Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Still unenlightened...

I still seem to be on my blue and yellow kick; this was the image that called to me this morning. I miss the days when this sort of thing was pretty much all I shot -- I loved spending time down at waterfront park in the early morning, and loved the wonderful colors in the old boats.

But -- however lovely they might be -- there are only so many dinghies that tie up there, and only so many different ways you can shoot them. Lots of other people started taking shots like this, and they were showing up in stores and catalogs everywhere. The Gallery stopped holding its annual Art of the Boat show, and eventually I just... moved on.

I was thinking about this last night, when Robin Williams and John Travolta appeared on the TV screen with a series of chatty little commercials to introduce their new movie, "Old Dogs." Some part of me was a little put off by what they were doing (wouldn't it be enough to just run the previews?) and I found myself wondering why they felt they had to sell themselves in that particular way.

And then there was Jay Leno -- a multi-millionaire in his own right -- making jokes about the number of millionaires in congress and then waiting/hoping for the laughter to follow. Can you spell awkward? Isn't that sort of desperate need for approval kind of embarrassing?

I could see that some part of these men must still be hungry for accolades and recognition. Wouldn't you think that by their age, with their level of success, they'd be past that? Ah, no, I thought, with my own embarrassing flash of insight: of course not, no more than I am, at my age. We all continue being hungry for that, but the hunger comes from somewhere else altogether, that egoic place where we continue to feel that we are somehow not enough, or not getting enough, or not having enough.

This is fresh in my mind this morning because yesterday I decided -- having seen something similar on someone else's blog -- to put a list of current exhibits on my blog. And when I first posted it I also noted that I'd recently won a prize for a short story I had written, and had recently led a workshop on "Finding God in Chaos." I put those two things on there because I was really excited about them and wanted to share my excitement. But it sat funny -- sort of the way those commercials sat funny -- and eventually I realized there was some extra intensity to those two entries that made me uncomfortable, and I pulled them off.

And that extra intensity, I think, came from this sort of icky space that wanted to say, "See? You think I'm just a photographer, but I can do these other things, too." It felt like it was more about selling and promoting than just about providing information. The other entries in that column have no surprises in them; they're all just "if you want to see more click here or go there" kinds of things. But these two felt pushy, so I pulled them.

I think it's all part of this same segment - a very Enneagram-Four-ish sort of segment -- of my personality that wants attention, that wants to be unique. Some part of me is always wanting to say, "See, I'm special, I'm different, I'm cool." And so I stopped shooting boats because lots of other people were doing that (although it's also true that I was running out of boats to shoot). And I started finding other places where I could excel.

But the fact is that what's here, what's now, is really all there is and all there needs to be. Everything I need is already available to me. So why do I keep thinking I need more? Why am I not content with what is? What is that drive that's always pushing forward, thinking, "Maybe THIS will bring me ... (whatever -- happiness, recognition, fulfillment, a sense of stasis)? Why am I not serenely content with what IS?

So that's the state I was in when I went to sleep last night. And I woke up this morning at 5 from a dream in which I had found enlightenment. It was so freeing and beautiful, with this periwinkle light that seemed to glow from everything, and, reveling in that, I fell back asleep only to wake up at 6 with all of whatever I had learned in the dream erased from memory. All that's left is the knowing that it's possible, the knowing of what enlightenment might feel like. I guess that will have to be enough.

For now.

1 comment:

Maureen said...


O'Donohue wrote that "[e]very life needs the possibility of expression... our work should be the place where the soul can enjoy becoming visible and present...." By adding to your blog's sidebar a list of exhibits (or the awards you've since removed), you make it possible for us to see and enjoy and share what matters enough to you to do. Personally, I like your list. It gives me joy to know that your work is honored through its selection for shows elsewhere, that what you have to say in a workshop attracts a crowd of listeners.

I do understand what you write about being content with what it is and not tooting the horn or forever running after accolades or affirmation through others. (My friend Louise on Recover Our Joy wrote this morning about the ego.)

I also think that how you see and what you see are - and your willingness to let us be part of your journey of discovery of self through art - are important steps toward gaining that enlightenment we all need.