Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is There Life Before Death?

People are shocked when I say I don’t take pictures (last week’s sublime banana-on-a-yoga-mat excepted). Somebody, upon hearing I hadn’t taken any on the Appalachian Trail, said: “what’s the point of even doing it if you’re not gonna take pictures?!” I found that fascinating—the notion that the only value in an experience is in displaying souvenirs after it’s over. I wonder if that guy takes pictures of himself showing his pictures to family and friends—if not, what’s the point of even doing it?

To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important.
Eckhart Tolle

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all Eckhart Tolle on you...this ain’t Oprah...or like those yogis whose favorite topics are 1) living purely for the here and now, and 2) reincarnation....Faulkner had a point when he wrote The past is never dead. It’s not even past...and the future may be as abstract as the brick wall you’re driving towards when the brakes go out...and hope, according to Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers...(though, notably, Woody Allen said Hope is not "the thing with feathers." The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich)....

I like the words of Walt Whitman, partially immortalized on a mossy, broken bench along the Wissahickon Creek (near West Mt. Airy, state of Wistful Inebriation, USA):

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.


Drowsey Monkey said...

Hmm...very minimalist.

I don't take a lot of photos but I do take some. I'm glad my mother and older relatives took photos because it's a wonderful window to the past. I don't think looking back is a bad thing. Letting the past haunt you is not good ... but remembering it can be a positive thing. No?

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

For me pictures help to remember a specific time and place - there are childhood friends that i wouldn't have a clue what they looked like if i didn't have pictures - but then the pictures just sit in boxes year after year, so you do get to the point where you wonder why you keep them. Entropy increases i guess.

Gypsy at Heart said...

I'd agree with you completely were it not for the fact that the only way I can now remember the perfection of my then chubby little baby, in most exquisite detail, is with the aid of a photograph. There's not enough storage space in the human brain to capture everything forever. A snapshot of a particular time in its moment helps considerably. Loved the quotes.

Anonymous said...

Namaste, Dr Jay,

I'm only just resurfacing and noticed your comments on my blog. Many thanks for visiting. In the next week I should have a post or two up and running, and get back to regular posting before too long.

I like this post of yours but the question is - what kind of yogi are you?

Personally I prefer to focus as much on living as dying... I find it a more well-rounded approach.

I get your point about pictures, but I think its a preference/personality display thing. Personally I love taking photos but I can be completely ok with taking none at the same time.

Jaya Ma!

Arnold Layne said...

You make a good point - even though I take photos myself - what's important is the present and the experience itself.

Tony Hogan said...


I like what you say.

I could never take photos whe I was in India.

My wife and I are constantly going on about the point of photos, she's a snapper. I'm always going..carry it in the heart.

And she like Eckhardt also.

I find it much like Krishnamurti without ghe pain

Claire said...

I suspect that you live on a higher intellectual plane than me, that is if intellectual planes are measured in height? So I am not sure what I really have to say on this matter.

I really like the Walt Whitman quote. I know when I have been hiking and finally finish the most difficult part (which normally coincides with lunch), I don't like to talk. I could just sit there for hours, even if the weather is crap. In that moment I do reach for my camera, because I don't always feel as happy and content as I do in that moment.

I then look back at the photos and I do feel a sense of achievement. But if I haven't done any walking/hiking/fun things for a while looking back at them makes me think get off your arse and bloody do something.

(I would really like to see photos of the Appalachian Trail, hehe)

Chelle said...

I usually forget to take pictures. My daughter is turning 1 yr old in a few weeks and I only have a few from when she was a couple of months old & first born. We went on vacation and I think I took 3 whole pictures the entire time.

I guess I'm too busy enjoying the moment than trying to capture it and preserve - living life in the present is one of the secrets to being happy I think.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if that guy takes pictures of himself showing his pictures to family and friends—if not, what’s the point of even doing it?"

This made me laugh quite a bit!

Alice said...

I'm glad you get by without taking pictures. I almost slugged a past boyfriend who sat through the 4th of July fireworks on The Mall in DC taking pictures. He basically saw the whole production through the lens of a camera. ARGGGHHHH...

Gina said...

i have a huge crush on your blog. just spent my entire morning at work reading all your past entries. i'm digging all the quotes and sarcasm.

can't wait for more :)

Bird said...

I'm always taking pictures, and I've often wondered why and still wonder why. I don't need the affirmation of a picture to prove I've experienced something...I think I just like the pictures for themselves. What I experience without a lens in front of my face is a different thing and a richer one I know. What a coincidence that I am reading this just after I published a post about two encounters with animals that I didn't photograph.

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I am in full agreement with Arnold.

But I'll add that....
Taking photos is how I creatively express capture that moment in time, not to remember, but as a way of fully immersing myself in the moment.....I see things in ways that many others may not notice because I have such a keen eye. I really sound like I am trying to defend myself, but having another person's pov was most likely what you were looking for with this post in the first place.....

Something I have noticed when I look through old photos.....I never have to think about when or where I took the picture....I ALREADY KNOW!
And believe me, when it comes to other things....I do not have the best memory :)

Lydia said...

There are pictures....and then there are pictures. The ones of family members stuck on that fake material that carpets cubicle walls, not so good. The ones that Wayfaring Wanderer takes and shares at her blog, so very fine.

I'm glad you're not going all Eckhart Tolle as it might kill the crush that some of us have on this blog. Excellent post.

Rachel said...

I am a video junkie and a photography addict. I have to document everything, but during some events, I put the technology down and view life through my eyes directly rather than having the stimuli pass through a camera or camcorder lens too.

Great post.

harleyblues said...

great blog post great Beatle refrences! Yoga is great for mind Body & soul.. I dont know why I haven't started back up could it be Im just too lazy from a hard days work on me feet?

sulz said...

i don't really take lots of pictures either. it drives me crazy when i go out with a bunch of camwhores. i understand the need to take a picture or two, but when you go out with a group of people who do all sorts of poses every ten paces or so, it gets really tiring for someone like me who wants to move ahead (i get tired easily, i should probably take up yoga).

Bill said...

rose garden
what would they look like
without the camera

Carnal Zen said...

The thing is - the camera changes the experience completely. I usually chide that you can experience a moment or record it to memory but you can't do both....and I'm a photography hobbyist :-) Thanks for not "getting all Eckhart Tolle" on us - lol.