Sunday, February 17, 2019

Impermanence


"I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. With futility, we cling to the old wallet long after it has fallen apart. We visit and revisit the old neighborhood where we grew up, searching for the remembered grove of trees and the little fence. We clutch our old photographs. In our churches and synagogues and mosques, we pray to the everlasting and eternal. Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone. Where are the one billion people who lived and breathed in the year 1800, only two short centuries ago?"

- Alan Lightman (1948 - )

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Extraordinary Ordinary


"Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph.
Find the ordinary objects so you can
transform them by photographing them."

- Morley Baer (1916 - 1995)

Postscript. When I do photography (that is, when I am lucky enough to have some time to squeeze photography in between my day-job responsibilities), I am decked out with the usual "photographer's paraphernalia" (i.e., camera + vertical grip, tripod, an assortment of lenses, filters, ...). For subject matter, almost without exception, I find myself either perusing landscapes in a local park (that I know the trails of about as well as I know the layout of my home), or exploring color light abstractions in a make-shift studio I've built in my basement. The exceptions are when traveling with my family (when I do essentially the same thing anyway - photographically speaking - but just don't know the trails as well:), and when not in possession of my "real" camera or the bag-full-of-paraphernalia that accompanies it. 

While all photographers strive to transform the "ordinary into the extraordinary" (ala Morley Baer's admonition, and in deference to Minor White's dictum to take pictures of "what else" a thing is), it is often the case that just recognizing that something is sufficiently "ordinary" to warrant training one's camera on is itself hard enough, let alone the task of transforming that "ordinary thing" into something "else." A (far from original) trick I use is to force myself into a more receptive frame-of-mind by deliberately not having my camera at the ready. When the (clich├ęd) "best camera is the one you're carrying" is not my usual "go to" camera of choice, my mind's eye is free to discover (perhaps otherwise invisible?) patterns, realities, and the myriad extraordinary ordinary things we spend our lives immersed in.

And so, the "rest of the story" behind the images you see assembled in the 3-by-3 polyptych shown above, is that these are some recent examples of the magical "extraordinary ordinary" reality that my iPhone - not my Nikon D810 - consistently and generously reveals to me. The more banal descriptions of what these images are really images of, are, in no particular order: staircases in the building I work in 5 days a week, lights at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (in Washington, DC), the ceiling at a Department for Motor Vehicles service center, light fixtures at a local Mall and restaurant, and a skylight at a supermarket. The extraordinary ordinary indeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Palimpsests and Dreams


"I will write in words of fire. I will write them on your skin. I will write about desire. Write beginnings, write of sin. You’re the book I love the best, your skin only holds my truth, you will be a palimpsest lines of age rewriting youth. You will not burn upon the pyre. Or be buried on the shelf. You’re my letter to desire: And you’ll never read yourself. I will trace each word and comma As the final dusk descends, You’re my tale of dreams and drama, Let us find out how it ends."

- Neil Gaiman (1960 - )

Monday, January 14, 2019

Time Has No Divisions


"Time has no divisions to mark its passage,
there is never a thunder-storm or
blare of trumpets to announce the
beginning of a new month or year. 
Even when a new century begins
it is only we mortals who
ring bells and fire off pistols."

- Thomas Mann (1875 - 1955)

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Expansive Existence


"There was an epoch in the Night of Time, when a still-existent Being existed—one of an absolutely infinite number of similar Beings that people the absolutely infinite domains of the absolutely infinite space. It was not and is not in the power of this Being—any more than it is in your own—to extend, by actual increase, the joy of his Existence; but just as it is in your power to expand or to concentrate your pleasures (the absolute amount of happiness remaining always the same) so did and does a similar capability appertain to this Divine Being, who thus passes his Eternity in perpetual variation of Concentrated Self and almost Infinite Self-Diffusion. 

What you call The Universe is but his present expansive existence. He now feels his life through an infinity of imperfect pleasures—the partial and pain-intertangled pleasures of those inconceivably numerous things which you designate as his creatures, but which are really but infinite individualizations of Himself. All these creatures—all—those which you term animate, as well as those to whom you deny life for no better reason than that you do not behold it in operation—all these creatures have, in a greater or less degree, a capacity for pleasure and for pain:—but the general sum of their sensations is precisely that amount of Happiness which appertains by right to the Divine Being when concentrated within Himself. 

These creatures are all, too, more or less conscious Intelligences; conscious, first, of a proper identity; conscious, secondly and by faint indeterminate glimpses, of an identity with the Divine Being of whom we speak—of an identity with God. Of the two classes of consciousness, fancy that the former will grow weaker, the latter stronger, during the long succession of ages which must elapse before these myriads of individual Intelligences become blended—when the bright stars become blended—into One. 

Think that the sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness—that Man, for example, ceasing imperceptibly to feel himself Man, will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah. In the meantime bear in mind that all is Life—Life—Life within Life—the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine."

- Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Veiled and Hidden


"Oftentimes we call Life bitter names, but only when we ourselves are bitter and dark. And we deem her empty and unprofitable, but only when the soul goes wandering in desolate places, and the heart is drunken with overmindfulness of self.

Life is deep and high and distant; and though only your vast vision can reach even her feet, yet she is near; and though only the breath of your breath reaches her heart, the shadow of your shadow crosses her face, and the echo of your faintest cry becomes a spring and an autumn in her breast.

And life is veiled and hidden, even as your greater self is hidden and veiled. Yet when Life speaks, all the winds become words; and when she speaks again, the smiles upon your lips and the tears in your eyes turn also into words. When she sings, the deaf hear and are held; and when she comes walking, the sightless behold her and are amazed and follow her in wonder and astonishment."

- Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Mathematical Language


"Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes - I mean the universe - but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth."

- Galileo (1564 - 1642)