Eye to 'I'
Language is so funny and so inadequate. What does one take when one 'takes a photo'?
Taking pictures, is inextricably intertwined with 'the moment'. Bresson called it 'The Decisive Moment'. Advaita calls it 'The Now'.
Thinking about what I would write about this process it suddenly came to me that 'Existence' is the real photographer. This little 'I' here puts it's 'eye' to eyepiece.. looks, adjusts, focuses, chooses, sees something... pushes the button.. click .. the pixels sit in the box..
Later, when the photo is 'developed', or looked at on the computer screen there are many elements in the composition, and perhaps the very best, that were not seen by that little 'eye' at first glance.
In the photo above I was attracted by the gleaming coat that the woman is wearing, by her absolute stillness, her posture of waiting, her mood, her seeming aloneness. The poster on the wall that speaks of 'Zien', seeing in Dutch, almost escaped my attention at the time. I saw peripherally that it was there and part of the picture, but didn't realize it's relevance at that moment. Later I was amazed at the result, found it to be so fitting.
Accident? That's just a word.
No shutter is fast enough to capture the moment, the instant, of the timeless here and now.
The light shines on 'objects' makes them seemingly visible, photographable, but the light itself can not be photographed.
So, I'd like to say, Existence is a marvelous 'photographer'. The little 'eye' sees only a small portion of the existential 'picture', the All that is there.
Our perceptions are limited by mental filters, we quickly paste words and concepts on everything we see.
The camera has no such limitations, it simply takes in everything in its field of focus without words or judgments. For the camera there is only light revealing objects. The light itself can only be 'seen' thanks to the objects it illuminates. It makes itself visible.
One magic evening, I 'saw' my body as a man in a full length mirror in my bathroom, the identification was broken for an instant. It was there, present, without the thought of me looking at me, and I realized that I loved others but not myself. Suddenly it was as if all the energy I had been putting into the love of others came flooding back to me and with it a sense of my presence and the presence of all things in the manifest world. Everywhere I looked the presence was there. Smoking a cigarette I saw, with love, the presence of the curling smoke. In the kitchen the presence was in the steam arising from the kettle.
Jacob Boehme was a shoemaker in Lutheran Germany, born in 1575. We know almost nothing of his early life, but we do know that when he was twenty four, he caught the reflection of the sun in a polished pewter dish, and was instantly plunged into an ecstatic vision. Boehme later wrote, "in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years together at a university." This unlearned man would spend the rest of his life attempting to describe in feeble and limited human language, what he saw in that pewter dish.
Many people have had such transforming 'experiences' of the presence. The book 'The Common Experience' by Cohen and Phipps has many accounts of such experiences collected for the Religious Experience Research Unit of Oxford University.
Our daily world is filled with light, gleaming, and reflecting, and casting shadows on the all too familiar corners of our kitchens.
The presence can not really be photographed, but it calls, it wants to be seen and to reveal. A photograph can only hint at the presence of the light that makes it visible.
There is a meditation given by Osho from the ancient Hindu treatise the Vigyan Bhaurav Tantra in The Book of Secrets:
Look lovingly on some object,
Do not go on to another object.
Here in the middle of the object - the blessing.
Osho goes on to say:
'Have you ever looked lovingly at any object? You may say yes because you do not know what it means to look lovingly. You may have looked lustfully - that is another totally different thing. So first try to feel the difference.'
I think by 'lustfully' he means much more than the obvious sexual dimension, I think lust here means wanting to make use of something, any use.
The light falls on objects, makes them visible, the eye sees, the heart moves in love, says yes to the image, the instant. There is a recognition, a spoor to follow, leading to the source of light behind both light and object.
Morning and evening seem to be the very best times to take photographs. The light is long and glancing, warm with the rays of sunlight almost saying: 'Here. Look, look at this. See me here.'
This scene met me one morning when I opened my door onto the hall.
A moment in time, caught by the morning light. The next instant the figures move, the scene changes.
In fact 'I' was attracted at first only by the fall of the light. Existence placed the figures where they were, wove that momentary pattern.
Our eyes are needed by existence in order for it to see itself. In a sense that is existence looking at itself. Or to use that much overused word god looking at God and that is worship, existence worshipping itself.
Love is attention. Attention is love.
The maker is visible in its creation. Our eyes are there to see that. And only our eyes can see that.
'You see', invites this stream, 'I hide nothing from you, I reveal my presence by my light.'
And sometimes some bit of presence says like an eager kid: 'Hey Mister. Take my picture'.
[Sam Pasiencier, June 2003]