In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.Alfred Stieglitz
I have spent much of my life in a haze of potentiality. I have—some would say—wasted many hours, days, and even years considering what could be, not just in my own life but also for reality in general. What could our world, church, nation, community, etc., etc., look like if we cultivated our best selves—elevated the finest aspects of our institutions and ideas. Some use the word inevitable and others pipe-dream, but if we're talking about potential, couldn't we just as easily meet in the middle with the word unrealized?
Gene Roddenberry clung to the hope that one day human society would become its best; it is an inevitability. Now, it is true that there is evidence that the world had gotten a bit better in places, but in many ways, some would argue, it has become worse—quite a bit worse when considering particulars. For example, social media has changed the way that human society communicates. A person, family or institution can share information and ideas in an instant. How powerful an engine for change is this?
The sad truth is, however, that more and more people report feelings of loneliness and isolation in spite of this newly found ability to communicate with others instantaneously, sometimes over vast distances—sometimes just around the block: I wonder why. And when asked by researches most people feel just as powerless—perhaps even more so—in this age of immediate information; there are more doubts, fears and anxieties than ever before. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't knowledge supposed to be power?
I am a person of faith, a Christian, so I believe that we were designed to live in relationship with others so that we might share the moments of our lives—share love. It's hard to experience true intimacy or empathy through a monitor. We are supposed to engage the world—this creation of which we are all a part—through all of our senses. Our sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch force us to fully engage with others; when we come into contact, real contact, with joy, suffering, comfort and fear who we really are as people begins to emerge. This is understood to be the case even with God removed from the equation: Ask you friendly, neighborhood biologist, and she will tell you that as primates we function at our best when we do so in community. Sure we all need some alone time, but without contact from and with others, we eventually begin to waste away and decide to move to little cabins in the woods and build bombs.
It is easy to gravitate to the extremes—to focus only upon what the world could be while ignoring the reality of what it is—or to make keeping it real your sole purpose. I don't think either of these is on point. As a person who loves photography, I'm becoming acutely aware that within every image—every captured moment of reality—there is a hidden, more subtle existence present as well. It is what is behind the curtain. This is the potential of which I spoke earlier, and maybe it's the thing as it really is. Or perhaps more likely, it is just one of the two necessary parts that makes a whole: Life is both the big picture and the details. In the subtle may very well lie the key to understanding what's really going on in life. So instead of jumping to a conclusion about a person, try to take a moment and look for that subtle reality that lies beneath, behind and alongside, and you might just come into a relationship that both of you separately need. Likewise, instead of looking past a fault—past what is right in front of you—take stock of what is so that you might know how better to proceed into your new relationship.
Claude Monet declared that, "Light is the most important person in the picture." If this is true, photography is about capturing the reflection of this light, capturing that which reveals the shapes, the textures, the colors, and maybe, just maybe, even the very essence of a moment. Photography is an act of preservation; moments with all that they possess—brought to us by light—recorded so that their contents might be shared with others or so that we might experience them for ourselves anew. Each time we reexamine these moments there is always the possibility of seeing some part of it for the first time. This is why I love photography.
Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.Oscar Wilde
So the story goes that as Daedalus is preparing to escape the labyrinth via his newly constructed wings, he instructs his son, Icarus, to neither fly too high—lest the sun's heat melt the waxen feathers—nor too low—lest he crash and drown in the sea. You don't have to know the story to guess the outcome: Icarus does a Wile E. Coyote! He gets all excited, ignores his father's instructions, gets his wings melted and drowns. Why would someone as smart as Daedalus is supposed to be construct wings from such weak—and meltable—material? We later learn that Daedalus goes on to found Acme, Inc., and to design the Hindenburg.
"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." This a become the maxim for modern America—maybe even for the whole of Western culture. When combined with Burger King's sentiment in "Have It Your Way" or Old Blue Eyes's in "My Way" the only possible outcomes are far removed from Paul's advice to not think more highly of ourselves than we should and to consider everyone else's needs as more important than our own. Is this advice idealistic? Of course it is. Have we heard it so many times that it has become prosaic? Of course we have. Yet to rage to win in all things and at all costs is a fool's errand.
All Site Content Copyright Patrick Cooley, 2018