This is part three in a series of personal essays on photography and spirituality.
Memories flood the senses - one set of images gets pushed aside to make room for another. Pictures fill in the blanks of the stories we tell ourselves and others about who we are.
As images wash across my consciousness in a tide of memory and imagination, I feel I am of two minds living in two worlds with one heart.
This is the only way to explain what I think and do, and what I feel and don’t do. The light, cold as chrome, slashes through the fog of indecision I have endured in my days without knowing it.
There is one mind in the moment of the real and another of quixotic dreams.
It's been almost a year since my father died and he's still here -- on my desktop looking back at me. The picture shows him as a young man, in his first year as a New York City police officer. It was raining on that day in 1957, when dressed in a heavy rain coat and white gloves, he waded out into traffic at rush hour. Growing up, however, I never considered the significance of such a scene. As Halla Beloff writes, "Sometimes we have the chance to see what is all around us, but that we've never 'seen' because we never look at it. There is an iconic feel to the picture of my father -- for me, it's meaning extends far beyond it's original purpose. I think we all have such images to ground us to the culture we come from.
Pictures are never formless, they come from somewhere and take us somewhere through the geometry of a space, time, lines and shapes.
In a state of two minds, where the spiritual and physical are delineated and dichotomous by individual will rather than the will of God, “instructions” fail to reach the heart of hearts.
A photograph helps us to see the world in new ways, but it also can prevent us from seeing for ourselves. We accept the vision of another for one’s own beacuse have become accustomed to merely looking at the world and not seeing. While St. Benedict speaks of “listening” as a rule of obedience to the “master” there is also the matter of “seeing” that which is to be seen in the light of goodness and deep faith. You’ll know it when you see, or even better, you’ll feel it when you see it.
Something like 85 percent of our sensory experience is determined by sight, which means what we see has influence on what we hear. St. Benedict’s prologue, “List carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” At the same time, I have come to interrupt this notion as “see carefully my son” and “see” with your heart.