Friday, October 16, 2009

Not necessarily garbage

After a long Indian Summer, days on end of clear skies and cold nights, the Northwest has finally reverted to its more standard October menu of gray and rain. My camera is delighted; having been raised in the Northwest, it seems a bit overwhelmed by the high contrast of sunny days, and seems to prefer the rich lush color it gets when things grow wet and cloudy.

But my brain hasn't made the transition yet, and I found this morning I had a longing for the bright blues of southern Italy, so I went browsing through my Italy pictures. Instead of picking the beautiful blue rowboats of Capri or Naples, however, I ended up with this trash can from our hotel in Sorrento.

Hmm. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that my Miksang assignment this week is to shoot SHAPE. In fact, I was really struggling with that until this morning, when I was again reading Chogyam Trungpa's Dharma Art.

He's talking about what he calls the Four Actions, and says this: "The first action has a sense of pure perception without sharp edges. It is related with the color blue, and also related with the circle, as opposed to a square or other shape. The round shape of the circle represents gentleness and innate goodness, which is absent of neurosis. Blue is like a pure sky and represents space. Blue is also related with the air: cold, fresh air. Altogether, being without sharp edges has a sense of seeing the world at its best. This is the first karma, which is the principle of peace, or pacifying."

He then went on to describe the other four actions/karmas: enriching (a yellow square), magnetizing (a red half-circle) and destruction (a green triangle). I confess that the further down the path he got the more arbitrary the construction seemed to me, and though I could imagine that if I spent time with it it might take on more clarity, I could feel my resistance building -- and with it a bit of a sneer, that this so-called important man was probably just talking gibberish.

We humans are such curious creatures. Confronted with something we can't quite understand, we have a way of shrinking into ourselves and away from it. We become wary, suspicious, and a little anxious, and we are quick to condemn -- and somehow I'm thinking this is the way, and the reason, so many people are reacting so negatively to Obama: his concepts are new to many, a little scary, and so, rather than walk toward him with an open mind, they shrink away and condemn.

There's lots of Biblical precedent for this: Jesus' statement in Matthew 13:13, for example: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." Or in Jude 1:10, where it says,"these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them."

As soon as I felt that sneer growing, I lectured it and told it to be more open. Because despite my reservations, Trungpa's words helped me understand what it might mean to be out shooting shapes; helped me see that somehow it might be possible for my camera to portray a shape without getting all caught up in what the shape actually was. And with that I definitely got the itch to go out with my camera, even though the rain has gone from delicate showers to downright pouring.

I'm thinking that this is why this morning's image is a garbage can. It's to remind me that I often see without seeing; and that my mind is too quick to condemn. It's to remind me that it may be a mistake to focus on the garbage; that it's more important to notice the light, or the color, or the shapes; the circles and the squares. And it's also there to remind me that just because I don't understand something right away, that doesn't mean it does not have value. It's important to remember that my brain is not always my most open and intelligent way of perceiving. I need to pay attention to my instinct, which may know more about what a situation has to offer than my thinking mind.


KimQuiltz said...

I thought I had a poem for you today, Beloved Friend, but now that I read it again, I can't see what I saw in you ever do that? Something hits you one minute, the next minute you wonder why? Maybe it's because it has fed us and we aren't hungry anymore...?

I think I may be coming down sick, not sure I make any sense today. *g*

That sneer you talk of...I need to be more aware of it...maybe I can give that sneer a compassionate smile and listen to it for a moment. I think that sneer comes from a hurt child...

John said...

I like the image and your commentary. Have you read "The Zen of Seeing" by Frederick Franck? It's become one of my favorite sources of inspiration. said...

Thanks for the tip, John -- I have 2 different books on the Tao of Photography, but not the Zen of Seeing; I'll look into getting a copy.

Ah, Kim, wise as always: I just ran into that hurt child last weekend; how could I have forgotten her already! And, yes, I do that with quotes and poems, too. Always a surprise when it happens, but ... oh well! Hope this is just a temporary ache and you're not really gonna be sick --

KimQuiltz said...

Oh Oh! Lightbulb!

My mother and daughter quite often have that sneer. I have been vaguely suspicious before that the sneer came from their not "getting" what I've said or what's going on. Hmmmm, I'm going to have a closer look at that and see if I can't find a little more compassion within me when I am the target of that sneer.

And btw, yup, I'm sick. Had to cancel quilt class for tomorrow. :( I'll survive though, no worries. :)