Thursday, November 13, 2008

Staying attuned to Hope

Last night we joined some friends for dinner, and it was a lovely evening with delicious food and lively conversation. But the subjects -- which revolved largely around corporate and global greed, the effects of rampant individualism, and the challenges our new president will face when he takes office -- were so disturbing that I've been finding it very hard to stay focused this morning.

All these random images -- of containers full of discarded cellphones and computers being shipped to China; of Chinese women and children in small villages taking them apart and being exposed to all the toxicity; of marine mammals being damaged by underwater testing; of Indian farmers committing suicide because they can't afford to feed their families due to the high cost of seeds; of the Kuwaiti diplomats who repeatedly break our parking laws yet never pay their tickets; of our own little sandspit being underwater in 15 years thanks to global warming -- are haunting me today, competing for shelf space in my head.

If it's difficult for me to see through them to the purity and hope that must surely also exist in both present and future, what must it be like for Obama, who knows so much more and actually has a responsibility to do something about it?

As I slowly release these thoughts and settle back into my normal routine, I always wonder: am I doing the right thing? Is it okay to "just be a photographer"? Instead of focusing on hope and beauty, should I be focusing on the impact of greed and corruption? It's hard to justify staying disengaged from those issues; to give myself permission to continue on my present path and assume that somehow this work of prayer is enough.

But I also wonder how people who do not have a spiritual connection of some sort can bear to live in this world we have created? For me, there is a trust that somehow God is working through all things -- even man's greed and profligacy -- for good, though it's hard to see how that will play out in my lifetime, or for my children. But if I did not have that faith, I think I would feel completely overwhelmed, depressed, and discouraged about what we humans have done to this precious world of ours.

In this picture there is a kingfisher, and in the original image on the right he is much more difficult to see. Which is why I chose this today: my thoughts and distractions felt like weeds, hiding the subject of the picture, hiding the reason I took it at all. But to make certain you would be able to see him, I cropped the picture and heightened the contrast around the bird, highlighting his bright spots, darkening his crest and wing so he would stand out from his surroundings.

I actually like the photo on the right better, the big picture. But I think it's the picture on the left that helps you spot the bird in the picture on the right. If you're not the photographer, it's hard to know what the subject of the picture is: you need to be exposed to the pattern, to have it pointed out, before you can observe it for yourself.

I suppose, in a way, that is my role in other ways as well: to spot the hope when it flies by, to focus in on it, to somehow be there to capture those rare moments when it lands, and to highlight it in ways that will allow others to catch sight of it as well. If I can do that, I have a chance to shift their focus, however briefly, from the weeds of life to the bright promise that lies hidden beyond them.

And I think that's a good thing; how can we ever keep going if we don't believe there IS life, and hope, and color, and beauty out there? But some days it's pretty hard to spot, and very hard to stay attuned to it.


Angela said...

Thank you Diane for helping me to see the beauty in the first picture...and holding up for us all that there is hope in this confusing time. Your wisdom in photography and words is a blessing to me. Thank you. Angela Meek

Diane Walker said...

Thanks, Angela -- and give those boys of yours a big hug for me!