Saturday, December 30, 2006

In Mist Lies Truth

Joy, to a photographer (well, to at least some photographers;-) is waking up in the early morning on a weekend to find a freshly brewed pot of coffee in the kitchen (thanks to a wonderful spouse), and seeing a dense fog blanket the ground as far as the eye can see! "My wife knows me so well!" I think, as she places a coffee mug into my hand, helps put on a warm jacket, and pushes me out the door with my camera gear with the words, "Go enjoy the fog hun!" And enjoy I did.

Though the fog lasted maybe an hour ... while I was dancing with my camera and tripod in a nearby park, searching for compositions and just reveling in the magic of how mist - like broken windows! - both hides and reveals beauty, I lost all track of time.

I have always found fog as something of a paradox. Objectively speaking, it obscures reality; hides details and cloaks the identity of things. Yet, subjectively - or, spiritually speaking - it points to the essence of the world by briefly revealing the whole fabric of which the world is woven. I am always distinctly aware of when the "magic moment" is over (and it is time to pack up my gear), for it is precisely when the fog lifts and the world is again "revealed" as ordinary and real.

As (my favorite philosopher) Chuang-Tzu reminds us, while our momentary glimpse of wholeness vanishes along with the fog, we can always find our way back (by our soul's eye) by discarding ...

"...the distinctions and [taking] refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one to the Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops -- this is Tao."


A.V. Michaels said...

Gorgeous!! What fun, and how nice to have an encouraging spouse. Have a Happy New Year!

Eric Hancock said...

Love that third one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, fog seems to have an attraction for almost all photographers. I've always felt that its powerful effect is not that it obscures details generally, but that it obscures faraway details, leaving us enclosed and in contact with only our very local surroundings -- which might not extend much farther than the ground at our feet. Fog focuses.

But I don't understand the relationship between the quote about the unity and wholeness of "common and ordinary things" and your statement that the magic is over when "the world is again 'revealed' as ordinary and real." Together, they would seem to imply that you would "sense a deep interconnectedness" and wish to photograph all the more when the fog lifts. I'm not trying to be picky, I'd really like to know how you view this seeming paradox.

Andy Ilachinski said...

The paradox - for me - is that the fog, precisely *because* it conceals the "ordinary and real" (which is otherwise seen clearly in its absence) reveals the "truth" behind the "ordinary and real" while it is present; I "feel" closer to the "true" realty (as though gazing upon it with my subjective eye), when the fog is present because the fog obscures my *objective* view of it.

While you are right to wonder whether that would make me want to photograph whatever scene was "obscured" all the more *after* the fog lifts (and you are right! that the fog has shown me what "is there" go out and show others), my point was simply that - for me - it is much harder to communicate the "deep interconnectedness" without the fog being there.

The quote I chose was meant to underscore that (1) without the fog) the world is usually seen as it "objectively" is - common and ordinary; and, (2) within that "common and ordinary" world lies Wholeness/Tao...of which (sometimes) the fog gives a brief glimpse. If only I were a more enlightened soul perhaps I could see the wholeness directly without the fog; but that's essentially what I'm trying to do as a photographer ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that's quite clear and makes a lot of sense. Interesting how the uncommon helps to reveal the common, somewhat like noticing a thing when it's missing.