people, it triggers a rush for the "bucket list" and the desire to do all the things you ever wanted to do but never got around to it. But for me, being a reflective person, I chose to look back on many of the incredible experiences I have had in my life and varied careers and it has brought me a great measure of satisfaction.  From rock bands to writing and conducting music scores for wildly unmemorable low-budget films, to traveling the world providing film and video services for commercials and motion pictures, to all my diving experiences, and the honor - as a small fish (pardon the pun) in a big pond - of meeting and/or working with dedicated ocean conservationists from eco-celebs like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau to scientists like Dr. Gregory Stone of Conservation International, photographer Brian Skerry, and many, many others to whom I must apologize for not listing here.  It's been an amazing run.

So, what's next?  Well, as conditions permit, I will continue to dive - albeit minus the 50-pound camera rig (hey, a bonus!) - and I will still do some media/marketing consulting.  And I am going to try posting more on this blog.  The RTSeaBlog had a readership of about 25K hits per month at its peak, but then started to taper off as more and more people were posting links to various articles on sites like Facebook or Twitter.  What concerns me with social media today is the information overload, often reduced to a mere 140 characters, that doesn't necessarily lend itself to thoughtful introspection and contemplation.  Even the main stream media is hooked on what's trending at the moment via some hash tag or "liked" video.

For me, ocean conservation and climate change are too broad and complex of subjects to get reduced to simple sound bites.  And that is so unfortunate because it allows today's media to short change the importance of the environmental long-term effects that will impact future generations.  And both proponents and opponents of an issue try to use that to their advantage.  The human race seems to have an innate difficulty in grasping complex long-term issues and preferring, instead, on silver bullet solutions that can provide immediate personal benefit.

Well, before I rant any further, I will close and keep further observations for future blog posts.  My sincere thanks to all of my family, friends and colleagues who have reached out to me during this challenging time.  But no more "Oh, you poor baby" condolences.  We have a planet to save from our own self-interests.  

Nature and future generations are counting on us.

Source: RTSea Media                 

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