Looking through the long lens of a camera can distort one’s vision. One’s ability to see things in three dimensions can be lost to a flat perspective. If one takes the picture with a low f-stop the photograph is often as flat as the view through the lens. It is as if there is only one thing in life to be seen in any given moment.
As I walk the streets of New York’s lower east side at night, looking for glimpses into life which I can capture and preserve for others, I find myself looking at life through the lens of a camera. It is a perspective which shapes how one sees things. Given the absence of bright lights, everything is sparse, one has two choices. First, one can flatten things out, focusing only and simply on one plane of sight. The alternative is to slow down, really slow down, take the risk of being overwhelmed (blurry vision), and try to capture the depth of what is within your sight.
Once you begin to practice the process itself because its own reward. It is easy to flatten things out. In the heat of any one moment, a single emotion – joy, pain, worry, hope, or fear – tends to dominate all others. I find it is easier to let the negative emotions ride wild and dominate. In these moments I find myself able to focus on one thing, if at all.
There is an alternative. When I stop and rest in the shadows, everything begins to open up. I can’t always completely focus, yet the texture, colors, and emotions all become part of the scene. My depth of field finds joy competing with worry, hope fighting fear, and worry lying down to peace. When taking the risk of not seeing things always in focus, “the abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—all their whips and cudgels and curses—is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.” (Isaiah 9.4)
Today is a time to create new memories.
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