Trading Moments for Memories
Early in my life, when I was introduced to brands like Polaroid, Kodak, and Fuji, I began to wonder what the price was for capturing a moment on film. My assumption was that pictures were used for reminding us of the feelings we had at the time the pictures were taken. As I grew older and found pictures from my youth that my mother had stored away, I used images to remind myself of the passing of time, as well. Now that cameras are on on most every phone, and now that it takes no time to develop an image, I have noticed a shift in how photographs, or pics, are being used. There is a shift from having a tool to trigger a memory in the future, to having a way to share the present immediately.
There was always a certain amount of pity afforded, by me, to those who had to take a group photo, as they could not be, in the picture. There was a certain amount of concern for those that spent their time documenting events rather than enjoying the times we were later to remember, as their memory of the event would most likely be of taking a picture, rather than experiencing the joy of a moment. My favorite pictures are the ones that were developed at some drug store and show family gatherings where no one knew a picture was being captured. When I see these pictures, I cannot help but smile, and I cannot help but to remember the days, and the people, that surrounded what the image represents.
Since the days of my first 110 model from Kodak, with a film pack that had only 24 exposures, I have been selective with what I record. When I felt wild, I might take an off-the-wall photo, that meant something only to me (usually of my foot on unfamiliar ground). On top of the feeling of the limited availability of pictures I was able to take, were piled the costs of getting the pictures developed, the cost of the film, and the trouble it was to sneak a picture of those, who,quite frankly, were not comfortable being on film. But the greater cost, the cost that I think we may have paid too frequently, as of late, and with which we give little concern, was what I paid when I had to remove myself from the moment, and stare through a little square hole, simply to produce an image. Under the guise of producing memories at a later date, I did it with some frequency.
Have we forgotten how to experience the present moment by constantly documenting the present moment? Have we given our satisfaction of sharing a memory away, by assuming we have told a story, by posting a picture of what intrigued us at the time, on social media? Have we exchanged the magnificence of all that is creation for what we are able to capture on a screen that we are able to hold in the palm of our hand?
At times, I ask these types of questions. At times, I wonder what it does to our collective ability to appreciate what is real, as opposed to what is manufactured. I think of the stories I heard as a child about people who felt that a picture captured and removed their soul. I think about how we portray ourselves and our religious teachers with images. And I think about how we trade our reward of remembering an event at a later date, because we give ourselves permission to forget that event the moment we feel we have expressed it to the world in a “pic” that took seconds to create, and less time than that, to “share” with all of our “friends”.
There was a time that found me roaming the streets of a university town, with little money in my pocket, and with little means of contacting the people that loved me. It was not an impossibility to connect with family, but it took an effort more than simply touching their name on a mini computer screen that I carried around, and constantly checked. Memories were all I had to bring me home. My thoughts, though misguided at times, were all that drew me to what I was meant to find in life. One night, I sat beside Joe, as he played music for those passing by, who would pitch in and toss some money into his guitar case. During a break from his creating this really good entertainment, while pouring some water for his dog to drink, Joe said something that changed my life.
“It only takes the smallest of sparks to overcome complete and total darkness“.
I thought about that all night. I thought about it the next day. I found him the next night so he could expand on the idea and teach me more. Joe claimed he did not remember saying anything like that. I remembered him saying it. I remember it to this day. It helps me when things seem bleak. It helps me to look for the spark of charity in a world that has become dark with greed. It helps me to find grace in a world that has become dark with judgement. It helps me to find love in a world that has become dark with inconsideration. And, most of all, it helps me find peace, in a world that has become dark with violence.
The funny thing about a spark, in complete and total darkness, is that like the flash of a 110 camera in a low lit room, it draws your eyes to where it is. If you are used to, and comfortable with, the darkness, it might take you a while to adjust your eyes and see it clearly for what it is. But the more it becomes the focus of your attention, it becomes all that you see. Soon, in a world that has become dark with greed, judgement, inconsideration, and violence, the only thing you are able to focus on is charity, grace, love, and peace. It is not that darkness does not exist, but it is that you are drawn to the spark. It is not that you have an unrealistic view of the world, but it is that you have focus on what you view in the world. And whether Joe remembers the telling of the story or not, that small spark will, when people focus on it, overcome the darkness.
It is odd that what follows would come from someone concerning himself with writing a blog and sharing personal stories, but I recommend keeping secrets with God. Do a good thing or let God do a good thing for you, and keep it a secret. At times, when you are tempted to share how awesome something is, or was, keep it between you and God. In this way, you will have nothing to do but be grateful for the experience. In this way, you will better be able to converse with the Universe, because your impulse to speak about a good thing, will automatically bring you back to the only One you are sharing a good thing with. This is the only true form of remembering a past event while remaining in the present moment.
And of this light? This spark? In every moment, whether you feel good or bad, whether you are proud or less so, whether you are awake or asleep, this light, this spark, is you. In the same way your eyes are drawn to the sky on a clear night, the Creator is drawn to the beauty of a world filled with the stars that are your efforts to bring light to a dark world. Rarely does one look to the sky at night and say, “I really love that darkness in between those two bright spots”. The ancient astronomers did not name constellations based on patches of space that were void of light. We see the lights. Even the smallest of sparks that overcome the darkness. You are this light. You are meant to shine.