I love pictures. I vacationed with eight friends in Puerto Rico two months ago, and one of them is a very good photographer with great gear and an eye for kodak moments. His pictures are some of my favorites of me and my friends; we were all so happy to spend a week under the sun, away from work and snow, and he quietly captured our huge smiles, silliness, and camaraderie. My friends and I browsed those hundreds of pictures for days, IMing each other the same “put me back there NOW.”
A blogger wrote about love and his desire to make his time with the girl he loved “stand still.” Sometimes we feel so intensely – and because we are such selfish creatures – we must own these perceived perfect moments. But one can lay out hundreds of pictures, perfectly aligned to “recreate” minutes or hours that once were present… and to our dismay, these don’t suddenly tele-transport us back. As I sat in my office post-Puerto Rico, fantastically tanned, sipping Fefo’s coffee, and looking through the pictures, I smiled at the memories but felt a bit of sadness for having been brutally pulled back to ‘reality.’
Photographs should be held dearly, but one should also understand well what they are: a representation of something that has passed. What we have that is infinitely more intense than reliving good times is the present. It’s a chance to feel through skin, mind and heart, with vividness and complexity that only exists now. Right now. Looking through pictures of vacations, of a romantic dinner with a boyfriend, of a night of beautiful music that flowed right through the body as though it weren’t solid… looking at all this long enough will eventually lead to frustration. Memories can give us short jolts of happiness and inspiration, but we can only truly live in the right now.
Aldous Huxley has made me beat my chest and holler in aliveness with some of his writings (which themselves are only “representations” of the intangible). Maybe I should’ve scrapped this whole post and just quoted him:
At the back of the World’s Biggest Drug Store, among the toys, the greeting cards, and the comics, stood a row, surprisingly enough, of art books. I picked up the first volume that came to hand. It was on Van Gogh, and the picture at which the book opened was “The Chair” – that astounding portrait of a Ding an Sich, which the mad painter saw, with a kind of adoring terror, and tried to render on his canvas. But it was a task to which the power even of genius proved wholly inadequate. The chair Van Gogh had seen was obviously the same in essence as the chair I had seen. But, though incomparably more real than the chairs of ordinary perception, the chair in his picture remained no more than an unusually expressive symbol of the fact. The fact had been manifested Suchness; this was only an emblem. Such emblems are sources of true knowledge about the Nature of Things, and this true knowledge may serve to prepare the mind which accepts it for immediate insights on its own account. But that is all. However expressive, symbols can never be the things they stand for.*
So let us put down the pictures, books, movies… and step outside, breathe fresh air, talk to a person, pet an animal, ride the subway, sink our feet in sand, drink a cold beer, play an instrument, touch someone else’s flesh… because none of these experiences can ever be contained in an album.
*From Doors of Perception