Sometimes when we lose our minds, we go stark raving mad. At these times, we are beaten with figurative sticks and kicks, maybe there is blood and death or sex. The fluids and elements mix with our shattered psyches in a gaping gash of consciousness. But I have found there are other ways to break. I have found the simple strand that weaves a new story when you follow its thread. I fell down and followed, after the breaking, before the death, near to the edge, I reached above my head, blinded until frozen fingers clenched a line that wove me into this story. Listen, and listen well if you also choose to rewrite your very blood and bone. There is a way.
Line breaks: ini¦ti|ation. Pronunciation: /ɪˌnɪʃɪˈeɪʃn /NOUN
1. The action of admitting someone into a secret or obscure society or group, typically with a ritual:rituals of initiation: an initiation ceremony.
1. The introduction of someone to a particular activity or skill:his initiation into the world of martial arts.
2. The action of beginning something:the initiation of criminal proceedings. 
Our ideas of initiation, as shown above in the Oxford English dictionary, are all too often those of an outdated, mystical remnant of an animist or occult society. The definition refers to a “secret or obscure society or group,” rather than a rite of passage into the adulthood of every human. In actuality, initiation is an age old human technology ranging from puberty itself, to secret cults, to fraternity houses, to the prevalent high school prom — all forms of rite of passage into a more mature stage of life.
Initiation is a crucial part of life, for it helps us define ourselves through the many layers of our minds, spirits, and bodies. True initiation makes a fractal imprint on the hologram of our souls, letting us know who we are, our purpose, our role in society, and where we came from. For example, in some African Bwiti tribes, adolescent boys undergo extreme five-day entheogenic initiation rites to emerge with their lifelong career and social role meaningfully revealed to them through the ensuing visions. In America, we have high school guidance counselors working in cubicles who recommend lifelong vocations after simple 20 question quizzes! We have forgotten the sacred, the techniques for showing our children the methods to talk with Spirit and find their way.
As James Curcio eloquently wrote in “Initiation, Part 1: The Masks of identity”:
“Initiation is such a constant in the cultural body that it is evident in one form or another in nearly every human culture that has ever existed before the industrial age, at which point it became notably absent, at least on the surface. This absence has produced a very real psychological crisis on a cultural scale, although as we will see in many ways the initiatory impulse has merely transferred itself, oftentimes to behaviour and beliefs which only shallowly fulfill that impulse.” 
When societies lose their initiation practices, new ones emerge, for rites of passage are hardwired in the human psychological formula. New ways of reforming the psyche are not always successful or safe. For instance, gang members sometimes initiate by killing people. Or teenagers pull death-defying pranks in search of a witnessed “cool” communal identity. Many people coming of age in the isolation of technological society, or even a deteriorating ancient culture, self initiate either with lone entheogenic stupors or the common self destruction of adolescence in the form of suicide attempts or cutting themselves. The soul naturally seeks ways to reform itself and create a solid identity in adulthood.
There are great risks to self initiation. The lack of sacred Witness and group communion risks creating a long-term sense of alienation by imprinting the “lone warrior” caricature. Psychosis is possible due to opening energies without a suitable guide or supportive social network. Narcissistic and/or psychopathic ego inflation is also a risk of initiates. For example, there is the common psychiatric ward case of patients believing they are the one and only true Jesus Christ, implying that none have walked this path of self actualization before them.
We seek initiation for the sake of self definition, meaningful vocation, and to transform the energy of past wounds into the present form of gifts to our societies. We seek initiation to become co-evolving participants of a society that communes with the sacred.
In 2014, many cultural creatives hope to evolve, yet we have lost so many of the keys to the maps of the Way. We find them in various cultures world wide, and weave them into new ways of awakening. For, as a world culture that desperately needs to re-imprint its relation to ecology, other nations, and the divine masculine and feminine, we seek large scale initiation. It is arguably best accomplished through the personal salvation of initiation. How do we begin? What does the territory of planetary initiation look like?
Lacking initiation, we have come to associate power with the superficial egoic traits of dominance, money, exploitation, image (as in advertising and/or self image), social standing, and labels (such as college degrees) instead of learning to value the embodied power in sage spiritual elders with proficiency to transform the dark of the psyche, surrender the ego, lose control (through repeated practises of ritual, dance, music, or entheogenic trance), and share the wisdom of the ages through restoring faith in the Mystery. Particularly, the concept of restoring Power through quieting the ego and losing control has been lost in Western society as we value the domination of intellect over the sacred tool of humbly listening in a state of surrender. We egotistically believe that by releasing our grasp on control, we will lose our minds. Ancient people knew that this sacred Surrender, done within the correct ceremonial container, is the best route to restoring our minds in relation to the whole, not losing it.
Once, I witnessed a 20 year old woman having a psychotic break. I helped her while the group I was with created safe space for her to touch the grief of her childhood for the first time, in ceremony. That was the energy of initiation. When she asked me later with a stunned expression what had happened, I said, “You are shifting a pattern.” She understood.
As we are seeing more studies about the possibility of DNA carrying intergenerational memory and information, we begin to realize, through science, that ancestral wounds are present with us. As the Native Americans say, you heal yourself to affect “seven generations back and seven generations forward.” The lingering impact of these wounds seek initiation and cleansing. We carry both personal as well as ancestral wounding patterns which hold untapped gifts of personal power. Initiation can transform these energies and mark the transition with shared ritual.
“What is the meaning of Initiation? It is the Path to the realisation of your Self as the sole, the supreme, the absolute of all Truth, Beauty, Purity,Perfection!” 
Below is my list of 20 traits of true initiation. They are guidelines and suggestions from a life replete with magical, and often isolated and harsh initiatory transition. I offer them to you, in hopes that we collectively recreate meaningful rites of passage for the transformation of consciousness for this prophecied time in history. Many are chaotically initiating themselves. Many are trying with few proficient guides. Here are guidelines to help you create appropriate initiation rituals wherever you are on the path, regardless of what methods and entheogenic substances, cultural trappings, or ceremonial elements you do or do not use. May we all, slowly and surely, begin to wake up the wisdom of the ancestors within us.
When I was with a 10th generation African shaman, I sang a song about waking up the ancestors within us in ceremony. He looked to my gaze with clear white eyes in an ebony face and shared poignantly, “We also have this song in our culture,” and sang it back to me in Bwiti. “The ancestors. They are in our bones. Remember,” he said.
In reference to this prophecied time in history, which we may optimistically call the era of planetary initiation:
“As an analogy, we can look at the process of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. In the chrysalis, the caterpillar doesn’t just sprout wings. Its entire body melts down into a biotic goop. The code for the transmutation of the organism is held by a handful of “imaginal cells” that start to propagate as the caterpillar dissolves. Although attacked at first by the dying caterpillar’s immune system, the imaginal cells install the program that produces the butterfly. Our modern civilization is now in the process of melting down and decomposing, and we have to become the imaginal cells engaged in the process of its transmutation.” 
1. Initiation is holographic and operates in the spiral of time, affecting past, present, and future versions of the Self. It is not linear, like our calendars. Initiation evokes and affects our first memories as often as visions of our future selves. The Hopi, for instance, are known for linguistic markers which conceptualize time in a non-linear fashion. This arguably gives them greater skill at navigating the subconscious realm in relation to time as a holograph. In relation to ceremonial practice, accept the indigenous notion of spiraling time. It will help you integrate initiatory information faster by giving you a greater sense of the interconnected web of life.
2. Initiation, well-done, ripples across the morphic fields of the archetypal, creative, formative, and material worlds by affecting dreams, psychic material, creativity, emotions, and even the physical world. The classic tarot deck is a great representation of this, as it parallels the esoteric Jewish Kabbalah, in symbolically showing us the four levels of magickal morphogenesis through the suits of the wands, cups, swords, and disks. An idea begins in the archetypal ethers, funnels into the realm of dreams, visions, and emotions, moves down into the realm of thought and mental activity, and then finally becomes manifest reality. Initiation, because it is such a psychically impactful experience, can affect all four realities at once in impressive and synchronistic ways, leading to a revived belief in apophenia.  Again, initiatory experience is about reconnecting the separated aspects of the psyche. Ideas, emotions, thoughts, and physical things may quickly shift, as the psyche attains a new level of integration.
In some cases, as a longstanding emotional wound is healed, repeating nightmares resolve, physical illness subsides, and the estranged family member who inflicted them calls for the first time in ages. This sounds extreme, yet is common in successful initiation stories.
3. Initiation can appear as extreme good OR bad luck which defies logic. This is because the energy to which the soul defines itself will create a spectral magnetism that demands attention. Like a bad child, the astral commitment to the discipline of a new way of living is made great by the strong energetic bonds of initiation, so that seemingly negative things may happen in order to align you with your path. Your initiation becomes a prayer in action, a living testament of your commitment to a new self identity which is alive and demanding. Pay attention!
This phenomenon is often spoken of in the shaman’s path, for instance, but relates to all true inner callings. If a person bonds deeply to the resonance of fulfilling a certain role for the collective, but later refuses the path out of shame or fear, difficult things may happen to them, which lead them back to it. Although the chaos of these tragedies is trying, the loss of the initiate’s true calling in life is much worse, for it is the death of their passion and life offering. To ignore the call within is to turn away from the sacred like a bratty child grabbing for candy. Remember the mature prayer in action, the prize of your transformation. Take it seriously.
I mention this from experience, as I had a strong initiatory experience a year ago that shifted many aspects of my life. It consisted of an astral vision and clear instructions, total loss of appetite, temporary convulsions, a painful physical detoxification period, and sudden behavioural changes, with immediate loss of interest in previous addictions. In shock, I did not immediately follow the instructions from my subconscious mind and tried to carry on with my previous life. Slowly but surely, most of the elements of that life fell away as I unexpectedly lost my job, became ostracized from many former friends, surprisingly lost my entire savings, and was forced to relocate. By then, I accepted the initiatory call and followed through with the previous instructions, successfully and effortlessly rebuilding my life, in a new way. I had been ignoring my true gifts in exchange for a false sense of security, which crumbled before my eyes. The coyote medicine of this “bad” luck was exactly what I needed to revive my inner callings.
4. Initiation is extremely personal, as well as karmic, between past lives and intercultural concepts. Wounds and connections can be emphasized that extend deep into the layers of your life, other lives, and ancient intercultural wounding patterns. Once, in Mexico, I did deep shamanic work with a curandero only to find that her daughter developed a hatred for me due to the color of my skin and my bond with her powerful mother. Less than a month later, a counsel of curanderos met at her house and focused their ceremonies on healing the violence and longstanding hatred between the indigenous people and the Conquistadors, which still remains to this day. I had touched on a wound much greater than myself, or the realm of my own personal responsibility. In a way, I had opened the doorway of a greater healing, by receiving this hatred and doing my part to transmute it. Initiative energies are thus not always friendly but if you persist, they can be revolutionary.
5. As with dreams, no one else can define your initiatory process for you because it is a direct letter to your soul. Others can help you organize the symbols, but the revelation of meaning is always up to you. For instance, years ago, I had an earth-shattering initiatory process and became a nervous wreck. I realized that everything I was currently doing in my life was wrong. I told my initiator this and, at the time, she suggested I patiently wait a while and follow through with my life. I found that my life had become utterly unbearable with this new knowledge and ended up moving to a different city, dropping out of school, and changing my entire direction. The initiator could not interpret the path FOR me; I had to experience the dissonance of repeated anxiety attacks before allowing myself to unwind them with what I knew to be a more fitting course of my life.
6. Like dreams, there is often an “Aha!” moment when you comprehend the lesson in the information of the initiation. Initiation shifts deepset patterns of energy and thought. This is the key to integrating the psychological Shadow – the lesson of the shadow must be acknowledged so that it can be embodied on all levels of existence. In other words, the age-old tales of calling out the names of the demons of Solomon are critical. If you cannot name the tasks and lessons you have mastered, you do not know their whiles. As one shamanic teacher of mine once said, “Anyone can sit at my table as long as they announce themselves.” This gives credence to the nature of identifying your psychological “demons” before transmuting them.
The “Aha!” is the moment of this identification.
Physical changes can even happen. One explanation for the varying seemingly dissimilar appearances of Aleister Crowley over his lifetime, for instance, is that he physically reflected the stages of initiation cellulary, by expressing different facades of energy. The “Aha!” is the moment of intellectual and energetic understanding aligning. This happens because initiation must be a reprogramming on a cellular level for it to be embodied and complete. No one can tell you an initiatory secret. You must experience and embody it.
In the words of magical adept Lon Milo DuQuette:
“One does not learn a true magical secret like one learns a juicy piece of gossip. A true magical secret is a light bulb that goes off over your own head when you finally “get” something. In other words, the IX degree initiate of the O.T.O. [western magical order]is not obligated to conceal the “secret” but on the contrary, obligated to make sure as many worthy individuals as possible discover the secret by discerning it themselves. ” 
7. Because initiation is psychological shadow work, it can take years to comprehend and undergo the full process of integration. It may take years for a person to move into spiritual alignment with their soul’s purpose. There is no rushing the process because the lessons along the way must be consciously embodied. Like any other field of study, experience requires patience.
8. Initiation is always asked for by the querent – either in a spiritual plea, request, or direct calling. The participant has to want it. It is not random or invasive. This is akin to the notion of “psychological hooks.” A daemon can only possess you if you have an opening within your energy body for it to attach. When you fully process that opening, the daemon will have nothing to hold onto. A “hook”” can only catch a fish if it is swimming in its waters. Just so, initiation doesn’t come out of left field. Even if your request was made only in heartfelt prayer, it comes through the resonant field of the opening made by the plea.
9. Initiation is foremost about moving into embodied spiritual alignment, step by step, bringing the unconscious into consciousness. It is the work of the Shadow. Self mastery or “gnosis” is the goal of initiation, so that the querent learns their place in relation to serving the macrocosm.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – C.G. Jung
10. Initiation does not end. There is no perfect unchanging human state. The nature of life is change. There can be many initiations in one lifetime. High spiritual states are accessible yet it is key to continually learn. A Master does not stop feeling normal afflicted human emotions, he learns how to honor and integrate them easily because of his level of practise. When one reaches a certain level of spiritual understanding, it is common to desire serving others.
11. Initiatory work is all inclusive. No energy can be ultimately demonized or excluded because this polarizes the field. If you believe in quantum healing, everything can be healed through morphic resonance.
One less personal, more cultural example of this is the syncretic ayahuasca religion of Santo Daime. The Daime religion accepts Christ and Mary as saviours, but in the very non-Catholic form of the ayahuasca brew itself. The Daime religion, therefore, does not demonize Catholicism, but includes it in their prayers, despite of and because of the terrorizing history of the Spanish Conquest to indigenous peoples and their practices. The prayer is all- inclusive; it asks us to transmute even the bloodiest atrocities with teachings of unity. This is a deep lesson in personal and planetary initiation and in depolarizing conflict and magical attack.
12. The availability and depth of initiation and spiritual cleansing is related to the inner individual state in tandem with the sacred container of the ritual, including the clarity of the initiator and facilitators. If the channel/initiator and container are not clear of afflicted energies, this affects the initiation. This is related to the concept of spiritual alignment. No one living is perfectly “clear,” but taking time to clear a space and extraneous energies helps. Banishings of energy exist for a reason. Lines of disruptive energy, especially from the initiator or facilitator, can affect ritual in negative ways if there is a space for them to land. Banishing can consist of typical Lesser Pentagram rituals done before the space is set, more complicated ceremonial ritual, qi gong banishing series such as the Dao Yin Wu Wei, or any simpler repeated personal formula for ritualistically clearing energy. Simply burning sage while chanting an invocation can be a powerful banishing. What is important is that you banish, not how you banish.
I once witnessed a friend cast a deep ritual space with a small group. He did not focus on cleansing his own energy, to the degree of getting drunk on whiskey soon after ritual and ignoring many normal precautions. He refused to acknowledge that his own unprocessed shadow material could affect the participants and then was shocked when many things went wrong in the days following it. Because the ritual was focused on healing, even the wounds and trauma that arose afterwards, still created healing, but only through inflicting MORE wounding. This can be avoided by responsibly casting ritual with conscious and experienced co-facilitators (to check and balance the energy), doing deep shadow work yourself, and with appropriate experience and banishing.
A well defined sacred container aids in creating psychic safety for initiation so that the querent can access energy akin to “psychotic break” and reweave the archetypal storyline. This is why the container is helpful. Utmost psychic safety in morphic fields is the responsibility of the initiator. Psychotic breaks are a very real possibility when dealing with personal wounds, ancestral patterns, and imprints. Skill, experience, and energy clearing are essential. You wouldn’t trust a stranger with your bank account; don’t trust them with your soul either!
Kundalini sexual energy, or shakti, is a part of opening and reworking the energy body. Make a safe space for that to happen. Sex cults do exist, who physically engage sexual energy in ceremony as a tool for healing and transformation. However, without the proper training, experience, and level of initiation, sexual energy can be extremely difficult to navigate, full of some of our deepest wounds and shadow energy, and can do more harm than good. Sexual abuse and trauma are common elements of a healing crisis. Do what you can to make the space safe for this energy to heal. In one ayahuasca ritual I helped with in Peru, a woman with many past relationship issues immediately had sex with the shaman after a week of intense psychological immersion. The shaman became obsessed, controlling, and demanding in stereotypical machismo ways, just like many of her exes. She found healing eventually, but this additional trauma could have been avoided if a clear practitioner/client boundary had been set and respected. Her process was aided by the intensity of more relationship trauma with a spiritual authority figure when it could have been purely nurtured in a sexually safe environment.
13. Spiritual alignment is not to be confused with a moral code. It is a state of empowered, embodied awareness that connects the individual soul to the universal soul. There is no specific moral code, other than the two basic tenets of honoring the True Will of the individual and acting with love, to serve the well being of all involved. “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi
14. Holographic energetics can be used for healing or sorcery. The form does not reflect the outcome; purity of intention directs the energy. “Drop the form; engage the formless.” Purity of heart and intention sound simple but are the cornerstone of transformative initiation.
15. Although sacred containers, shamanic tools, and altar spaces help focus energy, it is important to remember that these items are not crucial. In qi gong theory, practice centers around aligning the personal energy with the “yuan qi,” or the energy of the cosmos. In the Andean Qu’ero tradition, the paqos (priests) align their energy with a star, or the spirit of a nearby powerful mountain, known as as “apu.” Connecting with the energy of certain constellations, or sacred places is also common in ancient Taoist healing techniques. It is important to align the personal energy with the greater energy of the cosmos in order to remember the Source energy, humble the ego, and channel a larger power. This focus surpasses all physical initiatory tools in its vital importance.
Offerings are traditional in many cultures before doing deep psychological work. These also can be physical in the form of folded coca leaves in Southern Peru, flowers, sacred tobacco, or anything precious to you. Or, offerings can simply be the symbolic offering of the energy you hope to sacrifice, for it fertilizes the earth in its rich release.
In addition, music, particularly live and vocal, is typically used in ceremony to induce sonic vibration, focus the mind, and set the tone. Ceremonies may have tight structures, with a circle cast, clear boundaries, rules, and opening and closing prayers. The rigidity or freedom of the structure is dependent on the individuals choice. Once a framework is agreed upon, it is important to stick to it with discipline because the ceremonial space serves as an anchor which can be vital when or if energies become intense or chaotic.
16. There are both lefthand path “dark” initiations and initiations of light. Both, are in fact, pure and necessary because life is full of dualism and differing personalities. However, it is a deep lesson to understand that quantum healing is available without repeating a pattern of painful suffering in a never-ending spin cycle of grief. If we truly believe in holographic healing as the realm of initiation, pain and suffering are not necessary, although they are common in the physical plane of duality. I am aware of initiations involving beatings, cuttings, and non-consensual sexual interactions. Although they can be effective, they are also dangerous, and can cause a period of psychosis as well as epiphany. It is up to the individual, which sort of initiation suits them best. In my opinion, physically or emotionally inflicting pain isn’t necessary because we have greater initiatory tools at hand, which repattern imprints with healing rather than wounding, such as powerful entheogens, sweat lodges, ritual dance, consensual sexual healing, etc.
I was committed when I was 19 years old. For me, it was the ultimate form of rebellion. I experienced insensitive doctors, heavy pharmaceutical stupors, and the downfalls of Western medicine. Commitment served me by destroying my former uptight reputation and restrictive academic life path. It was liberating. Ultimately, it was a method of lefthand path initiation. Sadly, I chose it subconsciously because at the time, I didn’t know better.
17. Nothing can “go wrong” in an initiation process because it is a holographic field. Each incident is a reflection of energetic integration. The events are significant and meaningful. Whatever seems to “go wrong” is a symbolic sign for all involved to interpret.
18. If you want to be further initiated as an energetic healer, it is important to hold your intentions clearly, be consistent, do witnessed deep psychological shadow work on yourself, and turn away from attraction to or addictive patterns involving harmful energies and black magick. In Peru, for instance, there are many tales of shamanic healers, priests, and brujos (witches) practising black magic. As long as you engage in energetic attack and counter attack to others, you are feeding the current of defense and disease rather than the current of healing. Instead, focus on prayers of forgiveness and healing as defense, as well as energetic banishings and inner work as forms of uplifting protection. When you do so with conviction, more doors will open to you as a healer, as opposed to more attacks. Negative energies will always exist and attack, but there are ways to avoid constant affliction by them.
19. The temptation of using initiatory energies as tools for your ego to get the material things you want is not a purely moral issue. It’s just that this approach tends to ignore the greater opportunity to converse with spirit, while swimming in the energetic void. For example, a friend recently asked me about my lucid dreaming experience and I responded that although I sometimes dream for others or remote view for the sake of healing, I do not dream with the intention of controlling every vision or symbol. These controlling tendencies are obvious at times in New Age theories that advertise how you can get everything you desire if you only learn their special wishing formula. The downside of this, of course, is that chaos magick comes with egoic baggage. You may get what you wanted, as well as the invisible baggage surrounding it and your egoic desires. It is important to remember that your magickal workings, healings, and initiations are energetic magnifying portals. It is wise to create a conversation between yourself and the universe, rather than a demand, for — trust me — the universe has a funny sense of humor. Therefore, rather than directing magical workings with egoic force, I tend to interact with the symbols that naturally arise in relation to the query. Spells are real; cast them wisely.
20. Initiation is fun! Magick without tears is possible and miracles happen that you would never have believed before witnessing them.
Many scholars believe the famed secret rites of the Eleusinian Mystery initiation ceremonies in ancient Greece circa 1600-1000 B.C. were likely carried out with the aid of entheogenic agents — possibly ergot or psilocybin — by trained hierophants and priestesses.
“For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.”
Today we have global unchecked environmental problems, violence, and an epidemic of psychological illness, the likes of which have never existed before. If the depth of personal initiation, such as the Eleusinian Mystery school, or a five day near- death iboga ceremony, or being buried in a grave for a day (a common worldwide initiation from death to life), can reinvigorate an individual and teach them their proper identity in relation to the whole, how do we begin waking up the masses so that they may realize their potential and rebuild a collective relationship with personal power and responsible authority? Perhaps it is as it has always been- we rise one by one, as the imaginal cells that awake to greater consciousness begin to share the new vision.
Let us learn again to initiate one another with pure intention, with experience, expertise, and responsibility, added to the belief in the miraculous healing of alchemical transformation and its ability to globally shift society by empowering individuals towards self realization. Let us remember how to create heaven on earth, for that is the goal of gaining self knowledge — to bring us collectively closer to the divine while living.
 Initiation definition, Oxford English Dictionary
 “Making Do Without a Guide,” James Curcio.
 Emory School of Medicine study on memories passed through DNA
“Magick Without Tears,” Aleister Crowley. Ch.71.
“Planetary Initiation, ” Daniel Pinchbeck
 “Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot,” Lon Milo DuQuette
 “Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns and connections in random or “meaningless” data.”
 Hopi language and concept of time
 Lon Milo DuQuette excerpt from Introduction to “Sex Magick,” by Aleister Crowley.
 Eleusinian Mystery. Cicero, Laws II, xiv, 3
~ “Rites and Symbols of Initiation,” Mircea Eliade
~ “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Joseph Campbell
Erowid. Eleusinian Mysteries. Johnathan Ott.
~ “Faust,” Goethe.
~ Lesser Key of Solomon. Goetia.
Image by John S. Y. Lee, courtesy of Creative Commons license.