On Nature

10/11/2014

The very first picture I took on an old film camera …
red tree flower saturated

The very first picture I took on a new shiny camera … 10 years later
Orange Flower

Then a few years later, I took my new camera travelling …
IMG_6166

IMG_0233

IMG_0112

The scenes that attracted me became more vast in scope, and they have a sense of isolation. I’m not sure if it was because of personal turmoil that caused the sub-conscious shifts, or I just simply wanted to include more into the photos. I like to think my personal experiences and my mental and technical aptitude were all entwined.

I continue my shifting. But it is easier on the soul now that I’ve found acceptance.

In fact, no human emotion is constant. And we continue to feel and emote … it comes like breathing.

The landscapes that attracted my photographic eye became more encompassing … instead of looking carefully at the details of a branch, or a flower, I started to notice the details on a larger surface area and tried to make sense of the whole. In effect, I was trying to see the trees for the forest.

This is one of those metaphors for my life too. Where not that long ago, I was nervous and fearful disguised as selfless, I was a people pleaser. Not because I didn’t want to upset others but because I was afraid of the rejection if I dared to say ‘no’. As a result, I lived not accepting who I am, but what I could do for others. I became quite self-centered in the sense that I was constantly anxious around others, always seeking approval. I had real difficulties feeling like I belonged somewhere and often spent my time using superficial means to give my confidence a boost. Things like how I would dress, the alcohol and parties, who I chose to be around.

Parker Palmer wrote in his book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life , again with thanks to brainpickings for this wonderful reference:

As teenagers and young adults, we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success. What counts is the “objective” knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world. Ethics, taught in this context, becomes one more arm’s-length study of great thinkers and their thoughts, one more exercise in data collection that fails to inform our hearts.

I value ethical standards, of course. But in a culture like ours — which devalues or dismisses the reality and power of the inner life — ethics too often becomes an external code of conduct, an objective set of rules we are told to follow, a moral exoskeleton we put on hoping to prop ourselves up. The problem with exoskeletons is simple: we can slip them off as easily as we can don them.

[…]

When we understand integrity for what it is, we stop obsessing over codes of conduct and embark on the more demanding journey toward being whole.

So as the story goes, how many fairytales, fables have you read that spoke of some external saviour? A warrior or someone that would pull you out of your despair, or pull the world back on its feet? The thing that is evident to me through those stories, is the undying unrelenting need for someone else to bring us salvation. It is a deeply troubling pattern, and it troubles and affects us all.

Martin Luther King once said:

 Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Echoing Palmer’s words, the reality and power of the inner life deserves more attention than ever before. He of course, isn’t the first person to suggest that the ‘unexamined life is not worth living’ (Socrates). The line blurs here as if I continue writing in this direction I’d feel like polemicist (thanks Anais Mitchell for this word).

So I’d better end on this note.

While we think we are independent free-standing beings (and to some extend we are), biologically we are made from molecules, the same stuff that this world is made from. What the earth feels we will eventually feel, what the air carries we will eventually carry in our lungs. Thinking that we are not impacted by everything our environment brings us is foolish, especially foolish is us trying to block out feeling and emotions. The more we try to deny it of air, the more it will clamour.

Allowing vulnerability inside is at once overwhelming and beautiful, and that is a part of our nature. My photographs were taking me to this emotional place, a while before I even recognised what my subconsciousness was trying to tell me. And that is something deeply special for me.

Now take a deep breath … then enjoy this wonderful gift by Rumi.

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
(source)