The last few days I have been working on a project that has got me meandering through the past. I am scanning all the photos in our collective photo albums and boxes of loose photos into my computer and filing them and creating a way to have them be stored on a distant server should some disaster befall our beautiful home. As I scan each photo and name it or the people in it I am either brought back to that time in history if it is a photo from my past or I am brought to a place of wonder and recollection of stories told to me about these times in Karen’s life or in my family’s life before I was born. I look at these old pictures of me and see how innocent and adorable I was and wonder how those old stories that weren’t innocent and adorable lived in me.
I look at the pictures of Karen and see how gorgeous, strong and clear she was and wonder how stories that weren’t like that developed in her. The same is true for so many of these old photos. Does the camera not see the whole picture? Or do our destructive stories so blot out the whole truth of our lives to such an extent that we can’t know truly who we are as the world sees us, or the camera catches us? Or some of both?
Probably some of both. Part of me knows that those destructive stories are what provide the compost for our growth and development and yet when I look at these pictures I can’t help but wonder why it was rigged like that. These beautiful, innocent, adorable, strong, clear, humble, outrageous and alive people are often not who we remember ourselves to be. Sure we “smile” for the camera, we come alive a little bit more when there is a camera is around. That camera gives us an excuse to be the person we are that we want to be all the time and that moment is often the moment recorded for posterity. Yet part of me wonders how it got made up that this moment isn’t the default of us. How it got made up that this moment of aliveness that was captured in the photo isn’t where we start instead of is our aspiration. If you look at really old photos of people, in the early days of photography, people didn’t look very alive. Often they looked stiff and dour, this was because of technical things, I am sure, and we hadn’t ‘learned’ yet to ‘liven’ ourselves up for the camera. I wonder when that was figured out? When they figured that one out, did anyone stop to wonder why weren’t ‘alive’ all the time? Why we just turned it on for the camera, or why the camera so loves discovering that aliveness in people in their candid moments and we have such a hard time finding it?
I have been part of creating a profession that is about bringing that aliveness out in people and resetting the default to a more alive place. Boy oh boy what would we be up to in life and in the work we do if that default were set on aliveness and all that goes along with it. What transformational shifting and changing would be going on if we all already knew how awake and alive we all were instead of working so hard to wake up and stop being so dead. What is the transformation of an awake and alive human being? It boggles the mind to contemplate what heights and depths we would be looking into when our lights were fully on and doubt and destructive judgment was banished. When all those stories justifying and compensating for some dark or destructive belief or feeling that burped out of us at some point were able to be seen as what they are, ‘stories’, and not self identifying truths.
What an awe inspiring and wonder-filled world that would be.