Monday, February 16, 2009

Balancing light and dark

This morning I have been reading, in Esther deWaal's book Living with Contradiction, about the importance of the contradictions in our lives, about the ways that the tension between death and resurrection, dark and light, success and failure, health and disease -- all those opposites we face as we move through our journeys -- produces growth.

I know that as an artist as well; not just the use of dark and light areas to enhance the overall impact of an image, but also the importance of risking failure, of trying new things and exploring new directions, of taking what looks like failure and seeing through it to the promise of success it holds.

There's a classic story that comes to mind of the resourceful photographer Farrell Eaves, who dropped his digital camera in a pond while shooting on a photography workshop. Instead of giving up, he strapped the camera to his windshield wipers for a couple of days, driving through the Southwest's wind and sun to dry it out. When the camera was dry again he fired it up to discover that it now added amazing psychedelic colors to everything he shot. This enterprising gentleman not only kept shooting with his camera, he even published a book displaying the results of his work.

After I finished the chapter I was reading in deWaal's book, I opened John O'Donohue's To Bless the Space Between Us, and here's the poem of blessing that appeared:

The will of color loves how light spreads
Through its diffusions, making textures subtle;
Clothing a landscape in concealment
For color to keep its mysteries
Hidden from the unready eye.

But the light that comes after rain
Is always fierce and clear,
And illuminates the face of everything
Through the transparency of rain.

Despite the initial darkening,
This is the light that failure casts.
Beholden no more to the promise
Of what dream and work would bring,
It shows where roots have withered
And where the source has gone dry.
The light of failure has no mercy
On the affections of the heart;
It emerges from beyond the personal,
A wiry, forthright light that likes to see crevices
Open in the shell of a controlled life.

Though cruel now,
it serves a deeper kindness,
Wise to the larger call of growth.
It invites us to humility
And the painstaking work of acceptance

So that one day we may look back
In recognition and appreciation
At the disappointment we now endure.

And now, from this perspective, I look back at the failures in my life -- with jobs, with my children, my first marriage; framed photographs that languish in my office unpurchased; classes and workshops taken with nothing to show for them -- and resolve to try something new today, to risk again, to push my limits and explore. Because each of those "failures" has brought some new gift into my life -- an awareness, a new direction, a discovery or revelation -- and though some of those stories are not yet complete I can see that the tension they hold is pushing me to growth.

1 comment:

Jan said...

The reminder that failures produce fruit in our lives is a good one to get today. Thank you.